Thursday, 14 January 2016

India- Part 1: The Journey

At this time of the year, the Northern part of India lays under a bed of thick, winter fog for most of the day. It looks quite similar to the smog that Beijing is suffering from, though this dhond is 'definitely not pollution'. It gets thicker nearer rivers, and let me tell you, you'll know when you're near a river, because it's so thick that you can't see anything at all apart from white cloud like smoke in patches. But because of the dhond, it becomes quite dangerous at times to drive, delays almost all the flights, and makes the sun look quite pretty.

Getting to Amritsar from England was hard going. You'd think Air India would know that due to the fog at this time of the year- every year, they would change the timings of their flights beforehand, but they didn't so we ended up stuck at the New Delhi Airport for hours. The first thing that struck me was the sticky heat, as we got off the plane even though it would be the same plane that we would get back on to get to Punjab. The next was how rude the security staff were, as we had to have another security check when we got off the plane. The female security lady, unbeknownst to her that I am fluent in Hindi, insulted me, calling me a lot of names just because she was in a bad mood. That was the first instance I wanted to board a plane back to England. We were kept in horrendously hot conditions for almost 2 hours without being offered water, even though the stop over wasn't meant to be longer than 30 minutes. With us was my mum's elderly aunt, who was joining us for this leg of the journey.

When we finally got on the plane, it took everyone over 40 minutes to find their seats, as most people just sat wherever they wanted. Then of course the stewardesses had to move people and find their correct seats. I got told by the elderly gentleman that this was normal, and it was kind of funny to watch too. In the end, and elderly Sardar decided to take it upon himself to help the other lost passengers whilst Stewards went off, probably to hide. Finally, after everyone was seated, the wouldn't get any clearance so we were stuck on the runway for almost an hour and a half. So there we were, thirsty due to the dry heat, most of us were exhausted from the 12 hours previously spent on another flight coming to India, now going to Punjab. Because of the mean, rude Air India lady mum and I got when we checked in at Birmingham Airport, we didn't get seated together, something everyone in our cabin agreed was out of line. Instead, I ended up a few rows and seat across from her. It was probably a good thing, as I got chatting to people and realised Punjabi people are actually quite nice, and friendly, funny people. That may sound odd but I don't really know many Punjabis. Everyone treated everyone else like family, made jokes to pass the time, a man shouted, 'We're here!' after the plane sped up to go but then slowed down. It was pretty hilarious. I felt really happy at that time. It's a good memory.

I was meant to go for 10 days but stayed for only 6 nights (more on that later). What I found was a place that in many ways was completely unfamiliar, but in others shockingly the way I left it as a child. As some of you will know, I lived in India for most of my childhood, after my parents sent me there from England aged 4 or 5. When I lived there, I was in Goraya, District Jalandhar, for about 4 years before being sent to a boarding school in Dalhousie, Himachal Pradesh.

At first glance, the India I left behind 16 years ago seemed to still be there. If only it was a little more dirtier, and dustier but then that could just be because I haven't been back for a long time. The highways were pretty well made. These did not exist 16 years ago. Of course some people still drive on the wrong side but still- no pot holes. I even saw a Sardar riding motorcycle whilst texting! We got off the plane in Amritsar (Ambarsar, as the Punjabis call in), 3 hours later than intended, totalling almost a 22 hour journey by the time we got to my mother's village. Because of these new highways, I couldn't recognise any of the towns leading up to Goraya which saddened me. It was only when we got near to the railway line in Goraya that I finally recognised where we were. For one thing, there wasn't an overhead 4 lane highway when I used to live there. I even recognised the shoe shop I always went to!

My biggest surprise lay as we touched down; Amritsar Airport looked amazing. I did think beforehand that it might be a small runway with tractors bringing our luggage, as I saw in Bride and Prejudice film, in fact it's feat of architecture, and brought tears of pride to my eyes. That's really when I realised that there are gems in amongst the dhond which isn't pollution, as my 2nd uncle kept telling me...

I'll try to write up the next part as soon as I can. That's where I meet my mum's family, stay at the farm house and talk about sewage! What fun!

Until next time,
Sen x
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