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Visions of India Semester, Spring 2010


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Dear Students, Family and Friends,

Namaste!!!

It never ceases to amaze us how quickly and abruptly the program ends. It feels like yesterday when the students all arrived in India jet-lagged and excited and quite honestly we feel empty without the them. Last night after tearful goodbyes, the students embarked on their journey home and a new beginning.

Thank you all for joining us on this incredible journey and we are sure you are more than looking forward to having your loved ones home.

Thank you John, Talia, Norma, Corrine, Celina, Anna, Drew, Noah, Zaphyr, Calypso for all that you have taught us.

We will miss you guys.

Hope you enjoyed the potato!!!!

With love, Daniel, Germaine and Bantu

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Visions of India Semester, Spring 2010

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Goodbyes

I-team,Visions of India Semester, Spring 2010

Description

Dear Students, Family and Friends, Namaste!!! It never ceases to amaze us how quickly and abruptly the program ends. It feels like yesterday when the students all arrived in India jet-lagged and excited and quite honestly we feel empty without the them. Last night after tearful goodbyes, the students embarked on their journey home and […]

Posted On

05/12/10

Author

I-team

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Julley! (Hello in Ladakhi)

We have just returned from our 9 day trek in Markha Valley, filled with incredible villages and high passes. After 66 miles and over 11,000 feet of elevation gain and loss (what goes upmust come down!) the group is tired and smilingat the their acheivements.Having Amrit along with us truly enhanced our experienceas he brought incredible insight and experience to our time in the Himalayas.

After hot bucket showers and a rest day today, the group is revived and clean! Tonight we are going out on the town tocelebrate Calypso's birthday at a great little Tibetan restaurant and with only five days left of our course, time seems to be speeding up and our trek was an amazing way to conclude our time together. It gave everyone a chance to connect with one another on a deeper level, laugh with each other during games like big booty and support one another through the various challenges that presented themselves along the way.

In addition, our time in Ladakh has been an incredible contrast toourlives in Benares and interacting with theBuddhist Himalayan culture hasonce again demonstrated India's incredible diversity.

Julley!

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Visions of India Semester, Spring 2010

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Return from Markha Valley

Germaine, Daniel & Amrit,Visions of India Semester, Spring 2010

Description

Julley! (Hello in Ladakhi) We have just returned from our 9 day trek in Markha Valley, filled with incredible villages and high passes. After 66 miles and over 11,000 feet of elevation gain and loss (what goes upmust come down!) the group is tired and smilingat the their acheivements.Having Amrit along with us truly enhanced […]

Posted On

05/6/10

Author

Germaine, Daniel & Amrit

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Gone are the crowded streets of Banaras, the rickshaw wallas, the clamor of the city. Replaced by the hauntingly beautiful landscape of Ladakh, the snow capped peaks and most of all the silence that pervades the countryside. It is such a relief (for me at least) to be away from the chaos of the city and be in a place where I can once again sit and hear my thoughts. I'll miss my family, but mostly I'm just glad I had the chance to meet them. The mountains are amazing, we're staying in a little village with a 360 vista of the rocky peaks. The landscape itself is surreal, the best way I can describe it is purely mystical. -Noah

As we ascended from the ridiculously hot temperatures in Delhi, I could see a layer of smog from the plane window that literally shut out the blue sky beyond. As we descended into Ladakh, the Himalayas stretched out below us as far as the eye could see. At first they looked like giant piles of sugar, then became more defined.

