7.04.2008

India: Our Favorite People


Since I just posted about an aspect of India that I found most distressing and most challenging, the intrusion of others' attention and expectations, I'm now going to talk about the nicest people we encountered in India:

The Dewans: This was the family of a school friend of Cheryl's. They live in a suburb of Delhi called Vasant Kunj. We stayed with them for a couple days when I first arrived and then again when we returned from Agra and then a third time just before I left. They were very kind to us and made sure we had tasty meals and a bed. The young people of the family, Aanchal and Abenov (sp?), took us out one evening to see India Gate (pictured above through a bus window). It turned out to be a wonderful local tradition for families to go out to park along the grassy mall that stretched out to either side of the monument and eat ice cream cones bought from a cart. There were street vendors selling the sorts of things they normally sell at concerts or fun ride parks -- bubble solution and lit up plastic strings (the kind you fix into a circle and wear around your neck), stuff like that. The weirdest thing was a little 3D show in a box that showed images of gods and tigers and things. It was 3D like the old ViewMaster viewers, with a stereo picture set up. You pay, then peek inside, and I was expecting something like a peep show. However, it was really geared toward children, I think. Anyway, it was a lovely evening.
The other very sweet thing Mrs. Dewan did for me was to teach me how to put on a sari and gave me a sari blouse of hers that I altered to fit me. I'm very grateful to her and to all of the Dewans for their care of us.

The guide at the Hilltop Fort at Gwalior: This fellow really grasped the fact that westerners did not respond well to the hard sell. His "no really, you don't have to hire me" schtick was frankly endearing after a week of "come into my shop! Come in to my shop!" Unfortunately, he wanted to take us around by car and we, being insane Americans who didn't realize that only poor people walk everywhere, wanted to walk up the hill to the palace and temples beyond. Thankfully, one of us struck on the idea that he could meet us at the palace and only give us the palace tour for a significantly reduced price. As we were the only westerners he had seen in a couple months, he took the deal. He spoke English quite well and really knew a lot about the palace. It was a lovely tour and I'm really glad we got to meet him. He tried to tell us some of his best lines for the temples, but by the time we got to them (without him with us) we didn't really know how to relate what he had said to the buildings in front of us. Very sweet guy, and if you ever go to Gwalior's fort, go to the south western gate and see if the tour guide is there.

Chime: She was a Tibetan refugee who ran a restaurant (Norlakh Cafe) in Leh. We went to her restaurant quite often while we were there. She made delicious garlicy fried potatoes and cream of barley porridge, so we loved to go for breakfast. About the third time we went,Bret and Cheryl had to wait for me to join them there, so the got into a conversation with her. The next time we saw her, she invited us to her nephew's wedding reception. It was a really interesting cultural experience, and some of the best parts were when we were able to help her with some of her cooking duties. She is intelligent and kind and very sweet. One of the most memorable conversations we had, I said how wonderfully sweet I found the faces of the Tibetan children and she pointed out that it was because our features were so different and that she felt the same attraction in looking at us and our Caucasian features. I know that "exotic" is essentially just different, but it was interesting coming from her. She is a lovely person with a lovely and intelligent daughter (whom we met at the wedding, pictured below on the left, and then once or twice after) and I'm really happy to have met her.

7 comments:

Janiece Murphy said...

Yay, decent humans!

Life would sure suck without them...

John the Scientist said...

"she pointed out that it was because our features were so different and that she felt the same attraction in looking at us and our Caucasian features."

Yet interracial realtionships are the exception, not the rule. There are, of course, cultural reasons for this, but even in the relative absence of cultural reasons in the US, they are still the exception. Asian females look outside the most often, and my wife syas that is because so many Asian men are pigs / want a surrogate mother. Western-educated Asian women are having none of that. Or at least less of it. :p

I often joke that I'm doing my part to eliminate racism by blurring the racial lines, but I do seriously think about the issue a good bit as my kids get older and begin to run into racists in school.

Anne C. said...

True, John. I think there's a big distinction between attraction of the exotic and marriage/relationships (where many people look for similarities rather than exotic or exciting). I hope that it becomes more and more common to see interracial relationships, but as you note, it'll be a long haul.

MWT said...

Hmmm. Well, there's plenty of interracial marrying going on in California. All of my California-grown cousins, for example. I'd noted it without really thinking much about it, until one of my cousins on the other side remarked that they all "married white." I guess it's a bit more ingrained in one side of the family than the other to stay within the lines. ;)

I also have a Korean aunt who says that Chinese men are the best ones. White, Japanese, and Korean are all bad. ;)

brenda013 said...

I really enjoyed your "favorite people" blog. I'm with Janiece on decent humans. Real humans.

Nathan said...

I have two reactions to this post.

1. In my experience, it's fairly rare that people go on vacation and actually meet people in the places they're visiting. You got invited to the wedding reception? How cool is that.

2. At the risk of being called...whatever...I'm convinced that the human race is growing more attractive due to racial mixing. Every time I've seen someone who is jaw-droppingly gorgeous lately, I realize that there's a combination of races in their ancestry.

No massively important point here...just my observation.

belsum said...

Nothing deep to add just...mmm, garlicy fried potatoes and cream of barley porridge.