Thursday, October 09, 2008

Friday, August 15, 2008

Day 33/end

"Ye mehra india, I love my India."
I am currently on the plane back to Umrika. This is probably the weirdest flight I’ve ever been on; only because it has cool TV options, with a touch screen monitor on the back of every seat. As soon as I got here, I began voraciously pressing buttons. The only problem is that the airplane is totally possessive of our attention. Every time an announcement comes on the movie gets interrupted by a boring detailed analysis of how the flight will go or whatever. I mean, it’s actually kind of nice that the pilot talks, but the flight attendant is like really bad at reading out loud. Plus, American voices can be harsh on your ears after 5 weeks in India.
I met two women in the airport named Geeta and June, because I was eavesdropping on them talking about what you do if you are going somewhere after going to Chicago, and what you should do with your luggage. June was Southern, white and wide and had apparently just met Geeta, when I heard her say, “No, I’m here all bah mahself. I’m doing somethang I’ve never done before in mah life. “ Upon hearing this, I promptly turned around. I was so abrupt about it that they noticed and talked to me. The two personalities before me couldn’t have appeared more different. Geeta was tiny and seemed very tired. She was Indian, and has lived in America for over 30 years, still sometimes saying sentences like “What school you are going to.” (I punctuate it with a period, because that is how it is said, it’s a common Indian English mistake.) By watching her speak, I could tell that she was reserved, and took time to phrase what she would say. When talking to her, she would often continue speaking after I thought she was finished. Some part of me felt like she was just being polite to Joan, but she seemed in spite of the reservation, truly interested. June, on the other hand, was loud, eagerly conversational, very large and very happy. And me, somewhere in the middle of these two extremes, and somehow not feeling out of place.
We discussed India, as June flamboyantly detailed her unpleasant encounters with the airline and with the non-toilet paper possessing bathrooms that are so prevalent, especially where she does religious missions. She would’ve been annoying, but she was just so endearing and so friendly that you couldn’t think a bad thought. She told us about how she gets flashes of the future, and how her friend who was her interpreter had a twenty minute conversation with Jesus, while she shrugged and modestly said, “I wish I could do that!” Somehow knowing that we could all sit there and talk about India and June’s cats, made me really hopeful for the human race.
And now I must tell you about my last couple of days; they have been filled with shopping. We bought kurtis and books, and I even got a new Death Cab CD. I am now totally worried that maybe not everything got packed… because I didn’t actually physically pack my own suitcase, Bhua did. I neurotically felt like re-packing it, but Bhua was getting upset. Oh I almost forgot. My hair is straight now. And it will be, for a while, which is hard to think about. I know it’s controversial to say, but I really liked having curly hair, and you know, it was kind of sexy, and I wasn’t the only one who thought so, but it’s also really nice to not have to touch my hair or anything and have myself still look presentable.
I’m watching Shrek the Third right now, so I’ll get back on this in a bit.
Okay I’m back. And it is more than a bit later. I am sitting comfortably in my study. I think it is time for me to tell you about my last day with the kids. My hair was newly straightened, and I was feeling really new, except I wasn’t wearing a belt with my outfit that really required one. Abhinav had developed photos of them to give them, and I woke up ridiculously early after having passed out during a conversation the night before. We didn’t have lesson plan. We didn’t want to try and teach them anything on my last day. It was fun.
Everyone was like, weirdly amazed by me. “Good Morning, ma’am, you are beautiful, ma’am!”
I ran around with the camera, videotaping the babies and children that come into the center and taking masses of pictures of the kids. They were so excited to see their photos, and even one of the women whose child was getting a checkup wanted to keep a picture of me and my grandparents. All the women at the center made a big deal about me, putting a sari on me, putting a bindi on my forehead, putting a chain across my hair. They painted my nails, while trying to set me up with my cousin, which gave us a funny story to tell my Bhua afterwards. With the both the boys and the girls, we had a little party where we gave them weird fruit cake flavored muffins which they loved and played with them. The boys all danced with me and tried to teach me their Bollywood moves. We sang Love Me Do, which I taught to them and is their new favorite song. I took about a million photographs with one of the most charismatic babies in existence and her mother. Throughout the day, I started feeling more like a giant ball of mush.
As the girls started arriving (they come from school in groups of two or so), Anjali handed me a beautifully decorated card that said “I miss you I love you” . On the inside it said, “Thank you teach me English. I will never for get you. You are beautiful.” She shoved a pair of earrings into my hand. I thanked her and I gave her a kiss. I like these kids better than a lot of people, they legitimately cared, and they showed it. When Saima came in, she handed me a letter that was similarly filled with short, meaningful sentences that make me tear up a little when they’re written. We didn’t get to have much of a party with the girls as we did with the boys, because they had to finish their meeting, and I’m only there for the first half of their day. During their meeting, Jyoti performed her duties as president, while putting mehendi on my legs. It kept on accidentally getting smudged by hand gestures and people’s shawls. With five minutes left before Bhua was coming, and Jyoti just starting on my second leg, I started to become frantic that I wouldn’t get to say goodbye properly to the girls. Abhinav handed me the phone and made me talk to a frantic Reenu Bhua who thought the mehendi would get all over the car if it was on my legs, because she still believes I’m seven years old. Meanwhile, a little kid handed me a pair of earrings and a bracelet and said, “it’s from Heena.“ I asked where Heena was, and she said, “Oh, she left.” Abhinav tried to chase her down, but to no avail.
As Jyoti finally finished I told the kids I had to go, and that I loved them, and thank you for all the amazing times, and that I loved being their teacher and that I loved all of them. I don’t know if I actually said all of this, but this is how I felt. This all happened in like one minute though, so I probably didn’t say it all. The little kids at first were like, “Okay, see you tomorrow” and then they realized it was my last day, and they all stood up. I said I would miss them, and they said they’d miss me, and I started leaving the room and they followed me. I went and hugged Anita and the staff, and the kids swelled around us like a symphony. Anita started to say goodbye, and that I should come back, as all the kids were shouting, “Goodbye Ma’am,” “Come back ma’am” and then one child said, “Don’t go, Ma’am.” Then they all started asking me not to go, saying “Please don’t go, ma’am!” Suddenly it was just a burst that happened inside of me, and I just started to weep, because I didn’t want to leave. I loved these kids, even only after two weeks with them. I loved them and their incredible potential, their willingness to learn, their resilience, and their love of life. I loved that they had opened up their world to me, they had talked to me like I was one of them, they had learned and loved “Love Me Do”. They didn’t really know what to do when I started to cry, except Sweeta, the program coordinator, gave me a hug, and Katherine gave me a hug, and Sinku gave me a hug. Then I started gingerly walking to the car with the mehendi still on my legs, wearing just one shoe, as the children followed after me. They came up to the car, blowing me kisses and telling me they loved me. Bhua, unphased by the 25 or so young children bidding me farewell told me not to get anything on the car and scolded me for getting mehendi on my legs, while the children waved and waved until we drove away.
I guess I’d never really felt that way before, as if someone really needed me or wanted me in their life, enough to feel my absence when I’m not around. I mean, of course, my family. The children had enjoyed me, they had found me to be a good role model and a good teacher, and with all my clumsiness, I never thought I could be.
If you want to know, I’m glad I went to India. In fact, I’m infinitely glad I went. It has given me the most perspective I could’ve asked for. Just to see how the life is, how so many centuries of wisdom coexist together, how the culture evolves, yet stays the same, how a value for material things makes service better, how people can solve the world’s problems and still ride around in a three-wheeled vehicle peddled by a man on a bike. It’s surprisingly akin to me. I feel like this big vast multicolored quilt is very close to me. When people would ask me how I like India, and if it was different from home, I’d say, “Yes, it’s different, but it’s still my home.”

Saturday, August 09, 2008

डे 31 और डे 32

Because I haven't had a USB camera cord in so long, I thought you deserved some pictures.

Days 3-5 021
Sonu Mami's painting on the veranda

Days 3-5 085
Guitar store in Bengalaru

Bangalore and Delhi 005
Malvika on Guitar

Bangalore and Delhi 014

Rooftops in a Middle Class Neighborhood in Bengalaru

Bangalore and Delhi 085

Nana cutting a mango
Bangalore and Delhi 092
My fabulous majestic Nana

Bangalore and Delhi 015

A young child I saw on a corner

Bangalore and Delhi 026
On my long rickshaw ride to a children's school

Bangalore and Delhi 045

Malvika and I in her apartment (taken by Akshay)

Bangalore and Delhi 069
Nana got invited to tea with the queen

Bangalore and Delhi 075
Nani leads others by example

Bangalore and Delhi 096

Bangalore and Delhi 105

Bangalore and Delhi 189

Bangalore and Delhi 219


Opening Books



Present Tense

Jeevan Nagar








Fufu Leans Back

Why So Serious?



The End!!

Photos available on Flicker
and they sell prints in good sizes (mummy and papa).

