I went to sleep at a reasonable hour, for once. My mother and I slept in the same bed -- the one in my room, since her bedroom seems to provoke my allergies. She isn't
used to sleeping in a bed alone.
Then, around two, we both awoke, hearing a sound like a toilet running or water pouring. It didn't stop. We checked around the house and didn't see any plumbing fails,
and my mom concluded that someone was refilling a water tank. I decided to believe her. Sure, that echoey bit could imply that liquid's being poured into a vessel, not
onto a flat splashy inadvertent swamp.
Then some dogs started barking. Intermittently, of course -- nothing I could block out. I tried listening to some Michael Masley (remember the cymbalom guy from the
streets of Berkeley?) via headphones, but only succeeded in a bunch of calm thinking. So, up and to the living room with a borrowed computer, Foo Camp water bottle, and
Ubuntu tote bag that happened to have some American snacks.
Oh the snacks Leonard packed for me! They help keep me sane. Dried apple rings, dark chocolate, cookies, fruit leather, licorice, trail mix. Nearly all the food I've
had here in India is tasty, but my relationship with Indian food carries heavy emotional baggage. These foods, the snacks, I've only ever chosen.
People used to ask why I'd majored in political science. I told them it was because polisci is the study of power, and growing up I'd felt like I had none. As I said to
a friend recently: glib, but a species of true. Or, as I said to Leonard ten years ago: Idiotic, yet resonant.
It's so important to me to feel like I've chosen my burdens, like I knew ahead of time what I was signing up for. Or at least it has been, historically. My mom, a recent
widow and as busy as she's ever been, is understandably not that great at telling me a day in advance that the housepainters will be going in and out of my room, or that
such-and-so will stop by. I want plans, I want advance notice, I hate being in the dark when it's avoidable, when I feel like the other party could be giving me
information but negligence or tight-lippedness is keeping me from feeling informed. If I can't have control, I'd at least like a dashboard display.
So I clutch even harder to the few familiar certainties I have. My music, my food, my tee shirts to wear to bed. I ask Mom a hundred questions about the next day (Are
you expecting anyone? Are the painters coming? Is anyone else coming, like a plumber or electrician? Are we doing community service? Do you have any appointments
outside the house, like at the bank? Do we need to go anywhere? Has anyone invited us anywhere?), interrogating her as I'd ask ultra-specific questions of a client,
trying to draw out her mental map so I can copy it down, getting all waterfall. I cannot go with an unknown flow, not here. Agile, after all, works with explicit introspection and negotiation, with clear schedules and disciplined use of an explicit process to constantly change those schedules (Moss, fix my simplifications in comments?). It works when we trust the process and each other, and I barely even trust myself.
There are so many strange annoying stimuli here, and -- since my defense mechanisms are intellectualizing and humor -- I have been stepping back and analyzing why some
bother me and some don't. The Hindu rituals don't, perhaps because I have a great deal of practice in spacing out through them as one does through dentist visits. People
tell me what to do, I do it, my mind wanders, sometimes I make mistakes but they're always fixable, and it makes my mom happy. I can appreciate the beauty in an abstract
way, or if I look at the flowers and incense from the perspective of one of my non-Hindu friends, imagining a travel writer's or photographer's eye.
And then there is the communication stuff. There is lots of shouting and interrupting that doesn't mean anger or scorn. People repeat redundant instructions and I get
irked at the implied lack of trust....except that it doesn't mean lack of trust here, it means care. If I tell you information and then leave you alone, or remain
emotionally detached, that is scorn! The preferred Indian behavior seems to break two of the
Gricean maxims, to my ear. It grates.
Relatedly: like a backend programmer hearing complaints about UI, I get peculiarly angry when I hear someone telling me to be in good spirits, not to freak out, not to
stress out, to smile more and relax.
And then there's food. But I've talked about food enough already. And I'm sure I'll do so more, again, soon.
This is messy and loose-threaded and lit by the early early streaks of dawn. Most of the above I wrote around six in the morning. Now, after lunch, my mother naps; she
couldn't even finish her rice and stew, her head was nodding so hard. I go in to check on her every once in a while, watching her for a moment, standing very still so I
can watch a fold of fabric on her chest rise a few millimeters, and fall.