A Travellerspoint blog

Bhopal Part II

Rahul's Wedding & Food Poisoning

sunny 27 °C

After some days in Bhopal, Rahul's wedding started. While I'm not an expert in weddings (I was 8 or 9 when I last attended a wedding), I can tell that there is a huge difference between a wedding back home and a typical Indian wedding. First of all, the duration differs a lot. While we celebrate for a day or 2, Indian weddings can easily last for more than a week with countless different rituals going on every day. I'm not sure if this counts for all Indian weddings but at Rahul's wedding, every day seemed a little more important than the previous one with more things going on and more people participating (somehow like a build-up). Until at the last day, with a huge party, the wedding reaches its climax. Second of all, the number of invitees makes a big difference. While this is already the case when comparing different European countries (e.g. Germany & Italy) due to the size of the family and the number of people that are considered one's friends, I felt it even more so in India. Literally EVERYONE one could think of was invited to the main day of the wedding. I don't know exactly how many people have been there but it must have been well over 1.000 invitees for sure. It was incredible how many people were there. Third, here getting married seems to be the single most important event in life for most Indians. Many Indians start to save up huge amounts of money for their wedding well before even knowing the person they will marry. When people turn 27 and make no attempt to find a partner to marry, their parents and relatives will start interviewing them about their future plans. Suggesting or even arranging meetings with potential wedding candidates. What is more, Indian weddings are a very traditional / spiritual affair. There are sooo many rites and rituals going on all the time that it was very hard to keep track - not only for me but also for the younger generation. Many times Roli and Anki couldn't really tell me what would happen next or what a particular ritual was for as there were simply too many to keep track. This didn't really matter too much as I enjoyed in participating in them anyways. Singing with the aunties, having my feet painted, dancing in the temple, eating blessed foot, having henna done, watching the ceremonies. I enjoyed all of it. Check out my pics.

Let the rituals begin. On day 1 all the women gathered to perform some rituals. First they all sang together.
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Then everyone got their feet painted.
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I decided to go with the flow
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Pink feet, the latest trend :)
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Then they performed the first ritual. It's funny how things change over time. Roli explained to me that traditionally the women went down to the nearest river to perform the ritual. Sometimes they had to walk long distances. Roli's aunties walked 5 meters away from the house. As the soil there could not be easily broken, they had prepared some softer soil from elsewhere :)
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Another thing that has changed: in ancient times the bride used to be carried from her place to the groom's place in a life-sized doli. As all marriages were arranged, the bride was often from a different place then the groom, so great distances had to be covered. I can only imagine how exhausting this must have been for both the bride and her carriers. Especially considering the Indian heat. At Rahul's wedding a small, toy-like doli reminded of the original rite.
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The following day, some temple ritual was on the schedule. So everyone wanted to look nice.

Danu brought her private beauty parlour
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Roli for once dressed like a traditional Indian girl. Cute :)
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Rahul & Ved looking smart
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Finally, the whole family was ready to leave for a ritual in the temple - about 1,5 hours later than planned :) What an act to get everyone there! Everyone tried to get in the cars, but there was not enough space. So we rearranged and rearrenged and more and more people squished into each car. Until finally someone realized that it simply wouldn't work. So some got out again and waited for another uncle to arrive with his car to pick them up. It was quite funny to watch the whole scene and compare it to how it would have been handled back home. It had occurred to no one to simply count the car seats available and the people needing a lift to the temple :)

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Shanu & Vinu all dressed up
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Upon arrival at the temple, 2 drummers showed up and everyone started dancing and fooling around on the street. No one cared for what happened around us: the spectators that stopped to watch, the passersby, animals, horning cars, schoolbuses & sellers with their carts, that had difficulties to make their way past the knod of people. It was an amazing scene and I so enjoyed being part of it. It was great fun.

