Bombay

Hi friends and family!

As you know, I’ve been in Bombay for the last few days spending time with some lovely family friends. They run the magazine Sanctuary Asia, and are basically an incredible, tiger-saving, nature-loving extended family with three adorable grandsons who I get to hang out with.

Over the last few days I’ve gone to the Sanctuary Wildlife Awards (held annually), compared my journeys around the city to what I remember from being here seven years ago, eaten DELICIOUS food (I promise to post pictures soon), watched a Bollywood film, and… met the great great grandson of Charles Darwin and drank red wine, listened to him play classical Indian rajas and Christmas carols on the violin, and talked about radical politics. (WHAT?!?! – that was probably the best evening yet.)

Bombay is a beautiful city. I eat bananas here and don’t feel so guilty because they haven’t been transported halfway around the world, and this evening I am going on a bus tour with some eight-year-old boys. But Bombay also has some of the largest slums in the world, and is so polluted and crowded that The Guardian says that “Mumbai is on the verge of imploding.” Kya? What I see is a city in desperate need of creative, revolutionary urban planning. My friend Bittu has thought of so many ideas to make Bombay greener, more open, and more equitable.

After all, according to The Guardian Bombay used to be India’s urban showpiece. There’s still some green space left, and Chowpatty Beach and the views of the Arabian Sea are breathtaking, when you can see it through the smog. The mix of British colonial and modern Indian architecture is interesting and often beautiful.

But my friends are not always optimistic about the future of their city, or of India. A toxic mix of industrial power, corruption, bureaucracy, and exploding population is hard to deal with all at once.


I’ll post more in the coming days! For now I’ll leave you with a crazy thought (maybe only crazy for me) – I’ll be back in the States in 12 days.

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A view of Bombay. Yes, there really is that much smog.

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Everest

I have officially left Bhutan and have been in India for about two days. My apologies for the lack of posts – the last week in Bhutan was mostly in transit, and surprisingly there was less reliable wifi in Thimphu than there had been at UWICE.

I think the only thing that could have distracted me from the pain of leaving Bhutan is… seeing Mount Everest up close on the plane ride from Paro to New Delhi!

Everest is in both pictures below, but more identifiably in the second one.

Enjoy, I promise more posts will come soon!

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Hindi

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During my freshman year of college I decided to take Hindi I at the Five College Center for the Study of World Languages. I have traveled to India several times because I have good friends there who work on wildlife conservation and environmental education. They live in Mumbai, and I have also travelled to several tiger reserves in the northern part of the country – Ranthambhore, Sariska, and Corbett.

India is almost impossible to describe, especially to Westerners who have never been to Asia. It’s a beautiful and overwhelming country. So I’m going to cut myself short and not even try to describe it, and save all of us my awkward non-articulation. Maybe I’ll try again in December, when I’m actually there.

Long story short, I have had amazing experiences there, so I wanted to learn Hindi. One of the craziest coincidences was that my freshman year roommate also wanted to. She is interested in Buddhism and wants to learn Sanskrit, but Sanskrit is not taught at the Five Colleges, so we decided to enroll in Hindi I together.

This was not your normal language class. We attended two classes per week, with two different instructors. The first was a conversation class, where we learned vocabulary, practiced basic conversational phrases, learned etiquette, and listened to lots of Bollywood music. There were only two of us in the class (a third person dropped out after the first week)! The second was a homework class, which was held individually with a tutor, to go over the week’s homework and talk about the nitty gritty of writing, pronunciation, and grammar.

Overall it was a wonderful experience and I learned a considerable amount of Hindi in those four months. I hope to take Hindi II when I have more time, maybe during my last year at Mount Holyoke.

If you speak Hindi or would like to hear a little Hindi, please let me know! I would love to talk to you and get some practice.

(Also fun fact, linguistically Hindi is basically the same language as Urdu, but they are written in different scripts and Hindi uses more Sanskrit words. So it’s incredible how many people you can speak to if you learn/know Hindi!)

As with my post about Dzongkha, I’m going to close by including a few useful phrases in Hindi.

  • Hello नमस्ते namastē
  • How are you? आप कैसे/कैसी हैं? āp kaisē/kaisī haĩ?
  • What is your name? आपका नाम क्या है? āpkā nām kyā hai?
  • My name is ___ . मेरा नाम ___ है। mērā nām ___ hai.
  • Where are you from? आप कहाँ से हैं? āp kahā̃ sē haĩ?
  • Thank you धन्यवाद / शुक्रिया dhanyavād/śukriyā (Hindustani/Urdu)