I’ve been living, eating, and showering (sometimes with 8 legged visitors) in India for six weeks now. A fewI’ve been living, eating, and showering (sometimes with 8 legged visitors) in India for six weeks now. A few cardinal rules that I’ve come to adopt:
- Be patient.
- Walk very, very slowly. Otherwise you will fall in poop (#learnedexperience)
- Bring snacks.
- Learn to love drinking boiled water. Who needs bottled water anyways?
- Forget the idea of personal space. It does not exist.
Interning at the Chinmaya Organization for Rural Development (CORD) has been a series of ups and downs (more on this later), but what I’ve come to realize is that no matter what kind of strife or dissatisfaction I face in the operations of a 30-year-old NGO, the most memorable experiences I will have will be in the field.
Wait, what’s “the field”?
CORD uses the term “the field” for any place it works that is not main campus, or the office. So, each time you visit the home of a woman farmer, or attend a meeting of a community based organization, you’re in the field.
What I’ve come to find out about Himachal Pradesh is that you will quickly become everyone’s child. When I say everyone, I mean everyone. My experiences in the field have been the most shimmery and memorable times I’ve had in India thus far.
I’ve been told that 21 is SO OLD, and that I need to start actively looking for a husband if I really want a love marriage to work out (this woman, Veena Kumari, promptly asked me if I’d like to meet one of her nephews). I politely declined, but she said she would start searching for husband material ASAP.
I’ve learned how to play Indian recess games. My teachers were a handful of teenagers from an adolescent girls group. And let me just say, that these games are hard. Imagine playing tag but the person who is “it” has to hold their breath as well?!
I’ve gotten way too in to a competitive game of hybrid- basketball- volleyball with a pair of siblings named Nikita and Anaket. This game might have gotten so intense that we ended up losing the ball to a nearby river. (Unclear if Anaket was ever able to retrieve it)
And, I’ve been given the loving nickname of “Shambu”, Lord Shiva’s name in Himachal. This christening took place because of my tendency to wear a big ballerina bun on the top of my head (just like Shiva’s).
I still have not learned Hindi.
But, I’ve come to speak a made up language of my own which is a combination of body language, Hindi vocabulary and English helping verbs, propositions, and connecting words. So, each time I go to “the field” I’m never sure if what I’m saying will translate, but somehow most things end up working out. I’ve come to realize that at its core, the human experience is something we all share, and everything else is just details.
Swathi, my co-intern/new confidante/shower buddy, and I eating kulfi in front of the CORD logo