After a week in one place, we picked up and moved north to Patiala, Punjab. We were paired off while in Sirhind, but in Patiala we were each sent to individual homes for two nights. My second home was just as beautiful as the first, but in a much quieter neighborhood. I slept for 9 whole hours, even. And diagonally across the giant bed, since I didn’t have to share it! I’m leaving in minutes, probably, to meet my next host family, but the wifi here just started working. Miracles.
Let’s go back in time to last week. I’ll tell you about days 5 and 6.
We started our day at a Sikh temple, the one that’s considered the birthplace of Sikhism.
Something that’s stood out to me above all, really, is that faith is a part of every day life in Punjab, and I imagine that holds true for much of India. There’s a chance that Christianity seems so normal to me that I overlook displays of it in my daily life in Oklahoma, but here I see obvious signs of Sikh and Hindu faith wherever I am. Turbans on men (worn because their religion calls them not to cut their hair), single silver bracelets, red threads tied around wrists, temples inside homes, images of gods on walls – it’s really quite beautiful to see their faiths so intertwined with their lives. It’s a far cry from the Ash Wednesday mark on my forehead once a year.
We went to the Khalsa Heritage Center, a museum that told the story of the Sikhs with enormous displays of art, color, light, movement, and music. It was one of the best exhibits I’ve ever seen, which made its ban on cameras particularly depressing. (That didn’t stop us from getting a picture with the security guards, though.)
It was an hour-long weaving, winding journey through the Sikhs, and it filled it a lot of gaps of knowledge I had about their religion.
A brief aside on being white in India: We were almost certainly the only five white people at the museum that day, and it showed on the wide-eyed faces of the 347 (really, I counted) student groups we saw. It doesn’t really matter where you get your white skin from (the U.S., the U.K., Australia, whatever), if you’re vanilla colored and in India, expect to be stared at and asked for “snaps” (photos) almost constantly. Here’s a ridiculous resolution I’ve made since getting to India: I am never, ever asking a celebrity for a photo. Being fair-skinned in India is like prom, but EVERY DAY, and your parents who want to take 5,693 photos never leave. More just appear.
We spent part of the afternoon at a college, where we saw some traditional Punjabi music. Clay pots and drums were involved. It was fantastic. We gave them our best rendition of Oklahoma!, but nothing beats clay pot music.
On our drive home, Megan casually asked if a field we were passing was sugar cane. Before the words could even get out of her mouth, our hosts said yes, and would we like to see it? “No, we just wanted to know if – ” … no matter, the car was already pulled over and out we poured, walking up to a field operation of sugar cane processing.
We watched sugar cane go from stalk to a crude candy (the kind that would make a diabetic go into shock just by looking at it), and it was all pretty phenomenal to see.
I am sure you’re not surprised to learn that auto repair shops in India look just like auto repair shops in the U.S., but in case you were curious, yes, they’re exactly the same.
Our Rotarian tour guide for the day took us to his business (commercial auto repair) before we went on to Chandigargh, Punjab.
It’s my understanding that Chandigargh is the only city in India that was planned before it was built. You know, with streets on a grid and laid out in a way that makes sense. Every bit of India that I’ve seen would make a city planner’s head explode, with the exception of Chandigargh, which was the most orderly things have felt since we arrived.
We visited Chandigargh’s rock garden, a little foresty haven that’s full of sculpture made from reclaimed materials. Walls of mosaic made from old plates, statues of dancers made from shattered bangles, walls of clay pots. Also, monkeys. The United States could really use some more free-range monkeys. If you disagree then we can’t be friends. I’m sorry, but that’s just the way it has to be.
Fresh coconut water! It didn’t sit too well, but I still haven’t gotten sick. I’m probably tempting fate by saying that.
Joe’s hosts, a Sikh family, got him “looking smart” (this is a compliment we hear often – “You’re looking very smart!”) in a teal turban:
We had a really perfect dinner party on a 100-acre farm. The women sang folk songs and we sat and listened until the rain came down hard enough to drive us inside. Staring up at the stars, sipping my drink, and listening to them – I wished it could’ve gone on forever.