untouchables in India

Casteism has always been a big issue in India. It was started with the idea of organizing the society and was very successful and nice but people changed this system as per their need and benefit. The real casteism worked this way: caste of a person was decided by his profession and not by the parents caste but now it is decided by what caste parents come from. In the past everybody was free to change their caste only by changing their profession but now it is just not possible at all. Once you are born Bramhin, you stay Bramhin forever.

This system was that all the castes had their work like Kshtriyas were the warriors or king, Bramhins were the learned people who studied religion and teach it to others and Vaishyas were the business class people… but this system changed completely with the first kingdom in India. Actually as per the real casteism the king was supposed to be only and only from the Kshtriya caste or the Kshatriya were the only one who could become a king.  I like this system and I don’t think there was anything bad about it but our kings and higher caste people made it really worse.

The kings were worried that if their sons would not be interested in becoming a soldier and started to learn religion then the society would not accept them as their king because if they would study religion then they would become Bramhin hence they changed the system and said that the caste of a person would be decided by their parents caste and not by their profession means son of a Kshtriys would stay Kshtriya forever which meant no threat of loosing the power for them.

I am also born Bramhin but my profession is entirely different and I should not be treated as a Bramhin in the society but people treat me as a Bramhin all the time. It doesn’t offends me, in fact I enjoy it because there are a lot of benefits of belonging to a higher caste in India. But when I think of those people who come from lower caste, it really offends me and I don’t like it at all. There are so many people who are born in a lower caste family but have changed their life completely by getting education or having a job but people still treat them as a lower caste person.

Actually there is no problem with rich people who come from lower caste. If they have money then they are treated as a king. And at least nobody can say anything bad about their in front of themselves. All the problems are with poor people, all the rules are made for them. The Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh is the best example. She is a Dalit woman and Dalits are still considered as untouchables in most part of India but no problem for her. She is one of the most powerful woman of India and many big people touch her feet. She rules India.

There are also so many misconceptions about Dalits and untouchables. In fact, nobody is untouchable all the time and everybody becomes untouchable some times by doing certain things. I have worked with so many untouchable caste people and believe me they are in terrible condition. Usually they stay together in a group and are not allowed to use common services for common people like common hand pumps, wells and ponds etc… sometimes they are not allowed even in the schools. There are so many beautiful laws to protect them and to provide them equal rights, in fact, extra rights but it is not practiced in reality and they have problems all over India.

There is a Hindu caste called Doam and their traditional job is help people cremating the dead bodies. I worked with them three years ago and learnt a lot about them. These people are seriously discriminated against in the society. It is really tough for them to get admission in the school or get mixed in the society. They are also considered untouchable. Nobody takes anything touched by them. Working with them raised a lot of questions to me and I decided to learn about it. I did some research and found that there is conecpt of unaccountability in Hindusim but it nowhere close to the concept we have now at present.

In reality anyone can become untouchable by doing certain things like by participating in a funeral and then they can become touchable again by taking a bath and that’s all. But since the Domes work at cremation place they are considered untouchable all the time which is just not right. By rule, they should be considered untouchable only during the time they work at cremation place but once they are done from their work and take a bath they become touchable again and should be treated as any other person in the society.

Whenever anyone participates in any funeral, they take a bath in the river before entering in their home. Nobody shakes hands with them or touches them because they are untouchable that time. I have also become untouchable so many times. I don’t understand why people don’t understand it or question it that how come a domes are untouchable all the time. I read an article yesterday (24/09/10) in a news paper called Amar Ujala about a dog who was declared untouchable by his owner only because he ate a Roti given by a woman who was a Dalit.

Actually what happened is that the dog owner was a Yadav means Vaishya. His dog was just outside the home when a Dalit woman offered him a roti. The owner saw this  and became angry on the woman only because she offered her roti to the dog. He declared that his dog was untouchable. A meeting was called by the Panchayat where they decided that the dog was really untouchable after eating the roti of a Dalit woman and they decided that the woman has to keep the dog from now and pay Rs. 15,000 as penalty to the dog owner.

How come this poor woman could afford Rs. 15,000 penalty, I don’t know what to say about it. This is really crazy and cruel. The most shocking thing about this issue was that this decision was given by the Panchayat which is a government body and has a lot of legal and social powers. How come they can make such decisions? These crazy people did not even think about Lord Ram’s life when he ate leftover food given by Sabri who belonged to an untouchable caste or allowed a Mallah (boat rower caste) to touch his feet.They should have thought about it if they make the decisions based on religious rules.

