We woke up in the most luxurious hotel in our entire year away still without hot water. We caught the lift down to the restaurant and was so looking forward to a buffet breakfast provided as part of the more expensive accommodation. It was meant to be a buffet breakfast, we even checked with them the night before – “be downstairs 7am to 10am in restaurant for breakfast”. It was 9:30am and there was nothing there. Empty and cold Bay maries on the table – clean, shining and unused.
So we sat down and asked the waiter what was available for breakfast. We were told juices – orange, pineapple, cranberry and then there was cornflakes or eggs and bread. Hold me back…not delicious! This place – the luxurious new accommodation – was quickly getting on the better of me. My annoyance and outrage over this situation completely annoyed Ash (of course), and she was feeling a bit of luxury was indeed something to behold right now in the Punjab. We had just left the basic accommodation of YMCA in Mumbai, and this in the Punjab was heaven. I felt like I needed to escape from the luxurious and unhelpful over-promise and under-deliver situation that I/we found myself/ourselves (minus Ash) to be in.
It felt like we had been the director of our travel journey up until yesterday – planning, booking, researching all our travel and accommodation options and being mindful of the costs associated with them all. Then we took the foot off the pedal (well so it felt to me) and left all the directing to our friend Garry. So I had to pull myself together, calm down and get back on track with directing our travel journey and enjoying the cold water.
Garry and his brother Money came around to the hotel at 12:30pm driving two cars so they could take us to the very first Indian family wedding ceremony (this wedding is a cousins wedding). It was an informal welcoming event with all sides of the family (except the bride and groom) congregating at a little white hall, and a Sikh priest presiding over the formalities at the altar: blessing a holy book covered by numerous robes and he was fanning across the top of robes with a hand held silver canister that sprouted long grey hairs from its end (looked like a horse’s mane hair) over and over again while he mumbled words. The guests entered in through the front door: women sat down on the floor on the left hand side; men on the right. In the left hand corner of the hall were three men playing musical instruments and singing loudly in a microphone. Not sure if it was singing or chanting actually. This ritual continued for an hour or more, and with Steve sitting on the floor opposite us, we couldn’t help but giggle at the strain in his face of being completely and utterly uncomfortable sitting “yogi” style after the 10-minute mark. The Sikh priest moved to the front of the altar, and continued waving the horse-like hair around, like swatting flies, and then took to the microphone sharing the prayers of his followers who murmured his words.
We watched Money get a bowl of food, and then the priest took the large bowl and put his hands in mixing the soft, gooey food together. He then moved to the left hand side of the hall, handing small clumpy balls of the gooey mixture into clasped hands. He went around the whole room, handing us some too. It was sweet and I didn’t mind it at all. But the girls tried it, and kept it hidden in the palm of their hand. I think watching the priest mixing it with his hands was a bit off-putting for them.
After the welcoming ceremony was over inside the hall, we walked outside and shared a lunch altogether – a buffet of various Indian dishes. We stood with Indian plate in one hand (the ones with the separate food compartments), a small cup of water in the other, and wondered however do they do this eating thing standing up? The food on offer was too spicy for Dacey, and too different for Billie, but Charlie and I thoroughly enjoyed the paneer in a butter chicken–like sauce. They had hired men to bake naan bread from hand which they rolled into a ball of dough, flattened out and then placed inside a drum (like an oil drum) that had been converted into a piping hot naan cooking machine.
It was here that we started to mingle with the family members, and finally start to make out who was who in Garry’s family. Overwhelming at first but we managed to meet the infamous Indian brother in law who lives in Spain and is getting married on the 18th Jan (which we can’t attend). We would like to catch up with Spanish Rahul while we’re there in Aug/Sep if our plans stay the same.
It was also lovely to meet Garry’s mum and dad, his uncle and various members of his wife Aarti’s family. Afterwards we walked back to Garry’s parents place for a cup of tea and a chat with all the other family members, cousins and cousin’s cousins etc. There we met Aarti’s cousins from Epping Australia, and her cousins too. We found out that 15 people lived at Aarti’s family home, whereas only 3 people lived in Garry’s parent’s home. We sat on the ‘good’ couch while everyone else crammed in on plastic chairs around us and were served food – homemade cakes and sugary sweets, chai tea, coffee, and a juice box for the kids. We really enjoyed talking and getting to know the entire family (it will take me some time to get to know who is with who, and which side they belong to) and the background as to why many of them left to become Australians and live in Epping.
It was time to say goodbye – Garry and his brother Money drove us back to the hotel via a shopping mall. We purchased some much needed long sleeve tops, jeans and t-shirts. We needed layers to keep warm in the cooler Punjab January weather. We spent $200 there (anything over 10,000 rupee required a passport to be shown and verified) and between the 6 of us was not that many items each. And that completed our first whole day in the city of Jalandhar.
The next day, we planned to start looking at where we wanted to travel to within the Punjab like the mountains for a couple of nights. In the last couple of days the mountain areas have been closed due to the amount of snow being dumped so we are concerned that the snow will be way too cold for us to enjoy, especially without having proper snow gear with us. Sounded good, but the reality was wishful thinking. Right now what we needed to worry ourselves with was what we are all wearing (and hiring) for the wedding functions that were coming up on the 14th and 15th January – two functions; two outfits.
Steve ducked down the street to the ‘Wine Shop’ and purchased a beer to enjoy with today’s lunch leftovers (that were gratefully packed up for us to enjoy) from the family welcoming ceremony earlier today – chickpea curry, paneer, and a spinach curry with naan bread – before dropping into bed like flies to finally sleep.