a few random notes on Gujarat:
i was in a town called bovnagar near palitana and, while i was waiting for a bus, all of a sudden i heard this really loud drumming and also a bunch of bells chiming. it sounded like there was a parade going on or something, and it was *so* loud. i looked around, but couldnt see anything. eventually, i noticed this tiny building and it seemed like the sound was eminating from there. it turned out that this small building (maybe 5 feet by 7 feet) was actually a temple, with a small altar, swirls of incense smoke, and this mechanical machine that, when you plugged it in, plays this drum and clangs bells at the same time. this guy told me that they plug in the machine every night aroud 6:30 and it drums and clangs away for half an hour.
the local restaurant
palitana is a small little town, and other than street vendors, there was pretty much only one restuarant near our hotel. this place was constantly packed, and only sold a few different items. there was something really appealing to me about just how bare bones this place was. you sit down, they have no menus, and the guy brings out your food in a metal tray. and the food was so cheap!! caryn and i ate there with drinks for a dollar!
under the watchful stares of locals, we’ve been trying to perfect our skills at eating indian food. for the most part, people around here eat w/ their hands. they just grab handfulls of rice and curry with their fingertips and eat like that. i’ve been a bit reluctant to go that far, so i usually just break off pieces of bread and then try to scoop the food into my mouth using the bread. the trick, is that you’re only supposed to use one hand. it’s considered very rude to touch food w/ your left hand since people use the left hand for bathroom purposes. in fact, we actually heard a story about this girl who had a waiter come out and say “i’m sorry, but you’ve embarassed yourself and us. please leave” when she ate w/ her left hand. and so, with each meal, we get better and better at eating. try tearing off a piece of bread using only one hand…. it’s tougher than it looks!
i’ve had many great conversations w/ peope around here. i’m trying to learn as much as possible about india, but it’s so hard… especially since each state we go to is different from the last. i was talking to one old lady on the bus who asked me the usual questions i get: “what is your name? where are you from? what city do you live in?” and then she asked me the question i haven’t yet been asked: “what is your caste?”. this one caught me totally offguard. i do know that in some parts of india, they still use the caste system. each person is born into a caste, and that caste pretty much determines their social status and what they can do in their life. if you have the bad luck to be of a lower caste, you’re basically doomed to live a rather poor life. i still havent yet found out just how prevalant this system still is here. it’s something i’m definitely curious about. the thought that people’s lives would be detremined just by the caste of their parents is so crazy to me.
boarding the bus
when we left palitana, we had to take a bus to the capital of gujarat, ahmedabad. we didnt notice, but i guess a lot of people were waiting for this bus, and as soon as the bus pulled up, it was mobbed by a huge unruly crowd. it was utter madness. everyone was shoving and pushing everyone else. some people had run up to the windows of the bus and were trying to pass their babies in through the window to reserve a seat. grown men were elbowing little old ladies out of the way. women would be shoving their way through while trying not to lose their two children, not to mention the naked baby they were holding. this in particular was really scary… if you carry around a naked a baby on a bus, when the baby has to go to the bathroom… i assume it just pisses on everyone near it, right? EW!! but yeah, the chaos was just so crazy.
our last night in gujarat, we decided to treat ourselves to a nice dinner. we went to this fancy hotel that served a set thali menu. the atmospehre was realy nice up there… fountains, candles, rose petals, etc. and the food…. soooo good!! we actually finally got to try the “gujarati thali” that we kept hearing about where you eat sweets along w/ your meal instead of after it. the presentation of the meal was excellent, and we had waiters hovering around us, serving food onto our plates, and refilling anything we wanted more of. such a good dinner!! and for only 7$ each!
here are all of my photos from gujarat