This blog was created to report on my research. It was in my proposal to Fulbright in response the question of how I would make my work known to others. I could not decide before I left if it would be strictly research or also my personal experiences while being in India for three months. I still can’t decide, but today I have decided that I would like to share some thoughts about the three questions above with my family, friends and community. Or maybe I have decided.
I have been here for less than 48 hours. I know it but it can’t be true. You know the theory that time is slower when we are young and speeds up as we grow? The idea behind this is that the more stimulation we are receiving, the slower everything seems and as we age and newness recedes, time goes by. Songs have been written and time, for me here and now, is nearly at a standstill as all I see and hear is new and unique to me.
What is it like?
Today is Saturday and the streets and parks are full of temples and cricket. Sounds of drums, crows and car horns. My hotel room is in the back and five floors up. It is quiet at night. The crows are different, beautiful and everywhere. People walk in the street because the sidewalks are too crowded, someone’s home or popup shop, or just not there. Horns blare constantly as drivers honk in anticipation of the green light, to let pedestrians know they are going to run them down, to move a car over another foot so that three cars can fill two lanes. Motor bikes pay no attention to traffic rules such as lights or one-way streets. It is not true that everyone speaks English. Not true that most people speak English. Cab drivers, clerks and vendors, staff at the hotel, understand a little, but we are communicating through universal sign language and willing bystanders who see the predicament and step in to translate. Four people helped me get a cab an hour ago. Earlier, I asked two men sitting/working in a park for directions. They were unable to help me, but a minute later, an older man came up behind me and asked if he could help. He showed me where to go and said it was his duty to help me, “his elder sister.” I went into a café for chai and, only after taking a table just inside the door, did I realize that there were all men there and women sat upstairs. No one bothered me, just my mistake for not paying closer attention. Again, the stimulation can be overwhelming.
How’m I doing?
I am doing very well although I woke up scared this morning. Only two days gone and three months to go, but I know I will settle in and it will be fine. I am exploring my neighborhood a block at a time. I just keep taking rights until I get back to the hotel. Today I made it to the ocean, the Arabian Sea. It was midday and very hot so I had to head back to the neighborhoods for shade. I automatically stay to the right when walking and that is wrong because walking and driving are on the left. I have a technique for crossing streets: get into the middle of a crowd and just go with it. But don’t fall out of the scrum or you will be standing in the middle of the road with traffic whizzing by.
I have been twice to the khadi emporium. Beautiful clothes made by fabric made and dyed in the villages. This continues Ghandi’s movement for the economic and spiritual benefits of spinning and homespun fabric. I thought I might go to the museum today but it was too ambitious. Got my culture fix by shopping instead.
I found myself at the train station early this afternoon. Walked off the end of platform like everyone else and crossed the tracks to get to a southbound train that had just pulled in. Mumbai is a peninsular and there is nowhere for a southbound train to go so I thought I would just take the train to wherever it went and take a cab back. Second thoughts can be good because, while I was mulling this idea over, the train pulled out of the station going north again. The station is the terminus of the line and I have no idea where I would have gone if I had gotten on that train.
I am still figuring out food. The hotel serves breakfast and that is my only regular meal so far. I am following the advice to not eat street food, but that makes eating complicated as that is how Mumbaikers eat. I know there are restaurants somewhere but not so much in my part of town. I search for bananas and today I went to Starbucks for a predictable meal—hummus and pita—and a cup of Earl Gray. It was a nice break.
Where’s my stuff?
This is my biggest challenge. By vocation and habit, I am an organizer but not organized. Now I am carrying all my stuff for three months on my back figuratively and in three bags literally. My natural impulse is to buy more bags. But I know this is oh so wrong. So I search… for the camera, the money, glasses, medications, passport, a pen, the phone receipt I suddenly need, the box for the phone I should have had when I returned to the store and now have to go back a third time.
I don’t know if I will solve this or not. I am keeping my expectations very low. Today I made small improvements. I will not carry more than 2 pairs of glasses at a time (reading plus sun OR not). I exchanged all my US money for rupees so I only have to keep track of one currency. I am packing up and stowing the last minute clothes I packed out of panic but will not wear. Will probably just give them away when I get a chance.
Where is my stuff will be an ongoing issue because I will be moving often. I will leave the West End Hotel in another 5 days when I move to a B&B in northern Mumbai. In the meantime, I soak up the opportunity to experience time as a child does, filled with newness and excitement.
Love and peace to all.