As the interns settle into life in Bardoli, India, Giannina writes about what she’s getting to used to as everyday life.
On instagram, the location tag for Bardoli reads “Bardoli, City of Love” or “Bardoli, Paris of India.” As I’m rounding my third week here, I think I’m starting to grasp why Bardoli has been given (or perhaps given itself) such a title. It’s a sunset-city, an after-dusk sort of place to be. It comes alive in the absence of the strong sun, and bustles with its own colorful light as the breezy evening emerges. The sun sinks, the rickety, rainbow ferris wheel starts spinning, and by the time the last shadows have melted into the night, the streets are buzzing with smells and sounds all around. Indeed, it’s lovely.
Granted, I think I entered life in Bardoli during the most romantic time of the year. Anticipation for the coming monsoon climbs as high as the midday temperatures, and students are relishing in their last days of summer vacation. Mango stands and kulfi carts line the busy road, and impromptu cricket games commence at sunset in the side streets. From the fairground, ribbons of Indian pop music weave through the humid air that will soon be blanketed in sheets of monsoon rain.
My father, who spent some years living in India when he was just a bit older than I am now, told me his favorite (and only) way to describe it: a sensory overload. Bardoli seems to be no exception. Dusty yet colorful, the city yields new smells and sounds at every other turn. Discarded plastic and mango pits line the roads, to be washed away into the black river near the main road when the monsoon comes. Cows stroll about casually, and stray dogs move in packs. Wooden-wheeled carts decorated with lively vegetables roll along the road next to whizzing motorbikes and rickshaws, which are perpetually performing a symphony of beeps and honks. The smell of street food wafts and beckons, and wallahs and the occasional confident passerby call out “hello!” to us. As obvious foreigners we receive lots of curious stares.
Then there’s the ferris wheel. It’s fantastic! I was in love at first sight. Eventually Kristine agreed to ride it with me, so one day we went at sunset, thinking it’d be beautiful to see from the top of the wheel. We didn’t really have the time to focus on the sunset though, because the rickety old thing started spinning so fast we thought we’d fall out of our little tin compartment! We were the only ones on the whole ferris wheel, so our momentum swung us dramatically as we rode the endless curve. Heart pounding, stomach flipping, hair and scarf flailing in the wind… I loved it!
I can’t deny that riding the ferris wheel was terrifying, but the experience called for a certain mindset that I’ve encountered here in Bardoli more than anywhere else. It’s a “go with the flow” sort of vibe, or a widespread “let’s just see how it goes” mentality. Compared to what I’m used to in the U.S. – particularly academic environments – it’s a breath of samosa-scented fresh air. I felt helpless as we zoomed through the air, and frankly unsure of the outcome of our decision to board this thing, but there was nothing to do but keep on riding.
So here I am, in the “Paris of India,” riding a 3-month long ferris wheel of an experience, complete with highs and lows and an all-around air of excitement. The ride so far has left me spinning with thoughts and reflections and questions and answers! I have a feeling that’ll persist until the end, so I’m trying to embrace the lovely mindset Bardoli has demonstrated to me. I’m very lucky, because by working with Nanubhai I think I’m seeing some views more comparable to the one I’d get from the top of the ferris wheel. For that I’m very grateful.