Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A little piece of heaven and a little piece of hell.

Lots of little anecdotes and stories are zooming through my mind at the moment and I am not quite sure where to begin. There is exactly 45 minutes until dinner so lets just see where my mind wanders. At the moment I am sitting in the office with my ear phones in and the music blaring as I attempt to drown out the noise of the Sikh temple up the road which is having some long winded festival with never ending prayers being blasted over the neighborhood. Now that I think of it, its a wonder that none of my Australian work contacts that I phone regularly have picked up on the fact that I don't actually work in Australia.

So the biggest event of the week just been would have been the wedding I attended on Saturday night with the NZ volunteers. Jake met the groom (Parvi) on a bus when he was here in India four years ago and they have remained in contact ever since. It was really nice of Parvi to extend the invitation to the rest of us.

So in the lead up to the big day Ruth, Jenni and I had to make one of the most important purchases of our lives... a sari! We all did really well with our choices, each choosing a sari that suited our look and style beautifully. After buying the 6 metre sari we then had to take it to a tailor who cuts off the blouse piece and makes a fitted crop top (blouse) for the bargain price of $4.

The whole sari experience was so much fun and I am wondering how many would be a reasonable number to buy while I am living here. I am thinking I need to buy a silk one next... perhaps in an ice blue with a contrasting coloured edging. Hmm... So the wedding day... Jenni and I needed to duck into town to make a few more small outfit purchases; including safety pins (to hold the whole thing together) a draw string for the petticoat and of course bangles and bindis... We may have gone a tad overboard on the colourful glass bangles but at $1.25 for a box of 24 why not!

So it seems that putting on a sari is not a s straightforward as simply wrapping it round and round your body; there is definitely an art to it involving pleats and pinning tucking things in just so. Thus we had Guriya one of the women living here at the ashram dress us appropriately. After we were dressed we went out and showed the patients and kids our new look much to their delight.

The wedding itself was amazing!!! It was held at one of the party lawns nearby the ashram. There where hundreds of people there with the women in the most colourful and decoratively embroidered saris you have ever seen. The lawn itself was bigger than a football field surrounded with trees covered in fairy lights. Along one side was about ten different food stands each with a different type of food. At the end there was a huge buffet table and next to that an area where they made all sorts of Indian breads in huge tandoors AMAZING. When I am so spoiled for choice I kind of don't know where to begin... so I ate dessert first... hot jalebi and ice cream YUM, this was followed with paneer tikka and naan. All sorts of finger-food was distributed by waiters as well so much food so little time and so little space. Oh did I mention it was a hindu wedding so it was all vegetarian.

As for the wedding ceremony I am not sure at what point the bride and groom are actually married, there seems to be lots of little rituals that go on throughout the evening, including some secret mens business that us girls where not privy too. However we did find ourselves in one of the men only things that we happened to get away with as foreigners.... The groom sits on a blinged up horse drawn wagon dressed up with a lei of money around his neck. Behind him is a generator car which lights up the wagon and the row of lanterns carried by boys to lead the wagon. The generator also powers a seriously loud sound system which blasts Hindi music while the men dance as though they are possessed before the slightly petrified horses (I guess they are somewhat used to the ruckus). As foreigners some of the Indian women used us as an excuse to be able to dance, we were pulled us into the hoohaa with the bright lights of the video camera blinding our vision. After a while the dancers disperse and the horses lead the groom to the entrance of the wedding venue where he meets his inlaws. In a nut shell they throw rice and other stuff at the groom and feed him??? He then heads to the stage where he sits with his petrified looking new wife for photos with the guests and some money is given as gifts. Apparently the bride is supposed to look sad because she is leaving her family. This marriage was an arranged one; Parvi had only met his bride once before at an engagement ceremony. Parvi completely trusted his father to choose the right girl for him.

