Truly Family

Andrew Chen - India


March 15, 2019

Today I’ll share a little about another large part of my experience here: my host family. Over the past few months, I’ve been living with my host dad Dilip, host mom Dipti, host grandfather Prakash, host grandmother Kalyani, and host brother Kabir (who’s 10 years old) in a flat in Bavdhan, a western suburb of Pune.

Me with my host dad, mom, and brother.

My host family and I with the two other fellows who live in Bavdhan, Gema and Libbie.

Though they’re all able to speak English well, Kabir attends a Marathi (the dominant local language in the state of Maharashtra) medium school, so he was initially somewhat shy and reluctant to communicate with me. Over time, however, we’ve bonded at night through the board games I’ve brought as well as through playing a few of his favorite mobile games (Clash of Clans and Brawl Stars); I’m happy to say that he’s definitely no longer shy around me, and that there have been many nights we’ve stayed up past his bedtime bonding over one game or another. My host parents have also been amazing – in their kindness, understanding, and support. Whenever I have a question about anything Pune or India related, I always go ask them first; they’re also always checking in with me to make sure that I have enough food, and going out of their way to make sure that I’m doing alright, especially during a period in December and January where I fell sick for an extended period of time. And my host grandparents have been really sweet – they’re both always trying to serve me food or give me whatever they feel I need – whether that’s by making me chai (tea), offering to peel my fruit, or making sure I’m prepared for Pune’s weather when I go out.

In general, my home life here reminds me quite a bit of my life back home. I’m normally out for lunch but usually have dinner at home, which generally consists of rice, daal (boiled lentils with spices), and a vegetable – my family is non-vegetarian, but most of our meals tend to be “veg.” We’ll go out occasionally for activities on the weekends or on holidays, and since the extended family is often very close in Indian family structures, I’ll go see my host aunts and uncles (or have them come to visit) with my family at times as well. The main things I had to adjust to were taking bucket showers, which I might enjoy more than using a shower head now, and trying to keep a clean room, which has certainly been an unexpected challenge; I’m used to having a rather “disorganized” room back home, so trying to keep everything off the ground so that I don’t trouble our domestic helper has been a challenge here. Getting used to having domestic helpers was also new for me – many middle and upper-class families in India have domestic helpers that come daily to sweep the floors, wash the dishes, and even make the tortilla-like bread (called roti in Hindi) that the family has daily. I wasn’t sure what to think of it initially, but my host family always treats our domestic helpers well, and they’re able to earn a livable wage by working for multiple families in the same apartment complex.

I’ll tell you next time about my school community, including my experiences and the lessons I’ve learned, as well about as my mentors, students, and principal, each of who have shaped my apprenticeship so positively.

Andrew

Andrew Chen