Jaipur Family

Helen Angell

For the last four weeks I’ve been living with an Indian family in Jaipur. The intention of homestays is for us to be immersed in the culture and language. While living with an Indian family has given me the chance to practice my Hindi a little (tora tora), the part I love most about my homestay is how welcoming and warm my family has been–they really have given me a home in Jaipur! Let me introduce you to them!

My homestay mom, or mata, is an elementary school teacher. I call her Mama, or Mama-ji (the suffix ji is used to show respect). She is an incredibly hard-working woman. When I first arrived at my homestay, I asked her what she likes to do in her free time, and she responded by explaining that she cleans the house. I repeated my question, thinking that she didn’t understand me: “But what do you do for fun, when you’re not working?” I quickly realized how difficult this question was for her to answer, as she has little time for leisure outside of work and taking care of the home and family. Once again I had to reevaluate my American assumptions about the way people live (this is something I’ve had to do a lot during my travels). I have learned through observation, however, that my mom does enjoy chatting with her daughters, watching TV, and listening to the radio in her spare time.

My mata-ji cares a great deal about my well-being. While at first I felt uncomfortable when she insisted that she do everything for me (make breakfast, wash clothes, wash dishes), I now understand that this is her way of taking good care of her guest, and of always putting me and my studies first. I was planning on purchasing her a special gift at the end of my stay to show her how grateful I am, but now I feel that one gift will never be enough to express how much I appreciate the time she has put into taking care of me.

My papa is a little older, and retired. I haven’t spoken to him much because he is currently on bed rest–it turns out he fractured his spine a few weeks ago. This is one of the reasons that my homestay mom has to work so hard. He lives upstairs and I live downstairs, so I do not see him as often as I would like. The other day I showed him pictures of my American friends and family, and he seemed particularly surprised to learn that I go to school in such a rural area (I may have exaggerated the proximity of the wheat fields to campus). Apparently everyone in India envisions New York City in place of America, so the idea that I don’t live in giant city is rather surprising to some people (and who;s ever heard of Walla Walla?). I brought him a gift last week from our excursion to the northern state of Uttarakhand: water from the Ganga (Ganges), the holiest river in Hinduism. My host family is Hindu, and relatively religious–they do their prayers (puja) every day–so this gift was especially meaningful to my host family, and my papa seemed so happy to receive it!

I have two elder sisters, but only one lives at home. She is in her 30s and is also a teacher–she teaches fine art at a local elementary school. I call her didi, but that just means “big sister” in Hindi. Her “good” name (first name) is Nedi. I think she has some of the prettiest kurtas and salwaars in Jaipur, but she insists that she is unfashionable (which is clearly nonsense). She has a sweet tooth like me, but won’t each much chocolate because she says it will cause acne (SIDE NOTE: this is one of many health tips I’ve gathered in India, which have included advice such as 1. Don’t drink cold water when you’re sick 2. Chai is the best thing for you when you’re sick 3.  Green chilis  good for you in small quanitities, but red chilis are bad). She is a quiet, but incredibly kind person, and I am just now starting to discover her goofy side (and she mine).

My eldest sister lives in Pune (southern India) with her husband and daughter, who is my age. She came to visit a few weeks ago, and I got to meet her briefly. She is much more talkative than Nedi, but is equally as kind. I just wish she lived in Jaipur so I could visit her and her daughter (I haven’t had the chance to meet many Indian girls my age)!


I said the best thing about my homestay was how kind and welcoming they all are. The second best thing? The food. My mama cooks delicious North Indian dishes every night, all from scratch. My favorite dishes that she cooks? Chaana (chickpeas) and bindi (okra).

Here she is cooking roti (Indian bread–a little like a tortilla), which is just made by slowly mixing flour and water, kneading, and then rolling it out:



Also, you can read my personal blog for more stories and photos from the trip! This week’s post: our trip to the foothills of the Himalaya.