Happy Mid-Year-ish!

Woohoo! We survived half of 2017. And two days (almost). Way to go us!

[I feel like we need to celebrate more things in life.]

Cool. Did I have resolutions for this year? Can’t remember, so obviously I haven’t been keeping up with that. Oh, there was the one about BLOGGING MORE HAHAHAHA sorry if you fell for that; it’s my version of the April Fool’s prank (what did I even do for April Fool’s day this year?) which is maybe not very funny but whatever.

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In Udaipur – Cutest little hostel with the greatest artwork!

So what’s happened so far? Two weeks in Singapore, three months in India, two-ish months in Thailand. Singapore was pretty cool – catching up with friends and family, some of whom I think were guilted into hanging out with me because they didn’t know when they’d see me again, and (mentally) preparing for India. I had no idea what to expect when it came to India, and the mental preparation was worth it.

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Family that probably doesn’t need to be coerced into spending time with me.

Honestly, of the 40-odd countries I’ve been to, India tops the list by a mile when it comes to MOST DIFFICULT. Just the lack of infrastructure for tourists, the language barrier, the bureaucracy, the inefficiency, the men – every. single. day. was an exhausting struggle.

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And can we please get non-child beer??

Sure, there were good times and I met some really cool people along the way, but on the whole, would not recommend. Or would, if you want to test yourself. Lots of people love India (and I was told I would too), but I am not one of those people, thank you very much.

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Exhibit 1298142: Madness in India

And now Thailand. It was such a sigh of relief when I arrived (in the middle of the night, mind you) and everything was so. fricking. easy.

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As easy as a beautiful, delicious, satisfying cup of coffee. Which I (almost) never got in India.

Getting out of the airport. Finding the hostel. Getting to places. Not having to deal with creepy men staring all the time. I hadn’t realized that I’d been holding my breath, but Thailand is when I heaved a sigh of relief.

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The Thai massage also helped in the heaving of the sigh of relief.

Of course, it has its downsides, but I’d much rather deal with Thailand than India. And for the most part, the company here has been outstanding – Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and now my small village Nam Phong. I’d definitely feel much less kindly toward Thailand if I hadn’t met such great people along the way.

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We’re a pretty odd bunch, here in Nam Phong.

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We’re a pretty sexy bunch too, even if I say so myself.

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These housemates. And our cats. ❤

What do the next six months hold? Barring any unforeseen circumstances, I’ll be here in Thailand for the next three months, serving the rest of my time in prison. I mean, my contract. [hypothesis confirmed – do not like children]. After that, who knows. I have absolutely zero plans for the last three months of the year. I kinda want to wander around Asia for a bit more, but I’m also coming to the realization that Asia isn’t really my scene. I kinda want to get to Africa, but the possible lack of decent internet might screw my current earning potential over. I want to go back to Latin America, but what if I’ve built it up to something more than it is in my head? And Europe would be cool too, but I’m too broke for it.

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Take me with you!

Well, since I’m completely and entirely undecided, suggestions and recommendations are welcome! But for now:

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Tiempo para dormir!

  **On a side note, I was going through my pictures the other day, and realized that my pictures from between Kalpetta and Madurai have mostly disappeared – Allepey, Varkala, Kochi, Munnar and Kodaikanal will only ever exist in my memories. Sad.**

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This is my sad face. Do you not see the sadness?

Chennai and the Sru-Kalyanam!

#throwback
Three months late! I’m totally skipping like…weeks of my India trip and all of my time in Thailand so far to write this post about dearest Shrewpa’s wedding! Updates about the other bits in between may or may not follow in the months/ weeks to come, so stay tuned.

Robin (my friend from the UK who really wanted to attend an Indian wedding so I invited him to Shrew’s, with her permission) and I arrived in Chennai from Pondicherry. Pondi is only 150km away from Chennai, but it took almost 5 hours for that journey – don’t ask why; the only explanation is “It’s India”. After Robin dropped his stuff off at his hostel, we headed to meet my mum at her hotel.