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Day 27.28.29

Day 27/28/29
So here is how it all went down. It is Monday and Abhinav and I are getting up and going. W are also exhausted. We get to Asha and find that the boys class is having a meeting. They have a meeting once a week to discuss one public health issue and one social issue. I was very tired and so was Abhinav, so we kind of sat there and watched until I sort of nodded off. I mean, it was all cute and everything and it’s really great that they are educating the children about things like contaminated water and gender roles, but when they just keep saying the same things over and over again in Hindi you start to fall asleep in your chair. Which is what I did. It’s kind of the same reason I don’t go to Hindi movies that often.
Then anyway, Abhinav and I were like, they’ve been having their meeting forever but we’re still here… can we take their class or leave or something? And then Anita (the principal of Balmandal) said, “You can take them now.” So we took them and we taught them prepositions, which they are really damn good at. The boys can be really intelligent to the point that they wow me. Of course there are one or two that don’t understand it as well, or don’t understand anything. Abhinav and I decided to split up their classes. The Asha Health Center is very small and open to the outside, meaning there is no door, but just a part where you walk inside. This means that random civilians can hang out in the schoolyard, usually in small groups of slum children. There are these big windows in our school room with little box shaped bars to shield from the outside, but no windows. Occasionally during class, small children will put their hands on the bars from outside.
In the lag between the boys and the girls, I left the room to play with the cute babies whose mothers take them to the center for free vaccinations. After I was done with the babies, I went to the computer room to play solitaire, at which point Abhinav entered the room and asked, “Where’s your bag?” I thought he was teasing, because he always makes weird jokes like that, so I was like, “I don’t know, where?” and he said, “It’s not with you?”
We went back to the schoolroom and looked all around for my purse which was nowhere to be found. Abhinav asked Anita to look for it, and she was like, “You kept it by the window? Someone must be taking it.” I became really annoyed because everyone was staring at me and saying that I should’ve known not to put it by the window in their broken English. As time passed, everyone was talking about me and my purse in very apparently. The girls were all chatting amongst themselves and the little girl who says rude things about me said more rude things about what I was wearing, even when I told her I could hear her. The kids were in general, really nice and tried to cheer me up by making me ride a bicycle that didn’t have breaks. I kind of refused… not wanting to add injury to insult. Kiran’s husband, Freddy, made a call to the center and said a few things to make me feel better.
So we left and I called Papa and had him cancel my card. And Bhua pulled this horrible prank by telling me that the wallet she gave me was a Louis Vuitton worth 15000 USD. She laughed and laughed at me after I felt all horrible. We went to a restaurant called Kitchen and got comfort food and then went home and I ate some kind of bread pie that Bhua made. After that, Abhinav and I went to Mocha (this really hip coffee joint that looks like a harem and has hookahs and sheesha) with Abhinav’s friend Ishan. That was okay, but the crème brulee they served was not actually crème brulee but peach yogurt with brown sugar on it. It pissed me off beyond belief. Just as much as the cheesecake. It started to rain when we were leaving and my sandals with the cloth soles got soaked.
The next morning I began to feel really upset about this whole thing. We were running late and we got stuck in traffic three times. I was filled with fear that they would hate us for being so late and that Katherine, the girl from Harvard who has just come back, would outshine us since I’m late and I was stupid enough to leave my purse in sight of a window. When we arrived twenty minutes late, I was surprised to see all the children sitting in the room with Anita. When they saw me, they all jumped up and smiled. “Mil gaya!” Anita told me a long involved story about how she had seen my face after my purse was stolen and how upset I was, and that there has never been a robbery at the school before. She said that they went to the schools and took all the boys out and asked them if they knew anything. All the children insisted that they respect me and Abhinav and wouldn’t take my purse, but some thought they had seen a certain kid, who used to go to the school, but was kicked out for being too naughty, on the roof. On the roof, they found my purse, empty and in a water tank, and they tracked down the kid who said he hadn’t done it. After meeting with his parents, the five ladies who were searching retrieved my wallet, cell phone, medicines, and debit card. The only thing missing were a few makeups and all the money in the fake Louis Vuitton wallet (about 1500 rupees). I was so moved by the fact that these people would care enough to do an investigation to find my meager little purse. As Anita and the women handed me my purse, the boys jumped and hooted for me. They asked me if I was happy, and I said, “Bohuth Khushi Hai.“ They locked it up for me and told me to be very careful in future.
After that, everything was good at the school. Katherine came and taught the boys with us and we got to know her a little bit. She is tall and blonde and goes to Harvard. She is also trying very hard to learn the Hindi alphabet and read and write Hindi. She is picking it up very fast for a foreign person and I would know because I myself can’t even read Hindi. (It’s really easy, but if you don’t take the time to memorize the letters you will be screwed.) The language is very straightforward, but there is a letter for each sound, so it’s harder to remember all of them. Even some of my Indian family don’t remember all of them. Katherine is cute. She knows a few Hindi phrases that she mispronounces, but her point gets across and that’s all that really matters to most people. She is very teacher-ly unlike me and Abhinav-- we tend to be more like Didi and Bhai to the kids. We discussed the children and how some of the girls are less advanced than the other girls so it’s hard to know what to teach, and we split them up into two classes. The little girl who insults me actually started to read and I think it made her a little less ill-natured.
After we get back from volunteering and eating a little meal, we come home and we have tea. Mariam gives us these awesome cookies that we dip into our tea that taste really good when the tea hits them and we lounge around on Bhua’s bed and Abhishek comes home and hangs with us too. Abhishek is a neat fellow, I think he’s more reasonable than Abhinav and Bhua sometimes, because they get hooked onto little details and jump to conclusions sometimes, and he tends to take the opposite viewpoint, which can be refreshing. He told them that they shouldn’t take me out for desserts and then tell me that I shouldn’t eat sweets, which I found to be quite an astute observation.
Today I started walking the stairs. This is because I am sick of eating, but sometimes can’t get out of it. I went to visit Nana and Nani today and got stuck in traffic on the way there and back. I started to get a sore throat in the car on the way there and we stopped at one of the ice cream stands. Then I got to their house and they gave me kheer and chaht. I didn’t eat a lot to compensate for eating the ice cream. When I got home an hour later, Abhinav wanted to get an oreo shake because of his birthday tomorrow…. And of course I couldn’t be like, “No I don’t want one” because then he wouldn’t want one anymore and I still have a sore throat, so I said all right. Then we got back and they offered us more food. So I had some raita and rajma and chicken that I could’ve done without and then I felt sick for a little while and started to write this post and fell asleep for a while. But I’m serious, I’m going to stop eating so much because people expect me to. It’s really a problem. I just find it really difficult to say no. Tomorrow is Abhinav’s birthday. Meh, I don’t know where this sore throat is coming from but I get the feeling it’s because of the constant temperature changes and AC.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Day 27/28---Not Yet!

Day 27/28
Soon to come. I’m sorry. I really apologize. But I have to go to bed. Like for real, otherwise Reenu Bhua will murder me with an ax. I know I’m behind. But this is a great story (sort of) and I want to do it justice.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Day 25

Day 25
I know that this is my fault. I was supposed to be going to sleep, but instead I didn’t. I have a headache and I don’t want to post right now. But you want one, so here goes.
Ye List of Day 25 or 25 things about Day 25 (and 24)
1. It is freezing in Delhi. It is so cold everywhere, because it is so overly air-conditioned in every establishment and everyone is used to it and enjoys it. For example, if I sit in my perfectly normal temperature bedroom with no AC and no fan on, people come in and ask me why. When I tell them that I feel fine, and this is the way I like it and that the AC makes me sneeze they walk away with confused looks on their faces.
2. The cheesecake in India is not the same as the cheesecake in the US. It is made out of some weird whipped stuff that people abroad do not like, because it is not actually cheescake. Unfortunately, it looks just like normal cheesecake.
3. Mocha and the Big Chill are examples of how India can be much cooler than America. Nowhere in America can you smoke Apple flavoring. Nowhere in America does a coffee house also sell pasta and crème brulee. Also the Chinese food is better.
4. Indian clubbing is not nearly as cool as American clubbing. Despite the fact that my 19 year old cousin can get underage alcohol, all you do in Indian clubs is lounge around.
5. Kids are great, unless they don’t know you understand Hindi. There’s a little girl who doesn’t understand English who thinks that because I suck at speaking Hindi that I can’t understand it, so she talks about me in front of me, which is annoying but makes me feel oddly powerful. Also, I’m her teacher. So yeah.
6. Weight loss tip: If you don‘t love the food you‘re eating at a restaurant, don‘t finish it. Have it packed. Then give it to beggars.
7. I don’t like having maids. Because they come in and “clean” and then I don’t know where anything is.
8. Don’t do anything incriminating or say anything too cute. It will get repeated to every member of the family.
9. Everyone here thinks I’m totally fat and cute. They continually pinch my cheeks and talk to me in a baby voice.
10. People also have a tendency to assume I don’t like Indian food. Like Miriam, the maid, she was like, What do you want to eat, because I can’t give you daal and roti. And the little kids were like Do you like burgers or hot dogs? They get all surprised when I say I like curry.
11. I am trying to do SAT prep by reading these “SAT Skills Insight” things about what skills you should practice to score in the next band of math. Only I started at the lowest one to make sure I don’t miss any. I told Abhinav to administer an exam for me.
12. Tomorrow Reenu Bhua is taking me for a haircut and straightening. I am scared, because many people I know have expressed deep love for my curly, thick hair, and maybe it will become straight and thin after this cut. I hope it looks okay.
13. Sparkly makeup is unappealing at most times, unless used in very small amounts. This is because sparkles are impossible to get off.
14. When you’re really fat and lose a ton of weight, you don’t lose the skin that housed the weight. So then you need to lift weights or get the skin removed or something.
15. Nobody stops talking about weight over here. It’s like everyone’s favorite topic.
16. I don’t know if you’d know this, but Indian phones are backwards. The off button is where the on button would be and the C button tries to delete things. I think this has something to do with the whole driving on the other side of the street thing.
17. I think Abhishek hates me, because he hangs out with his friends all the time and hasn’t spent more than a half hour in my presence at a time.
18. Abhinav does this thing where he pretends to take a picture of you with his phone and then says, “Nice picture,” and makes like he’s showing you your picture and he shows you a picture of the dog.
19. My new nickname for Reenu Bhua is ReeBhu.
20. I don’t like sweets as much as my family thinks (this is a general statement not applicable to my current habitat). It’s just that Papa and his side of the family think I like sweets like a lot, but I actually hate them in most cases. (The cases involving over-decorated cakes and super sweet cookies, and large portions of ice cream and brownies.)
21. We are “clubbing” with Abhinav’s friend tomorrow.
22. Also, I have to go back to work tomorrow which I am sort of dreading. I doubt my ability to wake up in the morning. Also, the girls are not on the same level with each other, so it’s hard to guess who’s at what level. I am thinking of doing some private classes with people. Also, it’s really awkward sitting around for our lunch break because there is open space for like 2 and a half hours, which would be a great time to sleep, but we don’t get to because we’re in a school and people can see us. Also, I just started the last three sentences with the word also.
23. The dog, Bruno, is very cute and probably a bit cleaner than Ivy. Little did I know, he gets his baths in my bathroom.
24. The car is entrapped by precipitation and condensation sometimes, because it is very cold inside and very warm outside. Arun Fufu spent like twenty minutes trying to get it to stop yesterday night to no avail.
25. I like it here. I know it doesn’t sound like it because I keep talking about being fat. But it is nice to be with family especially Reenu Bhua, because she is big and cuddly. Abhinav would be too, but he’s skinny now.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Day 21 and 23

