Monday, July 11, 2011

New home away from home away from home. . .(rep.)

Another long train journey and I’m back in Delhi.
We arrive to a busy station platform, crowds rushing to get home and out, or settling into the long wait ahead of them until their train arrives later in the night. We make our way outside and find a cab to take us to our respective places; Majnu Ka Tilla (the Tibetan colony in Delhi), Kamla Nagar, Delhi University. The drive is chaotic in comparison to the comparatively much smaller city of Guwahati. Ahead of us is a van like ours with 3 smiling faces looking out at us through the trunk window. Somehow, 10 people have crammed into this 5 seat vehicle. . .I’m sure that is not the greatest number of passengers these vans have seen. As we near Majnu Ka Tilla I’m reminded of the couple of times I stayed there when I was last in India. Burgundy robe clad monks dart in and out of alleys, prayer flags strewn in various places, Toran door hangs on most entrance ways, momos and Thukpa in every restaurant, lots of singing bowls and Buddhist books for sale, and advertisements for buses direct to Dharmasala (Dalai Lama’s residence), Bodhgaya (where Buddha attained enlightenment), Lhasa (capital of Tibet), Lumbini (Buddha’s birthplace). Two of the girls leave the taxi and we continue towards my new home away from home. It is located close to the University in a small alley that is difficult to find and requires the lady renting the room to come out and meet us in the middle of the street. . .which is conveniently also host to a parade/festival, complete with fireworks, marching band, dancers, cows, and lots of noise! An auspicious beginning? Hopefully!
The room is small and has been sectioned off from the rest of the flat by some wood boards and plywood, no window, no furnishing besides the bed, the cot has no mattress but I can borrow one for the time being, until tomorrow when I can buy one of my own (I knew I should have brought my thermarest and sleeping bag!!), the shower is in 2 other girls’ room and comes from a bucket, the toilet is outside and requires going through another tenant’s room (not to mention it is a squat toilet).  I will probably be sharing the room with another girl eventually.  I suppose I could complain about all of these things. . .but it’s cheap and includes 3 meals a day. . .and after practically being a nomad for so long and also living off of a bike for the past month and a half, the definition and acceptance of “home” becomes much more inclusive, at least for me.
The sparkly silver lining (besides the obvious: shelter, food) are my flatmates. Yesterday night when I arrived, the landlady told the two girls that I would be staying here and would probably need some help getting my bearings. Jang and Tai Mei have been very welcoming, extremely nice, helpful and are also very interesting girls. They are both from Manipur, and are from one of the Naga tribes (the same one, coincidentally?) that we learned a bit about during the study/research circle (btw, sorry for so many wikipedia links, I don't have much internet time at the moment to research for better links). Jang has applied for her MA in sociology and Tai Mei is going into second year of chemistry. This morning we had tea together, ate lunch and then Jang showed me how to get to the main road where I wandered around for a few hours trying to make a mental map of the area (and I didn’t get lost once!). I managed to get most of the essentials; converter plug, hair clip, tea and spices for chai (hehe). In the evening I went to meet up with the study circle gang in Connaught Place for our last tea before the 2 girls left for Canada. We had a good time just chatting and laughing together before boarding the metro and going our separate ways (I accidentally continued to hold onto their cookies for them as the subway doors closed and whisked me away in the opposite direction! Oops!). On the way home the rickshaw driver dropped me off to a place I hadn’t visited earlier on my “walk-about”. . .and I was slightly concerned that I may not actually be able to get home. But I followed the basic rule I have established over time in following directions and observation. . .put your worries aside, look around, and then follow your intuition.

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