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Photo by Caleb Brooks

Great Garba and a Great First Day

8 October 2019

Yesterday was the last day of Navatri, and was celebrated with Garba, a traditional dance with Dandiya sticks. It was also the day we met our families, at a Program House (PH) reception with chai, chatter, and lots of nervous but excited smiles.

My host mom, Usha Ji, came to meet me around the middle of the reception with a wide smile and understanding when I told her I couldn’t shake her hand because of a fever. (Update: The fever has since been kicked). She is also one of the founders, the Secretary and a program overseer and developer and field work coordinator at Vikalp Sansthan, one of the NGOs BYI is partnered with. We sat down, and it was easy to notice the similarities between us: the short cropped hair, friendly smiles, and matching blue kurtas. Tejas leaned over, smiled, and said, “You got matched”. I felt it too.

After leaving the PH, Usha Ji and I embarked on a nice, slow car ride so that I could get a good idea of the neighborhood and my bike route. We arrived home, where I met Yogesh Ji. The three of us sat down to peanuts and a nice conversation. I told them about my experiences in India so far and my background. I practiced my Hindi by asking them questions about their lives and occupations. After a dinner of daal, subjee, and chawal, we went out in search of Garba.

We drove across town to metropolitan Udaipur, where we happened upon a Garba celebration that was heavily dominated by vibrant young women. I was mesmerized by the whirlwind of color and coordination in front of me. Girls and women of all ages danced side by side.

Afterwards, we went to a Garba celebration primarily made up of young families, and stayed for a bit before heading home so I could sleep off my fever. I didn’t go right to sleep, and started unpacking. Usha Ji helped me unpack, and we talked a bit more about our families and my friends back home.

My host family is wonderful and progressive. Yesterday, Usha Ji said to me, “I know that both of our societies have [complexes] about race, and many believe that fair [skin] is better and that dark [skin] is bad, but know that it doesn’t matter to me”. Yogesh Ji even said tonight, “Your hair has changed. I heard it takes time”. (FYI, it does take time.)

I’m really loving my homestay experience. (Update: This is still true :)).