Vintage View #14

The View From My Apartment 14

Morning in India.

It was cold. Seriously. It was cold in the morning in India. I wasn’t prepared for that. Well, to tell the truth, neither was the rest of the country. We had arrived in India during a particularly cold winter. That’s not to say I saw snow on the ground, but, it was much colder than the country had anticipated.

And me as well. Even if I did have my luggage, I didn’t have warm clothes inside. I was expecting to come FROM a cold place to GO TO a warm place.

The apartment my in-laws own is a three bedroom, two bath, a living room, large kitchen, and porch overlooking the park in the complex is designed for warm weather. The stone floors, the plaster like walls, are designed to pull heat away. This works even in cool weather, so it just makes things feel even colder.

However, it is a country of shawls, so…we layered up.

My wife and I slept in her old bedroom, recently refurbished by her parents. A brand new folding bed/couch combination, which slid out into the room. We also got the room with the computer—which in this day and age is a true bonus.

I woke up, I didn’t sleep all that late, it was maybe nine or so in the morning, others may disagree, but then, this is my blog.

I realized something when I got out of the bedroom and headed towards breakfast: I was only going to have Indian food while I was there. Every meal was going to be Indian food. It makes sense really, in America we have American food, unless you specifically make the choice to have Indian, Chinese, Mexican, etc. But still, it wasn’t something that I had really thought about. I like Indian food, so it shouldn’t be a problem. I had just never eaten Indian food all the time, every meal.

Mummy-ji and a woman that she hires to help with making food, Gita, were in the kitchen, Daddy-ji was in his chair reading the newspaper. He gets quite a few papers everyday, and several on the weekends. That morning I read in the paper about the troubles the airport was also having with fog. Flights were being canceled left and right. And it seemed the staff there was about as well equipped to handle it as Heathrow.

One woman at the airport, so enraged at the behavior of the people behind the counter, threatened to set herself on fire if they didn’t get her onto a plane. In New York, the target of the fire would have been the airport. Different strokes.

The first thing that happens: chai. Always chai. It’s tea with milk, sugar and other spices. Chai is everywhere in India. If someone offers you chai, that’s what it is. Of course, if you are European, they will ask if you want it with milk and the etceteras, and it will please them to no end if you say yes.

So, the tiny cups of chai are passed around and breakfast is being made. The questions of “did you sleep well?” were asked and answered. Everyone had slept well. Swati (my sister in law) was sleeping so well, she was still at it.

I’m going to disappoint some of you, my readers, and for that, I’m sorry, but I don’t remember what I had that morning for breakfast. I just don’t. I had quite a few there, and they blurred and blended. Most likely it was made up of purantas, a fried bread like pita that can have things stuff in it: like potatoes or carrots. I love them. Not as much as I love puri, which is also fried and also a bread, but a little lighter—though not in the caloric sense. My wife thinks I shouldn’t eat puri. Mummy-ji likes to make them. It’s a very difficult position to be in.

After breakfast, the big plan of the day was to go shopping. Things had to get done, we were already a day behind because of British Airways and the fog. So, we had to go to the market for clothes: a dress for Deepti and a suit for me. These would be clothes for the reception night, the day after the wedding. It was going to be Mummy-ji, Deepti and I piled into a car together with a driver. Drivers are cheap in India, so if you need one for the day, it’s quite possible. And, well…I’ll get to the traffic in a second.

Daddy-ji, because he knows what it is like for foreigners to come to India and drink the water, had provided Deepti and me a whole box of bottled water just for us. These were handed out and we were off.

This was the first time I was really able to see where my in-laws lived. We came in so late and with so much fog.

The apartment complex has a fence all the way around it, and there are a few buildings within, with narrow lanes leading to each one. Small cars are packed tightly around them. The buildings were white stone, and everyone had a clothesline hanging from it. There’s a small park, where the grass is mostly dead—the kids like to play cricket. Some had lived in the complex for quite sometime, some for their entire lives. It was like a neighborhood with in the gate.

The car pulled out onto the street outside.

Rules of the Road

1. Rules of the Road in India are merely suggestions. The traffic in New York is gentle and easy going compared. The drivers in India are prepared and drive like they are in combat, and they are. And I truly feel for the people on motor bikes.

2. If there is space for your car, take it before someone else can. If you can get your car even a little further ahead, do it.
3. Motorcycles are meant for more than one person. Why carry just one? Quite often I would see a family on a motorcycle. The father driving, the mother sitting side saddle. If the child was small, the mother would hold him. Or, the child would sit in between mother and father.
4. Go fast. Until you can’t go fast. Then stop. Go, stop, go, stop.

Delhi is a city that is changing. New roads, new transportation, new money. The country is developing at a rapid pace; suddenly people can afford a car, or finally something that can transport the family. While the city is transforming, there is still a mixture of very old and very new—for someone who lives in a country only some 200 years old, it’s unique.

The Market and the Suit

We arrived at the market. And what a market. I think I was expecting something like a mall—which there are plenty in Delhi, and again my expectations were challenged.

The market was a narrow street filled with shops on either side, jam packed with people, carts and an occasional car would try to make its way through.

It was noisy, colorful, and filled with Indian people. (At this point…I don’t think I had quite really realized that yes, I am in a foreign country, a foreign country where my whitey ass is the minority. I couldn’t recognize signs and the language, well, I know very little Hindi—my wife is more than willing to tell you how bad my Hindi is.) Mummy-ji led the way.

There were lots of foods—with smells that I couldn’t recognize. It was more like a carnival than a place to shop.

We were heading towards a shop to get my suit made. Daddy-ji had gotten his suits made there and my in-laws like the work. The shop was about half way into the market.

Before we got there…I noticed something. People were staring. At me.

It was an occasional thing. But…heads would snap, glance and turn away. Except for the kids. The kids would stop doing whatever they were doing and would just….stare. Open eyes. Tourists never go to this area. It’s not a place a tour guide would take them. There’s nothing to see really, and the shops, well…in the tourist markets, shops pay tour guides to bring them tourists. This particular market is way off the path.

So the kids were staring. I had never been stared at. Even in high school when more clothes could be considered eclectic. Never like this. I didn’t know what to do. So, I smiled. Which didn’t change their reaction. At all. Stare. Stare. Stare.

The suit…well…the suit was easy. Measure, measure, measure. What kind of fabric? Deepti is amazed by my skills of shopping. While I enjoy trolling for books, clothes I am a man of a different sort. I know what I like right away. And I can be picky. But I’m fast. I found some charcoal gray fabric with a light pin strip. I had never had a pin strip suit. I had never had a suit MADE for me. It was kinda nice. No. I was great. I was cool. I got to decide vents or no vents, how many buttons, size of the lapel?

If you ever have an opportunity to get a suit made just for you, do it. Of course, it helps to either have someone else pay for it, or be in India where it’s just a little cheaper.

That done: back out to the market and then home. Which meant…stare, stare, stare, and then…onto the roads!

Next up: The Luggage Recovered! Rajasthan! Deepti and the Bindi! And meeting a mighty hero of myth: Arjun!

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