Thursday, June 25, 2009

India Diary, Part One

I blame the jetlag for my fascination with the lightswitches.

I recently rediscovered the diary I kept during our trip to India last year for a reception that my husband's parents threw to celebrate our marriage. My mother and older brother went with us, and we traveled together from Newark to Brussels to Chennai (Madras) to Coimbatore. On the longest leg of the flight (9 1/2 hours) we all slept, though I noted that when I woke up I was so groggy that my husband was worried (we had only been married for six months).

Here are a few excerpts, verbatim except where noted with brackets.

First impressions of Madras:

"On the way to the hotel I was in back, trying to see as much as possible. Lots of dust, roadside shops/bars serving taxi drivers. I noticed that if I breathed with my mouth open, I could feel a fine coating of silky grit. Lots of honking. People driving fast, auto-rickshaws, scooters, trucks. We passed a modern gas station, just like ours -- big, well-lit, neon, lots of pumps."

The entry/new bride welcoming proceedings at my in-law's house in Coimbatore, which were attended by several aunts and uncles. Just before this, we'd done the entry ceremony, wherein I'd had to be the first to enter the family courtyard and house, stepping with my right foot first. Mowgli was scolded for trying to enter before me, but to be fair, we'd just traveled for over 30 hours.

" ...I lit the lamp in the family shrine. I had to strike the match with my right hand -- kind of tricky for a southpaw. All of this took maybe five minutes, then we ate, served by the ladies. I held a silver tray with dishes of kumkum and turmeric. [Amma (mother in-law)] put the gift on it, they daubed themsleves and me, then I offered the gift and they took it."

On my mom crossing the street:

"Mom's freaked out about crossing the street. There are no crosswalks and nobody stops, but nobody gets hit either. Everyone also honks. Mom stops when she should keep going."

On beggars:

"Saw a few beggars -- little kids, and an old dwarf man. [Mowgli] gave the man some money but shooed the kids away. I have to ask him why he gave to one and not the other." Note: He told me later the kids are working for a boss, so he didn't give because the money wouldn't help them.

On waiting for our driver* to pick my mom and me up at a hotel:

"Saw a few Westerners, but mostly Indians lounging, standing in groups, going here or there. Had a false alarm thinking Babu [his real name] had come -- the doorman laughed at us when we shrugged at our own eagerness. He had a great moustache:"

*My in-laws hired a driver to take us wherever we wanted, pretty much whenever we wanted, for the duration of our stay. At first it felt uncomfortably luxurious, but after about five minutes of being driven calmly through the maelstrom that is Indian traffic, it seemed more like a necessity. He also kept an eye out for unsavory types and answered all of my silly, curious traveler questions with grace.


  1. "nobody stops, but nobody gets hit either."

    kind of sums it up.

    love the doodles too.

  2. Hey, thanks -- I had forgotten I'd done the doodles, and now they're coming in handy. I'll be using more in today's post.


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