Namaste mera dost, Pune, Bharat se!
Aap kaise hain? Mein kush aur aacha hun. (Hello
friends from Pune, India. Long time no see! How are you? I am quite happy!)
I know you’re wondering how I’ve been getting along in India, and let’s just
say that words won’t do India any justice in capturing how vastly different,
beautiful, and complex it is.
Returning home is such a thrilling,
yet invigorating experience. As soon as I got off the plane in India (with my
dream and my cardigan), a barrage of emotions hit me. With my adrenaline now in
high gear, I could barely concentrate or put together complete sentences. “We’re
in India! Ahhhhh, oh my god. We. Are. In. India,” was all I could muster.
As we wandered and weaved through
the city from the airport in Pune on a old broken down bus, the auto’s
insistent and obnoxious beeping, loud music on the streets, garam masala and
cumin mixed with the faint lingering smell of sewer assaulted our noses and
ears. The loudness of the city and the strange, yet familiar smells transported
me back to when I was 8 years old, picking my way through the streets and
eating tamarind straight from the trees. I smiled to myself, as these memories
continued to play in my head. I shook my head in awe as India enveloped me in
its deep embrace: me, as a young woman with a sense of purpose.
The first week in Pune was all
about discovery and rediscovery. Each small thing, like taking cold bucket
showers or eating payasam (traditional south Indian dessert that’s like rice
pudding, but with vermicelli noodles) or seeing children, who looked and
dressed and talked like I did when I was young, again triggered many memories. And
a part of me rejoiced with it too. For far too many years, I’ve tried to forget
where I came from and believed the stories I told myself. But now, I can tell
you without a doubt in my mind it feels so good to come back… to home. So far,
homecoming has been a wonderful experience.
In the second week, we met our host
families and moved into their wide-open arms. Meri parviaar bahut aacha hai.
Ghar Laxmi Road aur Vijiay Talkies ke pas hai. Mere bhai pagal aur mushkil hai,
lekin bhi hoshiyaar aur padaku hai. (My
family is very good. We live near Laxmi road (which is very well known for its
shopping). My brothers are naughty and difficult, but are very smart and
studious). I automatically clicked with the Kulkarnis. Their love for
cooking, exploring, and Bollywood bound us all together. My two younger
brothers, 8-year-old Aarv and 12-year-old Arnav, can only talk about their love
for KFC and McDonalds, while my dad, Shantanu, rages on about American
politics, and my grandma lightly scolds me for not using coconut oil in my
hair, and my mom complains about all the work she has to do in the house. Whether
it is 11:00 o’clock at night or 3:00 o’clock in the morning, you can always
count on my brothers’ tiny footsteps stomping around and yelling “aaaarrrghhh!
Catch me if you can!” However, for the last couple of weeks, they have been preparing
for their finals exams. With Aarv, my younger brother, it’s usually my mom,
Divya, running around the house chasing after him, begging him to study.
“Aarv, come study Marathi!”
“Nahi! I’m too tired.”
“Aarv! Oh god, the exams are in 7
“Let me play on the phone. I want
to play Clash of Titans!”
“Nahi! You must study!”
Aarv comes into the room, and
pretends to fall asleep. Classic. I’m pretty sure we all tried this when we
were young and didn’t want to study. Every time he has to study or do any kind
of work, he pretends to be tired and falls alseep. But when it comes to play
time, he has all the energy in the world (even more than me, and seriously,
that says something!)
Be careful though. They are naughty
children. I’ve been practicing my Hindi with my host mom, dad, and grandmother,
while I speak English with the siblings. The kids told me they’d help me with
my Hindi, but instead, they’ve been teaching me bad words in Marathi (the main
language spoken here in Pune). Don’t be fooled! Stay tuned for more stories.
There is far too much to write in this one blog post, so I will write another one
about my internship with TFI (Teach For India). That one, I promise, you will
want to read! Until then, namaste, mera dost. Have a good sleep.
(Don't worry, pictures and videos are to come!)