a smorgasbord

Thank goodness for my roommate Robin. Aside from her, most of the other Fulbright and scholarly people that I see regularly in Pune are in the midst of pursuing their masters or writing their dissertation or have accomplished much to be proud of in their academic careers. And so, occasionally, when I meet someone new (who fits into the scholar category) and tell them what I’m doing here inevitably they ask me if I’m pursuing my masters or my PhD. To which I timidly reply, “Nope. I’m not really sure where this will lead me. I’m just working on this project because it’s something that I really care about.” When I spell that answer out, it doesn’t seem silly. It even seems kind of noble, a little bit precious. But when I’m sputtering out that reply to someone who is in Grad school and has spent the last 2 years trying to find funding to come back to India to continue their research or studies, I sometimes feel a little frivolous. At first this bothered me. But then Beyonce started singing to me one morning as I was getting ready for school. Her chorus was stuck in my head and as I walked along the little path to my language class, I realized that I am really loving the fact that I am learning a language not for a degree, or to further my educational development, but to be able to communicate with people, to use! I felt a fresh sense of purpose and energy. After all, who needs a degree when you’re schoolin’ life?

***

Last Friday we took an AIIS field trip to Kaas Plateau, a newly declared UNESCO World Heritage site. Kaas Plateau is situated just east of Satara, a small city located about 120 km south of Pune. Here is a little photo tour of some of the beautiful sights that I saw.

Ganesh, remover of obstacles, is a good god to have sitting on your dashboard. Especially when your driver is in a bit too much of a hurry to get somewhere and everyone on the road is an obstacle.

In the dry season, the plateau looks a little more like this.

गेंद (gain-duh), a rare white flower that looks blue in my photos…

Drosera Indica, a “non-veg” plant which is endangered and found only on Kaas Plateau. It’s little tentacles are poisonous and sticky, trapping little bugs and devouring them.

Smithia (aka Mickey Mouse!)

अबोलीमा (abolima)

गौरीहार, gaohrihar

Didn’t catch the name of this one! How about purple fuzzy flaring fan flower?

The Marathi name for this tree breaks down to “teeth” and “fall out.” It’s bark is poisonous and if the twigs are used to brush teeth, like many twigs are in more rural areas, your teeth will fall out!

सीतेची आसवं (tears of Sita) another non-veg plant. The flower produces a sticky secretion that resembles a dew drop. Unsuspecting insects drop down for a drink and get stuck, a tasty snack for the flower.

Tinny, pretty and purple! Lovely.

Sea of violet

Flowers and sky

खाली (spider or fisherman, but in this case, spider). All of these endemic flowers made me wonder what kind of insects might be creeping around my feet. Love me some bugs!

हत्तीची सोंड (elephant’s trunk) :)

Dam! Over 160 years old! This water supplies the whole city of Satara (about 110,000 people)!

This divinely green slope helps to naturally filter the water. Nature! So many amazing processes!

This is the canal, over 100 years old, that channels water to Satara. Gravity…what a simple process.

The water was so clear and the sun was beating down on our backs. We wanted to jump in so badly!

So inviting!

From right to left: Naz (AIIS student), Sujata (my teacher), and me. The lovely folks to my right accompanied our guide Ajit. I can’t remember their names…

The trip was refreshing and informative. I’m looking forward to more excursions and being able to practice my Marathi!

***

Speaking of speaking Marathi, I’ve mastered my rickshaw directional vocabulary. In fact, the other night Robin and I took a rickshaw home. At the end of our ride our driver turned around and smiled and said, “You speak Marathi?” In Marathi I replied, “Yes, I’m learning Marathi. I speak a little.” And this is the part that made me dance a little victory dance inside my head. He then asked me how many years I’ve lived in Pune. “No, no,” I replied, smiling. “Only one month.” “One month! Very good! Very good!” And that’s exactly how that interaction made me feel. खुप छान!

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