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Mum in India!

Bit of backstory as to why my mum was there – when I told my family that I’d be travelling around India next and that I’d be in Chennai for Shrew’s wedding, they very excitedly decided to meet me there for a few days to check India out (after 20 years) and do some shopping. It worked out perfectly, because I needed to buy clothes for Shrew’s wedding anyway, so they could do the shopping, I could wear the clothes, and then they could take the clothes back to Singapore while I carried on enjoying life. My dad had gone to Thanjavur for a couple of days and my sister and niece weren’t arriving till the next day, so it was just mumsie, Robin and me for shopping day 1 of 1000000 (I kid, but it felt like we spent sooooooo many days shopping).

My aunt who lives in Chennai had invited us for lunch, so after stuffing our faces with superamazing biryani and mutton and chicken and all sorts of other things (it’s definitely a thing: Indian families = eat till you burst), we headed to an 11-storey Pothy’s to get ourselves wedding-ready. I’ve never seen anything like it, and I was overwhelmed before we even began but off we went.

Robin’s outfits were first order of business, and since he’s a guy, he was done with his outfits in about 20 minutes. He hung around valiantly for another 30 minutes or so while mum and I tried to pick outfits out for me, but eventually gave up and went back to his hostel, leaving mum and me to it. Good thing he did too, because we only finished with the shopping about 4 hours after that. x_x

 

 

 

 

End of Day 1 in Chennai.

Day 2 was slightly better – we visited the Kapaleeswarar temple and Valluvar Kottam, before picking my sister and niece, up from the airport. Decently fun, and the heat of Chennai made bearable by the fact that we were ferried around for most of the day in an air-conditioned car (perks of travelling with family)!

 

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Huge chariot at Valluvar Kottam

 

 

The next day was Shrew’s wedding Part 1! The morning was some sort of ceremony for the couple to get blessings from their elders so that the wedding would go smoothly (I think). Robin and I turned up mostly to mingle, to eat and to get some henna done. It was probably the only time I managed to have a conversation with the kalyana ponnu, Shrewpa.

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Kalyana ponnu, Shrew, and me, with a very distracted Shnoo

 

After that, it was back to the hotel to chill and relax before getting dressed for the evening celebrations! The nichayathartham, or engagement ceremony, is basically where the two families officially and publicly promise to marry their kids to each other. We basically spend most of it taking pictures and trying to figure out what was going on (as people usually do at Indian weddings).

 

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Wedding glow.

 

 

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No escaping now.

 

Robin and I showed up just in time for the Kasi Yaatra the next morning, where the groom pretends he’s going off to Kasi to live an ascetic life and the bride’s father stops him by promising his daughter’s hand in marriage. Rather elaborate play-acting which I thoroughly enjoyed.

 

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“Here is an umbrella full of flowers! Marry my sister!” – Karthik

 

After that, the bride and groom were hoisted on their uncle’s shoulders and they tried to garland each other. It looked like fun for the couple, but I can’t imagine how the uncles must have been feeling. (Bursting with joy, of course!)

 

Next was the couple being sat on a swing (that represents the ups and downs of married life, apparently) and fed bananas and milk by the married ladies of the family.

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Shrew’s face – ups of marriage, Ram’s face – downs of marriage.

 

The proceedings after that point were not too clear – some sort of prayers, and then more prayers, and then eventually Sru-Ram were married! Woooohooooo!

 

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But we decided to take pictures anyway.

 

Throughout all of that, there was a ton of food, and one of Shrew’s uncles constantly kept checking in on us about whether we were enjoying the food and festivities. It was good fun and like at all Indian weddings, I ate too much.

After that, it was time for some much needed R&R before I got dressed to go for the evening reception. Robin wasn’t feeling very well, so I didn’t have a date but still, it’s hard not to have a good time when there’s good food. And just like that, it was the end of SruRam Kalyanam! Thank you both for having us at your wedding!

