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Asia India

Big Fat Punjabi Wedding

I met Happie over the summer quite accidentally. A group of Americans plopped down in the middle of my “not so foreigner filled” city (Chandigarh, for anyone not paying attention) for an intensive Punjabi language course. Most of these were college students on scholarship. They only stayed 8 weeks. At the end of their course, I hosted a girl, Morgan, since her sponsored housing had run out. It was through her that I met Happie, the Punjabi language teacher of the course. She was just as her name might imply- happy, cute, and fun.

So in late November, I woke up early in the morning and caught a 6am bus to Faridkot, a town in Punjabi near the Pakistani boarder. If you haven’t heard of it, no worries, I couldn’t even pronounce it correctly when I got to the bus station. Four hours later, Happie’s brother picked me up and drove me to her house, a two-story farmhouse. I met some of Happie’s friends from college, friends from Faridkot, and her family. Then the craziness of all the activities began.

Day 1:
Morning: Happie showed me some of her engagement photos with her future husband (they both looked really beautiful, like Bollywood stars or something). She said she had deferred taking more photos until after the wedding because she didn’t feel comfortable with him yet. It was interesting to me how completely calm she was. She had only met him once before (he lives in Canada; she’d been skyping with him for almost a year) but only once very calmly said, “I’m a bit nervous. I don’t really know him.” This seemed to fall in stark contrast to my American friend who recently married her boyfriend of four years (whom she lives with) and was a wreck of nerves before her wedding.

Afternoon: Mehndi (henna) session on Happie’s patio consisting of Happie’s friend and two other girls doing everyone’s mehndi while we drank chai and chatted. Since I had broken my arm three days prior, I only got mehndi on one hand. Happie, as the bride, had incredibly elaborate designs. Her friend produced some eeriously impressive artwork on both her hands and feet. I was sort of jealous of how ornate her mehndi was that I briefly contemplated marrying some random Punjabi man just so he could get a green card and I could have pretty mehndi on my wedding day.Mehndi Wedding

Mehndi Wedding

Ultimately, I decided a lifetime of marriage wasn’t worth a day of pretty hands and feet. But the mehndi session was quite fun.

Mehndi Wedding

Early Evening: The photographer took photos of all the girls out in the field.

Punjabi Wedding

Punjabi Wedding

Some of the older women had gathered in the same patio area and were singing together (then one woman would come forward and sing a line or two by herself while everyone kept clapping). Someone explained to me they were singing “marriage advice” to Happie but funny advice. I think an English equivalent would be something like, “Sure you’ll love marriage when you’re on the beach on your honeymoon but just wait until five years of cleaning up his toenail clippings.” (No one said this specifically in Punjabi but I think that was the kind of advice being given). All in good jest, of course.

Evening: I changed into one of my “suits” and met some more of Happie’s friends from Faridkot. We talked inside for awhile before walking around to the back of her house where a large fancy tent was set up, fully furnished with a buffet-style bar, dance floor, speakers, and DJ. We ate and then started dancing.
Everyone danced, even the oldest women (actually, they were the ones who would make you stand up again if you sat down). Some of the older men would throw stacks of ten rupee notes into the air and then hired help would scurry around people’s feet collecting the notes. Then, they started firing guns out in the farm. Punjabi Wedding

Punjabi Wedding

Punjabi Wedding

Punjabi Wedding

Night: Close to midnight, the family decided to do a tradition (I don’t know the name) in which they cover the bride in turmeric. Turmeric is related to ginger and is usually found as a bright yellow powder. Traditionally, it is used by Indian brides before the wedding to make their skin take on a golden glow. That night we all gathered around Happie on the patio and took turns rubbing a turmeric paste on her face and putting a little oil in her hair. I think this tradition was supposed to be done at 4am before the wedding but I guess since everyone was already at the house, doing it around midnight worked better.

Punjabi Wedding

I’ve actually used turmeric paste before. It’s good for psoriasis but stains your skin yellow. Apparently it looks much better on the ‘wheatish’ Indian complexion than on Caucasian skin. While Happie looked beautiful after her turmeric treatment, I never developed the “golden glow”, just an awkward Simpsons’ yellow.

