How does one integrate into a society? Through the kindness of people who are first helpful strangers, then quickly friends. Our neighbors in our colony have been exceptionally friendly and helpful. When we had water problems they gave us clean water to drink. When our electricity wasn’t working they made us food. They made phone calls on our behalf, negotiated rickshaw fees for us, and just gave us someone to talk to.
Our neighborhood is pretty evenly divided between Hindus and Muslims. I don’t sense any animosity from either side towards the other, but they seem to keep their distance from one another. Since we are the white foreigners we’re in a sort of neutral position. (And we’ll only be here for nine months.) Members of both parties have been exceptionally helpful.
My Muslim neighbor Ghofran works for an electronics firm and helped us with a circuit breaker problem tonight. He also negotiated a good price for us for a backup battery for when the power goes out. We have three Hindu families in the row behind us who have all been wonderful. One of them owns the Bhopal Girls School, where our girls now go to school. They have a 14-year old named Hershi and a 3-year old named Mehta (who is in Maia’s class). Our girls regularly go there or they come here. Just next door to them is the Sharma family. Sanjeev is the father and he is a professor at a university in Bhopal. He holds a prestigious position coordinating research for ad hoc mobile technology uses. We had a stimulating conversation about his research the other night. His wife is Anita and she stays at home and has been amazingly welcoming and helpful to us. The have two boys. The younger one is Drew and he comes over every day for a few hours. He’s become like a son of sorts to me. His English is very good and on more than one occasion he has served as a translator for us when workers are fixing something at our house. Just down the street from them is another nice family. They have a teenaged daughter who really likes my Super Marimba music and has several Western instruments in her house. She wants to study biology, but she’s passionate about music. Her father is an engineer for Air India.
So, we’re really doing this! We’re in India, meeting people, making friends, and slowly but surely getting over the shocks and difficulties of moving here. If you haven’t already, check out Jessica’s blog http://www.saffronwindowsill.wordpress.com. She has some great photos up.
I promise I’ll get some photos up soon!