We took a flight to Patna early morning on the 2nd. It was supposed to be at 7am, but ended up getting delayed till 9:30am. The delay ended up working out great, as I got my first massage at this awesome asian spa in the airport during the extra time and it felt amazing. I decided that I want to learn how to give great massages, so if anyone wants to sign up for masseuse classes next year let me know! So much happened during the trip, and we had plenty of down time so I was able to write down most of the events that took place. As such, the post might be a random compilation of thoughts so bear with me.
Patna is in the east of India, and about an hour and a half flight from New Delhi. It is also is extremely different from Delhi, as it is much poorer and still developing at a slower pace than the rest of the country. The Ganges River runs right through the city, and the tree under which Buddha found enlightenment is only about 70miles away. Two of my dad’s six brothers live in Patna, so we went to visit the familia.
During our trip, we stayed at my Uncles place, and staying there was very different from most houses I’ve been in for many reasons. Although I had never spent much time with them, right away the warmth, love, and affection which was showered upon me was great.
Meals were very unique, as we ate all of our meals with our hands. Although it was somewhat unusual at first, I had done it when I was much younger so it felt natural halfway through the first meal, and I actually kind of enjoyed doing it. For dinner one night, we had a meal cooked with extremely fresh ingredients, literally. We went to the fish market, bought a freshly killed fish (it was actually still bloody), watched the female vendor nonchalantly slice it up into pieces for us, and ate it for dinner that night. I never thought I would see my sea food like that (pun intended); it was a grossly fascinating experience.
I still can’t believe how much and how often I have been inhaling food since arriving to this country; it feels as though my capacity for food has been increasing with every meal, and pretty soon I feel as though I should be able to challenge Kobayashi for that hot dog eating contest record.
I met what felt like 600 new family members in the past couple days; and although it has been a struggle to keep names and relationships in order everyone has been extremely friendly, and it was great to learn of so many relations I had never even known existed. While driving to visit all of these relatives, I realized that if possible, driving conditions in Patna are actually even worse than they were in Delhi; as you have to add aimlessly wandering humans, cows, and dogs in the streets to the survival game that is the city’s roads.
During the trip, I was caught off guard as I was called uncle for the first time in my life. To be completely honest, it felt weird and made me feel more grown up than I would like. I have a niece and nephew named Huma and Naveed who are both great kids, but are only a few years younger than me, only adding to the strangeness of the situation. Nadeev took to me right away, and although at first it was somewhat endearing, it took some time getting used to him following me around literally all day. Regardless, I enjoyed the situation overall but being called Sahil Uncle & Sahil Mamu is definitely going to take some getting used to…
Throughout the trip my hindi has been improving; but apparently I have been accidentally using the respectful tenses (aap) towards the kids, and the less than respectful tenses (Tum) for the elders, soo guess I still have some work to do on that front haha. I’ve also realized that for the first time in my life, I can proudly say that I am significantly taller and larger than the average person in the country, which has been a pleasant surprise. In Patna, I hit my head on the door when entering the kitchen, and had to bend over to see my face in any of the bathroom mirrors, as my head was always well above them.
Everything there was so different. I learned how addicted, reliant, and appreciative I am of the Internet, modern toilets, toilet paper and unfortunately even facebook. Living without them for even a couple days was an interesting experience for sure. Interesting experiences was showering, as I did so by sitting down on a stool, and pouring warm water from a bucket on myself. The houses are also incredibly cold. The temperature itself isn’t that bad, as it is around 45 degrees, but the houses have no insulation so you are basically living in bone-chilling cold indoors. Watching the maids and servants work and go about their chores has been unique as well. I also watched multiple men milk cows in the middle of the street today, so if I was forced to do that, think I could potentially pull it off now as well.
It took some getting used to while watching the female servant crawl around on all fours while cleaning the floors, as I found it to be somewhat unnerving. With that said, I have enjoyed interacting with all the servants so far as it allows me to practice speaking Hindi, they’re all very friendly, and you can tell they sincerely appreciate every thank you and conversation you have with them.
It was definitely a very interesting, informative, and eye-opening trip, as I’ve been able to get a good understanding of where my dad came from and how he grew up. It’s amazing to consider where he was as a child, and the journey that him and all of his family members and brothers in particular must have taken to achieve the lifestyle and modest success that they enjoy today. My dad used to tell me stories of the poverty and struggles they faced while growing up, and I had tried to understand what he was talking about; but till I saw it with my own eyes there was really no way which I could have even begun to imagine the conditions and situations he was describing. The trip has really made me appreciate all that I have, and makes me feel pretty blessed and thankful for the lifestyle I have been able to live up to this point.
After meeting different people all over India, one of the coolest lessons that I have learned is that in today’s world, kids our age and people in general are the same everywhere you go. Regardless of where I’ve been in India, whether it be a rural religious city such as patna, to a bustling metropolitan city like Delhi, I have learned that most people our age have the same interests, and like to do just about the same things for fun (We all like to get down and get funky). It has been really eye opening, and is a wonderful and exciting concept to carry with me from here on out.
It seems as though the inevitable, deep philosophical & religious talks that fathers side of the family is famous for have begun, so I’m going to take that as my cue to call it a night.
We’re going to Agra tomorrow morning to check out the Taj Mahal, and then leaving for Goa on the 7th so should be a fun few days. Less than ten days have passed since I arrived in India, but it feels like I’ve already been here forever. Really looking forward to all the adventures and experiences that are to come, but I’m definitely beginning to miss everyone already so be sure to stay in touch!
Beautifully written. I did not know you can write so well. I devoured every word. In fact, it’s poetic. It’s some serious writing. Sahil, you should seriously consider writing & perhaps make it a career, some point of time in future. You make me proud. Thanks again for a great insight. Great help in getting a new perspective of things from a very different angle.