Punjabi Wedding
Happie all cleaned up

Night continued: It was fun seeing everyone getting ready for bed. Mattresses covered almost every inch of the foyer area for all the male relatives to sleep. I shared a room with Happie’s two friends from college. Everyone just piled into her house and slept there. None of that hotel and privacy nonsense we Americans “need.”

Day 2:

Punjabi Wedding

Morning: Breakfast parathas! My favorite part of Punjab. A bit like pancakes, parathas are made from wheat flour and stuffed with vegetables (potato, onion, cauliflower, radish, etc..). They are fried and one eats them with dahi (curd, plain yogurt).

Then I started getting ready. From Happie’s house we drove down the road to a very large event center where Happie was in the middle of a photoshoot looking totally fabulous. Indian brides typically wear bright colors (red most traditionally but I’ve also seen orange, yellow, and pink). Seeing Happie all dolled up, I developed Indian wedding envy again and started rethinking my potential random Punjabi green card marriage ever-so-slightly.

Punjabi Wedding

Afternoon: The groom’s family arrived at the event center. The bride’s family had a long ribbon blocking them from entering the premises. The groom bargained with her friends and female cousin. In order to “get to” the bride, he must agree to pay a price to the sister/young female relative. I don’t know how much he agreed to pay. I know they started off with $1,000 but came down to something reasonable pretty quickly.

Then we all drove to the Gurdwara (Sikh place of worship) for the marriage ceremony. Happie’s cousin stayed with me to make sure I didn’t embarrass myself. We left our shoes outside and covered our heads, walked in, knelt before the alter, put some money in the donation box, and moved to the side. I was pretty happy about the “moving to the side” bit because the fancy leggings that came with my dress were much too large. This could be solved by tying them tightly, but with a broken arm, I couldn’t tie them properly. Lest, I spent most of the ceremony worried about keeping my pants on. The cousin came to my rescue after and tied them properly for me in the bathroom.

The religious ceremony was short and sweet, about the same length as a typical Protestant wedding ceremony. Some words were read in Punjabi, and Happie’s finance lead her around the alter with a piece of orange fabric four times.

Punjabi Wedding

Late Afternoon: Punjabi WeddingWe returned to the event center. The entire area was decorated with nice chairs, couches, tables, and decorations. There was a stage with music and a large buffet area in the back. I’m guessing around 500 people had attended. Happie and her new husband sat on the stage as the guests lined up to say congratulations and give them money as a present. After a few hours, I went inside with some of her friends were there was another buffet. Happie ate with the groom’s family.

Send Off: Even though Happie won’t be moving to Canada for a few more months, the symbolism in Indian weddings (and American weddings) can be a bit overwhelming. Just like how in the US our Dad’s walk down the aisle and “give” their daughters to the grooms, symbolizing a departure from daddy to hubby, Indian weddings do something similar. In Happie’s case, she symbolically left her family and got in a car with the groom’s family and drove off. She gets slightly teary-eyed during this process, understandably.  Also during this time, older uncles were again throwing handfuls of money on the couple and on the car. In this case, the hired help even climbed on the car the collect the rupees.

Punjabi Wedding

Evening: Happie’s friend, Aman, invited me to her house for the evening. I met her family and she took me into Faridkot to the main Gurdwara.

Punjabi Wedding
Aman looking pretty and me looking awkward with my cast

Overall, it was a really wonderful experience. Unfortunately, there was a bit of a language barrier between me and most of Happie’s family/guests. Despite that, her family went out of their way to involve me and get to know me. I really enjoyed just observing the craziness and excitement in her house. Also, her friends all spoke English and explained some of the traditions as well as just chatted with me casually. In all, it was by far one of my favorite weekends in India.

Punjabi Wedding

*Professional Photos taken by Piyush Bedi

Asia India

12 Days of Christmas in Varanasi

I didn’t spend 12 days in Varanasi, only 3. But it was a pretty amazing place; one of my favorites in India for sure. I mostly just wandered around taking photos. I wanted to post the photos of “daily life” in the religious city. It’s probably the pain killers, but I decided writing about Varanasi would be more fun to the tune of “Twelve Days of Christmas.” So bare with me….

