I will see you in ten minutes. Our time or Indian time? Our time. Having lunch with the only Croatian girl in Ahmedabad but me, really special feeling. Even though there is like 8 million people living in the city it is really hard to find someone of your nationality, especially when it comes to a Croatian one.
It’s been long ago, that all of us living here, not regarding the country we come from, have realized that Indian clocks simply work in different way than ours. So when they say it’s ten minutes , it’s at least, really at least 40 minutes of our time and this joke with Indian time has become part of any international conversation that includes meeting somebody. My Croatian friend is here for the job as well, Ahmedabad is really not one of the popular spots for tourists. Right after all the current topics in our country I breathed in the smell and dust, covered my mouth with scarf which I use for hiding blond hair ( really useful in India) and took rickshaw in order to get home. I’m already an expert in checking on the meter they use for measuring kilometers in order to charge the drive. The thing is; they don’t often put it on zero when they pick you up, but how to blame them? They’re just making a living. So, if you ever travel in India, make sure you’ve been put on zero, it’s the same in every city. With constant endless horns and foggy sunset I have come to the conclusion that time runs extremely fast in last few weeks making me already feel like home in this chaos. I have discovered many new things and realized that it was about time to share some things with you.
Finally days off from the office and writing articles and news for rich and successful Americans in my different Indian reality. Oh yeah; irony is a small word for my life here. On everyday basis I write about last trends in technology world, most successful companies, guys who are able to buy an island while i do it from a building which is surrounded with hundreds of people living on the streets, people who can only dream about life far away from trash. Sometimes seems like many here don’t see it as a problem; for them people living on the streets are not from the castes that deserve better. I often get a feeling that there isn’t many of us who feel like crying when we see half naked children living next to the road which is dangerous even when being in a car. Why days off finally? India is celebrating Diwali and their New Year.
Diwali and New Year’s
From all the adventures and experiences in last few weeks I will this time share one of the most special ones. Celebration of the Diwali and Indian New Years. Diwali, also known as the festival of lights, is one of the most important holidays in India, something like Christmas for “our” countries. The celebration was one of the best experiences I have had so far in India, since I got the opportunity of celebrating it with local people in their homes, I was a part of this in a different way than being just an ordinary tourist. Although it was a little bit strange and sometimes funny for a girl from European world, it was more than a privilege. Again I would be happy if I could describe all the ways they do it, but no way to do that, some things are universal, but again all those castes have their own way and it represents something similar but also different for each of them. All together in their religions they have over 33 million of gods to worship and look at us, while we have issues and wars for only one or two of them. First fascinating thing about Diwali were ornaments made out of colored powder in front of every apartment, office or house.
Diwali afternoon brought me to an office, where we were allowed to attend blessing of the office and computers with ” waiting” for goddess Vishnu, the one that brings success in business. All in all it was amazing to see the performances and traditional activities for Diwali and one of the best ways of getting to know with Indian culture. At the end it made me thinking; to be honest our way of celebrating Christmas is not that different in its own essence. Here they prepared the sweets for their God, a bath and some money, which was taken by the “priest” who was doing the blessing. So I don’t know for your country, but in mine priests also get the money after sprinkling few drops of sacred water on Christmas tree. Are we that different in the end?
And just when I thought I got some clue about celebration of Diwali, at least in Gujarat/Ahmedabad, since there are differences in other parts as well, we have spent the Diwali night at friend’s home with her family who are Hindus, but some sub caste as part of Hindu, I realized I have no clue again. At her home traditional activities were different than the ones I was a part of, earlier that day. There wasn’t that kind of “priest”, instead men were singing by themselves first, then women and then all together. If I had the opportunity of being in Jain house or a Sikh I believe the celebration would be different again. The thing that was in common to every family in the whole city , were firecrackers and fireworks on each step of the way. They burst all of that as much as they can, since they believe in driving away evil spirits in that way. It would all be great if anyone cared about the safety, any kind of it, firecrackers were burst on the streets but on the roads too, so nobody seemed to care that there were cars, rickshaws and all the other ways of transportation coming through, for which firecrackers could have an effect of a bomb. If you want to see why the drive to friend’s house that evening was almost like being in the middle of the war you have a link to the video underneath. For me it was amazing and fun, but for my German roommate for instance, huge stress.