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Before entering the temple, everyone gathered as the elder ladies started their ritual at the entry. Wearing their best sarees, one after another went down onto the rather dirty floor and crawled into the temple. Hereby showing their respect and giving their blessings to the groom.
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Inside the temple
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One of the uncles babysitting Ved and Shubh during the ritual
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Little Ved in a traditional dress. Adorable!!!
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The drummer taking a break
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The old lady seemed to live inside the temple.
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She prepared everything for the ritual and cleaned afterwards.
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Roli, her mum & one of the many aunties
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Roli's mum and aunties
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The drummer wearing a playboy shirt :)
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Everyone's leaving the temple after the ritual
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After the temple, Roli and me borrowed her cousin's scooter to do some last minute wedding outfit shopping. While everyone had prepared their outfits for each day of the wedding weeks before, neither her nor me had anything to wear yet. However, we found most shops closed and I ended up borrowing stuff from everyone. When we arrived home more rituals were goin on - what a surprise... NOT :)

No one could escape the aunts blessings :)
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After the pink colour at my feet hadn't come off after washing my feet over and over again, this time I was a little less enthusiastic and decided to wash my face immediately. This didn't help too much as it remained yellowish for another 2 days. It looked as if I had experimented with some really bad self-tan lotion. Luckily I carried some bronzing powder :)
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The aunt looking proud after having blessed her husband. She really enjoyed that job :)
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Then it was time for henna. The house seemed to convert itself into a home for the handicapped as until the henna was dry no one was able to use their hands or feet anymore. Little Ved cried desperately when his mum refused to pick him up.

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I'm getting henna for the first time in my life
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Roli's youngest auntie doing henna and phoning at the same time. Multitasking is very common in India.
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Much envied by the rest, Neha was the first one who was ready. Some left their henna on for the whole night so it would get really dark. One aunt told me that the darker the colour gets the more your (future) husband loves you.
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Dinner time
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The kitchen was busy 24/7. Someone prepared something literally ALL the time.
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The groom got henna, too
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Always around: Ashi, Shubh & Ved the smallest members of the Neekhra family :)
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Shubh watchin TV while little Ved is takin a power nap.
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I could not resist testing my body pump biceps on that pumpkin
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Luckily not all had been lost :) ... YET
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Next day, the real events started. Therefore, more and more relatives came. I thought Italian families are big but they surely can't keep up with Indian families. By the third day, the house was bursting with people. And when I thought to myself that there is no possibility the house can hold one more person, 10 more arrived. It was quite incredible. Everyone ate, showered, dressed and slept in the same house. And somehow it all worked perfectly. And only the day before I had thought that Indians lack organising ability due to the transport incident on the way to the temple. This taught me an important lesson of not judging prematurely.

While by now the ground floor resembled the house of congress, the upper floor was still comparatively quiet. Which I was glad for as I didn't feel too well. I thought I was the master in handling big crowds and being fine without ANY privacy for days and even weeks on end. But India taught me differently again. I started feeling a little overwhelmed by constantly being around so many people not having any opportunity to retreat from all the huzzle and buzzle for a while. So I stayed in Anki's and Roli's old room most of the day. There was a constant coming and going as it had been declared the lady's dressing room I think, but even though there seemed to be hundreds of female relatives by now, it was still far quieter then the rest of the house. In the afternoon, I started feeling awkward and weak. Just before leaving to the place where the night's ceremony took place, I decided to take a painkiller to stop my head and limbs from aching. After only half an hour I felt much better. I was so relieved. I really didn't wanna miss out on anything now that the most important events of the whole wedding were approaching.

Back home, if you go to a party, the majority of people wear black. If u go for some colour you're really an eye catcher. Not so in India. Here the person wearing black would be the eye catcher. Although, as far as I can tell, NO ONE goes for black. It's bright colours everywhere. Very nice for a change! Although, it must be said that this is only valid for the ladies. Most men were dressed quite boring - rather European- in comparison. This looked especially funny as all women were seated on one side of the room and all men on the other. So looking to the left all you saw was neutral colours: grey, white, black, brown, maybe some blue if someone was daring. Looking to the right, however, one saw an explosion of colours.