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me:

12) Twelve Boats a Floating


Obviously not just 12. Many, many more than twelve. The evening Aarti at Dashashwamedh Ghat is attended by thousands. We were on the boat and could barely see through all the boats. Then another crowd comes by foot and observes from the ghat. The Aarti is performed by seven priests who commit to the Lord Shiva, Mata Gange, Surya, Agni (Fire), as well as the whole universe made by the Lord Shiva.

11) Eleven Birds a Flying


Early morning on the Ganges, a man feeds the birds.

10) Ten Bags of Laundry


People use the Ganges for everything, include laundry. These men wash clothes on these boards, undeterred from their extremely close proximity to a small burning ghat (area on the river where bodies are burnt)

9) Nine Bathers Bathing


The Ganges is probably most famous for its bathers. Changing rooms dot the ghats. The river is considered sacred and the water is used in rituals and for purification. (I’m counting the two bathers further up on the ghats to get to the #9).

8) Eight Players Playing


I can’t tell you how many times I saw kids playing cricket along the river. One guy even let me play catch with him briefly.

7) Seven Priests at Aarti

Varanasi Aarti

Aarti is performed in the evening as well as the morning. My first day in Varanasi I woke up at 4:45am in order to see the morning ritual, and I’m glad I did. The ritual was much more impressive up close.

6) Six Vendors Selling

Varanasi Vendors

Markets. Markets everywhere.

5) Five Holy Cows

Cows India

Cows are considered God-like in India. Beef and cow-killing is banned in many areas. Cows generally roam the streets (including walking with the cars). Here are some just sunning on the ghat.

4) Four Sleeping Sadhus

Varanasi Sadhus

Sahus are religious ascetics/holy men. Their divinity is shown through their departure from material wealth and mainstream society in order to focus on the divine. They spend most of their time contemplating Brahman and meditating.

3) Three Scared Goats


Goats can also frequently be found wandering the city. Like foreign tourists, the goats have similar trouble crossing the busy streets. This morning, a mother goat and her two kids took off during a brief lull in the cars and bikes. Only one kid made it to the other side. The other freaked out and ran back to the starting point. In a moment of true humanity, one of the vendors picked up the baby goat and walked it across the road back to its mother.

IMG_6019      IMG_6020

2) Two Vendor Kids

Varanasi Vendors

These two kids paddled their boat along the Ganges to sell flowers to tourists and pilgrims for 10 rupees for a little cup (15 cents). People place flowers in the water as an offering.

1) And an Elephant by a Palm Tree


This morning I wandered around the old city, including the parts not frequented by tourists. One of my favorite things about the little alleys was how decorated the doorways and walls could be, often with little elephants or flowers.


Asia India

Indian Healthcare

Dealing with a broken bone anywhere, I’m guessing, isn’t very fun for anyone who isn’t a masochist. Mostly, I’m considering the broken bone in India a general blessing as opposed to the Untied States. To date, I’ve only spent about $130 total on: 3 doctors visits, 6 X-rays, pain killers/other medication, a sling, a cast, and the removal of said cast. Not bad at all in my opinion.

Arm Update:

Today I was less than thrilled with my hospital experience. I don’t have any complaints about the actual doctor. He’s been fine (though very persistent that just putting a cast on me and not performing surgery was a medically sound practice and insisting all American doctors would have performed surgery). I like the doctor. I was really excited to get my cast off today.

UNTIL I saw the cast removal device. It was literally just a saw. And the person in charge of sawing it was not my doctor. I had no idea what his credentials were. He definitely couldn’t speak English. So, first he picks up the scary saw, plugs it in the wall, revs up the drill, and immediately walks too far from the wall and the plug rips out. This does not inspire much confidence.

It’s then I realize the device is literally held together with duct tape.

Indian Hospital
Not pictured: the duct tape between the butt of the saw and the cord

Indian Hospital

He tries plugging it back in with no luck. The other two sockets don’t work either. It takes three men to find another saw and plug it in. They start sawing and I’m terrified my arm is going to get chopped off. He is pushing down really hard on the cast until the saw goes through and starts cutting into my skin and I jerk away. Not speaking English, the guy very lightly touches his finger to the blade to show me it won’t cut me. He then proceeds to jab the blade through the cast and deep into my skin some more. At this point I’m physically pushing the second man (whose job was to keep my arm still) away.

