My time in India
9 Aug 2017 | 229 View
My time in India
By Jamjuree Oopatong
Going to India was not my choice, but going somewhere was my intention. After quitting my job as a government teacher in 2004, I was invited by my Dutch friend to accompany her there to see places she had previously visited.
I decided that for once in my life I would visit a mysterious country without having any idea what I would find there. My three-month visa meant I had a long trip ahead of me.
India gave me a lot to think about. Although culture shock and homesickness made me want to return home in the second week, I still had many reasons for staying. There were so many things to see in India that such a short time was not enough. India was so enchanting and it has always been like this.
The first place I stepped on Indian soil was in Calcutta. My friend and I had a night there and then we continued to Duttapulia village by train the next day. I found that an Indian train was bigger than a Thai train and the fellow passengers were quite talkative. Though I could not understand their language, I could feel that people here expressed their feelings more than Thais. And with the overcrowded cities and villages, how I could feel lonely here?
The reason why we came to Duttapulia was because my friend had contacted Sreema Mahila Samity, a non-governmental organisation that has been working for women of this region. She wanted to be a volunteer for them.
Again on the train, Varanasi was our next destination, a city on the banks of the Ganges River. When the train had nearly reached the Varanasi train station, we were fascinated by the huge river below us. We all, the passengers were mostly foreigners, had a feeling that it symbolised good fortune.
We were reaching the oldest city of India and one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. It is an ancient, rather messy, trading city with loads of people.
“I love Varanasi,” I said to myself while I was standing at Assi Ghat along the huge river. It was impressive – soulful, a place where you could see people from the West meet people who had been living their life here in their own way according to their own customs.
People came to Varanasi for various reasons. For tourists, Varanasi is a place of freedom. It is so real, a place where they can get relief from worldly pressures. When I was there, I saw many just sitting along the Ghats doing nothing like they did not have anything in their mind. Native Indians, however, went there because of their strong religious beliefs and to participate in holy ceremonies.
I would love to go back there again and have lassi and paneer puri, surrounded by Indian men at the roadside stands and visiting their homes where I could see women taking care of their children and houses.
My friend introduced me to an organisation in Varanasi called Divya Jyoti. It is a small vocational day-care center run by a couple for mentally-challenged young adults. She had worked as a volunteer there for one year. I had a chance to see how people take care of the handicapped here. We spent time observing and helping them for about 2 weeks.
I left Varanasi for a few other villages which revealed different aspects of India to me. There was nothing much to do during the days, only breathing in Indian smells and, in every step I took, being aware of the diversity of this land of mixed beliefs and cultures.
Most of the people in India are also vegetarian. I had three months without fish sauce and I missed it and other Thai foods. After 2 months I began to dream about Thai food night and day. Still, I did become accustomed to Indian food and culture and finally could accept many things that bothered me at the start.
The last day in India had finally come. I was leaving India because my visa for India was expiring. One day, after I came back to Thailand, I was in a big supermarket and I thought to myself: “It’s so rich. Thailand has too much food. Are we being spoiled here?”