What An Ordinary Day Is Like For Me Living In Punjab
Updated: Jan 16
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 once again, such as when I was younger and enjoyed having no routine. 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. Therefore it is not something that is commonly stocked in my in laws kitchen pantry. If you don't drink cha (tea) than there must be something wrong with you. I am becoming more 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 extremely spicy, it surely is not far off from being a vindaloo. But this is how much spice that locals are accustomed to eating, and any less spice is considered to be bland.
On one occasion she made the curry a little less spicy to accommodate me, only to have the family complain just how bland it was. So they all had pickled chili's to accompany their curry to add some heat to their meal. Meanwhile I was still sweating eating the so called bland 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 will determine what I will wear for the day, as I need to dress appropriately. Most days I wear my denim jeans with a long sleeve top and duster coat and for special occasions such as a wedding, I love to dress in the traditional attire. During the very first stay with my family, I had to wear traditional attire daily, being the Punjabi Suit. I don't mind wearing a Punjabi Suit, but not knowing where to shop for styles that suited me, meant that I had to rely on my family's recommendations.
Everyone has their own sense of style and I found that what they choice, whilst nice, wasn't my style. During my second stay, I purchased a few more Punjabi Suits to be stitched and some kurti's to wear with jeans. The only problem now is that the suits all need stitching and the kurti's I purchased are the wrong size. Therefore I have been living in my usual attire of jeans and a conservative top.
Related Article: The Many Fashions of Punjabi Women, Your Ultimate Guide
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 proudly displayed. Everyone shuts their gate during the day, however no one seems to keep their front door shut, let alone locked. It's just another example of the openness of the Sikh religion.
Sikh's are extremely family oriented, so much so, that we live next door to both my father's eldest and youngest brothers, who live in the two houses beside us. 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, living next door to family means that there will also be disagreements. There was such a disagreement the other week and the whole neighbourhood were standing out the front of their houses, trying to listen in on the commotion. I went outside for some peace and quiet only to have all my neighbours approach me to try and pry into what was going on.
Late afternoons my husband will generally disappear at the gym for about 6 hours, which leaves me to blog on days I am doing nothing. The other day I wanted to go and 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 sheer embarrassment by my brother - "bhabi gee bus" meaning sister, stop no more.
He drove us to wheat crops where the family have a large plot of land where wheat is grown and harvested. Unlike in Australia whereby you live and work on the same land, in Punjab people have their residential house in town, and then plots of agricultural land just out of town. These plots are all located in one large agricultural region, yet owned by different individual farmers who each care for their own plot.
Now there's only so much you can photograph when all the eye can see is fields upon fields of wheat. Since 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 that when you visit family in Punjab, it is never short and this occasion was no different. We were welcomed warmly by everyone who invited us to come and sit down.
Related Article: Why I Love Punjabi People
Before you know it, the lady of the house is walking out with a tray full of cups of cha. Tea here makes me very groggy, so I try to refuse politely and tell them no thank you, but am encouraged to drink and take a cup. They eventually accept my refusal, but as it is seen as rude to generally accept something that is offered to you up front, they thought I was just being polite and kept offering me tea. As it is also rude to say no up front, which I find confusing, as sometimes you simply can't consume anymore tea.
Since I had my camera with me, everyone eagerly crowded around me and asked to have their snap taken with me. Here many use the word snap to mean to take a photo. So we spent most of the time taking photos till my battery died. Meanwhile I am starving and desperately in need of a bathroom, though not being a planned visit, I was unprepared and had nothing with me but my camera. Which is exactly why I like to make plans, so that I am always prepared and can pack accordingly, including packing tissues or a roll of toilet paper!
Eventually we said goodbye and were on our way home, only to then pull up into someone else's driveway a few minutes on. Again I had no idea we would be paying more relatives a visit, but luckily this visit wasn't too long since it was almost dinner time and we needed to get home to make sure that dinner was prepared.
Being such family oriented people, a lot of our days are spent socialising with family and friends. Particularly my husband, he spends a lot of time supporting friends and family, as he is the first person they all 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 simply 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 Punjab, mostly men and women socialise within the same sex. That is because of many traditions that have ingrained sexism into society, that it has become the way of life.
Before now, I was never permitted to go outdoors alone, not even to exercise around the local neighbourhood. I was finally able to persuade my husband and family to let me go out alone, so that I could at least get some exercise. It is difficult as a foreign woman living as a local and wanting to keep fit as it can be unsafe, and foreign women attract a lot of unwanted attention. Therefore my husband never allowed me to go to the gym, as it is typically only men who attend.
If I did jog around the neighbourhood, I generally had to take a chaperone with me. It must of been a sight to see for the neighbours, as they would 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, what a sight to see.
Related Article: Dining In Punjab
The evenings of our days are generally relaxed, as we sit for dinner together as a family generally around 7pm. Of course dinner is always curry with roti, which can vary between lentils, peas, potatoes, carrots, mustard leaves or some type of Indian squash. Dining in Punjab can be quite the experience, as burping, slurping and chewing with your mouth open is all acceptable here. In fact it would seem to be rude not to do so, as it shows that you are enjoying your meal. My mother in law will always serve everyone first, making sure to bring out fresh roti as needed and that glasses are topped up, before she will then eat.
After six months living in Punjab I finally settled down to their way of life, although it didn't come without many ups and downs.
Have you lived in rural Punjab?
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