Welcome to India where the cows eat hay and we drive auto rickshaws everyday

Written 21 November 2013

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First stop on my trip – Indiaaaaa. The whole experience was AMAZING. I haven’t been to India since I was eight, so it was quite exciting to be back, and with friends, and to attend Sushma’s wedding. It was great catching up with Sneha, whom I hadn’t seen for over a year, and hanging out with Aditi and Sruthy. The flight itself felt like it took FOR-EVER, for some reason, and was full of crying, whining, annoying children (those of you who know me would probably know I have very little patience for children). Not a pleasant experience at all. *shudder* Anyway, our flight landed slightly past midnight, and we met Mufeedha and Faiz to take the van/bus to the hotel that Sushma’s parents had very kindly arranged for us. The hotel (Grand Hotel)was pretty fancy and the rooms were huge. Met up with Sindhu who had taken an earlier flight and spent the rest of the evening getting acquainted with Sushma’s other friends (Dhivya, Harvind and Han Chin) who were also there for the wedding.

We had initially planned to spend Monday getting all prettied up for the wedding, but in typical India style, there was a bandh, strike, so none of the shops were open and the transport didn’t work either. Ended up spending the morning hanging out after a delish breakfast and then taking a walk around town. It was blistering hot and we walked for quite a while before ending up at a hotel (Avenue Centre) for a buffet lunch.

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Headed back to the hotel after that to get dressed for the evening function. Everyone looked lovely and Sushma was so gorgeous in her sari! It was a fascinating ceremony, where the groom, Vineet, was supposed to embrace bachelorhood and head off to Kasi, and had to be wooed to stay with the promise of marriage to a wonderful girl, i.e. Sushma.

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After he had agreed to stay, there was also a little ceremony where the bride had to grind some things in an old-fashioned stone grinder. We hypothesized that it was probably to show off the housewife-ly skills of the bride to convince the groom he had made the right choice. It was all great fun, followed by amazing food.
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Photo credit: Harvind Vinod

The next morning, we had a houseboat trip. We took a two hour bus journey to Allappey, which was highly entertaining and amusing, primarily thanks to Vineet’s uncle Kumar. Such an energetic man! There was lots of singing and dancing on the bus and the two hours flew by quite quickly!
The houseboat trip was great – we got to know some of Vineet’s friends, and had more amazing food plus some extra local fare (karimeen and some coconut thing). Great fun.

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Took a nap on the way back and then got dressed for the evening event, the sangeet. It was absolutely incredible. It was a huge carnival like you see in the Bolllywood films. I didn’t know people actually had such things and was stunned. There was a henna booth, a guy doing caricatures, a lady giving out bangles, a popcorn and cotton candy stand, a live band, a magician, FIREWORKS and so much more. It was really amazing. Sushma looked like an absolute angel. I swear, she was glowing. Vineet was also very dashing and they make such a cute couple! I honestly don’t think the sangeet could have been better even if they had tried.

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Wednesday morning was the actual wedding itself. Everyone looked amazing in their saris and when we got to the wedding venue, we got a sneak peek of Sushma. She was so gorgeous and radiant, and I think seeing her in all her wedding finery finally hit home the idea that she was getting married. We all became kinda emotional at that point and had to leave so we wouldn’t ruin her makeup. The wedding started off with the baarat, to welcome the groom. there was an elephant leading the procession, followed by singing and dancing family and friends and finally the groom on a horse drawn chariot. Amazing stuff and it was so much fun! More weddings should be like this! Sushma and Vineet looked stunning and just thinking about it makes me super happy (:

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Congratulations to the newlyweds! After the wedding ceremony, we were enlisted to participate in some sort of game/ceremony where we had to steal the groom’s sandals from his cousins and haggle with him to return them to him so he could get off the stage. Very amusing stuff. Then was lunch, and back to the hotel to rest for a bit before the reception. I went to get a head massage during that time – as we say in Singapore, it was super shiok, and I could have sat there all day. But I couldn’t, so I got dressed for the party and packed up most of my stuff to send back to Singapore with Sruthy. The mood at the party (at least amongst our group) was kinda subdued, partly because the trip was coming to an end and we were all pretty tired by then. It was still pretty fun and Sushma and Vineet had the post-wedding glow going for them and looked fantastic as usual. People (Varun, Sruthy, Aditi, Sneha) started leaving one by one and the party came to an end after some dancing and about an hour of saying goodbye in typical Indian style.

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All in all, it was an amazing experience and I had so much fun in these three days. Seems like my trip is off to a good start, and I hope the rest of it continues in the same vein. I’m just about to board the flight to Dubai to see Zehra, and I’m super excited! Keep watching this space for more updates!

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Till then, goodbye and good life!

Title credit: Welcome to India, MC Vikram and Luda Krishna

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Cue Cheesy Song Lyrics about Leaving on a Jet Plane

Written 17 November 2013

Not(e)book by Epìgram: Journaling the trip!

Not(e)book by Epìgram: Journaling the trip!

So it’s really happening! After waiting for more than two years, I’m finally off on my South American adventure! It all feels quite surreal and I don’t think I’ve quite come to grips with it, but I suppose it’ll sink in soon, or at some point. But then again, Sushma is getting MARRIED in three days and that hasn’t sunk in yet.

