Random Contemplations I

♠ Posted by Lena Stevens
I was attempting to find inspiration to write this morning. I listened to the sounds fluttering through our open window as the curtain swayed softly back and forth. The repetitious drilling of the concrete outside has left a permanent "da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da" sound in daily thoughts. The traffic whizzed by, and the sounds of children laughing as they piled into a rickshaw was carried up from the streets. I closed my eyes and tried to hear other noises. Various honks from different makes and models of vehicles could be heard. An engine got louder as a lonely rickshaw increased its speed...

There are so many noises in India. Sometimes, it is hard to concentrate. However, finding peace does not mean drowning out the noises in your life; finding peace means, in the midst of those noises, find the calm in yourself. This is something you become a master at while living in India. If you attempted to bury the sounds, you wouldn't get anywhere or achieve anything. You have to learn that it is you who needs to be quiet, settle the emotion on the inside. Take several big deep breaths, and then carry on with your day.

I can't promise I am going to write much in the next two weeks. It is exam and final submission time here, and everyone, including myself, is absolutely swamped. I got the two hardest papers out of the way; however, I still have nine more to go. My favorite class at the moment is Hindi. 1. Our teacher is amazing and even brought us the bagels we had been desperately longing for for quite some time. 2. She isn't giving us an exam, which means less stress for me. And, 3. I love learning Hindi.

Okay, sometimes I do hate how difficult it is. I have decided to take online Hindi lessons once I get home. When I find a semi-permanent residence, I plan on looking for an actual teacher. I just hope I don't forget what I have already learned. It truly is a fascinating language.

This is something I have gone around saying to my friends recently. Every time they just laugh (Not fair, by the way. At least I am trying).

 मुझे तुम पसंढ हो ।

It simply means "I like you". I think it's refreshing when someone tells you they like you. I could go around saying I don't like you, but that wouldn't be very kind.

There's lots to learn, but I take it as an exciting challenge! Who knows, knowing Hindi could be useful in the future. It's on my bucket list to learn another foreign language, so why not Hindi?

From My Eyes

♠ Posted by Lena Stevens
I recently uploaded some pictures onto my facebook photography page. Most of these images are simply from walking around and exploring the streets, hiking paths, and beaches of India. There is something unique about the streets here. There is so much life, so much personality. I'm inspired and encouraged when I walk around Pune and the other cities. I see beauty in people and places that many overlook. All you have to do is learn to close your eyes to what you assume, and open your eyes to an exciting new world.















Where Does the Time Go?

♠ Posted by Lena Stevens
It's either extremely late at night, or it's definitely too early to be awake; however, I am awake and can't seem to close my eyes. My mind is racing with numerous thoughts.Thoughts about home. Thoughts about various relationships and friendships. Thoughts about traveling and the future. But mostly, I am thinking about India and the people I have met here.

I just scanned the calendar on my computer and tears began to well-up in my eyes. Do I really only have 24 days left in Pune? I seriously hate the expression "time flies" at the moment. I don't want time to fly. I want it to stop right here, right now. My friend turned to me tonight and said, "I think you've fallen in love with our country." The problem is I think she is right.

I love India. I love the food, however spicy it may be. For some reason, I like the random smells that coming lofting through our broken window. I like washing my clothes and hanging them on the balcony to dry. I am head-over-heels crazy about dosas, chaat, and mango shakes. I can't forget about uttapam, idli, and parathas. I love the colors everywhere, the clothes, the signs, the architecture. I love the history and the stories people tell. I love learning how to read, write, and barely speak Hindi. मीरा नाम लीना हें (I couldn't find the correct version of "hei," so that one will have to do).

I love the old and the new. I like getting lost on random streets, taking in a life that is so different from mine. I like the fact that I can wave at a boy on the back of a bike and completely turn his day around for the better. I have never seen such amazing smiles as the ones that come from the wonderful people here. There is so much life in each and everyone of these souls. I'm not ready to leave all of it behind just yet.

I took a job in Colorado for the summer, and now I am completely regretting that decision. I know it will be an amazing opportunity, but I'm cutting my trip in India too short. I wish I had another couple of years here.  I keep contemplating how I will make it back here soon. Can I come during the summer in 2014? Can I find an American based job that will allow me to travel and work here? Can I volunteer for an NGO? There has to be something I can do here in India. Any ideas?

I look at my friends' faces when I say I only have less than a month left. It never fails; they always drop in sadness. Besides Hernando, I have never felt such a strong connection with a place. Not Virginia, not Maine, not Alaska. I've lived in all of these places, but none of them have been as welcoming and amazing as Pune.

On a few of the postcards I mailed back to the US, there is a logo written that says, "Incredible India." Well, whoever wrote that slogan was 110% correct.

India is incredible. 

Different Kind of Scary

♠ Posted by Lena Stevens
So, I've mentioned the Indian traffic throughout a few of my blogs. It's loud. It's crowded. And, yes, it can be a little scary at times. However, the more I've been on a bike, scooter, and in a car, the less nervous I get when a rickshaw comes flying up to my side of the vehicle.

As a foreigner traveling to India, one needs to come here with an open mind, especially if he or she is from the West. Life is different in most ways (although, it is similar in some).  In the US, even in the small town of Hernando, MS, where I grew up, there is a structure, a pattern. We constantly look at the clock knowing we have every minute of everyday planned out, getting upset if our schedules are interrupted. We never have a spare moment. However, it's not quite like that in India. People are not on time. Classes are rearranged in a moment's time. Plans are constantly changing. Your friends say they'll pick you up at 8:45. 10:15 rolls around and you can finally walk out the door. Like I've said a hundred times, you have to expect the unexpected. Being caught off guard is all a part of the fun.

