Here's the thing about India: because there are so many people who struggle each day to find food hasn't been grown with a water-sewage cocktail, you'd think overeating wouldn't be a problem here. I came to India expecting to lose serious weight, which is why I totally didn't worry about the mommy weight* I packed on this summer. (*Mommy weight: noun. The weight a college student gains when living at home and eating Mommy's meals, and cookies, and bread, and cinnamon rolls...)
Readers, beware. I'm going to need the upcoming winter to hide my growing love handles beneath miles of wool sweaters.
The best way I can describe South Indian hospitality is to say this: from the very minute I arrived at my host family's house, they have been stuffing me full of food. So much food. Iddilis and paneer and masala and chapatis and dosai and coconut chutney and hot carrot ghee and cake and tea and spicy tomato gravy... for every meal. Iddilis are little rice pancakes that expand in your stomach, and for breakfast your average Indian mother expects you to eat at least four, if not six. I usually have to battle with my host mom to stop feeding me. I think she's convinced I'm being polite or shy. Saying you're sick in Tamil Nadu really means, "Please continue to feed me until I have mutton biryani spilling out of my pores. That'll beat whatever's making me ill, right?" My common thought process while eating is usually along the lines of, God, if you really exist, you'll stop her from feeding me. And then when she spoons one more scoop of chutney onto my plate: God, please, just let me vomit. Just let me die. It would also be easier to refuse if it all weren't so frigging good. I've stopped eating lunch, which is sometimes risky because every day my host mom says, "What did you have for lunch?" and I have to make up some lie about eating at a restaurant or something.
Sweet baby Jesus, how great does a simple PB and J sound right now.
Monday, August 24, 2009
I've been in India for two weeks now. To give you a brief taste of India, here's a list of things I encounter on a day to day basis:
The lovely combination of jasmine and smoke and car exhaust and human, and pink and yellow and blue houses painted in Tamil with commercials for detergent or the "superb" brand of motor oil, and shacks built out of metal slats and concrete and left-over buildings and dirt hovels, and garbage and red earth and chunks of buildings churned together to make mountains, and mountains of small stone faces clumped into the domes of temples, and bright blue mosques, and black braids and moustaches, and red bindis and saris like sunsets, and palm trees and dust and rivers choked with plastic, and goats and cows digging through literally piles of shit with their horns painted and their ribs poking out, and dogs lying on the street divider as men and women move in separate clumps, and brightly colored hospital sheets stretched out to dry on the land where the big river used to flow, and long train rides and squatting over a hole that lets my piss fall to the tracks below, and nose rings like diamond flowers, and the air so hot and heavy that every time I step outside a film of sweat coats my skin, and temples over a thousand years old that we tread through with our bare feet, and cream colored churches and red striped Krishna temples, and Christmas lights strung up in the shapes of Ganesh and Shiva, and banana groves, and children laughing and waving and blowing kisses at the white girl in a salwaar kameez biking through the complete batshit system of Indian traffic.
In conclusion, India is like one really long run-on sentence. It's wearing me out, but so far I wouldn't have it any other way.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Monday, August 3, 2009
Sunday, August 2, 2009
As usual, the most important part of packing for this trip has become choosing which books I will bring with me. This is a crucial moment in the preparation process because I am basically determining which books will keep me company while I'm riding elephants and learning to cook a decent biryani. Do I want sci-fi, to provide a welcome distraction? Do I want a book about India, to really help me absorb the culture? Do I want a biography, to create a new best friend who will be by my side even when I'm wallowing in self-pity? Do I want comedy, to make me laugh? As you can see, this decision will determine my mood and my emotional well-being. It occurred to me far too late that I left my David Sedaris back at school. BUMMER. I think I've decided to bring my brand-new copy of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles by Murakami, which is an incredible risk. Yes it's 700 pages long, which means it'll take me the whole trip to finish it, but I've never read it before. What if I - gasp - HATE it? This is the only English recreational reading material I'll be bringing! What if it tanks? I'll be left with only my homework and my guide books for sustenance! I finally decided last night that just in case Murakami and I start flinging proverbial tomatoes, I'll be bringing Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone as a back-up. Can't go wrong with a myopic orphan who can talk to snakes.
I've been saying my last good-byes, which feel comfortingly impermanent. My mom keeps making That Face Moms Make When You're About to Leave For Four Months. A bubble of excitement is forming in my stomach that grows every morning. In a true sign of good fortune, I found a M*A*S*H* t-shirt at Buffalo Exchange the other day that I am SO TOTALLY bringing with me. My facial skin has decided to play the let's-add-stress-to-the-situation game, so I've got about ten new zits in a nice little constellation across my chin. If I squint, it reminds me of Sagittarius.
Is it weird that I can't picture my life past this Friday?