Finally the woman went to the police station and instead of taking any action against the Panchayat and that crazy dog owner, the police officers asked that woman why did she feed the dog. They did not register her complaint.Then she went to the DIG and same response there also, her complaint was not registered. Finally she went to the DSP SC (schedule caste)/ST (schedule tribe) and only then her complain was registered and I have heard that investigation is going on now. I am cent percent sure that they would not take any action either against the dog owner or the Panchayat.

Maybe they would just end this matter by creating pressure on the woman or by doing something. And I know that they will even these small steps only because media is involved now otherwise they would have just kicked this woman out of the DIG office as well. Such incidents always questions me if I am part of the same 21st century India we proudly talk about? Is it the same India which is becoming one of the super powers of world? Is it the same India which is the fastest growing economy of the world? Is the same India of the Lord Rama who ate leftover food of Sabri?

Times of India also reported this news.

Scanned article of Amar Ujala Hindi newspaper. 24/09/10

Women’s rights and tourism in Nepal

I saw that there were more working women in Nepal than India. I notice that most of the shops were run by women and Nepali women seemed to be in better condition than Indian women.

Nepali girl

Nepali girl

Nepal seemed to be more progressive in terms of women rights when compered with India. The women were traveling alone, going to office, running shops, women auto rickshaw drivers and the women seemed more friendly with men… it looked really cool to me. I was happy to see it. I saw so many alcohol shops run by alone women. I had never ever seen anything like that anywhere in whole India. Once I saw an alcohol shop with a woman owner and I decided to talk with her. I went there and started asking about alcohol first and when we became friendly I asked her about her life.

liberal Nepali girl

liberal Nepali girl

I asked her if she feels safe sitting alone at alcohol shops and dealing with male customers who are drunk sometimes and she told me that she managing the business is just like any other male member of her family managing the business; no difference so problem to her. I asked her if people in the society mind women working at the alcohol shops and again she said that Nepali society is very progressive when it comes to equal rights for women. I asked her if she had ever been to India and she said that she had never been to India before but had seen India on TV. In reality she did not seem excited about visiting India.

the most beautiful alcohol bottle I had ever seen

the most beautiful alcohol bottle I had ever seen

I told her that it is just not possible to see any women selling alcohol in India and that there are less percentage of working women in India and she said that she was very well aware of the situation of women in India. She said that there are so many Indian families living in Nepal and they also do not allow their women to go out and work. I asked her what Nepali people think of this situation and she said that to be honest, we think that Indians are crazy and backward people. I was surprised to hear this but in reality yes, we are much backward than Nepal in terms of women rights and equal rights for women.

the most luxry way to travel in Nepal

the most luxry way to travel in Nepal

The nature was just awesome all over Nepal. One could easily see that their nature is still untouched. Beautiful thick jungle, beautiful rivers, less industries, less people, less traffic and lots of mountains… it was just awesome. I really enjoyed nature a lot in Nepal. I also noticed that I saw only five big factories in my whole bus ride all the way from Sonauli till Kathmandu. In fact, two of them were Indian factories which sounds nice because there is less pollution because of less factories but there is another truth that there are less jobs because of less industries which means more poverty.

beautiful windows

beautiful windows

Poverty in Nepal really hurt me. There were so many family houses right along the Sonauli-Kathmandu highways so I got to see so many people doing things. But the really interesting thing for me was that nobody was doing anything, just sitting or talking with people, that’s all. It seemed like they just don’t have any work. I had never seen that many young people just sitting here and there and passing time. There were so many kids selling water bottles and snacks on the road. Nepal has been suffering a lot from its political instability for the past few years which seems to be the biggest reason of poverty of Nepal. I dont know, maybe some other reason but Nepalis were just not happy at all from their political system.

cremation at Pashupatinath temple

cremation at Pashupatinath temple

Finally we arrived Kathmandu by 8 PM and it was still raining. I had read about a neighborhood called Thamel which was full of hotel. I wanted to stay there. I asked Babu to ask some locals about where was this neighborhood and he told me that Nepali people are crazy and never tell you the right direction. He suggested me to go to any shop run by any Indian and ask them about the direction of Thamel. We went to a paan shop, bought a few things and asked him the direction to Thamel and fortunately he was a nice guy who told us the right direction to Thamel. It took us about 10 minutes of walk and we had to ask a few other people also the direction to Thamel but we arrived there.

life and death at same place

life and death at same place

We arrived Thamel which was full of hotels, in fact it was the most popular neighborhood in Nepal for backpackers. We went to several hotels but their price seemed too steep to us. Babu was telling me that we could easily find a hotel room worth 500 NR but none of them wanted to charge us less than 1000 NR. Finally we reached a hotel Annpurna hotel. They wanted to charge us 800 NR per night. I told him that I was a government approved tour guide in India and all the hotels give me discount in India then he agreed to give me a room for 500 NR.

