Feeling Settled?

A few weeks into my time in Guatemala, this trip has started to feel less like a vacation and more like a real home. With orientation complete, and our Penn mentors having left us to explore the summer ourselves, I have settled into a comfortable daily routine:

I wake up around 7am without needing an alarm, a normally very unusual thing for me. Workdays go one of two ways: I either stay in the Hospitalito Atitlan,doing more office-type work like data entry and online research, or partake in field-work around the lake. To go into the more exciting of the two – field-work involves different parts of the diabetes program: jornadas (diabetes detections), clubs(meetings for those who have already been diagnosed), and charlas (educational talks about diabetes in schools). For our work this summer, we are to evaluate each aspect of the diabetes program. At the end of our 10 weeks, we will present our findings to the board of the hospital via a verbal presentation and later a written report.

To get to the different locations where the jornadas, clubs, and charlas are located, the most common modes of public transportation include lanchas (boats) and fletes (pickup trucks where up to twenty people could be piled next to each other).

Riding with Karina in the back of a pickup truck for a charla in Santa Clara

Riding with Karina in the back of a pickup truck for a charla in Santa Clara

 

Diabetes jornada in Sololá

Diabetes jornada in Sololá

As we begin to get a grasp on these daily activities, our 4-person group from Penn is able to split up and attend different things by ourselves. And, although we all created protocols together for the evaluation of the diabetes programs, we are splitting up the activities to have one leader for each one. I have decided to be the head-person for the charlas. I am really excited to visited lots of schools around the lake and help teach the next generation about how to prevent (and how to help their family members with) such a chronic illness.

But Guatemala isn’t all hard work. Every weekend brings a new adventure:

Kayaking with the Penn crew

Kayaking with the Penn crew

 

Riding a pretty terrifying ferris wheel at the San Pedro feria with MaryCruz

Riding a pretty terrifying ferris wheel at the San Pedro feria with MaryCruz

 

Hiking Pacaya Volcano

Hiking Pacaya Volcano

-Natalie Koch
Guatemala Health Initiative, Guatemala

In Preparation for Ghana

In a recent print advertisement for Turkish Airlines titled the “Far East Awaits You”, a cast of characteristically Asian characters are arranged in an airport lobby, as if posing for a class photograph. There is the Hindu elephant God Ganesha, seated next to a  snake charmer and sitar-playing Sikh. Behind them appear to be a Japanese Geisha and a tall muscular soldier, both standing next to a Monk showing off a Martial Arts move while trying not to be outdone by the roaring dragon in the background. This band of warriors, gods and divine creatures seems to have suffered a cosmic demotion. Once, they were the guardians of their cultures, worshipped as protectors and saviours. Now, they are relegated to the hidden pages of newspapers, intended to satisfy only the zeal of profiteering executives. But they are the lucky ones. Most of their colleagues did not appear in the photograph at all.

 

Travel is one of the pillars of modern-day cosmopolitanism. After all, how can someone be a part of a global community if they spend their lives stranded in one place?. But as the Turkish Airlines advertisement clearly illustrates, travel can also be a tool that only confirms our perceptions and misperceptions about a place – trivializing its true meaning. This danger prompted Ralph Waldo Emerson to declare that “Travelling is a fool’s paradise. . . the wise man stays at home’. He knew that “My giant goes with me wherever I go” – our identities are inescapable.

 

The only way to combat Emerson’s curse is to consciously study our convictions about a nation before we ever set foot in it. My preparations for my internship in Ghana began a year ago, when I enrolled in a seminar on Representing Africa. Over the course of the semester, we made our way through the treasure trove of post-colonial African literature and film – from Chinua Achebe’s classic Things Fall Apart to the more contemporary Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Adichie. Through it all, I not only accumulated a list of troupes about Africa that many western thinkers often employ,  but I also developed an ability to view African literature – and by extension the continent itself – on its own terms.

 

More recently, I specifically began to focus on Ghana’s literature, culture and history. I picked up books like Ghana must go by Taiye Selasi and the Yaa Gyasi’s beautiful historical novel Homegrowing, which explores the consequences of the transatlantic slave trade on Ghana. As someone of Indian descent, the history of colonialism is of particular interest – I have always been interested in how different communities have been affected by their own experiences of imperialism. Therefore, learning about Ghana’s history was not only an abstract intellectual exercise, but also a deeply personal one, filled with the lighting bolts of intellectual revelation that only a shared history can bring about.