Valleys and huge rocky gorges cut into the pristine white snow, creating that magentic mountain beauty of soft meets hard. Like wrinkles on the face of someone who has seen the world. Clouds whisped around the peaks, shading areas while others were lit up by the sun, almost too bright to look at. The first shock getting off the plane was the cold. I haven't felt the desire to be warm in about 3 months. The second shock was the thin air... we're at about 12,000 feet. The beauty of the landscape is raw, crisp, and austere. We drove past trees that look like big singular stalks of wheat, prayer flag poles and shrines built into the rock, stone walls, square-ish houses, shops lining the road with fluffy dirty dogs lounging on the pavement, and animals that look like a mix between a cow and a yak. I feel so incredibly lucky to be here. -Norma

Its hard to believe that this remote, mountainous, thriving culture is still part of India. There are signs of similarities between the plains and the mountains - stray dogs wander about but instead of appearing ragged and skinny, they have fluffy coats and padded feet to survive in the snow. The signs of poverty are still everywhere, although it is interesting to observe the adaptations of those who have so little in the cold environment. Our homestay family is beyond generous with their loud, tired, altitude-dazzed guests. After a long day of market wandering in Leh (and the dizzying altitude), my thoughts are so jumbled I can't wait to make the beautiful drive back to the cozy house, drink chai and compare the day's adventures with the rest of the group. -Corinne

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Visions of India Semester, Spring 2010

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Ladakh, otherwise entitled, Where did all the noise go?

Noah Reveley-Hunt/Norma Kuhling/Corinne Smith,Visions of India Semester, Spring 2010

Description

Gone are the crowded streets of Banaras, the rickshaw wallas, the clamor of the city. Replaced by the hauntingly beautiful landscape of Ladakh, the snow capped peaks and most of all the silence that pervades the countryside. It is such a relief (for me at least) to be away from the chaos of the city […]

Posted On

04/23/10

Author

Noah Reveley-Hunt/Norma Kuhling/Corinne Smith

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As I leaned over Noah's shoulder to look out the airplane window I was blown away by the view below. Hundreds of snow-covered mountains rose up, peaks rising through thin white clouds, towards us. There was no way I was going to let Noah continue to sleep and when he saw the frosty, jagged peaks he was more the grateful. I think the magic of the scenery has caught us all in its spell. The cold air that met us when we stepped off the plane filled my lungs with invigorating freshness despite the thinness of the high altitude. How does one describe being surrounded by these magestic mountains, which radiate peace, strength? They are beings all to themselves.

Later in the morning, after I woke up from one of the longest naps I have ever had, the silence really washed over me. Leh, this valley, Ladakh,-- is filled with a silence more profound then any I have heard. You can feel the pulsing of the silence; almost hear the pumping of blood through your ears. Perhaps the effect is much greater after livving for two months in Banaras and a few days in Delhi, but I sense that this silence is rare-- I don't think in all my days living in New Hampshire, spending time in Maine, I have felt such silence.

And so, despite the cold which is not my favorite climate, I am loving it here. Would it be possible not to love it? There is much to write but not much time, so more later.... -calypso

Flying in took my breath away. I stepped off the plain, my jaw still hanging open from my first glance of the mountains, and immediately got goosebumps. It was cold, i mean really cold. My first thought was how much it felt like home. It was cold and mountainous and it was love at first sight. The air is cool and crisp and clean. Complete silence rules up by the house we're staying in. We've all been pulling on layers and drinking lots of hot water and tea. People here are incredibly friendly and smiley. The family we've all been staying with have been particularly generous. They feed us really well, and serve us hot chai and biscuits every few hours. Perhaps my favorite thing is the snow. There's snow on the montains, and there were a flew flakes flying today as we walked around in Leh. I've been fantasizing about snow as i sweated in Delhi and i am delighted to actually encounter some. I realize i sound a little bit raphsodic, but Ladakh has truly blown me away. Mountains, here we come! - Celina

The night before the flight to Ladakh, Noah and I stayed up all night getting repacked and watching foriegn movies. After getting everyone out of bed at 2 in the morning to take the taxi at 3 I was pretty tired. While we were up in the air John woke me up so he could look out the window. I'm glad he did because otherwise i would have slept right threw one of the world's most incredible sights. It took several seconds of gazings at these sublime mountains before i could remember that i was still on planet earth and how bleesed i was to be able to see such a thing.