Nepali food that I didn't like at all

Nepali food that I didn't like at all

The hotel seemed nice at first but later we realized that pillow covers and bed sheets were used, cable connection was not working properly, telephone was there but dead. We complained about it and were promised to get everything on work by next morning but in fact this next morning never came before we left. In any case, I was not there to enjoy luxury, watch TV or make phone calls from my room hence I also did not mind it. We went out to take our dinner at some restaurant but most of the shops were closed by 8.30 PM. We found a restaurant opened and had our dinner there.

Nepali highways

Nepali highways

I had read several articles about nightlife in Nepal including dance bars and massage centers. A lot of the articles said that Nepal nightlife was safe but most of them said that it was really crazy and dangerous. I had several articles talking about how people went to a night club, spent a few hours, had a few beers and dinner and paid Rs. 40-50,000 and were misbehaved. Several articles talked about how 14-15 years old kids are involved in sex industry and work as pimps. I was curious about what was going on and we had decided to visit at least one night club while being in Kathmandu.

I was just walking here and there in Thamel and saw so many massage parlors. Once we were just passing by a shop which had a sign board saying massage parlor and I was showing this to Babu. Suddenly a hardly 15 years old guy came to me and asked what I was looking at. I told him that I was just watching the advertisements and he said that no, I was looking for something else, something special. I was like no I was just looking here and there. He again asked me if I needed some special service and I told him that I did not need any special service.

We walked away from there but this guy was keep following us and was asking if we needed a girl. He offered us young beautiful girls for really cheap price. He was not alone, there were so many pimps here and there watching tourists. Anyways, I was able to get back to my hotel safely. The next day we worked for a while, walked around, did some shopping… and it was a nice experience. I really missed veg Indian food as it was meat everywhere. But I liked something that they had drinks very easily available so I was enjoying all different kinds of alcohol.

I wanted to use an ATM in Kathmandu but was concerned about paying international transaction fee but Babu told me that a few Indian banks also have their own ATMs in Kathmandu like State Bank of India and Punjab National Bank. There was one State Bank of India ATM near Darbar Square. I used this bank and did not pay any transaction fee. So I would suggest anyone holding Indian bank card should just look for Indian bank ATMs in Kathmandu. Telephones were also so cheap in Nepal. I paid only Rs. 1 per minute for a phone call to India.

Since we were so interested in visiting a night club in Kathmandu. we were gathering information about it through online sources. But fortunately I met a guy at the NGO, where I was supposed to work, who was a male prostitute. I thought who could provide better information than him about night life in Kathmandu. I asked him about it and he suggested me not to visit any night clubs in Kathmandu as they are not safe at all, especially for tourists. He also told me the same thing what I had read online so finally we decided that we would not visit any night club in Kathmandu.

We visited a few temples, markets and participated in Kathmandu Gay Pride. Finally my time was over in Kathmandu and now we needed to head back to home. Babu told me that they had overnight buses from Kathmandu to Sonauli until 10 PM. We arrived at the bus station around 8 PM but all the buses were already gone by then. They said that the last bus was at 7 PM. So we took our dinner, stayed at a hotel near bus station and took an early morning bus to Sounauli and then another bus from Sonauli to Varanasi. It was a successful journey full of learning. I really plan to go back again to Kathmandu sometime for longer period of time.

Please click here to see more pictures:

Menstrual cycle

I recently learnt something really interesting- the religious idea behind women having their menstrual cycle. I tried to learn about it because I often hear about women considered as impure during their menstrual cycle and a lot of crazy ideas associated with it. The religious reasons I found behind women considered impure during their menstrual cycle has a very interesting story associated it and I just don’t know if I would ever believe in this reason but I thought to share it with the world through my blog.

Within a past weeks two things happened with me that made me think about it. Actually there was an old Neem tree in my neighborhood that died a few weeks ago and I was seriously sad about it as it was the only tree in my whole neighborhood.  I was talking about it with my friends and one of them told me that there was a girl from my neighborhood whose menstrual cycle was going on and she touched the tree and this touch killed the tree. I asked him how this could be possible and he said that since women are very very impure during their menstrual cycle, if they touch any plant, the plant dies of this touch.

