India Blog: Patiala

The countryside is like the fields you’d see in a Bollywood movie, rural and simple and very green. The people seemed quieter up here, and even more inclined to stare. And of course, animals. I even saw a peacock on the side of the road!

We first visited the village where my great uncle still lives on a small farm, and where my mom used to spend her summers. I saw the house where she was born, although the people who currently live there renovated it. They were very nice though, and even offered us tea if we wanted any. Indian people like to be hospitable.

village

Villagers came out onto their roofs and looked through their doors to get a peek at us, and a couple of children from next door asked me to come over for a few minutes (I assume for tea) because I looked so different. My great uncle recognized me, even though I haven’t seen him in a long time. My great aunt did too. Both of their first remarks were about how tall I’d grown (followed by my great aunt asking if I had a husband, naturally).

It’s very simple living, and the food is delicious. They made us a huge dinner with ingredients fresh from the farm, and I don’t think I’ve had better Indian food in my life. I have been spoiled forever.

I also visited the Gurudwara at the time they were blaring out the evening prayers, a small thing compared to the other ones we’d seen up until then. Cue more people staring. It was a village for sure; small community and small houses and fields surrounding it. There were cows in the street and buffalo in the courtyard. Definitely another way of living.

village 2

When we visited my great aunt at her village, musicians came into the courtyard to play and hopefully earn some money. It was strangely atmospheric.

Then we actually entered the city of Patiala, where I saw the house my mother grew up in, the Gurudwara she visited, where my grandfather worked at a bank, etc. It was great to finally see these places I’d only heard about but could never picture.

house

Of course, it was raining our last full day there. And this was the day we drove back to Delhi. Since the van didn’t have heat or a defrosting option, we had to drive with the windows cracked so that the windshield didn’t fog up, with cold air and rain assaulting us the entire time. Not fun.

But we did get back to Delhi, and my mother and I headed to London the next day. I’ve already been around the block with London, although I was happy as hell to reunite with Big Ben. This time I got to see a couple of things I wasn’t able to see when I studied abroad, like the Harry Potter Studio Tour (amazing). It was also very nice to have toilet paper again.

So that is the condensed version of my India trip. Hopefully I get to return in a few years, when I’m sure it’ll be built up even more. There’s still overwhelming poverty, with a lot of room for improvement and expansion and progression, but hopefully still staying true to the culture and not giving in to Westernization completely. I can only imagine where it goes from here.

Advertisements

India Blog: Amritsar

The next stop was Amritsar, in the Punjab state. I feel a lot better being in Punjab, since the majority of people here are Sikh, which is what I’m most familiar with (it’s my mother’s/family’s religion and culture). The city itself is nice; not as crowded as Delhi, not as dirty as Agra. There were actually some pretty nice homes here, too.

In the morning we went to the Golden Temple, which is considered the holiest Gurudwara in the world. The actual temple part is a lot smaller than I thought it would be, but the complex as a whole is huge, and has a giant pool of holy water where people go to bathe their feet or their entire bodies.

DSCN1135

 

golden temple

We got our offering of prasad and waited in line in a long corridor leading up to the temple. The temple sits in the middle of the holy water lake, and the water reflections played on the ceiling of the corridor and on the sides of the temple. On the inside, the temple is just as golden as the outside; even the fans were golden. They even have a TV camera for broadcasting the morning prayers, and that was golden too.

After we went inside we walked around and saw how they make chapattis (by hand and by machine) and huge vats of dal to feed the people who come to the temple. All of this is free, by the way. They said they feed up to 45,000 people free per day. The system is so efficient, too. Everyone does their part to serve tea, food, clean the dishes, etc.

free food making

We passed a tree where some women were standing with their scarves outstretched. A parrot up in the branches was throwing down fruit. So my mother stood there as well and waited for the parrot to throw a husk of one of the berries down. I suppose this was another form of offering.

parrot offering

Afterwards we saw a memorial garden where hundreds of Indian people were shot to death by the British. They were having a peaceful protest in 1919, during the British occupation, and the General at that time told his men to open fire with no warnings to the protestors whatsoever. Even children were shot. You could see the bullet holes still in the brick walls, and the huge well where a lot of people jumped inside to escape bullet fire. An Indian man went to London several years later to take revenge, but ended up shooting the wrong guy who had the same last name as the General.

That evening we drove to the Indian/Pakistani border, where they have a gate between the two countries and a ceremonial changing of the guard. This is the only safe entry point between the two countries. The two sides were so different; the Indian side had a bunch of people cheering and dancing and partying and having a good time, and the Pakistani side had…nothing. Over there, the women and men had to sit separately, and there was no dancing or anything. It was hilarious.

Oh, and each side tries to drown out the other’s music by blasting it at full volume. I think we won because of the Punjabi drums/bass. Like I said: hilarious.

changing guard

The actual changing of the guard is a drawn-out ceremony with a bunch of guards kicking and marching and throwing the gate open and taking down the Indian and Pakistani flags for the night. Then, of course, they change guards. I like to imagine that the Indian and Pakistani guard just glare at each other the entire time they’re on duty.

Then we went to Chandigarh, which is much spacier/cleaner than the other places we’ve been so far, and I got some Indian suits. I’ve outgrown all my old ones, so it’ll be nice to have authentic suits again.

Next we drive to Patiala, where my mother grew up.