Yesterday was an eventful day! I woke up a little late (around 9:00a) and just spent the early morning and afternoon doing homework and reading River of Smoke by Amitav Ghosh.
Earlier in the week as my friend was dropping me off at the Hauz Khas metro after he took me hungry shopping in Vasant Vihar (I love Modern Bazaar), we had a short talk about my atheism. He asked me what I think will happen to me when I die, and surprisingly, I didn’t have a truly definite answer. And surprisingly, and very un-atheist, I said I would like to think that I would be reborn in some way. I do not think I will go to a Heaven or Hell, but I would like to keep bouncing around from life to life. He had asked me to attend his church service before but I had declined because churches kind of make me nervous. But he’s so kind to me and always runs random errands with me after school, so attending a service was the least I could do. I wasn’t looking for answer to his life-after-death question – and I didn’t find it there – but I enjoyed the service a lot. I met him and Dhaula Kuan metro and squeezed into the backset of his car with his “cousin-brother” (I’m still not sure how relationships work in India, to be honest) and his two older sisters (his other cousin-brother was in the passenger seat). The service was about two-and-a-half hours but it went by quickly. I always find services to be moving even though I am not a subscriber to that particular faith (this Baptist service; another Greek Orthodox service I attended for school; the ISKCON temple near my university). This was no different, and I left happy and with no sense that I could have been doing something better with my time that day. The only thing that made me cringe was when his sister went up for final announcements and introduced me to the entire congregation as “Sister.” I just don’t like attention. English services are done every last Sunday of the month, so I can attend at least two more services before I go home in December. After the service, he took me back to the Hauz Khas station so I could make my way to Gurgaon. Before I could get out of the car, however, his cousin-brothers bought three large plates of fried noodles from a stand outside of the station and I was force-fed half a plate of those noodles. They were so delicious I wanted to and could have eaten a full plate by myself, but I generally don’t eat noodles because I’m a girl and carbs are my enemy (usually). His sister is a twig but ate 3/4 of a plate by herself and kept trying to feed me more, saying “You have a long trip to Gurgaon! You may get hungry.” I eventually escaped and got on the metro, half asleep after all those noodles.
I reached Gurgaon a little after 7:30pm. My original plan was to swing by my friend’s place and go back to Delhi since I had class this morning (which I did not attend – whoops). He lives pretty close to the HUDA metro and just told me to book an Ola. Now, I do not even use Uber of Lyft at home because: 1) I have a car and drive myself everywhere; 2) in the case I get super drunk (which is rare) I always have someone else to drive; 3) I am uncomfortable getting in a car with a total stranger, trusting that they will safely delivery me to where I need to go. Everyone — my host family, my friends, my classmates, etc — said that Ola is completely safe. I figured, “okay, his house is close, just book the Ola – you’re just paranoid and you’ll be fine.” First problem: the driver’s English was worse than my Hindi. He couldn’t understand where I was telling him I was relative to the metro, so I heard him yell “Bhaiya! Bhaiya! Bolo, Angrezi mein, Angrezi mein!” so this kind stranger had to coordinate a place for us to meet. After I got into his car, I realized how difficult this ride would be just in terms of language. Shortly after we left the station, the Ola driver turned to look at me and asked where I am from. I said “US se” and he said “Oh…bahut khusha ki apne cab mein” and I was like “….kya?” uneasily. He said I was his first American customer; okay, great. He followed that with, “You have a very pretty, very pretty smile” and I was like “Thanks…so when we get to Boom Plaza my friend needs to speak with you to give you further directions to his flat.” Then the Ola drive started asking me for directions, which confused me because I knew I had input the location. I gave him directions, and he then proceeded to pull over on the side of the road and in all of my paranoia and getting caught up in all the scary and terrible things my family, friends, and co-workers were trying to scare me about, I caught myself thinking “You’re fatigued from three hours at the gym earlier but you could kick his ass, he’s really skinny.” Shortly after that confusing episode, he continued to drive and continued to ask me for directions. After a wrong turn and me having to give him directions in Hindi, we eventually got back onto the road and his questions continued…”Is this your first time in Gurgaon?” In my paranoia — again — I figured it would be best to lie and say that no, it was not, so I could at least feign that I might know where we might be so he wouldn’t know I totally didn’t know where we were or where we were going. Then he asked, “Aap ka dost…voh boyfriend hai?” and I sharply answered no, but because I felt it was an inappropriate question. We finally reached the Plaza and my friend needed to meet us because the driver couldn’t follow his directions to the flat. I arrived at his flat irritated but relieved to finally be out of the car. My friend said I could stay the night since it was now a little after 8:00pm and that the metro would take about two hours back to Delhi, and another Ola would be about an hour-and-a-half. The thought of another Ola shook me, and I said “um yeah I’ll stay the night if that’s okay with you.”