 

Certainly, the excitement that slowly built up in the weeks leading up to my departure was often punctured by the mundanities of bureaucratic necessity – the long lines at the consulate while waiting for my visa, or the hours spent searching for the cheapest flight. But nothing could entirely deflate my enthusiasm for my coming adventure. This was an opportunity to finally explore an area of the world that I had long been interested in. I couldn’t wait.

-Rishabh Tagore
Heritage Academy, Ghana

Out With the Old, In With the New

“India is a land of contradictions,” was the insight I received from a previous intern a few weeks before I departed on my own internship abroad.  I acknowledged this as a superficial warning about the classic head nod implying ‘no’ but really indicating ‘yes’ — I was already aware of this phenomenon!  However, this observation has begun to take shape at many more levels as I experience more of India’s daily life.  I chuckle as people speak with sighs of relief of the cool down accompanying the monsoon rains as they refer to temperatures below 100°F.  Everyone eagerly anticipates above normal downpours to boost agricultural production and ease acute drinking water shortages.  A good monsoon season sustains economic growth and contains food costs.  However, these same heavy rains lash out causing sudden flooding and ensuing property damage, rise in infectious disease, and increasingly evident pollution.  I personally resent this rainy season for interfering with plans to visit the western coast of Kerala.  I had hopes of touring the Periyar Tiger Reserve and trekking the tea gardens of Munnar…but these are now ‘washed’ away (my sense of humor has only increased to the umpteenth degree while here).  Fortunately, this opened opportunities to visit other places like Bangalore and Goa.

Madurai Interns visiting us in Pondicherry

Madurai Interns visiting us in Pondicherry

The contradictions of India permeate more than just the weather, extending to people living here and the landscape they share.  Pondicherry has a double culture with its inescapable French heritage juxtaposed to its spirituality with Sri Aurobindo ashram. This mixing of cultures emulates two time periods clashing into harmonic balance. Even groups of people you wouldn’t expect to interact see each other on a daily basis. There is a single highway in Pondicherry where, for 10 rupees, foreigners, professionals such as doctors and suit-wearing businessmen, villagers, and various day workers, all take the same bus from one end of the city to the other. These contradictions mark how modernity and antiquity coexist in India, a country that finds itself on the cusp of culture change.

It is fascinating to watch the traditional, “old” country mix with modern, “new” perspectives.  Progress and novelty are slowly creeping their way into life even in the most remote parts of India.  An ancient, historic, beautiful temple with painted mythological stories illustrated on its walls stands adjacent to a modern, steel 5-story department stores.

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A typical South Indian “tiffin” stand hawking its traditional fare sits in front of a French/Indian fusion restaurant flaunting its TripAdvisor certificate of excellence.  In Infinite Vision, the story of how Aravind Eye Systems was founded, the authors describe this dichotomy:

“hay-stacked bullock carts halt at traffic lights with digital displays, and first-time escalator riders wander barefoot through the city’s brand new mall.  Domino’s Pizza delivers where hawkers still carry vegetable baskets on their heads; and at the doorsteps of coffee bars serving frothy cappuccinos, coconut-water vendors split their hard green fruit with scythes.”

Standing in the midst of the Goubert Market

Standing in the midst of the Goubert Market

I was prepared for the double standard in the market place where, I was warned, just my appearance would raise the price of any item in which I showed interest.  However, I was surprised at how much people in this simple town were aware of Western culture and luxuries.  Aravind prides itself for conducting eye surgeries for 1000 Rp. ($15) and still needs are unmet due to limited resources and lack of health education, yet stores easily lure people in with items like Levi’s jeans costing upwards of 2500 Rp. ($40).

During a free weekend, I took a bike tour through the city and got a new appreciation of this place I call home for the summer.  I am getting more comfortable navigating the streets which echo the French influence, ‘Rue du Bazaar’ and places like the cathedral of Notre Dame.

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The French left in 1954 but it wasn’t until 2006 that the territory name was reverted to Puducherry, its Tamil name aptly meaning “New City”.  Despite this, the residents lovingly still refer to their town as Pondi.

Across the canal and away from the sea the Tamil Quarter is rather more typical of a small south Indian city. Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry draws devotees of this Indian sage who lived in the city for the latter part of his life.  Auroville, just outside the city, combines elements of spirituality, philosophy and sustainability into a working international community.

