In the past three to four months, I think I’ve finally obtained “neighbor status” in my little corner of Chennai.
- A security guard down the street always greets me when I pass.
- The owner of the local tiffin stall knows my breakfast order before I say anything.
- I take fabric to my neighborhood seamstress, we talk about our respective families and she expresses concern that I’ve lost weight.
- I bobble my head and smile at the one-toothed fruit vendor whom I pass multiple times in a day, and receive a grin and half wave/salute in return.
- A little girl near my NGO, without fail, breaks into fits of giggles every time she sees me.
- The corner samosa/chips vendor tells me to pay tomorrow and always gives me free samples.
- I come and go to a cheerful “Hi Katie” from the neighbor children.
- The woman who lives in a lean-to on the side of the road teases me almost daily for my lack of protection from the hot sun, miming umbrella and pointing up at the sun.
- I eat probably 20% of my meals at a neighborhood restaurant. The verbal communication with the waiters remains limited, but the pleasantness of seeing them regularly is consistent.
Of course none of these exchanges are such big things, but they’ve gone a long way in making me feel at home in this place that started out feeling so completely and totally foreign 10 months ago.