This is my fifth day in Dhrangadrha, India. I’ve experienced a lot so far. The days are long and filled with many things to do. I wake up at 5:30am and go to yoga class at 6:30am. Breakfast is at 8am, and then we usually go to Mehul’s house to learn music and dance. I’m learning to play the mandolin, and learning Bharata Natyam, a classical Indian dance. It is an expressive dance that involves foot stomping and mudras. Mudras are gestural hand movements that usually provide some sort of narrative to the dance. Some girls wear bells around their ankles to intensify the dance movements.
A few immediate things I’ve noticed that are different here are the animals, the food, and the street traffic.
At the palace, there are a plethora of birds. There are tons of pigeons, smaller and larger exotic birds, and peacocks. There are gecko lizards everywhere scaling the walls of the palace, including our bedroom. I was terrified at first of them, but I’ve come to accept their presence. They eat mosquitoes and other bugs so they are actually an asset to our room!
Wild dogs are everywhere here, which was kind of a surprise to me. They sleep in the middle of roads, walk in the middle of traffic. They hang out in packs. Some of them are vicious but others are friendly. They have long skinny features: they kind of look like an Egyptian dog or smaller greyhound. I’d say they are equivalent to the amount of stray cats in Philadelphia. It is interesting because we don’t see many stray dogs in America. Dogs are domesticated pets for us. And if we see a stray one it’s usually a pretty big deal. I’ve seen a few people in Dhrangadhra with dogs as pets—they’re never the wild dogs you see on the street. I’ve seen people walking with pugs, German shepherds, and long haired dogs. I wonder how they’ve come to own them, because I don’t see them anywhere else. Are they imported?
The diet here is so different from my own. The dishes are vegetables, potatoes, and bread. I am so use to filling up on carbs like rich white bread, Italian dishes, and lots of meat. Sometimes it is hard for me to feel full without meat. The dinners usually consist of several small sides. The chai tea is endless. Almost every place we visit, we are invited to tea. Never say no to an Indian, especially if they are offering food or tea! When you say no you are basically saying “no I won’t eat with you, because I am superior.” Just drink the Chai ’til your bladder explodes, if you want to save yourself from offending anyone.
The traffic is absolutely nuts! Now, I was aware that there are no driving rules here. But I did not realize how small the streets are and just how crowded they are. There are people in vehicles, rickshaws, bicycles, and motorcycles. Pedestrians weave in and out of traffic. There are cows literally everywhere in the streets, walking slowly, or sleeping on the ground. There are also dogs and pigs running around. And you’d think that with all of these obstacles being a factor, drivers would go slow. Nope! Our drivers navigate the streets like they’re Nascar drivers. I haven’t seen any accidents yet which I am completely shocked by. Somehow they have the chaos figured out. Trucks say “Horn Please” on the bumpers. Beeping is completely acceptable and encouraged here. Oh—there are also no seat belts in the vehicles. The one time I actually want to wear one. Which also means that there is no “x amount of passengers per x amount of seat belts” rule. I never thought I’d see 4 people sandwiched on one motorcycle.
Here is a picture of the palace