India Day Six Continued – A House Visit in Mandapeta

After my last blog post, and a much needed unplanned nap, the children arrived at the church to spend their evening away from home. I was looking forward to spending more time with them but first we had a home visit to go to. In India, one must learn to accept with grace; that’s often a weak point for me. Timbrel was invited by a member of her father’s church to come visit them in their home outside of town by the rice fields. She was there earlier this year and the head of the household had typhoid, so they were out of work and unable to welcome her as they would normally hope to do. They felt that brought shame and guilt on their home, so they saw this as an opportunity to make good on their hospitality now that they are back on their feet.

We took the same country roads to their home, which is actually less secure than traveling in the city. As we left Mandapeta, I again was glowing in the dark and everyone watched as we drove by. Once we arrived in the newly built neighborhood outside of town, we were greeted with Indian sweets and a bottle of carbonated apple juice. They said this was like a holiday having us over. Their youngest son is in 11th grade: college. He knows English quite well and proudly showed us his passport, as he hopes to go to Kuwait to work as an engineer after graduating. We sat in their bedroom, the nicest, most furnished room in the house. There were two chairs, a double bed, mat on the floor, and eight people. To get anywhere else in the home from that room you had to go outside.

The homes back in the city are connected to electricity and open sewers, running water, but those are intermittent. Battery backups are a luxury for power, and a must for desktop computers if you are fortunate enough to have one. Different casts, community groups, each have their own industries: farming, fishing, brick making, cooking, snake charmers, produce stands and butchers for chicken at market. This morning we actually visited a brick making facility which I’ll include images of here. All major religions are present: Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, Christina, and they coexist within one another; that took a few generations, as my written stories will later discuss. Reverence to God or gods is appreciated across the board here. There are many small shops facing the streets in the city. Almost everyone here travels on foot, some distances of five to ten miles one way. Some travel by bike, a few have motorcycles, mopeds, and even fewer have vehicles or talk a bus. 

Today I found one tiny stand that sells beef but there were no patrons. Our driver loves beef, but that’s a secret between the internet and him. There is health care available here but I’m not sure how available it is. Despite having Cipro from the states, it wasn’t enough for my case of dysentery and the chemist here took care of it after Timbrel visited for me. Like anything, it’s about resources, and I would say that many, if not most, don’t have enough to access care consistently. I ate three meals today, something my western medicine did not allow. There’s an infrastructure here but one that requires the understanding of a developing, Third World nation. At the home visit tonight, the family we visited were out of batteries for their only flashlight. As we arrived, it was difficult to see where we were headed. I’m sitting there with a bag packed full of camera gear and more rechargeable AA batteries than I know what to do with. The next move was on me. If you are privileged enough to live in North America, you have far more resources and access to resources than most of the rest of the world could ever possibly imagine.

My image count is up to 3640 total, 742 final images, and between 20-30 images in the rough edit of each of two specific stories I’m working on so far for publication. One such story focuses on Timbrel, as she reaches all of the avenues of ANCER: the leprosy colony, the orphanage, the school for impoverished children, the church, as well as the community. Another centers on one of the children, Livingstone, a 12 year old intellectual marvel. I am hoping to work on another for the slums in Bombay, possibly one on the community here in Mandapeta. In documenting and photographing, I’ve been downloading 3-4x a day in between breaks and at meals, as I’m away from the activity. That has provided me to frequently look at each story in terms of chapters, key moments that I want to look for to visualize personified characteristics of the individuals at hand, in stitching together a linear piece.

Also, Dr. Owens, if you are reading this, the contacts you hooked me up with came in handy today; thank you immensely. The ride to the home visit was profusely dusty and wreaked havoc on my eyes. Out with the old, in with the new, photographing resumes. The electricity was on but the water has been off all afternoon so I used soap and drinking water to wash up first. Take care of your eyes people.

Love the questions and comments; it’s difficult to get to them all but I’ll do my best to respond in future posts.