 

The wedding was over, but our stay in Chennai was not. The next day, Robin and I met up with my parents, sister and niece (cute little grub child I want to eat her) to head to Mahabalipuram, a UNESCO World Heritage site. We tried (and failed) to pass ourselves off as locals, and ended up getting a guided tour around, which was pretty informative.

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With the family at Mahabalipuram.

 

The rest of the time my sister and niece were there were spent shopping and eating for the most part, so I’ll skip over that to the other interesting thing to happen in Chennai.

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I was squashed in the back with all the shopping. -_-

My sister and niece had left, and my parents wanted to do more shopping (surprise) before they left, so Robin and I bailed to go to an amusement park instead. It was quite a hassle getting there – for some reason, some of the buses on that route said they wouldn’t stop at the amusement park, so we ended up having to wait ages to get the right bus and it was all very annoying but finally we managed to get there. The entrance fee wasn’t cheap but it was worth it. We were expecting to have a laugh at the lame rides, but it ended up being pretty fun. We went on a few of the major rides (not the scariest one though – who knows when the last time was that the rides had been serviced), and had a pretty good time! Not a must-go, but decent enough to kill a few hours.

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Check out the tacky dragons at the amusement park – Dizzeeworld!

Then it was time to say bye to the parents before their flight, and that was about it for Chennai! It was fun (minus the shopping bits) but I must say I’m not dying to go back again. Still, worth it for the time I spent there.

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Bye parents!

Teaching in Thailand

Well, I wanted to do some work, but my internet isn’t working at the moment (what a surprise!), so I decided to blog instead.

So in case you missed the last Instagram post…I now teach in Thailand! That’s right, I’m teaching about 200 kids in a school in Northeastern Thailand wooohooo!

How mad is that. I don’t even like kids haha (: These kids can be kinda annoying (as can most kids), but they’re definitely a far cry from the entitled, pompous little brats in Singapore, so that’s good. And the Thai teachers who follow them around from class to class are more than happy to act as big mother hens and keep them (somewhat) in line. Besides, this gig is only for the next 18 weeks, so I’m quite confident I’ll survive.

Well, anyway. Friends in the region, please feel free to come and visit! Bangkok would probably be a better place to meet though – where I’m at has 500 people, 4 restaurants, 2 7-11s and a Tesco supermarket. No more, no less. Lots of people selling meat on a stick though, so that keeps me happy (and fat).

 

What else is new. Absolutely nothing. I vacillate between thinking I have a lot of free time (there’s absolutely nothing to do in Nam Phong), and no time at all (there seems to be an insane amount of lesson planning and prep and marking to do, all while on spotty internet, so that keeps things interesting). The other teachers here are nice, which is the saving grace of being here, in the middle of nowhere. I can’t imagine how I’d be dealing with things if I had gone to the other school with only two other ESL teachers.

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At lunch with the other teachers, on a very sweaty day at school.

Y, que mas? Perhaps I will finally find some motivation to get blogging about the rest of what’s happened in the last 3.5 years of travelling the world. Perhaps, but don’t hold your breath.

In any case, because you’re all my ardent fans, you’ll stay tuned for the next installation coming your way pronto. Till next time, peace and love patience and self-control!

Another month goes by, and I finally muster the energy to write another blog post. Obviously, I’m not too good at keeping to my new year resolutions, but to be honest, who is?

Where am I now? Thailand. I got here almost three weeks ago but haven’t yet mustered any energy to write anything about it. Not because Thailand has been awful – on the contrary, it’s been quite lovely and I’m enjoying how easy everything is in this country. No, I think I’ve pretty much just been recovering from India, which was an absolute…I don’t even know how to describe it.