A woman comes over and tells me it won’t cut me, its just vibrating. I tell her its hurting a lot and they all just proceed to let the man saw some more. Eventually he just cuts it off with scissors and I can see the mark on my skin and a bit of blood.

Indian Hospital
Doesn’t look so bad here since I put on the gauze to prevent it from infection

The cut wasn’t that deep, a bit like a cat scratch, but I expect more from a hospital. After my X-Rays I went back to the doctor who was absolutely horrified to see the cuts. I didn’t bring it up at all. He just took one look  and told me “that’s not supposed to happen,” and said he should have cut it off himself. He apologized a number of times. They aren’t so deep but it means I can’t wear the temporary cast for support until the cuts heal.

I didn’t realize how much more my wrist would hurt now that the cast is gone. I still can’t work out so I’ve gained like 5-10 pounds this month and feel absolutely giant. Luckily I have a maid do my dishes 3x a week for 100 rupees ($1.50) but I still feel bad making her do them. Then Rohit cooks for me. So really, besides the being fat thing, its not the worst existence. I’m going to try to do an hour to two hours of simple walking everyday until I can go back to the gym.

Other Interesting Differences in the Hospital:

  1. In India, the problem with sex selective abortion led to a disproportionate number of males to females, especially in the northern regions. In Haryana, where I worked last year, those numbers were visible in the data we had (though this data was less than ideal). Something like 92 girls to every 100 boys. In 1994, India banned sex-determination during pregnancy. Parents find out the “old-fashioned way” whether or not their baby is male or female. Multiple signs have been hung around the hospital explaining this. Indian Hospital
  2. During one of my hospital visits, two Buddhist monks were waiting with me for the doctor.
  3. When I went into the little room to get my X-Rays some guy was sitting in the chair eating his lunch by the machine. Also, out of 3 incidents of X-Rays, they only had me wear protective gear on one batch.
  4. It’s just too cheap. I paid 500 rupees ($7.60) per visit and 300 rupees for 2 X-rays ($4.55) and that’s at a private hospital. While I didn’t appreciate the arm slicing, it was worth saving hundreds of dollars.

This, of course, is my private hospital experience. Government hospitals are even cheaper and, according to the people I’ve talked to here, quite good. The problem is overcrowding. People will wait in line for hours to be seen. According to the few people in India I’ve discussed this with, the ideal is to know someone at a government hospital who can get you in and get you a bed. Otherwise you have to pay more or wait. I can’t even imagine how healthcare is being affected by demonetization and what that means for people without bank accounts.





“Pre-conception and Prenatal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act”

Asia India

Full Circle: One Year in India

One year and one week ago today, I stumbled sleep-deprived out of my plane and navigated my first 24 hours in India. It consisted of walking out of the Delhi airport into a cloud of polluted heat and finding out from my IIC-sponsored taxi at 2:30 in the morning that I did not, in fact, have my own hotel room for the first two weeks of training in Delhi, but I actually would have a roommate. Something IIC failed to notify me about. I then met said roommate (Priya) when I entered the hotel at 3am (luckily she was awake and we had a nice chat), slept for literally two hours, and then woke up for training. I remember really enjoying the two first weeks (mostly because I liked the hotel and my colleagues and India thus far). I also remember sitting in my room thinking about what things would be like a year from now.

I predicted that our project would run seamlessly. I envisioned myself succeeding brilliantly in the work, hopefully getting a job with MDSF or BCG, and being in the works of moving somewhere new. Everything would line up just right. I’d go to Rachel’s wedding, get a new visa, and be off somewhere exotic like South Africa. The only thing I was nervous about was living in Chandigarh. It sounded boring.

Needless to say literally none of that happened. Yesterday I finished my final presentation for my year-long project in India. The project was okay. I can’t stress how much I do not want to work with MSDF or BCG. Not that I am harboring negative feelings for the organizations, I just simply don’t want to pursue that line of work anymore. And to top off how bad I am at playing Ms. Cleo, I’m also staying in India. In Chandigarh, for that matter. Who would have thought?

