On August 15th, 1947, after a non-violent resistance and civil disobedience movement, India was granted independence from the British Empire. Jawaharlal Nehru was elected Prime Minister, and he commemorated the day by raising the Indian flag in front of the Red Fort in Delhi and giving a short speech.
To this day, this is a tradition that occurs every year on August 15th, typically accompanied by parades, local flag hoistings, and more. Everyone here decorates practically anything and everything with the flag- from clothes, to bikes, to buildings. In India, many schools go six days a week, meaning they attend on Saturdays also, so often schools will have a special program or celebration. It is also typical to spend the day with family, listening to traditional Indian Music.
A few of us really wanted to go out and explore the city on this day, and experience any parades we might find, but Bhavani advised us not to head out- she cautioned that, while in all odds nothing would happen, it was a day filled with lots of emotion, and that we were here, obvious foreigners, in the middle of a day celebrating the independence of their country from foreign rule. We opted to spend the day taking a yoga class, enjoying chai from the canteen on campus, playing Jenga, and admiring the beautiful sunset from the roof of Tagore.
The day before, we had visited a bazaar with Ishmeet. I had been really looking forward to this; I’ve wanted to visit once since arriving in India. Getting there, however, was another lesson in patience. We were informed the cab was supposed to pick us up at 3:00. We waited and waited and waited, before finally being picked up at 3:50. It would be really easy to get annoyed; certainly, nothing like this would happen in America without serious complaints. But, honestly, there’s nothing we could do. We didn’t have the phone number to the cab, and we technically weren’t in any sort of rush, as we had left the whole evening open. I think it is good, sometimes, to be subtly reminded what is actually worth fretting about.
After that brief delay, we finally arrived at Shilparamam (no, I still cannot pronounce this) Bazaar. It is filled with hundreds of stalls with all the arts and crafts and trade goods you can imagine: from fabric for saris, to jewelry, to wood and paper-mache home goods. We spent a lovely few hours browsing, and I started to make mental notes on things I will eventually purchase to bring home. I have a feeling my suitcase will be quite heavy.
I also learned some shopping tips from Ishmeet: the more disinterested you seem in a product, the easier it will be to bargain for it. If the shopkeeper sees you exclaim over an object (I’m extremely guilty of oh my goodness, this is so beautiful at pretty much every shop) they will know you want it and will be less likely to give you a true, non-inflated price. It’s like a mind game; something I will have to work on!
Ali and I had both been wanting to get henna done, and there were about 10 different women offering it at Shilparamam, so we decided to do this too.
After being fully decorated, Ishmeet suggested we get a “light dinner” before heading home. A “light dinner” here is like a whole meal at home, but we were happy to have a change of pace from the food at Tagore (not that it isn’t delicious!), and she led us to a hip little place called “Beyond Coffee.”
Opening the menu was like pure ecstasy. I could actually feel my mouth watering as I perused the options: smoothies, waffles, pizza, pasta, sandwiches. I hadn’t realized how much I was craving American food until I was reading about all that was offered. We excitedly ordered several dishes to all share.
The food was delicious. I had been feeling a little homesick for a few days. With all my friends heading back to school, my younger brother getting ready for college, and a few birthdays, I was missing home quite a bit. This waffle was precisely what I needed. I think I ate more at dinner than I typically do in in an average day all together (maybe only a slight exaggeration).
Lying in bed that night, as I drifted off to sleep, I thought about how I’m lucky to have this opportunity. It hasn’t always been easy for these past six weeks, but, overall, it has been wonderful.