Published: November 24th 2008November 24th 2008
My uncle ahead of us on our way to the family house.
Friday morning we took a bus to Meerut, where my Dad grew up. One of my uncles came to meet us on his bicycle from the bus stop. Slightly confused about how we were supposed to get to the house, I followed my dad and his brother over to his bike. Looking around for some sort of transportation, I heard my Dad say: “Okay, let’s go Kathleen.” I turned around and saw him standing next to the smallest bicycle rickshaw I have ever seen. At first I thought he was joking, because I did not see any way we were both going to fit on this seat meant for one with both pieces of luggage. However, I realized quite a while ago that everything is possible in India, and where there is an Indian, there is a way. My uncle propped one of our suitcases on the back of his bike, balancing it with one hand, and grabbing the handlebar with the other. We carefully placed the other bag between the seat and frame behind us. Squeezing on the seat, we were ready to go. As the 50-year-old rickshaw driver pedaled our way through the streets saturated with potholes, I held
Family House in Meerut
Arriving after yet another interesting rickshaw experience.
on tightly to the only thing available - me.
I got a tour of the house, saw my father’s old room, and listened to old childhood stories over chai. After this we took a drive (in a real car) to the village, where we saw the family’s sugar cane field and mango orchard. After a hefty serving of sugar cane and a stroll through the orchard, we drove to the residential part of the village to make some visits. I felt like we were participating in some sort of pub-crawl. Except instead of beer, we drank chai, and instead of checking out people on the dance floor, we would give praise for the size and number of water buffalos they had for milking.
I witnessed and learned the whole process for making sugar, each step explained to me by my dad and a local friend of the family. I even had some samples of warm Jaggery (pure organic sugar), as fresh as you can have it. After some more visits, chai, and sweets, we finally arrived at our destination for the night, my aunt’s house.
The next night we attended a cousin’s wedding. The decorations and outfits
Too bad it wasn't mango season ...
were incredible. There were several food stands set up outside, each serving a different Indian dish or snack. As I walked around sampling everything that I thought my stomach could handle, I felt like I was at a huge fair of some sort. Everything hot was made in large pots the size of bathtubs. There seemed to be a limitless supply of everything. My dad and uncle were both impressed when they noticed that I was spending most of my time next to the enormous pot of hot milk and sugar; the staple drink of our ancestral clan. Although the actual ceremony still hadn’t started, we left around midnight, thinking we could get to bed at a reasonable hour and get an early start the next morning, since more visiting needed to be done.
The wedding organizers insisted we stay at a local hotel, some place with the swanky name of Hotel Valentine. Since the entire hotel was booked for wedding guests, we agreed. We arrived at the hotel around 12:15, and did not get a room until after 1. One of the hotel staff led us up the stairs to a long hallway with rooms lined on one
side. At first I thought he was looking for a particular guest, knocking and opening almost every door. However, I quickly realized that he actually had no idea which room to put us in, or even which rooms were vacant. We must have walked up and down that hallway a dozen times, opening doors and waking up guests. Although I couldn’t really understand exactly what was going on, since they were all talking in Hindi, I think the hotel employee actually wanted to put us in an empty room with someone’s suitcases in it. Of course we refused, and after the most unorganized, illogical version of trial and error, we finally found a clean, empty room. After experiencing this Indian way of doing things for over a month now, I simply sat back and laughed at the entire situation. I have realized that you have to give into India, and take it as it comes. Because if you fight it, there is no doubt that India will kick your ass.
Today (Monday) is a day to relax and get ready for our trip to Kerala, which is early tomorrow morning. We have four days and three nights there, coming
This is one of the many families we visited in the village.
back on Friday. I have heard many great things about Kerala and I am very excited to see another part of India. I hope to write again as soon as I get back!
There are more photos below