Tuesday, 5 April 2016

A week at Mamta’s

I have been in India for two months now. Two months already! I can’t believe it… There is much to say, many stories I would like tell. It took a long time for me to decide what I really wanted to talk about. I finally decided to tell you about my first week here and, more precisely, where I spend this very first week.

As every new interns, I had to start my internship with EduCARE in Gajner, Rajasthan to do my Induction. They told me I would spend the week in a homestay. What an exciting perspective! A bit scary too. I mean, spending my first week in India with a family I don’t know, with a completely different culture and who probably doesn’t speak English… it sounds challenging! I was afraid to not be able to understand them or to do something inappropriate or awkward. Well it finally turned out to be one of the coolest experiences I had so far in India.

I arrived at night in Gajner and the COM team directly brought me and two other interns, Costanza and Kelly at the homestay to spend the night. There I met Mamta, 17 years old, her younger brother, Anand, her mother and her father. She also had an older sister and older brother but they did not live in the house anymore.

Well, for sure the first moments were a bit… awkward. It was the first time they hosted foreigners and they seemed at least as uncomfortable as us. We spent our dinner basically looking at each other, smiling, and practicing the famous Indian head-wiggling (a right-left nodding that can mean ‘yes’, ‘I got it’, ‘thank you’ and ‘you’re very welcome’ all at the same time). Thankfully, the kids spoke some English and we tried to have some pretty limited conversations.

The day after, we learned some Hindi words, from other interns and from the kids around. At night, I was ready, my notebook in hand, to try out my first Hindi words! After having said ‘Aap kaise ho?’ (How are you?) and ‘Khanaa barut achcha hai’ (the food is very good), I was done… Still limited but it was a first step!

Kelly and me with Mamta's family

And day by day, by playing games, watching Punjabi video clips together, speaking some words of English and some words of Hindi, doing a lot of mimes, and having a lot of fun, we created a very nice relationship with the family. We showed them pictures of our family members and they proudly showed us the wedding book of the older sister. Mamta taught us how to make chapattis (I still have some work to do in this matter…) and Kelly taught her how to do pushups (I learned at the same time).

But what I will not forget is the last day we spent at Mamta’s. We came back for lunch and at home were only Mamta and her Mum. I don’t really remember how it started but Mamta’s mum ended up making us try her most beautiful saris and bangles. So much fun! After the picture session, Mamta even sacrificed her hands for my first try of henna. It turned up by being a complete disaster but she smiled and said that it was not so bad for a beginner… Hum… Sweet girl!

Drawing with henna

My first disaster with henna

Saying goodbye was pretty hard, much harder than I expected, to be honest. It was definitely a great experience.

I have been working in Harike, Punjab for two month now. My henna skills have improved a lot and now my chapattis are (almost) round. I am still in contact with the family via WhatsApp. I haven’t had the opportunity to see them again but when I come back to Gajner, I definitely know who I will take my first chai with.

Big up to Mamta and her family, the sweetest ever! I will not forget!

Trying on some beautiful saris 

Sacha Belle-Clot; France
Finance Coordinator and Microfinance Project Manager in Harike

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