Ganjapa Playing Cards

Week 2 in Raghurajpur:

In the 16th Century in Orissa, circular cards with exquisite paintings on them – an art called Ganjapa were very popular among the people of Ganjam; they were used to play ordinary card games. We created modern decks of 52 cards, I personally added 2 jokers along with my deck, this idea went over very well with my teacher, Rabinder Mahapatra.

 

As we sat under a small shelter, not surprisingly sweating in our own stillness, cows wandered by chomping on what grass they could grab and kids played a tag game with fellow artists who really wanted to sweat!

In this second week after deep bending in Odissi, multiple cold showers in a day and adjusting to sleeping in the heat under a mosquito net…I was not feeling so well. So, one morning being overwhelmed with ill feeling and faintness I took the gracious offer to visit the local doctor. This was a day I will not easily forget, the challenge of staying steady while taking in the experience left me in a state of wonder. At the local village doctor, being the foreign visitor I was ushered to the seat nearest the doctor with all to observe our check-up. I had the flu but with the cookies, tea and the medicines he would subscribe he said, ‘as you understand this is simply an ailment that will surely pass.’ The wonderful doctor was at one time a doctor in the States for the Red Cross and spoke perfect English, which was rarely the case in our village life.

After my visit it was back in the air-conditioned car (would have been refreshing had I not had a 102 fever) – we were off to the village pharmacy. Another experience worth having in your life, just off the street in the local village market was the pharmacist of choice. As I was asked to sit while we waited, I took up a little edge next to a young very petite mother and her baby of maybe 1 year. The father was near speaking with the pharmacist who soon took the baby to take his little temperature. It is common in the village to go straight to the pharmacist as the doctor is unaffordable and the line can be a long wait. My sweet fever friend blew my fever out of the water with 104 for his small body. He and I bonded over looks of empathy and my finger in his warm hand. As you might imagine the medicine was very expensive for that new family and as I paid my bill leaving very little cash in hand after which, I slipped what little remained into the hand of the boy with the black eye make-up and 104 fever. I bid sweet farewell and best wishes in the simplest Hindi I had acquired.

Now, as I wished for my bed…even if just a mat and net on the floor in 100˚/100% humidity…oh, please let me lay down now! Alas, the car turned down a road that was not mine to the beautiful home of the RIACE President. The eldest daughter of the house, who was off to her college classes shortly after I arrived, made me a cup of hot milk and brought in a traditional custard cake and Somoza to take with my medication. While chairs were brought into what must have been the master bedroom – I was told to lie down on the bed while everyone else sat around me, visiting. I relinquished, and when I finally I did the mother of the home was there ordering me in Hindi to put my head in her lap. She then rubbed a headache ointment called dragon (which I bought 3 of later in my trip) on my temples and proceeded to give me one of the most healing head massages I have ever had in my life…I am not sure it could be replicated. She was a healer, a mother and a gift! I let go of all the chatting around me and truly relished the moment. As I finally did leave to be returned to my bed where I would stay until the following day – I asked a friend and translator, Khitish Das, to please thank them and especially to tell the mother that she has magic hands. Most importantly I asked him to tell her that my mother thanks her for her kindness and taking such good care of me – she immediately blushed behind her sari which was wrapped over her head as she delicately stood in the balance of the threshold of her home.

The next day feeling better, I gave 10 rupees to our cooks to get a morning cup of hot milk…they sent a boy to the man with the cow and came back with fresh milk to boil – village life!

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P.S. In the photos you will see the evening of a festival for a holiday were everyone wears a new outfit, ours being our new sari’s! You will also catch a glimpse of a brief much needed break that Stephanie and I took at a ‘5 star’ hotel for 1 evening of AC, warm shower and TV…Stephanie sadly got sick shortly after me in that same week – we needed some real rest.

And I can’t forget to point out that I made a friend with a small village dog, whom I named Zuki Junior.