Name of the intern: – Gunjan
Institute: – IIT Roorkee
Organization interned with: – Chongqing University
InCredible China! ~ Diary of a young woman.
June 25, 2012 I entered this country with a skeptical smile on my face. I was welcomed at the airport by two students who carried a placard bearing my name. Looking at it, I felt important and naively smiled. In desperation to break an awkward silence, I asked them about Chongqing’s weather. The girl couldn’t answer and flashed a sorry smile in response. Perplexed, I turned to the boy who probably didn’t fathom what I said and replied something totally irrelevant. Taken aback I thought; so, this is how it is going to be for the next two months. I was right but fortunately, it got better.
I am a vegan and in literary sense, meat to me is actual poison. I found a place called Hong Yuan Xieng and with my friend’s help, I was able to get vegetarian noodles just for 4 Yuan. She wrote vegetarian in Chinese on a piece of paper to show to the vendor, every time I go alone. Fortunately, soon enough they began to recognize me and I didn’t need the paper anymore. I appreciated their silent acknowledgement. I used to go to the shop, hand over the money and take away the packet immediately. Slowly, I became overly conscious of myself. In my first month here, I was confined to my apartment and talked to a few people. The work was not at all onerous and I spent most of my time sleeping. As one month was coming to an end, I started opening myself gradually in front of others. Soon, I became my affable self and the incredible process of making some amazing-friends-for-life begun.
I have had the main issue of language here. The sentry of my building is a very gregarious and cheerful man. He is one of those rare humans who is capable of exuding positive vibes and is always very eager to teach me Chinese. In my first few days, I used to awkwardly nod as I passed him. Later, I started greeting him with my newly learnt Ni Hao. This encouraged his teaching instincts even more and I kept on deferring it until today, when I actually sat near him with a pen and paper, ready for my first lesson. He took out his English – Chinese dictionaries one by one and became ecstatic every time I pronounced some word correctly. It was pure bliss to learn from a man who was so much willing to give whatever little he had.
I have had my share of taboo charades and dumb charades with every single person here from a guard to a stranger to the post docs in my department. No offense but people in China have been oblivious of English language and it is reflected perceivably when they try to speak it. With the little Chinese I had learnt couple of weeks back, I somehow gathered up my courage and commenced with buying fruits. I came back to my apartment blithely, with an immense satisfaction and an endless smile that didn’t leave my face until I realized how stupid that was! The main reason being, any person deaf or dumb could buy half a dozen food stuff from supermarket and there is not a penny worth of satisfaction in it. The very feeling of being understood and responded back by a Chinese vendor was inexplicable. Then, I began sitting at the noodles shop and made it a point to always eat there. I got used to the gazes and head turns because naturally, I wasn’t one of them but it did not bother me anymore. I just wish people were more subtle, their blatant glares sometimes crept me out. Very few people accosted me, maybe out of their shyness or their inability of English speaking; I have no clue. However, I did meet some strangers who tried really hard to understand me and answered back enthusiastically in whatever little English they knew. I went on having pleasant conversations with strangers after strangers, not knowing if I will ever meet them again, and yet each conversation is vividly placed in my mind. People have a notion that Chinese loathe Indians and they don’t even think twice before daunting you repeatedly about it. After coming here, not once while conversing with anyone, I ever got the feeling that they have any enmity towards my people. I realized how hollow the stereotypes were, the Sino-Indian war was like half a century ago and thanks to the restricted media here not many people are even aware of it!
July 1, 2012 – For the past couple of weeks, I have had a privilege to visit some of the tourist places in this city and boy, have I fallen in love with this place! When it comes to visiting surreal places, your behaviour is akin to that of a child opening his Christmas presents one after the other. He does it with enough time to appreciate every gift, yet displays enough impatience to open the next one. Last time I wrote to you was late at night and it was mostly out of boredom. This time, I woke up after a mere 5 hour sleep with a sudden urge to write. It is quite true that people don’t appreciate possessing something, until they begin to realize that their loss is imminent. For over a month here, I have been more than lethargic, sleeping like a log for about 11 to 12 hours every day in my cozy apartment. Now, all of a sudden I feel like a dying cancer patient with a fortnight in hand! It is like a ticking time bomb, you wait solemnly for your death, yearning to get rid of the pain and yet don’t wish to leave this planet. Henceforth, I want to literally live every single moment here, meet more people and explore this city as much as I can.
I have never seen such a splendid morning in my life, the fear and proximity of partition has quadrupled its beauty. Until today, the combination of birds chirping and a cool breeze was mere fiction. This has nothing to do with the fact that, it is perhaps the first early morning experience in my 6 weeks stay here. I believe, for me it has been the biggest wakeup call ever.
July 17, 2012 – It is time to say goodbye. In the beginning, amidst the anticipations of spending two straight months in a foreign land, I was dead sure that going back to India will always be my priority. Little did I know that soon, I’ll be able to call this place my home and the people as ‘my people’. Getting attached to them was never on my list but I couldn’t help falling in love with their innocuous, cheerful and magnetic yet humble persona. Despite the mono-linguistic problem here, my friends tried so darn hard to strike up a conversation and speak to me, entertain me in whichever possible way, tell stories about their culture in broken yet in English, that would mesmerize you! One could see them gasping for words, still they somehow managed to finish sentences and make enough sense out of them. This is a modest yet strong example of diligence and never give-up attitude of the Chinese. It is all about such small myriad gestures that made me grow inordinately fond of this place and the very reason why I would miss China so much.
My heart wishes I didn’t have to go back but my growling stomach states otherwise. It has been a while since I have eaten anything save noodles. Ciao China! You shall be deeply missed.
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