The golden globe behind us is Matrimandhir–the center of Auroville and the structure for the practice of Integral Yoga

The golden globe behind us is Matrimandhir–the center of Auroville and the structure for the practice of Integral Yoga

Though Pondi isn’t as urban as the bigger cities like Delhi or Bangalore, it has it’s own hustle and bustle. Fishermen wake up early in the morning and head out to sea, rickshaw drivers crowd the bus stands from dawn until dusk, and the doctors at Aravind are in the OT (Operation Theater), scrubbed and ready to cut at 6:50am.  All this happens even though many of these same people enjoy fireworks going off in the city well past midnight.

Physicians operating on outreach camp patients at 7am on Monday morning.  They receive their care 100% for free and still get the same quality and service.

Physicians operating on outreach camp patients at 7am on Monday morning. They receive their care 100% for free and still get the same quality and service.

The Indian economy opened its doors to the global market and even Pondicherry has seen exponential economic growth, but infrastructure has changed at a snail’s pace.  While many hold religion and morality close to their hearts, corruption runs rampant in all political and business facets of life.  Extreme poverty can be witnessed at the steps of opulent buildings from which the rich emerge unphased by what they pass.  It’s completely different living here and recognizing these differences as opposed to just visiting as a tourist and hearing about them.

Yes, India is full of contradictions.

-Bela Parekh
CASI: Aravind, India

 

 

Travel Stories

Isn’t it funny how time is subjective? It feels like I’ve been in India for far longer than two weeks, just like the time it took to start this blog post felt like months. Three-hour train rides go by in minutes. My perception of time is shaped by the endless new experiences bombarding my senses every day, from the sound of incessant honking to the delicious scent of frying samosas wafting down the street to the sight of the majestic mountains surrounding Bangalore. I’m embracing the fact that I have no routine. Perhaps the greatest part of this freedom is a green light to travel to my heart’s desire. I’ve created a mental list of all the breathtaking places I want to visit, including Kerala, Mumbai, and Darjeeling. We began by exploring Delhi and taking the obligatory trip to Agra to see the Taj Mahal. Last weekend, all of us Bangalore interns took an overnight bus to Pondicherry to gape at its French colonial architecture and relax by its rocky beaches. Most memorable about these travels, however, was the people we met.

On the train from Agra to Delhi, Kat and I accidently bought a general class ticket, which was very affordable, but meant that we wouldn’t have assigned seating (or even seats for that matter) and that the cabin wouldn’t have A/C. We decided to save ourselves the anxiety and asked a young man, who was entering the 3A/C class cabin, if we could upgrade our tickets when the conductor made his rounds. He smiled warmly and told us not to worry, that he was trying to do the same thing, and that the tickets could be negotiated, as long as we had a few hundred rupees. Thoroughly mystified, we followed him into the cabin and he started speaking to the conductor in fluent Hindi, complete with head nods and hand gestures. Our fare was being “negotiated”. Kat and I shared grin—we were seeing India at its finest. Once we settled down, we struck up a lively conversation and learned that the young man was returning from a job interview in Agra. He had studied hotel management in college, and had just gained employment at a Hilton Doubletree! He then went on to describe his dream of owning and operating a grand hotel in Bhutan, where he admired the government’s emphasis on the happiness of its people.

Our 2A/C train cabin to Agra!

Our 2A/C train cabin to Agra!

A day later, Kat and I found ourselves on a small plane to Bangalore. I plopped down next to an older woman with a pair of gold spectacles perched in front of sincere, brown eyes. She asked me kindly where I was from, whether or not I had visited India before, and how I was liking it. I gave her the usual answers, thinking our conversation would follow the typical route driven by a short burst of curiosity and then silence. To my surprise, she explained that she had visited the United States for an exchange program for several weeks and had homestays in many of the major cities. She had loved the experience, and enjoyed being a “citizen ambassador of India”. More intriguing was her day job. She’s the principal of a private K-12 school on the outskirts of Delhi, and was heading home to Bangalore to visit her family while on summer vacation. I asked her about the state of education in India, and we delved into a refreshingly deep and long conversation about what she considered to be some of the greatest problems facing the world’s largest democracy, and how she thought they could be solved. It was fascinating to hear her perspective, since I had only been indoctrinated with the Western worldview. Before I knew it, we had landed in Bangalore and she gave me her business card. “Keep in touch!” were her parting words.

We spent our first weekend in Bangalore exploring the city with fellow Janalakshmi interns from Duke, Elizabeth and Sarah. This was in front of the glass palace at Lalbagh Gardens.

