It is India’s national day and my birthday today. This morning was hazy and the sun did not appear. It was predicted to be 15 degrees Celsius, but then the sun appeared, and the temperature in Puri was perfect, about 25 degrees. Tomorrow we will leave Puri at 16, goodbye to this remarkable paradise. I choose to spend the morning amongst the fishermen in the fishing village. My friend, the fisherman Santos, meets me at the gate of Sagar Saikate, and follows me through the narrow alleys. I have brought with me three shirts and trousers which need to be washed. In addition I have my winter jacket which I will need when I land in Oslo, a winter jacket which needs to be fixed, there is a hole in a pocket and some buttons are about to fall off. First we get to the laundry women, where she runs her laundry. Last time I left clothes here, I got it back newly washed, sun-dried and ironed, 8 piece of clothing cost me 10 NOK. Nice to support the people who work with something other than fishing in the village. Then the trip goes to the village’s tailor. He look at what needs to be fixed, and says it will be ready within thirty minutes, and he charges 6 NOK for the job and is pleased, an honest piece of work.
Santos and I go down to the beach. We sit down in the shadow beneath a roof of weaved coconut palm leaves, it is cool and nice in the shadow under the airy roof. On the beach the fishermen sits with crossed legs and fix their nets. Gangs of small children play in the shadow under the palm leaf roof, there are good vibrations here. About 75% of the children at school age attends school here, they learn to write and read, and are finding a way out of the illiteracy.
Today India is 64 years old, a young democracy with an ancient culture, which will get more and more impact on the world’s stage. It is easy to get seduced by India, the life has been lived from a completely different angle than at us in the West. Here there are millions of gods, temples and alters everywhere. If one is to make a pilgrimage to all of the temples in India, one can probably spend three lifetimes or more. The gods are close, both physically and in a large part of the Indian’s consciousness. But it is a picture with many nuances one steps into. Every day I see leprous beggars, crippled and suffering people. There are medicine against leprosy, but one still see leprous many places. There are not so many beggars in Puri, but one often see them at the entrance of the various temples, which Indian pilgrims visit. In many of the temples, only Hindus are allowed to enter.
Without the women, India would have stopped, they are working all the time. I see them work with digging crushed stone and sand, wearing their saris, which looks surprisingly clean. They carry wood and food to their homes or for trade. One see them in rows, balancing their baskets while walking. The maternal mortality amongst women is high, I saw an article in the newspaper today, which claimed that a woman dies every 5th minute in the state of Orissa. It is an exaggeration, says Santos. In the fishing village, the old women helps when a child is born, and they know what they are doing, in our village fatalities during childbirth happen very rarely. The sun is setting, and I continue the writing tomorrow. The last thoughts before we leave Puri.
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