The second incident that happened with me was I was working with a girl and we went to an ashram where there were only women living there. We went there to schedule the appointment for interviews in coming days. They asked us to come on the next day but when we were leaving the ashram, one of the women came and asked the girl with me if it was her menstrual cycle going on that day and incidentally it was her menstrual cycle days those days so she said yes. And right after hearing this this women asked her to not come to the ashram until her menstrual cycle days are over.

She became kind of angry and started telling me that now she would have to take a bath because she talked with this girl and touched her whose menstrual cycle was going on. I did not know what to tell her but her view was really strange for me. Anyways, I talked about it with a very educated woman who has very good knowledge of Hindu religion and she told me a really nice story. She said that once Lord Indra , the king of Gods, had to kill two Bramhins because of some reasons which were a very big sin and because of this sin Indra lost all of his supernatural power and his powers.

He wanted to hide himself and went to a river and hid himself under the water. His guru Brihaspati wanted to see him and could not find him. Finally he reached to the river where Indra was hiding. He met Indra and asked him the reason behind him hiding himself in the river and Indra explained to him the reason. Indra requested his guru Brihaspati to help him in getting rid of this sin and Brihaspati suggested to him that he find people who would share his sin with him. He said that this was the only way for him to get rid of the sin. Indra came out of the river and started looking for people who would agree to share this with him.

He asked so many characters but nobody agreed to help Indra; but finally four characters agreed to help by sharing his sin: mountain, tree, river and women. Since all of these four characters shared the sin, all of them were cursed that they would become impure for a certain number of days every year or every month. She said that sometimes the whole mountain or a certain part of the mountain’s appearance change every year when they turn a little bit red and it is a sign of their menstrual cycle. There are a few trees which release glue or kind of a sticky thing which is sign of their cycle. This glue is used widely in India in pregnant women’s food.

She said that the river’s cycle is for two months every year and this is the time when rivers foam a lot and their current is very high; this is the sign of their cycle. And because of this cycle it is prohibited in Hinduism to take a bath in the rivers for two months every year. Only Ganga, Yamuna and Sarasvati rivers are all time pure rivers so there is no prohibition of taking bath anytime of the year, even when their cycle is going on. And we all know about women’s menstrual cycle. And since this cycle is the result of the sin of killing two Bramhins, they are considered impure and are prohibited from many activities.

In most parts of India, most of the women follow certain rules during their cycles like they do not enter the kitchen, do not touch their elders, they sleep on the ground whereas their husbands sleep on the bed, they do not take a bath for the first three days… Marwaris are more strict about it. They keep their women in a separate room and I have heard that more strict families do not allow women to come out of their room. Nobody enters their room and goes to talk with them. Only food is served in their room. They come out of their room on the fourth day and take a bath.

The pots they use to take their food is purified by lighting up a small fire in the pots or by just moving them around the fire and only then these pots are brought back in the kitchen. Fire is used to purify the pots because fire is considered to be the purest thing and it is believed that fire can purify anything, just anything. The women whom I talked with said women should respect the rules for monthly cycle and should not go out and should not do any hard physical labor. She said that all the companies selling napkin pads say in their advertisement that now women can out and do whatever they want even during their periods which is very bad, and they should not do it.

I asked her what if a woman has a job and can not get a leave of three-four days each month. She thought for a while and said that we have to think about when these rules were made. She said that these rules were made thousands of years ago when there were no napkin pads available in the market and so it was not good for women to work during their periods but since a lot of women work now and obviously can not get a leave every month, they should not stop themselves from working but they should make sure they are not doing anything which is hard physical labor for them like weight lifting, jumping or playing…

She said that even science also says the same thing. She said that women should see their periods as God gifted vacations of three days every month and should enjoy this. But I was wondering how they can enjoy their vacations if they are not even allowed to come out of their rooms or talk with others. She said that if women do not respect the rules, they may be punished with sickness or diseases in the future. I don’t really know much about human body but I love to hear about human body science and always want to learn about it and this story was very interesting for me.

I am really surprised to see such writings present in our sacred texts which were written thousands of years ago. I am seriously in love of those people who wrote these things, just don’t have any idea whether these stories are true or not but one thing is very sure that the writer was super smart. His imagination power would have been just awesome. Hats off to you my dear Hindu sacred text writers!!

