Kurtas, Friends and Chai

Hello! I haven’t updated in a few days so I thought I’d check back in.

On to the first bit of exciting news: I finally reunited with my friend Cherish after a year, halfway around the world. We studied Hindi at UC Berkeley last summer and have been keeping in touch frequently via Facebook, but there’s nothing like our in-person discussions about Michael Fassbender, movies and men (and of course India), so I’m glad she’s here with me. She lives with a host family and her roommate Alicia in Adarsh Nagar, and I live in Tilak Nagar, which isn’t too far away, so we could walk to each other’s places.

The weather’s finally starting to let up and cool down (sweet sweet relief from the desert heat), which means the rains are coming soon. Time to invest in an umbrella! Should’ve listened to good ole mom when she told me to bring one.

I’m really getting used to living with my host family and the other AIIS students. Right now, my host sister Thanushka is listening to ‘Theri Meri Prem Kehani’ (You are my love story) on repeat while surfing on FB in the little bit of spare time before her classes, and I’m killing time before my class by writing on this blog. At first, it was hard to adjust to the daily meals of chai (tea), roti (Indian style of flatbread) and subzee (vegetable), but now it’s not so bad. And plus, our Aunty-ji knows we grow tired of eating the same thing everyday and tries to vary it up, like when we fumbled around in the kitchen helping her prepare some Indian-style chow mein, adding more chili flakes and spicy sauce whenever possible. I also had a fun time watching ridiculously bad Hindi serials on TV (the typical ones with the evil mother-in-law, or the Indian girl who has been forcibly sent by her father to live in India and the miserable time she’s having with her ) with Aunty-ji and the other sister, Nanu.

I’m finally starting to get better at doing things on my own in India. For example, when we went to Bapu Bazaar the other day as a class, I managed to haggle with the shopkeeper by myself and get two quality kurtas (shirts) when the original asking price was 700 rupees. And I did it all in Hindi! Score. Although, when I mentioned I was from America, he tried to hike the price back up to 550. Whoops. We also went around and saw Rajasthan University, and went to a few bookstores, in which there were some Hindi books with ridiculously hilarious titles. I’ll post the pics of them below. And I went by myself for a short walk in the to Tilak Park, a beautiful park not very far at all from my homestay. But apparently, even though there were upper-class families playing cricket and talking in the Park, Aunty-ji tells me there are sometimes sketch folks there who drink and prey on unsuspecting younger women like myself. So for those of you Berkeley folks, Tilak Park is the equivalent of Willard Park (or maybe slightly sketchier)–a cute, small park with families and kids that also occasionally has some creepy folks wandering about whom one should be wary of.

I’m getting better at haggling with the auto-rickshawallas, giving them directions and figuring out what is an appropriate price for a ride and when I’m getting ripped off. Autorickshawallas have a meter that measures out the amount of money you should pay them for fare based on the number of kilometers, but rarely do they ever actually follow them. Instead, they bargain with you so they can receive higher prices than the meter would give. That’s not what bothers me most about rickshwallas. Considering that 50ish rupees is only $1, so I don’t mind 40 rupees instead of 20 rupees. What bothers me more is that so many of them don’t where the streets are, and expect me to give them directions to get to places. I wouldn’t mind doing that, but I just got to Jaipur a week ago, and I’m still in the process of memorizing the route from my homestay to the school, much less around the city. I’m pretty sure most New York cabbies know the streets of the enormous city, so why can’t the same be said of rickshawallas in Jaipur?

We also had our first day of classes yesterday, and it honestly wasn’t too bad. We had a bit of diary writing and correction in Hindi, some easy listening comprehension that consisted of a guy describing his living room, and some newspaper reading. All the teachers at the institute have been friendly, though some have an easier time of helping out the students than others. Today should be a fairly easy day, as I’m just watching a Hindi film called Maasum in class, so it should be a relaxing day. Not looking forward to handwashing and doing laundry later today though…

Just going to finish up with some pictures below:

The department in which I would be studying if I were at Rajasthan University. Woot Poli Sci!


Spongebob book in Hindi (Rough translation: “First Mistake, Last Mistake)


The subtitle on this one is so funny. No explanation needed.


From Fat to Fit:


Statue in Tilak Park


My room!


3 thoughts on “Kurtas, Friends and Chai

  1. Great to see you too, my friend! I don’t think I could have done India for the first time without you here. And I’m glad we are a short walk/autorickshaw drive away from each other. I feel like we never see the people who live across town. I think we have the same lawn chairs in our rooms over here!

  2. Oh, its really nice reading your post Tara. It feels good to read someone else’s experience of being a foreigner in India. I didn’t know how difficult it would be to adjust to the culture, everything is so different here. I’m glad your hindi is improving and that you can haggle with the vendors. My family has been helping me with most of the buying selling stuff. Work starts on Monday, and the ladies didn’t realize that I didn’t come and visit India often, so they were treating me normally. Then, one of the ladies asked why my bhai (cousin) was treating me like a kid and helping me with directions, and I told her I was actually from the US. She kind of changed her attitude towards me a little….Its a little difficult handling the hindi speaking, but the policy homework they gave reminds me of the research we used to do in the Pakistan class with Ali.

    Anyways, I hope your trip keeps on improving, and that you become an amazing Hindi speaker and a native Indian! =p


    • Thanks for the comment and support, Arpita! I seriously appreciate it. Sorry that it’s taken me so long to respond to your reply–I somehow missed your comment in the WordPress notifications that I get. And I forgot that it’s your first time in India, right? The cultural adjustment must be pretty rough then. I guess I’m a little fortunate in that I’ve been to India previously, so that part wasn’t as bad, but I never had to do the haggling or have as many interactions with people on the street, because I always had my grandparents’ driver taking me around. Given that it’s been a few days since you commented on my post, have things improved since then? And it’s impressive that they didn’t realize you were a foreigner until your bhai was giving you help with the directions–your Hindi must be pretty excellent in that case for them not to realize right
      off the bat. I know what you mean about people changing their attitudes when they realize you’re from the U.S. And I love how the policy assignments they’re giving you remind you of the work from Nosheen’s class! Can you tell me a little bit more specifically about what you’re doing at the organization?

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