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Going with the Flow…Boldly – Message #9 – Back in Delhi/Jaipur Recap – September 19, 2005

on March 25, 2013

Hey all,

 

I’m back in Delhi now and I leave for the airport in 14 hours…the past two weeks have flown by. Being back in Delhi after a week in Rajasthan is pretty much sensory overload for me. I remember thinking how things were slower in Delhi than what I had expected and other than the traffic and the challenges in crossing the road, my initial reaction to Delhi was that it was not as big or crowded as the Delhi I had created in my mind. Well, after spending a week in Rajasthan, where the biggest city is 4.7 million and the smallest town I visited was no more than 5,000, Delhi is quite the shock to my system today. I could feel a sense of dread washing over me even as we drove into Delhi last night, with the horns blazing from every car within earshot. This is something I will NOT miss.

Hawa Mahal, Jaipur

Today I’ve ventured out into Delhi with more confidence than I had the first day I was here. Knowing that my command of Hindi is sufficient to get me through most things is comforting. I am aslo a lot less passive around the vendors and am not getting pulled into stores where I have no intention of making a purchase. Wahoo, I feel empowered.

 

In a couple of hours I am heading to the Canadian High Commission where I am hoping to meet a couple of RCMP employees posted in Delhi. I’m really looking forward to this as most of you can probably guess. I will also get a chance to see Juli‘s office (Border Services Agency) and meet some of her colleagues. Juli says they think I’m Snuffalupagus (sp? from Sesame Street – Big Bird’s “imaginary” friend) because although she has been talking about me leading up to and during my trip to India, I have not yet met any of her colleagues.

 

After that we are planning to go to the cinema for one last Bollywood flick – Mangal Pande – a film directed by Amir Khan (Lagaan) and has been highly praised in India and abroad. Juli and I managed to watch Salaam Namaste at Raj Mandir, Jaipur‘s famous cinema. What a beautiful movie house! The movie was really funny and although the ending was a bit of a letdown (not the conclusion, per se, but just how it was reached) overall it was a good story line and well done. Plus, Preity Zinta and Saif Ali Khan are just an awesome duo. Probably the best part of this movie experience was the reactions of the Indian men during scenes where women were wearing bathing suits/bikins and when Preity and Saif Ali Khan were kissing (actual on-screen kissing, which if you are familiar with Bollywood, you know is not a very common occurrence). Anyway, that was worth the whole movie experience and even if the movie had been a dud, it would have been worth the time, money and effort. Effort because our rickshaw driver wanted to overcharge us, which I would have meekly allowed (have vs. have not guilt) but Juli refused to allow. So our rickshaw driver told us to find another way home after the movie (originally he was going to wait for us). Anyway, it was a tremendous effort to get back to our hotel because most of the drivers had no idea where our hotel was and we forgot to get a business card with the address. We ended up being given a ride by a local business man after a cycle rickshaw-walla got us hopelessly lost. The business man seemed genuinely nice and offered to help us if we needed anything else while we were in Jaipur. Trustingly, I told him my name was Anu…yup, I’m cool.

 

Other than finally watching a Bollywood film in Jaipur, we also did a tour of Amber Fort where Juli and I got to ride an elephant – awesome experience! HUGE animals and some of the elephants had beautifully painted trunks and were just majestic. We also witnessed a dozen elephants bathing in a “elephant bath” – a large body of water below the Amber Fort. I have tons and tons and tons of pictures of elephants. We also went shopping in the market – Jaipur is the shopping capital of Rajasthan and the experience in the markets in Jaipur was way better than my experience in Jodhpur. So I feel like I’ve redeemed myself and am back to being a shopper now. Speaking Hindi truly pays off, as many of the shopkeepers told me they were offering a better deal to me and Juli than they would to Juli alone, simply because I was an NRI who spoke Hindi. Wahoo, Bollywood pays off.

Elephant ride at Amber Fort

 

One of the other stops in Jaipur was to a factory where carpets and textiles are made. The carpets we saw are some of the most popular in India and take upwards of 10 months to create involving 16 stages and more than 20 people throughout the process. The factory we went to was a co-op involving 950 families consisting of more than 5,000 people.

