In Tamil, my name roughly translates to kīrai, which means “good greens” or “spinach." Since Tamilians have a difficult time pronouncing my real name, I have starting introducing myself as Kīrai. The villagers giggle and discuss among themselves whether or not someone could actually be named Spinach. I usually stare back blankly at them as if to say “yes it is my real name, and no, it’s not funny." This puts some humor in my day (It’s the little things when you live in a village…). Out of respect, people add the suffix “ka” which means sister. So my name ends up being Kīrai Ka, or Sister Spinach.
It is no secret that this place has tested Sister Spinach. The sweat, the crowds, the polychronic approach to time, a broken laptop, THE HEAT, ETC, have all put me, my idiosyncrasies and patience to the test. At times, I considered running off to a more glamorous location. But then I take a minute to breathe and realize how blessed I am. Not just in comparison to the billions of Indians who live in extreme poverty, but in relation to everyone who will never have a chance to travel the world like I do. In the end, I am so grateful for my six weeks here. Learning to let go and open my heart up to India, the people and their culture has truly changed my life.
Today, in the spirit of letting go, I accepted an invitation for lunch with a family in a village we were visiting. We get invited to people’s homes on a daily basis during our field work. Usually, we graciously decline. There are obvious safety concerns to take into account, and we simply don’t have time to visit each home individually. But today, I decided to go for it. I was by myself and could not communicate with the family. Nevertheless, we ate curry and idly (soft little rice cakes). The yellowish curry was spicy and delicious. After lunch, I posed for pictures with every member of the family.
In the evening we spontaneously ended up at a village celebration that included people dancing on hot coals and a precession of men who were supposedly possessed by demons. The streets were crowded and it was hard to see all the action. Then I looked up and saw a group of people gathered on a rooftop. They were looking back at me. I somehow communicated that I wanted to join them and they pointed to the back of the house. I walked to the back and found a staircase. When I got to the roof, there were about fifteen people waiting for me. I recognized two of the girls from Young Girls Day because they were wearing the Little Mermaid hair clips we gave out as prizes. I introduced myself as Kīrai. From the roof, I had an amazing view of the festivities below. I danced and took pictures with my new friends before rejoining my old friend down below.
I can't believe my time here is coming to a close. While India has provided its fair share of challenges, I have enjoyed embracing the beauty that lies around every corner. The beauty in the eyes of a village child who still enjoys the simple things in life, the beauty of people from opposite ends of the world dancing together on a rooftop, and the beauty of getting to be called Sister Spinach. Hari Om, India. It’s been a wild ride.