My internet connection disappeared for a couple of days – sorry for the silence. If you’re following me on Twitter or friends with me on Facebook, you knew I was still alive. So that’s good. I’ll wrap up Days 4 & 5 for you. I wish I could show you a thousand more photos, but uploading them is … a challenge. Tomorrow we move to Patiala and into our second homestays. The hospitality of the Rotarians has been beyond what I could’ve dreamed of, but I can’t imagine anyone topping the kindness of the first family that I’ve stayed with.
We started our fourth day in Punjab with a drive north to the town of Ravana Sahib, where we visited a dental clinic that is supported by a local Rotary club, a Rotary club in London, and a man called “Baba Ji,” who is revered as a saint in their community. The services are free or very low-cost, and the clinic is on the grounds of a Sikh temple.
One of the Rotarians (and an oral surgeon by profession) who helped to start the clinic was visiting from the UK. He was kind enough to give us a tour and tell us the story of the clinic. You know how you can just tell when you’re in the presence of a good person? Kindness and gentleness were spilling from this man’s eyes, and it was fortunate timing that we were able to meet him. The clinic has treated more than 100,000 people since it opened (they keep meticulous records), and operates on a mere $16,000 USD per year.
Walking out of the clinic we happened upon a marriage ceremony, as you do at this time of year in India. (Really. They’re everywhere.) The bride and groom were meeting one another for the first time, and the family welcomed us into the crowd to take photos and shake hands. Arranged marriages are still very common in India, something that totally fascinates me and also makes me feel glad that I wasn’t born in India, because, well, ARRANGED MARRIAGE! (I’m sorry. My American, Westernized brain just has a hard time with it.)
A woman approached me and asked if I’d like to play a game. “Sure,” I said, and she laughed and handed me a stick. “Hit him five times with it,” she gestured to a young man with a teal turban behind her, “and he’ll hit you.”
Then the family REALLY started laughing and the cameras came out and I’m fairly certain that I participated in some kind of marriage ceremony. Twice.
Meet my new husbands (to my left and to my right).
We left my new family to go to a temple just down the road, where we came across yet another wedding, and then went in to wait to meet Baba Ji the aforementioned dental clinic supporter. We were given lunch, were gifted shawls and bags of almonds and cashews.
Why not cap the night with a wedding, right? But not just a wedding. A Punjabi wedding – an affair where our hosts estimated that the families spent at least $20,000 USD on food alone. I was wide-eyed and amazed at the entire production. It looked like Las Vegas. Or the circus. Or the circus in Las Vegas. Color everywhere, easily over a thousand guests, and the street that it was on was lined with 20 more weddings just like it.
Every 37 seconds a server offered us another kind of appetizer, and then 12 seconds later, a server would offer another kind of drink. The buffet of exotic fresh fruits made me happier than, well, anything, and I can say with some certainty that American weddings will bore me from this day forward.
Well, I had a whole lot more, but the laptop seems to have committed suicide and won’t charge. Maybe it’ll revive itself overnight and I’ll get back the work I just lost. If not … I’ll try for that USB wifi again tomorrow.