I originally wrote a post attempting to articulate the top 5 things I’ve learned from living here. It was vomit-worthy. Entirely too sentimental. Not the type of writing I pride myself on. I’m not really a big fan of blogs where people talk about how much they have grown through traveling. Honestly, I generally sort of roll my eyes because I don’t like publicly talking about my feelings and it seems a bit self-indulgent. Like, really, a sunset in Spain made you feel like a more complete person? But I shouldn’t judge. Sunsets in Spain are pretty spectacular (so I assume). I’ll summarize the warm-fuzzies blog by saying that it’s made me rethink work culture, sex & dating, friendship, family, the meaning of “innovation,” and why/how people travel. But I’m not going to elaborate on those things on a blog. Instead, I’m going to share some anecdotes and some “very Indian” photos from the last year:


  • I recently return from Croatia and I am showing Rohit the three dresses I bought:
    Me: “So, I went in Mango in this nice mall in Zagreb and saw this beautiful red dress but they didn’t have it in my size. So I went to another mall and found it but then I liked it in green and purple too so I bought all of them. And, guess what? I got all three for the price of one!”
    Rohit: “How? By Bargaining?”
  • Priya is in the kitchen with her maid and a monkey jumps on her balcony, runs into the kitchen, opens the refrigerator door, takes out a package, and runs out again.
    Priya’s Maid: Did, what do you do about monkeys in America?
  • In a fancy hotel in Delhi the phone rings in the room. Kathy answers it.
    Kathy: “yes?”
    Kathy: “What?”
    Kathy: “….They are….very good?” *hangs up*
    Us: What was that about?
    Kathy: I think they called asking me for feedback on the hotel slippers….
  • After a conversation about the power of the dollar versus the rupee, I was trying to explain that there is begging in the US but not as much as in India. I was telling my friend here (who is a doctor) that you never see children begging and adults are begging primarily in the urban centers.
    Her: “Oh….Do they pay in dollars?”
  • It’s monsoon season. It literally has rained everyday for the entire summer. Today, Rohit looked out my window and said, “Oh! It’s raining!” and then ran screaming “bluhblahlalalala” through my house and out the door.
  • On the train from Chandigarh to Delhi, after getting our snacks and waiting for our ice cream, a man walked down the aisle handing out instant oatmeal. No hot water, no bowls, just the oatmeal packages.
  • Me: “I went tanning this morning.”
    Rohit: “How? The sun wasn’t working today.”

Now, some photos for your amusement:

The most efficient sink


(2) Vroom
Monkeys everywhere stealing your stuff


bathroms India
Entering a creepy underground public toilet with a snoozing bathroom attendant


India Photos
Tourists flocked for photos


Indian School Bus
School bus walla (3)


Indian Innovation
This is just smart (4)
Child Labor India
Outside of KFC in Chandigarh


India Streets
This is pretty common (1)


Photo References:




Asia India

A Day in the Life Playing Pokemon Go Indian Style

And they say it’s only available in the US. As if the Indians, masters of technology, wouldn’t be able to have it before it’s officially released.

I jumped on the bandwagon a few glorious days ago. Here’s 24 hours in my Indian Pokemon Go life:

Wednesday 5pm (Monsoon Season):

I get data in the market from the uncle who I always get data from. I just walk in and he says, “Airtel 3G?” and I say “Haanji, 295rupees (~$4.50)” and type my number in his phone and in a minute I have data. I start playing in the market and catch a Pokemon. Then the rain starts. It’s monsoon season so it rains really hard for about 20-30 minutes at least once a day. I start walking back in the rain but by the time I’m near by house it’s just a drizzle so I continue walking in the raining, soaking wet, finding Pokemon. I catch 3. People are staring at me, probably wondering why this white chick is walking around a neighborhood aimlessly soaking wet, but people stare at me all the time anyway so I don’t mind.

A man drives up next to me in his car and rolls down the window. “Do you need help?” he asks. I debate asking he if I can sit in the back while he drives around slowly so I can catch more Pokemon without getting my phone wet. Instead I say “No, I’m okay, thank you” Just keep driving, I’m trying to catch my third Rattata today but it’s difficult throwing pokeballs when your screen is covered in rain.

