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Madhu: I Left Her in India

 

Johanna McCloy calls Los Angeles home but grew up overseas, living in Spain, India, Japan, Venezuela and Singapore. This U.S. Journeywoman loves to travel and feels most at home when she's on the road. A big Nature lover, Johanna is currently developing a documentary series for television regarding women in conservation. She writes...


My family moved to India when I was seven years old. Our family was American but we had lived in Madrid since I was three months old. The only language I spoke was Spanish. Though my parents spoke English to each other, I considered myself a proud Spaniard. I hated learning English and purposely failed my summer classes. 

 

Our new home... 

EarthWe arrived in New Delhi to a heat that was oppressive and a filth that blanketed everything. In the car on the way to the hotel, I sat in wonder, eyes wide open, taking in the wild and exotic setting. Skinny cows abounded, as did women in colorful saris carrying pots on their heads and men in dhotis, some lined up for a barber's cut on the side of the street. 

Shortly after arriving we drove up to view our new home. Behind us, gates closed and uniformed and armed men with rifles stood at the guard house. The car came to a stop under a canopied driveway. Eager, smiling, curious Indian faces awaited, their heads bowed as we exchanged greetings in a waiting line. These people, it turned out, were our servants and their families. "Sirvientes?" I didn't understand. Some of them, we were told, lived in the servants' quarters at the back of our property. This was very puzzling indeed. I had truly entered an alien world. 


No language required...

Big SisterMadhu was the fourteen year-old daughter of our driver, Surijpal. I don't remember when I made my first acquaintance with her but we became quick friends. I admired and was fascinated by her. I don't remember how, but we managed to communicate. I spoke Spanish and bits and pieces of bad English. She spoke Hindi. Maybe she spoke some bad English, too. I honestly don't recall. What I do recall is our sweet, innocent, mutual adoration. 

I remember taking her to my room and putting on a Spanish record. I sang and danced along enthusiastically. She stood timidly, watching me. I realized she'd never danced before, so I took her by the hand and showed her how. I emphasized that dancing was about expressing joy, and the more she moved, the louder she giggled. Then she taught me how to dance Hindu style. I loved it. 

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