1. Wise and Otherwise - Subha Murthy
2. Art of Living - Srisriravi Shankar
3. Bakeries in Derha Dun
4. Tailor in Delhi
She was wonderfully nice and pleasant to talk to, but slept most of the flight. So our conversation pretty much ended after we took off.
The flight itself wasn't too bad, as far as international flights concerned. Food was actually not too disgusting. There was also HBO and video on demand. AWESOME! I watched Flight of the Concords, and two really awful movies. I tried for several hours to sleep without success. I spent most of the flight in this not awake not asleep state. When we finally got off the plane, we were immediately hit by the smell of humans, dust, and life lingering everywhere. While waiting in line at immigrations/customs (which truly was a joke) we noticed a series of clocks arranged on the wall telling the time of various international metropolitan cities. I found it hilarious that the 'London' clock was missing completely. None of the times were right, since none of the clocks were working.
We proceeded to gather our bags and do the prepaid taxi thing. The taxi was all that I had been afraid of, but slightly more chaotic. We had too much luggage (people didn't follow the instructions to "pack light"), so we had to get three taxis. We put a woman and man in two of the cabs and three women in the third since we had more women than men. I was in the cab with Swami K and Kite. Walking outside to get in the cab was much like walking out to your car after a really ballin' show. I felt fucked up and overwhelmed, running almost entirely on adrenaline. People tried to talk to us, sell us things, cheap fares, quick trips, etc, but I couldn't understand most of what was going on due to my pseudohightrashedtired state.
As we got going I had to stop thinking about how the driver was managing not to completely crash and kill us and try to enjoy this new experience. I felt small waves of anger that Columbia and Berkley hadn't picked us up. The driver had no idea where our hotel/hostel was (nor did he speak much English), and talked on his mobile phone the entire time. I have no idea how he did it in an automatic and through the disorderly nail biting traffic. There were people, bikes, motorcycles, glorified vespas, EVERYWHERE. Spastically weaving, bobbing in and out of cars trucks and mini-semis. Our small, 1930s-esque mobster cab floating/flying among it all. I wish I could described the smell, alas I can't at this time. Shall attempt later. It is probably the most distinct scent I've ever experienced. So many different elements, perhaps longer exposure will reveal what these components might be.
When we finally arrived at the YMCA Guest Hostel, I was comforted and relieved by Berkley's smiling presence in the lobby. It was wonderful to see her after such a long and stressful cab ride. Another bunch of the group had arrived our time the day before and were all upstairs sleeping jet lag off. Berkley chuckled as she told us they were "the adventurers" and had to dissuade them from renting scooters that day. I didn't find it funny or adventurous. I found it arrogant and stupid. After only one exposure to the traffic and roadways of Delhi, I had come to the conclusion that I could probably never drive in India. I thought it kind of an imperialist conception that these people thought they could navigate let alone drive in the cluster fuck. I didn't think it was adventurous; it was an irresponsible and down right stupid idea. I wonder if I'll end up being one of the "squares" because I won't be willing to take retarded risks. I'm totally up for an adventure, if I wasn't I wouldn't have come to India, but I'm going to be cautious and rational about the types of adventures I take. I'm not too keen on ending up in an India jail. Not a part I'd like to see honestly.
Breakfast with everyone was great. Everyone, including myself, was in a much better mood. Sleep is an amazing thing. I think we're going to have an awesome group after the interaction of breakfast. Everyone is excited and here for a somewhat unique reason. I'm also stoked that everyone is coming from different disciplines. We have 3 grad students and 17 undergraduates. Most are entering their final year or semester at UF and have pretty well rounded ideas about global politics and issues. Today is a free day of sorts... as in the program hasn't officially begun, and we have nothing planned. I plan on shopping... since I didn't bring any clothes with me, I'm going to need to get some traditional Indian garb.
Immediately upon leaving the hostel, I was struck again by the odor of the city. Now that I'm back after a day of exploring, I can feel the smell in every pore and fiber of my being; in my hair and behind my tired overwhelmed eyes. Prudence gave us a quick tour of places she had found the previous day. I was highly impressed with the confidence with which she carried herself and navigated the hustle and bustle. I found myself in a new role and new space as I tagged along behind her. I felt uncomfortable by how people shamelessly stared at me and how I for the first time in my life occupied the role of a minority and outsider. I felt Exotic. Mysterious. Awkward. Self-conscious. I attempted, perhaps unsuccessfully, perhaps not, to navigate these new feelings and my new place within the space. We later chatted about all of this over dinner. Others had similar experiences and similar feelings. Slightly comforting. I'll take what I can get as far as comfort goes right now. While I'm elated to be here, I've never felt more awkward and clumsy in my entire life. I wonder where I fall within the hierarchy of this society. At the same time I feel highly privileged due to my apparent status as a Western white woman, but also slightly lower and less respected by how people have been trying to cheat and manipulate me. I feel highly privileged because of my seemingly endless resources, yet exploited for the same reason. I wonder how this was change as I spend more time here. As a woman, I find Delhi to be an interesting and difficult space. I'm continually wanting to say or do things that I'd typically not hesitate to do in the US. I find myself hesitating because I want to be culturally aware and appropriate. This a challenge for me since I feel as though I'm stifling my identity to remain safe and respectful of the various cultural standards. Perhaps with practice, I can find some sort of compromise that doesn't make me feel lost and hollow.