India Bound

Sunrise at 5.30 am Sunset at 7.05 pm

Location: Mussoorie and Delhi, India

Engaging in wild acts of exploration and inquisition.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

The Delhi Itch

Well, for the last week all I have been doing is attempting to move into an apartment in the Ottram lines section (north of Delhi University, which is the north section of Delhi itself), and fucking hell its been exhausting. Getting anything done in India is a fucking pain, most especially if you aren’t Indian or don’t speak Hindi….and so it goes like this: our landlady takes us to very specific shops for our specific needs (spices here, spoons and dishes here, refrigerator here, beds, there, etc.) and so on and so on, and in each place she makes sure we aren’t being royally ripped off by the shopkeepers and gives us her very opinionated views on what is good and what isn’t, and at many points makes us all leave the shop in a huge huff if we aren’t getting from the shop what she thinks we should.

Ekda, our landlay, lives the floor above us and has two twin boys who are nine-year old swimming champions and translate her Hindi to us in the the most adorable nine-year old English. In the markets, Ekda will grab my hand and go tearing off in one direction when she sees something shiny and if there is a point that she wants to give particular emphasis to, she repeatedly jabs me in the shoulder or arm with her gold ringed finger (I’m finding our that Indians are very very physical, to the point of uncomfortability and most often pain).

Ekda on the art of shopping (man, I wish I could correctly transcribe the Indian accent):

Ekda: Kelly, its all a high drama! Play the drama! When I ask you if you like something, you say no, you don’t like it at all. No interest!

She was very shocked to hear that there was no bargaining in the United States…and yes, bargaining is fun, but sometimes its monsooning and I really just want to get somewhere and when it comes to a difference of ten rupees (less than 20 cents), often it’s more like “oh fuck it, I’ll pay the goddamned ten rupees.” But then you feel like you are giving in because you are a weak and drenched foreigner and you also know you are being ripped off precisely because of that and you think about that and it makes you stand in that monsoon and fight for those ten rupees. Phew, but you usually do some sort of turn around, realizing that ten rupees matters much more to this rickshaw driver than it does to you, yet its not about the money…it’s the principle of being tired of getting ripped off for being white. There’s a rant for you.

So, we live in a rather busy and dusty area that seems like a mix of Mexico City, Madrid, and India. There are little fruit stands lining the street everywhere, so we can hop out the door and get mangoes, papaya, melons, pomegranite, bananas and coconut. There’s also a dairy store across the way from us where you can get rose water lassi and paneer in blocks as big as my head. Out my window I can watch men in a little shack make sweets and it always smells of sweet milk being condensed for candy and cardamom. There are little women in the streets stringing lines of roses and marigolds for the temple, lots of funeral processions, waterbuffalo, and a shanty town right in back of us next to a small park (in India you come across these shanty towns everywhere, there are a bunch of them on the University campus - I'll be walking from the library, which looks like some library in the deep south circa 1912, to a class and have to walk through two shanty town settlements where children are runny around naked with their ribs poking out).

I’m very much looking forward to getting out of Delhi soon – Delhi is indeed a shithole (I say this fondly) in the same way that all of these huge spread out cities are. I was thinking about the concept of America’s “Little Italies” and “Chinatowns” and “Little Tokyo” and how there are no names like that for sections here, but we keep finding ourselves most comfortable in places that could be called “Europetown” or “The Little West” – places where we can find whole grain breads and hard cheeses and avocado and tofu (we finally fucking found it) and where there are restaurants serving Mediterranean foods. Coincidentally, these are the places where the richest Indians hang out also, and they always come up to us and give us their phone numbers and want us to come to parties with them. For the first time in my entire life, being an American in a foreign country is a good thing. According to some Newsweek poll, Indians are second only to Americans for loving Americans, and its really true. This means that you can never walk anywhere without people staring at you or trying to follow you or touch you, and its fucking overwhelming as all get out.

I've just finished a spell of puking for two days and am back in action - we're going to hear singing at a Mosque where we have to wear very tradition dress and try to pass off as Muslims...

by the by, my address is: Kelly McCormick, INDIA Study Center, 8/17 Sri Ram Road, Civil Lines, New Delhi 110054, INDIA

So, you know...send me some food that won't make me sick...