Friday, April 29, 2011

The Punjab You Don't Want to See

I've been thinking today that my posts don't really cover the things I see here day to day and someone thinking about moving to India to be with a loved one might really want to know these things. India is definitely a land of mixed emotions. It can rip your heart out and cover it in flowers and serve it chai all at the same time. You can be so happy and so sad at the same moment. India is an emotional tornado.

Let me first describe the area where I live. This is a mixed class area. Roughly half the street has cars, though they barely fit through the streets. Quite a few have air conditioners. There are store owners, lawyers, and all kinds of what would be in America middle class individuals. Some houses are quite large, some medium, some small. There are children of all ages, most of which play in the street amidst buzzing traffic. Women and children roam the streets day and night, well part of it. Like any quiet and fairly decent neighborhood most everyone is in bed or at least parked in front of the TV by 11 and outside all you hear are dogs barking. This is the normalcy I see here every day.

What I rarely see bloggers like me post about are the women a few houses down who don't have water faucets inside their home to wash clothes with. So they bring their laundry down to the street to wash. The same street the bulls and dogs roam freely through daily. The same street that has non-stop traffic all day. A street that can't be clean, but sadly their life dictates that they wash their clothes there. A few houses in the other direction they bathe in the street for the same reasons.

Another house, the husband is known as the neighborhood drunk and he quite often comes out in the street or on the terrace yelling unintelligible things and his family has the hardship of wrestling him back inside and then to bed. Until recently that is. The wife couldn't take it anymore after years of this and she tried to kill herself. Like most suicide attempts she didn't really want to die and went straight outside to tell the neighbor to call her daughter and tell her goodbye and what had happened. They rushed the woman to the hospital and saved her life. The family then decided the man must be taken somewhere where he could do less damage. It's very sad. Before the alcohol this was a wealthy, happy family.

And here we sit. Washing machine, air conditioner, and most of the creature comforts any middle class family would have in America. One exception being the shower. We still have a bucket bath here, no shower head, no bath tub. (Which ironically makes me feel's strange but it grows on you.) We have an oven, 3 kitchens, 2 bathrooms and a fairly nice house. There's nothing that is wanted here that doesn't get provided for. It's a peaceful, happy home. Surrounded by sadness.

When hubby and I go out we see beggar children, crazy college kids, confident women and those women who look like this is their first trip out of the house. A big part of what attracted me to my husband is his compassion for life. Whenever he's approached by a beggar kid he gives them something - whether that be our dinner or some money.

We routinely pass by houses made of sticks and tarps. We drive down by the landfill (or at least that's what it would be in America, here it's an area along a street where ppl go through the trash and sort it, burn what can be burned, etc.). There are ppl that live in that landfill. They work there all day long. Some fix cars and there are some shops there. It's still very difficult to see, especially when there is nothing you can do about it. This is life here.

People that don't even know us compliment us to my MIL. The whole neighborhood seems to have welcomed me in and I find that so strange. A few laughed thinking I was crazy enough to move here. I'm sure they said things reminiscent of 'that white girl will never make it here.' Now they tell her things like 'your nue (DIL) is looking really beautiful these days.' (I lost over 30 lbs and all the swelling went away from the adjustment to here lol.)

I live in a conservative, traditional neighborhood where the most scantily clad girls/women are wearing jeans and full shirts with heels. However, hubby has taken me on tours and we've seen young girls dressed just like any American with skirts so short they better pray the wind doesn't blow. Those same girls were being trailed by young men who liked to watch. That was in the most posh section of the city. I see girls at the mall with boobs in everyone's face and aunties staring with evil glares at them. Being a little heavy seems to be irrelevant here when it comes to beauty - unless of course you're up for mate selection in an arranged marriage. Then no one wants you, but wear all the tight clothing you want to the mall and you'll still be called beautiful no matter what your size. Unless someone doesn't like you, then you can be thin and they will give you crap.

there are smart Indians, and immature dumb Indians. The smartest ones seem to be working retail at the mall (just a heads up ;). We have been there so much they know who we are and they no longer chase us through the store. They just stand idly by waiting till we have selected what we want then they promptly offer to find it in our size, carry it to the register and match it up so we are looking our best when we wear it. See...told u they were smart! They have already figured out American sales techniques just by me ignoring them so many times. I'm a sucker for accessories....they are on to me!

India reminds me of Florida a little. I lived in Pensacola for a while and in the nice neighborhoods you could have chickens running around one yard and the next be pristine 'yard of the month' material and a 18 wheeler parked down the lane. A boat here and a car on blocks there. But India is so much more confounding than anything I ever had the fortune of seeing in America. (FYI - I lived in 6 states and spent time in 10 or so more.) Never in America did I feel so much emotion going in so many different directions in so short a time span.


  1. India is hardcore. No wimps allowed.

    No help is enough. The country is waiting for domestic consumption to increase but until then the immigration from villages to cities will continue and you will get this scene of a posh metropolis surrounded by shanties.

  2. Hi,

    Where in Punjab do you live? My husband is from Faridkot. I am White British, and we live in the UK, but visit Punjab regularly!