A Month Across the World

I spent my summer across the world; this is how I lived my life there.

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Shivani Pujari, Dedicated Author

Summer break was a couple of months ago, but the memories still linger. Lots of people went out of state, country, or just stayed at home. I went to India, visiting family. My trip started on July 2nd and my family and I stayed with my dad’s side for about two weeks, and then we traveled to my mom’s side on July 15th and stayed there till July 30th. While in India, I noticed several differences compared to our life here.

A statue in the Ramappa Temple

     First of all, electricity. The USA rarely has power cuts, but in India, it probably happened twice a week on average. I noticed that here, people usually scream, and get scared, but in India, no one said anything. They would just wait patiently for the power to turn back on. Plus, natural light was constantly flowing through every open door and window. Although, the power outages could be one of the worst things ever because, without a fan, it got incredibly hot (80-105 degrees Fahrenheit), and there’s no escaping it; no air conditioning, the power’s out, and the fan would blow away mosquitoes, which are incredibly abundant there. Without the fan, mosquitoes were free to feast.

     Second, the bathrooms. You will most often not find a shower in bathrooms, you would find a couple of buckets, a mug, and two large taps, one for hot water and the other for cold. But, you have to turn the water heater on and wait 15 minutes for warm water. The buckets are for your water and the mug is for pouring the water on yourself. If you have long, thick hair, it will take forever to dry out because of how muggy the air is. Public bathrooms, in a sentence, are incredibly poorly maintained. The stalls are tiny, the air always smells, and the floors are always wet. My family and I tried to avoid using them as much as possible.

Statues over the entrance of the Ramappa Temple

     Next, the roads. In America, the roads are neat, orderly, and usually pretty okay in terms of traffic. But in India, it’s pure chaos. There usually aren’t any concept of lanes, and there is always honking. Literally, the first noise you’ll wake up to in the morning is the honking of horns. It’s incessantly loud. Some trucks don’t even have a traditional horn, they blast a strange alien-like noise that is ten times louder than a regular car horn. Motorcycles would weave between cars and come within a foot of other vehicles. Crossing the road is the same case. There are no pedestrian crossings and no one stops for you. You just have to wait for a break in traffic and walk. It is incredibly dangerous, but I have never seen or heard of someone getting hit. Traffic lights are also very scarce and, to be honest, hinder traffic more than help it.

My family and I bought coconuts from a street vendor and got to drink straight from them.

The traffic in India is genuine mayhem, but it was actually pretty fun doing a simple everyday task so much differently than I do here.

     Speaking of roads, one of the best things that I did in India was buying food and other objects from the roadside. It was much like in New York: how vendors go out with their stands and sell their food and items, people do that just on a considerably larger scale. In India, vendors will have huge pots and pans and make several different types of food. The food is absolutely delicious but more often than not, unsanitary. The water in India has to be filtered or boiled to remove particles and bacteria. Vendors don’t usually take the time to filter out their water or wash the vegetables they use. But, it would be dangerous if they washed their vegetables too. Because the water is unclean, cleaning the vegetables with dirty water would beat the purpose of cleaning them. But, a few bites of food from a roadside vendor doesn’t hurt especially because it is so delicious.

An example of a shrine made for the Hindu gods; usually, in India, these shrines have even more in terms of god idols and more offerings for them.

     During my trip to India, my family and I visited several temples. We only go to India once every few years so my grandmother on my mom’s side loves to take us to temples, getting us as many blessings as possible. In the peak times of day, temples can get so crowded that people are shoulder to shoulder and back to back. It’s suffocating. The temples I went to this year are (in Warangal) the Ramappa Temple, the Vemulavada Temple, and(in Madurai) the Meenakshi Amman Temple. We planned to go to one in Delhi which was the Akshardham Temple. The Akshardham Temple is one of the most famous temples in Delhi. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to go there because I wasn’t feeling too well. Temples are the places people go to get a glimpse of our gods and pray to them. Temples are usually made of long-lasting stones and metals. Since the gods are kept in temples, they must be kept clean. All temples are beautifully carved in intricate ways and never cease to impress me. Especially the Ramappa Temple, which has carefully carved sculptures that seem to be hollow and have some parts of statues that are a centimeter wide.

     India took some getting used to, but in the end, it was so much fun and so interesting. The ancient temples always fascinate me. I love visiting India and seeing my family there.

Questions about Indian culture that I get asked often, and my answers:

  • Why do you wear a dot on your forehead?
      • The ‘dot’ is actually called a bindi in Hindi and, in Tamil, called a pottu. Indians wear them because, in Hindu culture, the god Shiva has a third eye that sits vertically on his forehead in between his eyes. The pottu (or bindi) represents that eye.
  • Why do you wear thread bracelets on your wrist?
      • Each string bracelet is from a different temple and represents blessings from the god of that temple.
  • Where/how do you pray?
      • We usually go to temples where there are holy chantings, music, incense, and bells ringing, which are all part of how we pray.
  • What do your gods do/stand for?
      • We have gods and goddesses for every occasion. They cover most aspects of life. The three major ones are Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, in that order. Brahma is the creator, Vishnu is the protector, and Shiva is the destroyer (I am actually named after Shiva).
  • What is a henna tattoo and how does it work?
    • Henna is made out of dried and crushed henna plant leaves. A paste is made with the crumbled leaves and is filled into cones that can be used for making designs, usually on the hands and/or feet. The leaf paste should be removed once it is dried and an orange pigment is left on the skin. Henna is also used for coloring hair and couples usually have complex henna tattoos during marriage. Henna tattoos are also very popular during other festive occasions in India.

Arrived in India – July 2nd

Warangal – July 2nd to July 14th

  • Boating
  • Warangal Fort
  • Ramappa Temple

Madurai – July 15th to July 30th

  • Kanyakumari
  • Taj Mahal

Home – July 31st

Warangal:

We went to Laknavaram for boating. It was absolutely beautiful, and the boating was tons of fun. We went on the speed boat, so the driver whipped us through sharp turns and leaned the sides of the boat so close to the water I felt like I was going to fall in at times!  

 On the same day, we went to Laknavaram, we also visited the Warangal Fort. The Warangal Fort has four archways, one to the east, one to the west, one to the north, and one to the south (the picture on the left shows one of the archways).

We also visited the Ramappa Temple which is known for its amazing buildings and intricate sculptures.

Madurai:

We left Madurai soon after arriving to go to Kanyakumari. Kanyakumari is the most southern point of India. That means that

You can just barely see the colors of the different bodies of water here.

there were beautiful beaches and serene sunrises and sunsets. We went to a wax museum and the literal end of India. Kanyakumari is also the meeting point of three bodies of water, the Arabian Sea, the Bay of Bengal, and the Indian Ocean. You can actually see the difference of color of the three bodies of water in an aerial view of the area (or just a distant view of it).

 

We also visited one of the seven wonders of the world: the Taj Mahal. Why is the Taj Mahal so special? Well, it’s special because of the way it was made. It is completely hand carved. No machines were used to make the Taj Mahal. First, the marble was cut into different shapes and designs. Then each and every precious stone that was in-laid on the Taj Mahal had to be shaped to fit the cut marble. This was incredibly tedious and difficult work because if a stone didn’t fit, the workers would throw it out and start again with another gem (this is called marble inlay work). Restoration workers are using the same process today to fix the Taj Mahal.

     We, of course, traveled to other places, but these are the ones that really stood out to me. They all show a rich representation of Indian culture and are just really cool places in general.