A Very Bharatiya Birthday

Hey all! So it’s been a while since I’ve updated. I started out with the lofty goal of posting on this blog 2-3 times a week, but that’s clearly…dwindling down. 1x/week sounds like a more plausible goal, and it’s not so frequent as to bore y’all, but enough to (hopefully) keep you enticed and continue reading.

I should backtrack to two weeks ago when we started our first week of regular classes. We have classes everyday from 11:15-4:15 (with frequent and much-needed chai breaks in between!). We have different hour long sections each day, with each focusing on a different subject, such as grammar, dictation, newspaper articles, listening comprehension, one-on-one personal tutorials, etc.  Each section is taught by a different teacher, each with their own ‘unique’ personalities.

I think there are three general categories of teachers at AIIS: 1) The teachers who students enjoy talking to outside of class but don’t know how to teach students 2) The teachers who are confusing to talk to both inside class and outside and 3)The teachers who know how to instruct students very well and who are fun outside of class as well. One thing I’ve universally noticed amongst all the teachers, with the exception of three or four, is that they disdain teaching Hindi grammar and thus aren’t as comfortable answering grammar questions. I think it’s because most of them have Masters or PhDs in Hindi literature, so they’re not used to teaching Hindi grammar, which I can understand, I’m more interested whether my use of compound verbs is correct, not how the Bhagavad Gita relates to the literature we just read.

Speaking of unique personalities, why don’t I go ahead and describe some of the teachers at AIIS? In the last category that I mentioned above, there’s Prem-ji and Swami-ji. Prem-ji is very on-spot about correcting grammar. Swami-ji is just helpful and friendly overall.l I also just met Sai-ji, who I would also classify in this category. This guy has been everywhere, from Mumbai to Kolkata, and worked for both the History Channel and CNN-IBN. As a fellow-lover of non-veg, he also gave me some good restaurant recommendations like a place called Chawla Chick-In. In the first category is Santosh-ji, who seems to have a good heart, but man, can this guy lecture on and on and ON. There’s also Vishnu-ji, who has to be one of the funniest little men I’ve ever seen. He always corrects me in a voice that is both simultaneously irritating and ridiculously hilarious, so I just end up laughing. I had a half-hour long debate with him about the merits of Indian astrology (with me arguing against them, and him arguing for them).

The highlight of the past week though was hands down my birthday. It’s funny–I don’t think I make a big deal of birthdays back home, nor do my parents, as I haven’t had a legitimate birthday party since middle school; usually I just hang out with 2 or 3 friends and have dinner with my family.  My parents kept asking me “What are you planning on doing for your birthday? You should do X, Y, Z etc etc etc…” and making , which I thought was really sweet and I appreciated it, even if I found it slightly grating, because I didn’t yet know what I was going to do to celebrate.

I ended up gathering up a large group of friends from the AIIS classes and heading over to City Palace, a historical monument in the Old City of Jaipur. It’s just a palace-type complex with gorgeous old architecture, and armory, cars, clothes, etc that the previous Maharajas of Jaipur used to own. As fellow history nerds, Cherish and I definitely enjoyed touring this palace. And I also somehow obtained the ticket price for native Indians as opposed to foreigners, so I guess I accomplished the one goal I made before starting out on this trip to India. It doesn’t really feel like that much of a victory though, considering all I did was ask “Eyk ticket’ in Hindi. I’ll consider it more of a victory when I actually carry on an hour-long conversation with a native speaker.

Afterwards, we took pictures of a lovely water palace in Jaipur, and then headed over to a yummy non-veg restaurant called Hondis for a birthday dinner, with my host family included. The daughters in my host family and one of my friends made some great cards, and my Aunty-ji bought me a kurta. Definitely a great way to celebrate turning the big 20. I no longer can officially call myself a ‘teen.’ Sad times, I guess, but I’m not too bothered, because I think I’ll always have the childlike heart of a 10-year-old even when I’m 80, wrinkled and lying on my deathbed, so no worries there.

I’m starting to get accustomed to navigating my way around Jaipur (well at least the important routes, like from school to my homestay). I hate walking on and jaywalking through/crossing heavy Indian traffic on main roads like JLN Margh (where Rajasthan University is located) because dodging a constant flurry of motorcycles, cars, rickshaws, trucks, and worst of all, stares, is no fun business.  At first, I was really bothered by the number of stares I would receive (though it’s not nearly as bad as the stares that the white foreigners receive). I still get bothered by the stares from time to time, but I just hold my head high and keep on walking forward. I think I’m also getting fewer stares as I figure out how to blend into the crowd more, which I take as a good sign though.  Anyway, main roads aside, walking down some of the residential smaller lanes/streets on which there are fewer people aren’t so bad, so I usually try to take these backroads when I head back home to get some peace of mind.

I’m starting to have fun conversations with my Aunty-ji and my teachers, though I still find the language barrier a problem at times. If I can understand what someone is saying, I usually have enough knowledge of Hindi vocabulary and grammar to respond in a way they understand–the problem is that native speakers talk so quickly that their words seems blurred together, and I’m sometimes left with a blank look of confusion on my face, and once native speakers see that, their words are replaced with a look of pity. Or sometimes, they’ll say one word and I’ll hear another one entirely (like hearing them say ‘Veteran’s Day’ when they actually said ‘Wednesday’) The last difficulty is that I’ll understand literally what they’re saying, but I don’t understand the meaning of their words in the context of the situation, so I’m still unsure of how to respond. It’s starting to get better though, day by day. धीरे – धीरे

Pics in the next blog post! 🙂

 

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