We spent our first weekend in Bangalore exploring the city with fellow Janalakshmi interns from Duke, Elizabeth and Sarah. This was in front of the glass palace at Lalbagh Gardens.

One of the delightful aspects of this beautiful city is the mountain ranges that surround it. Sarah, a fellow intern at Janalakshmi, Kat, and I decided to sign up for a trekking trip with the Bangalore Mountaineering Club. It was an incredible time, and I tried rappelling and cave exploring for the first time. The best part of the adventure wasn’t the thrills, but rather the wonderful people we spent time with. On the bus ride back, one of the trek coordinators struck up a lively conversation about his experiences in this young and tech-driven city. He was originally from Mumbai, but had moved south to seek a better education and a more comfortable climate. His years of schooling certainly paid off—after studying mechanical engineering and landing a stint at a corporation, he has settled down to become a professor and researcher at a local university. Leading treks was his side job and personal hobby. The highlight of our conversation was certainly when he enthusiastically shared his travel experiences. A few years ago, he had gone on a skydiving trip to Dubai, and showed us amazing photos of the city and the desert and attractions he visited. It reminded me of the joys of travel, and of how lucky I was to be sitting on a bumpy bus, sharing this happiness with a stranger I had befriended just a few hours ago.

Trekking on Anthargange’s hills and exploring its labyrinth of rocky caves.

Trekking on Anthargange’s hills and exploring its labyrinth of rocky caves.

Interactions like these have happened countless more times. The Airbnb host from Pondicherry was considerate enough to take us around the town in his own car and Ekta from the Janalakshmi office eagerly led us shopping on Bangalore’s famed Commercial Street. Wherever I go, I’m greeted with kindness, courtesy, and polite curiosity. I began to take this for granted—it wasn’t until later, when I was recounting my experiences to my friends, that I realized how blind I was to the privileges I had as an American and a foreign traveler. It’s shockingly easy to flash my blue and silver passport at the airport and expect to be treated differently or to ask waiters to explain the various Indian snacks I was being served, all because I grew up in the United States. This is not the case in America. Quite the contrary, I’ve found that we tend to look down upon foreign tourists as bumbling outsiders who are visiting our great country for the first time. This characterization eliminates individuality and wipes out the opportunity for genuine cultural exchange. Once I became aware of how my interactions tended to be structured, I’ve worked hard to become a better listener and to be a more patient and humble person. I’m couldn’t be more thankful for this new perspective.

-Tianhao Gao
CASI: Jana Urban Foundation, India

7.9.2016

My work with Seeds is becoming increasingly engaging.  My main assignment right now is working on the newsletter, a fulfilling task for me as writing remains one of the joys and passions of my life. The newsletter is also in the stage of evolution, which gives me the opportunity to imbue it with creativity and innovation. My boss is the marketing and fundraising manager at Seeds, and I proposed to her that we start an essay competition amongst the english-language classes to include in the newsletter. She was encouragingly responsive . I have also been assigned to write educational research articles, which provide me with the intellectualism that years of scholarship have taught me to crave. Next week, I am going to be conducting interviews in one of our schools for a marketing project. I am somewhat nervous about my spanish ability, but I know that I have the supplementary tools of the tape recorder and an open heart to facilitate the process.

I am falling in love with my coworkers, whose spirit of welcome pervades their work and lives. Last weekend, my coworkers took both Eleanor and me to a hike on Sunday to “La Peña de La Cruz,” a cross at the top of the mountainside of Jinotega, a town several hours to the north of my home home in Matagalpa. We would not have known about the trail without them, and after the hike they gave us a local tour of the cathedral of the small town of “San Rafael Del Norte.”

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In my free time, I am self-studying about Nicaraguan history. The intimidating 400-page anthology, Blood of Brothers by Stephen Kinzer, is one of my most consistent companions in Nicaragua.

A complete analysis of US/Nicaragua relations is beyond both the scope of this post and my capacity as a temporary resident, but I can say that America has had a decisive and arguably destructive role in Nicaraguan history, culminating in a CIA-led counterrevolutionary war (“contra war”) under the Reagan Administration that destroyed what many believe could have been the world’s first successful socialist democracy under Sandanista leadership. Nicaragua became, in Kinzer’s words, “an arena for the confrontation between superpowers,” as Reagan Administration dismissed UN condemnations of their intervention in Nicaraguan sovereignty and covertly backed the war, often manipulating vulnerable Nicaraguan immigrants as well as the precarious governments of Honduras and El Salvador to support their cause.

