Rachel in India

Rachel, a 2006 SMU graduate in History and Indian Studies, is working on her PhD in South Asian History at Boston College. This summer she’s returning to Pune, India, through the American Institute for Indian Studies for the second summer of a language intensive in Marathi.

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Family Matters

The time has come to leave Pune, and it is a bittersweet moment as I return to Mumbai. I’m glad to be coming back to Bombay to spend time with my boyfriend, Darren, and his family, but I’m sad to be leaving the family I have spent so much time with and that taught me so much.

This summer was certainly very challenging. The middle-class amenities that I had been so used to in India before weren’t available. We didn’t have running water for days and hot water was a pipe dream. I washed my clothes on a stone in the backyard, and had a toilet that was nothing more than a hole in the ground. My bed was a plank of wood with a about a one-inch mattress. This took at least a couple of
weeks to really get used to. I consider myself a flexible person, but living like this for weeks on end was a challenge I hadn’t completely prepared myself for. Other students had much better amenities – running water and even washing machines!

One of the family
But now I’ve realized how much family matters. Despite these challenges, my family was more than willing to take the time to speak to me in Marathi and include me in family affairs, from birthday parties to temple visits. Without this, I certainly wouldn’t have been able to pick up spoken Marathi in such a way. And now that I’ve left Pune, I know that this family will always have a special place in my heart.

Aaji, the grandmother, sat with me every morning to have tea and speak to me in Marathi. She told me all of the good sari shops and where to find anything I needed. On the floor above us Aaji’s nephew and his wife lived. They had two children, Ruhi and Shardul. Ruhi is in Law School in Pune and she was always more than willing to come shopping with me and give me advice about life in Pune. Shardul was a 13-year-old school boy who forced me to speak Marathi with him and readily corrected me with any slip of my tongue.

Living it
Throughout the past ten weeks, they have made me feel like part of the family. And I’ve found that living with an Indian family in India is a vastly different experience than living by myself. The challenges are very different, but I feel that I have experienced India in an entirely different way this time. This experience has helped me learn to value the things that really matter in life.

I’ve realized that even though this experience and these living conditions were difficult for me to learn to live with, that this situation was far better than the way most of the people in this world live. I think that for me, especially as an American, it’s important for me to not just see how other people live, but to live it. My experiences this summer have taught me more than just Marathi.

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