However, the other morning I was caught off guard. Rather than it being fun, I was a little afraid for my life. There is a traffic circle down the road from the university I attend. Three days ago, someone decided to block half of the circle causing an actual traffic jam on every intersecting road. No one really knows why they, whoever they may be, did it. Having the circle blocked complicates the once free-flowing traffic. Combine the blocked roundabout with the noisy road construction and you have a lot of upset, frustrated drivers. The two-wheelers can be the worst. If they can't find a path on the street, they take to the sidewalks/footpaths.

Here I was minding my own business. I had just picked up some cereal and bath necessities. Out of nowhere, I here this horn, a little close for comfort. I turn around to find five two-wheelers wanting to pass. As they flew by, I honestly thought my foot was about to get ripped off. This isn't the first time this has happened; however, it was the closest one has gotten. I don't really mind if they almost hit me when I'm crossing the street. The street is their territory, and it was my lack of judgement that almost got me into trouble. However, the footpath is my territory. As a pedestrian, I believe the three-foot wide footpath should be a part of our rights. It's not even that wide half of the time. I risk my life every time I cross the street in Pune; but, I would like to think I wouldn't have to be terrified to walk on the sidewalk.

What I have learned these past three months is that India runs on its own time. But, believe it or not, there is a system to the madness. The way they live is illustrated by their traffic. Most of the time, there never really is a "traffic jam", as we know it. It's always moving. Two-wheelers move in and out, cars push forward, and rickshaws follow wherever the is an ounce of room. As a friend said, "With traffic, Indians will always know how to make a way [This I had to learn the hard way]. It is an organized chaos, and it works."

One can learn something from Indian traffic: Life is difficult and at times is may slow down; however, you have to learn to make a path through the difficult times.

A Land of Many Colors

♠ Posted by Lena Stevens

Holi- the festival of colors? No, I'm pretty sure it should be called: Holi- the festival of smiles. It's interesting to see what happens when people are given a holiday from college and work, a day in which they can relax and enjoy themselves. Give people the freedom to be kids once again, and that is what you get- kids having fun! During our hectic and confusing lives, it is good to have a day in which you can let down your guard, be a little goofy, and color your friends with bright, skin-dying powders. 

Once again, I borrowed some wise words from the wiki... "The word Holi originated form "Holika", sister of Hiranyakashipu. The festival of Holi is celebrated because of a story in the old Hindu religion. In Vaishnavism, Hiranyakashipu is the great king of demons, and he had been granted a boon by Brahma, which made it almost impossible for him to be killed. The boon was due to his long penance, after which he had demanded that he not be killed "during day or night; inside the home or outside, not on earth or in the sky; neither by a man nor an animal." Consequently, he grew arrogant and attacked Heavens and the Earth. He demanded that people stop worshipping gods and start praising respectfully to him. 

According to this belief, Hiranyakashipu's own son, Prahlada, was a devotee of Vishnu. In spite of several threats from Hiranyakashipu, Prahlada continued offering prayers to Vishnu. He was poisoned by Hiranyakashipu, but the poison turned to nectar in his mouth. He was ordered to be trampled by elephants yet remained unharmed. He was put in a room with hungry, poisonous snakes and survived. All of Hiranyakashipu's attempts to kill his son failed. Finally, he ordered young Prahlada to sit on the lap of Holika, Hiranyakashipu's demoness sister, who also could not die because she had a boon preventing her from being burned by fire. Prahlada readily accepted his father's orders, and prayed to Lord Vishnu to keep him safe. When the fire started, everyone watched in amazement as Holika burnt to death, while Prahlada survived unharmed. The salvation of Prahlada and burning of Holika is celebrated as Holi." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holi)
     As it was explained to me, Holi is the passing of evil things and the celebration of the good to come.
I was nervous the few days leading up to Holi. I knew I wanted to document it through photographs; I just didn't want to put my new camera in harms way. I spent way too much time and effort purchasing this camera; the last thing I needed was some colorful dye getting inside the lens and body. Thankfully, Namita invited me to her friend's house. She said that would probably be the one environment in which I could dictate just how messy I got. 

I, of course, got caught up taking photographs, meaning I was actually able to remain clean the entire day. I was warned the dye would last 3 to 4 days. So, to be completely honest, I may have used my camera as an excuse not to be a smurf for half a week. Come to find out, almost all the color had washed off everyone by the next day; therefore, I was a little bummed I didn't play more. 

However, I did get to see something even more amazing. I got to see friends laugh, old men become teenagers, and groups of people enjoying the company of each other. Sometimes, being an outsider, can give you a unique perspective. You get to watch the joy of others play out. 


To finish the afternoon, Namita and I drove around a few of the residential areas near Symbiosis. Whenever we passed another group of colorful people, I would jump off and snap a photo. My favorite was the last photograph I captured of a large group of goofy guys. 

As bikes and scooters flew past us, people shouted "HAPPY HOLI!" Every time, it put a smile on my face. It was a great day, and I'm glad I got to be a part of a fun tradition. 









Don't tell people you hate pink color. This is what happens!

Color stands. 





HAPPY HOLI!
Silja attempting to color me.



When all else fails, make sure to have a clean friend hanging around 
to answer phone calls and make water runs.