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Rahul & the priest performing some ritual wherby the priest is singing out loud ALL the marriage vows. It was nice but went on for AGES. I surely didn't wanna swop with the priest...
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An hour later, and the ritual continues...
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No party without little Ved. He spontaneously decided to join the ritual
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The sisters
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Niti and me, both wearing kurtis, a traditional Indian dress, usually worn with trousers
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Shubh looking smart in his little black suit. He loves having his pics taken
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Roli and me, only one hour before the effects of food poisoning started to kick in properly
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After the ritual was finally over, the buffet was opened and all my feeling sick and poorly had been forgotten. The buffet looked delicious. Roli tried her best to talk some sense into me and keep me from stuffing down all the food I had heaped on my plate but as so often I thought I knew better and would not listen... Sorry sweety <3 You were so right! Only half an hour later the nightmare began... Suddenly, I felt so weak and sick, my head and limbs hurt like hell and I needed the toilet urgently. However, when I got up I thought I might faint. After what seemed like eternity, one of Roli's uncles brought me home. After spending what seemed hours on the toilet - getting rid of the food from both sides simultaneously :) - my whole body started to shiver and I felt like losing consciousness. I managed to lay down and fell asleep. After some time I woke up when people entered the room. Anki and some others had come back to see how I was. While it was nice of them to do so, all I wanted is peace and quiet and someone I trusted to pity me and take care of me. After some time the noise became unbearable and I asked them to be a bit more considerate. Shortly after, however, it got even worse. With people being so noisy, entering "my" room, turning the light on, talking and laughing, smashing the doors and even chasing each other at some point. I felt so so so sorry for myself and at that moment missed my home so badly. I wanted to lay in my nice and quiet room, in my big and comfy bed in Lebus and I wanted my Mami and Papi to take care of me as they always do so wonderfully when I'm poorly. Luckily, Roli arrived shortly after. She knew exactly what I needed and I was so glad she was there for me. She threw everyone out and told them to be quiet, lay down next to me and padded my arm. I fell asleep almost immediately. The next day I wasn't much better and Roli convinced me to see a doctor. Roli's uncle insisted I should see the family doctor. An old, very kind men. He didn't even charge me any money for the examination. The examination, however, was somewhat odd and quite funny. He lets us into his fully decorated living room - Hindi music in the background - interviews me for a while and then starts to examine me with what seems to be pre-war or a Puppendoktor Pille doctor kit. I stay fully dressed while he examines me with a stethoscope. After the examination he tells us that me blood pressure had dropped so much (80 to 60) that he wants to hospitalise me. I refuse as I feel that the last thing I could handle in this rather unstable emotional situation is an Indian hospital. Thereupon, he prescribes me some injections and tells me to eat ice-cream!! to get my BP up. Moreover, he tells me to not drink so much as it would make the diarrhea worse. He writes down a whole bunch of medicine in Hindi on an A4 piece of paper and lets us to the door.

I didn't obey everything the doctor said: I decided to wait with the injections as I hate them and I continued drinking loads of water as I had high fever and I felt very thirsty. But I went for the ice-cream. I was a little sceptical if ice-cream would be the right thing for me but if a doctor told me it couldn't be wrong, could it? Roli brought me some Belgium chocolate one. It was delicious. But soon after I bitterly regretted having had it. I started having cramps and cold shivers, spent hours on the toilet and felt nearly as bad as I had the night before. It got to the point were Roli was so concerned she phoned her doctor aunt and asked her if she could come home from the wedding venue to have a look at me. Fortunately, she came. By then the high fever had gotten back. So she took some wet cloths and washed me to make the fever go down - just as I remember my granny doing it when I was still a little girl. It felt so good. Then she prepared to give me the injections. Roli came with some Axe as the injections didn't come with disinfection tissues. But luckily, Roli found some disinfection liquid at last. Then her eyes wandered over my body rather indecisively and she finally asked me where I wanted to have the injections. That freaked me out completely. Back home you never choose. There are injections that have to be injected into the muscle and some that have to be injected into the vein. I already pictured myself dying due to air in my veins. When I didn't respond, she started giving me options: upper arm, belly, the vein at the back of my hand etc. Very reluctantly, I pointed to the vein at the crook of my arm. I closed my eyes and waited what would happen. Surprisingly, Roli's aunt did such a great job that, despite all the liquid she injected into me, I didn't feel the slightest pain. Then she insisted to take me to a lab to have a malaria test done. Just in case. As you can see, even in the worst of miseries I did not neglect my duty :)

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The lab - in one of the well-off neighbourhoods from Bhopal - where I went to have my blood & urin tested. It looked quite ok from the outside...
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Unfortunately, not so from the inside...
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This were the stairs that led to the toilet. I spare u with pics of the toilet itself.
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In front of me another lab assistant - that looked more like a construction worker to Roli and me - was busy with some blood samples.
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While a lab assistant took my blood, construction work was going on literally next to me. With proper drilling and hammering. Unthinkable back home...
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It seemed all so surreal that I had to smile; for the first time that day.
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Back at home, Roli & Darshan took care of me heartwarmingly. They stayed at home with me the whole day while the most important and nicest part of the wedding was going on. I was deeply grateful. Afterwards, Anki told me what we had missed and how much fun it was. At night we went to the hotel where the party had started hours earlier without us.

