Day 3 in India, Day 2 in Gurgaon, Day 1 where I wake up in the proper time zone.
My name is Nancy and I am interning at the Public Health Foundation of India along with Ila. This is my first time in India and both our first times in Gurgaon. Yesterday we were blessed with a break from the 40+ centigrade heat, courtesy of a cheeky taste of monsoon season (or just rain, to everyone else). Today, however, we took a 10 minute rickshaw ride from the metro to our workplace, and even underneath the shade of the cardboard rooftop my body recognized my surroundings as sauna-worthy. We have yet to see the blue sky — the Weather app forecasts a week of “Haze” — but I am hopeful.
But enough about the weather.
I’ve traveled quite a bit and have some experience with stares and strangers asking for photographs. Frankly at this point avoiding unwanted eye contact and interaction has become a bit of a minor skill (anyone who has walked down Locust between 11:50 AM and 12 PM can attest to that). While touring and photographing the Red Fort with a group of the interns on Day 2 had become an experience where Indians photographed our group, making our way from home to work in Gurgaon was not so bizarre.
We are living with Ms. Rita Kapoor and her husband in their family home. Their two daughters have grown up and left home so Ila and I are conveniently settled into their former bedrooms. Living is NICE — we’ve each got 2 fans, a very strong AC, and our own bathrooms. There is no mattress, but instead a padded mat. Both the heat and living quarters remind me of summers in China, where my mom, dad, brother, and I would visit extended family. Though I’ve never been to India before, the experience feels just a tinge nostalgic, and I like it.
Breakfast introduces me to a 8th wonder of the world I didn’t know existed: FRUIT. The mango makes American mango taste like acrylic fruit models for painting class. The cherries — “from Kashmir” as Rita tells us — are small and sweet, and GMO-free. Normally my mouth erupts into hives when I eat cherries (Thanks Oral Allergy Syndrome), but my histamines are perfectly calm when I eat these. Curious. I can’t stand the taste of papaya in America, as it’s simultaneously bitter and bland, but it’s one of my favorites here.
Ila and I are now comfortably typing away at our cubicles on the 6th floor at PHFI. There are equal numbers of men and women in the workplace. Our supervisor described the dress code as “smart casual,” and I see consistent trends of Western workwear for the men and a blend of business casual (heavy on the casual) and Indian kurtas and saris for women. People speak quite softly and the workplace is very calm, with the consistent whirring of AC and the occasional ringing of the phone (though I can barely make out the voices picking them up).
Gurgaon has been described as not a town, but a collection of many islands (corporations) — this is evident by the shoddy roads and big glass skyscrapers, the vehicles driven by private drivers fighting for road space with rickety rickshaws. Patty Dhar, a member on the board, who I spoke to in Delhi, described the development of this city as Shanghai 20 years ago. Having been to Shanghai in the modern day (it’s where my parents met), I find the metaphor fascinating. Ila and I are excited to explore it this weekend. For now, back to work.