I can’t believe it has been 14 days since I arrived here in India. I must admit at first I was having a little bit of a culture shock with the intense amount of traffic, honking, staring, cows in the middle of the road, intense poverty, and genuine friendliness of the people. However, I have come to find myself truly enjoying and immersing myself in the culture that I have been living in for just a brief amount of time. India truly is a sensory overload, and nothing, not even copious amounts of research, will prepare you for it.
There has been a lot going on in the city and always something to celebrate with the large amount of languages and religions practiced here. We have been staying in a largely Muslim community and have been lucky enough to hear the call to prayer every morning and night after school. It has been so interesting to be here during Ramadan and see the stalls near Johnson Market packed at night with hungry people ready to pack the food in before the fasting starts again in the morning. Ramadan reminds me a little bit of the Christian practice of Lent where people give up certain things for a duration of 40 days and then Easter comes and we all celebrate with candy and the fact that Jesus has risen. Ramadan has a duration of 30 days where the Muslim people fast from dawn until sunset. This fast includes water, all food, entertainment like books/TV/newspaper, and cursing. Similar to Christian’s Easter when the giving up of something ends, Eid is when the fasting of Ramadan ends. This normally involves lots of food, family, and celebration. Jill, Abby, and I were lucky enough to be invited to one our teacher’s (Ayesha) homes to celebrate Eid with her and her family. This was one of the coolest things I have ever experienced.
Ayesha, Depa (another counselor/teacher at DPS-North), and Reya (a student at DPS-North) were all there with us as we had easily one of the best lunches I have ever had. We had the classic dish biriyani with chicken (this is one of my favorite Indian dishes), delicious spicy chicken, eggplant curry, and chapathi. Ayesha and her sister served us the entire time and made sure we were all comfortable throughout the whole afternoon. After lunch we spoke with Ayesha’s mother about her time visiting St. Louis for a couple of months. She remembered staying at a place on Big Bend Rd. and Abby and I were shocked because we live very close by. What a small world it is.
Relaxing after eating all of the delicious food, Ayesha offered to give us mehendi (henna tattoos) on our hands. She free-handed all of our designs and we were all thoroughly impressed at her artistic ability.
We had such a great time celebrating Eid and we are so appreciative to our lovely hosts Ayesha and her family. In America, it is very easy to let the stereotyping of Islam control your feelings about the Muslim people. Especially when watching the news that only focuses on the extremists. It was honestly so nice to have a positive image of the Muslim religion and people that I can portray to other people.
Until next time,