Juhlee,

drew

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Visions of India Semester, Spring 2010

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A New India

Calypso, Celina, Drew,Visions of India Semester, Spring 2010

Description

As I leaned over Noah’s shoulder to look out the airplane window I was blown away by the view below. Hundreds of snow-covered mountains rose up, peaks rising through thin white clouds, towards us. There was no way I was going to let Noah continue to sleep and when he saw the frosty, jagged peaks […]

Posted On

04/23/10

Author

Calypso, Celina, Drew

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It's 6:20am as the sun rises to greet the Ganges and warm my skin, as the chai stirrs my sleeping senses. The faint hymn of splashing water in the wind, and Hindi conversations, fill the air as life begins in Varanasi.This is the last time in a longwhilethisvisionwill be shownbefore me.

It has been two months since I stept off an American Airlines flight from life as I knew it to witness the wild world of India. And since that night my perception as been rocked. My vision has been re-sculpted by the hands of richshaw drivers, stray dogs and trash fires, legless peasants and salesmen/liars, boats on the river and selfless smiles. And how in the land of hand-made color, the earth and dirt are ever present.

Yet it's still hard to see all the ways this great place has changed me. A seed of overwhelming experience has been planted within and needs more than nineweeks to grow. But I know it's branches will expand my soul.

Now I sit overlooking the great Ganga waters, trying to soak in and comprehend all that is here for me, and radiate appreciation for all that has been. As the sun and breeze tag-teamin warming and refreshing my skin, I think of all the events in my life, andhow they began to only end.

So as I now stand at 7:12am, content about not knowing what lies behind the next bend. And for the first time in a while, I feel alive.

'Till we meet again Varanasi.. Namaste.

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Visions of India Semester, Spring 2010

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Colors Changing

Noah Gibbings,Visions of India Semester, Spring 2010

Description

It’s 6:20am as the sun rises to greet the Ganges and warm my skin, as the chai stirrs my sleeping senses. The faint hymn of splashing water in the wind, and Hindi conversations, fill the air as life begins in Varanasi.This is the last time in a longwhilethisvisionwill be shownbefore me. It has been two […]

Posted On

04/19/10

Author

Noah Gibbings

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Not long ago I, like the great Greek hero 'Achilles,' was bathed in holy water. Although, unlike the famed warrior, I was not held by my left ankle and dipped into the source-- infact it was only my ankles and feet which were annointed. And so, as I have tred through the streets of Banaras, bare-foot across the Kali Temple grime covered floor in Kolkata, and a somewhat cleaner Bodhgaya, with brief attacks of headaches, stomach problems (infamous here), fevers, and occasional sore limbs my feet have managed to fight off the flourishing dirt with grace and good health. Perhaps they have been made immortal?

Living on the pure and mighty Ganga river I see people of all ages bathing in this mystic, murky water every day. And now that the summer season is peaking, more and more bodies flock to the banks and colorful ghats to take light relief from the 100 degree farenheit temperatures. Men clad only in small pieces of cloth perform their ritual baths, while young boys in similar outfits splash around filled with laughter and fun. It is more rare to see any women swimming but they do bathe-- wearing vibrant saris. Young girls dressed in various tank tops and bottoms play with their male counterparts; intent to have just as much fun.

At times in this heat the putridly pure waters tempt me. But only for a split second as thoughts of the dead animal I once caught a glimpse of floating by, the rubbish lined edges, rivers of entering sewage, and, perhaps worst of all, a whole mystery category of 'what lies beneath,' what floats within, bring back sense of caution. Perhaps some years down the road I will be able to come back here and swim in newly cleaned, unpolluted, yet still holy waters...

Three more days left in this magical city. Time is moving much faster then the waters of the Ganga. The current of my life is beginning to change as the group gets ready for our next series of adventures-- Delhi, the Taj Mahal, and then an eighty degree temperature drop as we fly up to the mountains to land about 11,000 ft higher then we are now. I hope that my feet, as well as each group members', will continue to be strong as we hike through the mountainous terrain of the northern peaks.

