Saturday, December 29, 2007

Sweet Memories

It has been just over a week and a half since I returned back to Bristol from India. I went to Calcutta to attend to a friend's wedding. The wedding lasted for 3 days and was terrific. However, I missed the first day due to food poisoning. Besides attending the wedding and feeling sick and lying in bed, I also went around Calcutta and the surrounding countryside. As stated in previous posts, the traffic in Calcutta was horrible, no one followed the traffic rules and it was pretty much every man for himself. However, it wasn't all doom and gloom in Calcutta. I visited a very impressive monument called the Victoria Memorial. It is a memorial dedicated to Queen Victoria back during the colonial times. It looked like a mini Taj Mahal from some angles.

The Victoria Memorial

I also took a ferry across the mighty Ganges. However, all is not good on the Ganges. It is probably one of the most polluted rivers in the world. On one side of the river bank, I saw people playing, taking a bath, washing clothes, cleaning dishes in the river. And then I saw people relieving themselves, urinating, and doing some other unprintable things into the river a few hundred metres upstream. Not very pleasant at all.
The River Ganges

I also visited a local market. The market was bustling and full of life. You could buy all sorts of exotic spices like saffron, cinnamon, nutmeg, bay leaves, cumin, and garam masala.

Fresh fruits and meats were also readily available. Fresh - as in you buy your chicken live and it will be slaughtered right in front of your eyes. You really do need a strong stomach to buy your meats. And it is customary to haggle to get the best prices.

Lively and bustling

I then took a trip to the countryside as the bride's family had a country house and we were welcomed to use it. And what a difference it was compared to the city!
Peaceful and idyllic
The air was cool and fresh and the cough that I had while I was in the city disappeared. There were very few vehicles about and it was so quiet and peaceful.
View from my window
The country house had a pond which had fishes and prawns inside, so we caught some of them and had them for lunch and dinner.
Fishing in the pond

Fish food!
However, power blackouts are common in the countryside and we were unlucky to experience one during our stay there. It only lasted for a couple of hours and the power came back on again.

A cricket game in the village square

I really felt relaxed and calm while I was in the countryside. Hence it was with a heavy heart that I left to return back to the city to catch my flight. All in all, it was an enjoyable and eye-opening experience. India is such a great place to visit and 10 days just isn't enough to do it justice. I hope to return again someday to satisfy my thirst for more exploration. I really have to thank my hosts, Soorjya and Ishita, for inviting me to their wedding and for taking the time to show me around their amazing city. It is a favour I hope to return someday.

Farewell for now......

Sunday, December 23, 2007

A Big FAT Indian Wedding

I'm now going to attempt a short description of the recent Indian wedding I attended. More specifically, it was a Bengali wedding. Calcutta lies in the state of West Bengal, hence the type of wedding. A typical Bengali wedding will last for 3 days. I'm told that a Gujerati wedding lasts for 7 days! So it varies according the region. For Soorjya's and Ishita's wedding, the 1st day was the big one, where most of the ceremonies, sound, music, and dance were carried out. Unfortunately, it was also the day that I missed out (read other storey).

Soorjya & Ishita

On this day, the groom will head over to the bride's place, where all the festivities will take place. In our case, dozens of ceremonies were performed (to describe each and everyone of them would take a lot of time, plus I don't know them). A lot of food was served, and from what I've been told, the spread was sumptious and very rich. The couple and guests then mingled after this meal. By this time, it was night already. More ceremonies were performed and the guests stayed over for the night. In Soorjya's (groom) case, he and Ishita (bride) did not get any sleep till 5am the next day.

Well wishers

The 2nd day was meant to be a 'quiet' day in this event. There would still be ceremonies to go through, but nothing of that scale compared to the 1st day. On this day, the groom will take his bride to his home and she would now stay there 'forever'. However, they can't sleep in the same room yet.

Sumptious & rich food!

For the 3rd day, more ceremonies and more food! There was a reception at the groom's place for the guests and a buffet meal was served in the evening. All the guests came to wish both groom and bride a happy and fufilling life together. It is only on this day onwards that both groom and bride can sleep together, as they're now known as husband and wife.

They can finally sleep together!

I know I've probably missed out many important aspects of the wedding (gifts, customs, traditions....) so please forgive me. To fully understand every ceremony would take several years of learning. The worse part was that I couldn't even eat the food as I was recovering from a stomach infection and was told to 'take it easy'. Hence I had boiled rice, boiled veg and boiled fish - the plainest food you can find, while everyone was feasting on the richest food ever. Anyway, it was a wonderful experience and given the chance, I would've gotten sick to experience all this again. Wait...well.....perhaps not the sick part.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Calcutta: The REAL City That Never Sleeps


Righty ho, I'm currently in Calcutta to attend a friend's wedding. Unfortuntately, I've missed half of it already. More on that later. Calcutta is truly a city that never sleeps. All your senses are assaulted at the same time. The traffic is never ending. Cars, buses, taxis, motorcycles, bicycles, tricycles, people, animals all jostle for space on small narrow roads. Traffic laws are non existent here. People drive base on their gut feelings and instinct. The horn is used very frequently, in fact, it is used every 10 secs. The cacophony and choas simply overwhelms the mind.

Local wildlife

Apart from that, Calcutta is a thriving and lively city. Every corner you turn you'll bump into shops selling all maner of goods, from sweets and spices to furniture and motor parts. The people are warm and friendly.

Constant smog

However, all is not good in the city of lights and sound. Lots of people are poor and sleep by the roadside. Traffic is heavy and pollution is bad. A constant smog covers the city from dusk till dawn. And I picked up a stomach infection which caused me a lot of pain and misery and to miss the first half of the wedding. I'm largely recovered now but am still feeling very weak. Thankfully, the wedding is still in progress as it lasts for three days, so I'll have some time to make up for it. Further updates to follow.