April 25, 2012
I usually advocate against the gender binary, but this time I’ll admit a woman’s touch has been good for the farm. In preparation for painting, I scrubbed the walls, sinks, and doors of the bathrooms with a piece of coconut husk. I can handle sharing a bathroom with the frogs and lizards and ants but does it have to be dirty too? No, it doesn’t. Who knows the last time it had been scrubbed. Plus you get the instant gratification of cleaning something that is really dirty, watching the wall of grime flood to the floor with a spray of the hose.
I was pumped to start painting today! Well, priming actually, but at least I would have a brush in my hand instead of a crowbar. Compared to painstaking scraping, the paint would go on so fast, No. 7744 Lime Delight magic! Yet when we laid out the tarps in the morning I was a bit anxious. Some of the workers had never painted before. It takes practice. Would we be able to do it? Baburam was hovering, watching us make mistakes and scolding/advising. I took a deep breath and told the perfectionist inside to take the day off. It wasn’t easy but it felt right, to patiently point out missed patches and to keep their containers topped-up with fresh primer. I bit my tongue as paint dripped onto the metal roof, the floor, tables and chairs. I sighed and passed out wet rags to wipe it up. The workers had never seen paint rollers before, and curiously tried them out. (“Did you bring these from the U.S.? We don’t have these in Orissa.”…”How much did it cost?”…”Arey, it’s detachable? I thought there was some sort of mechanized in there!”) I showed them how to cut into corners, how to wash and store the brushes. At the end of the day I surveyed the damage. The floors were pretty clean but the paint line where the wall meets the roof was hopelessly messy. But I’m ok with it, because instead of smooth strokes and straight lines, I taught these lovely Tamil women how to paint a wall. I made the right choice.