Anyway. I’ve fallen sick, I think, so I’m not very motivated to gush about how wonderful Thailand is, or whine about how awful India was (broad generalizations). I just got back to Chiang Mai after spending five wonderful days in Pai, a small little town in the middle of a valley, surrounded by mountains. It was absolutely incredible place, and I spent most of my time there not doing much apart from wandering around the town, and eating all the delicious street food (of which there are no pictures because I ate everything before I remembered to take pictures). And obviously, because I gave my body time to relax and decompress, it kinda just went kaput. Hopefully, that will blow over in a few days because interesting times await. You’ll have to stay tuned for the next blog post to find out what’s cooking in crunch-land because I have work to do, and I also want to take a nap before dinner, and everything.

And to make it worth your while for coming here, some random pics from the last….forever long (to be honest, the last proper travel/destination related post was…Kalpetta, and that was some time in February, so). Enjoy!

 

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A kid peering out of the stained glass windows at Udaipur Palace.

 

 

 

So, that’s that. There are tonnes of places I have stopped at along the way since I left Kalpetta, but that’s gonna have to be saved for another day. In the meanwhile, I’m going to sleep off this cold. Toodles!

Goodbyes Are Hard.

I started writing this when I said goodbye to you. And when you left. And when I left you. And we both went our separate ways. I started writing this in my head, after every goodbye I’ve ever said that’s broken my heart, and left me wishing goodbye wasn’t even a word that existed. I started writing this years ago, but I’ve only just put it into words.

Recently, my friend and I were speaking of goodbyes, of farewells, of separating and going our own ways.

“Surely, for someone like you, who’s been travelling for over 3 years, saying goodbye must be easy.”

The truth is, saying goodbye is never easy. And I think it’s only gotten harder and harder.

Of course, I’m not talking about saying goodbye to casual acquaintances – random people you meet in hostels and chat with over a coffee, or even people you might spend a whole day with sightseeing and talking about this and that. Those goodbyes are perhaps, not easy, but you accept them as a part of your reality. No, no. The goodbyes that I’m talking about are the ones you still think about days, weeks, months after they happen.

Travelling as much as I do, I’ve come to realize that real connections are hard to come by. People you really click with, people you feel like you’ve known for years after just a brief interaction, people you get you. When I meet these people, as rarely as it happens, it’s so easy to just be with them that I always end up being around them longer than I would ever have planned. I mean, it’s not like I have anywhere else to be, right? But inevitably, the longer I spend with them, the harder the goodbye becomes. And when we finally do part, the goodbye is always a heart-wrenching moment, as I leave with my eyes full of tears, always, fighting the urge to turn around and go right back to them.

But as with all things, the feeling fades, and eventually, I remember the wise words of A.A. Milne,

“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

How lucky I am indeed. ❤

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Forgotten Family

Rediscovering Family in India

I admit, I’ve gotten lazy about updating this blog. Inertia is real, guys. Also, it’s easy to get sucked into the daily nothingness of wandering aimlessly around places, work, and meeting new people. But this…well, meeting family you haven’t met or talked to in 20 years is something worth writing about, I think.

The story begins in Madurai, where I had just decided that my next destination would be Trichy, famous for a huge temple complex called Srirangam. As is my usual practice, I Whatsapped my family chat group to announce my plan to head to Trichy the next day, and curiously, my dad responded saying “Your aunt lives in Trichy. This is her number. Give her a call if you can.” He then followed that up with my aunt’s daughter’s (my cousin’s) contact information, saying that she lived in Thanjavur, where I had planned to go after visiting Trichy.

Now, this may not seem particularly strange to you, but family ties between my dad and his siblings are tenuous at best. Of his ten (!) siblings, I believe my dad only speaks regularly to two of them. For whatever reasons, my dad doesn’t speak to, and of, the others. I had assumed this aunt was the same.

Now, I had met her before. 20 years ago, my family visited India to perform some customary rites for my deceased grandfather. As a child of merely seven, I have a vague memory of her in my grandmother’s house, and of her making some delicious chutney for us to take on the overnight train with us. That’s the last time I remember seeing her, or speaking to her. Apart from that, I had no other recollection of her, nor any other information about her or her family other than that she had two daughters.

