Archive for July, 2011

From Delhi With Love

Posted: July 19, 2011 in Uncategorized

I’m really getting out of touch with this blogging business no? It’s like bloggers block ’cause I’ve been getting into other types of writing lately, poetry and essays and all that jazz. Oh well. It’ll come back soon enough.

Till then let me just update you on a few things.

Firstly, I am cooking like a boss.

Shit, I never knew I’d live to blog those words. Well I knew it would happen some day. But I’m actually making Pulao, which is rice and vegetables tossed in the cooker basically, and these spicy indian curries, and you know, tea and stuff. I have to because the ‘tiffin system’ food here sucks! I need a lot of spice and chilli in my food and this food was so blah. So I got this friend of mine here to teach me.

I have to say, making your own dinner and eating it and finding it tasty and not hazardous to your digestive system, is sorta empowering.

The tiffin lady didn’t like it one bit.

She walked in and sat down in the hall with my friend and me and the landlady and rattled off in Hindi. I didn’t understand most of but after every two lines I knew that she was saying in Hindi, “If you don’t want to eat my food anymore, it’s not a problem! Really! It’s not!” and she’d look at me with this look that was more like “omgz y u no eat my food? u make me cry at nite.”

After she left, I asked my indian friend what that was all about. She’d just shake her head and say, “Indian women! Such drama queens!”

You know, surprisingly, I’m not really homesick. My life is so different here. I live in an apartment, soon to be occupied with four other girls as well, and have to make my own bed, my own tea, my own food, fill the water filter every morning, lock my doors every night. There’s no shower in the bathroom, only a tap at about 4 feet, but I’m too lazy to do the whole bucket thing so I just sit under it. My only connection to life in sri lanka is the internet (thank god for WiFi here). And I do wish I could go flailing at the park with my friends or that I could give my mum a hug sometimes (it’s so wrong to see her boo-hoo on skype!), but I’ve just been shockingly okay, and casual about everything.

Maybe I’m speaking too soon? College only starts on Thursday. I hope my lack of Hindi-speak doesn’t stand in my way and my batchmates and teachers aren’t total dicks or anything. I’m still in vacation mode, and I guess I’ll know how I really feel about living here when the college routine begins. For the other friends who’ve moved abroad promise me that I will have my share of outbursts of homesickness where I’ll be left with my face buried in old photos and crying to sad Coldplay music. *shudder*

There’s a little Pettah-like street a two-minute walk from my apartment – all the stores and boutiques and vendors with your everyday necessities, in a long row. Even a psychiatrist’s practice if the need ever arises! And there’s two small green parks in my apartment block, one even has a swing and a seesaw and the whole works (yes, I did test them out). And there’s a huge park, maybe twice the size of Viharamahadevi about a five-minute walk from where I live, with lots of trees and all that park stuff. You’ll find beggar kids with bleached hair occasionally playing on the swings and old people playing cards on a fresh patch of grass and families eating food on the benches and sometimes even an Araliya tree.

The landlady doesn’t speak much English, and her twelve year old daughter speaks some, so I teach them English and they teach me Hindi.
I’m listening to Hindi music to get me used to the sounds and the syllables, and I secretly love the old ones from the 50s and 60s, so much that I tune in to some indian equivalent of Gold FM to hum along to when I’m bored. And I watched this amazing Hindi movie, Udaan (2010), please go watch it if you’re a movie buff or a writer – it’s an inspirational piece of work, and I promise, no Sharukh Khan and no choreographed dancing in the hills.

There’s a large rooftop outside my apartment, where I go to look at the clouds and the rest of the city, or the moon at night. Get some fresh air, or some perspective.

I don’t know what else to say. I feel like I’m at the railway station, waiting for the train.
On that note, I love ducks, and this is why:

This is where I live now

Posted: July 12, 2011 in Uncategorized

a saleslady at the market

I learnt to make shaahee paneer!

and chapaatee!

Bharati College, my home for the next three years

beggar children on the highway


rickshaws, a common means of transport here

a rajasthani performer

rashtrapathibhavan, part of the president’s house

So there I was, looking out the window as the Boeing 757 lifted off the ground and started flying towards India. I saw a brown-green Puttalam travel backwards from under us as the plane rose at awesome speed. I was leaving home! I was strangely casual about it even then, still don’t know what that’s about. Shouldn’t I be like ‘OHMAGAWD I am moving from one country to another, I am having a seizure from teh excitement and fear!1111’?

For those of you who don’t know why I was on a plane to India, refer previous post. My parents joined me to help settle me in and go back because 1. my first time in India, and I’ve never been abroad by myself 2. my overall sense of direction and responsibility are, let’s say, less than perfect.

Anyway, we landed in New Delhi, as opposed to Old Delhi, and it’s a beautiful place. Now I was expecting epic bad weather and evil Indians forcing me to drink bacteria in a cup and pushing me into horse manure and stuff – because of all the awful things you Sri Lankans have been feeding me about India – and instead, it was only 30 degrees on my first day and it rained wonderfully in the middle of summer the next few days, and the Indians we met were nothing but helpful and super nice to us.

