Today is not my day. I am boarding my flight at Dulles Airport in four days, and this morning, I came down with the flu. It is frustrating because I made sure to get the flu shot a few months, but I guess that doesn’t always take. I have to admit, getting sick at this time is sort of putting everything into perspective for me, because I’m having a tough time being sick in Virginia, in my own home with A/C and all the comforts I need. I can’t imagine how it must be to be sick in a non-A/C guesthouse in rural India without certain medications and food. I’m definitely going to go and pick up some Tylenol and other over-the-counter medicines from the pharmacy tomorrow.
While I’ve been sick, though, I’ve had the chance to read a little more than usual. I found an extremely interesting and relevant book in the basement by Indo-Anglian writer R. K. Narayan called “Gods, Demons and Others,” publishing in 1964. The book is an excellent collection of short stories that expound on and explain the meaning of several key concepts in Hindu mythology and philosophy. What really got me about the book was the introductory chapter, where Narayan really sets the scene of village life:
The nearest railway station is sixty miles away, to be reached by an occasional bus passing down the highway, which again may be an hour’s marching distance from the village by a shortcut across the canal. […] All day the en and women are active in the fields, digging, ploughing, transplanting, or harvesting. At seven o’clock (or in the afternoon, if a man-eater [tiger] is reported to be about), everyone is home.
He continues, telling us about the life and importance of the village storyteller. Educated on the Hindu Vedas and Puranas from the age of seven, these men can recite by heart the hundreds of thousands of lines of these epics. I am very much looking forward to meeting these men, and being able to get a glimpse into the life of rural Indians. It is, in a way, a look back in time. Speaking to my father today, I learned about his childhood, and how storytelling played an important role in his family life. His mother, my grandmother, did not know how to read, but told many stories, passed down by word of mouth. Going to villages around Vizag and seeing their lives is going to be of great personal significance to me, and I cannot wait for this chance.