A few days ago, our cook Anita invited the E-45 Lajpat Nagar roommate posse to visit her home. We jumped at the chance.
The next day, a grinning Anita led Reena (roommate), David (roommate), Nick (future roommate), and me down the street to the rickshaw stand, negotiated an agreeable price with two drivers, and gestured for us to climb aboard. Reena, Anita, and I sat three-across in the back of a rickshaw as we drove through the crowded, dusty streets. We chatted away — Reena and me in English, Reena and Anita in Hindi, Devin and Anita via Reena (translator).
We arrived in Anita’s neighborhood, maneuvering around chickens, dogs, goats, and a growing gaggle of giggling young kids. We followed Anita up four flights of stairs, past adults and children peering out of dimly lit apartments. Soon we were invited in to Anita’s apartment where her youngest son Sagar greeted us. (Given the apartment’s tidiness versus Anita’s warnings about the mess, I’m pretty sure Sagar had been put to work cleaning in preparation for our arrival.) The four of us Americans sat on the bed and the cot next to the bed, while Anita and Sagar busied themselves as hosts. Anita prepared chai in the kitchen while Sagar presented us with tea biscuits. Soon Anita joined us, and we balanced our chai on our knees and chatted away.
In addition to the conversation, a constant stream of activity kept us entertained. Anita’s late husband’s brother lives next door along with his family, including Anita’s toddler-aged grand-nephew and grand-niece who had been awakened from her nap to be introduced to us. While she was not particularly pleased, even in her cranky state she was adorable with kohl-rimmed eyes (to ward off the evil eye) and silver anklets (just to be pretty, according to Anita when I asked the significance of the jewelry…). The most adorable aspect of these kids though was their nicknames: Ladoo which is, as Reena aptly puts it, “like an Indian donut hole”, and Aloo which means Potato. After little Potato had been put back to sleep, Sagar’s two friends popped in and out one by one, and since they were both named Abhishek, we were slightly confused. All the while, the TV focal point of the apartment blared Die Hard 2.
Our conversations were held in a mix of English and Hindi, and since I’m learning Hindi, I piped in with random vocab when the word seemed relevant. This got me in the best kind of trouble when I assumed the Hindi conversation had turned to desserts, and I decided to start exclaiming random sweets that I know how to pronounce. “Oooh! Gulab jamun!” to which Anita said (or I assume she said), “Sagar! Go get Devin some gulab jamun!” My current and future roommates and I instantly started begging “no no no! That’s not necessary!” But 15 minutes later we were all a little guiltily and a lot happily munching on gulab jamun, which is essentially also a donut hole soaked in rose-flavored sugar syrup. (It’s amazingly delicious, by the way.)
As the visit wound down, Sagar came to each of us with a bagful of what looked like puffed rice cereal, and he handed us each a bit in our cupped hands. “Ooh! More fun snacks!” I thought, and I threw back the snack mix. As it turns out, the snack mix was actually a prasad or a temple offering that had been blessed. I had unwittingly taken my first communion. Sort of.
Our visit drew to a close, and Anita led us out of her apartment and through the winding alleys of her neighborhood. While wandering Delhi’s busy streets and observing the dress and habits of the people has helped me comprehend my current home, the most intimate glimpse into this foreign world has certainly come from the warm welcome we received in Anita’s home.
I am a giant compared to Indian women. Also confused about where the camera is.
temple and lavender walls in Anita's home
boys unified by gadgets