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Part II: Pune, India: Happy Independence!

Happy Independence Day, India! Today marks the day where commemorating India’s freedom from the UK.  Did you know that during this time, India was also divided into “British India” and Pakistan?

I arrived in Pune last evening and what a welcome it was.  I arrived at the airport at 5:30 PM, uneventfully.    My taxi driver arrived to pick me up at the airport-we had some trouble finding one another because he was unable to understand me over the phone.   Eventually we found one another after about 40 minutes.  I was finding myself, for the first time in India, so frustrated by the lack of ability to connect with someone because of our difference in language.  I became irritated and flustered (not my best look) and had to remind myself that this is all part of the experience.  After all, I cannot expect that everyone speaks English.  I was frustrated with myself for not being able to communicate effectively-wishing that I had spent some time at least trying to learn some basic Hindi before coming to India.  (Did you know that the 2018 Indian census stated that there are 19,500 different languages and dialects in India?  There are 22 languages that are most commonly spoken-the top one spoken by about 50% of people is Hindi.). We arrived at the car after a short ride on a cart to carry my 100 pounds (or so) of luggage, myself and my driver, to the taxi.  (BTW, I am starting to become acutely aware of the need to ditch at least half of this stuff and travel lighter.  The plan is to only move forward from Pune with my Osprey 70L backpack….and I am hoping to have it weigh no more than 40 pounds.  Why?  Well-as you can imagine trying to lug these bags is literally painful.  Oh and cars here run on CNG (natural gas) so they have a large tank installed into the trunk that does not allow you to fit large bags in there. We had to wedge my massive suitcase in the front seat next to the driver.)  When we opened the trunk and I saw what appeared to be a large propane tank, I did not put two and two together-I was wondering why a car would be equipped with such a tank (I was enlightened only after I arrived at my hotel and looked it up).  

So the CNG tank in the back explained the constant gas light being illuminated on the car dashboard that gave me a little (okay more than a little) anxiety.  For a moment, I wondered if I would arrive safely at the hotel-not just because of the gas light though.  Driving here gives the word “merging” a whole new meaning.  We managed to only hit 1 pedestrian (it was just a small bump, no harm done) and 1 large bus (also just a bump, they probably didn’t even notice) on the way.  The 2 adorable puppies playing in the road nearly avoided death with just a few honks of the horn.  And I only almost peed my pants (both out of fear and having a very full bladder after a nearly 2 hour bumpy ride).  I swear that every time I looked at the GPS, it said we would arrive in “27 minutes.”  If you think LA traffic is bad folks, you have NO IDEA!   The ride was eventful to say the least.  But rest assured- after 1 hour and 45 minutes (not 27 minutes), we successfully traveled 8.1 miles (this is not a typo) from the airport and arrived at the hotel.  

Side note: I was gifted a gemstone bracelet from a prior student (Thanks, Allie) prior to leaving on my trip. I wear on my wrist as a reminder of strength and protection-whenever I feel frightened I find myself twisting the smooth stones in my fingers.  I have a feeling this bracelet is going to have a lot of wear and tear on this trip! 

I was reflecting on my time in Baroda and how comfortable I felt navigating the city with my friends who spoke the native language there, Gujarati.  There is an ease that is palpable when traveling with someone that knows the language, it’s a priviledge-almost like a protective armor that allows for a higher level of confidence.  It allows for a deeper exploration and desire to try new things.  I am trying to lean into the unknown and accept the challenge of communication as an experience, not a barrier to travel but damn, it’s hard sometimes.  Next time I encounter someone that is struggling with English, I will be sure to go the extra mile to help, offer kindness, and SMILE (it’s a universal sign no matter the language).  

During one of my workshop sessions at the office last week, we talked about body language.  Body language (including expression of the face) is the universal language.  When you can’t speak the language, you find yourself watching everything and everyone in a different way.  It gives a whole new meaning to “people watching.”  I notice so much more; the glances shared between parents and children, 2 friend or lovers-so much being said without words.  A friend shared a podcast about traveling with me this past week (“Thou Shalt be Generous”-Everywhere) and in the podcast they are interviewing a man who says something like (and I am paraphrasing a bit) “traveling allows for being more mindful about your place in the world and what is happening around you.”  I really resonated with that statement and believe that it truly expresses my experience so far on this journey. 

I have a few days to settle in here before going to the office on Monday.  The office is closed for celebrations of Independence Day for the long weekend.  For me, I will explore the new area and the amenities of the new hotel-indulging a bit here (Indian hospitality is quite a special treat!) before I head off into adventures with much more minimal accommodations in the near future.  I think I will avoid being in a car until I have to be on Monday!

Happy Independence Day, India!  Thanks for the adventures.  


These are the children of the Paschala at the Exxat office.

Celebration of Indian Independence Day complete with flower petal art.

Familiar faces make the experience even better! Thanks for a great breakfast, Sanit!


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