Getting creative with textiles

We also went to a place called Jantar Mantar which is a set of astrological instruments and buildings used to make astronomical predictions and time-telling instruments. Being the daredevil that I am, I decided to climb some rickety steps up the Aquarius monument (my sign) and once up there, I realized the stairs were rickety and narrow and that there was a steep drop on either side…so I froze and could not come down the steps by myself. My tour guide was afraid of heights so Juli had to come to my rescue. Phew. I’m glad Juli was there with me! Later we both decided to climb a ton of stairs up another monument and got more than we bargained for as the steps were each between 12 and 18 inches high – quad workout extraordinaire. On the way down, Juli’s knees kept threatening to give out and my quads kept turning into jelly. My quads are still sore and the Jantar Mantar trip was TWO DAYS AGO! Pathetic.

 

Our second night in Jaipur we went to Chauki-Dhani (sp?) which is basically a cultural village offering tourists access to Jaipur/Rajasthani culture, foods, entertainment, and goods all in one complex (Kirstie – this was like the Maori Village we went to in Rotorua). This was an awesome part of our trip to Jaipur and we had a lot of fun. Ate some good food while being entertained by a tabla player and a ghazal singer (who was young, looked like he wanted to be Italian – hair and clothes – but had a most powerful, amazing voice). Before dinner, Juli was dragged onto a few stages where she learned some traditional Rajasthani dances, cunningly, I avoided being pulled onto stage by hiding behind taller people in the crowds and claimining not to understand Hindi or English when approached by a dancer at one stage…ha ha ha (evil laughter). After dinner we took a camel ride (second time in three days for me and Juli’s first) it was a brief ride but enough for Juli to cross off one of her “must do” items. Then we got to ride in a bull cart and Juli was offered a chance to steer the bull (hmm, these Indians really give preferential treatment to obvious tourists)…but when some locals crossed into Juli’s path, I’m glad I wasn’t the one steering the bulls…they missed the bull horns by inches…stupid people not watching where they are going…hello, this is still India where pedestrians don’t have the right of way, people! There was a great market at this village so we ended up buying even more stuff…hey, I saved up all my shopping for my last 3-4 days in India…well, except for the shopping I did at the beginning of my trip, and along the way. But really, I can fit all my stuff in the luggage I brought with me and I haven’t had to discard many of my belongings. And besides, me buying stuff helps the economy which reduces my guilt and so it’s a win-win situation for everyone!

 

I don’t know if I’ll ever come back to India…there’s still a lot of world to see. But I am very glad I made this trip. As I said in one of my first e-mails, I was told by many that I will either love India or hate it. And as I mentioned at the beginning of my trip, there are things about India that I dislike (traffic, noise pollution) and some things that impress me (the energy of the people, the strong cultural roots, and most of all the innocence and hope of the children). However, unlike at the beginning of my trip, I think the things I love about this country far outweight the things that bother me. I have always been pretty emphatic about my identity as a Canadian and while that hasn’t changed, the past two weeks have really opened my eyes to the ways in which my East Indian heritage, background, and culture have shaped me. There is still a long list of things that I detest about the Indian way of life and particularly the way women are still treated in this culture (and although this is changing bit by bit, it is still prevalent enough for me to notice and shake my head). But, overall, I can see why the people of this country are so resilient and hard working, why they have such strong roots and why their way of life is as it should be…for them. I respect that and maybe understand it a bit better. While I still don’t think it is for me, I accept that it is right for them rather than wanting to come here and CHANGE EVERYTHING. My talks with my various tour guides and drivers has been a big and valuable part of this realization and I feel very fortunate to have met so many incredible ambassadors along the way. Interacting with so many of this country’s young kids has also been a very positive experience…and I will not soon forget their warm welcomes, big smiles, enthusiastic waves, curiousity or the sense of hope, energy and innocence that is ever present in the faces of these young children.

India's youth

Now on that ever so sappy note, I am going to sign off so that I can once again battle the crowded streets of Delhi to return to my hotel to empty my backpack of my purchases before I head out to the High Commission, which I think will be a fantastic experience.

India Gate at night

I have long layovers in Hong Kong (5 hours?) and Vancouver (3 hours?) so this is probably not the last e-mail you will receive from me.

 

And of course, I am looking forward to seeing many of you…and taking up tons of your time to  share with you every one of my photos and many more stories.

We are Bollywood

Narmin 🙂

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