This friend was my Hindi TA back in Hawaii. I didn’t think he liked me until pretty much last month when he took my roommate and I to Nehru Place so she could buy a phone. I just didn’t think he cared for me too much but I figured he must like me to some degree if he offered to host me at his home in Aurangabad and take me to see the caves and invited me to hang out at his flat (we were initially supposed to do an evening at JNU – he went there and occasionally teaches workshops there). His roommate wasn’t home so it was just us, their house keeper (a live-in one), and his roommate’s ten-month-old golden retriever puppy, Charlie. Charlie reminds me a lot of my own dog, Logan, so I was extremely happy to be in a home with a dog. We sat around and watched tv, I tried to help him with brainstorming for training exercises for a client, we had a delicious dinner (albeit around midnight; rice, roti, dal, mushroom masala, and dahi for dessert), smoked a blunt, watched more tv, and eventually slept at about 3:00am. I slept in his room and I insisted on sleeping in his sleeping bag since I’m smaller, but he insisted I sleep on his bed, and so I did. I got to sleep with Charlie cuddled up next to me, and since I sleep with my boyfriend and dog every night at home (our other dog doesn’t like the bed and sleeps on his own mini sofa next to our bed), I felt very at peace sleeping with a dog again. Since I showed up on short notice (i.e., with no clothes), my friend gave me some of his clothes to wear to sleep (I looked ridiculous; he’s easily six feet tall while I’m a tiny 4’11”). I took a quick shower the next morning and my some miracle, he had extra toothbrushes and toothpaste (I assume single men don’t have these things lying around, okay). The housekeeper (I don’t know the correct/more polite title for this) made us scrambled eggs and roti for breakfast.
My friend is very down-to-earth, and it’s one of my favorite things about him. My host family, as nice as they are (especially my host mom) is a little more concerned with material things, success, etc. and constantly brags about her family and their accomplishments. Being proud is fine, but she talks about it a lot. Their housekeeper, whose name I do not know because they only call him “Bhaiya,” works 9:00am/10:00am – 9:00pm every day and needs to use a separate restroom on the top floor of the home. On a few occasions my host mom has made comments about him being “uneducated,” which is why my exchanges with him must always be done in Hindi since my Hindi is better than his English. He’s sweet and I always try to avoid asking him for things unless I really need something (like chai, since I don’t know how to make it). I feel that Bhaiya is just there to do his job. My friend’s housekeeper lives with them and generally hangs out with him and his roommate. On his down time around our house, Bhaiya sits in the kitchen or in the hallway and watched videos on his phone. My friend’s housekeeper (N, from now on) will sit in the living room and watch whatever he pleases because my friend doesn’t care too much for television. I asked my friend if he wanted to watch anything, and he said “No, but N might. He likes singing and dancing programs and the Kapil Sharma Show. I hate it but he likes it so I just watch it.” He always refers to N by his name. When we were eating dinner, I asked him if I could take more food and if N had eaten already. He said, “just take, he said he’s going to eat the chicken he made earlier. But hold on, I’ll double check. I asked him earlier but maybe he changed his mind, who knows.” After, he came back and said “He’ll eat his chicken so you can eat the rest of the dal, but save some of the mushroom masala for him. It was our first time making it so he wants to try.” My friend and N winged the mushroom masala and cooked it together. In my host home, Bhaiya cooks everything and my host family rarely cooks or helps him with things. And when I asked for more chai this morning, N nodded and made his way to the kitchen but my frind called after him and told him to do it only after he had finished eating his breakfast and doing whatever he needed to do. I’m not completely sure how the dynamic works, or if there is a correct way for it to work, but I prefer the relationship between my friend and N than the one between my host family and Bhaiya. It feels warmer. N is from Jharkhand so my friend was forcing us to speak in Hindi to each other since we’re both learning. N told me he understands English, too, so to speak in English and that he would answer in Hindi. I don’t often see Bhaiya’s personality because he’s very reserved.
Anyway, after breakfast we eventually left the house around 1:00pm. I totally skipped my class today because I would have had to have left the flat around 6:30am to get to class on time, which was not quite worth it to me when I have a friend from whom I can obtain notes. My birthday is in about two weeks so we’re going to have dinner at Ama Thakali. My professor was hesitant about me seeing this particular friend because he knew I was feeling homesick and he knew I would want to hang on to anyone that reminded me of Hawaii (except my roommate since we only met right before leaving for Delhi). At first that was the issue for me, but now I just want to get out of my house and hang out with people away from the East Delhi neighborhood I’m in. My friend told me to feel free to stay at his place whenever I feel like it, and I’ll take the offer especially if it means I get to hang out with Charlie more. There’s a tattoo shop he recommended to me in Gurgaon so I’ll be spending a few nights at his flat again after I get my tattoo so I don’t need to spend two-ish hours on the metro back to Delhi with a fresh tattoo.
Below is a photo of the ever-charming and handsome Charlie of Gurgaon Sector 57.