Greetings from India with a big smile and a wee head wobble! We hope this festive season treated you well and you went to lots of parties, ate good food and wore your best party clothes.
We have been doing well in India and lots of the stereotypes have been blown away while here. Yes there are cows everywhere and yes there is bad driving and open sewers but most of these things are minor in comparison to the beautiful nature and fun happy people. We spent the past couple weeks in Varkala down on the coast of Kerala where it was very humid and warm but lovely. This is the home of coconut and you can see why, they are every where and there is always someone happy to climb a tree to collect a fresh one for a reasonable price of 20 Rupees (40 cents/30p). They use it for food, drinking, cooking oil, body oil, hair products, rope, fabric, roofing, and decorations…nothing it can’t do!
We had a cooking lesson with a lovely woman in her home. It was really fun and we learned how to make chapatti (nan in my case as they weren’t so round in shape), channa masala, and a fish curry. The fish in the curry was caught by her father that morning as large groups of men spend the early hours pulling in hundreds of meters of nets in a sort of tug-of-war with the ocean. We’re looking forward to showing off our new skills and making dinner for you!
The lack of booze in this country is obvious where in the north we didn’t drink at all. There were a few places that sold it on the street but the mix of Buddhism and Hindi really made for a dry town. In Rishikesh we were told by a Canadian girl that she had a beer and it was served in a mug with a brown bag around the bottle (alcohol is illegal in that state) but I didn’t feel like acting like I was 15 yrs. old again so have stayed dry. I made it 71 days! It was good and I liked it so much that I have decided not to drink unless there is a special occasion which, by luck, was when Brett and I celebrated 11 years together on 12/12/12. To celebrate we had a wee bottle of wine and I was missing steps and chair dancing within half a glass!
Also off the list has been meat. There is no beef unless you go to a Muslim restaurant while the chicken and mutton of the north were not so appealing after we saw the local butchers – a garden shed where a lonely Muslim man sat blessing and killing all day long. So after a long time we broke our meat fast with tandoori red snapper and tuna fish which made me think “WOW, I love my fish”! I still don’t miss chicken and it’s so nice to be in a country where being a vegetarian is so normal that under the “Steak” heading on a menu the options are “supreme vegetable steak or bean curd burger”. Not like in Latin America where people look at you like you might fade away if you don’t eat atleast 2 eggs, a chicken breast and a bowl of beans everyday! There is no need here with all the lentils (dahl), chick peas (channa), peanut butter (home made by Buddhist nuns) and fruit juices. My favorite is carrot and ginger, Ha no surprise there!
The people of this land are the best! They are so funny and very easy going. I have read books and heard stories telling of peolpe being pushy, aggressive, begging and trying to rip you off at every turn but honestly we have not had many such experiences. The beggars are beggars, mostly disfigured to make money, so am I giong to hold onto 50 pence or give it to them? Of course I will give it to them the same as I’ll give to the mothers who are asking for milk and food. If a taxiwallah wants to charge an Indian half of what he charges me am I going to kick up a fuss? No, I’ll give them the money; after all I am making the same money in one day in a Canadian hospital that they would make in a month, or in some cases a year. I just count my blessigns and stay “shanti” peaceful as I know Karma will take care of me.
The pushing and shoving have been minimal and after the big booties of Latin America attempting to get on a train or bus with a hoard of 5 foot tall Indians is relatively easy. Then when you sit down soemone will turn around with a big smile and say “from where are you from?” in a beautiful Indian British accent. They have the best grammar which shame my pronunciations and use of the word “I”, which of course here is the Queen’s “One”. The next question is “what is your good name?” which has been easy for me but Brett is still having to repeat his good name or just say “Raju”. The biggest positives from people are that they are very glad to hear that we are married, especially to hear that our marriage is a “love marriage” which causes people to cock their heads, close thier eyes and smile. They all enjoy a good love story! When there is no common language there is always a smile with a head wobble, which is an art and one that can always lighten the mood.
As I mentioned we went to Rishikesh, the start of the Ganges and packed with Yoga Ashrams – I will leav the Yoga details to another time as there is so much to write about. The day was spent going to the Beatle’s ashram where the fab four had came in the 60’s to learn meditation from a quasi cult leader/guru. The ashram was left abandoned shortly after their stay leaving the place to the penetrating lush jungle. It is now a maze of rooms made in the shapes of eggs with domed roofs to sit in and OM the day away. As we strolled through the complex we totally felt the inspiration in the air for the songs “Across the univers”, “Lucy in the sky with diamonds” and “Sargent Pepper’s lonely heart club band”.
As we left humming tunes in our heads we walked through town to the highlight of the visit – a dip in the Ganges…amazing! The clean cold blue/green water flowed majestically through the city from its starting point a few kilometers into the himalayan mountains and we could feel it calling us. As I entered India’s most holy river a sense of exhillaration overwhelmed me while I took the customary three dunks to purify my soul. I felt rejuvenated and excited to see what else this wonderful country can bring.
So I leave you with some great Indian sayings that we never get tired of hearing:
“100% full power” or “vunhundrad poorcent full powaarr!”
“Full power 24 hr. no shower!”
“What to do??” – said when there is nothing else to say
Question of the week:
From Amritsar to the Ganges we have experienced ‘Holy Places’ here in India. Where have you visited that was considered a ‘Holy Place’ or felt Holy to you?