by Lawrence Bush
I GO CRAZY for the first 24 hours trying to hook into technology so that I can pretend I’m not that far away from home and calmly keep plugging away at my work for Jewish Currents. I’m searching for wifi signals and passwords, SIM cards, charging cables and outlet adapters that we brought from home, and so on. Plus I’m here with my teacher-wife, who has toted a 65-pound duffel bag of teaching materials — scarves, paper tapes, dowels, a shadow screen, posters, bluetooth gadgets, and more, for which she’s constantly searching, once we’ve unpacked our gear and settled into our room: “Where’s my . . .? Which bag has my . . .?”
I’m also carrying a chip on my shoulder, based on all the horror stories that people have felt compelled to tell me about India. I’m alert to being robbed, burglarized, pickpocketed, and panhandled ceaselessly; to being overcharged, underserved, or having my identity stolen; to what I can and can’t eat and drink, and how to tell the difference. And the street culture is hardly relaxing: People are way too busy avoiding being run over by cars, motorbikes, tuk-tuks (3-wheeled motorized rickshaws), etc. to take a moment to smile at you.
Chase Bank won’t even let me use my ATM card in this country. Too much fraud, they say. (My long-time local bank, Ulster Savings, on the other hand, says no problem. Multinationals indeed!)
During our second short stroll in Delhi, I murmur to Susan, “Let’s stop feeling suspicious.” In most instances, the worst that is likely to happen is that we’ll spend 300 rupees (about $5) instead of 100 rupees (about $1.70).
WE’VE NOW BEEN in Delhi for two nights. Susan begins her four weeks of teaching this afternoon as a Fulbright specialist at the Learning Matters Foundation, to which she was invited because one of their staff attended one of Susan’s weekend classes at Bank Street School of Education. Susan’s specialty, which brought us last October to Slovenia (see my series, “Bopping in the Balkans,” here), is instructing and inspiring teachers about the use of creative movement and kinesthetic techniques to teach curriculum (science, math, history, literature). Here in Delhi, she’ll be working with teachers active in elementary schools and in pre-K programs ranging from quite exclusive private schools to government schools that pack fifty kids into a classroom.
Last evening we broke paratha with the Learning Matters director and her intern, and received an invitation, when Susan’s teaching is done, to spend some time with her in the Himalayas. If that comes to pass, I will presumably have to stop searching for wifi signals and watch, instead, for the Abominable Snowman.
For now, however, a bed and breakfast in Delhi is our home. Hot water needs to get turned on half an hour in advance, breakfasts include homemade yogurt, homemade jams, and a delicious porridge, the windows bring in very musical sounds of vendors on the streets calling out their wares (mostly foods that we can’t eat), there’s a baby beagle that keeps nosing its way into our room, and we have a case of bottled water. I feel like I’m on the Lower East Side, circa 1904. Or maybe I’m on Mars. In any event, Toto, we’re not in Kansas any more.
Lawrence Bush edits Jewish Currents.