Bye-Bye Bihar!

August 2008

It was so hot, that we ended up sleeping all together on the roof top under the open sky. In the middle of the night the monsoon surprised us and the whole lot of us grabbed our blankets and drowsily went down to the rooms for shelter while large bats were flying across the open patio. Pagli and I slept together with our little caretakers on a large bed.

The Patio

The Patio

I woke up expecting to have a more peaceful day, as it seemed that all the village inhabitants had already come to stare at us “weird” Westerners for a while the day before; hopefully to their entire satisfaction.

Well, maybe the greater part of them did; the thing is that the voice about two white ladies had spread to the surrounding villages and by the time we were having breakfast we were watched again by an even bigger crowd than we had staring at us the previous day!

I think this was the moment when I internalized an important lesson:

 

In India it is better not to have any expectations all. Good and not so good surprises lurk behind every corner just waiting to jump on you! Every single thing usually turns out quite different from how it should have – sometimes much better than expected; or well, much worse….

…and what fascinates me pretty much about human nature, is how we manage to get used to all kind of circumstances and routines relatively quickly. It did not bother me that much anymore to have all those strangers at a short distance observing every detail about how I stuffed my Indian breakfast into my mouth, as if I were doing something absolutely amazing, like for example swallowing a box of nails.

After breakfast we decided to visit the village temple, just to get a bit out of the house in which we were trapped; of course, we were followed by a large crowd. I think the temple never had before that many visitors at once since its construction, not even on Shivratri!

Pagli and me were trying to go along with the joking and laughing kids that jumped excitedly around us, when suddenly a boy with a wicked gaze came up to me and kicked me hard in the leg. I have no idea why he did it; maybe he thought he’d better make sure in case we were a sort of ghost or he just didn’t like me.

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The boy who kicked me

We thought it was a good idea to make a gift to the girls that took so good care of us, they were constantly with us, fanning us with palm leaves and making sure we were as happy as possible. When we went back in the house we went through our bags. We gathered some fancy jewellery and make-up items that we distributed among the girls; which turned out to be a big mistake! Soon all the kids were fighting with each other, grabbing the things out of each others hands and complaining loudly that they also wanted this item and not the one they got. Baba’s niece ran back to her house crying complaining that the other girls received so much nicer things than she did from the westerners, she came back with her mother and a big drama started to develop.

The 103 year old dying grandfather we had come to visit was still in the same state. He got to see my husband, his youngest grandson one more time, which was one of his wishes to be fulfilled before he died.

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Village Kids

Actually we had planned to stay longer in the village, but things were getting really intense and on the fourth day of our visit, with a sugar rush for having had farewell-chais in most of the family houses of the village, we took our backpacks and walked out of the Bihari village to reach the bus stand by walk at one kilometer distance.

I looked behind me and the German story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin, who led the rats out of a village by playing his flute, came to my mind; a never-ending line of villagers was walking right behind us to say goodbye; they stayed with us waiting until the bus left and merrily waved at us as we drove off.

These four days which I will never forget felt like four years to me! So many incredible things happened in such a very short time, many situations were pretty tough, others just amazingly beautiful!

I learned so much about people, life, love and most of all about myself.

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I LOVE MY INDIA

i_love_my_india_remix

I love my India… you can find this phrase printed on stickers, T-Shirts and posters in tourist shops all over India. I love this statement, because it is just so true!

I think I have to explain something about my blog. I am writing about “my” India. India is a little universe by itself. There are as many Indias as there are Hindu gods, 33 million of them!

The country consists of 28 states, every state has its region, there are 22 official languages and there is a great deal of dialects, too. Each place has its own culture and traditions. It could be compared to one of those Russian Babushka dolls, something always contains something more and you never know where this ends.

If you come to India, what you see, live and experience not only depends on where you go, but also on how you travel, with whom and who you meet.

So when I talk about my India, I refer to my personal experiences. You might go or have been to the same places but have a completely different opinion.

My India is influenced by its village people, the backpackers, the freaky travelers, old and young hippies, spiritual seekers, more or less trustable Sadhus, budget hotels, local buses and sleeper class train trips and the simple but complicated things. I have little contact with modern Indian society and the big cities. Maybe because I don’t feel attracted to it, since this is what I miss the least from back “home”.

Sometimes people in Europe ask me “How is India?” There is no answer to this question. India is full of contrasts at all levels. I think that it is what you make of it or what it makes of you, which in the end is the same thing.

