Before the plane touched the ground, I knew I wanted to find a gift for my parents. They've helped me so much throughout my life and share my love of India, so I wanted to find them something unique, beautiful, and very much India.
I set out the first day with my friends to Commercial Street hoping to begin to narrow down my idea of the perfect gift and quickly faced culture shock mixed with sleep deprivation. Even though I'd experienced them before, the sights and sounds of the busy market were completely overwhelming and, if I'm honest, not particularly welcome on my first day. I was trying too hard to keep our large group of students together and couldn't settle into a rhythm with the controlled chaos of the street. There was no chance of finding ideas for my parents. I wanted more food and sleep.
The next day began slowly. After breakfast at the school, the students in the program began to naturally break off into smaller groups even though we were all going to the same destination: the Chitra Santhe art fair. Still feeling a little tired but less overwhelmed, my small group set off to walk the entire length of the fair and see every painting we could.
Some of the works were prints, some were sculptures, and some were hand paintings ranging from an almost renaissance style to abstract with flowing curves not as common in western art I've seen. The chaos of the streets was not as tightly packed as Commercial Street but reminded me of the chaos of fairs back home. We had to push our way through crowds here and there and walk past artists who had so much attention you couldn't see their medium at all. We stopped for ice cream and took our time snaking back and forth across the path to look at each artist who caught our eye.
When I finally found the gift for my parents, a beautiful painting of a cow with a marigold garland around her neck, I spent a few minutes waiting for the artist to wrap the piece and noticed how calm I felt. I looked around and enjoyed watching all the people milling around appreciating the rich culture and community art provides and realized I found the rhythm.
With my cow, my friends, and a scoop of ice cream in tow, I finally felt ready to embrace my new, if only temporary, home.