Raising South Asian Voices

Cynthia Dettman:  Author

The Lonely, Sometimes-Patient Sleuth

Happy to have arrived safely in Chennai, ensconced in a comfortable, 8th floor room looking out at the Marina Beach.  I’m renting an Air B&B room with bath in a family home with access to their simple kitchen.  It’s nice to be with a friendly hostess and her daughter and maid.

But your sleuth is lonely!  The “informant” contacts I came with have been elusive.  However, it is a long holiday season for many, especially families with students, so folks are traveling and otherwise occupied.  My law student contact is ill and “under observation”, she said.  I wasn’t able to determine from her school’s website when the new semester begins.  A former friend and college professor, Romila, has rushed to Madurai because her granddad is ill.  The well-known journalist I located through an article of hers I read hasn’t responded to my WhatsApp texts.  I imagine she is busy with work or holiday gatherings?  And my old friend Srini is also out of town.

Not surprisingly, I’ve not received any responses to my several emails to gay advocacy groups and to individual queer writers I found on the internet.  Is it the result of homophobia?  Perhaps they haven’t trusted my queries?  Or I just haven’t found the right contacts yet.

But I have accomplished a few things!  Got over jet lag with lots of sleep over a period of days.  Bought a few Western groceries to supplement the Indian diet, which I can’t seem to handle three times a day: purchased unsatisfying bread, questionable cheese, peanut butter, but delicious fruits.  Enjoyed several delicious vegetarian meals of dosai, idli, sambar, and coconut chutney- a vegetarian’s heaven.  Re-learned how to take a satisfying bath with a bucket (the shower doesn’t work).  Found my way to a classical flute concert.  Navigated both “auto rickshaws” and Uber vehicles to get around town, closing my eyes frequently to avoid panic as the vehicles weave wildly in and out of the crowded river of traffic.  Walked the paved beach path three times so far for a one-hour, sweaty walk with other walkers and joggers, noting how many Indians have become overweight with Western lifestyles and foods.  The walk involved dodging cows, stray dogs, vendors, beggars, youngsters with headphones, elders with their ears covered due to the “cold” of winter, and lots of feces on the ground.

Perhaps the most important lesson here is the importance of patience, especially in India!  I am not the center of the universe.  I chose to arrive during a holiday season.  And I have plenty of time to find my interviewees.  So many topics to discuss:  law education, LGBT rights, rural life, death rituals in the case of suicide, etc.  I did finally sit down to edit a short story yesterday and submit it to an Indian literary journal- and made a list of others to consider.

The lonely sleuth is practicing patience today!


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Lovely prose, dear Cynthia! Congratulations on editing a story to submit to an Indian literary journal- and making a list of others to consider. I, too, find creative work helps lift those lonely blues.

Thanks Cynthia for keeping us updated on your activities in India. I appreciate your honesty and self-reflection. Perhaps you’ll be able to connect with some of your contacts soon. Hang in there.

My patience has worked- suddenly I’m welcomed into the local law school’s gates and will be visiting law classes today. Yeah! Cynthia

Being in a foreign country as a solo traveler always has its moments. All experiences are part of the journey and patience becomes your best friend. I spent a month in Istanbul and other Turkish locations as a single lesbian white womyn…during the month of Ramadan!! Those lessons remain with me. Even in New Mexico, where few emails are returned as I network with nonprofits, I’ve refocused to meet face-to-face and found greater traction. Your people will be there when the time is right. 👍
Trust and Patience.

My patience is paying off! I have been quickly welcomed into the local law school and will be visiting classes today! Yeah! Cynthia

You’re right, Yatma. Slowly, relationships are developing and information is arising. It’s always good for me to work on patience! Cynthia

Well, that sounds quite adventurous if not discouraging some times. Hope you make some contacts soon.
Keep on truckin’ as they used to say!

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