A couple of times I went to a Mall in Delhi and in Varanasi. There was a doorkeeper at the entrance to make sure only “acceptable” people would come in. I guess he let me in, because I am European, as I looked anything but acceptable in my shabby hippie travel clothes. But I only realized that when I saw the pretty, modern Indian girls inside the mall in their jeans and tight T-Shirts and the young guys with the latest haircuts, cool sunglasses and brand-name shirts.

In my India the dress code kind of loses its importance and after some months of hardcore travelling, you don’t even notice anymore that your clothes have several holes or that what once was white has turned into an undefinable shade. And one ends up hanging out with people who just look the same, so you don’t realize this until you meet someone who is “acceptably decent”.

The best thing of the mall, that I imediately enjoyed, was the aircondition as it was terribly hot outside. I was no longer used anymore to all the artificial bright lights and it took some time to get adjusted to all the sparkling and shining windows and the high gloss polished floors. I went to enjoy the shop windows and it felt as if I had been beamed into another reality, which felt somehow familiar to me. All the shops and brands you can also find in any mall in Europe were there and on the top floor there was a huge foodcourt and cinema halls. I even bought a cup of expensive Italian ice-cream. I stood at one of the big glass walls overlooking the street and looked down.

Suddenly my ice-cream didn’t taste that good anymore. Out there were the stuffy, grey pollution, the sweaty Rickshaw drivers waiting for passengers, dirty street-kids begging at the traffic light, scabby dogs sniffing around, pavement dwellers having a nap on the side of the dense traffic and cows chewing on plastic bags in the middle of the road. Yep, the real world, my India, was out there!

What I want to say is that I don’t intend to generalize anything, even if it sometimes might sound like it. Nothing is better or worse than the other thing. Things are just different, and so are experiences.

May your India be with you!

 

I LOVE MY INDIA

i_love_my_india_remix

I love my India… you can find this phrase printed on stickers, T-Shirts and posters in tourist shops all over India. I love this statement, because it is just so true!

I think I have to explain something about my blog. I am writing about “my” India. India is a little universe by itself. There are as many Indias as there are Hindu gods, 33 million of them!

The country consists of 28 states, every state has its region, there are 22 official languages and there is a great deal of dialects, too. Each place has its own culture and traditions. It could be compared to one of those Russian Babushka dolls, something always contains something more and you never know where this ends.

If you come to India, what you see, live and experience not only depends on where you go, but also on how you travel, with whom and who you meet.

So when I talk about my India, I refer to my personal experiences. You might go or have been to the same places but have a completely different opinion.

My India is influenced by its village people, the backpackers, the freaky travelers, old and young hippies, spiritual seekers, more or less trustable Sadhus, budget hotels, local buses and sleeper class train trips and the simple but complicated things. I have little contact with modern Indian society and the big cities. Maybe because I don’t feel attracted to it, since this is what I miss the least from back “home”.

Sometimes people in Europe ask me “How is India?” There is no answer to this question. India is full of contrasts at all levels. I think that it is what you make of it or what it makes of you, which in the end is the same thing.

A couple of times I went to a Mall in Delhi and in Varanasi. There was a doorkeeper at the entrance to make sure only “acceptable” people would come in. I guess he let me in, because I am European, as I looked anything but acceptable in my shabby hippie travel clothes. But I only realized that when I saw the pretty, modern Indian girls inside the mall in their jeans and tight T-Shirts and the young guys with the latest haircuts, cool sunglasses and brand-name shirts.

In my India the dress code kind of loses its importance and after some months of hardcore travelling, you don’t even notice anymore that your clothes have several holes or that what once was white has turned into an undefinable shade. And one ends up hanging out with people who just look the same, so you don’t realize this until you meet someone who is “acceptably decent”.

The best thing of the mall, that I imediately enjoyed, was the aircondition as it was terribly hot outside. I was no longer used anymore to all the artificial bright lights and it took some time to get adjusted to all the sparkling and shining windows and the high gloss polished floors. I went to enjoy the shop windows and it felt as if I had been beamed into another reality, which felt somehow familiar to me. All the shops and brands you can also find in any mall in Europe were there and on the top floor there was a huge foodcourt and cinema halls. I even bought a cup of expensive Italian ice-cream. I stood at one of the big glass walls overlooking the street and looked down.

Suddenly my ice-cream didn’t taste that good anymore. Out there were the stuffy, grey pollution, the sweaty Rickshaw drivers waiting for passengers, dirty street-kids begging at the traffic light, scabby dogs sniffing around, pavement dwellers having a nap on the side of the dense traffic and cows chewing on plastic bags in the middle of the road. Yep, the real world, my India, was out there!

What I want to say is that I don’t intend to generalize anything, even if it sometimes might sound like it. Nothing is better or worse than the other thing. Things are just different, and so are experiences.

May your India be with you!