The wedding venue
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As you can see Roli's family has not spared any expenses to make this an unforgettable event for everyone
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Sooo many guests, unbelievable! aunties, uncles, cousins, their friends, collegues, neighbours and their friends, and friends' friends and collegues and neighbours etc. The whole office of each of Roli's uncles had been invited and god knows who else. You get the idea.
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Roli and me. Only half an hour earlier I had lain in some hotel room feeling soooo miserable & weak. The first time Roli's aunt tried to put the saree on me, I almost fainted and we finally decided to call it quits. After another 2 hours of rest, I gathered all my energy and strength and got up. I was determined to participate at the main night of the wedding & to show off the saree Roli's aunt had borrowed me for the special event. Even if only for 30 minutes. And I did. But not one minute longer.
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Darshan & Roli all dressed up
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Ashi, me & Dia
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Roli's doctor aunt - my saviour. She let me wear her saree and took such good care of me. I was so glad she was there!
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This very nice lady chatted me up, asking if I was Malaysian. I guess she sensed that I was foreign and Malaysia was the only country she could come up with except India.
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The groom and his best men
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Everyone in their best dresses for the big day
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And for everyone that wondered what kind of wedding this was without a bride. Here she is as she walks in with her closest family.
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Probably the biggest difference between a Western and a traditional Indian wedding is that while the wedding can last up to 10 days, the groom and bride do not actually get to see each other until the actual marriage ceremony on the last day.

Megha. The most beautiful Indian bride I have ever seen.
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First the groom's side lifts him up...
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... then the bride's side lifts her up. Then she puts her flower neckless around his neck. Then vice versa. This ritual is comparable with the ring exchange in Europe.
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Sister and brother
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The newly wed posing for everyone to take pics. Unlike in Europe, it is not common to smile for the cameras.
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Megha and Rahul in their beautiful Indian wedding dresses. Megha's outfit was decorated with precious stone work from head to toe. I can only imagine how many kilos it must have weighed.
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Unlike weddings back home, the whole marriage ceremony, rituals and celebration went on for the whole night and most people didn't catch any sleep till the following evening. Not only the youngsters but almost EVERYONE stayed up to party all night long.

As tradition has it, Megha awaits her husband in the wedding chamber (Rahul's nicely decorated bed)
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Last but not least, while married couples usually move to a place of their own, it is common for Indian women to move with her in-laws after marriage. With marriage the ties to her own family weaken as she is now seen as belonging to her husband's family.

Posted by Maria Schiewek 02:28 Archived in India Comments (0)

Meeting Roli's family & exploring Bophal

sunny

After some days in Pune we decided to head to Bophal for Roli's brother's wedding. Roli had booked a double cabin in a sleepover bus. Very comfy!

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The only problem was that it had no toilet. As we had 30 minutes to kill upon arrival we went to a restaurant where I had some juice to be able to sit down. After that I had plenty of water to throw away the bottle. Already when I entered the coach I needed the toilet but I thought I should at leat wait until we set off. When Roli broke the news to me that there was NO toilet and that the drivers usually do very few brakes I stared at her in disbelief. She told me that a friend of hers - an American guy - quite recently had pied in a bottle as the drivers had refused to stop for him. Even though he spoke fluent Hindi. The next hours of the journey were hell! I suffered with every road hole and I can tell there were a lot of them! I was tired but couldn't sleep even one minute. After 4 hours we finally stopped. I was soo relieved!! After that we had dinner. The road restaurant was in the middle of nowhere and I could tell foreigners don't usually come there. Already in Pune, people stared at me. But here much more so. The waiter came to our table to ask if everything was fine or if we still wanted something about once a minute. And the best part of it was that he kept talking to me instead of Roli. He just didn't get that I neither spoke nor understood Hindi :) It was quite funny. The menu was funny, too. As they served raw onion as a side salad.

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After that I finally passed out. I took some travel gear from the plane - thanks Turkish Airlines for sponsoring covers, pillows, ear plugs and eye masks.

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After 15 hours journey we arrived in Roli's hometown Bophal - the city of lakes.

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Our cabin was so comfy that I didn't even want to wake up. Roli seemed much more active.

