Friday, February 24, 2012

Boobs without Borders, a solo woman on the road in Rajasthan

I was reminded of the joys of  solo travel recently when I busted a move on some friends I had been exploring rural Rajasthan with.
A water crisis in the early morning after a sleepless night necessitated me to move from the crummy noisy guesthouse to a more salubrious location in the noisy polluted town of Bikaner. There I luxuriated in my first hot shower and soft bed for months and slept like a flower.
The next day I caught a local bus (we had been traveling by car until then) and got myself back in the Groove so to speak.
It was early morning and the bus heading for the six-hour journey to Ajmer was full. I move to make room for a woman who sits beside me and we smile at each other. As the day warms and the journey begins, we warm to each other and begin to talk. She tells me about her life and I am struck by her resemblance to my grand daughters other nanny who, like Madhu, is also a teacher. An hour and a half between women and all information about our lives and hopes and dreams are shared in rickety local bus rattling along the desert plains.
A thousand days of rough travel dissolves instantly with someone like Madhu who sweetens the morning air with her first shy hesitant hello.
We will never see each other again but I will think of her again and every time I do, there will be only good wishes for that woman. I think the same also will happen in reverse and this is the reason why I love solo travel.
After Madhu came these Gujurati women on their way to the Ajmer Dagarh. By this stage I am pretending not to know Hindi to save myself being questioned for the next four hours of the journey. They talk amongst themselves about me and I understand enough to know they are being lovely and generous and curious. I love the face of one of the women, it is so open and clear and her eyes are kind.
Eventually we begin to share smiles and food and a circular conversation of the type I was avoiding begins.
The people in the bus start wanting information about me my country and family, they shout the question to the person in front who then relays the question to me. In broken English and fractured Hindi, I manage to establish a few facts.
Then they want to look at photos of my family, then they want me to take their photos, I promise to send them to their home address, the bus passengers scurry for a pen and paper, we try to write in Hindi then English, the woman crowd around me and start asking me for something. I can’t understand why she is pointing to my breasts.
She leans closer and whispers in my ear
“You want to see my bra?”
“No, I want you to send me a bra From Foreign.”
It’s the first time anyone but my daughter has asked me to buy them a bra and I am a little astounded.
“Well, why not?” I say. I wish someone would send me some bras from foreign too. Indian bras are designed for nuns and there is nothing very sexy about them. Plain serviceable and unimaginative is the nicest thing I can say about Indian Bras.
I hate it when people make me promise to do something when the likelihood of me honoring that promise is slim, but the whole weight of Gujurati sisterhood is bearing down on me.
I imagine for one minute what it would be like to be a village woman receiving a parcel "From Foreign". I imagine the excitement it would cause and the hilarity of sending her a sexy black bra all lace and froth and bedecked with red ribbons. For some reason I think of the red petticoat of Mammy in the movie Gone With The Wind.
"O god, alright I promise!”
This is not enough. Now she tells me I may as well send something From Foreign for the baby in her daughter in laws womb in the same parcel.
Luckily my stop appears and I leap to freedom, the women wave to me from the bus and I stand by the roadside choking on dust and promises and pollution.
But if there is anyone out there who wants to send a sexy lacy red-ribboned size 36C bra to this woman in Gujurat, contact me for her address. Consider it as a random act of sisterhood.

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