Day after Diwali is New Year, it would be insane to expect that anyone cared enough about the trash on the streets after all those firecrackers, cars passing through will disperse it all around any way. Long lived the Indian way of solutions for the problems.
And there is something else finally, ..I have a home, Indian standards/ having a shower with warm water becomes possible only during the day when the water heats itself due to the heat outside, but still it’s a home. Consequently my boss doesn’t have to have me at his place anymore. At his place I was like a Cinderella, cut out of the social life, since it was too dangerous to leave the place after dark at that part of the city, so besides home a have a life now as well. I found the apartment by myself of course; if I had waited Indian organization including their way of measuring time I would have been at bosses place till Christmas probably. Indian time. Legendary French guy, his cool Spanish girlfriend, girls from Mexico and Germany and me the Croatian chick, all under the same roof through good and bad.
Man would say typical situation for any big modern city, but you see it is very specific when it comes to Ahmedabad. There really isn’t too many of us from other countries here, so it often comes to that you know almost all international people here and they all know you. So thank God I really love all of my roommates cause we don’t get many options of choosing here. All of us here are constantly hanging around together, stick together like a glue, it is for sure easier for us to adopt to this world; really different from the one we left behind. We live in country of Gujarat, dry country where alcohol is forbidden, so there are no clubs where you could party and meet new people in the way we usually meet them. Here you work , live , sleep, travel, eat… with the same people, often 24/7, so if this doesn’t teach you patience nothing will. I sometimes get a feeling we are a part of Big Brother show here, if you let’s say kiss someone, tomorrow all the expats know about it. But there is a great part of this situation as well; we become more close much faster, than we would somewhere else, we see us as friends faster than we would at home. I believe this also must be one of the reasons why many fall in love with the place. Every week we gather few times at someone’s place, but just few of us have the option of having guests after 22pm, so there we enjoy hardly purchased alcohol. There are places to buy it, but even for that we have to get the permission, which being an expat allows us to get it, but of course even we have a certain limit for the amount. Even more often it happens that we are being kicked out of the apartments when having a party, which aren’t even close to the wild parties. If you are really lucky like my friend Stan you become the legend who got to be homeless two times in ten days time for organizing parties. When you think this is crazy let me remind you that meat and fish are here also really hard to get, not maybe forbidden like booze, but still there are just few places to buy it and not too many restaurants with, so all those huge stores are absolutely without it.
Part of our small international society are also some local friends, who actually really love us , besides with us they are enriching themselves with international friends and make our lives here much easier and getting us more familiar with the true life here.
Horoscope as a precondition for marriage
I honestly don’t know what to share with you among all the things that leave me speechless every day. For instance a girl from my office took me to a marriage biro in meantime. Yeah you read it right, majority of marriages are still being organized and besides they have to be within the same caste, it is still real situation. For this reasons they still have offices or biros for finding them life partners. Of course there are more open minded families that don’t force their children into things like marrying in that way, but I’m talking about majority here. Some of them are my friends and are aware of the real situation, where young people often have to choose between love and talking to their families for the rest of their lives, or even better it still happens that they get killed if they run away with somebody from different caste. And the punishment for killers? Well, hm.. it often just happens that nobody knows if they are being punished. I would like to be able to explain the way how the castes and sub castes are exactly divided, but don’t think even next few years of studying that wouldn’t make me capable of doing that. For sure basic way has to do with religion; Jains, Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims, Buddhists, …but then there are many, many other divisions among them really hard to know them all. It all comes to that it is all about in which family you were born in and that shapes most of your life in advance. Something that happened hundreds years ago has a reflection on your whole life today if you are part of this world. Beautiful India.
Visiting that marriage biro was for me/ typical want to be emancipated western unmarried female in her late twenties/ almost like life time experience, somewhere on the thin line between fun and tragedy. So specific that it deserves to get a blog of its own in some near future. Just to make you interested Horoscope is one of the main conditions for your future marriage, so when you think you read “that crap” too often, just remember what you read here. In India if your horoscope combination isn’t promising, if the chances for success aren’t too high according to Horoscope: NO matrimony!
Of course I went through potential candidates, but nothing for me, first of all I don’t belong to any caste and besides I’m almost too old already, to sum it up; I don’t stand a chance.
