Tuesday, July 11, 1961
For your information, your letter of June 27 was received today. As you can see, APO is not too fast, but once our letters start going back and forth regularly, the delays won’t seem as long. We know that APO mail comes in and goes out on Tuesdays. I have no idea when it reaches San Francisco or by what day of the week, you’d have to post it to catch the weekly pick-up.
It was wonderful to hear from you, but I, too, keep wondering why I just can’t go out to the phone and dial your Turner number. Actually, here in Delhi we’re lucky if we get a local number; I can imagine what it would be like to attempt a call over a couple of oceans and continents.
We’ve been having our ups and downs getting started here in Delhi, as does everyone, it seems. First, there is the weather to content with. The monsoons are with us, and while it’s not the way Hollywood has so often pictured it, it’s very much like a Turkish bath to have it raining when the temperatures are in the 90s. In the South of India they’ve had dreadful floods and thousands are homeless; but Delhi gets very little rain – only 26 inches, as compared to 300 or 400 in South India, but it falls in these two months of the year, July and August.
Secondly, you have to readjust your entire pace of life. As I told Irv, if you don’t, you go mad. You have to learn to accept – graciously – power lines going out, people being late for appointments, phones that don’t work, etc., etc.
Third, there is the problem of health. No American, it seems, can escape getting sick here; and everyone has been through it. Gene already had his dose, as you must know, by now; and now it looks as though Jon and I may have amoebic dysentary. This doesn’t start out as violently – as a matter of fact, I had no symptoms of dysentary at all, only an overwhelming weakness and dizziness which I thought was due to the heat. Yesterday morning I finally got some cramps and diarrhea which made us call the doctor; so did Jon. Our stool specimens are being checked this a.m. and if it’s amoebic, we’ll start the nine-day treatment. As you can imagine, this has slowed us up considerably.
Last, but not least, we may be safe in the apt-hotel, but we don’t particularly like it and are dying to get into a place of our own. And how long that is going to take, no one seems to know – or care. We are slightly outraged that there is practically no organization at TCM for taking care of us – and all the others in the same boat – but I supposed that when we finally do get set, this period, too, will soon be forgotten.
Our air freight finally arrived last week and it’s been just like Christmas for Jon and Ruth. I unpacked only a few essentials – toys, some extra glasses and our own bath towels – and am leaving the rest until we move since it would only clutter up this apartment.
I have described, and so has Gene, our apartment hotel. We’ve also told you about the interesting traffic situation and a bit about some of the sights. It’s fascinating, true, but hardly glamorous. On the contrary, most of the sights are pretty horrible by our standards. The well-dressed Indian ladies in their magnificent sarees are rarely out, and especially not in this weather. The people we see on the streets – and for many of them that is their home – are the pitifully poor. True, the women are in sarees, but they’re dirty; the men usually wear only the loin cloth – not the gleaming white of Ghandi’s, but just a threadbare, rather filthy rag. Indeed as one of our colleagues said the other night – so much in India can be summed up by the description, “a dirty rag.” Children are usually stark naked with the exception of a charm worn on a strong around their middle. Typical sights are: some poor soul lying stretched out in a patch of shade; a group squatting around a fire on the ground, cooking their meager meal; men and boys urinating in the open trenches along the road. I haven’t figured out where the women take care of their needs, but they could be doing anything when they squat down in those voluminous skirts.
Now, lest you get dismayed, let me say that there are some beautiful (by Indian standards) neighborhoods in Delhi, and, of course, that is where people like us settle. In these sections, homes are usually built around a maedon (mall) and they are fairly large, two-storied flats. Usually the arrangement of rooms is quite unlike ours; and, of course, the kitchens are not at all what we’re accustomed to; but once these places are furnished with the TCM equipment and furnishings (and I’ve seen many), they are quite lovely. And as everyone keeps reminding me, the kitchen is not my problem, but the cook’s. These neighborhoods are lived in by foreigners and very wealthy Indians. The servants for these families occupy the servant quarters which are usually separate from the house or over the garage.
The dreadful heat has precluded too many sight-seeing trips or shopping expeditions, but what I’ve managed to see is wonderful. You and Naomi would lose your minds in the brass bazaars. I’ve seen some simply magnificent things in brass and enamel, but everyone tells me to wait before buying. It seems that one looks in New Delhi but goes to Old Delhi to buy since the prices there are even lower. Personally, I feel that the prices here are the lowest I’ve ever seen, but I’ll go by what people tell me who have been here longer.
The raw silks are beautiful, too. The average tailor doesn’t do the kind of job that would be done in Hong Kong, but there are one or two good ones around and I’ll find them soon. Besides, your dress is in our sea freight which won’t be here for some time yet.
One of my good friends here, Elinor Corey, just called on Jon and me, bringing books for both of us. Both he and I are pale and weak, with circles under our eyes, but as Elinor says, we look like everyone else undergoing his initiation. She looked so spry and bouncy that I could only tell her I hate anyone who is healthy at the moment.
I’m enclosing another check for Irv to deposit, which is why I’m sending this regular international airmail. We are so lucky to have him at the other end taking care of all these details for us.
Glad to hear that your mother is getting over her cold and that she’ll soon be able to take her vacation. Here’s hoping that she did get off and that instead of having that nervous breakdown you spoke of, you’re having yourself a good time.
This letter was written for you and Irv. You can tell Naomi what’s in it, too, but use your discretion about letting Dad read it. It was wonderful to hear from you, and we look forward to another letter soon.