Archive | October 30, 2009

An Englishman in a strange land (9)

Day 5 was a busy and thought provoking day.

Whereas my father’s family are landowners and clearly not short of a bob or two, my Mother’s family are very poor. She has three sisters and one surviving brother, each living in poverty. The itinerary for today was to visit each one and pay our respects. I, my brothers and sister agreed to give a monetary donation to each of my mother’s sisters of 2000 rupees each which equates to several months wages for them, yet to us it really wasn’t that much! Their daily income is about £1.20

 Each of the houses was small and sparsely populated. The walls were bare apart from a number of photographs. To my astonishment my photograph was up there being displayed, along with my family and brothers’ and sisters’ families too. They were clearly proud that their sisters children were educated and doing well.

They served us refreshments they could barely afford, but what surprised me was that despite their poverty, they were constantly laughing and joking. They may have been poor in monetary terms but in spirit they were as wealthy as Bill Gates.

Again this was a very humbling experience. In England you would consider yourself poor if you can’t afford the latest mod cons. Here it is when you do not know where your next meal is coming from.

Travelling from house to house has certainly opened my eyes to the real India. This is well away from the tourist areas and the hustle and bustle of street life is something that needs to be experienced firsthand. Again, as in Delhi the mass of people is just unbelievable. India is the second most populous country in the world and judging by the number of people walking the streets here in the Punjab I can well believe that!!

My father had booked us a car and driver to use all day, and we spent a lot of time travelling from one place to another. But it was absolutely impossible not to get bored. Looking out of the car window and seeing the sights and sounds of the various places we pass through is in itself a highly interesting and eye opening experience. There was just too many things happening. And most of them are sights you will never see anywhere else but India.

The following photographs and stills from my camcorder footage perfectly illustrates my point.

When the lights turn red prepare for mayhem.

When the lights turn red prepare for mayhem.

When husbands are sick of their wifes, they are sent to the market to be sold.

When husbands are sick of their wifes, they are sent to the market to be sold.

The following stills from my camcorder were taken during a 15 minute period.

An Englishman in a strange land (8)

Day 4. Temperature 36 degrees. As we drove from the train station to the family home, it soon became apparent that the traffic in the Punjab is just as manic and suicidal as it is in Delhi. And in some instances it is even worse.

We had booked in to the Raddison hotel situated in the centre of Jalandha, but before we made our way there, my father was eager to show me the family home. He had insisted we stay there rather than the hotel, but it was pretty obvious that if I succumbed to my fathers wishes then clearly I would never leave the house due to the amount of visitors we would receive.

At least in the hotel we can do our own things.

I had heard stories that the house was very big and decorated to a high standard. I had only seen poor quality VHS footage over the years, but when I finally saw it in person a sense of pride enveloped me. Pride because my father had worked hard and built it to what it is now. It reminded me of an Indian version of southfalk ranch from the television series ‘Dallas’.

The floors were laid with marble throughout, the ceilings and coving had intricate carvings and the solid mahagony stair case bannister was a hand crafted work of art. The courtyard was large enough to host a five aside football match. It had three levels.

Dads House

The rear of my fathers house taken on his land.

Two lovely servant girls were living there with their mother. Perhaps servants is the wrong word because these girls were treated like members of the family and thoroughly enjoyed what they were doing. They treated us with an enormous amount of respect and we recipricated by buying them bags of Chocolates and goodies. Actually my brother bought the chocolates.

Stepping outside the front door and all you could see was agricultural land as far as the eye could see. The sun was beaming down from a cloudless sky and for the first time in a while fresh air entered my lungs. The mass of humanity that had followed me throughout, had now been replaced by a few farm workers. The whole pace of life was a lot slower here. Camcorder in hand, i walked along a footpath taking me away from the house. The sights were truly beautiful.

I can quite happily live here. Sell everything in the UK and live like a king and that is no exaggeration. For the first time in my life, the Indian part of me which had remained dormant all my life began to stir..

Untill next time, over and out.