6 blogs in 6 weeks: Types of days

Robin Kershner - India


March 3, 2018

6 months gone and little time left in India, it feels as if I am back at the beginning, where all I desire is to go home, but not in the same way. In the beginning I had deep desire to go home because I was overwhelmingly homesick. It  was crushing to the breaking point everyday. But now it’s more of a feeling of, what’s left for Pune to provide me in the next month. If I decided to live here for a few years or go to school here, then I might pick up more subtle things and really get the hang of daily life. I say that because it feels I’m living a dream version of my life being in India. No matter what I do and no matter how much I try to fit in, I will always the be that blonde haired and blue eyed foreigner. Whenever I meet new people, they always ask how I am handling the spicy food and how I find India thus far. Currently it goes back and forth between having what I call a “ hard India day”, which is when things get to me that are specific to being in India, or a mediocre day and the occasional good day.  

A recent “ hard Indian day “ I had went like this…..

Everytime I try and communicate what I need or what I want but I can’t  When someone else yells at you in a language you don’t understand, no matter how hard you try. When all I wanted was a nice place to read with a child.  With their rapid speech and frequent pointing you feel as if you’re back to being treated like a child, left to And all you can do is look at them with a blank stare. And you need the child that you are supposed to be teaching to manage things for you and be the one to help you.  You feel helpless, unknowing whether they have translated it right. I have been managing and communicating with people successfully all my life but now that has been taken away. It is as if I am a baby that everyone else needs to explain. And on top of that they have to excuse you for not understanding. I thought maybe when I had 6 weeks left I would be able to manage and when these moment happen I would be used to them. I wouldn’t still be crying in the bathroom.  No longer thinking I can’t do anything right.

I whisper to myself for the thundered millionth time “I want to go home”

Then there is the mediocre  days, which are the most frequent kind of day. A day that fills you with a sense of nothingness. Everyone knows how it feels when your alarm goes off before you want it to and you begrudgingly get up, and slowly get ready. As I pull on my kurta, I hear my 13 year old host sister’s shrill voice shrieking because she doesn’t like what her mom has made for breakfast. I try to ignore this, as I sit and eat, as peacefully as I can.  My host sisters go to school, while I have about half a hour before I have to leave. I return to my room, to sit on my bed in the hopes that it will bring me comfort, but how can anything that is as hard as rock bring anyone comfort. After the time has slowly passed, I order my Ola( Indian Uber) and sit and stair at the screen watching the little version of the car inch slowly towards where I get picked up. The ride is a blur of dust, half built and half broken down buildings, and sarees and kurtas of every color and shade, with a abundance of two wheelers passing by.  When I reach school, I walk into the the computer lab that the teachers have turned into their workspace and wonder around until at last I see at least one of the teach for India fellows. I say “Hi”, ask about their weekend and take a seat at the big table in the middle of the room.  With the occasional bright spots of chats with my mentor. Then let next 6 to 7 hours of sitting and standing, just to look outside and sit back down again, start.

Many of my days in India seem to be not as different as I imagined. Somehow before I left I had it in my head that my life and how I interacted with India would be so different than when I am home, but for the most part it’s pretty similar; I get up, go to school, where even though I have become the teacher instead of the student, I am still at school . After school, I come home and I spend time with the family, making me feel like I’m not getting immersed in Indian culture.  I spend a lot of my time in western cafes, malls, and, of course, Starbucks. My host family, along with many others, speak fluent English and use it all the time; it’s mostly the food and some of the phases that people say that are different from everyday English.

I feel like I’m not doing as much as I could to be “immersed” in a different culture. But I forget that those western cafes and malls, the fact that my host family speaks fluent English all the time and that much of my time looking for things that remind me of home. These things are just as much part of India as the villages and the dust and the sarees and kurtas with the women carrying big heavy packages on their heads.


Robin Kershner