Anyway. Back to the story. Suddenly, my trip to Trichy had taken on an interesting dimension I had not expected. Despite having her number, I did not contact my aunt immediately. I mean, after 20 years of not talking to her, I had no idea what to expect. I instead headed to Trichy, and spent a couple of days there before I finally worked up enough courage to try to call the number my dad had given me.

After all that anticipation, it was a huge letdown. The number was not valid. -_- I tried my cousin’s number instead, and surprise of surprises, she answered! She even knew who I was when I introduced myself! She had no way of contacting her mother either, but instead gave me her address, telling me to go visit my aunt when I could.

Armed with just an address, I set off the next morning in an Ola cab that took me right to her doorstep. I had no idea what to expect, and felt strangely nervous about the whole situation. She had last seen me when I was seven. What would she think of me turning up unannounced at her doorstep after twenty years of silence? I was about to find out.

The door was shut, and there didn’t appear to be a doorbell, so I stood awkwardly at the gate, wondering what to do. Thankfully, at that moment, the milkman rode up and tooted his horn. The door opened, and out came a man I presumed was my uncle – I had no memory of ever having met him, nor seen his photograph. I let the men conduct their transaction, and then spoke up.

“Is my aunt at home? I’m here from Singapore, her youngest brother’s second daughter.”

He gaped at me, confused, for a second, before inviting me into his home and telling me that my aunt had gone to the temple and would be back shortly. I sat awkwardly in the living room, and waited for my aunt while making small talk with this stranger I was apparently related to.

Eventually, my aunt arrived in a flurry of activity. She was just as I remembered her – a bit heavier, a bit slower, a few more lines etched in her face, but still the same in essence. She greeted me with such joy as I had not expected, and I found that she bore no grudge against me for my absence from her life for the last 20 years.

 

She immediately started making preparations for lunch, and questioned me about all my favourite foods, promising to cook everything my heart desired for me. In my family, we’re not big on hugs or saying things like “I love you” – we show love through food, and I guess she felt like she needed to shower me with 20 years of affection in the short time that I had with her. When I arrived at her house that day, I had planned to stay for a few hours just to see her and her family, because, if nothing else, they are part of my family. I ended up spending most of that day and the next, at her house, chatting with her and her elder daughter, Sasi, about things that had happened in their lives in the last 20 years that I had not been a part of. I also got to meet my nephew, Prem, who seems like a cool guy but whom I didn’t get to hang out with much since he was heading back to Chennai that night. And all while stuffing my face with the incredibly delicious food she made. Mutton, chicken, fish, kurma, rasam, chutney, dosai, chappati, idiyappam, murukku, tea, coffee. Just thinking about the food is making me drool all over again.

That evening, while applying fresh maruthani from her garden to my hands, she told me that I was always welcome in her home. That no matter what, if I were ever in or around Trichy, that I should always come back to her house and spend a few days there. That even though she hadn’t really been a part of my life in the last 20 years, there’s no reason why it should be like that in the future.

 

The next morning, it was off to catch the train to Thanjavur, where my grandmother had spent a portion of her life, where the temple of my family’s deity (kuladeivam temple) was, and where my cousin, Priya, and her family lived. My cousin’s husband, Ramesh, was there to receive me at the Thanjavur train station, and we headed to his house where I met my cousin for the first time that I could remember. She looked exactly like my aunt did, 20 years ago, but I had no memory of her. It wasn’t the time for catching up on long forgotten stories though, because it was almost 11, and she suggested that I head to the kuladeivam temple first before they closed for the afternoon, if they were even open in the first place.

I hopped on the back of Ramesh’s motorbike and we headed to Arasapattu, a farming village. As we rode, he told me about the the area, and the villages that we were passing – things that were part of my heritage, but that I knew nothing about at all. We eventually arrived at the temple, but not before stopping a few times along the way to introduce me to random villagers as my father’s daughter, all of whom knew my grandmother, and had heard of my father but never met him (and probably had no idea that my siblings and I even existed). My presence was a source of some sort of excitement in the village, not least because I apparently “look exactly like my grandmother, just a foot taller and not as hunched”.