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Her brother Rahul picked us up. I was introduced to her mum and sister. Her mum prepared some nice food and Rahul, Roli and me had lunch together.

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Something I really had to get used to is that no one ever eats at the same time. This is mainly due to a custom that's followed by Roli's family whereby the ones having food are only allowed to touch the food on their plate. If they would touch the rest of the food, the would spoil it & no one else could have it anymore. This means that one female member of the family has to serve the ones that are eating. It took my quite some time to follow this rule as I'm so used to serve myself more food whenever I want something. Roli's mum had to close her eyes & pretend she didn't see that I had touched the main pot for quite a few times. Else she would have had to throw it all away... Food that someone had touched but not finished could not go back in the kitchen but had to be thrown away if no one else ate it at the moment as it's considered "jootha".

The living and dining room

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The view from the terrace

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Roli was still poorly so her sister Anki offered to take me to the market. We went onan old motorbike. Anki told me that she hadn't been driving for quite some time as she now lived in Bangalore. This information in addition to Indian road conditions and traffic didn't really help me relax and enjoy the ride. Plus, Anki starte typing an sms while driving. After she had finished the sms, I dared to take some pics.

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I was glad when we finally arrived at the market. Here are some pics:

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You can see the funniest creatures everywhere.
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Indian ladies out for an afternoon walk and some ice-cream.
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A shop-owner taking a siesta and a security guard busy with his phone.
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After the market we went to the temple. Anki and her friend explained me all about the Indian gods.

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The ceiling of the temple was very impressive.

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This is me with the mother of all gods "Durga".

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The next morning we helped to prepare lunch. We cleaned trefoil - something that back home usually animals eat.

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Afterwards, Roli took me on a walk to explore the neighborhood. What struck me most was the huge contrasts. As in Pune, wealthy houses, constuction sites and slums were next to each other.

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Literally inbetween the wealthy houses, the slums and the construction sites, there was a hospital.

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And the huge, colourful and impressive temples u find at the oddest places. Some are literally in the middle of nowhere.

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What I enjoy most is taking photographs on the streets and in the slums: children playing, people working or enjoying their leasure time, animals rumming around freely etc. These are some of my best shots so far.

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A boy washing and drying his clothes.

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When we approached that guy, Roli got quite a bit scared. As in addition to his dodgy and rather grim appearance, the guy was carrying a lance. I was so busy taking pics of him that I didn't notice the potential danger.

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This shack just beside the river is a family home

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Here, too, someone has set up a home
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I watched these boys playing on the street everyday as they were living just across the road of Roli's house.

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There lived another very poor family close to Roli's house. We passed their "house" everytime we visited her aunts. In the beginning I didn't dare to click pics as I felt it was kind of sensation-seeking. Roli assured me that the Indian culture differs a lot from ours in that respect as people didn't mind to have their fotos taken by strangers. Quite the opposite, they usually feel flattered. I had a hard time believing that these poor people would like to have their pics taken from a rich Westener... However, this family was the living example. When I saw 2 babies laying on the bear and dirty floor, I couldn't resist. I took this pic shyly and moved on quickly.

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On the way back, I decided to take one more pic. Suddenly, the adults called all the children and in an instant they all came running, posing in front of me. After that, the adults wanted their pics taken, too. Andere Länder, andere Sitten... I happily took their fotos and started to actually believe what Roli had told me.

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From then on, everytime I passed by, the kids came running as they wanted their fotos taken.

It is quite common in India to see women performing hard, back home considered male. I have seen lots of women working on construction sites, carrying heavy loads, usually on their head. The majority of lady workers wear sarees. I only wore a saree once till now. But it was enough to know that it is probably the least practical work clothes there is.

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Security is not a great concern in India. It's quite common to see an entire family on one motorbike. I have often seen fathers driving motorbikes with horrendous speed holding their small children or even babies.

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And I thought there were a lot of scooters in Ibiza...

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While the mostly people go for motorised transport, you can find beautiful old bikes here and there.

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The petrol stations are quite funny. As they are private, many of them are so clean and well maintained. Some even have a little garden. Others are decorated very funny. This stands in sharp contrast to everything you find around.

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There is a lot of poverty. You can see people sitting, eating, playing, sleeping or begging on the streets everywhere. Not only at night but any time of the day.

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But you can not only find poor people on the streets. India is so dirty in comparison to Germany, but no one seems to care. The street is the place to be!

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Green spaces are quite rear in Indian cities, so I started cherishing each and everyone of them.