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My studies increase already high ambivalence about my identity as an American.  The owner of my apartment is Canadian, and the keychain of my housekeys carries the flag of the maple leaf. When I wear it around my neck it feels like a mask of my origin. When I meet people outside of work, I usually say that I am from California, not from the United States.  Perhaps this is a disingenuous distance from the imperialistic policies of my country, but as my patriotism dwindles I feel more and more  Californian and less and less American. This past Friday was the 37th anniversary of “The Republique,” a decisive revolutionary tactical retreat of the Sandanista rebels that overthrew the Somoza regime. There were massive demonstrations all over Nicaragua, and I received email notices that it was inadvisable for Americans to go. However, I did not have work that day, and boredom mixed with curiosity compelled me to seek out the demonstrations.  What I found was a laughable contradiction to what my emails portrayed as danger: a parade largely composed of residents of the town, including elementary-school aged soccer teams and a high school marching band. The tone was of celebration, not protest, and the spirit was a well-earned joviality and pride, not a threatening indignance.

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 I walked away with a renewed respect for Nicaragua, while the past week of recurring instances of police brutality in the states have broken my heart and made me seriously question  whether the freedom America celebrated on the fourth was earned when so many of our citizens of color don’t basic freedom from fear and assault. My studies of Nicaraguan history and my  support of the Black Lives Matter movement are giving me a new lens through which to look at American identity, and it is mostly unfavorable. But it is a dissatisfaction that is coupled with the determination to make it better, to be an ally to communities of color and an advocate to the #BlackLivesMatter movement as much as possible.

Apart from my studies, I am learning a much more subtle curriculum on what makes up the tenor of Nicaraguan life. There are many things I do not appreciate, specifically the catcalling and “machista” culture that my Americanness cannot protect me from as many men see female presence on the street as invitation for harassment disguised as admiration. This is not unique to Nicaragua, as I have experienced it my entire life, but it is especially apparent here, where I am almost always walking alone, and the language barrier adds to a lingering feeling of uneasiness.

However, the regular kindness and openness I receive vastly outweighs these. It is a habit of mine to go on urban walks, and one night I lost track of time and found myself in an unfamiliar neighborhood as the sun was setting down. Starting to become bewildered, I reached out to a pair of elderly woman I found leaving a cafe and asked them if they thought it was safe for me to keep walking to my intended destination of a concert venue. One gently grabbed me by the arm, expressed her concern for me, and told me is was wisest to go home and have una noche tranquila en cama, a peaceful night in bed.

 I felt my irritance at machista dissolve in her maternal care for a solitary young woman, followed her advice, walked home, and  finished my night with a feeling of security that can only be evoked by caring older women.

 My three-block commute to work finds me passing a family home that regularly leaves their door open. I met them because the son was outside drying their freshly bathed dog, Pinky, and I could not resist asking if I could pet the her.

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This small act of connection is now cultivating a relationship with the entire family, as now every time I walk by someone is there to greet me, usually with Pinky as well. I have formed a particular bond with the mother, Karol, who has been so generous as to invite me into their home.

She works at a bilingual school, and our conversations are defined by alternating bursts my broken Spanish and her slow English. She asks me questions about my work, if I am married, and whether my boyfriend loves me properly. She tells me about her life, offers advice about what to eat, and tells me not to trust men in both English and Spanish. Later today, I am going to a fair with a male friend I met at an art festival. I am excited but her words are not far from my mind.  I feel like I am starting to form a community here. I fear that I will have to leave as soon as it feels solidified, but I am so grateful.

-Julia Slater
Seeds for Progress, Nicaragua

Surprises and Boat Buses – Settling down

Roses at the ready! Just when you think celebrations are over, your parents prove the opposite to be true!

Roses at the ready! Just when you think celebrations are over, your parents prove the opposite to be true!

So far a normal week consists of either working at the Hospitalito or going out to pueblos around the lake on what are known as jornadas de diabetes. I have gotten a chance to meet many interesting folks and speak to them directly about the disease and its consequences. One gentleman in particular has been living with diabetes for almost 30 years. When I asked him how he has managed to do so he said that if he did not, he would have to quit his job as a pastor. He said that through his faith he was able to maintain a healthy regimen and regular medicine uptake. This was definitely interesting to hear — faith-based health convictions!

