What An Ordinary Day Is Like For Me Living In Punjab
The great thing about India is that you never really know what to expect on any given day. I am a person who likes to have a routine and schedule any plans that we make. However there is no such thing as scheduling in India other than being delivered a Wedding Invitation with a set date. For the most part being advised last minute to get ready I find extremely frustrating and become flustered with everyone asking me by the minute, "Are you ready yet?". Though with that said it is also teaching me to become more spontaneous. Albeit being spontaneous when you have no car and aren't allowed outdoors on your own can be quite difficult to accomplish.
Most days I start my day off with a black coffee which none of my family can comprehend why I love coffee so much. If you don't drink cha (tea) than there must be something wrong with you. I am becoming accustomed to drinking instant coffee now that it has been so long since I even had a cappuccino or latte. Curry with roti then follows my coffee, however it is becoming more difficult by the day to consume curry for each meal. Especially since my mother in law makes it very spicy it surely is not far off being vindaloo. So it can tend to feel like lava flowing through your body after you consume a curry my mother has cooked. On one occasion she made the curry a little less spicy only to have the family complain just how bland it was. So they all had pickled chilli's to accompany their curry to add some spice. Meanwhile I was still sweating eating the curry and didn't find it to be any less spicy. On the days I can't consume anymore curry I simply make myself some porridge as that is about the only alternative that I can buy here for breakfast.
Depending on the occasion determines what I will wear. Most days I wear my denim jeans with a long sleeve top and coat. For special occasions such as a wedding I love to dress in the traditional attire. You can view The Many Fashions of Punjabi Women Here. The very first time I stayed with my family I had to wear the traditional attire being the Punjabi Suit. I don't mind wearing this but not knowing what styles are out there to buy I had to rely on my family's choice. Everyone has their own sense of style and I found that what they choice, whilst nice, wasn't my style. This time around I have purchased a few more Punjabi Suits to be sewed and Kurti's to wear with jeans. The only problem now is there is no one to sew my Punjabi Suits and the Kurti's I purchased are the wrong size. Hence why I have been living in my usual attire of jeans.
Throughout the day the house is usually busy with people coming and going; whether it's the cleaning maid, my brother going out to socialise or neighbours and relatives dropping by for a visit. House's in Punjab are all gated with ornately designed gates usually with their family symbol displayed. Everyone shuts their gate during the day, however no one keeps their door shut, let alone locked. It's just another example of the openness of the Sikh religion. My mother in law is forever making cha (tea) to serve the family or guests. Sikh's are also extremely family oriented. So much so that we live next door to both my father's eldest and youngest brother, who live in the two houses to our right. This makes it convenient if I don't like the curry that has been made for dinner I can always pop in next door. As I have previously mentioned in my article, Why I Love My Indian Family, living next door to family there will be disagreements. There was such a disagreement the other week. The whole neighbourhood were standing out the front of their house trying to listen in on the commotion. I went outside for some peace and quiet only to have all my neighbours approach me and offer me a seat as I had sat on the side of the road.
Late afternoons my husband will go to the gym for 6 hours which leaves me to blog on days I am doing nothing. The other day I wanted to go take photographs so that I could share them with you all on the blog. So my husband had his brother take me out in the car as it is safer than walking. I tried taking photos along the way in the car only to be told out of embarrassment by my brother - "bhabi gee bus" meaning sister, no more. We arrive at the family wheat crops where there are green fields upon fields. There's only so much you can photograph on a wheat field. As my mother in law had come with us she then asked to stop at her brothers house which wasn't far from there. I have learnt when you visit family here it is never short and this occasion was no different. We were welcomed warmly by everyone who invited us to come and sit down. Next thing you know the lady of the house is walking out with a tray full of cups of cha (tea). Tea here makes me very sleepy so I try to refuse and tell them no thank you, but am encouraged to drink take a cup. They eventually accept my refusal and take it away. As I had my camera with me they eagerly crowd me and ask to have their snap taken with me. Here the word snap is used to say photo. So we spend most of the time taking photos till my battery dies. Meanwhile I am starving and desperately need a bathroom, though not being a planned visit had nothing with me but my camera. Eventually we say goodbye only to pull up into someone else's driveway a few minutes later. Again I had no idea we would be paying more relatives a visit. Luckily this visit isn't too long as it is almost dinner time and dinner hasn't been prepared yet considering we have been out for the afternoon.
Being such family oriented people we spend a lot of our days socialising with family and friends. Especially if you are newlyweds as it is tradition to pay thanks to all your family who attended your wedding. Particularly my husband, he spends a lot of time supporting friends and family as he is the first person they tend to call. The other day he accompanied a friend and his very ill mother in an ambulance so they could take the mother home from hospital. Other times his friends call to go to the dentist or to have their car serviced. A lot of the reasons friends call him to accompany them are mostly tasks that a wife would usually do with their husband. But not in India - mostly men and women socialise within the same sex. That is because of traditions that have ingrained sexism into society that it has become acceptable. It is a custom that I probably will never come to terms with.
I have finally been able to persuade my husband and family to let me go out alone so that I can get some exercise. It is difficult as a foreign woman living here and wanting to keep fit. I cannot go to the gym during the day only early morning or if it is quiet late afternoon. That is because women are not socially accepted in a gym whilst men are present. So they can only attend during the quiet hours. If I do jog around the neighbourhood most times I have to take a chaperone. It must be a sight to see for the neighbours as they gawk at me from their front gates. A white woman in lycra jogging with someone in tow about 5 metres behind trying to keep up. Whilst my husband and family have said I can go alone I know that they don't truly mean it as I am always lectured about how unsafe it is for a foreigner. But how can one continue to live wrapped in cotton? Especially if I am to live between Punjab and Australia.
Evenings are generally relaxed as we sit for dinner together as a family at 7pm. Naturally we have curry with roti, which can vary between lentils, peas, potatoes, carrots, mustard leaves or some type of Indian squash. As I have written before in my article Dining In Punjab, it can be quite the experience. Burping, slurping and chewing with your mouth open is all acceptable here. In fact it would seem it would be rude not to do so as it shows that you are enjoying your meal. My mother in law will serve everyone making sure we have fresh roti and our glasses are topped. Then she will join once everyone has been served.
After six months living in Punjab I have finally settled down to their way of life and for most part have accepted what I cannot change. Has anyone else had to adapt to the Indian way of life? I would love to hear your story.