second of three

There are a few things that I neglected to mention as of late. First is that I miss home. This longing for home is especially strong because I got a phone call from my mom saying that, after over a year, they accepted a bid on our apartment.
People move a lot. My family didn’t. We’ve been in the same house since I was 4 years old. I think one of my earliest memories was looking at that apartment, empty, waiting for someone to put some life into it. If you ask my family, I definitely put life into that house, my home. I said goodbye to everything, to everyone before I left. The doormen there have been there since I was a kid. Some of them remember me from when I was small and cute. I’m not sure how to handle this.
On a lighter note, another reason why I miss home is the pizza. I’m not going to lie; I miss pizza. I’ve had pizza twice here, the first from Domino’s the second from a place called Smoking Joe’s. I’m ashamed that I ate Domino’s; I would have never done so in New York. Smoking Joe’s was ok, but it just put the taste in my mouth that will never be satisfied without a New York slice. I know it’s silly, but it’s a part of my experience.

I’m sitting in the hallway waiting for Baba to come home. I safely took the train after work today, returning to the general class, women’s car, took the local train to Andheri, took a rickshaw, and arrived at his house, without asking anyone for directions. I’m proud! I did meet some pretty cool ladies on the train. The first is Savita who is a fashion designer. We clicked while waiting for the train to arrive. It was late and she was speaking to some of the other ladies waiting for the train. I smiled, because that’s what you do, and understood enough to know that she was making fun of the announcements because they kept saying the train was coming, but the train wasn’t there. I’ve also figured that it’s a smart move (everyone does this) to make friends outside of the train, so that when the pushing and shoving begins to get on the train and get a seat, you have someone on your side. She did this with me; I was on the train and on an upper birth first. She caught my eye and put her bag up. She helped two other girls do the same and the four of us fit, maybe not so comfortably, on the upper deck. We spoke a bit, only in Hindi, and I’m happy to say, that even though I didn’t understand all the words that came out of her mouth, I understood the gist, and was able to answer most of her questions without a confused look on my face. She has a store near one of my centers so before she left off of the train she made me promise I’d go visit. I would like to keep that promise. I didn’t get to speak to her friend that much.
Savita and her friend got off one stop before me. The fourth girl moved over to begin a conversation. Her name is Pooja and she is a photographer. She’s from Pune but works in Mumbai as an assistant to a well-known photographer. I saw some pictures of her that she copied onto her phone; they’re quite nice. We talked a lot about missing home, getting home cooked food, lounging around with your family. (This also added to my stress of missing home.) In fact, most of the time when I meet people and say that I’ve been here for X amount of time and that I’ll be here for two years, the first question that comes out of their mouth is, “Don’t you miss home.” And my answer is always yes. We were going in the same direction after getting off the train, so we took the local train together. It was nice to travel with someone else. She welcomed me to her home whenever she comes back to Pune. She invited me to meet her 90-year-old grand parents. This time she was in Pune to visit a friend of hers who was in an accident. Apparently she blacked out while riding her bike (she was feeling sick) and crashed into a tree. A big concern is that now that she has some stitches on her face (otherwise she’s ok) that she won’t be able to get married. Pooja said it was silly, but that it’s like that in India. We both agreed that it’s what on the inside that counts. Pooja’s sister is 26, and their mom is really pushing for her to get married. They’ve met several potential matches, but for some reason or another, things haven’t quite worked out yet.

I have a few minutes quiet to myself. I’m at Baba’s house; I arrived last night with a text message saying, “Get off the train at Andheri and you know the way home.” It’s nice to have yet another home away from home. Even if I miss my parents and friends, I’m welcome in other areas like home.

A cultural thing: tea happens twice a day. In the office, we make tea in the morning, around 10:00, and again in the afternoon at around 3:30/4:00. This happens all over. It’s something that carried over from the British (my guess). We sometimes have biscuits, sometimes other chip type things with various spices in it. Everywhere it’s the same tea, chai. Chai is a loose-leaf tea that you put in water with sugar and milk. Depending on the location, the sugar level varies. In our office, it’s quite high. Like spicy food, I got used to sweet tea (when I make tea at home, I make it with less sugar, and I make the spicy food less spicy).

Something else I’ve gotten used to is the poverty. A few people have asked me if I see blatant poverty all over the place. This is an issue that I haven’t really talked about here, in fear of sounding too crass or apathetic. I’ve avoided this issue as well because I don’t want people to stereotype what they think India looks like or reinforce images from Slum Dog Millionaire. Yes, poverty is all over the place. The only reason why I’m choosing to write about it now is because of an interesting encounter I had on the train yesterday. At Dadar, there were two kids, maybe around 8 years old (a boy and a girl, probably too small for their actual age). The girl was playing with something – I later found out that it was a bag of mendhi (henna), she was wiping it all over her hand – and the boy was sleeping. When the train came, they both got on. The boy immediately found a spot on the floor by the door and the girl sat down contently continuing her messy henna work. The train was very, very crowded and women (I was in the women’s car) were pushing. The women surrounding the children kept repeating that there were children there. Eventually they started talking to the girl telling her to tell her brother to get up. She ignored everyone at first, but then pestered him a little bit. He didn’t move. I have to admit that sometimes when I see people lying by the street (sleeping) the thought crosses my mind that they may be dead, which freaks me out a bit. The girl taunted one young lady next to me with her henna hand, pretending to put it on her clothes or face. The boy was not her brother she yelled, and the woman asked if it was her boyfriend. Both the girl and the woman were having fun making fun of each other as the women around us pushed and pushed. Where they came from or where they were going, I have no idea. They’re not the only kids who I’ve seen like that. Many kids, when you’re in a rickshaw, both in Mumbai and Pune, come up to people tapping their legs, motioning eating saying khana kaya. They make different faces that range from sad, to hunger, to desperate, to cunning. At this point I’ve almost become immune.

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