I return to Jaipur in the late evening, the trip having taken longer than expected. But then again, everything in India takes longer than planned. Everything. In this case, the roads are a little bumpier and a little more crowded today, and if we didn’t stop for tea says Mr. Bhati, we would not have lost another 10 minutes. (The journey is over three hours longer than estimated!) Every second on the road was worth it though. It was a visual feast, a delightful drive into the countryside, a marvelous slice of history witnessed. See the photos in the previous post.
And a real mood shifter. I can now face the workday tomorrow with renewed energy. It helps too that the coordinator, Marcus, has returned from Delhi, albeit it worse for the wear from dealing with the accounting. Apparently, the firm in Delhi that has been hired to do it has been stashing receipts into rucksacks. Perhaps they imagined they were just storing them and that the transient pack of foreigners in the project – Afghans, English, Americans, Germans, Jamaicans etc. – would each sling a sack over a shoulder and depart with the piles of papers. Which ever it is, it is left to Marcus to clean up the mess, which he does. He is beyond conscientiousness as you will see below. It is an honor to be working with him.
The previous week, I was sitting out on the lawn at breakfast with him and Latika when his phone rings. Now it is only 7:15 am. He speaks discreetly into it, texts rapidly, then looks up. “We have a baby,” he says.
I am clueless. It reads all over my face so he explains, “One of the Afghan women just gave birth.”
“Was this unexpected?” I ask, thinking ‘scandal’ as there have been quite a handful in this group.
“No, its her second. Her husband though left for Afghanistan last week where his father just died. But hang on, I have to get her and the baby to a doctor to be checked out.”
(This is just some of the coordination that Marcus takes care of.)
“What? Doctor? You mean she’s not at the hospital?”
He calls a doctor he has come to know in his brief time in Jaipur. (The Afghans love doctors. They visit them weekly it seems, and like all else, they go in groups.) He then calls Marouf and directs him to take the new mother and baby to her. (Afghan women will only be seen by a female doctor.)
He then turns to me.
“I’ve had a car waiting in the apartment building on 24-hour call to get the expecting mother to the hospital in time but instead she has it at home.”
I’ve just sunk my face into a succulent mango, gripping the slippery fleshy seed in my hands. It almost shoots out of my fingers. I am seeing the mess all over, wondering who assisted, who cut the umbilical cord if at all, thinking no husband present, toddler crawling around.
“Halazenah delivered. She’s delivered plenty before in her village,” Marcus assures me, “But I’m still sending them to the doctor to make sure both the mother and baby are fine.”
(By the way, a few days later, I am speaking with the Afghan coordinator, Ibrahim, who tells me the baby was born in fact in the elevator. I would have lost my mango at that.)
Today is an extra blessed day. I have been working with a delightful young woman, Prekshya, who is smart, highly perceptive, runs a team of craftsmen who are all older, and has a good eye for detail. She is making the lapis collection in record time and I am tremendously grateful.
She has been out sick for the last three working days. Today she is well. Progress again. I go out to the factory, see the models in production, fine-tune a few finishes, and get more beads from Halazenah (the midwife/bead cutter/businesswoman Afghan) for the collection.
In the evening, my last, she and I go for dinner at Steam, the casual and separated restaurant of the Rambagh Palace Hotel, the most magnificent hotel I have ever laid eyes on. Its beauty is as highly polished as its marble floors buffing all soul right out of the place. Yet it is an oasis from the chaos, garbage, rubble and dust of Jaipur. I am so glad the enormous lawns are intact, well-manicured, pristinely maintained. Prekshya recommends a pizza (they’re known for thin-crusts) that is just delicious and unusual – jalapenos and corn amongst the ingredients. The jalapenos are spicy (my stomach makes a groan – translation: Haven’t you burnt enough holes into me from the curries?) but Prekshya asks for hot sauce, dousing her pizza. I am amazed.
Halazenah and me sorting through Halazenah’s gorgeous handcut beads.