Touched Down and Taking Chandigarh by Storm

Culture Shock
After 36 hours of travel involving two nine hour flights, an eight hour layover, and a six hour cab ride from New Delhi to Chandigarh, I arrived at my home stay at 9pm on January 1st. All I had was an address and a name and I was dropped off at the door, knowing my roommate wouldn’t join me for another two days. It was pretty intimidating! Luckily, I was warmly welcomed by my host family and immediately made comfortable in my room.

When people in the states think of India, I think a dominant vision is either of endless slums or crazy IT development. Chandigarh is the wealthiest city in the entire country and also holds the highest number of college graduates. I live in a beautiful three-story home and live better here, than I do as a broke college student back in Seattle. There is a maid that cooks and cleans and I’m pretty much only responsible for making sure I keep myself clean and that I get my school work done.

Chandigarh is known as the “green city” and open green space with low-density housing is in abundance. The wealth of the city is depicted everywhere in huge homes (property values here exceed Seattle) and luxury cars. Along side this wealth are people living on next to nothing. Outside of my three-story home is a man named Dhobi, who lives in a shack constructed out of found materials where he irons clothes for a living. Across the street, rickshaw drivers spend the night in their vehicles. The divides between the rich and poor are in your face on every block.

School started a week ago with all the students arriving from our various houses at 9am at the College of Architecture at Punjab University. The building is a big concrete, modernist building with passive ventilation which keeps it cool during the scorching summers and ABSOLUTELY FREEZING during the winter. We have been bundling up for lectures. Our studio has spent the last week getting to know the city of Chandigarh, each other, and the Indian students we are working with. Adventures have included: a bus tour, clubbing adventures, lots of chai, endless walking, and lots of late night discussions. So far we are off to a good start and I am excited to see where the quarter takes us!