This one’s been 95% ready for some time now, but last week was spent in bed. Want to loose weight fast? Just get a nice gut virus… I lost 5Kg in 7 days!!
On a more balanced note, this post follows a family request that got me thinking about all that flew and floated by me whilst in India. Recent reflections opened up new windows… with a view.
Indian society is clearly stratified due to its caste system. Without it, it would be entirely patriarchal. Women come second and equality won’t mean anything anytime soon.
It is what it is. It will be what Indians make it.
From the myriad services and products I procured, only one of the people attending me was a woman. At the Delhi hotel. Surely a manager by the demeanour of those around her. Quite sophisticated with flawless English – J. recently noted she was certainly from an high caste. Begs the inference that caste takes precedence over gender on the Indian social ladder.
One’s caste is unchangeable – or at least not easily upwards. Like a life sentence, if born a slave… sure to die one. Individual merit and achievement matter little. The caste one’s born to, preempts one’s fortunes.
Western societies are far from ideal, yet closer to a meritocracy than nations governed by ‘birth right’ ideologies. Being possible to make it to the top rung (unlikely as it is) is enough enticement to have billions of participants in the rat race.
Who Cooks? Depends where…
L., B. and I attended a cooking class by two chefs. I asked if the cooking style at home was alike the one they were showing us. They replied it was still replete with spices but it was a bit simpler since the 4 base sauces took 4-6 hours to prepare.
“Do you cook at home?”
They said their wives did, but only after a conspiratorial chuckle. Apparently, men just make a living out of it.
All previous Indian travelers (all women) acknowledged change walking along the same packed streets. Less harassed, as if their personal space was now truly theirs.
The number of beggars also plummeted they say. My lowest expectations weren’t met as I anticipated way more. Our guide “blamed” it on government housing programs but I’m not convinced. I think harsher measures have been taken.
Some of the girls, standing unassisted in a random shop later reported that, immediately after I entered the room, a couple of clerks came enquiring about my needs. This apparently happened a few times to my complete unawareness.
I just felt the service was good. I do’t think it has to do with gender, merely my good looks hand in hand with my transpiring humbleness.
At 5.30, L. and I silently sat down to meditate. A few minutes into in, a big bang echoed over the tin roof over our heads. “Foda-se!” and “That’s not good!” sum up all verbal interchanges. I ran to the upper floor to find an inert body over the tin surface.
I went to the man and asked L. to call reception. I put my shirt over him and sighed with relief at the sound of a soft moan. He’s now conscious but communications are not immediately established. Pain is found and reported by finger pointing body parts.
Reception guy and L. arrive. The victim repeats to him the same words he had been telling me non-stop. Message is acknowledged and replied to. We both help him up the veranda and lay him against a wall. The receptionist confirms help is on the way and hushes us out.
Later in the day, I enquired about the man’s health. I am assured that he’s fine and the shoulder recovering well. “What about the ankle?”. “Oh, that too!”
In Delhi and Varanasi, every other building had a metal detector (from hotels and shopping malls to restaurants and temples) and armed guard(s) as well. I can only compare the number of automatic weapons I saw, to war zones and maybe American schools. It can be quite intimidating, especially when one’s used to seeing no firearms other than on TV.
I was also body searched on a number of sites, including one – outside a temple no less – where the guy filled both his hands with my ass… I kind of cringed when saw the wide smile on his face.
I had a few moments were I had a glimpse of what it might be to be famous. Young people would stop me on the street and ask to take a selfie with me. I found that to be very odd indeed, but after the second time just dismissed it as a cultural thing.
It is not unusual for children to stare, but when adults do it for up to 10-15 seconds, it becomes quite uncomfortable. Many a time, mainly in public transportation and queuing, I tried to dismiss it with a smile and a nod, but the unsmiling silent eyes kept on digging. I “lost” all the initial stare competitions within the first couple of seconds, but then had some fun as I decided to play this game.
Also, Indian women would unabashedly look up and down all the women in our group and then return a smile. I was later told this was their way of checking if they were presented in a respectful manner.
Akshardham is a huge temple in Delhi built for the Commonwealth games some years ago. Cameras, phones or any other electronic equipment are not allowed in… my kind of place.
It was a Sunday, with lots of families visiting. The colours of women’s garbs were intoxicating and livened up the place with their variety and beauty. Many small kids had a kind of dark shade underneath their eyes that gave depth to their look and made them even cuter.
I hadn’t walked barefooted outdoors since leaving Australia, so it was absolutely amazing when we had to take off our shoes in certain areas. It truly was a piece of home whilst away.
The place is absolutely beautiful, but the highest of the highlights was that for 4-5 hours, I got to interact with thousands of people without seeing a single head tilted towards a screen. Can’t see that happening anytime soon… if ever at all!
And because pictures can also tell stories…
… and they lived happily ever after! THE END!