Hello from my second home in Patiala! We moved last night after a dinner party, which is something I’ve learned that Punjabis specialize in. (Dinner parties, I mean, not moving.) We’re in these homes from two nights and I have WONDERFUL news: there’s internet. There’s also a fully enclosed shower (most that I’ve seen don’t have any kind of wall, curtain, or even barrier from the rest of the bathroom — I’ll show you pictures later) with what appears to be (no proof yet) a functional shower head. So far I’ve been working on my wash-with-hot-water-in-a-bucket skills, which are good skills to have, but I’m looking forward to a shower that’s a little more like the ones at home.
Here’s how days 8 and 9 went. We’re almost caught up!
I can’t say that I’ve ever been to a birthday party at 9 a.m., but it happened. Joe turned 31 this week, and his host family had us over for an early-morning celebration before we left for Patiala and our new homes. The Drs. Sohol had a cake, a goofy hat, and songs for the birthday guy. It was a nice way to say goodbye to people who couldn’t have treated us with greater hospitality.
Then we were off in the pouring rain to Patiala to meet a new Rotary club.
The tarp over roof rack didn’t do too spectacular of a job of keeping our luggage dry. My clothes got a little (ok, a lot) wet. Have I mentioned that clothes dryers aren’t very common in this part of India? It’s true. Gunpreet, the daughter of my new host, took me, Joe, and Kate out to the market and got us outfitted in some new (and dry) duds.
While we picked our own fabrics, had our measurements taken at Gunpreet’s uncle’s shop, Kate and I had mehndi (what we call “henna” in the U.S.) to our hands. Each hand took about 7 minutes to paint.
Women get their hands painted for weddings and for Diwali, and curiously, it’s usually men who do the application. The designs on my hands cost less than $1 USD. I don’t know how to get a mehndi artist into the U.S., but one could reasonably charge $20 per application and be, well, loaded.
My family and Joe’s family were close friends, and the two paired up to have a dinner party the night we arrived. My hands were still wet from the mehndi, which made it hard to do, well, anything – taking a drink especially.
Fortunately Joe 1.) found a straw for me and 2.) held my drink in front of my face. A real friend, ladies and gentlemen.
A note on alcohol: I’ve been offered three options since arriving — whisky, vodka, and beer — but the beer was just once, and it was a Dutch brand. I haven’t noticed any Indian women drinking, but their husbands happily serve me. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m a guest, because I’m American, or some combination thereof, but I’m definitely going to ask at some point. If I understand correctly, 18 is the legal age for drinking, but it’s not strictly enforced the way it is in the U.S.
Aside from being on another continent, much of today felt like I might’ve been back in Oklahoma. We went to the farm, y’all.
This operation employs just two people full-time, but grows yellow bell peppers (rare in India), turnips, cauliflower, guava, garlic, radish, spinach, mustard, and wheat.
We also visited a pea processing plant and saw peas go from pod to frozen. A little-known fact about me is that frozen peas are one of my favorite snacks, and have been since I was a kid. I got to see the magic happen! Did I eat one fresh (er, frozen) off of the line? Yes. Yes I did.
It takes a pea about 20 minutes to go from pod to frozen in this plant. Impressive stuff.
One of the best meals I ate when I went to Brazil was at a farmhouse, so I knew that lunch at a farm in India wouldn’t disappoint. Correct.
Saag, made from the leaves of mustard greens and then spread on roti, a tortilla-like bread, is just really good.
We collected our new clothes from the market (each of us had suits tailored to our measurements). I don’t know how that can be done in 24 hours, but they did it. My full outfit (which, again, was tailored for me) of pants, beaded/embroidered shirt, scarf, and shoes, was about $50 USD. I would like 17 more styles and one in every color. Suddenly my GAP wardrobe seems so … bland.
After changing into my shiny new suit (really, it shines), my host’s wife sat me down in a chair to braid cords and mirrors into my hair. She speaks very little English, but something about that made the moment sweeter. Her daughter had just finished filling my wrist with bangles and decorating my ears with stones, and even though this woman and I couldn’t communicate much beyond a smile and a hug, she ran a comb through my hair, pinned the stray pieces down, and go to work. I don’t know what Indian princesses feel like, but I think I came decently close during those few minutes.
The Rotarians were happy to see us out of our American business suits and in Punjabi dress. One told me he was looking for a match for his son, and I was just the woman he’d been looking for. If you’d seen the Punjabi wedding that I saw, you’d understand why I didn’t say no. (I didn’t say yes, either, but I figure it’s wise to keep one’s options open. Maybe this arranged marriage thing is growing on me. It does take a lot of the guess work out – I’ll give it that.)
We have a full day today, but I’ll tell you about yesterday and today later tonight. After I’m caught up on the day-to-day stuff I’ll start filling you in on all of the extras. Driving, food, homes, men & women, amazing Indian hospitality, language, and maybe some pictures of the gamut of shower choices. I’ll say this: I’ve only had to use one Turkish toilet. The advice we were given to bring our own toilet paper was good, though, and I never leave home without it.