Coffee And Tea – Chapter Eleven – Incredible India
“Would you like to visit India, Isabel? Incredible India!”
“Yes. But I shall not. I am afraid of huge spiders, wild snakes and scorpions.”
“Yes, you have to have an adventurous spirit! You may fall off a camel, or get lost in a jungle. Well, that’s the cost of India’s dramatic, breathtaking nature. The people of India reveres its mountains. Let me expose you to some Indian culture. You might change your mind. A white woman in India is more precious than gold. Being white there is a guilty privilege. Besides Hindus are so friendly – in this wonderful country a white woman can crash a complete stranger’s wedding and be treated like a guest of honor. Namaskar, Isabel – that’s a common salutation in India. What would you like to learn first?”
“Namаskar, Ashton! Let’s start with food…I love food!”
“Truth is, London has more Indian Restaurants than Mumbai or Delhi. On the other hand – I love Bombay for its pizza. It will shake your senses. India is guilty of the production of 70 percents of the world’s spices. They put a lot of turmerics, cardamom, curry, coriander, anise, cinnamon, nutmeg, saffron, mustard seed and cumin in their dishes. In India, you have to eat everything on your plate – because wasting food is considered extremely disrespectful. People wash their hands before and after every meal. Eating sweets after naam (bread) with a spicy main course is a tradition for Hindus. Their attitude to western food: farmers in India use Coca-Cola as a cheap pesticide, according to the BBC.
“I have heard that India is pretty dirty.”
“Breathing the air of Mumbai, India, for just one day is equivalent to smoking 100 cigarettes. Also, statistic shows that in India there are more mobile phones than toilets. Plastic pollution is very common. People of India are a bit lazy.”
“I have heard that Hindu People believe in 33 million Gods! How is that even possible?”
“Their religion tickles my fancy as well. It is the oldest of all the religions and it has got a large and complex pantheon of Gods. There are several schools of thought like Buddhism or Jainism. The most important religious texts are known as Vedas (Veda means knowledge). Vedas are practically teaching people how a society should be. Hindu people strive to burn all desire – all want of money, or gain, or possession. There is a gypsy tribe in India, that celebrates death as one of the happiest events while treating births with grief. Only 2 percents of people in India define themselves as atheists.
“But 33 million deities, Ashton! They can’t even read their names in a life time.
“Take for instance the Sun God – Surya, who travels through the sky in a golden chariot pulled by seven horses. He’s got sixty thousand saintly persons named Valikhilyas, each the size of a thumb, who are located in front of him and offer him eloquent prayers of glorification. As they worship the most powerful Surya, the Gandharvas sing in front of him, the Apsaras dance before the chariot, the Nisacaras follow the chariot, the Pannagas decorate the chariot, the Yaksas guard the chariot, and the aforementioned Valikhilyas surround the sun-god and offer prayers. ”
“It all makes sense now!”
“However, there is the Hindu Holy Trinity which consists of three Gods:
Brahma – The Creator
Brahma is depicted with four faces and each face recites one of the four Vedas. Sitting on a lotus, meaning that he is rooted in the infinite reality, which is why so many boys in India are named Pankaj (Lotus), dressed with golden clothes, four hands and a beard.
Vishnu – The Preserver
He has got a serene appearance and a lotus on his navel. He sustains the universe. He is boundless and infinite like the sky, he has a beautiful and auspicious body. He is the consort of Devi Lakshmi. His eyes are like the lotus, he removes the fear of worldly existence.
Shiva – The Destroyer
Shiva’s symbols are the moon, the snake around his neck, a trident in his arm, open third eye, a drum symbolizing the universe and a bull – which is a symbol of Dharma.
Cows are sacred. In West Bengal, cows must also have a photo ID card. Hindus also believe in reincarnation and they have a term for the true reality – Brahman.
As you can see, Hindus got for themselves quite complicated metaphysical traditions. We, Westerners, don’t fall behind: A statue of Jesus in India had water mysteriously dripping from its toes. Worshipers would collect and sometimes drink it. The source of the water was later found to be a clogged toilet near the statue.”
“Where would you take me if we traveled to India – which landmarks?”