Thursday 1pm (Gotta Catch ‘Em All Uber style)

I decide to go to the gym over my lunch break and then meet my colleague, Priya, at her house to finish some work. The Uber to the gym takes about 30 minutes. Luckily, in India, the traffic is bad enough that the Ubers typically go slowly and stop frequently. I caught six Pokemon inside my Uber to the gym. Then three more on the stairs to the gym. It’s a good day.

Uber Pokemon
Catching Pokemon in my Uber

Thursday 2 pm (Indians and Pokemon Go)

I walk from the gym to Priaya’s house (about a 20 minute walk). While walking on the service lane in her neighborhood, a car pulls up next to me and is driving really slow. Shit. It’s probably some guys who think I’m a prostitute. I’m dressed in gym clothes but white girls don’t really walk down the street in Panchkula, India. So the assumption happens. Or just that I’m easy because I’m white. I mean, guys harass Indian girls, too. Everyone deals with it. So I stare at my phone and walk by the car quickly without looking. Nothing happens.

The cars moves forward, passing me, and then stops again. Maybe it’s a family just lost in the neighborhood? I stealthily look into the car as I pass this time, making sure to avoid contact. It’s a young man. Alone. On his phone. WAIT IS HE PLAYING POKEMON GO?!?!

The car drives off. Slowly. So slowly. But for a split second I’m sure I see the Pokemon Go style map on his phone.

No. It can’t be. It was probably Google Maps and he’s looking for directions and I just so want it to be Pokemon Go that I’m imagining things. 

I could recognize the car by this weird straw hat in the back

I decided he is probably just lost. I also decide I’m still going to tell everyone he was playing Pokemon Go while driving around because that’s just so Indian to me.

He turns down a street. I keep waking and playing. The car drives back down a street near me. I cross in front of it. I stop and look at him. He looks at me. I squint my eyes suspiciously. Are you one of us? 

He drives down the road slowly. I realize I’m so involved in the game I’ve missed the turn for Priya’s house. I backtrack. On the road are a lot of government school children walking home from school. I can recognize them by the uniforms. I wonder if they will wonder what I am doing when I stop to-yes! My phone is buzzing I’m going to get another one!

I’m almost at Priya’s house, annoyed that, while most “stores” are Mundirs (Hindu temples) or Gurdwaras (Sikh temples) the Mundir next to Priya’s house is not.

Mundir Pokestops
Mundirs as Pokestops
Mosque Pokestop
This Gurdwara is a “gym” (territory of high level Pokemon players)

So I can’t get more Pokemon balls. Why doesn’t she live near that big tank war memorial which is a Pokemon Store. Priya, you’re killing me with your living location. Then….Wait….that’s the same car again?! 

There he was. Parked in front of the Jaat Bhavan, swiping his finger wildly in an upwards direction. I started laughing. He is playing Pokemon Go in his car!!! He’s driving around looking for Pokemon. In his car! At 2pm on a Thursday! That’s so Indian! Who does that?

At that very moment my phone buzzes and I see a Pidgey and realize I do that. I play Pokemon at 2pm on a Thursday. 

As I’m standing in the middle of the road swiping he drives up closer and rolls down his window.

“Are you playing Pokemon?!”
“YES! I TOTALLY KNEW YOU WERE PLAYING!” I’m seriously so excited I want to go hug him. But I also know that’s not appropriate in India. One of his Pokemon is evolving so he sticks his phone out the window to show me and I run over to watch. Then a Zubat appears. I always have a hard time with those even though they are “green” and “easy.”

“Are you finding any over here?” He asks
“Yeah, hold on, there is one by your head.”

I didn’t ask permission to take this

We chat a bit. Cars keep honking at me for standing in the middle of the street. I say I didn’t know the app was available here yet. He says he has had it since it came out last week and has 33 Pokemon. He asks how many I have and I say I don’t know (23 and I just started yesterday). I tell him I’m from the US. He asks what I’m doing in India. I fight the urge to say “collecting rare Pokemon.”

I go to Priya’s house to do work and he continues driving around. I walk completely past her house I’m so engaged. Then I knock on the wrong door since I find one on her stairs and I forget where she lives.

I find another Zubat in a pile of garbage.

Behold, the cleanest city in India

India, these are the days I’m in love with you….


Update: I finally ran out of Pokeballs and went to what was labeled as “The British Library” but actually is the back entrance to a restaurant to get more. Very cultural.