But before the overnight train ride on monday evening, there is so much to do here. Today we all drink in unique samples of knowledge from each of our ISP presentations, and in John's case actually get to taste his work. It is exciting to see what everyone has been focusing on the past two months; such an interesting mixture of projects.

Tomorrow we have the farewell banquet-- a spread of Indian food, live sitar and tabla music, and over 100 people all in the Program House. The rest of the time is going to be spent running around saying goodbyes, buying last minute presents, spending time with host families and friends, packing... It is crazy.

I cannot believe that I will be leaving my Indian family who I have come to feel such a bond with. As the time to leave draws closer, I am filling with a deep sadness which cannot be described with words, as well as extreme gratitude for their incredible hospitality. I don't know of many families who would be so willing to let a stranger join their household for two months. Yet they have done this and so much more. They have shown me unbelievable warmth and kindess. I have helped cook dinners, laughed with them, taken naps side by side with Nidhi and mami... And with the sharing and witnessing of anger and tears I have become a daughter, sister, friend.

And so, on this note I am off, back home to spend my few free hours with them-- this is precious time.

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Visions of India Semester, Spring 2010

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Some musings….

Calypso Thomson,Visions of India Semester, Spring 2010

Description

Not long ago I, like the great Greek hero ‘Achilles,’ was bathed in holy water. Although, unlike the famed warrior, I was not held by my left ankle and dipped into the source– infact it was only my ankles and feet which were annointed. And so, as I have tred through the streets of Banaras, […]

Posted On

04/16/10

Author

Calypso Thomson

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    [post_content] => 

Namaste!

It is amazing how quickly time passes in a swirl of heat. The heat seems to be the general theme at the moment and presents a handful of challenges, mostly how to stay hydrated and how to make the most of our time here in Benares before our time ends here in less than a week. Somehow we are managing, with some students waking up at 4am to explore yet unseen temples, napping in the afternoons and preserving our energy for the evenings, when it is more bareable to be outside.

This week students are wrapping up ISPs and service learning projects and preparing for our upcoming ISP presentations. It is incredible to see these projects coming to an end, and how dedicated everyone has been to their projects. From cooking to Kathak dance, Ayruvedic medicine to jewelry making, the projects are all culminating into some of the most meaningful work we have seen.

It is indeed a challenging point in our course, facing the heat and saying goodbye to Benares and our Homestay families. Our Final Banquet and concert this weekend will be the celebration we all need to mark the end of our time in Benares, say our goodbyes and express our gratitude to a community that has welcomed and supported us for the last two months.

More to come!

Be well,

I-team

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Visions of India Semester, Spring 2010

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Wrapping up Benares…

I-team,Visions of India Semester, Spring 2010

Description

Namaste! It is amazing how quickly time passes in a swirl of heat. The heat seems to be the general theme at the moment and presents a handful of challenges, mostly how to stay hydrated and how to make the most of our time here in Benares before our time ends here in less than […]

Posted On

04/14/10

Author

I-team

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    [post_content] => Indian culture has an incredible knack for folding its grip around the inhabitant and never letting go. From the moment of arrival, the foreigner is immersed completely, whether conciously or not, and plunged into a strange new role like an actor taking the stage with no cues and few lines. One is surrounded by new expectations, social norms, traditions, customs, communication, travel, food, dress and interpersonal contact. Indian culture is particularly unique and somehow there is an undeclared understanding of this in the dynamic between Indian and foreigner. Maybe it is the desperate, exhausted look in the foreigners eyes that is so recognizable, but somehow they just know how you are. Western culture monotonously greets each other with "How are you?" whose reply doesn't actually matter. In Indian culture, the answer is almost sensed instantaneously. Homestay families and gurujis seem to anticipate questions, confusion, illness, hunger or any kind of need. "How do they know?" we asked in the beginning, but eventually we stopped asking. Hospitality feels like adoption, the moment you walk into the Indian home a wave of comfort envelopes you with offers of tea or panni (water) and questions of "Have you eaten?" 