Day 21
I met Kiran Martin yesterday, who is Papa’s old friend from college, who heads the Asha foundation. She was very kind and jovial. She hadn’t talked to my dad for 25 years, but he called her up for a favor just for me. Nana and Nani came with me to the meeting and sat there all ominously, watching over the goings-on. There were about 10 white people who had come also to volunteer, a fact that Nana/Nani would later admit had impressed them, and we were having a meeting about various activities that Asha has been a part of. Kiran was telling about how the slums in Delhi had been positively affected by Asha’s teachings about finance, how to open a loan, how to pay it back on time, because of the great difficulty and confusion attached to getting a loan and presenting yourself well in the slum community. But with the help of Chidambaram, banks would come to the slums and offer them loans. I think it’s so wonderful (I’m wonderfully lucky) that everyone I know has such great connections with these NGOs.
So I will start working in a school from tomorrow. In the meantime, I have moved to Reenu Bhua’s house, which is far different from living with Nana and Nani. There is a lot of activity, and I’ve already met like 10 people, who are friends of Abhishek and Abhinav, and Vidush and Priyanka came to see me before they left Delhi. To be honest, I don’t have much to say for today.
Leaving Nana and Nani’s house was quite sad though. I realize that their lives get so exciting when they have someone to fuss over, particularly Nani. She is so happy to do things for me and ask me how I am and make sure that I’m taking medicine. She said, “I know you’re happy to leave me, but I will be missing you so much.”
Day 23
I just watched Joker-- I mean Batman: The Dark Knight (sorry Christian Bale)-- and it was incredible. I thought that Abhinav was just, you know, being Abhinav when he said he’d already seen it twice, but he spent his money well. It was just such a mind-trip the whole time, wonderfully gripping and scary enough for me to love. Kind of like a higher tech, less jaded Sweeney Todd for our time. Just when you thought you were over Heath Ledger’s death, it comes and hits you right where it hurts.
But New Delhi with Bhua isn’t all fun and games… except that it sort of is. I’ve started working in this school at Jeevanagar near the slums and I constantly play games with the kids, who are much more disciplined than the Bangalore kids, maybe because we have translation and they all go to school besides this one. Bhua decided that it would be good for Abhinav to volunteer as well, so we are together, teaching a bunch of kids English: boys in the morning and girls in the afternoon, for the most part. When we got to the school yesterday for the first time, the children (who had waited for us for a whole hour to come because we got terribly lost trying to get to Asha and terribly stuck in traffic on the way there) ran up to us and threw flowers and rice in our faces, as a welcome greeting that Abhinav would later recall to be the most embarrassing moment of his life. Abhinav and I, who had just woken up from a sleepy car ride, groggily accepted their happy handshakes and very awake “Good Morning Sir/Madam”s. So we came in and the lady who met us at Asha, Sweeti, introduced us to the kids, telling them I was from America and Abhinav was from Delhi. The children seemed so excited about these facts and jumped up one by one to introduce themselves with the few English sentences they knew. “Hi, my name is__________. I live in _____________. My hobby is _____.” So Abhinav and I taught them adjectives by having them describe themselves. Today we made a big list of adjectives, and then started teaching them about the subject of the sentence. The boys seemed to really like that.
We’ve had only one class with the girls. Unlike the boys, the girls either really know English or really don’t, and there is not a ton of in between, which makes teaching them a little harder. Also, today, we didn’t have anyone in the class because classes cut off early for a school wide seminar on education and its importance, so instead of teaching a lesson, I tried to teach them a song and I have to say, the children need a music class. None of them can stay in the same key, and I don’t think it’s because they don’t have it in them. It’s just that they haven’t listened to enough music or had any instruction. Some people can match, but few can stay in key. So maybe I will teach them some music in the spare moments in lunch and between class.
I must say my body image has sucked lately. Somehow being around very skinny people just gets to me, even if they’re impoverished or Abhinav. Our internet keeps failing, and this is why you haven’t heard from me enough and also why these entries are late. Sorry. We thought it had started working again, but then it stopped again.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Day 19

Day 19
Today is Day 18. I know, I’m ridiculous. Sometimes, in my mind, when I say the word “ridiculous” it comes out “ridicule-us” in a strange British accent. So I am in New Delhi at my Nana & Nani’s house. Complicated reasons for why I had to cut the trip short, but basically there was no more space in Bangalore. It annoyed me at first, but nothing can annoy me more than the cough/stomach trouble I’m having, so I’m quite okay with it.
So far, about Delhi. It’s unbearably hot. Well, no, it’s bearable. It’s just that you don’t much want to bear it. Coming here was refreshing as Nana and Nani are so attentive to my needs. In the last 7 hours they have cooked for me twice, taken me to an internet café, given me medicine, made a bed for me, made me sleep, and bought me medicine. I really love them and all their sincerity and care for my well-being.
Now it is Day 19, I am telling you this because I am consolidating and it would be weird if I told you how tomorrow was. But now that I’m thinking it… nothing ever gets written in future tense. So tomorrow, we will go to Gymkhana Club to eat with Dadi, and I will wake up late and miss the breakfast Nani spent time preparing for me. Nani and Dadi will discuss what I look like in front of me, like they always do, and Dadi will say I’m first class, and Nani will say, yes I’m first class, but I’ll be even more first class if I lose 2 stone. I will smile because this happens every time while Nana sits there and looks mildly uncomfortable or perhaps, can’t hear us.
I will discover that ominously enough, this house has only 2 pictures of me in it on display as compared to the 750, 000 of Meghana and Akshay (including Prom pictures) and the 10 of Ishita. But at least I beat Chet (because there is only one of him , although it is on greater display…). After coming home from the club, I will give Nani her gifts and she will be pleased with the hanging plates and the shirt, but not the pajama tops, because they are not sleeveless and she doesn’t wear anything but sleeveless things to bed in the Delhi heat. I will teach her how to use the cell phone as she is very good at lady things, but does not have great knowledge of early generation Nokia phones. This of course, will change after I teach her. I will talk to my mother and she will tell me about going to Maharaja without me. Chet will call me and tell me about his dream about the president who is not George Bush who runs on a battery that leaks oatmeal causing him to lose his memory, and then Chet has to be a secret agent on the case.
There are beautiful pictures of my mother here and a lot of cute naked baby pictures of my sister and cousin. But mostly beautiful pictures of my mother. She looks like one of those models that pouts, except they don’t wear simple wedding saris. Sometimes I wish I could just skip the next 12 years of my life and be happy and married instead of having to do anything in between (the hard parts). Not that marriage isn’t hard… but whatever.
Music is touching. Number #7 redundancy for the day. (I say more obvious things around my grandparents.) But no, it’s true. And you know how it works? You’re just sitting there and you’re just bopping around to the beat, maybe it’s pleasant, and your head is moving from side to side and then all of a sudden, something happens-- maybe it’s a lyric or just the most pure melody--and it’s so completely true, and it strikes you in the heart with its blatant honesty and for a while you just can’t keep yourself from tearing up or stopping just to take a few deep breaths. Nothing makes you cry like the truth. It’s when something is so sincere, like music, that you just can’t stand it anymore and you have to do something like cry.
I am sneezing suddenly as well. I think I’ll turn off the fan. It must be circulating dust or something. I am becoming annoyed that my tissue is running out of surface area that has not been used. And also that my throat is getting these stabbing pains in it that come only from sneezing too much. I like Devotchka.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Day 17

