Warning #1. The gate agent at the London airport asked where I was staying in India. When I said New Delhi, he answered, “Oh! Good luck. Watch the water.” Thank you, sir. Wonderful first words of encouragement.
Warning #2. The plane pulled up to the Indira Gandhi Airport in New Delhi and suddenly everyone on the plane stopped speaking English. It was then I realized there was no going back. This was it. Game time, baby.
I met up with Sammy and Maria at the entrance, and Sunil our taxi driver drove us to our new home. My eyes were glued to the window of the taxi the entire time. Cars swerved in and out of lanes without hesitation. Apparently, staying in traffic lanes is optional in India. And honking is a language I still don’t understand. I was mesmerized by the sight of hundreds of swerving, honking vehicles. Taxis are called tuk-tuks. Tuk-tuks are 3-wheeled green and yellow cars with no doors, and they run the streets.
It seems to be the enormous population of India that causes everything to be fast-paced. India is home to 1.2 billion people. It has the longest-standing democracy out of all the developing nations in the world. The beautiful society upholds many traditions.
On the first day, Professor A.K. Ray discussed with us the importance of respecting the monkeys in Indian culture. Long ago, monkeys helped to build a bridge of rocks from the main continent to Sri Lanka, so a prince could rescue his princess. This traditional story has led to controversy from businessman carrying cargo. To this day, they must take their ships around Sri Lanka instead of through the shortcut because the rocks cannot be touched.
Cows have also caused controversy. The Hindu religion restricts beef-eating. However, now the country is full of fat cows and starving bellies. Although, I have not been into the slums yet, I have seen my fair share of starving bellies. At the school we teach at, students come from poor communities right next door. The smell of trash lingers next to the playground fields. Today during a game of foot cricket with 7th grade girls, one of them passed out. I was shocked. I immediately carried her into the air conditioned school as her friends ran to get her water. After she was dropped off at the nurse, a teacher explained to me that fainting was common. Some students come to school without having breakfast. They don’t get enough water or nutrition. In 100 degree heat, it’s dangerous. I was devastated. I want the beautiful children to run around on full stomachs and even fuller smiles. For now, I am comforted by the fact that I can do something about their smiles.