Yes, it’s India, so I’m not living in the lap of luxury, but I am gaining a deep appreciation for all the little things.
On our way home from Bangalore, Rebecca asked us all what we are going to miss when we leave. In some ways it’s a little bit early to explore that train of thought, but on another level, thinking about what we’re going to miss has opened my eyes to the here and now. Might as well live in the moment.
The first thing that came to my mind was the smells, oddly. India isn’t exactly known for its lovely aromas … probably better known for body odor, traffic pollution, trash and sewage. Yes, that’s all there; I get big whiffs every day on my morning run. But what’s also there is the smell of the wet dirt after a rain; thick, rich wafts of incense; the tantalizing smells of roti (bread) in the ovens and fried foods on the street; the jasmine in the women's hair and the fire and smoke from the burning trash that smells just like campfire (no good, I know!) These smells are part of my everyday routine. (Picture... my house! Lesley and I live on the ground floor with Preeti and Kanchana, and our landlord lives above us with her family - husband, son and a "servant.")
The day truly begins with the Muslim call to prayer. Not that I intentionally awaken for this, mind you. And while most of the Sandbox Fellows find it soothing and beautiful, I am not a fan. Perhaps it’s because on my first morning sleeping in my new abode, I am abruptly stirred from my sleep by what I can only assume is a man chanting and singing loudly directly outside my window in nasally tones. Turns out he’s several streets down in a mosque, broadcasting his call on some megaphone. This may not be accurate, but it’s what I visualize. I wish I could appreciate it more, but given my initial introduction to the call-to-prayer man, I find the sound more eerie than peaceful, especially since it comes at 5:15am when it’s still pitch black outside, and I’m drowsy and disoriented. When it comes at 7:15pm? Okay.
I go back to sleep until 6. After Lesley (roomie) and I go for our run, we indulge in what we now consider a scrumptious breakfast of bananas, curd (not-so-sweet yogurt-like product) and muesli or some other type of wheat flakes. If we cannot get curd/bananas from our street-vendor friends, we have cereal and soy milk, which pretty much costs us an arm and a leg (soy milk is just as expensive here as in the states, even though the incomes don’t compare, and cereal can be anywhere from about $3.50 for a small box of muesli to $9-10 for the stuff like shredded wheat, raisin bran, etc. (Pictures with "chalk art" is of a family on what we like to call "character street;" the women sketch the rangoli every morning, but this particular day's were all a little more elaborate for a holiday.)
After breakfast we walk to campus for Kannada lessons (6 days a week, just like work...the picture is of Lesley following instructions in Kannada from Eknath, while Kate and Adeel listen with great interest!), and then I head next door to the office since I work directly for the Foundation, and it is housed on the BVB campus. I haven’t worked much on what I came most specifically to do (the social entrepreneurship curriculum for the Deshpande Fellows) but instead have taught some of the modules and designed my own lessons, woo hoo – I taught one computer course on Microsoft Works and have just started a weekly Advanced English course. I do a lot of marketing-type stuff, and I manage two interns. I also wrote the content for and designed a big chunk of a new Website, which was supposed to launch, um, last week, but who knows when it will actually be up.
Even though we eat breakfast between 7:30-8, the Indians drink tea at that time (chai, baby!) and don’t actually have breakfast until 9-11am … which pushes lunch back to 1:30-3:30pm and dinner to 8:30-10:30pm. The American staff member tummies are growling by around 11:30am, so we’re usually headed to the canteen by somewhere between 12:30-1:30pm. You also see the cultural difference in the desire for tea about a bazillion times a day, which include at least five tea/coffee breaks at the office. I try to steer clear nowadays as, while it’s scrumptious, both the tea and coffee have gallons of milk and sugar and cannot be good for my health. Tea breaks also mean work breaks in Indian culture (at least in our office), so the Indian staff members typically stop what they’re doing (unless they’re in meetings) and congregate for a chat. (Picture...the flowers that grow everywhere!)
I technically get off work at 5:30pm (9:30-5:30 on weekdays, 2:30pm on Saturdays), but I never leave on time. Rarely, anyways. I frequently get pulled into meetings or have a conference call or am handling some aspect of the Deshpande Fellowship program. I get away as soon as I can, though, maybe run a couple of errands, then start thinking about dinner (of course!) For the most part we go out to dinner since we only just got gas hooked up in our kitchen. We’ve cooked twice, which has consisted of sautéed veggies and chipati, and I must say, we have done an excellent job. The downside is the time it takes to purchase the groceries, prepare the food and clean up – but that’s no different from home! If we go out as a group it takes eons anyhow.
Then it’s to bed for another day. So far, so good.