 

 

 

Anyway, by a stroke of luck, the temple was open and there was even a priest there, so that worked out quite well. Ramesh told me that I was quite fortunate, because for some reason, when my other uncles had visited the temple, they hadn’t managed to perform the pujas they’d wanted to – apparently only the women in my family have had the blessings to come to the temple and perform the necessary pujas.

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Kuladeivam temple

 

On the way back from the temple, we stopped to visit my my grandfather’s brother’s son, an elderly man by the name of Dhanushkodi, and his wife. I think he had been helping out with looking after my grandfather’s assets in the village since my grandfather left for Singapore, but I had no idea he even existed until that day. He and his wife were extremely surprised and pleased to see me – his wife was extremely affectionate towards me in the brief time I spent there, and even teared up when the time came for me to leave.

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Dhanushkodi uncle and his wife

 

After that, it was back home where Priya had cooked up quite a feast. I met Thiyagesh, my nephew, a cheerful 13-year-old who was quite convinced that I could help him hack into various gaming sites (he was quite disappointed when I told him I lacked such prowess, but I think he got over it quite quickly). Over lunch, and the rest of the time that I spent with her, Priya told me stories about my family that I had never known, and probably would never have gotten to know otherwise. I felt somewhat like a sponge, absorbing all the information about this part of my family that I never even knew existed.

 

The next day, we went to visit the house my grandmother used to live in before she moved to Singapore to live with my family. I remembered there being a small house in an expansive garden full of trees and plants, with a few chickens and turkeys wandering around. The place we pulled up to looked nothing like that, and my surprise must have registered on my face because Priya confirmed that this was indeed my grandmother’s house. It was in a sad state. It was much smaller than I remembered, probably in part because of all the taller, newer houses that had been errected around that plot of land. The garden was dead, with only one guava tree left standing, and the house looked worse for wear. None of it looked familiar at all, until I stepped into the house. Nothing much inside had changed, except that the fan that caused electric shocks was no longer there. I don’t know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t that, and it made me quite sad.

 

We left after a short while – there was nothing more to be done there. The rest of the day passed quite pleasantly, as we visited some of Thanjavur’s main sights – the Big Temple and the Palace – and then hung out chatting with Priya, Ramesh and Thiyagesh. The next morning, I left to catch the 430am train to Pondicherry, and just like that, this episode of my India trip came to an end.

 

 

I didn’t quite know what to make of it all, and in some ways, I still don’t. I mean, I had only a vague idea of the existence of some of these people, and no idea others even existed, and it rather blew me away that they were all so affectionate and welcoming toward me, just by virtue of the fact that I am my father’s daughter. I learnt so much about my family history that I had never known, and I suddenly find that I now have family where none previously existed. It was a rather strange experience, simply put.

 

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Thiyagesh, who looks quite displeased here, but was actually quite happy irl.

 

Perhaps I shall visit them again before this trip comes to an end – my family, no longer forgotten.

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Thanjavur doll at the Palace.

Thoughts on India

What are my thoughts on India so far? Well, I’ve been here for more than two months, so it seems like I would have a lot of thoughts, and I think I do.

First off, I can’t decide if I like it or not. I was talking to my friend about this and when I told her that I couldn’t decide if I like India or not, the first question she asked was if it was because of the food. Quite an apt summary of my ambivalence toward India, I think. The food is amazing and delicious, I admit. Almost all the food I’ve had here so far as been incredible, from the fancy(ish) restaurants to the street vendors. My problem is not the taste of the food…it’s the food itself. Ask my mother, and she’ll tell you that I don’t like Indian food. While that is strictly not true, I will admit that it’s not my favourite. I love rice, and rice dishes, but the ubiquitous dosa and idly are faaaaaar down on my lists of favourite foods. Idly doesn’t even make the cut on my list of favourite foods, actually. Puri and parotta are somewhat more acceptable but my stomach can only deal with that much oil on a daily basis. Vadais and samosas are wonderful, and I would eat them all the time, but my stomach has sent me a strict memo against it, again on account of the amount of oil contained within each of these bite-sized savories. Given that my name is crunch, it seems obvious that food features quite prominently in my life…and yeah, I admit, I’m kinda over Indian food.