In this chaos of ours I would like to say that I hardly wait to get back to my country, but when I read news from Croatia it makes me wonder. Yes I hardly wait to see everyone I love, but things people often see as problem and how much money are they are about to spend on certain things in the current economical situation, makes me just want to fly over the country on a way to some other. Politicians who end in jail next to ex prime minister for robbing the whole nation and that same nation doing nothing but worrying about destroying gay friendly environment which many of us were trying to built for years, just leads me to the conclusion that sacred cows on the roads are not issue at all when compared to moral insanity at my home country. And if I think of all those young beautiful girls marring old rich guys, arranged marriages become less hypocrite and more logical solution. Namaste!
It has never been so hard for me to write a blog; India is simply something really hard to be described. Really bad and good at the same time. In order to describe you at least a part of all kinds of feelings collapsing in my head for the last two weeks I should start from the beginning, but the problem is that India has neither beginning nor the end, it is absolute chaos each step of the way. This also must be a reason why they say for it, that it settles you down. In this chaos there isn’t any other option but to accept everything around you just as it is.
So forget about temples, incense sticks and their priests, making peace with Universe is coming from some other direction. It just forces you to find peace inside you. I haven’t seen a lot of India yet, so all this written here is based only on things I have seen so far. And they say it takes a lifetime to discover it whole. Before coming here I was of a strong belief that some traveling I did earlier, like hidden parts of Africa or almost whole Cambodia, had absolutely prepared me for India. I was sure nothing could surprise or shock me more than things I saw before. Oh how wrong I was. Nothing is like India so far.
For instance I don’t know how to explain you the way how many of them stare at me every single moment. All kinds of glances; from staring at me like if I was a wonder , or obviously a sex object, all the way to looking at me with sympathy or disgust. It is almost the same with all foreigners, but I get some extra bonus here since I’m blond and a girl. But I have found the solution I have started wearing scarf around my head, every time I go outside of my apartment. It really does help, besides I still haven’t seen any other blond girl, or they’re also hiding themselves. Still I don’t blame them. Most of them have probably never seen a blond girl before and there are so many of them living on the streets, meaning they hadn’t even had the opportunity of seeing one on TV.
WELCOME TO INDIA
Right after landing in Ahmedabad I had to find out what doing business in Indian way sometime means. Apartment which they should have had prepared for me long time ago, well they still don’t have it. Welcome to India! On the way to my temporarily accommodation there wasn’t too much light in the streets, but there were many cows and a lot of poverty. By poverty I mean people who sleep on the streets and the ones who have a “house” made out of old sheet, carton, maybe few old bricks. Either way something compared to what tent would be a penthouse. There are also many of them who just sleep on the streets, all together, thousands of them. Then there’s Indian traffic, I still don’t get it how it actually works. There are absolutely no rules, there are no forbidden directions, turnings when you are allowed to do it, there are some traffic lights, but nobody cares about them. They just drive however they feel like, directed by some force from above. And there’s horn, those millions of all types of vehicles use it every five seconds, each of them, it doesn’t matter if there’s reason for it or not. Horn is there so they can use it.
Temporarily accommodation..I have arrived to a some small house, which isn’t bad. There is some old Indian lady, her granddaughter and some other Indian girl in her early twenties. They’re sitting, not making any sound and just stare at me for few moments. One of the girls guides me to my room, seems like we’re sharing it, between our beds max 15 inches distance. Just when I was about to go outside of the house for few moments to feel Indian air on my skin, NO! Doors are locked after ten; you can’t go outside before morning. All right, I will at least take a shower, no again, no water; they often run out if it by the evening! But on the other hand they do have Wi-Fi that works flawless. That’s India!
With the sound of loud fan combined with high level of humidity and heat, me and my Indian roommate greeted the morning. Since officially I still didn’t have a place to stay, have decided to go to Bombay, while a friend of mine who I met last year while traveling is also coming there. That same people who picked me up from the airport the night before, are taking me to something that should be a bus station, while explaining that there is no need for me to take a plane considering the fact that bus is safe enough, besides it has sleeping compartments. Indeed it has, the whole buses like this one, are turned into some strange places for sleeping. With just some curtains between you and of course bus is older than me. That bus was all but good way to get to Bombay. Me, blond alien surrounded by 30 males and two females who left it on the way much before me. I will remember that journey for a long time, from a fear which maybe wasn’t justified since nothing bad happened to me, to indescribable discomfort, followed by endless sadness and sorrow on the way. Unfortunately I can’t even say that landscape has been great enough to make it worth it. It only made me wonder about so many things in life and world we live in. What if I was born in a place like this, under these circumstances? Some of the parts were too hard to say, big nothing, woods and mud, thousands of people living in houses made of materials we would refer to as trash and hundreds of cows. Places where people don’t seem to have any contact with the world we are all part of. If you were smart as Einstein, it wouldn’t help, seemed like something you could never move away from.
