Saturday, March 21, 2009

India 2009 Report II - Girls! Girls! Girls!

I've spent the past few days meeting several girls. This has been more than a little stressful and has left me physically and emotionally drained. Since this is a public forum, I'll say no more about it for now.


I've more or less settled into a routine here now. Indian households tend to rise early, and the noise inevitably wakes me earlier than I'd like to be up, so I rise with the best grace possible and go and get a cup of tea while reading the local English-language newspaper, The Tribune. There's a national election happening in India next month so that's getting a lot of coverage. Since I'm unfamiliar with the ins and outs of Indian politics, this often leaves me scrabbling for the one page of business and world news (I hear the iPhone is getting copy and paste!).

It's been good to see the family again too. My cousins arrived this evening with their various children in tow, most of whom were born after the last time I was here, and the rest were just babies and have grown into adolescents. In particular, my neice Kavita has grown from a well-spoken, shy little girl into a confident, young woman who has the ambition that sometimes seems to be so lacking in Punjab – a state that reminds me in more ways than one of Northern Ireland. It has the same dependence on agriculture and the same inward focus which seems somewhat misplaced.

On Thursday, I added another item to my decadance list. To add to having a bookcase custom-made, I can now add that I was fitted for a tailor-made suit which I'll pick up next week. This was dearer than I was expecting, but I suspect it'll be worth it in the long run, and it's almost certainly cheaper by a long way than getting it done at home! I was slightly startled to find the shop that we were going to was next to New Look, although that actually was a branch of the chain, unlike the signs that I saw for Walia-Mart or Vindsor Palace :-).

Despite this single instance of a global brand, the 'high street' in India remains incredibly diverse, with little shops smaller than a garage (my cousin's electrical shop wouldn't even fit a Flat Car) competing for custom with large air-conditioned emporia.

The Villages

Yesterday my parents and I went out to visit some relatives who lived in a couple of villages near Phagwara. As soon as you get off the sleek, and well-maintained Grand Trunk Road, you enter a world of small, potholed, single-track roads that meander amongst the fields of wheat and sugarcane, broken up only by the villages and occasional palatial house which really highlight the difference between rich and poor in this country. Amongst these are large, spindly trees that I didn't recognise (although with my low Knowlege (Nature) check, this doesn't necessarily mean anything). The occasional combine harvestor (in bits) and painted signs for Vodafone that compete side-by-side with ox- and horse-drawn carts serve as reminders that modern technology doesn't stop at the GT Road.

The village of Padi where my aunt and her family stay has always amused me because of the water tanks on the houses. All houses here have personal water tanks since the mains supply is somewhat unreliable, but Padi seems to take delight in having them in unusual forms. I've seen eagles, areoplanes, bucky-balls and even one in the shape of a weightlifter hoisting dumbells!

After that we went to see my other aunt in our family home in the village of Johal. Apart from my missing grandmother, who died last year, this hasn't changed in a decade. I recognised everything and what differences there were, were pretty small. We spent the rest of the afternoon there before returning to Phagwara to meet another girl.

Only just after we got back from that, the wind started to pick up. I didn't think anything of it until the lights went out. Apparently these storms can cause problems with the mains power lines, so they're shut down for the duration. I went up to the roof with my cousin for a bit to enjoy the cool wind and almost as soon as we went up I saw a heavily green-tinged shot of lightning. As we watched, these shots of sheet lightning became more and more frequent, but were entirely silent, creating a really eerie atmosphere. The first drops of rain sent us indoors where my mother and I watched the storm from the window until called down for dinner. The storm remained pretty quiet but there were occasional peals of thunder, which seemed to correspond to the fork lightning that struck very occasionally. It was a very pleasant evening, sitting in the dark by candle light, listening to my neice telling ghost stories!


Today, I went to city of Chandigarh to meet another girl. Regardless of that, I had been curious to see that city, ever since I had discovered that it had been designed by the French-Swiss modernist architect Le Corbusier. While I was here, I also discovered that despite being the capital of both the states of Punjab and Haryana, it is part of neither, being administered directly by the national government. There was an interesting article in the Tribune yesterday though telling the story of how the two states continue to have a single High Court, based in Chandigarh.

It's a long drive to Chandigarh and as I was looking out the window I realised that the cars are predominantly white. I don't mean that if you counted them all, white would be the statistically higher colour, I mean that it's unusual to see a car which isn't white! And the ones which aren't tend to be 4x4/SUVs which are presumably climate-controlled.

The city did not disappoint. It is laid out in numbered sectors, with wide tree-lined avenues and large roundabouts with working ornamental fountains and decorative flowers that make it a joy to drive in, compared to the rest of the country. Unlike the rest of India that I've seen so far, including Delhi, there is almost something like a traffic code that is obeyed in Chandigarh. Despite being here now for almost a week and doing lots of travelling, being in a car still makes me fear for my life every time I step into it!

Besides this, there are also several tourist gardens in Chandigarh, of which we only had time to see the Rock Garden which was quite amazing. A very pleasant stroll amongst sculptures and designs made entirely of household and industrial waste, it was inspirational and worth the visit alone.

Tomorrow is my nephew's mundan for which we leave the house at stupid o'clock. I'll try and write about that in a couple of days.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Blogger button Comments facility provided by blogKomm