survivor girl ukulele band

bringing restoration and hope to survivors of human trafficking through the healing power of music and love

Archive for the month “July, 2013”

diamonds in the sky

last april i was in kerala and found myself wandering around the various sari departments of the chennai silks store. there are so many kinds of saris, so many colors, designs, fabrics, and qualities. “how do indian women buy their saris?” i wondered.

soon i was shadowing some customers, pretending to look at saris for myself, but in reality i was watching them to see if i could learn how they choose a sari.

on one of the floors, it seemed that sari purchases were a group endeavor. soon i was eavesdropping on a family buying a fabulous red sari. and when they moved over to try on the pink sari below, i finally started asking questions.

“is this a wedding party?” i asked.

“yes!” they said. davis, the groom, had his sister and mother and best friends in tow for the day.

seems that the fabulous red sari that they had picked out was for the bride. as part of the wedding protocol, she would change into the red sari when she came to her husband’s house.

and now they were buying a pink sari for davis’s sister.


next they let me tag along to see them purchase the groom’s wedding shirt.


in india, there’s no such thing as too much bling.


and then after the sari and wedding shirt purchases, they invited me to tag along to the jewelry store, where they bought gold chain and locket for the bride.


by now they had invited me to attend the wedding, so the next day i came back to the chennai silks store and bought a sari for myself. this sari cost about $18. wheee!!

laurie buys a sari

and of course, i couldn’t wear my black flip flops with that fabulous sari, so i found some inexpensive diamond slippers for the occasion.


finally the day of the wedding arrived, and i took the mandatory soft-focus great-lighting auto-rickshaw selfie on my way to the wedding.


to kick things off, the groom’s family had a small pre-wedding blessing in front of the family’s catholic shine.


then we were off in a bus to the bride’s parents’ house.


next came the hindu ceremony at the bride’s parents’ house.


just married — davis and his bride!


at the bride’s home, the food was served on a banana leaf and doled out from buckets.


this is one of davis’s friends who wanted to let me know how much trouble americans cause around the world.


back at davis’s house again, his sculptor friends are busy making ice swans for the groom’s family’s wedding reception in the afternoon and evening.


here’s one of davis’s friends, who gave me a ride on a motorcycle when there was a lull in the action. of course i rode side-saddle, and i felt like a real indian woman, riding along on the back of a motorcycle, all elegant and graceful.

but then something went wrong.


when we got back to davis’s house, he drove the bike down a short sandy hill and got too close to a pole, so he stopped and tried to turn the bike or something.

i’m not sure what happened really except that we came to a stop and then the bike started tipping to the right. but i was sitting side-saddle with my feet on the left.

“ohhhh, nooo!!”

once the bike started tipping, there was no stopping it, though he was holding onto it as best as he could.

thump! my back finally hit the dirt, my sari went askew, and then all i could see were my feet in the air. diamond slippers in the blue sky.

two onlookers rushed over to pick me up and dust me off, and we all laughed so hard about the ridiculous slow motion fall. so much for being elegant and graceful.

hours and hours later came the cake ceremony, with davis’s mom and dad looking on.


the second meal of the wedding, this one at the groom’s house. super yummy.


all too soon it was time for me to go, but there’s always time for one more photo with davis’s sister.


the end.

closed door, open window


there was no shortage of young women in the home wanting to get into the new beginner classes. they zoomed up to give me their names and get on the list. here was their chance. finally it would be their turn to learn and sing and be part of the survivor girl ukulele band!

large beginner classes started, and the new girls were so happy and earnest.

i can still picture reka* as she sat cross-legged on the floor and held her ukulele close. she gave it a strum and shut her eyes tight and began to hum. her head tilted to the side and her eyebrows knit together and she imagined she was playing real chords in a real song and that she was somebody. it was a magic moment.

a few days later the project was cancelled. the end.

i got to say good-bye to three of my first batch students, and when they came down to meet me i could tell they had been crying. i started crying too. no one said this was going to be easy.

and rather than get into the whys and wherefores, i’ll just get into telling you about phase two, in which laurie gets her bhelpuri and then shifts to the big city.

this guy has a stand right across the street from where i lived and serves up the best bhelpuri pettis ever!!


and this short video is of the bhelpuri man’s wife. she and i would sit together and eat and try to carry on a conversation in my limited hindi and her marathi.

after my last meal of bhelpuri i packed up, and the next day i headed to mumbai.

here is the guy i hired to drive me to mumbai. he drove like the wind.


half way to mumbai, it started raining, and it has barely stopped raining since.


in mumbai, i’m volunteering with an organization that has a number of drop-in centers in some of the city’s red-light areas. the drop-in centers provide a place for doctors to hold clinics, for social workers to provide counseling, and now for me to conduct ukulele lessons for the women working in these areas.

my commute includes auto-rickshaws and trains. mumbai trains are very crowded and never boring. on the first day as i approached my station carrying six ukuleles, i worried how i would get off the packed train. not to worry, the crowd ahead of and behind me disembarked at the same station. i had just managed to get the six ukuleles out of the train and myself onto solid ground when the crowd surging to get on nearly carried me back onto the same train!

from that busy station i take another train, and from that train i take an auto to one of the slums. i walk in a short distance and then turn into a narrow walk-way between two buildings. on the other side is a narrow raised cement footpath, and either side that path are small hovel brothels with benches and chairs outside under corrugated roofs where the women sit and wait for customers.


on my recon visit to mumbai we were invited for lunch at the new home of a female pimp / debt collector. she served goat and gravy and rice. the apartment was one-room, approximately 10″ by 10″, with no toilet. here’s a photo of the kitchen area and the goat.


and here’s a short video of a lemon seller girl on the train. enjoy!!

*name changed.

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