India. India’s just a crazy place, where things make no sense, but make total complete sense.
I’ve asked all of the inbounds here if they think the same thing, and they just pause, maybe go “Uhh, well…” then nod because they can’t think of any better way to explain it. Or if they can, the end point is always the same, things make sense, but don’t. It’s literally the only way to explain, dear old India. Sometimes, I absolutely hate India, and I completely can’t figure out how it came to why I now have to slap small children when they swarm me (which luckily I haven’t had to do yet, but I have been swarmed and it’s terrifying). Then I love India, and how only certain things can happen here. And the feeling is usually how much I love India.
It’s like when you’re a small child and you read all these stories that happened in Medieval times and you thing, “Wow, how could that have happened?” But here you can totally imagine a storybook scenario, I can’t understand yet if that’s because it’s so magical, or because it’s so hidden from recent Western progression. Maybe it’s a bit of both…
Luckily though, everyone’s told me that Nagpur is one of the cleanest cities in India; Pune seems to be the only rival to that claim. And honestly, I haven’t seen the drastic poverty that’s shocking, and I haven’t seen extreme garbage, so I guess it is. In Nagpur, the slums (which here seem to just be houses made by hand, though I’m sure my family’s kept me away from any extreme poverty) just seem like very small rickety plywood and tin houses. They’re one room.
I wonder how many people when they read that went, *GASP!* 'One room!?' And, honestly back in America I would have probably gasped at the thought too. Though, here my apartment is three, real rooms. Sure, my parents also have a flat down stairs, but it's just used for sleeping. So the one we use all day has bathrooms within the two bedrooms, with the kitchen and dining area conjoined, and it’s not an uncomfortable feeling; it’s actually very very comfortable. Indians keep their homes very clean, and even the poorer ones have hired help.
Family here is also everything, and my personal one just keeps growing!! Back in America I was an only child, with a host-sister who I called my own sister. But here we have a festival where we tie Rahki’s onto our brother’s wrists, now I have 5 brothers, and 3 sisters (in India, 4 counting dear Blanka), I’m especially close to two of my brothers, and all of my sisters. Three of them are exchange students, and we bug each other and kid with each other just the same. It really is amazing. Having brothers is nice, I never had one before, and it’s highly entertaining, and honestly sometimes annoying, it's awesome.
People always ask me if I like India, maybe because I wasn’t too thrilled to come here honestly. I was scared what I would find, so I was very neutral about the whole thing. But now that I’m here, I love India. Maybe, it’s a pre-mature thing to say since I’ve only been here nearly three weeks (I arrived August 2) but the first impression is the strongest, right? And right now, I really love every moment I can spend exploring India’s pure greatness.
If I could put my thoughts together any neater than this journal I would, but the truth is that my thoughts here are never neat. They’re swarming with a bazillion ideas. About “How can that work?” Trying to remember if that’s the way you say that in English. And whether or not I’m going to accidentally run into traffic. After all I’m not a cow, a car could actually hit me.
So now for things that I used to love about journals, the lists!
Not weird, but creatively different things I’ve noticed:
•Little old ladies, and men, and young women, and young men all dye their hair with henna so no one can see their grays, but then their hair turns traffic cone orange, and it’s totally socially acceptable.
•There is no toilet paper, unless you go buy it yourself you better go get used to water.
•Squats do exist, and YES they ARE awkward.
•Bring hand-sanitizer, some people don’t understand the concept of soap in bathrooms. (as in, there is none to use)
•People will take pictures of you if they think you look interesting
•People may think you’re famous and ask for your autograph (it’s happened to all of the other exchange students, I’m the newest one so it hasn’t happened yet, what with all of the festivals lately, school’s been sparse)
•Cleavage is a NO, showing your stomach is a YES. Old ladies will gladly show you the rolls they’ve collected from good eating and child-birth out of the sides of their saris. Even if you didn’t want to see it… You’ll see it.
•Traffic laws? Ahaha that’s a funny joke. Sure they exist, are the followed? Only three are legally allowed in an auto-rickshaw, we ride with five and we sometimes go in the wrong lane into oncoming traffic.
•Starbucks? No. Café Coffee Day? OH YES.
•Bazaars? Kinda, Jaripatka? Best shopping location I know of, and one of the exchange students lives there!
•American clothing? Kinda. But am I getting at least four Indian “suits” made for me at the moment? Yes. Is it expensive? Actually, not at all. It’s less than going to Forever 21 and getting a couple of shirts. It’s weird though getting accustomed to people doing stuff for you.
•Do you really take rickshaws? Yes, and they’re auto-rickshaws with three wheels and everyone has a different interior, and you have to bargain with them (which can get really embarrassing when they offer lower then you offered them.)
•Are there cows? Yes, I named one Mr. MooMoo when it decided to come up and chill next to me. People swerve around them when they drive.
So India’s one of those special places, where you can never imagine a place like it, yet it exists right under your noses. I love it so much here, and I can’t wait to spend my year exploring India more. Thank you so much, everyone that gave me this opportunity. Thanks for trusting me enough to send me to such a difficult at moments, but completely magical place. I love it so so much.