Elementary…

While we wait for things to process with Adam’s paperwork, I’ve been stumbling along with my Elementary Hindi textbook & workbook. I slacked… HARD… during July and most of August, but last week I dedicated to Lesson 1. This week is Lesson 2. Working through the alphabet breakdown, and then the activities, supplemented by my Anki flashcards. So, for this week..

  • Sunday: Alphabet
  • Monday: Workbook activity 1.1; conjunct consonants & nasalization
  • Tuesday: Grammar – Postpositions, Pronouns; workbook activity 2.2 & 2.3
  • Wednesday: Review
  • Thursday: Workbook activity 2.4, 2.5
  • Friday: Add in vocabulary that’s not in the textbook
  • Saturday: Review all the audio stuff again

I go through the Anki every day, which is nice because it’s a spaced repetition and so I see stuff over and over again, the things that I need to work on more often than the things I don’t. Still – I need people I can speak with, and we’ll see where I can find those. Every time someone says “Oh! I know someone who speaks Hindi!” it turns out they don’t – they speak Kannada, or Telugu, or Tamil. Everyone I seem to encounter is under the misperception that India = Hindi, which it doesn’t… so they want to pair me up to talk with their friend from Kerala, who speaks Malayalam, and not a word of Hindi.

Sigh.

While we hurry up and wait – might as well keep reading!

I finally was able to get my hands on a dead tree edition of this at a local Borders, and happily snapped it up (along with a Rough Guide: India, and Adam’s new favourite, the Pocket Ref). I had read Culture Shock! Denmark before my year abroad, and fondly remembered it — but things do change in 10 years, so I wanted to make sure this edition was updated. It was – a 2008 edition.

The author, Gitanjali Kolanad, talks about things from the perspective of having Indian heritage but growing up outside the country, allowing her a unique perspective on the culture shock (especially when she’s assumed to be a native but isn’t). The book takes time to walk you through things that you might not initially expect and could be a concern for people of all walks during their travels – friendliness, how to host a party and the way to react when your guests bring guests of their own!, economics/money (especially bartering), travel considerations, and – for the more long-term visitors – the schooling system and expectations. I was pleasantly surprised to see Woodstock listed in the boarding schools section at the back of the book (only one of 3 listed).

This book does recap material you can glean from other sources, especially with the internet out there, but it also covers material that I haven’t seen thoroughly addressed in web pages, particularly that aspect of schooling, and hosting parties/how to interact at some social events (not just dresscode, but tips on things to expect eating in different areas of the country, different religious things that may tie with meals, how someone being late and exhausted to one of your parties means that you’re on their list of ‘places to go’ – they made showings at other parties, but yours is where they ended up because they wanted to go there).

It also – very interestingly – discusses how to interact with your servants, any issues you may have, and ways to be proactive (making sure your servants see doctors if they look ill), how to behave or respond if your servants ask for a loan, etc.

This book is definitely worth a read if you’re going to be going to India. If you’re just travelling, grab it from your library – if you may be living there, consider buying a copy, then leave it behind for friends who may come visit to read! 🙂

So, riding the marketing high of this book, and after hearing VERY mixed reviews, I decided to pick it up and read it. I… was not impressed, and I don’t plan on seeing the film.

I will give the book credit where it is due – this is exactly what it is marketed as, a woman’s journey with specific focuses, in Italy, India and Bali.

This will be a difficult sort of journey for any woman to replicate – given her $200,000 advance to write the book – in the sort of economy and world we live in. It’s hard to find US $200,000 to globe-trot with, where you can indulge yourself all day by doing whatever it is you’re interested in and waving off the idea of working or having a working-holiday at the best, dealing with coming back to a career and life in your home country, etc. Gilbert at least had the right idea of when to do this, as her life was coming apart — but otherwise?

I suppose it was nothing more than a larger version of this blog (an assumption that other people care about your life, in microcosm or macrocosm) and, to me, Gilbert seemed terribly self-centred, overwhelming things with drama and finding the absolute best opportunities for story rather than trying to truly experience the countries. I read the book through because I felt it was appropriate in order to be able to understand her tripartite journey and the book as a whole, but I can’t recommend it wholeheartedly to consumers to read, or even for anyone interested in getting a glimpse of life in India or of Indian community. I recommend Holy Cow! by Sarah MacDonald much more for aspects of religious life and thought than I can recommend Eat, Pray, Love.

Retitle needed, perhaps?