I will take you to see the ruins and the carvings on the walls, I will let you talk with the seers and the local folk, we will see the waters of the perennial rivers. You will see that India is one of these places you have a love/hate relationship with. I will take you to a safari, and treat you street food. I will take you to paint silk, to a massage, to hang out with monks, and of course to the Taj Mahal! I will buy incense for you, and we will take part of all the festivals together.”
India hosts the world’s biggest gathering – the 55-day festival Kumbh Mela. It is a cultural tradition which includes full nudity. They believe that if at the proper time they bathe in the sacred river of the Ganges that would help cleanse their sins and deserve salvation. Hindus believe that this river is a living goddess, called Ganga. Its water supports 300 million people. Millions of Hindus and people from all over the world flock in Allahabad every dozen years. Naked or clothed in flashy colors, wearing turbans or dreadlocks, men, and women – Hindu people buzz around the river. You’ve never seen so many people in your life, Isabel! There you can come upon quite incredible holy men – a man can pull a car with his genitals, and a man who hasn’t sat down for ten years, a man who can stand on his head and another who lays blessings on you with holy Ganges water, and that’s not all.
The other most popular festival is Holi – the festival of colors and love, which somewhat reminds me of our Halloween. We put masks. What do people in India do and why? To herald new beginnings, they paint themselves in bright colors and water themselves and stroll the streets. Friendly locals will even paint your face, Isabel.”
“I have heard that the rich get richer and the poor stay poor.”
“In India, you are born with a status for a lifetime. The richest man in India Mukesh Ambani built himself a home costing 1 billion US dollars. It’s a building of 27 floors, with a 6-floor car park, a hanging garden, and a cinema – run by 600 servants. The world’s biggest family also lives together in India: a man with 39 wives and 94 children. Other interesting money-related facts are that the police officers in one of the states in India get a bigger salary for looking after a mustache. The Golden Temple in India feeds a vegetarian meal to over 100,000 people a day, regardless of race, religion, and class. It is also illegal for foreigners to take Indian currency (rupees) out of India. Until 1896 – India was the only source for diamonds to the world. Married women in India hold 11% of the World’s Gold – more than the reserves of the US, IMF, Switzerland, and Germany put together. They have wedding rings for the toes.”
“How about the traditional lore of India? I have heard about Ayurveda – the science of life.
“Ayurveda is the earliest school of medicine known to mankind. The first science in India, however, was linguistics. After all, it’s the country with 400 languages, of which Sanskrit is considered the mother of all higher languages. “The Sanskrit term for India is Bharat. The name India comes from the River Indus – the valley of the river was the home of the earliest settlers. Indians read more than 10 hours per week on average, the most for any country in the world. The numerical system was invented in India. The scientist who came up the digit zero was Aryabhatta. Chess was a Hindu invention.”
“The Bengal Tiger is the national animal of India. Associated with the Hindu God Ganesha, the elephant is considered a symbol of good luck and of good fortune. Smashing a coconut symbolizes annihilating the ego and humbling oneself before God. My favorite Yogic symbol is Hamsa Hand – an amulet which helps banish negative energy.”
“Tell me about what happens only in India?”
“There are so many people, you may as well forget about your personal space. They are capable of cuddling under your blanket if you travel together without a warning of any sort. Among other peculiarities – a 30-year-old woman from India, who claimed to have fallen in love with a snake, got married to the reptile in 2006. Also if you are traveling, you should know that sex toys are illegal in India. India has got more post offices than any country in the world.”
Hindus are simply different. They may be poor as they come but from all the humans, they seem to be the only ones, who see the options.
Everything you’ve heard about India is true. Now I will tell you a fact that is not true.
In India, there is a profession called “ass-keeper” – since the beautiful white women get their bottoms spanked and pinched by the appreciating locals. An “ass-keeper” is the man who walks behind you and doesn’t allow people passing by to slap your bottom.
“This is really funny, Ashton!”
“All sentences about bottom are funny.”
My favorite joke about India:
Teacher says: “Every second a woman in India gives birth to a child.”
Student rises and says dramatically:
“We have to stop her!”