I am really enjoying my life out here, the weather, the people, the food, and I’d like to think I’m fitting in more. I’m getting braver about doing things on my own, and have frequented the hair dresser, had my eyebrows “threaded”, hair hennaed, face massaged, taken clothes to the taylor (who worked miracles and cost 40p!), I’ve got myself some wheels and today I am wearing my first salwar! I’ve even started jogging occasionally, in the evening after it gets dark, so as to make myself less conspicuous and avoid the heat. I try to choose the seldom traversed paths circling the outside of the campus which mostly have jungle on the other side, making me run faster when I remember stories about hyena sightings.
I’ve switched my sandwiches and coffee in the relatively western style coffee shop to samosas and chai in the local canteen, which they serve in tiny cups – the size of which you are grateful for due to their enormous sugar content.
Sugar is popular out here, my neighbours as a celebration of a festival gave me a bowl containing a sea of rice crisps interspersed with massive rocks of sugar…
I’ve also got my “kitchen” up and running and have started cooking for myself, with more herbs and spices than usual, thanks to the lady at the market stall who thrust them into my hand before I could respond.
There are aspects to the culture which seem quite natural to me, the head wobble for example makes complete sense, and used all the time to mean absolutely anything, from “yes most definitely”, “no way”, to “you don’t know I don’t know and neither does the cow…”. And the clothes are so beautiful, I love them all and am in awe of every lady that walks past. I’m also enjoying the music and have a new hindi playlist, and found out today that my favourite song (which I’ve been listening to on repeat at full volume in my room), translates to “I’ve got white wrists baby, white wrists baby, I’ve got fair complexion wrists” – wonder what my neighbours are thinking…
Whilst being fair skinned out here is definitely desirable, freckles on the other hand are thought of as a disease. I actually met one other girl with freckles who asked if I knew how to get rid of them. I found this out around the same time I was asked if I was going grey as apparently henna is usually used to cover up this problem… so my conclusion was that to people here I look like an old diseased person.
I’ve met a few more people now, and found that other foreigners exist within this campus. Sometimes we have representatives from almost all the continents at the dinner table (Australia, America, Canada, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Japan, Nigeria…and of course Indian!)
We’ve been out into the city of Kanpur a few more times to shop, eat biriani and watch Hindi films (in Hindi, which I could mostly follow, but it doesn’t matter much as they burst into song every few minutes which keeps you entertained), and to watch the holy cows, still searching for that delicious patch of grass which must be hiding somewhere in the middle of the motorway.
I saw rain for the first time since I’ve been here, after which the temperature dropped dramatically, signalling time for me to head south (east). I’m off to Kolkata tomorrow, goodbye to my new safe haven and all change again.