I have also been very active on the boat buses or lanchas around the lake region. It is very common to utilize a boat in order to get to the other side; it is both cheap and convenient, not to mention you get a gorgeous view of the lake and the San Pedro volcano while you’re at it. Via boat bus is actually how this bouquet ended up in my hands last Tuesday…

‘Twas just another day at the hospitalito when one of the main assistants, Febe, said that someone was the main desk looking for “Christina Raquel” (pause – only my Latin American family or anyone who knew me as a youngster ever calls me by my two names, so that immediately narrowed down the range of people this individual could be affiliated to). When I go downstairs, there is a lady who is waiting for me with a huge rose arrangement. The explanation – my parents had asked an old family friend who works at the university in Guate City to contact a florist. It happens to be that his student’s parents are in the business and this lady, Jeanette by name, came to deliver these flowers personally! This act made my day, and perhaps my 22nd birthday altogether! This definitely showed me the business utility of the lancha in a way that personally and positively affected me…

More to come…

-Christina Roldan
Guatemala Health Initiative, Guatemala

Nerds Unite: Exploring a Vinyl Record Shop in Old Delhi

Old Delhi is a treasure trove of Indian history. Red Fort, Jama Masjid, Chandni Chowk–some of Delhi’s most famous sites are located within this walled city built by 17th century Mughal Emperor Shahjahan. What I never expected to find here, however, was a tiny, old-fashioned record (yes, vinyl/LP record!) shop buried within the sprawling maze of Meena Bazaar.

 

As embarrassingly nerdy as it is, I might as well reveal my guilty pleasure: classic Bollywood and Hindi music. There is one famous playback singer in particular—Lata Mangeshkar—whose music I am always searching for. Combine this with my penchant for vinyl records, and one of my first thoughts upon coming to Delhi was, “are there any record shops close by?”

 

The answer, I was happy to find out, is a yes. Not that many though, and most of them are just music shops that sell a few records on the side. Just like in the US, old records and gramophones fell by the wayside many years ago and now are nothing more than a curious oddity. When my “googling” led me to a shop called “Shah Music Centre”—selling only records—I was immediately intrigued.

My first stop in heading towards Shah Music Centre was Jama Masjid, one of the most well-known sites in Delhi. Built with beautiful red sandstone and marble, this mosque towers majestically over the nearby Chawri Bazar and is packed with tourists most of the day. Despite its popularity, the mosque has a large open coutyard that gives it a peaceful feeling. Many people were taking naps under the covered terraces, escaping from the 105-degree blinding heat of the Delhi sun.

 

 

Just outside Jama Masjid is a Meena Bazar, a claustrophobic and rambling collection of shops. Urdu script appears on most store signs, direction boards, prayer books, everything—this is a mostly Muslim area.  After asking about 5 different people for directions (each shop in theory has a number, but I didn’t see them written anywhere), I finally came across shop 256–Shah Music Centre.

 

3 men sat inside, lounging under a rattling fan. All around me were an uncountable number of old Bollywood film records, a few of the most famous proudly displayed on the dusty shelves. When I got out the list of records I was looking for, the owner immediately smiled. “Bahut kam log hamari dukaan me aate hain, lekin jo aate hain na vo hamesha taiyaari karke aate hain” (Not many people come to our shop, but those who come always come prepared).

 

I had quite a few specific, obscure things in mind—some Marathi bhajans and film music—but when the owner came to the two Bollywood films I was looking for, he said “ye dono zaroor milenge” (I have definitely have these two). He took me back out into the winding corridors and led me to his storage room, where he retrieved the two albums for me. The prices were not that much cheaper than the US (rare for India, where most things appear quite cheap if you are thinking in dollars), but this was one place I was not about to bargain in. They said they were lucky to have one customer a day at this shop—gramophones and vinyl records are hardly a high-demand item.

 

I couldn’t help but smile as I fumbled and tripped my way out of Meena Bazaar. Shah Music Centre unfortunately may not be the most profitable business, but I can easily see why the owners are loath to give it up. The sense of connection, the bonds we made in just a few minutes talking about old Bollywood singers, was a special experience that these men probably have with every customer. Here’s to more adventures in Delhi!

 

(Sorry, no pictures of Meena Bazaar or Jama Masjid. I am the world’s most forgetful person when it comes to taking pictures)
Bangla Sahib Gurudwara, Delhi

Bangla Sahib Gurudwara, Delhi

-Jacob Berexa
CASI: LEAP Skills Academy, India