It is Day 16 and I am writing. Yes, I have broken the law of odds, but you know what, I’m going to pretend I wrote this tomorrow, seeing as it kind of is tomorrow... Just because. The thing is I had to tell you about a predicament I have. I live in a room situated next to our balcony which serves as the place where our clean clothes dry. There is a door that goes directly from my room to the balcony. This is a pretty good setup as I don’t have to walk through Samrat’s room in the middle of the night, if I want to wash and dry my underwear. Although sometimes it rains, the complementary hot, dry climate does much to soak up the water that may impact the underwear. But the problem is that Samrat and Akshay think that a burglar will come onto the balcony because it happened to the people in the flat below. So they have advised me to keep the door firmly locked from the top and from the lock . To further protect themselves, they have kept a motion sensor next to the door so that if anyone tries to enter from the outside, the sensor will sound. But this isn’t just any sensor. It looks exactly like a bird and makes pixel-y bird noises. It is very very sensitive. I have recently developed one of those hacking cough deals. Without fail, every time I cough, the bird makes odd chirpy noises, adding to my discomfort. It has happened about 16 times since I started this post. Wait, no, 17. I’m not even close to it. It is ACROSS the room. It probably goes off when there are burglars on our neighbors’ roof. But it is not saving anyone. I want to break that bird. I want to make it cry. I want it to feel the discomfort that I’ve had to deal with--having to memorize its strange call that sounds enough like a bird to know that it’s supposed to be a chirp, but not enough to actually be one-- being just sensitive enough to pick up my coughs, but not sensitive enough to be loud enough to alert for an actual burglar-- it’s pathetic. The sad thing is that I know that the moment I put it underneath all of my stuff, or put it under Akshay’s pillow… that is when I’ll need her. That is when the burglar will break in and take my semi-valuable laptop and my green card for no reason at all. So I’m cursed to live with this little fiend for another two weeks!
I don’t want to tell you about the rest of my day, not because it wasn’t good or whatever but because I spent most of it feeling grotesquely ill, and do not want to re-live it another time. But on the upside, I met Kauschik today, and he was really nice, quite charismatic, and quite a joker. I began to get the obvious soft-spot that Samrat and Akshay and Sonu Mami all have for him. He told me all about the poor, about how I should think of them, how I shouldn’t pity them, because there is life in poverty, although it seems like we can’t live a day without dinner at night. We may think that they are so sad and depressed, but just because someone is poverty doesn’t equal depression. A poor kid is the same as a rich kid, families that are poor, are still rich with life, perhaps more so. He told me to come back to India every time I can to be with the people who are not blinded by their affluence.
In other news, Samrat said I could write something for the paper which leaves me with the dilemma of, “What?” I am still in the process of solidifying an idea in my mind. I’m not going to let this opportunity go to waste. I bet mummy will be happy about this post. Night all, I’m sleepy and I have to use my inhaler.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Day 15 or the day after Aarushi makes friends her own age

Day 15
I’m feeling kind of bad that I don’t post every day. I think maybe I’ll write every day, and post every other day because sometimes I have emotions that I just can’t do justice too the next day. Yesterday, I was very happy. I went to the school at 10:30 after having woken up ridiculously early about twelve times, and successfully traveled there by myself by rickshaw. I walked into a classroom filled with small children with uniforms and little notebooks, with diagrams on the board of a clock, and watched as a large British fellow became very frustrated asking them what time it was on the board. I noticed a skinny boy sitting to the side, who was watching the classroom activity. I later found out that these people were 18 and going to be my fellow teachers. The large, frustrated one was William, and the skinny, side-sitter was Lorcan. I would later meet Lucy and Saurabh. Lucy is strawberry-blond, cheerful and slim. Saurabh is Iranian, lanky and quiet. It was interesting to meet people who were my own age.
The children, themselves, were very rowdy and had little command of the English language. We get a few classes every day and yesterday we got Classes 3 and 1. The frustrating thing is the fact that some of the children are really intelligent and understand everything, and some don’t get it at all and copy from their friend’s papers. As we check their work, we give them stars, but they forever ask for us to write our name, to draw pictures of an ice cream cone. It’s so endearing that it’s so difficult to tell them to sit down and be quiet.
I decided to stay with the school, because I thought they could use my help. The children were rowdy, and didn’t seem to understand everything. Sometimes I felt like the people teaching would hesitate and not know what they’re doing. I thought that my creativity could help. At lunch time, we went out and I got to know the people in our group. I found that they we shared a lot of musical tastes, in fact more than I share with a random sampling of my peers from school. Because I didn’t have the keys to the apartment, I caught a rickshaw to the office.
To my sleepy dismay, Akshay didn’t have the keys, and sent me away with vague instructions to go to MG Road. So I went and sat in JavaCity, this coffee house, and I got some weird burnt brownie with ice cream. The walls at JavaCity are covered with pictures of Ray Charles and framed comics. I could see a window to the upstairs that displayed some board games sitting on tables. Because I was uncomfortable and just wanted to go to sleep, I went upstairs. I failed to use the bathroom which was disgusting, and then settled on a beanbag and watched as some people played Halo. I heard some vague American accents from across the room, and looked to see a boy and a girl, sitting with a small group. I talked to them and their names were Dayorsha and Arjun. They invited me to join their Halo game, and I said okay. They invited me over to their apartment to eat with their group, and it was really nice. We went to their friend Devak’s house who lived above them and their friend Rajiv played guitar while I sung, and then Arjun rapped to the piano’s beat boxing. They were really knowledgeable about Bangalore because they come once every year, and got me a pre-paid rickshaw back to the office. Unfortunately, when I got there about 30 minutes late, Akshay had left, and gone to look for me at MG Road. I hung out in the office with Tinny who asked to see some of my writing, because I showed Malvika my incomplete college app essay and she was impressed with it and apparently had told people about it, so I emailed her some articles I had written.
When Akshay came, he wasn’t particularly happy, but we went to McDonald’s where for once, he got food and I got nothing, except for a badly packaged coke that was supposed to have been a Fanta. He gave me my own set of keys, though, so that’s good, and I think he’s going to activate my SIM card.
This morning was even worse than yesterday morning; I had fragmented dreams about little girls and rickshaws and little girls driving rickshaws and I kept waking up and coughing and checking my iPod clock and trying to go back to sleep until I couldn’t anymore. I hate that feeling. You’re awake but you don’t want to be, but you can’t stay asleep. You’re too tired to get ready, but too awake to stay asleep. So I’d been told to be there at 10:40, so I got there ten minutes early, and saw Hema, who told me that I should come at 10 o’clock everyday from then onwards. After everyone shuffled in (minus William who had become ill the night before), they had a discussion with us about how to teach the children, and what to teach the children; they told us that we should make a notebook of what the children have learned everyday, and that we should strive to be kind and less disciplinarian. The problem is that we don’t know Tamil, so it’s hard to communicate with them on a basic level, even to tell them what we’re learning. We have to make gestures and use very simple language. Apparently, before I had come, people had complained about the children in the volunteer classes being too loud.
So today, with a renewed energy, we began to plan. We decided numbers for Class 2, and days of the week for Class 3. We decided to divide them into groups in order to get more one-on-one attention to each student. When Lorcan and I went to teach half the class numbers, we had found that Class 2 already knew their numbers. So we started on colors, which they caught onto very fast. That was fun, though, as I think at first they didn’t understand completely, but very quickly caught on as I related one blue thing to another blue thing. The problem was that they understood things quite well and then became bored. When we tried to play a game with them, the boys ran around the schoolyard and wouldn’t listen to us. Other than that, the children seemed to enjoy the games we played, and I asked them their names and told them our names. I think that helped too, because no one has known any of their names before.
The next class we did was days of the week; Lorcan and I were with the boys. Unsurprisingly, the kids already knew their days and months, but didn’t recognize them in English, and didn’t know them out of order. The problem, I think, is that the kids only know them through rote memorization, but don’t understand their importance. So I got out a calendar and tried to get them to associate days of the month, making them say, “First of January”, “Second of January”. Few children understood it, some of them thinking I wanted them to count, but one did, so I pulled him up to the front and had the children listen to him. He seemed to really like that, and the students seemed to want attention too, so they copied what he was doing. Then we progressed to February. Then class was over and the kids became wild again, shaking our hands, and telling us “Good Day, Madam/Sir”, which is pretty much the extent of their English vocabulary, which is much better than I thought. I asked the boy who understood the months what his name was, and he said, “Madam, my name is Rajkumar, madam!” and he became so happy, and thanked me about fifteen times before leaving.
I became depressed at lunchtime because I was sad about the kids, and worried that they wouldn’t learn anything. Saurabh told me that they were learning, just very slowly, and I should give it time and patience. I've also begun to realize the difficulties of working with others, who have somewhat different ideas sometimes about how to go about teaching kids. I became even more depressed when I realized I didn’t have my keys, so I left right away to go home, just in case Samrat or the maid were still at home to let me in. When they weren’t, I went to Indian Express and got them from Akshay. Then I went home and slept for about 8 hours, which was very refreshing, although I don’t know how I’ll wake up tomorrow to leave at 9:30.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Day 13

