Monday, October 6, 2014

Once upon a time, I went to India

It has been over 8 months since I came back from India;
and looking through my hard-drive of pictures it'd be a shame if I didn't share these images & experiences with all of y'all.
Sitting in a cafe, in the LIC area of New York, I flip through the photos I took half a worlds away. It almost seems like fantasy that I once was in India riding on a scooter around Gujarat & visiting many of the sacred temples located in the western half of India.

This trip to India had been all I could dream about for the past couple of years,
and it was even more fulfilling then I thought it would be.
Not only was I able to meet some of the most genuine people in the world, but I was able to immerse myself in a culture completely foreign from my own and learnt how I reacted in certain situations where I felt completely alien.
Being in a country where I was handicapped by the language barrier, I quickly turned into a mime trying to communicate with people. All of a sudden a twitch of the lips or an eyebrow raise became a clue to me of what people were trying to say, and everyday was a constant game of charades.

Keeping this in mind, the first couple of days after I arrived in India I started to adapt.
There everything I saw seemed brighter, I could feel every cool breeze, and it was as if all my senses were heighten because of my lack of speaking. Instead of speaking or even trying to decipher what people were saying, I simply observed; and for once felt I'd completely let go of all my inhibitions and was just letting India show me it's beauty amidst all the chaos.

All of the amazing and even the terrible things I experienced during my trip made me feel alive. The simple fact that I wasn't living with all of these rules or a set routine was freeing. On this amazing trip I was able to step out of my comfort zone and gave myself a chance to grow through every uncomfortable or awkward situation I was faced with and overcame.

I feel so blessed to have seen the views, eaten the food, been welcomed into new families, and walked away with priceless memories.


While abroad I took almost two thousand pictures; although I would love to share with you all the out of focus pictures I took I thought it would better to narrow down what I'd share with y'all - so I decided to show you the fondest memories of my trip.
Here we go....
① Rickshaw Rides
If you've never heard of a rickshaw I am here to enlighten you. These little suckers are the main mode of transportation under of course scooters. Yes, they look cute, and are super colorful.. but the drivers are no saints, and in India road-rage is a necessity to drive around in towns who have absolutely no roadsigns or streetlights.
With-in the first hour of my flight landing in India I rode in the back of one of these, and although small, natives will fill a whole schoolbus load of people into the back of these mini-automobiles.
I must say it's kind of a thrill to see how many people you could actually jam into the back of these.

  Yummy Streetfood 
By far one of my favorite parts of India was the food. I've always loved asian food, and my palate calls for spicy food, so I knew I would be fine. But "food" was always one of the first things people warned me about before leaving on my trip; thankfully my stomach was strong enough to digest... and if it didn't, I definitely came prepared with 2 jumbo size bottles of Pepto.

Not only was street food superrrr affordable, but my, oh, my was it addictive!!!
 You know that feeling you get when you eat chips.. when you feel full, but just really enjoy the crunchiness of the chips and just don't want to stop eating until the bag in empty. Yep, I know it's so good you can't stop!!!
Now I shall introduce you fellow peoples to PANI PURI!! 
(picture above, on the far right)
The best thing on earth, and it's spicy, crunchy, and VEGETARiAN!!! No one loses here!!! 

But the Indians don't stop at just savory/spicy foods, they are great a desserts too! Although not traditional desserts, in India there is a chain of cafes called The Chocolate Room, and they serve the most delectable desserts around.

I introduce you to exhibit A, B, C, & D!: 
...choc-o-gasim, Right?!

③ Birthday Tradition
Unfortunately, I do not have any picture for this one, but I still thought it worth mentioning.
Birthday celebrations in India are like most celebrations all around the world, there was cake and family present, and loads of laughter and happiness. 
The one thing that was different, was a tradition they have where each person invited to the celebration has to feed a spoonful of cake to the birthday girl/boy.
I knew about this tradition before I left to India, but watching it happen with almost 20 guest present made watching this tradition happen that much better.  
Funny fact : by the time everyone fed the birthday boy his cake more than 3/4 of the cake were gone... sharing is caring right?!