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Yes, I take lots of food pictures.

 

Food woes aside, I think my experience in India has been rather different from the typical tourist or backpacker. Sure, everyone wants to feel like they’re special, but hear me out. I’m in India, and I’m Indian, but…I’m not. Bit of background so this makes a a little more sense. I’m Singaporean, born and bred. But my grand parents (great grand parents?) were from India. They migrated a loooong time ago to Singapore, and built their lives there. Their children, my parents were born in Singapore and have lived all their lives in Singapore, and so have I and my siblings. We look Indian, we are of Indian heritage. My family is Hindu, we practice Indian / Hindu traditions, customs and rites. We are Indian, except we have no ties with the country itself. I’m Indian, but I’m not.

2017-02-20 10.49.41 This complicates things somewhat for me. I blend in with the locals, because of the way I look, but they can tell that I’m a foreigner. And the travellers, well, I blend in so well that they don’t think of me as a fellow traveller. It has made for somewhat of a lonely experience so far, and it’s always been up to me to approach other people to strike up a conversation, something that can get tiring real quick. It’s a strange space to be in, where you are a foreigner, but not really. You don’t get afforded the allowances given to “silly / ignorant” foreigners who don’t know any better, but you also get hassled by street vendors looking to rip off a “rich” tourist.

 

Add this to the fact that I’ve mostly been travelling alone save one or two occassions when I’ve met up with other travellers for a short stretch of my journey, and well…let me explain. Travelling solo in India is not uncommon. In fact, of all the places I’ve been so far, India seems to be the country that attracts the most solo travellers. Perhaps it is because India is such a polarizing country – people either really want to visit India, or they never want to set foot here ever in their lives. It’s not exactly a “neutral” country that people “don’t mind” visiting, just to see what it’s like, not like Latin American countries or other Asian countries. It’s also not a small country, and doesn’t lend itself to short week-long getaways like European countries – coming to India is almost always an undertaking of (more) epic proportions, with trips lasting at least a month to even years. So yes, solo travellers are not uncommon. But, solo Indian female travellers are. So while everyone else is enjoying India without a care in the world, I’m often plagued by questions like Are you alone? Where is your husband? Why aren’t you married? Why don’t you have kids? How did your parents let you go by yourself?, always asked with an air of judgement and suspicion. Safe to say, the other solo female travellers don’t get asked these questions quite as often (if at all), and probably not with the judginess that I encounter. Inevitably, almost all of these brief (but incredibly trying) interactions end with a dire warning “It’s not good for a girl like you to be alone.”

 

My personal gripes aside, India is not an easy country to travel in. Tourism is apparently faaaaaar down on the list of priorities, and infrastructure is severely lacking. India is an incredible place – their slogan is right on the mark – but it can be incredibly difficult too. Perhaps it’s a fun Indian pastime to come up with a list of things to make life difficult for the foreign tourist. Ha, I kid. But seriously. – Trains need to be booked way in advance to reserve a decent seat, something that complicates things if you’re like me and travel without a plan. – The website to book trains is ridiculously complicated to navigate, and requires that you have a local mobile number to do anything. Alternatively, go in person to the train station, where you may or may not be allowed to reserve a seat, depending on who you ask. – Getting a local mobile number can be a nightmare, because you need to have proof of residence in India / a local ID card. – Booking buses online is also impossible without local help, because the website does not accept international credit cards. – India has a ton of really cool places, but everything is inaccessible, expensive, or illegal to get to or explore, often for really silly reasons. I could go on, but why. This post is already full of too much negativity. I shall stop here, for now. Perhaps the next post will be “All the things I absolutely love about India!” but…don’t hold your breath for that.

 

 

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Fab India indeed.