The Road to Amritsar

Trip Start Jul 25, 2011
Trip End Sep 01, 2011

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Flag of India  , Rajasthan,
Thursday, August 18, 2011

Deciding to visit Bikaner was an impulse decision and some sort of stroke of luck. Thanks to the decision to take a camel safari (that my swollen eye didn't allow anyway) I have at last some good memories of this country. 
Today my host and his wife made me part of a couple of hours of their daily homework. She made flour on the floor from a huge bag of wheat, while he helped her by carrying it out of their storage room. I was told that it's normal to buy wheat for up to 10 months and store it away in order to prepare enough flour for a week of chapati. While they are wealthy enough to afford paying for someone else to process the wheat into flour, they do it themselves for practical reasons: processed wheat doesn't taste as good and it's only purchases out of season or for special needs.
Her husband then introduced me to the delicious tea they have been sharing with me for the last days. It's a quite easy process of boiling tea in water, then milk separately, then mixing both with a spoonful of masala, a delicious powder of ginger, cardamom and black pepper, again homemade. Enough sugar to cause an insuline shock and here's your delicious cup of tea.
We also talked a lot about the family matters in India, and of what women are expected to do in their daily lives. Considering that this is a quite small city (at least compared to the rest of India, half a million is a lot), I haven't seen any woman having a shop of her own out of Delhi and Jaipur (or even working for this matter), and it was obvious why; women have their job at home, men have their job somewhere else. 

The effects of high prices and heavy industrialization haven't forced yet every adult in the family to find a job, but when this will inevitably happen, it will definitely cause some shockwaves in the society. Will the kids be raised by their grandparents or by a foreign nanny as it happens in most of the West? Will the family succumb to the forces of individualism and emancipation? Only time will tell. It is definitely having an effect on the social fabric, considering that middle-class families have began waiting a few years before having a child or a second one. Large families these days either are very rich or very poor. 
Another very interesting subject was the price of things outside India. Both were very interested in the price of my travel gear and accessories. Considering how it's easy to find locally produced clothing for a fraction of what it costs in Europe (don't know much about fake products since the last I have seen was at the Kuala Lumpur's Chinatown), the only inaccessible things for most of the luckier Indians are western shoes and electronics. 

 This really made me put in a new light the brand new Blackberry (exactly the same model I have) that the son of my Jaipur host owned, and how strong the models of consumerism and personal growth must be here. All over India I didn't feel and envy or resentment though, just a desire to either have the kids doing good enough in their lives to have them being able to do anything they will want to do in the wealthier families, or make money fast and quick in the less nice environments. 

This explains a lot of the arrogance of the new-riches I've seen elsewhere. Poverty isn't a joke or a romantic dream of semplicity, some people take their decisions and either become honest hardworkers or the touts you see everyday everywhere.
The spirit of Scrooge is always alive and I truly hope that the future India will have the wealth of the modern and the ideals, the morals and the manners of the old and rural one. I liked Bikaner and the thought of it becoming another Connaught Place breaks my heart. 
Anyway, enough of this! Currently waiting for the night bus to Amritsar, the final leg of my journey in India. The Golden Temple and the Sikh community, with its ethic code and exceptional behaviour, have always fascinated me and I cannot wait to see them live.

 And I REALLY want a wear a turbant.
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