Tourism in Amritsar

Lahore 23 Kms

Lahore 23 Kms

I went to Amritsar after submitting documents tour guide license at India tourism office at New Delhi. I had already heard a lot about the flag ceremony that takes place at Wagah India-Pakistan border and this was the main reason why I wanted visit Amritsar. I was supposed to arrive Amritsar on the evening of 9th but I arrived on the afternoon of 10th as my train was delayed by 17 hours. I just looked for a hotel near the railway station, put my stuff in my room and head immediately to Wagah because the parade was supposed to start at 4.30 Pm. I had enough time to reach Wagah before the parade starts, but I wanted to be there early to see what was going on.

Yea, but corrupest

Yea, but the most corrupt

The bus left me two kilometers before the border and then I had to take a rickshaw. There were a few things that I really wanted to do in Amritsar and watching people was one of them and that I why I decided to take a bus so that I can talk with more people and see them. The bus was completely full but fortunately I got a seat. I arrived at Wagah border at 3 o’clock but it was the trade time and the border entrance was not open for general public, only traders were allowed to enter to do their business. Wagah border was also like other tourist places in India.

These guys have really tough life

These guys have really tough life

There were not many shops but they a few restaurants and convenient stores and these shops had touts working for them. Several people came to me who wanted to eat or drink something at their brother’s restaurant but I think they did not know that I was from Benares where whole tourism industry is dependent on touts and I was very well aware of it. Anyways, I was not hungry at all so my rickshaw driver did not get any commission. Wagah border was the first place in India I had ever been where they were really taking care of the time.

BSF office at Wagah

BSF office at Wagah

The border was supposed to get closed for traders at 3.30 and it closed right at 3.30. After the border was closed for traders, tourists were asked to make a queue. I think there were around 3,000 people to attend the parade. There were a few rickshaws also who were telling that if someone goes with them, they will get the seat in front but I did not know how this was possible but actually it was true. There were two gates, about 500 meters away from each other. We were in queue at the first gate but the security check was in between the first and second gate. People were shouting Vande Matram and Bharat Mata ki jai and were so excited to get in.

When will we become perfect

What the hell is this?

It was all about arriving at the security check first in order to get a front seat at the parade place and rickshaws are definitely faster than normal walking speed. The first gate was opened at 4 o’clock and everybody started running to the second gate where there was a security check. Everybody was checked properly and were sent to the parade place. I was so happy to see the management but suddenly I saw something that again made me feel like we are still India. There were two policemen sitting on horses but again there was a dog standing next to them. What if the had a bomb inside his body?

BSF flag

BSF flag

I am never ever surprised to see wild animals just anywhere in India, even inside the government offices or just anywhere but near the high security zone? It was something that really surprised me. Well, the parade started at 4.30 and it was something that I am not going to forget in near future, maybe never. The parade was just awesome. There were about 3,000-4,000 people from India side but not many from Pakistan side. The Pakistan side sitting arrangement could also be seen from India side. I think there were hardly 300-400 people. I think it was just because they just don’t have as many people as us, after all we are over a billion people now.

You see this everywhere in Amritsar

You see this everywhere in Amritsar

People were shouting and jumping to encourage their side army. I was talking with locals about why such parade is organized and they told me that the idea behind it is to bring Indians and Pakistanis closer but I don’t think it is working that way. The Indian and Pakistani army men doing the parade were pretending to be so aggressive against each other and I think this is what people want to see. It was so fun. I liked it. The parade lasted for lasted for 45 minutes and finally flags were taken down from both sides and were kept in the offices.

One of the best things I had ever seen

One of the best things I had ever seen

After the parade ended and I was on my way back to the bus, I saw something that doubled my happiness. I saw females securing our border, it was really a great feeling to see females in our army. In a male dominant India society where most of women still manage only kitchen, it was a great feeling to see females securing ourselves and our border. I had already seen female police in the cities, and they look crazy and fat and lazy like male police but these females at the border seemed like they really work hard. They were managing the crowd and doing security check for females. But they were not only associated with females, they were managing male visitors as well.

Volunteers at the shoe stand

Volunteers at the shoe stand

They looked fit, they were confident, they were smart and they were really doing something. It was just amazing feeling to see them. After attending the parade I took a bus back to Amritsar and went to Swarn Mandir (Golden Temple). This temple was beautiful and really huge. I had already heard about Sikhs at the Gurudwaras cleaning the shoes of the visitors for religious reasons but I never thought that this tradition is really important for Sikhs. They had at least 10 huge shoe stands for visitors and they had volunteers working there to arrange shoes of the visitors. There were two people at each shoe stand and they seemed eager to manage the shoes.

