If your read my previous post, then you will know that I went on vacation with my friend Madhu to India. I spent several days in Hyderabad, and during the second half of my trip, we traveled to Agra and then to her grandmother’s village near Bhimavaram.
On Tuesday, we woke up around 3:30am to go to the airport. From there, we took a plane to New Delhi and then a taxi to Agra. In Agra, our first stop was the famous Taj Mahal. I was prepared to be slightly let down since the Taj is so touristy, but the palace went above and beyond my expectations! The size, the white marble, and the intricate carvings and tile inlays of the palace were breathtaking. The marble was carried by horses for months to reach the building site of the Taj Mahal. It took 22 years of fine craftsmanship to construct this palace by hand. All I know is that Shah Jahan must have really loved his third wife if he put in all this time and money to build this tomb for her.
After the Taj Mahal, we visited Agra Fort, which is where Shah Jahan lived. This fort was beautiful with a mixture of red stone and white marble. Our final stop was an artisanal market, filled with tile inlay art made by the descendants of the workers who built the Taj Mahal. I bought I pink marble traveling chess set, which I have already used quite a bit.
The next morning, we took another flight to a city near the village, and after a two hour car drive, we arrived. I ate lunch with a few of Madhu’s family members, and for the first time, I learned how to eat rice and curry with my hands (as opposed to curry with chapati or naan). There is definitely a learning curve, and while I still am no pro, I can at least eat and not make a giant mess everywhere. Like I said before, everyone is very impressed with how well I am adjusting to the food here. After lunch, a few of us went to a cow competition of sorts. There were various cows that competed in different events; although I couldn’t really discern what was going on. I did notice, though, that I was the only non-Indian person there, and wow did I get stares. I also got asked to be interviewed twice, which I declined. People also placed this chicken in front of me so that they could conveniently take pictures of the chicken while still getting me in the background.
On Thursday, we got up early to visit Madhu’s grandpa’s farms. We first visited some shrimp ponds where we witnessed a beautiful, tranquil sunrise. At one of the ponds we were able to take a boat ride on this small, rickety, metal boat. Later we saw some of his cows and visited with some family members. Once we returned to her grandma’s house, we found out that I appeared in not one, but two newspapers. I guess they don’t get a lot of foreigners to their village, so I was a bit of a celebrity here. In the afternoon, we went to maybe 7 or so houses to visit with family and friends. Side note: this village is basically one big family. Everyone seems to be related in some way, and since family is very important here, going on house visits is common. At the houses, I met more family members (who often stated that they saw me in the paper) and ate a lot of new Indian snacks and sweets. While I was stuffed the entire time, the food was delicious. I particularly loved the desserts. Most of the sweets I have tried here are a baked or fried pastry dessert that is very sweet, and they sometimes have nuts or dried fruit.
The rest of my stay was mostly characterized by family time. Even though I don’t understand the language, the family did their best to make me feel comfortable and welcome (I really did appreciate all of their sweets 🙂 ). As far as other unique outings, Friday afternoon, we went on a quick boat ride in one of the rivers to see some native birds. On Saturday, Madhu and I got henna on our hands. The henna comes from the leaves of a plant. These leaves were ground up by Madhu’s grandma and then a family friend applied a design onto our hands. After about two hours, we removed the paste, and we were left with a bright red design. Apparently, if the dye turns bright red, it is a sign that you will have a good marriage. Hopefully that turns out to be true 😉. Our time in the village ended, and we took a night train back to Hyderabad where later we hopped on our respective planes to head back home.
I am so thankful for the opportunity to have had this authentic Indian experience. While there is a fair amount of poverty here, I’ve felt an outpouring of joy and compassion from the people I have met. Living in two, third-world countries over the past six months has started to impact the way I think about my life now that I am back in the States. While I don’t know fully how these experiences have changed me, for one, it’s making me think about how I can live a more full life and how I can spread the joy and love that I received in both Ecuador and India to those around me here.
Unfortunately this is the end of my travels for some time, but I will still be doing my regular blogging from now on 🙂
Lots of love,