India: Q + A

Mumbai

Recently, a friend of mine, K, was invited to go to India to see a close friend of hers, J,  get married. I was excited to hear what she thought about her trip. I have never been to India but it is high on my list of places to visit. I asked her all the questions I could think of and here are her answers.

Tell me what prep was involved when traveling to India. Any concerns? 

Well I had to get shots before I went. I also had to get a visa. That took about a month. Be warned: you can’t get the visa within a month of your departure. I also was told that the mosquitoes are around and I am glad I brought bug spray but I still got bit so pretty bad. I also ate a good amount of Indian food before I went so my body could get use to it. Luckily, my stomach is a rock. LOL. I also unlocked my phone since I was told I could buy a SIM card for it and use it over there. We ended not having time to get the SIM but most of the places had wi-fi but definitely not 4 or 5G LOL.

Because I am use to traveling to other countries I wasn’t as concerned unlike my traveling buddy who had only been to Africa for like a week for work. The plane ride wasn’t as bad going since we went from KC to ATL to Amsterdam to Mumbai. There aren’t any direct flights from KC to Europe.

What was your first impression when you arrived?

We arrived in Mumbai at 2 am Saturday morning and I thought it would be dead but that is when everyone departed or arrives. We walked out and there are just so many Indian people everywhere and it smells like pollution. When we were driving, oh lord, that was the best, no one pays attention to signs or lines. In India, since they were governed by the British, they drive on the other side of the road and the steering wheel is on the right and all vehicles are tiny and manual. I was keeping an open mind when we arrived at our apt. We didn’t stay in a hotel because J’s parents wanted to have us close to their apt and give us the real experience of India.

What regions and cities did you visit?

Mumbai/ Bombay, New Delhi and Agra.

I know you went to attend a wedding. I think you mentioned that your friend was having an arranged marriage.

Yes, it was an arranged marriage which is typical but it’s not the type of arranged [marriage] like from the 1900s. There is no dowry or not meeting. They met a year and 5 months before and dated during that time. It’s more about if the families get along then they will let their children know that there is someone they want to introduce. Then the kids meet and if they hit it off then great!! But every family is different so I can’t generalize but it is very similar.

Do you feel comfortable describing J’s attitude and emotions leading up to the event? 

He was very nervous and didn’t get much sleep. He was excited but it was so stressful going back and getting married. I know he talked to his dad a lot because his parents were arranged too.

Did J bring his new bride to the US?

Yes Sweta actually has lived in Jersey since she was 15 but she came to KS because J’s job is really good. And she’s fitting right in but misses NY because that’s where she worked.

What was your impression of his family?

OMG, his family so sweet. Because they are now friends/family it’s tradition to call them Auntie and Uncle. They called me to check in how things were and I will touch base later this week. Right after I got home I emailed them to let them know things were well. They were so open and loved that we wanted to be there for J.

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How did the wedding go?

The wedding ceremonies lasted two days. The actual wedding was four hours. It was beautiful. The first part was the ring ceremony where Jo “proposed to Sweta” even though it already happened it was more about doing it with the family and friends. We had food and drinks.  Also the ceremony included the families signing papers to join them together. It was like the fathers giving their daughters away. The next day was the wedding. People talked and drank non alcoholic drinks the whole time. We were able to walk around and take breaks. Then we had lunch with the two families at a U-shape table and after we had a break to relax and get ready for the night time.

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Did you have a role in the wedding since you were from out of town?

Because we were friends of J we could sit on the stage with him to watch but no they don’t have groomsmen or bridesmaids.

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What was your favorite part of the trip?

My favorite parts were the rickshaw drivers, the bright colors, the food, the Taj Mahal, the monkeys and seeing a different culture’s wedding.

What was your least favorite part of the trip?

The pollution, not having toilet paper everywhere or paper towels, and the stray animals made me sad.

What is your favorite food in India? How did it compare to Indian food you have had here in the US?

Well just know that most Indians are vegetarians. So paneer is the most popular food with different sauces. Another was the Indian tea. Everyone drinks that. It’s like a chai tea with ginger. So good! They say it’s good for digestion. Also South India likes sweeter foods and North India spicier. I thought some of the foods were too sweet. The other dish I really like is aloo gobi, which is cauliflower, was delicious. And the naans and the roti are a bit different than in the states. I think in Indian it’s more flavorful and being in the environment is better. Oh everyone eats with their right hand.

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Did you eat with your hands? Was that weird?

Yes, I ate with my hands like the whole time. It was a little different, but since I had eaten Indian food it wasn’t as strange. It was just bad when I needed to wash my hands and there weren’t any paper towels.

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What was the strangest thing you witnessed? What did you see that was really singular to India vs. other places you have traveled?

Well it would be all the people would stare. Not even a glance or regular double take but straight up stare. I think just the colors and they don’t use toilet paper so there is literally a hose next to the toilet to spray them off.

What did you buy in the markets?

We didn’t get to go shopping as much for souvenirs as I wanted [because] we didn’t have time, but I did buy a couple dresses (Indian anarkali) for the wedding. I wasn’t able to get saris because it takes time to make them. But I did buy some scarves in Delhi.

Did you ever feel threatened or unsafe while you were there?

I felt safe but not in the markets because of pickpockets. I held my money close and didn’t carry my passport with me.

Anyone in your group get pick pocketed?

No, we didn’t get pocketed because I was with J’s parents most of the time and we were safe.

Did anyone want to take a picture with you or approach you?

Yes, I took a picture with a little girl that was a cousin of Sweta’s. [I didn’t take a photo with them], But the Indian guys liked to stare at me, and so I would begin to stare and then smile and they smiled, but kept staring… ha ha it’s nothing weird there.

Was Mumbai more or less crowded than Seoul?

Bombay was way more crowded than Seoul.  I mean, Seoul has 9 million but Bombay has12 million.

Any travel complications?

Well we flew with Delta. And we were delayed in Amsterdam, then had to stay overnight in Minnesota on the way back but Delta was really kind and gave us miles, $$ off other flights and [a] free hotel stay.

If you had to describe India in one word what word would that be?

SURPRISING

Do you want to return to India to see more?

Yes I would go back to see Pune, Hyderabad and east India for the elephants.

 

Featured photo is from Google. Photos in the body taken by the interviewee. 

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