Before reading this post, know that by far the greatest challenge of this trip so far has been articulating it. How do I write about what I see and experience without stereotyping, reducing, exploiting? How can I take something so foreign to me and confine it to words? How do I express my own foreignness? Also know, that this writing will be candid–– organic and often unedited, as my brain can hardly process my walk to class, much less the meta and textual experience of trying to read into my own emotions or the nuance of my social position on that walk.
Despite my convoluted rambling above, this is just to say, this blog will seek to observe, to learn, and to feel. I’ll deviate from drawing ill informed conclusions (though I can’t promise anything, as I am a person with an ever active mind and imagination). And hopefully I’ll learn, through writing, how to complete all the half sentences of awe going on in my head.
I was in Delhi for 2 days. 3 if you count arriving from the airport, taking a pre-ordered taxi to a nice hotel, and subsequently passing out as a full day. Having arrived yesterday in Banaras (Also referred to as Varanasi or Kashi), I can already say the “shock” of Delhi has dwindled and drowned after encountering a far more challenging, stimulating, and wild city to reside in for the next for months. But before we came to Varanasi, all I had seen of India was from my two days in Delhi, and here are 10 things I learned:
- The traffic here is like a flock of bats. There are no lanes, and if there are signs/road lanes in a given area, they certainly aren’t followed, nor are any discernable traffic laws. The cars, autos, rickshaws, people, cows, and carts communicate with sound as they weave and flow and a massive moving entity. The traffic in Delhi could be seen as overwhelming, despite its perfect unified movement. Every individual component responds to each other, honking and calling out and moo-ing constantly.
- Speaking of traffic, road rage doesn’t exist here. The honking, while constant and loud, is more of a hello than an act of fear or anger. The rickshaw drivers graze each others hands as they pass by, and no vehicle is ever more than a few inches from another. Every member of this hive smiles, tells stories, and holds straight face while zipping and weaving through town–– a town of 22 million.
- India time is real. For a person that gets to every appointment an inappropriate amount of time (usually twenty minutes) early, it will take some getting used to. Time is a suggestion, and promptness is never a cause for anxiety. People aren’t frustrated when they drive, because they’ll arrive at some point and lunch, or class, or your doctor’s appointment will go on and commence then.
- Aramse. It means “chill” or “take it easy” and our professors say it all the time. It’s the Hindi Hakuna Matata,
- Hindi is the allegedly the easiest language for the human mind to learn. I disagree.
- There is no “have” in Hindi. Despite being an “easy” language to learn, many westerners can’t wrap their head around the face that there is no possessive word in the Hindi language. If you want to express ownership over something, the direct translation to English would be “very near.” ie. “Bill Gates is very near a billion dollars. I am very near that cup of Chai.
- Pants are not only ~trendy~ but essential. I didn’t seen a single person’s’ legs my entire time in Delhi. In Varanasi, on the other hand, it’s common for the men to pee/defecate in the street so here I’ve seen quite a few… legs.
- For many people here, it’s a status symbol to have their profile picture on Facebook be with a white person. People ask (or don’t ask) for my–– along with the other girls on my program’s–– picture everywhere we go. This is far more exaggerated in Varanasi.
- Most people expect to lose weight in India. You might expect that food poisoning, vegetarianism, etc could lead to this, however I’ve never had such rich and constant food in my entire life. Ever. Every meal is a feast, and the creamy, sugary chai is constant. I’m living the high life quite gluttonously, and becoming fairly adept and shoveling food with my right hand at the expected pace.
- No amount of advice or opinions could have ever prepared me for this place. While I found Delhi quite manageable (rather unlike Varanasi), the first thing that struck me about this place was how miraculously unique every pocket of it was. Every bit of advice or insight I received and will undoubtedly give to people will be flawed in some way or another. For an ever changing land of extremes, the exemplification of the sacred in the profane, I could only expect it to break out of my words.