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To get into this little park, we climbed a fence as the door was closed. I was quiet conscious that the park was probably closed. Roli thought that only this door was looked and we are just taking a short-cut. After sitting on a bench chatting for some time this rather dodgy guy comes up and starts speaking to Roli in Hindi. I can tell she only gives brief and rather stroppy answers as she is annoyed and wants the guy to leave us alone. At some point she responds: "It's none of your business!" rudely. Turns out that the guy actually is the security guard of the park and that there is a rather hefty fine to pay for entering the park illegally. OOOOOPS!! Roli explains the situation to me and we decide to leave straight away. Luckily, the warden didn't follow us. To get out we again had to climb the fence. This time, however, watched closely by a whole class of curious and amused schoolchildren who were waiting for the park to open. A Westerner braking the law in India :)

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This we found during our stroll through the city. It seems I could start a business here :)

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I have made sooo many animal encounters by now. Some are truly funny, others a little sad. Although, it seems to me that unexpectedly, dogs lead a much nicer life in India than in South America. At least this is my experience so far. In South America I saw so much dog hitting and other cruel stuff that was done to them. Most dogs were limping badly and nearly starving. Here, I find it's not half as bad. Which I'm very grateful about! I think that it might have to do with Indian beliefs. Here, many people belief in kharma. What u do, will come back to u in some way. I like that attitude a lot! Check out some of my uncountable animal pics.

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This little bugger was trembling and seemed so frightened and lost. However, when a big dog approached he started growl and bark. Very daunting. I was really surprised.

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We saw several kettle flocks on the streets.

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These dogs were checking out the river bed for food.

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Dogs taking a siesta in the hedge in front of Roli's aunt's house.

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Quiet a common picture round here: a cow "parked" next to a car.

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After all the people, the noise, the chaos, the pollution I longed badly for a little break, a breathing space inbetween the madness of Indian city life. So Anki took me to the nearby zoo. I was very grateful. We paid (she 20 INR, I 200 INR - 10 times the price!!) and Anki asked me if I know how to ride a bike :) We rented 2 "mountainbikes" - probably the worst I have ever seen. When I hold the handle bar straight, the bike would go to the left and the back wheel was turning in 8s. But I so enjoyed our little excursion. Actually, I didn't really care so much for the animals either. All that counted is to get some fresh air and some peace and quiet. Here are some shots.

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One thing that is striking is that there is always a kind of supervisor whose only job it is to control that the workers and servants do their job properly. The house wife's job is to supervise the work of the maids, gardener etc. and in this case, the ward is responsible for overseeing the workers.

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Zoo wardens having their lunch break.

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Posted by Maria Schiewek 23:18 Archived in India Comments (0)

My first days in India

Pune

sunny 22 °C

The first days of my trip lay behind me and, as expected, Im so far enjoying myself a lot. Before my departure everyone kept asking me if I was nervous, but somehow I didn't feel nervous at all, not even when I got on the plane. The weirdest thing was that the journey was the complete opposite from how my travels usually look like: I was more than on time for my flight and for once I didn't even have to worry if I would pass the baggage control due to considerable overweight. Moreover, instead of passing out even before departure, I was fully conscious for most of the time. Probably due to the fact that I got served proper food and drinks for free on both flights. Truly amazing :)

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What is more, I had 3 times the space I usually get on Ryanair flights.

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On the plane I started experimenting with my new camera and one shot I took is quite funny as it shows me and the third eye. The more spiritual among you, will know what that's all about.

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After hours and hours of travel I finally arrived in Mumbai.

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My dear friend Roli and her husband Darshan picked me up from the airport at about 4:45 am. Here they are trying to sort out the cab they had prebooked.

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Reunion after 18 month

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Roli and me finally got on the cab to Pune at around 6:30 am. Even though I was dead tired, I couldn't sleep. Too many things to see. I think everyone was annoyed by my touristy behaviour :) It was cold and very very loud and sooo stinky and instead of enjoying the comforts our airconditioned nice cab had to offer, I kept opening the window to take pics and videos. Here are my first impressions of India. Taken early morning on the way from Mumbai to Pune. I took such great videos but, unfortunately, they're too big so I can't upload any of them :(

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This song that played on the radio during our journey. I had heard it before and asked the driver to put the volume up. It's my favorite Hindi song at the moment.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UZWrltQLTzE

We had a break in between and Roli got us a coconut for breakfast.

