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When we left off last, our van had puttered in past the open gate and into my uncle’s home. We had a cow, lots of dirt, a small barn and three wide-eyed cousins staring back at me. The oldest was a year my junior, and thus the greatest source of “bonding” potential. So I stepped from the van, stretched out my tired limbs (as far as my slim-fit jeans would let me), and nodded with a look of acknowledgement. She didn’t respond in kind, but instead scurried up to me, rhyming off phrase after phrase in lightening-speed Punjabi.
They knew a little English, but not enough to talk about my love for the band Oasis. So I turned to my sub-par Punjabi skills, and managed as best I could.
…I awoke ’round early evening to the sight of my 8-year-old cousin sitting at the edge of my bed…staring at me. She whispered something faint regarding tea and a trip to the bazaar. The she cackled wildly and ran down the stairs…
…As I finished my tea and five or six squares of Indian sweets (unwise?), I realized that a trip to the bathroom was in order. Again my mother handed me a roll of toilet paper, and I started to shudder at the thought of peeing (and pooping?) in a hole for the next several days. Well there was definitely a “hole” at my uncle’s place, but he had also installed a toilet specifically for us. Yay for uncles!…
…As we readied ourselves for an exploratory trip to the bazaar, I walked straight over to the van, but was quickly ushered away and pointed to a nearby scooter. Apparently our cousins were accompanying us as well, and with their skinny little bodies jammed into both of the vans, someone was the odd man out. And today that someone was me.
So with my uncle as the driver and myself sitting right at the edge of the seat (legs to the side, since ladies didn’t straddle scooters), we sped away, leaving a cloud of dirt in my little brother’s face…
…I was extremely frightened as we hit the many bumps along the makeshift road (especially considering my lack of helmet). I wondered how many passengers had fallen off their scooters on this very road. Had they tumbled into the field over there? Was there a pile of bodies? Would I be next?
As the farms and fields left us behind, the scooter slowed a bit and rounded a path between a series of pastel-coloured buildings (hmm…pastel?). My heart-rate steadied to a calm and reasonable pace, a serenity that lasted only seconds.
We were here: a good old fashioned Indian bazaar.
Suddenly I knew the difference between an actual Indian bazaar, and the meager “Little India” in Toronto.
Cars, scooters, rickshaws, bicycles and even cows, all competing for their own precious patches of road. And bumps. That’s right, vehicles would scream to a halt and nudge the ones in front of them….what!?!?!
I was having a fit with every car that whizzed right past me. I envisioned myself being decapitated by a rickshaw…and what about the cow, what if it wanted to fight me? I didn’t like his cow breath, that was for sure. And why…why was the street filled with mean-looking stray black dogs? How did people not just randomly die in this Indian Bazaar?
I closed my eyes and gripped to the scooter tightly, but by now the motor was off, and we had parked in a tangled mess of scooters on the side of the road. I slowly disengaged from the vehicle, and looked up ahead. I saw a lot of brightly coloured textiles blowing in the breeze, far more glorious than anything I’d seen back home. I could also smell a lot of food, since little restaurants and food stalls seemed to pop up everywhere. Children and grown-ups alike had crowded the streets, enjoying the temperate evening with a glass of lychee juice and a sack full of Indian trail mix.
Once the rest of my family emerged from the vans, I demanded an ice cold beverage for my troubles. Coke please.
My uncle returned with bottles for the kids. Bottles of Thums Up. “Just like Coke”, he said.
I took a big swig. Not like Coke at all my friends, not at all. More like Coke that had whored it up in a spice shop before being bottled…ick! I hid my disgust as a courtesy, but the taste in my mouth was enough to ruin the rest of my night in the bazaar. Even the otherwise delicious dinner spilled with displeasure down my spice-stained tongue…
…Following an evening stroll we slowly made it back to the vans. It was now a little chilly, which meant my dad had volunteered to ride the scooter with my uncle. So I squeezed into the van my siblings, and we marvelled at the scope of the bazaar…how could it have been so busy? My mother explained that this bazaar was like a quiet open field, when compared to one of India’s busiest bazaars, which was only an hour away. We wouldn’t have time to see it though, and no one in the van complained about that.
And besides I was far too focused on my second Indian life lesson of the trip (the first one having been to hold in all my pee during road trips):
-Stay the hell away from the brand “Thums Up”…
[This post is another in the series of my first family trip to India in ’95. Here is the next installment]
Oh gebus. They sell Thums Up in Fiji. Your description was quite on the mark.
LOL. ha ha, man sorry bout that whorey coke…one of my teachers is indian, and im always eating dorritos, and one day i wished for indian dorritoes to be in exsistence, and he informed me they are!! haha, but I know that urge for a normal chip/coke…and something about having it all skanky with spice is understandably not refreshing like those commercials where they are all on rollerskates/floating. Looking forward to the rest of your trip!
I remember loving Oasis back in the day…oh the memories. I thought riding in a taxi in Mexico was scary, I can’t imagine being on a scooter in India!
I don’t like coke because I think it is already too spicy, so I probably would hate thums up, sounds disgusting.
Award for you at my place 🙂
I loved your bazaar description. It was lovely. Also, thank you for the links to all the foods I have no idea how to pronounce 😉 I am getting quite the lesson in cuisine! I can’t wait for your next installment!!! I hope you had a loverly weekend!
I know it sounds kind of masachistic but I would be interested in trying Thumbs Up. Did you ever get to see the busy bazaar? This all sounds so interesting. I get the image of the busy streets and the animals just as it is so often portrayed in the movies. I would love to engulf myself in that culture!
I too am curious enough to try this so called “Thumbs Up.” I’m fascinated by foreign lands, and this series of posts is by far one of my Romi favs!
Anja: isn’t it nasty though!?!?! Argh..didn’t know it had stumbled into Fiji too…sorry about that! 😉
Shweta: haha..I actually had those Tandoori Doritos and they weren’t bad, and the Lay’s Curry chips aren’t bad either….but you can only have like five of these chips and that’s it: too much seasoning!!!
bluesuit12: I know right!??!?! Like how many times did I sing along to Supersonic?!!? 🙂 Then that epically long “Champagne Supernova” song and video came out in grade nine, and it was the talk of the school! 😉
Kerplar: if you don’t like Coke you would DEFINITELY hate it then…steer clear! 😉
Javaqueen: thanks so much for the award lady!! 🙂
sammy25: I’m glad you find all the links useful! They are second nature to me, but sometimes I have to remember that maybe “palak paneer” isn’t exactly a mainstream term around these parts 😉
Justin: I would love to toss you into that culture, honestly, from knowing you in this cyber-way, I think that you would love it!! 🙂 (and I did see the busy bazaar on my trip in 2006! I have many stories on that bazaar, maybe too many for one post, but I will save that all for later in this blog when I recollect the 2006 trip 😉 )
omegaradium: I am glad to hear you’re enjoying these series of posts; it’s always worthwhile when at least one person enjoys it 🙂
I guess that Thums Up could fit into a 2 liter bottle destined to fraternity hazings. Am i right? 😉
OMG – I absolutely HATE it when someone tells you something tastes like something familiar just to get you to eat/drink it and then it tastes nothing like it whatsoever. Grrr! LOL. Your uncle is awesome for installing a toilet just for your trip – what a guy! I’m so glad you didn’t fall off the scooter or get decapitated by any angry cows or stray dogs. LOL. I bet the bazaar is fun if you know ahead of time what you are getting into and can psyche yourself up for it!
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