We have been in Chavadipudur—the village where we spend two months conducting research—for about a week now. Our welcome was perhaps not-so-ideal. Our train from Chennai arrived in Coimbatore (the nearest city to Chavadi) at about 5:30 am, and while we were sitting on the platform eating mangos and crackers before heading out into the city, a man walked up to one of the students in our group and tried to kiss her! I chased him off with shouts (both English and Tamil) and “go away” hand gestures, but for some reason he kept wandering back every few minutes and I would have to chase him off again. One time he even asked me for money! Anyway, I don’t think anyone else on the platform knew what was going on, and they all probably thought I was crazy.
Well, finally as we were loading into a taxi in front of the platform, one of the students told me that the man was still following us and pointed out where he was standing, watching us with sidelong glances. So I grabbed one of the taxi guys, who knew a little English, and confronted the man. I told the taxi driver that this man had tried to kiss my sister and that he should tell him I would send for the police if I ever saw him following us again. The driver called three or four other guys over (I think he wasn’t completely understanding what I was saying), and I explained the situation one more time. Once they’d got the message the men started yelling at the culprit and gave him a few satisfying smacks on the head until he ran away for good. Problem solved.
Things like that can be so frustrating. Really, though, not all Indians are like that, but where we stand out so obviously from the crowd, we do tend to attract some of the more interesting (crazy) characters.
Being back in the village has been nice, though. It’s been nice seeing Matthew and Jeeva and their kids Edwin and Priya (who continue to be fun to be around even though they keep getting bigger). Matthew was in a motorcycle accident last year, so we’ve been able to show each other our scars. Jeeva seems well—busy as always.
It’s been great meeting up with Jagadesh and Selva, who have been such good friends in the past, and such a help to my past research projects. They, too, are growing up. Selva has a motorcycle, Jagadesh a computer, and both are constantly taking calls on their cellphones. They go out at night with friends and tease each other about girls. I, of course, am expected to participate in all of this, which feels really strange. When I met these guys they were just fifteen years old. Now that they’re twenty it’s almost like I’m expected to grow up with them, to somehow be able to cope with the larger world they now inhabit.
I guess that’s life. After all, I’ve been wrapping up my college education these past few months; maybe it’s finally time for me to grow up myself.