Day 13
I rode in a rickshaw by myself for the very first time today. It was an experience, and after I found out I could do it, it made me feel so free as I assume I will feel when I am able to drive. I went to visit a lady named Hema today who is the volunteer coordinator in Bangalore of an organization called GapGuru that is an NGO that helps white people come abroad and volunteer. Samrat knew her and I called her and scheduled a meeting (Independence points: +1). I was frightened to call her and was pleased when she was very kind and open to me. So today, I got up at the relatively reasonable hour of noon (because yesterday I got up at 5 in the afternoon), and tomorrow I will have to wake up at 9, with the help of an alarm clock that makes horse sounds (+1). I went in a rickshaw by myself to see her (+1) and got a little lost (-1) because I didn’t know where to stop the rickshaw (I ended up stopping it too late). But I went to Infotech where I knew people could speak English and got directions from them to get directions to the bank that they gave me directions to (+1). The bank didn’t give me very clear directions so I ended up wandering around until a rickshaw driver who was fixing his engine said, “Madam, what do you need help with?” He didn’t know how to help me so I went to a store where a man gave me very detailed instructions in clear English. Ah, the kindness of strangers. I finally came upon Hema’s house, which was big and beautiful, unlike any house I’ve been to in India so far. She had tea with me in the garden and talked to me about what I wanted to do like I was a real person. Everyone in India thinks I am a real person! (+1)
She talked to me about two different schools that I can go to. One that is very nearby but a little bit chaotic and one that is very far away but very structured. She was unsure that I could handle the rickshaw drive everyday to the structured one at Parikrma and I told her that I would try to go there today, and that I wouldn’t know until I went there. (+1) Luckily I found the nicest rickshaw driver in the world who took me to Jayanagar, which is a good 10 kilometers away, and he personally made sure I was in the right place, and waited forty minutes for me, and didn’t chare me for his having to wait. The school was nice and the children were… well, I don’t really have to tell you what it’s like to see happy yet impoverished children. I could, but I’m not feeling like putting my very complex emotion into words right now. But they smiled at me, like I was some really interesting, pretty person.
The combined energy of having gone on a rickshaw by myself and having decided to do something to change the world and having seen a bunch of amazing little kids, I decided to give myself even more freedom and go to Koshy’s and have fun by myself, eating food and listening to my iPod. I felt so good not having to answer to anyone! Then I went to the office and everyone was just delighted to see me and I shared a rickshaw with Malvika on the way home. So yeah, I’d call today a triumph. I know everyone could feel my happy energy (I was smiling, so why not?). I feel so free and unstoppable.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Day 11

Day 11
Yesterday Akshay told me not to go to the office with the intention of making me discover the city. He took me to the apartment he is going to move into where I met his friend Chez. She has a very fun, distinctively thoughtful way of speaking. Akshay did this thing called the “Rickshaw Run” where he traveled all across the country in a rickshaw; this comes up in conversation about twice a day. Chez was one of the members of his group.
Akshay’s new apartment is in a white building with blue lining in a middle class neighborhood. It has a naked staircase, which, truth be told, is quite intimidating to the more neurotic elements of my brain. I was taking photographs. I don’t know what it is about me but whenever a little kid comes by, I must take a photograph. But I’ve never successful, because they are always too far away, or there is not enough light, or they’re zooming past in an auto rickshaw. Which is a shame. Because I firmly believe that Indian babies are some of the cutest babies in existence. Maybe it’s the outfits that they wear, or the fact that they’re on motorcycles with their parents.
Akshay had made a list of places for me to go; numbers I could call if I was lost; and things I should tell the rickshaw driver. So he left me on Church Street and I went into a bookstore called Blossoms. Within 10 minutes, Akshay was back. “I freaked out,” he said, “I’ll take the afternoon off.” We went to the bookstore, where we walked around and Akshay suggested books to me, and shamed my lack of literary prowess. The fact is, I just don’t get to reading all the books that people “should” read. Things like Salman Rushidie and all of these Indian writers I’ve never heard of because I haven’t lived here and no one writes about them in India. I wanted to buy this book called Quirkology but Akshay said “one book at a time” and proceeded to buy me 2 books.
We sat in Koshy’s for a few hours, discussing life and what I want to do with it. I think Akshay gave me the soundest admissions advice of any; that is to know what I want to do and pursue it with sincerity, while ignoring things that don’t matter like GPAs and test scores. If my aim is true, he thinks, I will get where I need to go without the need for over-stressing.
After a few hours of discussion, Divya joined us. We went to the park and sat for a bit, before deciding to go out to meet one of Akshay’s friends, Deepika, at this restaurant no one in our party had been to before called the Ugly Duckling. We discussed our perspectives of the name in the rickshaw.
The Ugly Duckling is on the fifth floor of an office building and was completely empty when we entered it. After walking of 5 flights of wide marble stairs, we were not surprised at its vacancy. It was a swanky restaurant, with a kind of new-age feel, it reminded me of Noodles & Company. Deepika is a journalist with a nose ring. I wouldn’t mind having a nose ring. Over dinner, the music that was playing changed three times. The first music was pathetically disco with remixes of songs that were popular last year. Next, it was pathetically 80s with Video Killed the Radiostar and Madonna and that “Wake me up before you go-go” song and the Bangles. After that it was 90s, with Lou Bega’s “Mambo #5”. While I enjoyed singing to all the songs, the rest of the dinner party gagged and tried desperately to plug their ears. Only when we were eating dessert (Chocolate Mousse), did they play something palatable by most, which was some kind of alt mix featuring Michael Buble (bubble?) and Josh Groban. I felt happy the whole time, because I knew all of the words to most of the songs.
That night I went to bed really late. I started to type up a resume and write an admissions essay, which I’m now done with. I woke up ridiculously late the today, which was interesting but rather uneventful as I went to AirTel twice, and unsuccessfully activated my phone (because I hadn’t paid for it). In the evening, we went to Koshy’s and had dinner with a crew of eight people, which eventually became six. A lot of interesting characters were there, many of whom had never met; Scott, Chez, Chez’s friend Selena, Akshay, Me, Samrat, Samrat’s friend whose name I don’t remember now (I actually do, but I wasn’t clear on it, so I don’t want to make a stupid mistake) , and this guy Abhijit who translates to Kannada for the story for WIRED. At first, the table was ridiculously crowded, and discussion was mildly sparse. After Chez and Selena left, the discussions were shared over the table about numerous topics as Indian politics, American politics, drugs, childhood experiences, fake news stories, freelancing and what is considered fat. It was a diverse group, making way for oddly frank discussions.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Day 9

So I've decided to keep up this every other day posting regiment, mainly because I can't bear to see my entries lined up as Day 1, Day 3, Day 5, Day 7, Day 8 or even worse "Day 10". There shall never be an even numbered day! Unless it's my last.

An email I got from my darling mother:

"Hi Rushi, it is 5:15 am, I have read your blog for the upteenth time. hungry for news. Have you got a phone? how is your cold? are u getting enough exercise? the dates for SAT and ACT are Sept 13th and Oct 4th. Do you need to do any subject tests in SAT?. I like to know where u went and what u did, regardless, if it seems like a laundry list. e.g., what is your apartment like? what is the neighbourhood like? Is it residential or commercial? Can you walk to the shops? What have u done at work the first three days, what have you learned? When u get home after a rest u shld take some time to sort your clothes out, make sure they are getting washed etc, may be make a trip to the bazaar to buy some food items and groceries. A cake of Rin soap (blue detergent soap for hand washing) may be a good idea. You can buy some bread and eggs for bfast. Have u got a sim card? It shouldnt be so difficult to get. They usually sell it in the lowliest of stores and it is pretty ubiquitous. You just need to take your phone and they charge it for a payment. Are you getting enough rest at night or if not resting during the day? Do you have a scype connection or a camera in your computer? We miss you a lot.Love,Mom"

To answer your questions..
Have you got a phone?: Well, I have one.. but it doesn't have a SIM card, I'm sorryyyy, it's very much out of my control because you have to use some sort of Indian ID to get one. I'll try to get one ASAP.

How is your cold?: I've got to say, my cold sucks. It has progressed to a cough, and under the polluted air conditions, it makes me very uncomfortable. I have been forgetting to keep hydrated, but last night I bought some tissues and food, so hopefully I can combat it. I am going to bring my water bottle to work from now on.

Are you getting enough exercise?: In all honesty, probably not. I'll be more disciplined about this I guess. But I've also been hacking and stuff, so it's a little hard to go outside onto the street where there is dust and stuff everywhere. According to Malvika, Bangalore is the allergy capital of India. I took a Claritin today, I don't know how much it helped.

Subject tests?: Yes, I think so. Biology and... something else. Something I can score really high on easily without studying too much.