The Golden temple

The Golden temple

Visitors don’t even needed to bring their shoes near the shoe stand, all they need to do is that take their shoes off and put it on the counter and then the volunteers would take the shoes and put them in stand. Visitors were not allowed to enter in the Golden temple without covering their head with any cloth. They had a counter where they were offering free small piece of clothes to the visitors. I also grabbed one and entered in the Golden temple. Amritsar was seriously cold. The maximum temperature was 10 degree and minimum was 0.8 on the day I was in Amritsar and walking barefoot on wet white marbled temple was making it more cold.

Langar at the Golden temple

Langar at the Golden temple

The temple was beautiful and was really huge. The temple was crowded but there was very good management so I never felt like it was too crowded. I went inside the temple, spent sometime watching people, reading wall writings and came back to hotel. I went to the Golden temple again next morning and this time I spent more time there. There was volunteer working going on everywhere. Somebody was cleaning the floor, somebody was helping with their Langar facility, somebody was distributing medicines, someone was cleaning the dishes…

No words for this

I spent almost 4 hours in the Golden temple, had my lunch in the Langar and finally headed to Jaliawala Bagh. This place is known for massacre of 2000 Indians during British Raj. Now this place is converted into a memorial where they have an art gallery, the well where 120 people fell down while trying to escape, the walls where bullet marks are still there and a few other things. This was an emotional place for of the visitors. I heard many people talking about how cruel the massacre was, of course it was. I spent about two hours there and then headed to Maharaja Ranjit Singh museum.

Bullet marks

Bullet marks

This museum was a new museum but it had no power backup in case of power cut. I arrived there around 2 o’clock but they asked me come after 3 o’clock as it was power cut that time and they did not have any power backup. It was crazy to see that the government had spent such a good amount of money to built that museum but they did not spend a little bit of money to buy a generator for power backup. I just wandered around the museum for an hour and then finally came to the museum at 3 o’clock. The museum was a good place to learn about Mahraja Ranjeet Singh’s life.

This was the last place I visited in Amritsar and I think that this trip was ver

Delhi-Lahore bus

Delhi-Lahore bus

y successful as I got to learn about Sikh religion and saw flag ceremony at Wagah border. Everything was just awesome in Amritsar except temperature. I knew that it was going to be cold but I did not know that it would be this cold. The maximum temperature was 10 degree Celsius and minimum temperature was 0.8 on the day I was in Amritsar means too cold for me. I went to the railway station to enquire about my train and came to know that my train was canceled due to fog.

This was the worst thing happened with me during this trip. I felt like I was stuck in Amritsar. I tried to get a ticket in another train coming to Varanasi but there was no reservation in it. Finally I bought a ticket to Delhi by bribing Rs. 50 to reservation clerk and booked another ticket from Delhi to Varanasi. I feel like two days were not enough for Amritsar. I would like to visit that place again someday in near future.

Arranged marriage of cousin

It was my cousin’s wedding on the 12th of December and I was so excited for it but fortunately I could not attend it as I had to be Gwalior for my written exam and interview for tour guide training. The wedding was on the 12th and it was my exam on the 13th, the party was on the 16th and it was my iterview day in Gwalior so I could not attend either of them. I tell it fortunately because something really crazy went on the wedding and now I feel fortunate that I did not get to attend the wedding or party.

My cousin used to work at a travel agency in Delhi and he is 30 years old and wanted to get married.He wanted his parents to find a girl for him. One of my uncles had a relative in Benares who was looking for a boy for his daughter so my uncle became the midiator and arranged this wedding. The wedding was arranged in May and date for wedding was fixed for December. My cousin used to talk with the girl over phone, he came to meet her in Benares but they met secretly as girl’s father did not want them to meet before getting married. Anyways, they met, talked and they liked each other.

My cousin used to talk about how happy he was with the girl. Even he left his job in Delhi and came to Benares and joined a travel agency so that he could stay in Benares with his wife becasue Benares is cheaper than Delhi. The girl’s father was seriously a crazy guy. He came to my father a few days before wedding and said that he wanted to get my cousin’s horoscope rechecked by some big Bramhin. He said that his family priest had told him that horoscope of my cousin doesnt match with horoscope of his daughter.

Actually everyone’s horoscope talks about 32 different qualities of one’s life and when somebody gets married, the horoscope of bride and groom is matched and is looked how many qualities match. If less than 16 qualities match, the wedding is canceled. The girl’s father said that my cousin was a Mangla means my cousin had some problem with his Mars. The girl’s father wanted to see if his daughter, his grand child and his grand child’s child will be happy or not if he gets his daughter married with my cousin, serious craziness.