The first Indian I met my age was Shruti, who by some freakish coincidence, was born on not just the same month and date as me but also the same year.
Yeah we kind of spent fifteen minutes being freaked out about that. O_O

So the University of Delhi had accepted my admission, and there are loads of colleges under the University from which I should pick one. LSR is one of the best and that’s the place I was aiming for – optimistically assuming, along with everyone else I knew, that getting in would be no problem since my A/L English Lit marks were all 90% upwards. We were so optimistic in fact that we’d already booked a student apartment near LSR to live in.

Well I didn’t get in.

The lady at the registrar said something about ‘merit lists’ and ‘eligibility’ and basically the gist of it was, I think, that the average aggregate marks from my A/Ls wasn’t good enough for LSR. I think it was because despite my zinger in English Lit, I still got a bad C and D for Physics and Bio. Shit, I knew that exam I thought was useless would come back to bite me in the ass.

Anyway, they gave me three other college options instead. These provided the same standard of education and qualification ultimately but obviously were below LSR on the list in terms of quality. The first was co-ed which my parents were totally against because they are afraid Indian boys will taint my wholesome nature or something, so we went off to visit the second – and it just kind of, killed me a little on the inside. Bad paint job, the sign board outside was a little lopsy and the garden outside was balding, the large staircase winding up to the classrooms was claustrophobic and the upstairs looked like some dingy tuition class joint. I wanted to die. Were my A/L marks really THAT bad?

So I silently screamed on the inside and we headed off for some lunch and then took a deep breath to go look at the last college on the list. I was thinking it would be just as shitty and I’d be doomed to three years in a craphole for the sake of my degree – but we walked in and man, you know that feeling when you REALLY have to pee but you hold it in for hours and then finally find a bathroom? Yes. The relief was that beautiful.

Bharati College is very Peradeniya University-ey, with a huge central green lawn and all the balconies of classrooms opened out to it, the building looked nice and old, had a sprawling garden out front, we spoke to the Principal who was a phD doctor of English and was kind of awesome, and I could just imagine me studying there you know? As opposed to only being able to imagine me feeling sorry for myself in a dark corner in the college we’d previously visited.

The final battle was to find a new place to stay – a student apartment. Unlike around LSR, this place wasn’t insanely popular for ‘paid guest apartments.’ With Shruti and her dad to guide us around, we visited a few places. We walked into the first one, a 10 minute walk from my impending college, and were greeted by a man in his fifties. He was chubby and about 5’5″ and spoke only in Hindi. And every five minutes he would say in Hindi, “Sit down for ten minutes and I will tell you EVERYTHING!”

We were looking at the bedrooms and he would say, “Sit down for ten minutes! Sit down!” I’d be like, no it’s alright, I know what a bed feels like, but he would not hear any of it.

My dad would ask him his name and he would say, “I will tell you! Sit down for ten minutes and I will tell you EVERYTHING!”

It went on like this for a while. He had a creepy smile and said I could have my own room downstairs if I wanted. Opposite my room was the room he and his wife slept in.

Needless to say, what with my imagination and my irrational jumpy fear of rapists and pedobears, he really gave me the heebijeebis. I didn’t say anything because everything else seemed fine, the cost and the space, and I was hoping someone else would object. Please god.

Turns out he’d given everyone else the heebijeebis as well. I would so sleep with one eye open and a knife under my bed living there.

So we went to the next place – which seemed a little dodgy too. Haven’t these people heard of good LIGHTING? If you put a few bulbs here and there it wouldn’t look so damn dodgy, you silly Indians. We saw a few female students who’d already moved into the apartment and they looked really depressed. What if the owner is actually a pimp and turned the female student lodging into a brothel and threatened to kill them if they told anybody?! I wondered, because depressed girls in a badly lit apartment obviously means brothel.

Anyway mum didn’t like that one either.

We finally found a nice little apartment that was a one-minute walk from the college, that was brand new, not a bit dodgy, was at reasonable cost, run by a nice old lady, and was part of this series of apartments under a common apartment block that was looked after by the same security guard, so it didn’t feel random and potentially brothelly.
It also has a lovely large balcony and the option of A/C and the neighborhood seems safe and sort of set apart from the big city, like a quaint little brick road in Pettah.
Plus! This college and hostel are really close to both Shruti’s home and the airport.

So obviously we went back to our hotel room happy and tired. I danced in the shower and ate a lot of chapatee, not at the same time.

I like it here. Because it’s huge and I feel like there’s so much to find out, it’s not predictable yet. Like I’ll be riddled by all these college issues one moment, in the middle of this big city, paved with clean tar roads and manicured trees and bushes (New Delhi is VERY green!), and I’d suddenly turn to my right and see a man standing on the middle-pavement of the road selling tiny toy puppies with waggling heads, or a boy asleep on sacks of onions precariously perched on the edge of a truck. Or like today, I’d be happily drinking tea inside a posh conference room of some posh commercial building, and I’d hear rapping at the window, and would pull back the curtains to find four monkeys making faces and jumping around on the window sill!

So that’s where I’m at now. Will keep yall updated. I miss you, Sri Lanka! But don’t worry, I think I’m in good hands here.