Transitions and Translations – 1: Place

I extend a warm greeting to you, dear reader, to my humble attempt at a blog. These pages are a record of my journey through a fellowship program and will mostly be about relocations, reactions and reflections. Your first question may be a request for a suitable reason for you to deign to spare your time for me. That is indeed a good question to ask. However, my only answer is to say that I intend, by the time we are done together, to get you to simultaneously always question and yet never need a reason. If that sounds contradictory, then know that it is meant to be.

This entry is mostly on the first of that triplet of topics – relocation. Specifically, to Delhi. Yes, I know that many ppl do that every year. I also know that much has been written on the city. But this is not going to be a travelogue, nor a history lesson, nor an urban commentary. This is going to be about me and that will have to be enough, for that is this entire blogs’ only claim to uniqueness – that nowhere else will you find its like, for no one else has my perspective. If that sounds grandiose, then know that it is meant to – and yet isn’t actually so. Go figure!

So…where to begin? Why, at the beginning, of course! Nah. Leave that. That cliché is overdone. I shall begin at the end. Sound contradictory? Not really. I never said it was the same end, merely AN end. The end of our orientation camp, to be precise. I had the privilege (or punishment, depending on your perspective) to be part of the last group to leave. I saw off most of the others, barring a sneaky minx who left at an ungodly hour in the morning (to be fair, her transport determined the time. She’s still a minx, though). As you’d expect there was plenty of sweat and tears. No blood, fortunately, though the dogs gave it a half-hearted try. Sweat cos this was Udaipur, tears cos there were girls involved. Not from me, though. I’m a man! All you macho-critics, go climb a hill. I jest! Some of those girls could well evince a tear from me, though not one borne from feelings of warmth, but…well, another kind of feeling…Still, there was sadness. And a growing feeling of trepidation. I had no place settled for me to settle into at my destination. I wasn’t alone in that though, and in that fact I found comfort. I wasn’t alone in a more concrete sense as well, as I had 5 other fellows travelling with me. What of the journey? Well, dear reader, I must ask you to imagine 6 ppl trying to stuff themselves in an auto along with all of their luggage for a years’ time. No words my meager mind can come up with can adequately describe the ludicrousness of that idea in the mind of whomever decided to try it (although, I have heard tell that Ripley’s and Guinness have records of far more ludicrous attempts at human compression – that actually worked!).

I hope your picture is vivid, for I have none of my own. You see, it never happened. The sensibility of the driver shone through and so we only ended up travelling 3 in an auto – stuffed with 6 people’s luggage! I amuse myself imagining the smirks on the faces of the other 3 as they travelled to the station. Let it not be said that I am complaining. It was a great ride, and I was truly impressed by the flexibility of one of my fellow travelers, especially since she was not used to the (in)famous ‘Indian crush’ and its myriad human compression techniques. Not that I’ve ever gotten it myself, despite living here all my life. But then I’ve not got many things despite living here all my life. I digress.

The train ride was pleasant. Families with crazy kids, hawkers doing their hawking, you know the drill. If you, esteemed reader, hail from distant shores, then all this may not seem pleasant at all. Indeed it often isn’t, when one is alone. But in a group of 6, it is very pleasant indeed. I would use a superlative, but I wish to spare them for another time. Nah. Leave that. It was awesome!…Ahem. Well yes, it was that. And more besides, but I shan’t bore you with the details of a strangers’ casual conversations. Just imagine they were juicy. 4 guys and 2 girls in a train compartment together. I leave the rest to you, dear reader. Behave yourself, though. We are all respectable folk here…I think…

We arrived in Delhi and I had the opportunity to see first-hand that 2 of my fellow passengers were quite skilled in bargaining. The first was a consummate expert. He knew Delhi and knew how far he could go and how. The other, I was pleased to learn, used one of my favorite techniques – ask a price, then keep saying no and hope they cave because you look cute. As you might expect, she was surrounded by haggling autowallahs in no time, all furiously complaining in a language that was all their own. Oh yes! Autowallahs have their own language. I am sure of it. It’s just that no one has ever bothered to decode it, probably because no university would be caught dead publishing a study based on the researcher joyriding across the city all day, chattering and eating paan all the way. The ‘eating paan’ part is important, by the way. Indeed, I feel it is crucial, for my pet theory is that the red (‘sundried maroon’ for all you arty types) liquid they spit out is actually some sort of territory marker. The city strays have some role to play in all this as well, I suspect, but no one has yet figured out a way to ask them about it, save in Hollywood movies…

In any case, her attempts weren’t getting anywhere. Hey, I said it was my favorite technique, not that it was an effective one. Anyway, our very own Jack Welch came to the rescue and got us all packed away towards our respective destinations, for reasonable prices. I should, at this point, warn you against looking down on her, dear reader, for I certainly do not. She is actually quite a master negotiator, as a future entry shall make evident. This was simply an unfamiliar milieu. Nor could I have done any better. But then I’m quite useless at this anyway, and am happy to hang back and observe.

My, this is long, isn’t it?! I hope I haven’t bored you, dear reader. Actually, I hope I have. This is, after all, a boring subject – a standard trip to a known city. If you’re not bored by this, then it makes my task in future entries far too easy. Still, I did add my own little commentary, as promised. Don’t worry. There’s not much left now. A comfortable auto ride this time (now that it was just me and my one suitcase) and I reached my destination. Sarita Vihar. Nice place, but it hardly looked like a spot for an office. Google will tell you all you need to know about it. Or ask an autowallah, if you can understand him.

After a bit, we found my building. J-block. I looked up. The number 93 stared, not particularly ominously, back down at me. Dragging my suitcase behind me, I began my ascent…

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7 thoughts on “Transitions and Translations – 1: Place

    • No, I wasn’t. I said “Writing sucks!’ after watching that TED video and that was as a joke.

      I’m just having fun here. Insiders can try making out who’s who while outsiders will have to guess. No names, of course, this being a public forum. My next post will hopefully have some more meaningful content.

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    • Honestly, I’ve never written a blog before. And I didn’t write particularly much growing up. If I have any writing skill at all, so far it comes simply from the fact that English is my first language. Plus some reading….:-)

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