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Photo by Caleb Brooks

The Start of a New Era

Udaipur: the City of Lakes! The eleventh Bridge Year India cohort has just arrived in their home for the next seven months.

After being placed in our homestay, our cultural immersion is accelerating at a rapid rate. We moved into our new families on the last day of Navaratri, a major Hindu festival spanning nine days having a whole host of meanings. Many of our homestay families took us to the traditional yearly dance called Garba in which we “played” Dandiya (sticks) while moving in a circle and saw performances by many of our colonies’ (what we call a neighborhood) children. The next day, some of us also experienced Dussehra, which marks the end of Ramlila, with the burning of effigies of the mythical figure Ravan. We continue to learn many cultural cues from our homestay families, including but not limited to: showering at night may be injurious to health, drinking water with dinner hurts digestion, guests are always offered water and chai upon entering, and food (even your own) is offered to others before yourself.

Seeing the diversity of our fellow peers’ families, our concept of the nuclear family has definitely been stretched. Anna’s homestay family has many adult brothers’ families living together under one roof while Fernando’s family has a grandmother as a matriarch with her sons and grandnieces. My family is very familiar: mother, father, and two siblings. But all of us see that family is fluid: brothers, sisters, aunties, and uncles are constantly filtering through, as well as family friends living in the neighborhood, for meals, to talk and play, or just a boiling cup of chai.

As we get acclimated, I can see we are beginning to get a sense the small, connected community of Udaipur City.