Navigating India: Week three

Rachel Borashko

As we get settled into the house, I try to remind myself that this is home for the next three months. It still seems surreal that I am in India. It does not feel as if this is where I will spend an eighth of my undergraduate college career. I wake up every morning, look around, and have to tell myself, “This is home.”

I put on a churidhar, look in the mirror and say, “I am in India, I am home.”

I go downstairs with my travel companions to find a gaggle of giggling girls saying, “Good morning, chechis!” To them, we are already big sisters. I’ve never had a little sister before. Now, I realize I have nearly 30.

I eat cornflakes with hot milk and some puttu and kadala, chapati, or my favorite, appam with coconut chutney. Our meals are made by the sisters who keep the house functioning properly and they’re kind enough to give us a plethora of both Indian and American food options. Indian hospitality, if you’re unaware, goes above and beyond American hospitality. They tend to be of the firm belief that their guests should have the absolute best that they can provide. For example, they never let us clear our own plates, and in preparation for us being here, they bought two refrigerators specifically for us and even built a bathroom with an American toilet at the college. I prefer to see myself as a student, not as a guest, but it would be rude not to accept their kindness.

We get on the bus with the girls, many of them calling us to sit with them. I am unsure if it’s because we are there or if they are always so energetic, but they are the happiest, giggliest group of girls I have ever met.

Once at school, we go to a professor’s office, where all of our classes are held. Classes include only the three of us from the U.S., since American semesters do not line up with the ones in India. Our classes are sporadic with a different schedule every day and after this week I’ve only started two of my five: Women and Society in India and Malayalam. Malayalam is far from easy to learn, but helpful to understand at least bits and pieces of what is said and written around me. It makes me feel slightly more competent in a society to which I am so foreign.

The other students seem mostly excited to have us on campus and are never rude, only friendly, curious, and kind.

One of our professors drives us to yoga at a naturopathy center, which we learn the theory of before practicing for an hour. We get back to the Unity House around 6:15 p.m., have tea and watch the sunset from the balcony. Dinner is at 9, after which all of the girls surround Sarah and ask her to bring out her guitar, which is actually a ukulele, so she can sing and we can all dance. The house is filled with singing and laughter until a bell rings for bedtime, which I never fail to be ready for. We go up to our rooms and collapse into bed.

This is home.