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At around 10:45 - after more than 24 hours of travelling - we finally arrived at Dershan's and Roli's flat in Pune. And as if made for me, upon arrival, I saw this sign.

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Final destination: BED!!!

Everyone told me that one of the most shocking things in India is poverty. So I prepared myself for it mentally. However, I was still a bit shocked to see slums in between blocks of houses. This is the view from Roli's apartment building.

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At night, I had my first Indian street food - Uttappa served with coconut chutney on a banana leave - sooo yummy.

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And then we did some vegetable shopping at the night market. Quite different from the places I usually get my vegetables from.

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Next morning - we didn't wake up till about 12:30 - we had some proper Indian breakfast - chai, poha, upma and a very spicy coconut chutney.

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After that we went out to explore the city. Here are some pics.

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As you can see, some things are quite different. Even in big cities as Pune (5,5 million inhabitants) it's completely normal to see all kinds of animals laying or running around the streets. I was half amused half shocked to see how dogs were running around main roads, crossings or even round abouts. And I can tell you that Indian traffic is MAAAAAD! I thought traffic in Italy or South America is crazy, but not since I have seen how it works in India. Nothing goes without horning, absolutely nothing. It's like treading the gas pedal. Therefore the signs on virtually all bigger cars.

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You can't even imagine what a challenge it is to cross a road. I saw plenty of zebra crossings. However, they don't seem to mean ANYTHING here. I had a video of that, too, but again it's too big. I make a smaller one soon to show you. I said to Roli that if I happen to finish my trip without having been involved in some kind of traffic accident I can be really proud. Let's see...

After strolling around for a while, we decided to head to the market to look for jewellery for Roli's wedding. My first riksha ride, what an experience!!! I also made a video of this, but again its too big to be uploaded :( This pic which I saw on the back of a riksha later that day is funny when you consider how Indians are driving, especially riksha drivers.

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Here are some pics I took on my first riksha ride.

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When we arrived on the market Roli found a nice belt in one of the first shops.

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And she instantly had a little admirer.

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It is common in India to put some black kohl (kajal) on babies foreheads, as in this pic, or around their eyes to protect them. When we went to an ATM to withdraw some cash, there was an old men sitting on a chair in the corner, counting his money. Next to him stood his bag, a little power rangers suitcase :) I thought it was sooo cute...

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On our way home, Roli noticed that she had lost her wallet - something that should actually have happened to me, the tourist. We went back to see if we can find it somewhere but no luck. Fortunately, she didn't carry a lot of money and no one had used her credit card. Back home I tried the kurti I bought to keep a low profile, but it was too tight for me. Instead, it suits Roli all the more.

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After that she showed me her wedding dress, a sari, a traditional Indian dress. She looked stunning! But see yourself, the bride to be:

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By the way, the wedding date was changed AGAIN. It seems that it's gonna take place March 23. But as I can tell by now, Indians are very "flexible" so let's see how often the date will still change... I just hope I'm still gonna be here for the big day. Next day we did some washing. This is an Indian washing machine.

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At night we went to get an Indian SIM card for me. I didn't know something so simple as getting a SIM card can be soooo complicated. Incredible!! You don't even want to know how long it took me to fill out all the paper work and get all the documents the lady in the shop requested. We even had to get her a copy of Roli's and Darshan's electricity bill. Check out how an Indian copy shop - called Xerox - generally looks like.

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After that, I felt ready for pami puri. Diego's friend Ambar had told me about it and I soo wanted to try it. However, Roli had told me to wait for some time as it is made with water. She was concerned that I might get sick. The third night in Pune Roli finally gave her ok.

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Knowing my eating habbits, Roli made me promise to have no more than 1, but after trying the first I simply could't stop. They were soooo good.

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After that we had something called dabeli.

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Roli explained me that it was less risky cause it's made without water. Then I dragged her to the next shack where they served Indian burger, a speciality from Pune. It didn't look very promising but it was so delicious. It is made with coriander and pomgranate and has a sweet-spicy flavour. Yummy!

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After we had finished our street food tour Roli was very concerned that my body would not be able to handle all that street food at once and that I would get sick. However, I was totally fine. The one that got sick was her. Poor Roli suffered a kind of food poisoning. It took her 4 days to recover.

Posted by Maria Schiewek 17:19 Archived in India Comments (0)

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