At this rate, this should become “Adventures in India: if we ever make it there.”

There appears to be some diplomatic tit-for-tat going on right now between Canada and India, meaning that Adam’s getting a run-around for what paperwork he needs, where he needs to go, what he needs to do, etc. We’re in a holding pattern until another Ministry of the Indian government writes a letter with some info, and that may or may not be all that’s needed to then get the visa processed.. and hopefully he’ll get it, as someone told a family member that they’re not approving a lot of Canadians’ employment visas.

What’s happened so far is this:

  • get all the paperwork we need in order, including a letter from the Ministry of Human Resources that says they have no objection to Adam’s filing for a visa, pending approval of MoForeign Affairs and MoHome Affairs.
  • Adam goes to the consulate, who then tell him to go to the visa processing office. They then say “You can’t apply – you need two letters from Ministry of Home & Foreign affairs, as per this one from the Ministry of HR.”
  • We then have weddings to go to (namely, ours) and things to participate in (like driving across borders), so we confirm with the US visa processing place that Adam can file from the US, though he’s a Canadian citizen, etc.
  • Weddings happen, driving happens, we go to NYC to the visa processing place… and they say “Well, for an employment visa, he has to have been a resident in the US for at least two years for the New York office to process it.” Driving around isnt an option for us (to DC or further), so we confirm with Adam’s parents that they can file for his visa on his behalf – and so we overnight everything to Canada.
  • The visa office says “no, we won’t take this stuff — he has to have an interview at the consulate.”

… So, at this point, we’ve received one additional document for Adam – the letter from Home Affairs – saying “He doesn’t need anything more, just process the blasted thing”. Hopefully we’ll get that squared away soon, sending him back to Canada, and we’ll get to India before the end of September. It may take 15-20 days for his work visa to be processed, which equates to 3-4 weeks. Then mine (which hopefully will be a 1-day turn around), and then we can finally leave.

So… we wait.

Yesterday was the wine shower, which was good fun (and nice to finally MEET people I had only heard about!) and I mentioned Adam and I doing this blog (well, me more than him, but… anyway), so I suppose I’d definitely best make sure there’s content before people start getting ahold of the URL to read the previous entries…

Today we got up and Adam got the last thing he needs to file for the employment visa. He’s going to the Consulate General first, then if he has to, the visa-processing place… or we might end up driving to Ottawa to file at the High Consulate there. It’s get it done within the week in Canada, or have to do it from the US and not leave til 10 August. As stressy as it might be… I’d rather we fly out the 31st just to be DONE.

Now – I’m back to writing thank-you cards!

Yes, seriously. I finished a book in ~3 days.

Today, whilst at work with Adam, I finished Holy Cow: An Indian Adventure by Sarah Macdonald. It had been recommended a few different ways, by websites and people, so I decided to pick it up. Initially I was skeptical — it seemed like it was going to be a case of “Wow! Look at me, I cover religion while my husband is off doing things”. I wasn’t entirely sure what to think of it, and almost put it down within the first 50 pages. Still – I decided to wade through it, and I am glad I did. Sarah’s growth about the realities of India as well as the different religions are portrayed honestly, realistically, and respectfully — and while I have to raise my eyebrows at some of the situations, and wonder exactly how much of it is conflated together for a better piece of writing — it was a good, solid read.

The basic premise is that Sarah’s fiancé Jonathan gets a job in India, and she tags along. He’s working for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, and she’s unemployed (a situation I’ll be able to empathize with), and so she ends up exploring and examining religion in India while he’s off covering different things for the ABC. Her religious journey isn’t a deliberate search for something, but a curiosity and occasional push from one of the domestic servants she has (a reality for anyone who is middle-class or higher) or a friend. Her portrayals are believable, though I can only raise an eyebrow at some situations, but I have no doubt I’ll truly be able to gauge things when I get to India rather than be the skeptic who hasn’t been there… yet.

I definitely strongly recommend reading this, if you’re curious about religion or Indian culture, and particularly if you plan on moving to India.

Today while waiting for my passport card to be processed, I finished reading Dreaming in Hindi by Katherine Russell Rich. This is a great book — but it is not for everyone. If you’re looking for fluffy summer reading and think that a title like “Dreaming in Hindi” is a beach-book about travel, love, and fluffy bunnies, you’ll be disappointed. Rich takes a unique twist on the travelogue/memoir by combining it with an exploration of adult second language learning, looking at learning a second language — and the people you learn that second language with.

