The night of my first day, a group of us from the house and an Indian AIESEC student named Himanshu went to a hookah or shisha bar and restaurant. It was my first time trying hookah, and let's just say I suck at it (or suck poorly as the case may be). Not really my cup of Darjeeling tea. Since shisha originated in India, it only seemed fitting to try it. Would I normally do it in the states? Nah. It always seems unauthentic and forced to me as if the act makes tokers, usually students or young people, more cultural. It was fun though! The company was good. The food was good. And we got a free hookah because some of us were white and foreign.
On my second day, Sebastian, a German who studies in Great Britain; Jenni, a woman from Finland; and I, an excited and eager American, make our trek to Amber where our NGO (non-govermental organization), Gram Bharati Samiti (GBS, www.gbsjp.org), is located. Both Sebastian and Jenni live in my house. So after I dressed as appropriately as possible, we left the house, caught a rickshaw for 40 rupees (less than $1), and took a bus from within the Pink City walls to Amber. We got off the bus a stop earlier so that we could see the elephants. These elephants are treated so poorly. Their skin is dry. They walk on hot, black asphalt, and their driver forces them to walk with a large metal hook in the back of their neck. Currently, Mumbai (Bombay) has banned the presence of elephants in the city in order to discourage keeping the animals in captivity and spreading diseases.
At GBS, I met Bhawani, the secretary and one of the original founders, and several other associates including Kusum, the joint secretary who is focused on women's empowerment and HIV/AIDS. The first day, I mostly read their annual reports from the last three years and socialized with Sebastian and Jenni. The activities of GBS seem very important and exciting. They are promoting projects that align with causes that I find the most important in our current world.
We eat lunch everyday at GBS. It is always vegetarian and is often spicy. You must always eat with your right hand since the left hand is supposed to be reserved for restroom use. People do not use toilet paper here.
Jenni, Sebastian, and I all left an hour early so that we could visit Amber Fort.