Every time I arrive at my guruji's house to paint - sweaty, tired, and dusty from navigating the hot, crowded streets - Narayanji and his wife Induji can read me like a book. "Take rest, take rest!" - when I am debating canceling to run home to my bathroom and then straight to bed. When I have an upset stomach, somehow they know and make special tea and volunteer nutritional advice ("Light food, good stomach, good thinking!") When I am energized from a high intensity day of absorbing the new and unexpected, they make jokes, tell funny stories about their wild children (ages 10 and 14) and enthusiastically push me to paint quickly ("Complete today!") At moments of hesitation or when I lose the painting flow, my guruji steps in with a skilled eye and in a few dramatic flourishes of the brush, problem solved. Around 6pm, delicious tea appears and they make me stop and take the time to stand back and view my work. Everyday I leave, after namastes and too many thank yous, I walk home in the warm night radiating from their love and kindness. Their incredible sixth sense seems to reach in and detect the disturbance of the mind and just as smoothly heal and replace with positivity. In just two short months, Narayanji and Induji have become my gurujis, teachers in artistic expression, learning and living positively and giving and recieving simple kindnesses and love. [post_title] => A Sixth Sense [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => a-sixth-sense [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2010-04-12 00:00:00 [post_modified_gmt] => 1970-01-01 00:00:00 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://yakyak.chandigarhsoftware.com/?p=48784 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [categories] => Array ( [0] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 396 [name] => Visions of India Semester, Spring 2010 [slug] => visions-of-india-semester-spring-2010 [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 396 [taxonomy] => category [description] => [parent] => 257 [count] => 71 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 22.1 [cat_ID] => 396 [category_count] => 71 [category_description] => [cat_name] => Visions of India Semester, Spring 2010 [category_nicename] => visions-of-india-semester-spring-2010 [category_parent] => 257 [link] => https://my.wheretherebedragons.com/category/spring-2010/visions-of-india-semester-spring-2010/ ) ) [category_links] => Visions of India Semester, Spring 2010 )

Visions of India Semester, Spring 2010

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A Sixth Sense

Corinne Smith,Visions of India Semester, Spring 2010

Description

Indian culture has an incredible knack for folding its grip around the inhabitant and never letting go. From the moment of arrival, the foreigner is immersed completely, whether conciously or not, and plunged into a strange new role like an actor taking the stage with no cues and few lines. One is surrounded by new […]

Posted On

04/12/10

Author

Corinne Smith

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    [post_content] => We visited a waterfall Saturday. There was no falling water (it is after all the dry season in India, there's not even dew here). Instead there was a basin surrounded by high clif walls leaning in overhead to create a bit of overhang and shade. The water was very cool and a beautiful shade of green , that i must admit i found a little alarming at first. But it was wonderful to swim, even thoguh we had to share with a watersnake. We spent the late morning and the afternoon swimming, exploring, and relaxing. It was really nice to get away from the sweltering city for a little while. I sat for a while with my legs in the water, siting on a warm stone with the sun shining and listening to the quiet. We left in the afternoon for a truncated visit to Bantu's village. We had originally intended to stay the night but about a day before we visited there was a kidnapping. The nauxalite group (a maoist communist group) had kidnapped a young man from a wealthy family. So we only stayed for a few hours. Driving through the countryside almost made me homesick. It's harvest time for wheat and so we passed field after field of golden wheat most of which had been cut and tied into rough bundles. I'm from Vermont and i found myself thinking of haybales and missing home. Though it may just have been my subconscious telling me to go somewhere less hot. Anyhow Bantu's village is beautiful. The houses are all pretty simple. Mud, adobe, being the most common siding. The village is all lower caste, Bantu's family being the only brahmin family there. The village is surrounded by open expanses of fields. We wandered through the village looking around and being followed by a gaggle of Indian kids. They would pose for pictures then gather round besieging the photgrapher for a glimpse of the result. I loved watching them playing, barefoot, dusty, and infectiously happy. We soon piled back into the cars, and on our way home we caught glimpses of a beautiful night sky. 
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Visions of India Semester, Spring 2010

