Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Adventures in India 5 - Life in India

We’re nearing the end of our vacation and I’ve seen some changes. My daughter’s picked up an Indian accent when talking to cousins. I'm wondering how I can bring the nanny and dhobi with me and how Elco Restaurant can deliver dahi sev puri to me (these are bite-sized crispy puris filled with crunchies, chutney, and drenched in yogurt -- it's like an explosion of flavors in your mouth!)

The best part of the trip is definitely being able to see family and friends. I spent two days with my family in Gujarat and loved every moment. It was exciting to meet after 10 years and be in different places in our lives. I was worried about a younger cousin back then, but I see her now and see how her life is totally together.

We know we’re different, but we know we’re the same though. There’s such a sense of comfort with them. I understand Gujarati perfectly, but my accent is a little rough. Sometimes, I fall back into English. I understand colloquial Marathi quite well, and can say short phrases, usually in the wrong tense/gender. With my cousins, I didn’t feel any judgment when I spoke in Gujarati. They just listened quietly and helped me if I stumbled. But, they understood.

They were quite curious about my life and choices I have made. The simple fact that I’ve kept my maiden name as my middle name and my daughter has her own middle name stumped them. We have broken an ancient naming tradition of the husband's name being the middle name for all of us. I explained my reasoning and at that moment, it didn't make sense to me either. I tried to explain we have different issues with names since we live in the US.

My friends in the US told me to relax and get pampered. Actually, in India, you don't have to go to a spa to get pampered. It happens at home. Laundry "magically" appears folded on your bed. Beds are made in the morning, set up for the afternoon nap, made up afterwards and then set for night. Afternoon naps are just lovely, especially after an Indian meal; I usually have veggie burger or a salad so roti, two veggies, dal, raita, etc is massive for me. This nap routine is a way of life given to those with flexible schedules. Close the window shades, turn on the ceiling fan, and grab a light blanket and pillow. Everyone wishes you a pleasant sleep. You awake, and it's chai or coffee time. My sister-in-law serves chai made with fresh lemongrass. Or, there's freshly brewed coffee on the coffeemaker my mother-in-law secured just for me. When I visited one cousin in Gujarat, we took naptime as an opportunity to lie in bed and just chat and catch up.

When I visited my cousins, on a lark he counted how many different services they get at home. Milk delivered daily..fruits and vegetables delivered.. tailor can pick up and delivery..newspaper delivery (hey! I got that!)..massage at home. Whoa. Massage at home? "Yes, the maleeshvalli comes every day." Whoa. I've been here one day and could've had a massage?

Next morning, I'm trying to get my daughter to brush her teeth and sneak in a bath as soon as the water is hot. The maleeshvali bai is there. Apparently, she knows the family and everyone addresses her as "masi" (aunt). She said one of my cousins, who is known for her high-maintenanced attitude, always asks for 2 massages a day when she comes.

The olive oil massage was absolutely great and my skin stayed soft all day, which surprised me. I also had a bruise on my arm from the massage, but that's ok. It wasn't the lush massage I've gotten at the spas on those massage tables and scented candles and lime/cucumber water to cool off. This was on the cool tiled floor on top of a black sheet in my neice's bedroom. I thanked her and quickly jumped in to take my bucket-bath, which was ready.

I also went for a facial and manicure/pedicure at a salon run by an acquaintance. The service and results were great. However, the experience was quite different than what I'm used to in terms of comfort (and hygiene).

One can definitely find whatever one needs in India. How you get it will be very different than in the US. My father asked for an out-of-print book. We went to a local bookstall, which had Visual C++ books in stock. The owner took our information, made a call from his pay telephone and said he'd get back to us. Today, we received word he did have the book! I was amazed at the one-day turnaround!

On the other hand, if you're like my BIL and need a copy of your birth certificate, you may end up going to 3 different municipalities and filling out umpteen forms and finding out the birth certificate doesn't even have your name spelled out on it and you need to have an affadavit from someone testifying you are who you say you are.


ZenDenizen said...

So you're half Gujarati and half Marathi?

Unknown said...

Hi Ashini! I finally got a chance to check out your blog! This particular entry was exactly like my personal experience there! I didn't want to read your blog before I did my article, because I didn't want to get influenced by it! But, we had very similar experiences! Check out my article on it, when you have the time: