ALL CHAI ALL TIME
By Jennifer Y
Chai oh chai. In India we will start and end our day with a cup of chai... and have several more cups in between. Aside from being a delicious drink (a blend of black tea, milk, cardimum and sometimes ginger), having chai has become a sort of symbol for comfort. In a place where we are constantly exploring, seeing, thinking, questioning, discovering a new side of India every day, having chai with the group becomes a feeling of familiarity--whether it's gathering around the table in the morning at Shivani's house, or at a tea stall down a narrow side street, where monkeys lie in wait (to ambush). Drinking chai is a reminder in the day to calmly reengage myself with my present environment and traveling companions. With that in mind, here's a glimpse of a day in the life of an Arugamama in Jaipur....
I wake up to the beckoning chime of prayer bells and people singing morning mantras at the Jain temple that is literally just beyond the window of my room. My family follows the Digambar Jain tradition, which I have been learning more about through temple visits, speakers, different books, and of course through conversation with my family.
If I'm alive enough by 6am, I will get up to go to yoga. Otherwise I get up an hour later. I eat cereal with fresh cow's milk, and some oranges... my father insists on me taking five more for the road.
Then I hit the roads of Shyam Nagar; a labyrinth of paths and parks and twists and turns. Even at this hour the streets are alive with motorcycles, cow-crossings, people gently sweeping the street, rickshaws carrying school kids, shopkeepers getting ready for a day of selling paan, and women in colourful dress, walking to the jingle-jangle of their bangles.
I walk to Shivani's home for an hour of learning Hindi, which is such a graceful and intricate language. This is followed by either an outing to a workshop (Lac Jewelry, for example!) or a speaker. We might be given an introduction to Islam... or ponder the eight limbs of yoga discussed by Shivani... or we might make our way to the rooftop at mid-morning, where Guru "Naw 'MA Stay", aka Ellie, leads a practice of full body relaxation as we bring our minds to understanding Bhakti. In Jaipur, I've noticed a recurring theme: "there is no end to knowledge," as said by both a speaker on Hinduism and my homestay brother, Kiwi. This is especially true as we are saturated with so much new information, so many new perspectives from so many amazing people.
At lunch time we will be enjoying dishes at spots such as the Indian Coffee House, laughing about something or other and refusing chili peppers from Peter, who is insisting to "try this! This one is real nice. Real good."
After lunch is our time to split up and head to the ISP via rickshaw, where Amanda and I spend three hilariously amusing hours of learning tabla and sitar in the home of Indian musicians. (This in itself is a whole other entry.)
It's evening at this point, and if the group isn't visiting shrines for Shiva or temples for Krishna ("We're on a rickshaw... going temple hopping, man!"), we return to our homestays. This is when I get the chance to really explore culture through watching cricket with my homestay or conversation with my brothers, as we ask each other about differences as well as similarities between life in the West and life here. It's during these talks that I realize how I really am a product of a nation, in my case, Canada. But I feel like through my experiences here this is slowly dissolving, as we continue to simultaneously saturate ourselves with India and SQUEEZE ALL JUICE ALL TIME.
I love Jaipur a little more with each passing day, and I'm a liiittle bummed our stay here is coming to an end. I could definitely live here, for a while at least. We have so much ahead of us... let's see what Dharamsala will materialize-- or maybe dematerialize...
It's getting late now, I think I will head back home, unwind to another cup of chai. I will I fall asleep to my family members belting Bollywood ballads and distant temple singing.