A Day in the Life of a Chai Addict


*I wrote this post before departing on a recent excursion to North India. A summary of my time there will be posted this weekend!

My mother brought up the fact that I have yet to communicate my daily schedule to anyone. I think about daily routine often- I love establishing a routine in my life and feel that it usually defines the state of my life. If I have an awesome daily routine, usually my life couldn’t be better. If I can’t find any rhythm in my life, usually I can’t find any rhythm in my thoughts and so on. It is hard to communicate how hectic, stimulating, and draining my daily schedule in Jaipur is. Everything I do here seems to be 10 times as draining it would be at home. Even though I have about a hundredth of the workload and I’m definitely more sedentary, I am so much more exhausted than I am at college. I have tried to outline my schedule, as well as some of the details, but it’s hard to communicate the moments and reflections that define my day. That being said…I have tried my best to present a day in the life of me:


6:00 am: Often times I wake up at 6:00 to Skype Sam or my family. Because of our schedules and the time difference, when I Skype Sam inevitably one of us has to wake up early before school.


6:30 am: My normal wake up time- I usually wake up early so I have some time to relax and catch my bearings before the start of a crazy day. I sleep in a large bed in a crowded room. A third of the room is dedicated to a Hindi shrine, surrounded by pictures and sculptures of an idol. The rest of my room, similar to other parts of my house, is crowded by art, pictures of the family, stacks of books, and (mostly religious) trinkets from around the world. Although the younger people hurriedly rushing around the house may be Westernernized, my host parents are determined to maintain a traditional, indigenous feel to their house. Waking up in the atmosphere is always a calming reintroduction to the Indian world I seem to escape during my sleep.


6:30-8:00 am: Sometimes I shower in the morning- vis a vis a classic bucket-shower set-up- but sometimes this is just too much to ask of myself. Most mornings I enjoy a hot pot of Chai[1] and sit with my host father talking about a large range of topics- from the dangers of our modern celebrity culture, to current Indian and American political issues, to things like national identity, modernity, and even Rawls. At some point I excuse myself to eat breakfast. Breakfast is a bowl of cornflakes, a number of bananas, and toast if I would like it. Usually this breakfast isn’t enough so I find myself consuming mass amounts of bananas and peanut butter during the school day.


8:00 am: To get anywhere in Jaipur I have to take an autorickshaw. Rickshaws are three wheeled, tin, golf cart- looking vehicles. They seem to have the engine equivalent of a John Deere but the handling of a Porsche. All of them are decked out with various religious signs or initials or other symbols to identify the driver. All the drivers in Jaipur seem to know each other and, as our rickshaw driver has demonstrated, there are often several generations of rickshaw drivers in a family. My rickshaw driver is named Manjing Sing (no guarantees on the spelling) and he is the man. He is energetic, encouraging, extremely helpful, and always a welcome start to my day. I’ve learned a lot about his story and his family and can honestly say he will be one of the people I remember most from my time here. SIT has set up a system in which one rickshaw driver picks up a number of students every morning and delivers them to the program center. I am one of the furthest away from the center so I am picked up around 8:00 and pick up two other girls on my program before arriving at our program center a little before 8:30.


8:30 am- 1:00 pm: The SIT program center is located in the nicest neighborhood in Jaipur in a converted house. There are no signs or indicators and to any walker-by, the building is just a large white house. There is one large classroom in the center along with one other small class room. There is a small library, a basement with a place to rest and a number of computers, a balcony where we eat lunch, a badminton court, and offices for the faculty and staff. We also have a table covered with fruit, crackers, filtered water, and tea/coffee. After our first block of classes we have a “Chai Break” where I gulp down about three cups of Chai as well as a snack that the cooking staff provides. I usually opt for a banana with peanut butter, however the snack are always excellent and are never te same. We generally have two classes a day. Often we have 2 hours of Hindi followed by a lecture before lunch, however, the schedule never seems to repeat itself. We have two teachers who attempt in vain to teach us Hindi; otherwise a lecturer leads our class (they are usually a local professor or government official.) I have just finished a class called Development Approaches and Distributive Justice (DADJ) in which we learned about the recent history of development, various themes pertaining to development, and a number of alternative development theories. Once a week I have a class called Field Methods and Ethics in which we learn basic researching methods that will help us during our Independent Study Project. We are just about to start a class called Shaping Sustainable Social Change that will fashioned similarly to DADJ. Although I’ve definitely struggled through Hindi class, the other classes have been extremely interesting and challenging. The speakers we have heard have all been incredibly articulate, passionate, and informed. Yesterday, in Delhi, we had our final class of the year, led by the author of Churning the Earth: The story of a Globalized India. He explained the political system he had developed labeled Radical Ecological Democracy (RED), which was a solution to the issues facing (mainly) rural, marginalized populations. It was indeed radical as it incorporated various ideas from modern day anarchist movement, the localization movement, and even communist notion of the end-state and economic equity. Whether I agreed with all the speakers or not, being exposed to radical new ideas and approaches has been an integral part of my time and the way. Being challenged in my classes in how I view the philosophical and political systems that I take for granted has been a very fulfilling exercise.


