One of the first things I learned about New Delhi traffic is that lanes are optional and honking is mandatory. What was chaos to me seemed perfectly predictable to those around me; they crossed the street with confidence while I darted between cars, doing everything I could to avoid getting hit by a rickshaw barreling down the street. On top of it all, the traffic was flowing opposite of what I was used to. Our day of clothes shopping quickly turned into an obstacle race, complete with dogs, monkeys, and rushing cars. I’ve never been much of a city person, even in America, so the short walk from our hotel to the clothes store was, for me, quite an Odyssey.
As we walked, I became more and more aware of my status as an American, a foreigner, an outsider. While there were certainly some people wearing Western clothes, my grey shirt and baseball cap made me feel like a sore thumb sticking out among colorful Salwars and Saris. Eventually we arrived at the clothing store. Dolly Ji led us over to a wall filled with shelves of Kurtis. I’d never seen so many choices of clothing in my life. Christine, Jacquelyn and I began to pour through the stacks of clothing, hoping to find a way to combine our American styles with Indian clothing, per Dolly Ji’s suggestion. With several Kurtis in hand, I headed to the fitting room, only to find that I had been looking at the wrong size, and once again needed to dig through the piles on the wall. After purchasing a few Kurtis and Salwars each, we continued on to another store to complete our outfit with Dupattas. A few hours after we started, Christine, Jacquelyn, and I walked out of the stores with new clothing that was appropriate to the culture and, more importantly, a sense of confidence that we would be able to face this new adventure.