I thoroughly enjoyed it, empathizing in my own way with certain circumstances, and taking her unabashed honesty about conflicts (within herself, between her colleagues and classmates, and within various parts of the Indian population), biases, and experiences, both positive and negative. This book gave me ideas – places to go, things to consider doing, and gave me some insight into ways to look at the experience, and what to _do_ with it.

Hurry up and wait

We’re in a bit of a panic now… still waiting on some paperwork from India for Adam before he can apply for his visa, and he needs his done before I can apply for mine. We’re at <  20 days now before scheduled departure date, and I genuinely can’t afford to go to Canada and possibly lose valuable days I _could_ be getting the visa processed–and I also can’t just hop on a train into NYC from Canada like I could from CT. This is where my desire to have my ducks all in a row is foiled, and I start going absolutely bonkers.

In other news, my Hindi is sloooooooooooooowly coming along. I can construct such gems as या कया लाल कमल है? (“is that a/the red lotus?” … I think.) It keeps my mind off of the stress of waiting for the immigration updates, which I desperately need right now.

Tip: Plan your trip further in advance than 6 weeks so you can avoid this type of situation. 😉

Resources for India

Whether you’re curious about India, trying to get a feel for the place before moving, or interested simply in expanding your horizons, it can be difficult to weed through the data and find the useful things. Here’s my list of what I’ve found useful:

Recommended Reading

  • Wanderlust and Lipstick: For Women Traveling to India (Beth Whitman, Amy Scott and Elizabeth Haidle): A quick but useful read for packing, culture notes and experiences from the view of the single female traveler.
  • Dreaming in Hindi (Katherine Russell Rich): A woman’s trip to India to learn the language, and a review of her year not just from a cultural-lessons view, but also a linguistic view of learning a second language as an adult.
  • Culture Smart! India (Nicki Grihault)
  • Culture Shock! India (Gitanjali Kolanad)

Recommended Websites

  • IndiaMike Great resource for all things India from people in-country as well as frequent travellers who may be out-country at the time. Packing lists, “Only In India” experiences, travel suggestions, meetups and more.
  • The Hindu An English-language newspaper based out of Chennai, with 12 other printing cent(re)(er)s.
  • Times of India
  • Hindustani Times
  • WIKIPEDIA! – Wherever you’re going, you can find a close/local town and get some information.

Language Learning Resources

Hindi

English is one of India’s official languages, and the more inclined you are to interact with people who communicate with tourists, the less likely you’ll genuinely need to learn Hindi or one of the other languages. Hindi is most used in the Northern segment of the country, so it’s a good idea to pick up some if you’ll be in the area of Delhi or north. Southwards and Eastern is a greater variety of language options (Bengali, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam….).

  • University of Texas at Austin’s free first-year Hindi textbooks
  • A Primer of Modern Standard Hindi (Michael C Shapiro) *great for linguistic details – it doesn’t give you sentences like “Where is the train station”, but talks about noun formation, subjunctive case, etc. If you’re serious about learning Hindi, track this down and buy it.
  • Elementary Hindi (Richard Delancy) *I am in love with this as a textbook – introduces Devanagari in phases and gives you words which utilize the structures you’ve just learned. Hardcover edition only at this time, but it includes an audio (a critical! aspect) CD and a separately-purchasable workbook. I 100% recommend this for anyone considering active study of Hindi.

I’ve started reading some of the online editions of local newspapers for our move to India. There are some English-language newspapers published online (The Hindu, Times of India, Hindustan Times, and the Garhwal Post) and I’ve been getting their RSS feeds sent to my Google RSS reader. A handful of words, obviously Hindi words simply transliterated, keep coming up – even in the English language edition of the paper. I wasn’t sure I could quite get them in context, so I did a little dictionary searching…

बांध (bandh): strike

खाप पंचायत  (khap panchaya)t: geographical local village “elder council”

गोत्र (gotra): clan

The current major issues in India seem to be a bunch of strikes, often ‘sponsored’ by a particular political party, and discussions about “(dis)honour kilings” and whether or not gotra is relevant to the decision to commit one, and whether the khap panchaya are supporting them or not. Here’s an article from the Times of India where you can read about the gotra/khap issue, and  here’s one from The Hindu about the bandhs. There are a lot of other things going on, but the great majority of articles I see seem to involve these two subjects.

Of course, there are breaks for what Bollywood (or cricket) star is seeing whom, but they don’t have many transliterated Hindi words.

-Darcey