The days since the last update have been interesting enough. The butterflies which appear to have taken up permanent residence in my tummy have quietened down somewhat, and it was mostly just time spent with family and friends whom I won’t see again for a while. Getting all the hugs and well wishes and blessings from everyone was lovely, and I’m so thankful for all the people who came to send me off.

With the Friends, Changi Airport, Singapore, Nov 2013

With the Friends, Changi Airport, Singapore, Nov 2013

Just goes to show how blessed I am to be surrounded by all these wonderful people. I might miss them more than I expect, hmm.

With the Family, Changi Airport, Singapore, Nov 2013

With the Family, Changi Airport, Singapore, Nov 2013

I’m on the flight to Kochi now, and feeling rather sleepy. I suppose I should get some sleep or something so more updates as and when I have time/wifi! Till then, safe travels everyone! xoxo

P.S. I’ll add some pictures to this post once I get myself connected to a computer!

P.P.S Pictures added! -02 Dec 2013

Final Five

You may not have noticed, but I have an amusing affinity to alliteration. Just the other day, when I was teaching my students about alliteration, they made me alliterate the ‘v’ sound – voluptuous vixen vomits violently, viciously venting about violet vanes. But I digress.

Three days of work, five days in Singapore. It’s all speeding by and I am quite convinced there will still be things I haven’t done, even on the day of my departure. Just yesterday, I discovered, thanks to the helpful exclamation of my friend Sindhu, that I need a visa for India. I had stupidly assumed that I wouldn’t need one, and didn’t check, so it’s a good thing she mentioned it, or I would have to pay USD60 for a VOA at immigration. Thanks to her, I submitted my visa application today, an will get my passport back on Friday. Lesson learnt: Don’t be a fool and assume you don’t need a visa (or anything else) – CHECK.

In other news, packing proves to be a perennial problem. I have my (ever-growing) packing list, but nothing has made it’s way into my backpack yet. Interestingly though, I think my suitcase with clothes+accessories+shoes for my friend Sushma’s wedding will be heavier than all the things I’m bringing to South America. Despite the fact that the wedding leg of my trip will be a grand total of…three days long. Ah well, I’m still very excited about celebrating the beginning of a new (or at the very least, significantly different) life for a very dear friend. Weddings are always some sort of fun, and with friends, it may not be an exaggeration to say that there will be an abundance of fun and laughter and joy and merriness! (:

I’ve lost my writing mojo, so I will perhaps return with a slightly more coherent update in the next few days. Or when I am once again airborne. We’ll see. Toodledoo and wish me luck with packing!

Countdown: Ten Days to Take Off

Ten days suddenly seems like a ridiculously short amount of time I have left to get myself together and be on my way. With eight days of work left, the thought fills me with even more foreboding. I’ve just about reached the point where I’m almost used to the constant feeling of butterflies in my tummy and cold feet that turn into minor heart palpitations at the drop of a hat.

But I guess all this is normal. Pre-departure jitters. The feeling of mild anxiety, trepidation and unease that will, as it has before, vanish the minute I’m on the other side of immigration, to be replaced by unbridled excitement and the sweet taste of anticipation.

My to-do list is slowly getting done, which is a relief and serves to somewhat calm my nerves. Getting my new passport was somewhat exhilarating.

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Left to Right: 1999-2009, 2009-2013, 2013-2019

The smell of freshly printed pages, blank and awaiting blue-red-black ink to form barely decipherable patterns that will one day be looked at with fondness as wave after wave of memory floods back, is intoxicating. I will rue the day that technology, and biometric passports, renders immigration counters and stamps in passports obsolete, for what then will I look at with nostalgia and wistfulness? Ah!

In any case. Despite my seeming efficiency, one of the things I haven’t done is pack. With effectively only four work-free days to prep for the trip, I’m starting to feel a little concerned, although it does help to remind myself that I can probably get by with very little, and whatever I do need but don’t have, I can probably get there anyway, so there really is very little to worry about. That said, I should, at some point, start throwing my myriad of belongings into the cavernous space I call my backpack so I won’t be rushing around like a headless chicken the day before I fly.

In the meanwhile, it’s been nice catching up with random friends, old, older and new. People going or returning from somewhere tend to elicit this flurry of meet-ups that inevitably die down as this-and-that gets back in the way. Such a pity, really. I would like to meet my friends (and family) more often. Time is a precious commodity only won by the highest bidder.
“Let’s hang out!”
“Let’s hang out because I haven’t seen you in forever!”
“Let’s hang out because I haven’t seen you in forever and it’s my birthday!”
“Let’s hang out because I haven’t seen you in forever, and by the way, I’m leaving the country on an epic adventure that may or may not end.”

Hands down; I win. A hollow victory, seeing as how these hang-outs and meet-ups will undoubtedly continue in my absence, and when I come back, I will have to face the awkward half-laughs I self-consciously force out in the face of countless hours, days, weeks, months spent apart, inside jokes too rooted to let anyone else in and uneasy shifting in seats as the sad realisation dawns that too much has changed for anything to be the same again. And where would that leave me? I’m not sure, but I’m sure I’ll find out, whether I want to or not. Such is the constant (I jest!) worry of one with tireless feet and a wandering soul.

What a melancholic turn this has taken. I did not mean to indulge in such retrospection and contemplation, but I suppose these pesky little feelings slip out unnoticed when you least expect them. No matter, no harm done. At the risk of sounding like someone with poor control of her emotions (although I definitely am), I shall go back to reveling in the prospect of my departure in nine (!) days!