Each morning I’m awakened by the traffic right outside my flat—engines revving up, go-cart-sounding scooters/motorcycles breezing down the road, horns blowing endlessly, and the hum of bummer to bummer traffic. I must say, it helps drag me out of bed in the morning. I commute to work with my roommates, Chloe from London and Sharon from Canada, and we split the fare – roughly $2 one way. It amazes me how we continuously (but often begrudingly) place our trust in the auto drivers after arguing over 10-30 rupees difference in price. They drive defensively like they’re competing in a live game of Tetris; it’s a game of understood chaos I guess. Hardly any traffic rules apply here. Crossing the road is probably the only time I feel unsafe here. The key to understanding their honking is: if they see you they’re responsible to dodge you, and if you don’t see them they will not hit you, guaranteed. So, the danger is when you see each other, that’s when you can get hit or scraped by an auto flying by.
The commute allows us to observe others in their daily routines. From the auto seat we watch dozens of children walk to school in their adorable uniforms, tethered together as they make their way through the scary traffic. Hundreds of businesses line the sides of the streets and the back alleys selling produce, jasmine flowers for women’s hair (it smells like gardenia!), and knickknacks of all sorts. Everyone’s trying to make a rupee to survive. The whole city is plastered with advertisements as if it has been dipped in glue and paper mached; and, the walls are painted with scenery and inspirational quotes. We pass a river that reeks of human excrement and I don’t understand why it’s so stagnant, but I’ve heard the monsoon season will clean it out. There are SO many weird smells here – but I’ll spare you from description since it would require more references to human excrement! ha! We arrive with windblown hair ready to begin our day with devotions. Here’s a rough schedule of the day:
9:00-9:30 Personal Devotion
9:30-10:00 Group Devotion
10:00-1:00 Work / Cup of chai
3:00-4:00 Scheduled power outage / Meetings / Second cup of chai
4:00-6:00 Work / Commute home
It’s IJM policy to have personal devotion and group devotion every morning. Ever heard of such an organization? I haven’t. They recognize personal/group devotion as the ultimate buffer against vicarious trauma and burnout but they also provide Staff Care from external psychologists. I’ve already been through a workshop on vicarious trauma and a training on Critical Incident Stress Debriefing since I’ve been here so they’re steadily growing in the area of Staff Care.
We can’t live without our tea in this office! Chai’s available on every corner in the city but there’s a wonderful guy to makes it for us everyday in the office. Oh so delicious. No matter how hot it is outside (or in the office!) you still drink the tea. Funny as it sounds – we have a scheduled power outage everyday; if it doesn’t go off it’s a bit shocking. Goes to show just how many people live here – about 8 million in this city alone. There isn’t enough electricity for the whole city to continuously function at one time so every business loses power for an hour a day. The same is true for my flat. They don’t want you to run your AC all day and waste precious power. My writing skills fail me in bringing you onto the scene of everyday life, but maybe it will provide a glimpse of the city. 😉