So this one’s for the fam and friends who want to see the everyday life. Apologies to everyone else.
The first four days of my time here were spent at the “old” international hostel. I confess that, upon entering, I wondered at what I had gotten myself into. However, after getting a power converter, discovering wifi, learning the names of the 20-something people who are in my group with me, and developing a routine, the place was like home. In spite of showers in the same room as the toilet, very small rooms and a tiny communal room that could barely keep us all, it had its homey touches. I grew to love it.
The new place is fancy (someone on the trip remarked that it looked like a “pink palace”), almost too fancy. A few of us felt uncomfortable with the obviously preferential treatment, when compared with the Indian student dorms. There’s plenty of space (almost too much. We fought for awhile to find a communal meeting place.), balconies, showers separate from the toilets, really nice bedding… the list goes on. We did fight for warm water (still are) and wifi (success) for awhile, as the place is still technically under construction. But it’s homey. One major obstacle: it’s one mile from anything on campus, including the library, classes, the shopping center, the health center, EVERYTHING. We have bicycles, but it’s not uncommon for me to bike 5+ miles per day, including to my yoga class.
A couple of notes about life in general: There are cows everywhere. I’ve actually woken up to the sound of cows mooing. Price of transportation operates in exactly the opposite way than I would assume (trains least expensive, auto rickshaws most expensive, cabs and trains in the middle). Things move at a slower pace here. There’s tea-time for 30 minutes at a time at least 3 times a day. That could never happen in the U.S. with its “time is money” culture. You’d be fired. The working lunch is our way of life. Here, things happen as they happen. This is amazing. But it also means that if you’re in a hurry to do anything, you’ve got another thing coming (queue Judas Priest). It also means that occasionally things are very inefficient. Go with the flow. I’ve seen two monkeys. The first one I saw stood up and scratched its balls almost the second I looked at it. How very monkey-like. I also think I saw a mongoose.
As far as the previous requests for observations on Muslim architecture/culture in India go, I really have nothing to compare it to, as this is the only city I’ve been to so far. But I can say that it’s beautiful, that the juxtaposition of British, Hindu, and Muslim is striking and gorgeous, and that the call to prayer is one of the most wonderful things I’ve ever heard. The hot boys, I haven’t met any so far. I LOVE Samosas (deep fried bread stuffed with potato and spices and deliciousness), Maaza (a mango juice drink made by Coca Cola)… basically anything deep-fried in India is freakin’ delicious. As far as smell… it’s the most unique thing I’ve ever experienced. It just smells normal now, but when I first got here, it’s all I could smell. It’s not a bad smell, it just permeates. There’s nothing I can compare it to: it’s just India. I would suggest maybe some spices, some wildlife, some dust for sure (everything here is coated with dust), but ultimately it’s just India.
Men pee on the side of the road here, against walls. I totally saw a guys penis the other day. But I can’t show my knees without getting cat calls or an ass slap. Where’s the justice in that? So occasionally, if you hit the wrong road, it smells like stale urine and feces. Don’t trust any liquid you see on the road, basically. Beggars are aggressive, so if you give one money, you’ll have a swarm. The poverty is extreme. I saw a blind man poke a man who was sleeping on the sidewalk with his cane. I’ve also seen one leper and 2-3 polio victims. If I spend too much time in the city on any one day, I develop a cough and a stinging in my nose and my eyes dry out. It’s all the pollution. You can’t not have as much pollution as India when you have as many people as India. They also don’t have a trash system. There’s just heaps of trash on the sides of the roads. At the same time, it’s absolutely beautiful. The nature, the culture, the spirituality… I think I could live here my entire life and still never lose things to look at. I went to a Hindu temple and a Buddhist shrine yesterday (pictures later), and felt a calm and serenity I hadn’t yet felt since being here, or at any time in my life in the U.S. There’s just something different here that I still haven’t put a finger on. More later.