So far that’s my only issue in India so far. Milk was a bad choice, and an even worse choice was the combination of buttermilk, curd/yoghurt, “chaatch” and lassi thrust upon me during a drive around southern Rajahstan on a day where temperatures hovered around 42 degrees Celsius (that’s around 108F for all you anti-SI readers). Apparently dairy is one of the many ways known by Rajasthanis to cool down the body in the heat. Other methods include eating onions and spices, enjoying delicious but steaming hot chai tea at all occasions, drinking room temperature water (my host-sister thinks I’m nuts for enjoying ice water), and other ancient methods to tolerate the summer heat. I’ve been sweating consistently since arriving, but some of these tricks have helped… but I draw the line at milk.
My dairy in the desert complaints came after my first weekend (which on the 1st, 3rd, and 4th weekends consist of a lonely Sunday) as my host father drove outside of Udaipur showing me an ancient temple devoted to Shiva, and let me accompany him on some farm visits for some consulting he does for a large Indian company called Miraj. We visited a few farms struggling with water quality, and saw some public gardens and new roadside tree plantings sponsored by Miraj following a government-encouraged philosophy of corporate philanthropy. The sightseeing was great, and it was nice to see life outside the bustling lake metropolis of Udaipur. Overall, it was a similarly confusing composition of local storefronts, next to what seem to be designer jean outlets, narrated by the cacophony of cows, goats, and shopkeepers as well as the horns of buses and autorickshaws announcing their intention to either cut someone off, pass on the left, or right, or some other generally reckless driving tactic. Strange mixtures of recently built gated homes with marble statues stand a block away from shelters made of tarps and rags, while a woman walked by carrying a bundle of firewood on her head, not bothering to answer the Nokia ringtone coming from her pocket.
I seem to have won the lottery with my host family, a Rajput family of four, rocking the suburbs of Udaipur in Bagdao. My host father is a friendly man who works at KVK (an agriculture NGO – hence the weekend farm visits), my host mother is a Hindi teacher, and my host sister a badminton champion of Rajasthan in the 12th grade. I have a host brother serving in the Indian Army, so I spoke with him on the phone. Filling in for him until he gets back is my host cousin, who is called a brother and is studying for college entrance exams with my host sister. They are all very warm and friendly and quickly integrated me into their family. We’ve shared pictures, including my host parents wedding festivities, and they are quick to help me as cultural interpreters and teach me Hindi, or other things like how to ride and eventually drive a motorbike, and make chapati. I go for walks with my host father in the area, where he points out plants as we chat about Indian politics and Mewari princes and Hindu gods. I’ve been starting to help run errands, and I try to help with chores and do random tasks that vary each day (writing this blog was interrupted by a trip to mill the flour).
And that’s enough ramblings for today.