What I did today: I woke up, I was at Mallika's house. I stayed their last night, because Akshay didn't come home until late, so I just stayed with her. We watched an existentialist movie called I <3 Huckabees, which is about this guy who works for a coalition for saving open spaces in the community, but he's slowly losing his power to a business exec for a store called "Huckabees" who wants to make an alliance with his coalition who is a stunning Jude Law with an American accent. But the dude sees this African guy three times in a row and feels like it's the key to the deeper meaning of life, so he goes to these "existentialist detectives" to track the case. It's a mind trip, Mom, you should watch it. After the movie, Mallika played guitar and we sang until we were tired. So this morning we got up, had breakfast, showered, and then I went to the apartment to change, and then we left for the office.
The office today was admittedly more boring than usual because I didn't have a lot to do. But near the end of the day, Samrat let me help to sub a story, which was pretty much the highlight. It was a really interesting story taken from the Washington Post that I had to cut down about martinis. After work, I went to Malvika's and we ate dinner and watched this movie Transamerica about a transsexual lady, who is played by a real woman, so I think it must be tough to play a guy who becomes a woman if you are actually a woman... Then I came home, and wrote this blog. That's an admittedly unsaturated telling of my day.

What is my apartment like?: Not too small, not too dirty, not too clean. It's just nice here and very much a bachelor pad. Last night, I bought some groceries for it: milk, noodles, bread, butter, etc . There are two bathrooms. My room is a study with light blue walls that leads onto the balcony where the maid hangs clean clothes to dry. But the people under us had a problem with someone climbing up, so I have to lock the door all the time as a security measure. They have a weird chirpy bird that also acts as a motion sensor/burglar alarm, but it is too soft, so it just ends up annoying the hell out of me.
Next to my room is a bathroom but its lights don't work and it doesn't get a lot of hot water. Across from my room is Akshay and Kaushik's room, except I've never met Kaushik because he's visiting Delhi and he was supposed to have come back, but he hasn't and it's making Samrat really mad.
If you walk out of my room and turn right, there is the kitchen/living area and Samrat's room. That leads to the door that has a broken lock, so you have to use the upper latch, which works just as well.
There's a lot of sand lining the staircases and stuff.

Neighborhood: It's mostly apartment buildings and small businesses. There's a few stores, and as you walk further down there's that Shanghai Junction restaurant I mentioned before.

What I have learned: I've basically learned how fast inspiration has to come and how fast it has to be good. People literally sit down, churn out an article, read someone else's articles, put them on a page, re-edit, and give them to the printers, in about a day. I don't do much, admittedly, I watch people, I talk to people about their jobs and today, I got to help by cutting down an article from an outside source. Yesterday, I did some research for Malvika. I sit behind people and make suggestions about what they should say, I made up a headline yesterday ("Hepatitis C strikes singer"). I think I've also learned that the people on the newspaper aren't like, the smartest people ever. Not that they're not smart, just that they're not so scary. And I feel like I could do the same things as them... and it makes the whole journalism idea seem far more attainable to me. (At least in the world of Features- news reporting still seems really hard and scary because of all of the history you have to know and all the big words you use that eventually become really boring, serious stories [at least those about the war], unless you're on CNN and you get access to better information...) Also, that many different types of people can be good at the same thing. I don't know, it's just so interesting to see the dynamics of a real daily. Also, I've been using my downtime to research colleges, and I found out today that UChicago doesn't have an undergrad journalism major, so I think not.

Clothes situation: Periodically, I clean my clothes, leaving the bigger items to the maid. Tomorrow morning I'm going to refold all of the clothes in my suitcase.

Skype: Yes. I can be online in the afternoon or late at night.

I miss you guys too. A lot. It's just weird to believe that I saw you guys everyday when I'm here.. I love you, and I'm sorry I don't have a SIM card... But I love and miss you.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Day 7

Day 7
I don’t really feel like laundry-listing my day today. I think I’ll be a little bit more descriptive in my documentation from now on, just because it never benefited me to know exactly what happened when. I thought that coming to India would make me stop thinking so much. It has had the opposite effect. At breakneck speed I am realizing different aspects of the way I think, some kind of emotional pilgrimage is taking place with my actual pilgrimage away from home. I’ve started to distance myself from my life and started to reflect on it with more depth than ever before. I guess this comes from traveling alone, without the bubble of my every day life surrounding me.
I guess I’m stuck in the apartment today, because Akshay is off in quest of some really exciting story about the Indian Land Mafia with this guy named Scott from WIRED magazine, who I met yesterday morning. He seems like a really nice guy== white, American, not exactly clean-shaven--he writes about India in a myriad of publications and lives with his Indian wife in Chennai. Akshay is fulfilling a once in a lifetime opportunity and as a result, I am at home, but not upset, because I have been doing a lot of reading. Persepolis 2 is currently what sits next to me, but before it was Blink. We’ve been experiencing a few power outages, blessings really, that made me pick up some novels. Unfortunately I’m having a bit of a reflux issue after drinking some black coffee and eating some spicy hummus that was left over from going out with Malvika last night.
About that, last night Akshay had to meet with Scott, so Malvika took me home from the office. Akshay would have taken me home, but we couldn’t get a rickshaw at night because they it’s a pretty short distance and they don’t get as many people going out from here, so they lose money. So Malvika and I went to get dinner at some mall that had a great selection of Indian=made foods of all different varieties; Chinese, Greek, Indian, etc. It was all really exciting because of the talents Indians have for making everything taste good. I had some cold coffee and pita and hummus. It was all very yummy. For dessert, we went to this dimly lit place that was probably supposed to be romantic called Fresco where we ate cheesecake. Malvika and I had some good talks during our journeys together; she is excited and interested to know how I feel about India and Bangalore, how it’s different from home. I supply very odd answers. For example, I get a far different impression of Indians when I walk on the street than when I’m at the mall. There are far more differences and levels in India.
I really do want to go out. However, the fact that I don’t have an adequate set of keys prevents me from walking out in the cool rain swept street. Now that the power is back on (It’s gone out about 3 times today) maybe I can watch a movie. Perhaps I should go to sleep, perchance to dream. So that possibly I can make a narrative of them like Jason is doing. Nevertheless, I don’t feel as though today has been in any way useless. It has helped me think; I think that from now on I will not be self-deprecating and I will not compare myself with others. I will be self-reliant and kind, and understand that I have ability and competency. That being said, my AP scores came today and my mother emailed them to me. They were quite a pleasant surprise. I got a 4 on Microeconomics, and 5s on English Language and Composition, Psychology and Biology. Not bad, considering the fact that I thought I did much worse and stressed about them endlessly. That is another addition to my list. I shall not worry unnecessarily, or when I can do nothing about my worrying. I do it far too much and I waste so much time that I could be using to rectify the situation. I find myself being really silly even when I know that I shouldn’t be. I should apply my knowledge about how people screw things up to my life, so that I can avoid screwing up as well. Only then, will I actually be a good learner and person.

Day 5

Day 5 11:14 PM Bangalore
My toilet roll fell in the wash basin. It was a beautiful full Bounty roll. Fortunately I have two more rolls, one full and one half over, but still it’s a damned shame. Another damned shame: I left my iPod running for about a day and a half. Other news. I moved to Bangalore.
Getting to Bangalore was kind of hazardous. This is of course, a dramatic overstatement. The scary part was having my bag be overweight and having to pay about 1050 rupees (24 dollars) to appease the airline. Unfortunately, I momentarily forgot how to do math and tried to pay with my debit card before realizing I had enough cash to take care of it. I wasn’t sure how the airport was set up because it didn’t say which gate to go to on my ticket, but luckily enough I ended up in the correct location. On the flight, I was anxious about some old guy who kept on asking me how I was, first rescuing my water bottle that fell off of my table during take-off and then asking me if I was sick when I sneezed, and then asking whether I was tired or bored when I stopped reading my magazine. I’m sure he was just being friendly, but my parents have grilled me enough to make me super paranoid about any men who talk to me especially when I’m alone.
After getting off the plane, I met my driver who took me to Bangalore whose name I’ve forgotten. He was really jovial and talkative. He didn’t speak a lot of English, so our communication was very stilted. I think he said I was of the same stature and size as his wife but more beautiful, but I prefer to think he didn’t say that and blame my interpretation on the language barrier, because I don’t think that people should say things like that. . He almost got into a head on collision with another car because he was facing me while driving…. You can’t be sure about everyone all the time, unfortunately. I’m sad that my newfound mistrust makes me afraid of people, especially men, when I’m by myself, but perhaps it is better this way.
When we got to Akshay’s apartment, no one was there. We were just about finished becoming frantic and using the cell phone when Akshay appeared. Akshay has grown a lot more hairy in the years I haven’t seen him, which is mostly because he avoids shaving. He has also adopted a few more bad habits In his quasi-adulthood. After arriving, I met two of his friends from work who I saw again today: Malvika and Divya, who are both very upfront and self-sufficient, indeed having very interesting details to add to any conversation. They had lots of fun pulling my leg.
We sat on the roof of Akshay’s building. After seeing that I was frightened of them falling to what seemed like oblivion while sitting on the ledge, Malvika and Akshay acted like they were jumping off the roof when really there was a platform just underneath the one we were standing on. We made jokes that were funny, and afterwards Divya, Akshay and I went to some restaurant called Shanghai something and ate Chinjabi food as Divya calls Indian inspired Chinese food. I had hot and sour soup and Divya had some really spicy chicken. It was much better than the food at Chinese restaurants in America. But everything is tastier in India.
Akshay’s roommates are also very kind and open. One of them is the editor of the Indian Express, where I am interning, Samrat; he has this quiet sense of humor about him. Another is just visiting; a teacher in New York for half of the year in Creative Writing.
Today we went to a derby or horserace or “darrrby” as everyone here pronounces it. Basically, it was a big spectator event as Indians gambled rampantly and got really excited when they won their bets. Divya’s dad won all of the races in a jackpot situation.
Malvika and I sat together, due to the fact that she was wearing heels and basically unable to walk. We talked to this guy named Rocky, who later became the focus for Malvika’s part of the story. He was this really friendly guy who sat with us, he wore a pink t-shirt and tight jeans. He told us that his mother would whip him if she knew he was at the races, but nevertheless he had been betting on races for 10 years already; he told us very emphatically that you can leave your wife, but you can’t leave races. I myself, do not seem to share this sentiment.
After the race, Malvika and I went to McDonalds and the office while Akshay remained to take photos. We went and got McAloo Tikki and ice cream. I really enjoy hanging out with Malvika, and we took cute pictures in the rickshaw and at the office.
I became further acquainted with the office , which is full of very kind people. I met Shubham and automatically liked her. She wears glasses, like me, and always wears salwar kamises to work. She was so open to me, and she told me, “If I can make one person look at things differently than I feel I have done my job.” I find the newspaper office to be a very inspiring place, despite its lack of clean bathrooms and tissues. Everyone there is fast at work to spread knowledge and information, some of the things I prize above all else.
After work, I went home, while Akshay was out on some hang-out/date/meeting thing, and watched Penelope, a surprisingly poignant movie about a girl who is born with a pig-nose because of a family curse. I cried twice during her journey to self-acceptance that was unaided by her pushy and terrifying mother. When I told Akshay and Samrat about the movie, they laughed at me.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Day 3