To hug my friend and have a familiar face next to me, after 12 hours in that bus was…just as it looks like on the photo.
CHILDREN ON THE STREETS
Since everybody keeps on talking about Bombay as the best place in India, I was expecting something really good. And it is good for certain part of the population, which we belong to, it is also the best reflection of life in India. On one side you will find luxurious apartments, beautiful palaces, nice restaurants, but on the other hand I have never seen a place with so many people sleeping on the sidewalk, here it seemed like millions of them. That’s what makes life in India hard. There isn’t any other place where you will find thousands of homeless people right next to Porsche saloon or something like that. The worst thing for me was to see so many babies sleeping on the sidewalk. They’re not alone, whole families are there, but as most of the people I am more sensitive to children than adults. There is so many of them that at one point my friend almost step on a child, it was dark and there are on the sidewalk. That was the situation where crybaby girl like me simply isn’t able to hold the tears. So how could I see only the good parts of Bombay in situations like this? How to accept that as part of someone’s culture? I wasn’t long enough in Bombay to write good travel writing about it, but will come back and face it again to do so.
A blond girl can also be looked at in this way. For girls I was like a white queen, because I have let them have my coke. But crybaby feels like crying again. Yeah I will burn out in India unless I start accepting things around me. Probably this is coming to peace with destiny, what many keep on talking about. Still too big of a problem for me. That also might be the peace; many people seem to get here.I hope to find those places in India, for which many people claim that they give you all of the answers. And trash, yeah there’s too much of it as well, but obviously it doesn’t stand in the way to all of us sitting on the beach and enjoying the view.
POSITIVE SIDES OF INDIA
Coming back to Ahmedabad… Airplane this time and there it goes more positive things in India. Since I still don’t have a place to live, get used to it, when they say you’ll have it by tomorrow it often means in few weeks, my boss gives me his apartment to stay in. He actually moved out till I get a place, man drives to work every day for an hour instead 10 minutes. Here I must say that he didn’t have to it at all, since this isn’t my companies’ responsibility, but organization’s I came here through. It’s hard for me to imagine that any other boss I had so far in my country would do such thing. Now I live in a great place even for western European terms, gym and pool in the building, something I won’t have for sure when they finally find a place for me. But the view through my window is again some other India.
Yet this is far better than living on the streets, at least they have water and a house to stay.
Already first day at work revealed their nice personality; of course here I am not a blond alien. Girls accept me if I was here since always and hug me all the time, we became friends instantly. Far better environment for work than ones I sometimes had. I find out that I’m here to be their supervisor; I will be checking what they are writing along with my writings. Nice change for me in life, I am far away from my country where these kinds of position often get people who don’t know what Art Deco means or what Mensa represents, but they are someones sons. In India works starts at 10, you are not in a rush, it’s India. But still we work till 19:00. Time for lunch is a special feeling, our office turns into a restaurant and I get a chance to try something local from their homes, they share everything they bring. I sometimes get a feeling they really want me to like their food, who wouldn’t love them?
Going out form the building and on that muddy road, with many holes, brand new shining Porsche, I’m really not able to restrain myself.. Seriously Dude? And keep on walking, if I could only know how it feels like to drive it on these roads.. India,..home of biggest contradictions.
In next few days, my new friends took me to some festival held in the city at the moment and showed me how normal it is if there’s three of us sharing a motorcycle. I got used to this already when traveling in south east Asia, that it’s totally normal to put whole family on it, just I didn’t have the chance to try it, so far. I don’t even have to mention that nobody uses helmets here.
Including all good and bad sides of my staying here so far, I would still recommend to everyone to put themselves in a situation where you need to adopt yourself to totally different world and culture at least once in a lifetime. Maybe you don’t have to take potentially dangerous bus, there are other ways and places, but staying forever in your comfort zone, can’t teach you too much about life and values in it nor about the world we are all part of. Even less about the fact how insignificant as individuals are we. Namaste! India is huge country and there are many places to be seen, so I don’t want to think that it is hard to find beauty here. And since I will be here for some time I hope to bring you as many travel writings as I can.