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Mother, Sister... India
May 20, 2000

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Up to my knees in a mushy rice field
It was nearing noon and I was walking through the ancient Vijayanagar Kingdom ruins. I looked over to the nearby fields and saw a group of women working. I noticed that they were waving at me, and I took this as my chance to drop away from the crowd touring the ruins and to go to make some new friends.

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Arvinda teases one of her friends about the goofy look she had in one of their photos. Obviously the winning personality of the crew, she cracks everyone up
I squished my way through the mud of the rice paddy until I reached the group of women. They posed for pictures and burst into laughter at the sight of themselves on the camera screen. There was a group of about 25 in all, but one of the older ladies, Arvinda told me the most. Luckily, I was with my friend Devdutt who was able to translate.

Arvinda told me about her home and her daily life. Her hut has no bathroom or running water. The long hike into the field starts her day. She arrives at the field by 5am before the sun gets too hot, and returns home when the sun is high to cook lunch. She eats and rests, then makes a trip to the well for water. When she returns home, she makes cow-dung cakes for fuel for her stove.

Cow dung cakes? That sounds yucky! First Arvinda has to chase the cow around, scooping up its poop with her hands and loading it into a clay pot. Then she makes small patties, like hamburgers (yummy!), and lays them out in the sun to dry and harden. They keep a fire going strong, so she uses them in her stove.

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The local stream also doubles as a laundromat
Arvinda went on to tell me that the rest of her day includes cleaning the house with a small bundle of twigs tied together, washing the clothes and dishes in a nearby stream, and cooking dinner for her family.

I continued to talk with these women for about an hour. While we spent some of the time talking about their specific lives, we also talked as old friends do - about dreams, hopes, fears, and feelings. I realized that they were not so different from many of the women I know.

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It was a long walk back to the village
After sharing our stories, it was time for the women to head back to the village. We said goodbye, washed our feet and ankles in the stream and left each other. Arvinda turned back to wave, laughing something in Telegu which made all the ladies giggle before they were out of sight. It was an interesting beginning, and I was longing to know more about the Indian Motherland through her Mothers.


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