1:00 pm: When 1:00 rolls around I am SO ready for Lunch and the staff always delivers. We all make our make our way upstairs where we are treated to a number of Indian dishes (usually Dal or paneer or cauliflower,) a stack of warm chapattis. Along with fresh made yogurt and vegetables, the lunch never fails to satisfy. We sit out on the balcony and discuss our plans for the day, our thoughts on the day’s speaker, or just trade stories from our home-stay. After some time to relax and a banana for dessert its time to decide what to do with the rest of my day.


1:45- 4:30 pm: The second half of the day is always different. Sometimes we have a class, sometimes we have an excursion brief or a workshop for our ISP. Sometimes we plan adventures to a city landmark or nearby café. Recently I spent this time interviewing people for my ISP (see previous post), which was actually an exhausting exercise. Usually we end up spending this time doing our homework or planning our ISP. People spread-out throughout the center and our work is constantly interrupted by laughing or Bollywood music.


4:30pm: At the end of the day we are picked up by Manjing Sing. This should really say 4:00pm to 5:30pm because there is no predicting when he might show up. He always inevitably asks, “am I late,” which always seems like such a bizarre question to me because it seems so irrelevant. Maybe he learned that phrase or idea from a past American student, because he sure as hell doesn’t understand what it means. The drive home is even more hectic than the drive to school. We dodge the families, rickshaws, scooters, and carts of food that block the road. Last week Manjing Sing decided he would treat us, not once, but twice to a delicious Papaya Shake at a road-side stand. My pre-trip doctor would have probably scorned us, but we had heard rumors about this place and I have yet to feel any adverse effects (no guarantees on updates..)


5:30 pm: I usually arrive home to a thermos full of Chai and an onslaught of questions from my host father regarding his recent social network push. I have recently redone his facebook, set-up a facebook fan page, updated his linked-in, taught him how to use tumblr and twitter, and expect to have several more projects upon my return. If I can escape from that, and am not too tired, then I make my way to the gym. I found this gym totally by chance but I really love it. It was founded in the beginning of August by an eager (and very fit) Indian man name Johnson. All the equipment is brand new and he’s always open to my suggestions for new accessories. The trainers are all super friendly and are definitely incredibly entertained by my presence there. I put on some music and use the time as quasi-mediation- a time to unwind, escape the mind-fuck of chaos that surrounds me, and focus on nothing but picking up heavy things. I’m always exhausted when I finished but I love my slow walk back to Jawahar Nagar (the name of my neighborhood) as I can enjoy the nighttime, the people crowding the streets, the entrepreneurs making their final pitches at the end of a long day, and the various animals that make their way to the streets. The city goes to sleep early, and my curfew is even earlier, so this 10-minute walk is one of my few chances to catch a glimpse of the city at night- a time of the day that has always captivated me.


7:30 pm: When I get home my food is on the table. Everyone in my family eats at different times so the food is placed on the tables on various plates and the chapatti in an insulated container. Usually there are always two or three dishes per night. One is normally Dal or a similar dish, and the other is paneer, Okra, potatoes, or some form of soy. I have remained vegetarian here so I’m normally pretty hungry by 7 and warm chapatti is always the right fix.


8:00-11:30 pm: I spend the rest of the night reading a book, doing class readings, completing Hindi homework, or perusing the internet. This time of the day is always essential to me as it lets me finally relax, connect to the world, and reflect on the day. I read a lot here and love it. Its so nice to explore my own interests and the downtime at the end of the day is usually my time to do so. Sometimes I skype Sam or my family during this time, occasionally I watch a movie, and often I spend some time discussing current events with my host father or connecting with my 14 year-old host brother.


11:30 pm: By this time (or recently later) I am absolutely exhausted. I try to give myself time to read before bed. Once I shut the door, change into my pajamas, and close my book/computer, I fall asleep immediately- getting much needed rest before another hectic day in India.

[1] “Chai” in India is different then how we think of it in the US. Chai is the direct translation of tea in Hindi so we when we say “Chai Tea,” …you get the point. Here, what they just call Chai is usually black tea. What is unique is that they make it by boiling a combination of milk, water, and sugar and then add tea. They drain the pot and poor the tea. I drink about 15 cups of this a day- the addiction is real. 

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