I have most definitely fallen into the ‘India Tourist’ role. With my hands covered in henna, my hair constantly covered and a beautiful bindi on display between my ‘I may have forgotten my tweezers’ eyebrows. I am also clearly overwhelmed, in a good way of course, due to the beauty, culture and acceptance here. I’ve even had to hold back tears a few times while walking through museums and temples. Also because I’m constantly tripping on everything…I’m very clumsy in India. And articulate! Since no one around me has my accent, I am constantly having to talk slowly and clearly. I’ve even taken on Anna’s German accent at times, mixed with a slight Indian accent. It’s interesting to say the least.
Over the last couple of days, I have fallen into a routine. My mornings are started with chai and yoga, which of course puts me in a ‘tra-la-la’ mood all day long after those relaxing breathing exercises, then they are followed by a quick breakfast and launching myself into a jam packed day since I set out for Jaipur on Saturday for the education project. I need to do all of Delhi as humanely possible in one week!
Yes, I’m a dreamer.
Yesterday I got to experience some more cultural activities including learning to tie a saree, which I was very focused on since I bought the material for mine and am eagerly waiting for Jaipur to have it tailored. I also tried out my henna skills, and now I have chunks of really bad designs all over my legs, which I happily hide under my long skirts. Luckily I also have beautiful traditional designs covering my right hand that Sudha and Keerti did for me.
I participated in a Bollywood dance class and freaking rocked at it! I smiled the entire time. I didn’t realize it until after the class when my face relaxed and my cheek muscles burned.
It’s funny, the more I think about it, the more I don’t understand why I don’t already live here. I adore music, dance, bright colors, being surrounded by culture, studying religion, learning new languages, walking everywhere and being in non-Canadian weather. Hmm…I think I have some things to think about when I return to Toronto.
Today, after chai, yoga and breakfast of course, I spent some time working on my Hindi. It occurred to me that it will probably be pretty difficult to help children with their English if I can’t even communicate with them in Hindi. I can officially say I now know some essential words, like panni, which is water, and a few common phrases like aap kaise ho?Which means, how are you? Surprisingly I’ve found Hindi quite easy to learn. For example, making your sentence past tense is done by adding a simple ho gayg at the end. I hate grammar so I was very pleased by this!
The afternoon was spent in Delhi again with our favorite guide, Govind, and driver, Shivreg. We first visited Humayun’s Tomb, which was a collection of tombs belonging to some pretty rich and famous guys and gals, including Isla Khan. The tombs were designed by Mirak Mirza Ghiyath, the same architect who designed the Taj Mahal.
Fun fact: Delhi actually has over 500 tombs, and that only includes the ones that have been found AND identified. There are still tons that have no definite history.
My highlight of the day was visiting Jama Masjid, Asia’s largest mosque, located in Old Delhi. Its presence and beauty is overwhelming. The architecture, the grand staircase leading up to it, the small children playing and devoted women praying capture your heart as you step inside the courtyard surrounding it. Small children followed me as I walked through the Mosque. They smiled and laughed as I struggled to pronounce Hindi words. They held my hand and posed for photos, as per their request, and were just completely infatuated with my white skin and freckles, or ‘sprinkles’ as Anna calls them.
We walked out from the mosque into the crowded alleys of the Chandri Chowk markets of Chaha Rahat. We passed spices, jewels, bags, candy and huge pails of boiling chai, breathing in the dense smell of incense burning at each shop, which thankfully helped cover the strong smell of urine when passing the outdoor urinals.
We walked and walked, and grabbed snacks from a street vendor. Finally we reached Red Fort with huge smiles on our faces. The walls are so grand and the India flag waves proudly, high above our heads. Red Fort is actually in great shape for its age. If it was a 50-year-old woman, I’d say she looks about 42.
The ride home was long and we all dozed off. Shivrag sped through the streets as we raced against time to get back for dinner at 7:30pm. Tonight dinner was with a local family down the street that invited us in to enjoy a traditional meal. They were so welcoming and explained to us local traditions and celebrations, and of course Hindi weddings while showing us a family members’ wedding album. The colors of the outfits are so lively and vibrant. Hindu weddings are really more like festivals than events. They made it seem like 550 guests was ‘no big deal’.
We ate puri, chola, mint chutney, potatoes and curd, and finished it off with custard topped with pomegranate, mangos and grapes. We all compared our countries to one another and came to one conclusion – no one appreciates their time with family more than India does. I wish we made more time for our families in North America. We can’t wait for the day to move out and then we get busy with school, jobs, friends, boyfriends, a bunch of random crap that doesn’t really matter and never make time for family. I think more family time is something I will take home with me. A little piece of India that I think they will appreciate the most. (And a tangible present, don't worry mom.)
Tomorrow we will journey to Agra, to visit the Taj Mahal of course, and then drive to begin the education project in Jaipur. I am so blessed to have had such a great week experiencing the culture and pleasures that India has to offer, and cannot wait to try my Hindi out with a bunch of kids and work with the women of the empowerment program.
It’s been a week, but a week for me. I’m really looking forward to dedicating my time to the women and children that are part of the education project.
Now it's time for a much-needed shower and sleep, as my feet are black and my eyes are slowly closing.
Shubh raatri! (Goodnight!)