Finally the horoscope was rechecked and they decided that wedding be done on the same date. All these things happened only a few days before the wedding. All of my relatives gathered together for wedding and everything was going very well. On the wedding day, when wedding parade arrived at the bride’s place, they heard few people fighting and shouting. They came to know that the bride did not want to marry with my cousin as she was already in love with someone else. Her boyfriend was also there with a advocate and he came to my cousin and said that he wanted to marry the girl.

The girl also left her place before a few minutes of wedding parade was going to arrive at her place and went to her neighbor’s house who was supporting her. She did not want to get married with my cousin. Her father with few other people went to the neighbor’s place and brought her back to the house. She was crying and was shouting that she wanted to marry her boy friend. Everybody from groom’s side heard her saying it and they went to the groom and told him the situation and asked him what was his decision. And I just don’t understand why my cousin said that he still wanted to marry her.

The girl’s family beat the boyfriend and his uncle who was in support of thier wedding and locked them up in a room for the whole night and finally the girl was forcebly married to my cousin. The wedding rituals were done quickly and the bride was brought forcebly to groom’s place. The bride told everything again to my cousin and asked him to help her meet her boyfriend but my cousin said that she should not do such things as she is married to him now. It is hard for me to understand why my cousin married her even after knowing everything but I think he was in dipression.

He would often talk about his age and would tell me that after a few years nobody would marry him. I am sure this is not the case anymore in India but my dipressed cousin… I don’t understand a few things like why the girl did not tell anything about her boyfriend to my cousin before marriage and why did they wait till the wedding date? I don’t really know who is responsible for the whole situation. I have heard that bride’s family knew everything but the father of the bride did not like bride’s boyfriend.

Arranged marriage is still very popular in India but now I hear of more people coming against this idea. The concept of arranged marriage is not a problem to me also as long as the couple is happy but when such things happen like what happened with my cousin’s wedding then it really makes me angry. I just don’t know how someone can do this? I don’t know if I should want my couisn and his wife to live together or get seperated but one thing is very sure that if the girl does something like eloping with her boyfriend, it would be a huge problem for my cousin and his family.

French hippie causes problems

I hosted a few new guests at my guest house and it was the first time when I had some problem with my guest and my guest had problems with me, my family and my guest house. A French girl contacted me for housing through my ad somewhere online. We shared a few e-mails and I thought it was okay to host her as she said that she wanted to study Hindi in Benares and had been living in India for the past six months. She seemed like an ideal guest to me because it seemed to me that she already knew India. I arranged Hindi classes for her and went to Gwalior for my tour guide training.

I asked to my other guests about her and they said she seemed a little bit hippie to them but she was not crazy. I asked her if she was feeling well at my place and she said that she was happy. But when I came back to Benares after a few days and met her in person, she seemed not happy at all. She said that I had written on my ad online that there is a kitchen also but in fact the kitchen was not furnished at all. She said that kitchens in the west are furnished and come with gas connection and other utilities but it just doesn’t happen in India.

I tried to explain it to her but she just did not want to hear anything and the second dispute was the rent. She said that the rent I had written on my ad was different than what I was asking for. I asked for Rs. 1000 per month for unlimited broadband Internet access in her room and it seemed too much to her. She said that she would not pay anything for Internet. Rs. 3000 per month for the meal (lunch, dinner and breakfast) was also too much for her. Finally I asked her to decide the rent and she said Rs. 6800 per month for room, meals and Internet. It is not something I charge to my other guests and I was not happy with it.

I asked her two times to go somewhere else if she was not happy at my place but she said everything was fine. But she had problem with everyone at my home. I have few plants in each flat and keep them under the grate so that the plants can get some direct sun light but she moved all the plants to a darker side of the flat and put her mattress right under the grate. When my mother saw it, she moved the plants again under the grate and she got mad. I don’t really know what she wanted. She wanted to stay out of home until late night and this is something I just don’t recommend to my female guests and I don’t know what people can do in the late nights in Varanasi.

There is nothing to do after 9 o’clock but she wanted to stay out until 12 or 1 sometimes. My other guest told me that she had seen this French girl drinking on a boat in Ganga. It was crazy. Finally she left after two months. After she left I went in her flat and saw a big packet of garbage. I wanted to see if she had left some clothes or some items that could be reused. I usually donate the clothes left by my guests to Mother Teresa Home. I found a bottle of Thums Up soft drink and I put it in the toilet because soft drinks are very good to clean toilets.