The other week I heard the story of one of our patients who used to gate crash weddings as a child and steal the money that is thrown on the dance floor. It would be so easy to do and I am sure it happened at this wedding too as I saw handfuls of notes being tossed into the air and children scrambling for the money

I have to say... Saturday night and the whole wedding experience would have to be one of the highlights of my time here in India.

What's next... well there have been a few funny animal stories I could tell...

Last week we were sitting in traffic at a red light and at the front of the line in the middle lane was a man on an elephant waiting for the lights to change (like they do); back a few rows in the left lane was a horse and cart. When a green left turn arrow appeared the horse freaked out when the elephant came into view and was too scared to walk past the elephant to go around the corner. So the elephant had to move across the traffic to get out of the way to allow the horse around the corner... I love this place!

Yesterday I had a couple more driving with animals incidents. I was picking up Praseeda for a girls day out. Praseedas' house is about half a kilometre down through narrow lanes that wind between shops and houses. The lanes are barely wide enough for the car let alone the herd of buffalos I encountered as I swung around one of the tight corners. Jenni a farm girl from NZ said I just had to keep driving and honk the horn and the buffalos would slowly work their way around the car.... which they ever so slowly did. Later that night when we dropped Praseeda home Jenni and I were driving back up those same narrow lanes to the main road when we encountered two cows blocking our way and no amount of honking or creeping forward was going to move them as the bull was intent on having his way with the cow then and there. I was starting to think I could be in for a long wait when thankfully a motorbike managed to squeeze up past may car and scare them running away.... never a dull moment.

Okay... now this story is a story I was going to write earlier in the day when I needed to vent. Probably better that I waited until now as there would have been lots of &^?#@ in it.

So basically I have discovered a little piece of hell on earth and it is called Narela Post Office. I have now had two visits to hell and each time I did not achieve what I set out to achieve. On my first visit I went to post two parcels of school work back to Australia. I arrived at the post office to find the 5 men there eating their lunch. I said I needed to post parcels to Australia they said wait twenty minutes while they finished their lunch. So I waited for them to eat and then they very slowly packed there lunch boxes away. Once I finally got some service I was told I had to go and get the packages weighed... IT IS A POST OFFICE SURLEY A SCALE OF SOME SORT IS A MANDATORY TOOL OF THE TRADE ... At that point I left in exasperation and got one of the guys at the ashram to post the parcels for me.

So today in a moment of insanity I decided it was time to conquer the post office. I headed off with a parcel and 6 postcards. This time I was ready...I weighed the parcel on my handy kitchen scales which I brought all the way from Australia (a must for weighing the flour for pasta) and went to the post office late enough that they would have eaten lunch. So I arrive at the post office with Ray who I have dragged along this time for moral support and bossiness. After getting to the first counter we are then sent to another counter. When we are finally served there my parcel is on it way but then I have to go back to the first counter to post the postcards. When I get to the front of the first counter out some the lunch boxes; I did not know whether to laugh hysterically or cry. Ray looks at me and says you are kidding...I wish I was. So we duck out of the post office to run another errand... credit for Sam's phone... which involved a long winded palaver with the phone guy. So I left Ray there and go back to the post office. Lunch is over but no one is getting served as they are busy stamping documents and ignoring everyone lining up to be served. About and hour after first arriving at the post office we get to the front of the queue only to be told they have run out of stamps... come back tomorrow. ARE YOU KIDDING ME!!!

I should add that while Ray was waiting in line I was enquiring about a long overdue parcel for one of the volunteers and I was literally sent from office to office and counter to counter until I eventually was sent back to where I started. Grrr

So never ever again will I put myself through the torture of Narela Post Office.

On a lighter note yesterday we had a girls day out. Five of us set out early on a long drive to the fanciest malls in South Delhi to watch New Moon... loved it. We followed the movie with buffet lunch and cocktails a spot of shopping. This leads me into lots more thoughts about this land of contrasts and extremes but there goes the dinner bell I will save those thoughts for next time... Aloo gobi and chapati tonight.


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