And now, for my first edition of “India by the Numbers”:
Beds I’ve slept in: 8
Visits to the Foreign Registration Office, aka Dante’s 8th circle of Hell: 6
Papers filled out, signatures received, stamps inked, ID photos turned in: I’ve basically killed a forest
Number of times that I’ve (unknowingly) been on the back of a motorcycle with broken brakes: 1
Number of times this said brakeless motorcycle has run from the cops with me on it: 1
Hours spent at the IRFU All-Women’s National tournament: 18
Rugby pictures taken there: 1200-ish
Autoricks ridden: Who’s counting?
How many times I’ve actually known what I was eating: 3
Texas redneck-isms acquired, totally applicable to India, courtesy of Rachel: Zillions
Indian remakes of ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ watched: 1/2
Number of times I’ve been able to unpack: 0
The only way I can even begin to sum up my life in the past week is to quote the timely words of the of John, Paul, George and Ringo …
Oh, Mother India: the vicious, temperamental, oft contradictory and unruly beast she is. Life around here has been going from calm-to-crazy in two seconds flat. Exhibit A: After fervent apartment hunting and ensuing shenanigans (as in being motored around the city by my new broker friend with one squinty eyeball, communicating together mostly in charades and being fed hunks of papaya at midnight in a bike mechanic’s shop…the usual), Aaron and I finally get to our flat and get settled. ‘Ah,’ I said, ‘Imagine…being able to finally unzip our suitcases and not pack them up again?’ These turned out to be my Famous Last Words. Two days later, due to a misunderstanding between us, our landlord and the current tenants, we found ourselves with packed bags and once again homeless. So, dear Aaron and I have been living the life of unwilling squatters.
But, with that being said, we’ve been extremely lucky. Before the apartment fiasco (this was in the midst of apartment hunting), we were taken in by Noor — a friend of Aaron’s professor — and her family for a few days.
And what a utterly lovely little family they are. Noor and her husband Maninder helped us squared-away, navigate the 3-hour (really?) lease signing process, schlepped ourselves about town and filled our bellies.
Midst-apartment fiasco, we have been staying with Rachel, fellow Fulbrighter who is currently working on her PhD from Boston College. She’s been coming back and forth to India since the early 2000s so she’s got the lay of the land down pat. She has a beautiful two bedroom flat in Deccan Gymkhana and is undoubtedly only individual from White Settlement, Texas fluent in the Marathi language. She’s been a doll taking us around town, introducing us to the local delicacies (my favorites being dahi sev batata puri and bakarwati) and supplying us with unlimited amounts of tea and pearls of Indian wisdom (RE: survival skills).
In between times, Aaron and I spent the weekend braving the monsoon in the name of rugby, going to intensive-language class (on her end) and making and meeting new friends for street dosas, chai and korta shopping. And eating lots of strange things that we come across:
And, tonight, we should be headed back across town to our digs and take up some legal residence. Dare I say that things seem like they may be settling down?
I wish I had a better way to articulate it; this whole trip has been all about the extremes. You take two steps forward, you get pushed one step back. Lots of times, there is no rhyme or reason for the hoops we have to jump through or motions we have to go through (I speak here specifically about the infamous Indian bureauCRAZY). But, when at the point of crumpling into tears of frustration (annnnd I’m specifically referring to being government registration-less, phone-less — the Indian government turned my phone off because the mobile store never submitted my paperwork, cool — internet-less, language-less and raincoat-less in the monsoon while simultaneously trying to get my life together) something, or someone, always seems to pull through. Then, things are okay for a little while… but, as I have learned in these few — TWO?! — short weeks, India isn’t a place to become comfortably complacent…mostly because it’s utterly impossible and would be pretty foolish not to brace yourself for whatever comes next. But this ‘whatever‘ that I speak of is not always negative — often, it has been utterly redeeming — BUT, it is always surprising.
I’m just excited to finally be able to hunker down, unzip my stuff and literally throw it all around my room just because I can. I want to hang up some tapestries, make some fruit salad and make a humble little abode for ourselves! …and, now that I think of it — I want to bring in my clothes from the apartment porch. I had washed some goods and left it all out on the terrace to dry before we got the boot…
…and then the monsoon came. Of course.
Oh India. Surprise, surprise.