Caveat #1: Im finding that, as an American outsider, little is simple in India. So to write about life here is anything but easy. However, I will try to convey a small bit of what my first couple of weeks in Bhuj have been like.
Caveat #2: Talking about life in Bhuj is not the same thing as talking about life in India. Bhuj is its own unique place in the massive, complex country that is India. If youre looking at a map of Texas, Bhuj is geographically the El Paso of India. It is tucked away in the deserts of the far western state of Gujarat. And Bhuj is as different from Mumbai or New Delhi as El Paso is from Houston or Austin.
Nestled cozily on a dirt road between colorful flats and wandering cows, Shulie (another Fellow) and I share a minimalistic room, kitchen, and bathroom in an area called Nootan Colony. The quaintness, however, is simply a facade for the circus of noise that happens every morning outside our door. Shrieking children, shouting mothers, barking dogs, revving motorcycles, clanking pots and yelling milk men are just a few of the Nootan Colony Circus attractions. The greatest spectacle, however, has just arrived Shulie and I are now very evidently the main attraction. We can tell by all the gazing eyes, gaping mouths and giggling children. We are just sowhite.
From our flat, I can walk almost anywhere I need to (although invariably I will be the only woman walking by herself on the roads*): shops, markets, fruit stands, tailors, and some restaurants – of which our choices are Indian, North Indian or Indian food. Compared to home, everything is inexpensive. To eat Gujarati Thali (famous local cuisine) at the nicest and fanciest restaurant in Bhuj costs 100 to 150 Rupees, or about $2 to $3.
I live in a corner of the world that has escaped the grasp of McDonalds and Starbucks. Off of the major tourist routes, there are few westerners in Bhuj. Its part of the reason that Shulie and I get so much attention. I don’t particularly enjoy being stared at, but I find satisfaction in knowing that Im not just a tourist that Im rooted here for almost a year. And soon enough I will be a familiar face in the Bhuj community. Already the gregarious man that sells us vegetables from his stand (who we like because he doesnt rip us off) knows us and chuckles at my Gujarati, the local language. Im trying to pick it up as quickly as I can because a little goes a long way on the lengthy road of cross-cultural communication. And until I can get the pronunciation down, Im quite comfortable with people laughing at my expense. At least theres laughing.
Overall, each day here at the circus has been an intense roller coaster of highs and lows, but the ride usually leaves me smiling. Because despite the staring, people have been incredibly warm, welcoming and generous. And when it comes down to it, its exciting albeit exhausting, often hilarious and at least educational to live in a place thats so different from home.
*Dont worry, Mom Im not always walking by myself. Its a very safe, small town. I walk in daylight hours and I always looking out for my own safety.
Bhuj, Kachchh, Gujarat, India
For more, view her blog here.
Posted by Rachel
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