Day 3 11:23 AM July 11th
I have done something very stupid. I spilled my coffee on the floor. I had to call Lalita to clean it up. Lalita is Sonu Mami’s housemaid who I’ve grown quite fond of. She is very quiet, but always very kind and smiling. I took some pictures of her yesterday that she wouldn’t smile in. She never showed her teeth. She is very, very cute, and very nice to me, even though she had to clean up my spill. Mummy said to weary of servants who are sometimes very poor and sometimes will take your money if you leave it lying around if you are a houseguest. But I know Lalita would never take my money because she is just too good on the inside.
Sonu Mami hates getting her picture taken. She makes all sorts of excuses when I try, “I’ve gotten old and fat now, you can’t take my picture, I’ll just get SO depressed!” and all other such nonsensical things. She flails her arms and covers her face with the dog whenever I try to take a picture and she says she’ll steal my camera and break it into a million pieces when I’m sleeping. Chi-chi. She’ll never get the chance. But she is so melodramatic sometimes, it’s very cute.
Yesterday we went to a movie called Thoda Pyaar Thoda Magic. Unlike in America, you have to buy your tickets in advance somewhat, in order to get place in the movie theater. This showing was not that full, but it was a kids movie. Also unlike in America, the movie theatre snacks are NOT terribly expensive, because in India people have value for their money, and people have value for your business, so they give you value.
The movie was about this boy who grew up and was separated from his best friend, and then his mom died and then he was kind of a sad little kid, and a loner, who won lots of awards because he was so introverted and intelligent. Then one day, he answers his cell phone while driving and he hits another car and flips it over. (Gross, my coffee has skin.) According to the court, he killed two people and they had kids, and he now has to take care of the kids as his punishment. Remember that this is a movie. I don’t think Indian courts really work like that. So then he takes the kids, there are four of them plus a dog, and they’re all incredibly adorable. There are a brother and a sister, and another brother and sister that the family adopted. So they plot to have revenge on the guy who got into an accident with their parents who is now their guardian, so they pull all these tricks to make him crazy, because you know, he’s a very Type A kind of guy with a bimbo-like girlfriend, who is actually sort of a bimbo in real life based on this article I read about her in the Mumbai Mirror. So basically the guy becomes very upset with the kids, and the kids upset with him and the fact that their parents are gone. Then God sees them crying and calls upon this angel, Gita, you know, like the Bhagavad-Gita, to pretend to be their Nanny and make them learn to love each other. It was actually a really funny movie and like 3 hours long, because Indian movies are like that after you factor in the last minute plot twists and all the random songs.
Yesterday we also went to the bazaar which is fun because all of the clothes are cute and cheap. However they have these men who don’t know you selling you the clothes, pointing at ugly things and hoping that you like them, and looking at you and telling you what will fit you, which is a little disturbing sometimes, because you know that they know what they’re talking about. Some things didn’t come in my size because Indian girls don’t traditionally have really broad shoulders or big busts, so I found myself feeling kind of fat yesterday. (Right: Clothes that don't fit me)
There was drama at the bank too. Sonu Mami and I went to the ATM so she could activate Ishita’s account and so I could withdraw money, and the security guard opened up the door and told us to hurry up and that customers were waiting. Sonu Mami said she was sorry and that she had to open a new account and that I also had to get cash out. Then the guy who was waiting who rode up on a motorcycle yelled at her and said, “Why don’t you just wait for me to go and then open your account? I’ve been waiting for 10 minutes!” Sonu Mami apologized and then went and talked to the manager about the security guard who let the guy speak to us like that. She told the manager not to punish the security guard, but to make sure that he knew that you don’t treat a customer like that, especially if the customer just opened a new account with them. The manager was very understanding and said that regardless of time spent in the ATM, we had the right to use it for as long as we felt necessary. The motorcycle guy was really impolite too. He should not have gotten so upset, especially since there were definitely other ATMs available. I felt kind of bad anyway, because the security guard must’ve been dealing with some crap from the motorcycle guy for a while before he decided to say something to Sonu Mami. Sometimes people get put under pressure and they act like idiots.
When we got home, Arvind Mamu and me ate dinner while Sonu Mami made phone calls. After dinner, we ordered gelato from this place that delivers. It was kit Kat flavored and damn good. I really liked it. Arvind Mamu is so funny and jovial, and I wish he didn’t work such long hours everyday.
Nothing so far has happened today, except I have read some newspapers and spilled coffee. Sonu Mami and I are going to make pasta and flan, but the internet is giving out, and I’m worried that I won’t get to find recipes.
Day 3 again
I wouldn’t have posted again, but I got mehendi done and I wanted to show you a picture. I get so nervous when I’m around fluent Hindi speakers. They ask me simple questions and I sometimes can’t understand the terminology they’re using… well, whatever. My hands are pretty.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Day 1

Day 1, I guess. 3AM
Mumbai, India
July 9, 2008
Would today be Day 1? I don’t think that it is because Day 1 is probably the first whole day I spend in India, not just the remains of one. I think it’s about 3 AM over here. I’m not sure, because my laptop is still on American time.
I should probably start by detailing what an austere experience it was flying to India alone. I flew via AirIndia from O’Hare Airport, then stopped for 30 minutes in Frankfort before boarding the same plane to go to Mumbai, which is where I currently sit as my laptop is drained of its battery. This is actually quite a sticky situation, because while I am now on land and able to recharge, however, a pre-zygotic barrier makes it impossible for my charger to connect to any power outlet in India without proper protection.
But I realize now more than ever that it was not the plane which got me to India as much as it was the work of my passport. My passport went about 3 hours before we had to leave to go to O’Hare. In a fine frenzy, my parents and I tore up our entire house looking for it. And found it where it was usually kept, except underneath the box that Chet’s Wii came in. I am going to sleep, because of my battery.

