“Where’s Your Bindi?” Goldie asks me in a tone half-way between panic and scolding.
“On my face?” I reach up to feel, but that little fashion dot has gone missing. I had it on this morning. We are on our way to a meeting with Tulcha Ram and to learn about the Bishnoi people, the original tree huggers who live by subsistence farming. I love my Indian wardrobe; kurtas (tunics, usually with a slit on the side) are flowing and flattering for all. The pants underneath have either drawstrings or elastic waistbands, and are comfortable as pajamas. I like to sit with my legs crossed, Indian style, and the clothing is great for that. The loose waist easily accommodates what I fear is happening from all of the delicious food that’s coming my way. The “Lassis” are so yummy that the shop is in guidebooks and trinket sellers hover, lamb stew was prepared for me on the back patio, and chapati is fresh and hot in infinite supply. If I reach for the plate a fresh hot one is ordered up for me. (Cold ones are saved for the cows.) And at the movie theater two days ago, there was my favorite popcorn, cheese and caramel mixed together. Yesterday I went into the fridge deciding to warm up some leftovers. NO! Panic in the kitchen….no leftover for me. Food is prepared fresh. Every time.
My morning walk is no match for all of this food. Before leaving for India I requested on-the-go workouts from both Evan, my Pilates instructor and Devin, my nephew who is a trainer. Both were really helpful with suggestions, and I’ve got stretchy “therabands” to use for the exercises. Do you think I’ve used them?
And while I love the clothing here–the cotton and linen is to die for–I can also get confused over the rules. Rule 1) always have a scarf. For me it’s not necessary to put it on my head very often, just during a welcome ceremony and in some temples.
“Which temples?” you ask. “How do you know?” I tend to watch and follow the crowd. Plus scarves look especially nice with kurtas so it’s no sacrifice. The Indian way has the tails in back and gentle swoop of fabric in front. It’s necessary to wash before worship and before going in some temples. I’ve never been asked so much if I’ve washed.
Rule 2 pertains to shoes. Most homes and all schools require shoes to be removed before entering. The pile of shoes near the doorway is a clear indicator! And of course you need to remove shoes before entering a temple. Unlike most flip flops, my comfy Olukais have arch support. Carefully I left them outside of my very first temple, a very old one in a rural area. And when I came out I couldn’t find them.
Really? Felt a bit like I do in a parking lot when I’ve forgotten where I left my car. So I looked and looked….THERE, fifty feet from where I thought I left them, were my distinctive purple Olukais. I slipped them on and they were wet! I looked down. Wet and clean!!
“They washed my shoes!” I told Goldie. What a nice custom. I’d never heard of that before.
“Actually,” he said, “someone stole your shoes. It can happen at a temple. It’s considered good luck to have your shoes stolen,” he paused. “And you stole them back.”
“Huh?” Took a moment for this to sink in. “It’s not stealing if they really are my shoes.”
I much prefer to think that someone washed washed my shoes, than that someone stole them, but that’s just me I suppose.
I did, though decide to have “disposable shoes,” flip flops that no one would want to steal, and that I wouldn’t care about if they did. If only I remembered to have them with me.
“Take your shoes off in the car,” said Goldie preemptively. I did and began the barefooted walk to the temple for Ganesha. But my feet are tender and soon I was hobbling along. Goldie lent me his huge shoes.
What about carrying shoes into a temple? Absolutely forbidden.
Took my sunglasses off in preparation for our meeting with the Bishnoi.
And there, on the inside of the nosepiece was my red bindi.