She left at 7 but came back again around 9 because her train was delayed. When she saw that somebody had touched her garbage, she got really mad. She did not tell me anything that time but she wrote me several emails asking why I saw her garbage. I tried to explain to her the reason behind it but she just did not want to hear anything. I don’t really know if she was crazy, but actually she behaved like a crazy person. It was my house and I did whatever I wanted. I had not seen her garbage while she was staying. Once she left, it was my house again. But her stay taught me several lessons and now I am more attentive choosing any guest.

Tawayaf culture

I am hosting a FulBright scholar, Megan, who is doing her research from University of Pittsburgh. Her research topic is tawayaf culture. She has rented a whole flat and will stay till June 2010. We discussed a few things about tawayaf culture in Varanasi. I already knew that Lucknow was the most famous place of tawayafs.Varanasi has also been a famous center for tawayafs but according to Megan, it doesn’t exist anymore. I also talked with a few of my friends and relatives and they were telling that there are few places where tawayafs still perform.

Most of the people think that tawayaf is one other name for prostitutes but it is not true. They were highly educated women and and trained in their skills such and dancing, singing, literature and were very well respected in society. My friend Ravi told me that kids of royal families were sent to tawayafs to get training which included behavioural training, gazal writing and few other skills. The place were tawayafs used to live was called kotha and now kotha is also referred as a brothel which is also not true. Kothas were a place for tawayafs to live and perform.

Usually kothas had more than one tawayaf where one, the most senior, was the head. The head of the tawayfs was responsible for training other tawayfas. Usually kothas had a dance performance every evening where anyone was allowed to enter. They had male musicians who played different musical instruments and tawayafs were the one who performed dance. Alcohol was also served to special clients or sometimes to everyone. Sex work was also involved there but it was not like today’s brothels where someone pays Rs. 50 and sleep with the sex workers till he cums.

Tawayafs were expensive and I have heard that they had right to choose whom did they want to sleep with, so it was not like anyone could pay and sleep with them. Usually they had one special client who was very close to the tawayaf and this relationship was also not like a relationship of a sex worker and her client; it was something special. Tawayfs had children also and this special person would act as their father. Tawayafs were called at the palaces also perform and entertain the royal families. Whatever I heard about tawayfs made me feel like tawayafs were accepted and respected in our society but kothas were still a disrespected place.

There is not much information available about tawayafs but I have heard that there are a few places in Varanasi and Lucknow where they still have few kothas which run illegally. Megan’s subject is awesome but she is more interested in prostitutes now because she said that it would not be possible for her to write her thesis on tawayfas because there is not much information available about them. I want to know more about tawayfs and looking at Megan’s thesis if she writes something about them.

Guide training program – week 6

Finally the last week of classroom teaching is finished now. This week we had classes about Jaipur, Indo-Islamic architecture, things to do during any emergency, gems and jewellery, Jainism, business history of India and a few classes about the project report and upcoming tour. All the classes of this week were fine but I like the “things to do in any emergency” class the best. The lecture was delivered by a retired air hostess of Air India. She taught us about what we should do during any emergency but the thing that made her class best was her openness and her topic that no lecturer had ever talked about during the training.

She talked about medical problems, sex, homosexuality, HIV, AIDS and other STIs. She taught us what we should do if any tourist asks us to have sex with them. She said that first of all it completely depends on us whether we want to have sex with the tourist or or not, but if we decide to have sex with the tourist then we should never forget to use condoms because there is high risk of STI transmission by having unprotected sex. She seemed so concerned about HIV and AIDS. She said that since she had worked in the service sector, she had sex with several different kinds of people but she always used condoms.

She talked about homosexuality as well. She taught us the basics about homosexuality. I already knew about what she was talking about, but it was a completely new subject to most of the participants. She said that if any of the participants were homosexual, then they should not be shy about it and talk with their parents and live a life as they want. She talked about the high court judgment as well. She said that now there is someone to support homosexuals in India. She said that homosexuality is seen as a disease in India. Most of the parents think that if they get their homosexual child married with an opposite sex partner, the disease will go away which is obviously not true.

I just could not believe her openness about the subject. All of the participants of my batch were males and she was the only female amongst us but she talked about sex which doesn’t happen in India usually. Everybody enjoyed the lecture a lot. On the last day of this week when all the participants were called together in the auditorium of the institute we were provided a certificate of participation. This certificate will help us talking with the government officials for our project. The female participants were called separately on the stage to motivate them. The institute said that Indian tourism industry needs female tour guides in India and we should promote them.