Daily Life Field Note

Daily Life in Madurai, India


Abstract: Have you ever wondered what daily life is like in another country? There are many similarities and differences between daily life in the United States and in southern India. This article gives a window into one woman’s daily life in the city of Madurai, India.

What is your full name?

Everyone calls me Nivitha.

Nivitha’s house

I live in a neighborhood called Anna Nagar. It is near the Vaigai river. The Vaigai is the main river that used to run through Madurai but has dried up because of lack of rain. I also live by a hospital called Shanbagam and a large corner store called Reliance. I live in a residential neighborhood that has lots of small shops.

I used to live in the top floor above my husband’s gold jewelry shop. We recently moved to this new house, which is much nicer than our old house. It has marble floors, leather couches, and many rooms. We like to have friends and family over so we can show off the house.

What is your family like?

My family consists of myself, my husband, my son and my mother-in-law. My husband is gone almost all day working at our gold jewelry shop in town. From time to time, I go and help him out for a few hours a day.  However, you can usually find me in the kitchen cooking all day. . My son is 23 and works for a computer company in Chennai, India. He comes back to visit for holidays. Soon he will quit his job and go to Singapore to attend graduate school  and study engineering. My mother-in-law doesn’t helps me around the house.

How do you get around?

I prefer to ride on my motorbike. We also have a beautiful new white car, which we use if the whole family wants to go somewhere together. I also walk from place to place, if it’s close by. Other people use buses and auto rickshaws (small three wheeled taxis) but I don’t usually do that.

What types of clothing do you like to wear?

I wear a salwar kameez or a sari. A salwar kameez is long tunic with loose-fitting pants. It is usually worn with a dupetta, or scarf that goes around the chest. A sari is a big piece of cloth that is wrapped around the body and pinned. I also wear jeans, but very rarely.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I don’t have free time! I always have cooking to do or have to attend to things around the house. Housework never ends! Before I was married, I had a little free time.  However, I had to study all the time. Now that I am married, I have no free time.

There is a servant woman who comes and helps me. She does the laundry and cleans the floors. Because of the water shortage in Madurai, she does not have any water in her house and has to come here with her children in order to take our water back to her place. She needs water for drinking, cooking and bathing.  

What language(s) do you speak? How do you say “Hello” in your language?

I speak Tamil, English, and Telegu. To greet someone, we just say “Hello”, just as in English! There are a lot of English words that we use even when speaking Tamil. I speak Telegu at home with my family and Tamil to most others.

Do you have pets?

No, we don’t. However,  there is a pack of dogs living on our street that sometimes chase people at night. Some people complain about them but there’s not much we can do. Not very many people have pets in Madurai. If they do have one, they just have a watch dog. There are lots of stray animals throughout the city. I think I read in the newspaper once that there are more than 18,500! People are concerned that the dogs will bite or attack them or their children.

Have you traveled? Where have you traveled to?

Yes, I have traveled throughout India. I’ve also been to a lot of Asian countries such as Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Myanmar, China and United Arab Emirates. I usually travel with my son, extended family, or close friends. My husband is usually too busy at the gold jewelry shop to travel. One of my favorite trips was to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. They have an entire green city in the middle of the desert! I got to see the tallest building in the world. Have you heard of this building? It is called the Burj Dubai.  I rode camels in the desert and slept under the stars.

What do you do for work?

Mostly, I cook. I get tired of cooking so much! My husband is very picky about the food he eats.  and complains even when I’ve spent all day making something for him. When my son comes to stay with us, I am in the kitchen making food he likes as well. I like it when I host students because they are generally not picky eaters and I can cook all different varieties of food for them!

Is there anything else you would like to say to students in the United States?

I hope they come to India one day and experience our culture first-hand.

Nivitha and I in our saris

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