Day 1 #2 10:20 PM Mumbai, India
Laptop situation figured out. Let me first tell you about my flight, because I said a lot of wishy-washy things in the last update. On the way to O’Hare, Papa gave me his 700th pep talk about how India has no law and how anyone could do anything to me and get away with it, so I must be develop a sense of mistrust. I must also learn to be very cautious and mindful of my possessions. As a result of these many pep talks, I had adopted a fanny pack or “butt pack” with which to strap my belongings around my midsection so that I didn’t have to think too much.
Coming upon the airline check-ins, I saw more Indians that I didn’t know than I think I’ve ever seen in my life, some even being my own age. There were groups of people, very different from one another, some so Indian, I was sure they had lived their whole lives in India, some so Anglicized that I couldn’t tell they were Indian until I saw their interactions with their children. In the long line to get checked in by one of the six tellers, I wondered whether the Indians would know I was Indian or not, whether they would speak in Hindi with me or not.
I had a few different experiences with this. Most people, I think, could tell I had grown up in America because I was by myself and traveling light. My fair skin tone also seems to function as a tip-off. Many people spoke to me in Hindi, to them I usually responded in English. You can usually tell where Indians are from by the language they usually speak in. Those who travel use Hindi and English interchangeably, more when speaking to older Indians, less when speaking to younger Indians. Those who speak more Hindi, speak only in Hindi unless it is necessary to speak otherwise. The American Desis, such as myself, speak in English unless it is absolutely necessary to say some words in Broken Hindi. I naturally add an Indian accent with people I don’t know in order to seem more educated than I am. I was most flattered by an experience where my English linguistics became useful to an old woman on the plane who could not write in English , who handed me her passport and some forms to fill out.
Ah, but I wanted to tell you about the German airport . We had a 30-minute stopover in Frankfurt before we boarded the same plane again. The German airport was designed like a swanky restaurant except not as clean. When I went into the duty-free store, I saw some tobacco products with gigantic labels that said “SMOKING KILLS” in huge text that covered over half of the product. I found the whole thing so funny that I almost took a picture. I couldn’t because one of the store ladies asked if she could help me with anything, so I think she found me suspicious for laughing at cigarettes.
I found myself in momentary confusion as I realized that I didn’t have the currency necessary to buy things, and I didn’t know how many dollars were in a euro. I used my debit card to buy a sandwich and a cappuccino . Note, the cappuccinos there are less sweet, so you have to get sugar by saying Excusez-moi to a couple sexy French guys at the bar counter.
Today being my first real day in India, I think I should tell you what it was like. When I got to Arvind Mamu and Sonu Mami’s apartment, I was so excited. They have a really beautiful house thanks to the talents of my aunt and cousin, Ishita. It is decorated with beautiful paintings and artifacts from all over the world. Arvind Mamu is my mom's brother, in case you were wondering. They have a crazy dog named Ivy, who perpetually tries to make out with me.
My Sonu Mami is so excited to see me and hang out with me. Today she took me to the market, and we went to the Indian McDonalds’ and had a McAloo Tikki, which is a fried potato patty with some kind of chutney in place of a burger. They have paneer wraps and all sorts of amazing things that they should have in America instead of all of the beef which stops Americans from eating creatively.
One thing I must say before I leave. Although India is amazing and very progressive, it lacks in one respect. Traffic is incredibly bad over here. There are no signs, no real speed limits, no regulations made about it. It is survival of the fittest on the roadways. The rickshaws don’t go in straight lines, they instead go where there aren’t other cars or people blocking the way. There is no such thing as following distance over here and the people just walk in the street around the cars wherever. It’s amazing that there are so few accidents, but they come very very close. I shall tell you more later.

Here starts my blog of India

I am now in India for a Journalism internship with my cousin. Here I shall document my exploits.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Aching, Shaking and Breaking Like Humans Do

I'm breathing in, I'm breathing out...
so step inside this funky house.

I suddenly got a flash of who I used to be, I remembered this song called "Like Humans Do" by just David Byrne of the Talking Heads that came for free with my mother's work laptop before it like, exploded. I loved that laptop; it introduced me to music, and it may have even started with that song. Everything was so fresh in those days, before everything was about to change in my life. I had all of these incredibly goals. I was going to become a music aficionado, I was going to be a music critic when I grew up, I was going to wear hip clothes and join a band.
My goals now? A 4.0, getting into a good school and not dying in the process. But back then, it was so important to me to write, to feel, to go to shows and to be myself completely and truly and I don't know what happened but I slowly put a roadblock in front of each of those goals. But somehow I remember again today what a fantastic life that was going to be. I don't think I've really been living for the past couple of years so much as I've been doing and not thinking. Every decision was made to maintain homeostasis with my ought self. I didn't even remember who I wanted to be... until I suddenly heard that song shaking itself out of its hibernation in my head. Somehow that song symbolized so much for me.
This feeling of liberation, this feeling of fun, of sunlight and possibility that I've been lacking for so long. I'm not going to be so subdued anymore... I'm going to live my life the way I want to, not in limbo. I'm not going to let one thing hold me back from this, because I let everything stand in my way. A slightly cynical thought comes to mind when I think about that, "Good things don't come to people who deserve them, but to people who take them."
I'm going to take my life by the reins and grow my hair out long again and wear bright colors and stop complaining about my boobs. I love my boobs, I love myself, I love the way I look, my hobbies and I know that I am good at things... any attitude besides that one just pushes people away. I am not going to need affirmation anymore, because the less I need it, the more it will come, and I am going to love wholeheartedly... if the person I love will let me.
But I don't need to say this, I'm just going to do it. I'm suddenly so excited about the life I'm going to have. And I'm happy, because nothing great happens when I don't have faith in myself. My sister has so much faith in herself and her ability and I want to emulate her so much. I'm not going to worry about my job security or how smart I don't think I am...I'm going to be a journalist if I damn well want to and I'm going to be a doctor if I want to and I can do both if I really really want to, and I can be a music major if I want to. I have so many options; I need to teach myself that it's okay to want to be something that it's hard to be. Because... I'm good enough. Because... I deserve it. Because... everyone is entitled to their mistakes, and thank god I made mine, because now I remember what I've been missing all of this time. I am going to carry around notebooks again, I am going to call up my best friends from middle school, I'm going to go to shows and I'm going to do things for others, because that's what my heart has been missing for so long, and I can't want any longer. I want to diminish the distance between what I am and who I want to be.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Notes To Self

I'm surprised at myself. I have found myself in the midst of an epidemic of personal distress and trauma in the form of the junior year of high school (plagued with SAT scores, ACTs, tests, progress reports and APs) and I have lost myself in it. I've suddenly realized what I have become... I've become a stressed out inconsiderate bratty blotchy blob.
This is not the person I want to be, let alone be friends with. I have gone crazy in my own mind and I'm hoping to win this internal war. I have dreams for myself, lying in the warm grass on a summer afternoon, looking at the blue sky and feeling the calm. I want to buy a digital camera and take really amazing pictures of the sunset or go to a record store and just listen. I want to be who I want to be, and feel how I want to feel, and care about more than looking good on a sheet of paper.
I am a person and not a number, and I sometimes forget that I need to be considerate and that I need to be selfless and that you can't be described as selfless if you're selfless less of the time. I need to get my groove back, basically. It's not that I am a different person as much as I'm not acting like the person that I am.
I am experiencing cognitive dissonance, and strong stress that makes me regress and act like a two year old. But I am not two years old. I am almost a woman and the world is a cold freezing place that I promised to myself I would make warmer. I wonder sometimes how I could've changed so much.
It's easy to get lost in the world of paper and numbers and not remember how it feels to roll down a hill or to look at the cloud formations in the sky. These little wonderful things that we did seem so mythical now. But they're not. It's so easy to bask in a moment, if we can clear our heads for long enough. It's so easy to calm down and listen to the song, if we stop long enough to really hear it.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Sometimes it's hard to be someone

It's really easy to find fault with people, and it can be so easy to not like them no matter how interesting or intelligent you find them.
This is what is known as confirmation bias, a phenomenon in which our impression of something or someone is so strong that we ignore evidence contrary to our beliefs and interpret neutral behavior from them (the object or the person) as our impression suggests.

One time a friend of mine told me that "even people you don't like have something to be proud of." (Like that, Ms. Glaaser? Within the quotations... who knew?) It is apparently, circumstances which cause us to dislike or even like one another. I suppose that could be true. Do I ignore the bad things my friends do? No, but I don't say much either.

Perspective is such a hard thing to turn around sometimes, and we change ourselves based on who we are talking to. Some people do this more than others... I've come to think that I have an opposite extreme. I tend to say what I think regardless of who is listening, except in extreme cases, involving forensics judges or my dad's patients. All of this makes me feel like who we are is not concrete. I am intelligent and hardworking, yes, unless you expect me to do fine handiwork. I am loud and talkative, unless I am writing a poem, or focusing deeply on a concept, or in choir class.

People have a tendency to look at a person and think they know everything. I know that I do. Our mind does this on purpose, we adopt generalizations and prejudices to allow us to differentiate between different stimuli. To help sort out who people are, we put them into concepts of cool nerd, nerd nerd, stoner, stalker, wannabe, pretty boy, girl with a cause, loser without a cause, hockey player... just like a robin is a bird, Robin* is a nerd. The only difference is that the robin is a bird because it has uric acid, and wings to fly, and a 4 chambered heart, and a backbone and Robin... well, she has a book with her all the time and acts quietly in class. At least, that's how Robert sees her. Robert doesn't know that Robin is loud and has a 19-year-old college boyfriend that she grinds with on the weekends at clubs where she uses a fake ID. And how would he know? All he sees is a representation of a nerd. Classifying animals and classifying someone's character appear to be similar sciences, but they are not.

The underlying thought is that we are not just human beings, set in stone, defined once and never again. Most of us know this for ourselves, but we must see it in others as well. I'm a little tired of remembering what a something she was freshman year, and what stupid thing he did in 8th grade. I know that if you had even known me in seventh grade... you would not like me at all. So, 'tis similar for all.
But if this is a fact of life, it's not something that changes with the wave of a wand or a twiddle of a finger.
So, why even write this? No reason too special. I want to let out these observations that have been afloat in my brain for enough time, and perhaps, for whoever is reading this to take a second glance at what they think and how they feel about people. We need a more understanding world... one that gives second chances, respect, maybe a little love? To be paralyzed by others' opinions is an awful fate indeed.

*Not real people.