Operation India has begun. Yes, it’s hard to believe while living in what appears to be a New Jersey suburban rainforest (four straight days of drizzly gloom), but in slightly over one month we will be traversing the sun-scorched streets of rural India. Then we will trade the watery pipe interruptions of the Murray-Dodge basement for the beloved belligerence of Delhi taxi drivers and roadside vendors. Even the beloved garlic nan courtesy of your favorite neighborhood Indian restaurant will give way to—we hope, at least—authentic Indian ambrosia. What that heavenly nectar exactly is, the non-Asians among us have no idea; but, we have been told, it does not include the ultra-Americanized paneer masala.
We are now on our second session of trip planning. The first one on May 5, attended by amongst others all the sleep-deprived and writing-weary juniors (JPs were due earlier that day), was dedicated to getting the basics planned and organized. Manav and Jahnabi, our fearless leaders, have divided the team into three groups: logistics, itinerary, and group dynamics, headed by the Manav/Jahnabi duo, Shivani, and Miriam, respectively. Each will be a pivotal part of making the trip a valuable, enriching experience, whether that is meeting with the Indian president, searching for a Kosher grocery store, or making sure we don’t pass out from dehydration along the way. Tickets are all bought, so now we just have to make sure that we can get in the country; road trips to obtain visas at the Indian consulate in NYC, courtesy of Ben Herzberg and his rocking convertible, are imminent. The most important piece of cultural education to emerge from the meeting: STDs are available, don’t worry. Olaf even testified to seeing an Indian sign bragging, “The lowest STD rates in the country!” (*STD refers to international calling capabilities).
The second session on May 7 was dedicated to making sure we don’t look, act, or feel like complete buffoons while we’re there. A nurse from UHS presented on necessary health precautions, and Neha whetted our cultural and intellectual appetites with information about the cities we will be visiting: Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur. Not everything was encouraging, however. In the words of Neha: “It’s going to be hot, brutally hot.” The prospect of temperatures in the hundreds is not exactly...comforting. The prospect of McSamosas, also, destroyed any conceptions of pure, unadulterated cultural isolationism.
But it’s impossible to quench the group’s enthusiasm. Dean Paul was excited to learn that Indian clothing would even be available in “our” size, and in typical Princeton fashion, we have plans for “cultural preparation” of the film and literary variety in order to be better informed punjabis. As Olaf said in our first Hindi lesson, “We’re white but we’re not stupid.”