I also had a good time playing on the motorcycle until I ran out

How to Set Your House on Fire Abroad

So, I finally set my house on fire…

It was only a matter of time, really. At this point, I’m more surprised that I haven’t caught something on fire sooner. (And, no, unfortunately this blog doesn’t end with a truck of sexy Sikh firefighters coming to rescue me).

Friday I was working from home in the late afternoon, enjoying things the Haryana Department of Education lacks: AC next to my bed, high speed internet, and the leisures of not wearing pants. My laptop was safely plugged into the wall (it’s always good to keep it full, you never know when the power will go out).

When you straighten half your hair before work and then the power goes out
When you straighten half your hair before work and then the power goes out

Suddenly I heard the AC turn off followed by a deceptively innocent sounding “pop” from the outlet. I looked up to see smoke squeezing out of the socket. Naturally, I panicked, slapped off the power to the outlet, unplugged my laptop, and carefully removed the (hot) plug from the wall.  I decided it was nothing (mostly because I wanted to ignore how potentially bad this could be) and decided to leave my AC off for awhile.

Switches to turn the outlet on and off


So I turned the fan on.


Then I tried the light in my room.

Still nothing.

I hoped it was just a routine power outage. I tried the light in the living room.

It tried so hard. I could see tiny bits of light flickering around the corners. I almost pitied the pathetic little thing. Likewise, my router still had the one red light flickering.

That was it. Not a single other light/fan/or appliance worked. But since those two sort of worked, I knew it wasn’t a power outage. So I went to the breaker box and turned everything off and everything back on.

Still nothing.

I spent another ten minutes standing around hopelessly, plotting whether I could sleep at Priya’s house, not sure how to survive June in India without a fan, AC, or wifi. And then after ten minutes my lights all miraculously returned. For some reason my router only stayed on if the living room light stayed on but I assumed that was just “something Indian” and went back in my room to work. Crisis averted!








Nothing can ever be that easy in this country.

After about ten minutes I smelled smoke so I reexamined the outlet. Then I realized smoke was billowing into my bedroom. I ran into the living room to see the living room light spewing smoke and blackening the wall behind it.

Indian buildings always have way more switches than appliances/lights associated with them
Indian buildings always have way more switches than appliances/lights associated with them
I literally only know what two of these switches do
I literally only know what two of these switches do

So I turned off all the lights, turned out everything on the broker box, and sweating from 3 minutes without AC, called my landlord. He told me he, and the entire family, would be gone until late the next day.


He asked if it was an emergency. I calmly said, “yes. I believe your house is on fire.”

I explained the story two or three times to him but he was still unsure of the details. At some point he hung up and called back. He told me the handyman who lives at the house was also gone for another hour or so but he would call an electrician.

Yes. Anything. Bring him.

Of course, attempting to speak to the electrician was another matter. I sat outside on the stairs out of the sun reading To Kill A Mockingbird for about 30 minutes before the man came. I didn’t know how much the landlord had explained to him, so I used my best Hindi.

I pointed to the breaker box
“toh…sab atcha hai,” (so…everything is good) 

I pointed to the living room light
“lekin yuhuh dhuaan the,” (but here was smoke)

I pointed to the outlet in my bedroom
aur yuhuh dhuaan the,” (and here was smoke)

toh…..nehi atcha hai.” (So….not good)

He seemed to get the picture and started doing something. I just sat inside and watched sweat pool from my forehead onto the book. At some point he summed me outside and was saying something about a wire and so I nodded furiously as he spoke. Then I realized he was asking me a question, so admitted that I didn’t understand.

My Tardis: because it's bigger on the inside
My Tardis: because it’s bigger on the inside

After about thirty minutes he had everything working again and had me run around the house and test every light switch and every outlet. He spent some extra time on the AC and then kept asking me things in Hindi so I just kept saying, “sab tik hai” (everything is okay) “abhi sab atcha hai” (everything is good now).

Honestly, I have no idea what he did and if this is a long-term fix to the fact that I had a small electrical fire. But I sort of completed an emergency task in Hindi so I’m giving myself a gold star for adulting abroad today!

What is the verb “to adult” in Hindi?