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Waterfall and Village

Celina Hickson,Visions of India Semester, Spring 2010

Description

We visited a waterfall Saturday. There was no falling water (it is after all the dry season in India, there’s not even dew here). Instead there was a basin surrounded by high clif walls leaning in overhead to create a bit of overhang and shade. The water was very cool and a beautiful shade of […]

Posted On

04/12/10

Author

Celina Hickson

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Easter this year was by far the most interesting experience I've ever had on the usual eat-sweets-and-try-to-ignore-the-religious-part holiday. After a lovely little party and poop-cup easter basket hunt, the group waited for our promised surprise. As the afternoon wore on and the restlessness grew, in walks four hijras - three clad in tight fitting saris, jewelry jangling, carrying a drum and a purpose in their step. They were invited to perform at the Program House to help cleanse the negative energy (accumulated from the Calcutta fiasco) and celebrate a new beginning.

Hijras consider themselves the "third gender" of India. They claim to be neither male or female, but a unique community who worship the goddess Bahuchara, sister of Devi. In reality, hijras are diverse in sexuality but primarily eunuchs or hermaphrodites. The hijra community is a haven for marginalized men and boys - abused by family, impotent, hermaphrodite, gay, bisexual, transgender, transvestite: hijra. The population of hijras in India is estimated to be between 50,000 and 1.2 million but there are no reliable statistics since the national population census only gives space to define either males or females.

Today, hijras make an income by attending celebrations - births, weddings, shop openings or other commemorations of new beginnings for which they are paid. They are mostly uninvited but always paid by the families for their entertainment. The undeclared profession of the hijras is male prostitution, but the community denies the allegations. Hijras are entertainers and worship the goddess while the zenanas are the prostitutes. The distinction is blurry, and their real profession is commonly known amongst Indians.

Historically, hijras were the protectors and servants of the harems. As eunuchs they were free to move between the male and female spheres, a role that was highly respected and rewarded by the kings. In court, they served as ministers, policy makers, treasurers, servants, cooks, ayahs, midwives, dancers, musicians and general entertainers. In the past few hundred years, hijras retained their status in the estates of the wealthy, as live-in ayahs and cooks for which they were rewarded with land protected by the government. Awarded property was divided into well-defined districts, inhabited by organized hijra communities, led by a guru. New generations claim to join the community voluntarily or are "adopted" from estranged families, however there are a rising number of court cases filed by boys who declare they were kidnapped by the hijras and castrated. The controversy is complicated by the secrecy that rules the hijra community. Rumors range but remain unconfirmed: Hijras have a secret language and means of communication, secret burial rituals, a secret communal fund to financially support all members of the community and the infamous secret castration ceremony. It is impossible to say if all hijras are castrated but the act is seen as a sacrifice to their goddess and to prove their place in the community as a true eunuch. Details of the ceremony are vague, some accounts say members castrate themselves while others are castrated by special midwives in an operation referred to as nirvan or "rebirth." With the hijras, no one knows anything for sure.

Easter evening wore on and the sun set on a singing, drumming, dancing scene at the Dragons program house. After, we had the opportunity to ask them questions but the distance seemed too great - on top of our curiousity, awkwardness and a little confusion - to ask any real or approriate questions. So we smiled and thanked them in hindi and tried to imagine another Indian lifestyle completely alien to our own.

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Visions of India Semester, Spring 2010

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The Third Gender of India

Corinne Smith,Visions of India Semester, Spring 2010

Description

Easter this year was by far the most interesting experience I’ve ever had on the usual eat-sweets-and-try-to-ignore-the-religious-part holiday. After a lovely little party and poop-cup easter basket hunt, the group waited for our promised surprise. As the afternoon wore on and the restlessness grew, in walks four hijras – three clad in tight fitting saris, […]

Posted On

04/11/10

Author

Corinne Smith

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