I have officially stayed in India for a month (this post is long overdue). It’s been a tough five weeks but I am happy that I can say I have half-adjusted to this new environment. Adjustment is key here as everything is different. There is nothing that has smells of familiarity so far (other than Netflix, which by the way, the Indian Netflix offers more collection of movies and series than the one in the States).
Temperature:: The first thing that we are all aware of is the Indian summer heat. If there is one thing that hit me hard as soon as I left the air-conditioned arrivals terminal was the heatwave that felt as if something is heating up the air and we somehow have to breathe in heated air that descends. Temperatures in New Delhi ranged from 35- 45 degrees Celsius (95- 115) every single day. We are lucky that we stayed indoors for the most part of the day. The only time out is when we have to wait for rickshaw (pictured below) outside the office on the way to the gym.
Environment: New Delhi has a lot to offer for a foreigner and a tourist. It is very populous, very busy and fast-paced. The subways are very crowded but much cleaner and organized than NYC subway or SEPTA. Over the weekend, we go to touristic places. It is mind-blowing to see all these beautiful structures (castles and temples) constructed hundreds of years back. The one thing that I appreciate is learning about India pre-colonial through the eyes of the natives: free of Eurocentric perceptions.
I have also learned to ignore stares in public spaces as a black dark- skinned woman. Most people have never seen someone who looks like me in person and so staring is pretty common.
Food: This requires a moment of silence. Indian offers a variety of food, all full of flavors and colors and if you are not too careful when ordering, a lot of spices! Its rich in taste, full of variety and most of all, new to the tongue. I have had Indian food countless times before back in the US, but the food is different in a way. Curries are cooked with recipes from hundreds of years back hence food preparation process is a complex process with combination of so many ingredients. Indian mangoes are worth mentioning: This will burst taste buds. Lucky for us, we are in India just during mango season so there is a mango-flavor option for everything!
Accommodation: We stay with an Indian family. The family is very friendly and accommodative. What is different about families here (including the ones we stay with) is that they have a homestay cook and everyday cleaner. It’s nice that we don’t have to buy meals for the most part or clean our spaces. This is where I draw a line of privilege. It is not every day that we get someone to clean after us and cook for us meals.
Work: Work colleagues were a little bit hard to interact with the first few days but as the days go by, we found similarities and we were able to strike up a conversations and form a bond. Our task was to contribute to a policy-making project on diabetes prevention schools. We’ve done a lot of literature reviews on obesity and diabetes in India and across the globe and as the days progress, we will visit schools to see how these policies made by PHFI (Public Health Foundation of India) is implemented.