④ Ahmedabad Kite Festival
Every year Ahmedabad in Gurjarat, India is home to one of the largest kite festival celebrations in India, and I was fortunate to be there for the festivities. From sunrise to sunset, for two days, everyone would go up to the rooftops of their homes and fly kites... and i'm not just saying 1 or 2 kites, a house hold minimum of kites was at least 50. 
It was beautiful to see all of the street vendors displaying the colorful kites and lanterns for the festival. 
And walking down the street you would see a kaleidoscope of colors and patterns where you could purchase multiple of these kits for less than $1. 
 The beauty I saw in all this was the idea of unity, everyone was flying kites, and eating together and celebrating life.
During those two days it seemed as if the world had stop for these people to simply enjoy their family and just relax and have fun.

When the sun would fall, and nighttime came upon us, the party didn't stop. Instead of colorful kites, lanterns filled the sky and it almost felt like I was in the movie Tangled. It was a beautiful site and one I will never forget to have witnessed.

⑤ Learn to Cook
My host family in Gujarat was super welcoming to me; 
although their english was limited we were able to have some conversation, and best of all share delicious recipes. Of course being Latina, none of my skills were of use because India food is prepared completely different from our food.
These gorgeous ladies taught me to make dough, and how to use utensils I had never seen in any american kitchen. 
But after about 20 minutes of cooking, my pace was just too slow, and the real bosses of the kitchen took over. turns out rolling out a little circle of dough is pretty tough.
Thankfully the end result was a delicious meal.

 ⑥ The Monkey Temple

One of the most memorable temples I visited was nicknamed the Monkey Temple. Although it is an abandoned temple that tourist and natives alike can visit, it has still managed to conserve it's glamour.
It's nickname simply comes from the fact that 100's of monkeys inhabit the area. 
There is also a large pool/fountain in the temple which water comes straight from the mountains it's surrounded by, and the story is that the water is sacred and many ill people come to bathe there in hopes to be cured.

⑦ Wedding Traditions & Ceremony
These people definitely know how to celebrate, and weddings are no exception. If you are planning on going to India for a wedding, get ready for a week long celebration of different ceremonies and traditions. 
There is a bangle ceremony, a mehndi/henna party, garba, etc.. and after all that then there is the actual wedding ceremony which can be up to 5hr long; but of course the Indians do it all in style. While at these get togethers, I was surrounded by a sea of colors and sequins. The women look like royalty, and I got to dress up too.
Mehndi Night 
Do I stick out like a soar thumb? That night I was so happy that people kept saying that I looked like I could actually be Indian. 

⑧ Taj Mahal
I've never seen a more gorgeous piece of architecture, and the story behind it is just tragically beautiful.
Standing at the foot of the Taj Mahal was amazing and breathtaking. Being one of the seven wonders of the world, this place is kept spotless and it's so sad that many of the other ancient palaces weren't cared for like this magnificent mausoleum.

⑨ Wear a Saree
Want to feel like a princess? Then slip on into a saree! Years of living in Jackson Hts, NY I drooled over all the Saree displays surrounding the 74th & Roosevelt train station in Queens, NY.
In India, I got the chance to wear a saree for the first time, and all you brown girls deserve a round of applause for knowing how to get one of these on and looking proper.

For those of you who don't know, a saree (example of a saree is below in the middle picture) on the hanger looks like a 15 foot long piece of rectangular fabric, that you have to wear a blouse and a skirt slip underneath.
It took me about 15 minutes to get into this gorgeous bejeweled saree, and I had to have two ladies help me put in on. The end result was gorgeous, but of course I couldn't walk in it properly... I mean hand me 5inch heels and i'll strut my stuff like a model, but hand me a saree and I end up shuffle walking like and old lady in her house slippers.
I felt nothing short from royalty wearing this beautiful saree at the wedding I went to while in India.
I got to be Jasmine for a night, and wish I had another occasion where I could wear this outfit again!

⑩ Meeting the Natives
Life means nothing without having people to share it with, and I was lucky to have been able to meet so many wonderful people.
I learnt so much from all of these people, and will never forget the lessons they taught me about kindness, faith, the differences between a love and arranged marriage, social-boundaries, touch, family, self-worth, and most of all selflessness.
I sincerely love all of you, and am eternally grateful to have had your company.

I had the time of my life in India, and for those of you who actually love to travel - not just for the shopping, or relaxation, or tanning, I recommend it. It will most definitely be a life changing experience for you too.

keep it classy,

QOTD: If you could go anywhere in the world where would you go?
Also, what has been your favorite country to visit?

1 comment:

  1. So awesome!! I am absolutely in love with that saree you are wearing (the one like Jasmine)! Glad you had such a great time :)