Note: Initially drafted in November 2017 when I still lived in this neighborhood
Before I moved to San Francisco, I was confiding some of my pre-move jitters to a close friend in Los Angeles. In an attempt to console me, he told me about his theory that it takes about three months to adjust to any new place. I'm pretty sure I scoffed at the time, most likely thinking that three months is SO LONG, but as a surprise to no one, it actually isn't.
And I ended up really, really liking San Francisco. (Some tears may or may not have been shed while packing up my SF apartment before leaving for India--not only because I was in a state of sleep deprivation).
I'm nearing my three month mark in Delhi/India, and of course it's flown by. I've certainly 'adjusted' in an adapted way, considering my role here is of a finite, extended visitor. But my new normal seems to be filled with me being in a state of either total irritation or total zen.
The spouts of irritation/zen don't last for days on end, or even an entire day. It's typically in short bursts of time, most commonly when I need to complete an errand.
Let's take a look at the nearly daily walk to my local market--about a 500m (.3 mile) walk:
1. Walk through Marg 9 (my street) and pass stray cats, dogs and the occasional family of monkeys. Pass the dhobi-wallah (man who irons the clothes for the neighborhood) to the left and a small park to the right.
2. Turn left and walk along the walls of an elementary school that borders the block. Walk through the gate and pass the guards (this gate is closed between 9:30p and 5a, so when needing to travel within this time, I have a slightly longer route).
3. Upon leaving the gate, walk past the Arya Samaj Mandir (temple), Jehovah's Witness Hall (that one surprised me, too), a Sai Baba Mandir (temple), a few phal-wallahs (fruit sellers) and phool-wallahs (flower sellers) for devotees to purchase offerings, an auto rickshaw stand, the infamous chipkali ATM, and a couple of ice cream thelas (carts). Where there's ice cream, there's Zen Ankita.
4. Irritate Ankita starts to make an appearance as I mentally prepare myself to cross the road to get to the market. Crossing the road in India deserves its own post, but in general, it's basically like a real-life version of Frogger. This intersection isn't even that bad, but I often need to be prepared for random U-turns while I'm standing in the middle of the road and deceitful motorcyclists that seem like they are slowing down and then speed up at the last minute.
Ankita's TIPS FOR CROSSING THE ROAD IN DELHI
- Channel the way of Nike and 'just do it'
- Go against Safety Town teachings. Sometimes it actually helps to not look both ways and feign ignorance (while hoping for the best)
- Find a local and cross with them. Ensure the local, not you, is in the path of traffic (my preferred method)
5. Finally arrive at the market.
6. Stop at the newspaper-wallah and pick up a copy of the Times of India.
7. Pass by Safal - the fixed price veggie/fruit shop.
8. Pass the open-air hawker food court.
9. Walk past a plethora of fast food options (Dominos, Pizza Hut, KFC, Cafe Coffee Day, Burger King, and of course, McDonalds. I'm convinced my market has only 3-4 useful shops and the rest is just food).
10. Walk past 24 Seven (a well-stocked convenience store chain open 24/7 everyday, except Holi, apparently).
11. Walk past the bougie salon where I get my eyebrows threaded.
12. Walk a bit further to Mother Dairy (milk shop, ice cream shop, all things dairy).
Some common things I encounter while walking through the market:
- Napping stray dogs
- Folks trying lure me into their restaurants
- Folks asking me to sign some sort of petition I know nothing about
- Children seeing me with groceries and proceeding to follow me around, or pulling on my clothes while I'm in line to buy milk and eggs
- Lots of bicycles for some reason? Including pedal cars for small children
Some days navigating through the market is one of those irritation moments and all I'm thinking is "I just need to buy some milk, get out of my way." Other days, and the longer I stay here, I become Zen Ankita and just blend into the background...Unless I'm crossing the road. Irritated Ankita nearly always makes an appearance then, mixed with Terrified Ankita. But then I just treat myself to some ice cream.