Another day in India – another whirlwind ride of crazy experiences!
Before we put our lives at the mercy of Indian traffic again we visited a Ganesha temple in Pune. Situated in a park it was quite a serene and relaxing experience. The temple was more open plan, more relaxed and less elaborate than I expected.
The coolness inside the temple and the tolling of the bell each time a worshiper entered was soothing. Hinduism seems very complicated and I can’t pretend that I understand the religion. I did learn that Hindus don’t have specific organised worship ceremonies on particular days, like Christians and Muslims do.
Hindus worship many different gods, goddesses or deities but there is only one ultimate reality which is Brahman – the infinite manifestation of the universe. The other deities personify aspects of Brahman or are reincarnations of other gods. Hindus come to the temple of the deity of their choosing (which best fits the situation of the time) when they feel it is appropriate. The temple we visited was dedicated to Ganesha the elephant headed god and the remover of obstacles.
After a stroll around the lily pond and park we were ready to face the city of Pune. We came across a fun fair where the rides looked like they had been made out of straws – a mecano set would have looked safer. We drank coconuts from a cart stall on the street. They didn’t look or taste how I expected. They weren’t brown and hairy, they were green and hard; instead of tasting like creamy coconut they tasted similar to water. We also tried some cute looking street food.
Next we whizzed off through Pune to the Aga Khan Palace where Gandhi was imprisoned for 2 years following the “Quit India” campaign in 1942. His wife and loyal secretary both died here in confinement. There was a small collection of artefacts but the museum didn’t explain things awfully well. The Aga Khan Palace was a grand, whitish coloured, almost Portuguese style villa, set in what would have been quiet grounds if not for a large gaggle of nuns chattering and shrieking nosily.
In the afternoon we whizzed off and had a tour of the Sangam World Centre, the girl guide centre where Hayley lived and worked for her first 2 years in Pune, India. The complex was set around a swimming pool and had a nice atmosphere. As it is set away from the busy roads it was lovely and quiet and I can imagine young girl guides would have a great time here.
One of the most beautiful things about traveling through India is the flashes of sparkles and colour from the women’s saris. I especially enjoy the flashes of multitudes of colours that billow out from the doors of the women’s carriages on the trains. I was keen to dive straight into Indian culture and wanted to purchase some Indian clothes and saris.
However, even shopping in India is different. A lot of the times shopping (and eating) takes place on the street. In the shops, instead of browsing and taking an item off the peg, you chose the fabric that you want for your clothing. Shops consist of a huge variety of different fabrics that can be made into your choice of clothing that I had never heard of including Salwar Kamez, Kurtas, and the one piece sari.
I was ushered to the upstairs of a Pune shop where you had to take your shoes off. Then the assistant started throwing piles of fabrics toward me. On the floor in front of me quickly rose a mountain of fabrics of all different colours, patterns and intricate sequined designs for my perusal.
I was a little intimidated by the choice but I chose one of the less elaborate options – a bright turquoise blue sari with an embroidered and sequined detail running down the side. A woman assistant quickly and skilfully bundled and wrapped me up it it. It looked beautiful and was floaty to wear. I felt like a princess but it was so different, so bright and elaborate from what I’m used to seeing myself in.
The heat in the shop was stifling, the choice too confusing and I couldn’t understand how to tie the sari or stop it from falling off my shoulder. Even though it is the most widely and commonly worn mode of women’s dress in India it seemed pretty impractical for everyday backpacking wear and I was too hot, tired, overwhelmed and traumatised from the traffic to make a decision.
Hungry from the failed attempts at sari shopping Sam and Hayley took us to a local restaurant and ordered some various South Indian starters and snacks including a massive dosa which looked like a massive papery joint half the size of the table.
I tried all the dishes, spongy rice cake idls, various forms of rice and vegetable pickle things with spicy orange and green sauces and some sort of omelet. All were very different tastes from what I’m used too, even from the Indian food that we are familiar with in the UK. It was a taste adventure and I enjoyed eating some of the snacks as they tasted quite nice after getting over the initial weirdness.
In the evening we went to an IndoGerman music festival which was a fun but strange fusion of Indian music and tasty German sausages and beer.
I looked up at the moon that night and noticed how it was upside down. It was a crescent moon shape but lying down so it resembled a smiley face. You never see it that way in England, another example of how nothing in India is as you would expect. Everything is different and is usually the opposite of what you were expecting. Who knows what surprises tomorrow will bring.