Arpita and I on her motorbike to the Zen Café and other adventures
Is this real life? Am I in India, riding on Vespas and motorbikes with my students who are now virtually all my Facebook friends? Did I actually visit a citywide “it” place called the Zen Café at another university? Did this university actually have a student built gallery called “The Cave?”

Answer: Yes to all of the above.

After our second day of working hard and teaching the students photography they graciously asked the TAs if we would like to hangout for a bit. Spending the last three days cooped up at the college, besides our wonderful New Years adventures and escapades, we were all itching to have some fun. Little to our knowledge did we know this meant riding on Vespas with our students, squeezing our way through rush hour traffic, going to the local hot spot named the Zen Café at the Center for Environmental Planning and Technology University (CEPT) and then going to the Law Garden where a market opens up at night fall and closes at 11:30 p.m.. I know that was a lot to read in one breath but trust me it was a lot to do and comprehend because never in my life did I imagine that I would be riding on a motorbike with Arpita Vadgama to CEPT and then bargaining prices down to the bare minimum with Rajsi Kaul over three necklaces. Read on if you can bear with the longwinded descriptions and paragraphs, there is just so much to share with you all. 
Everyone inside "The Cave"
CEPT is an elite academic institute in all of Ahmedabad and India. Students from all over the country come here in hopes of receiving a powerful and high paying job after college. Here they have the Zen Café where we sat and drank coffee, all 13 or so of us, and then we explored “The Cave,” outside the school and near the café. We went inside and explored for a while, it reminded me of the crystalized salt caves near Mount Rushmore. After relaxing for a bit on the steps of the café and learning more about the students on a personal level we went for a tour around the campus. It was a really fabulous campus. Every campus here has a green area and I love that about this country and state. No matter how urban and highly populated it becomes, they don’t sacrifice the need for grass and a spot to relax in the sun. Udit loved the pink polka doted chairs made of cement and Jen loved the statues where she pretended to be a damsel in distress. I personally was a fan of taking everything in and watching different students! 

Udit enjoying his pink polka doted chair :)
Jen pretending to be a damsel in distress after being sick for two days in the gardens of CEPT.
I had a wonderful conversation with Rajsi and Shreya Vyas about arranged marriages in the middle of an art gallery. This does NOT happen in the U.S. in my life, but in my two weeklong India life it does. Rajsi has a family line solely comprised of arranged marriages and they have all been successful and turned into loving relationships, but she and her sister don’t want that. Her sister is around the age of 22 and is looking for a man to marry and be approved by her family ASAP so she does not have to have an arranged marriage, which traditionally occur in her family at the age of 24 or 25. Shreya has a family of love matches, where each has found their partner on their own; her family has also had successful, happy relationships. We spoke for about ten minutes about the pros and cons about each and then we had to leave the gallery and began speaking about henna. How we jump from such serious, stimulating conversation to henna is beyond me, but it all has a fluid flow that makes it seem absolutely normal. (A separate post on arranged marriages is to come.)

After the arranged marriage and henna conversation we hung around for a bit more on the campus and then left for the market in the Law Gardens where we all bought things for our family and friends. Scarves, saris, traditional tops and bottoms, jewelry, bags, bed and pillow covers, sandals, anything and everything. The thing that was the most tempting was the street food. Oh, did I want to eat it so bad as the aroma drifted towards my nose but I knew that I couldn’t and so I kept on walking and bargaining with Arpita and Rajsiand the other girls. The boys walked around with us too, it was all a collective adventure and the students just seemed happy that we were happy.

The best bargain was for three necklaces. The man wanted to charge me 800 rupees; the equivalent of 14 dollars, and Rajsi brought the price down to 425 rupees. That is a great bargain seeing as I am a foreigner, a blonde one at that, and was ready to settle at a higher price because they were such different and gorgeous pieces of jewelry. Rajsitold me to hide my approving expression when he said 500 after ten minutes of bargaining and soon enough, 425 hit and Rajsi said that was the best we were going to get and it was still a good deal. The market was full of color, with the coins and jewels dangling from colorful saris and little gems sewed onto bags. The light from the streets reflected off the silver bracelets stored in bins and the walking vendors with little orange and pink cloth elephants, which I hope to see again to get for my soon to be nephew, all added to the eclectic atmosphere of the market that I had never expected nor experienced. 

On the ride home with Arpita on her scooter I still pinched myself and had to ask if what I just experienced was real. I couldn’t comprehend the fact that I had just done what normal college students in India do after school and that it entailed riding scooters in the dark, drinking coffee and tea while looking at art galleries with conversations about arranged marriages. Not in a million years did I expect to have this adventure. Holy moly it was a night I will never forget and I’m 100 percent positive more surprises will come. Stay tuned for more if you can handle all the reading, hopefully the pictures help! 

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    Andrea is a recent graduate from the Diederich College of Communication at Marquette University with a double major in journalism and Spanish.

    View my profile on LinkedIn


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