Sunday, 20 April 2014


It really startled me when a guy told me that he was going to get married in two years' time but he didn't have a girlfriend yet. Innocently, I asked him how he was so sure. He, as if it was the most natural thing on earth, explained that since his mother was becoming quite old, he needed someone to take care of him and of his mother!

In our western minds, maybe, obliging someone to marry a complete stranger raises rejection and horror; we consider it a barbarism from the Middle Ages. I guess that's because we've been brought up where freedom of thought and action are basic values. Nevertheless, there are historic, social and cultural reasons for arranged marriages.

A woman in India spends all her life under someone's command, as a daughter first and as a wife afterwards. Only when she becomes a mother-in-law will she have some authority!

Indian marriages are the union of two families. Cast and income outweigh the fact that the husband-to-be and wife-to-be like each other or not. They think that the fact that both spouses have the same background guarantees the durability of the marriage (quite arguable, I believe). Love'll come afterwards! According to them a physical attraction may fade, while this browed "love" will not!

Parents have more experience than children, hence, they are more capable of choosing the right person. Children accept that since obedience is basic in the family. A love marriage would mean that you are setting yourself before your culture and your family. If love fails and you get divorced, your family will be dishonoured and you'll be rejected by all your community.

Nowadays, marriages are "semi-arranged". The parents select an aspirant asking friends, accepting relatives' suggestions, peeking through mating sites, thumbing through the papers,... Yeah! You read it right! In the papers you can find matrimonial ads! They, together with the net, are the modern matchmakers! These ads are categorized by cast, religion and profession. Browsing them you can find a manglik (if you're also one), your vegetarian sweet heart, your fair and glowing Shahrukh Khan-like guy, or whoever you are looking for!

When they estimate they have the appropriate candidate, they organize a "date". It's the future couple's task to hook up or not. Could we take this as a step towards liberation?

By the way, it's the bride's family the one who has to pay the groom's family the dowry! Unbelievable!

Not being married, especially a woman, is something they consider fishy. I was often asked why I wasn't married, what my flaw was! Why wouldn't a not that bad-looking 41-year-old woman be married? In the end, we concluded that it was because of my character (too strong for men, especially Indian) and because my index toes were longer than my big toes! I just couldn't stop laughing! I'll tell you about Indian superstitions in another blog.

Meanwhile, have a look at this hilarious Goodness Gracious Me video and at a matrimonial ad parody!
P.S.: I did go to a wedding in India (well, to the reception), but I didn't take any pictures. How silly of me! The photo at the beginning of this post is pasted. 

Thursday, 17 April 2014


Although you can find regular families in India, what really abound are really large ones. And when I say regular families, I mean families with a father, a mother and their offspring. Nothing out of the ordinary as those 'modern' families (which some old-fashioned people don't even call families) of gays or lesbians with adopted children, as we have here in Europe.
In Indian culture the family is really important. Indians horrify at the western 'lack of family loyalty'. For them, a family is not only people of the same clan living under the same roof, but relatives joined together by rights and commitments and subject to a hierarchical authority among its members.
So it's not weird to ask someone how many brothers or sisters they have and to get '40' for an answer! That is called an extended or joint family. It consists of all persons lineally descended from a common ancestor, and includes their wives and unmarried daughters. A daughter ceases to be a member of her father's family on marriage, and becomes a component of her husband's.
So that you get the picture: a couple lives with all their sons and daughters. When the sons get married, their wives come to stay in the same house and there their children are brought up, too. And the daughters live there until they get married. At that momento they move to their husband's house.
The patriarch (usually the oldest man) makes decisions on financial and social matters. His wife exerts control over the kitchen, child rearing and religious practices. Old women have more competence than young men, though. All money goes to the common pool and all property is held collectively.
This has its advantages. They develop a feeling of strength and security. They know they'll never be alone; they'll always have their family's support. To get that support they just have to comply the rules and not to dishonour the family.
So imagine you got married to an Indian man. You'd move to his house with all your in-laws and without a saying in your relantionship! So, there you are obeying your parents-in-law blindly, and with no right to complain. If one day you fancy eating this or that thing, you can't! If you feel like shouting at your husband, you can't! If you consider your kiddo needs some punishment, you can't! If you'd like to save money to indulge in a whim, you can't!... As if a 'normal' marriage wasn't complicated enough!
If you that you add that polygamy is an extended practice in India,... Picture yourself in your in-laws' house with your husband's other wife/wives! A loony house!
P.S.: Polyandry is also in practice.

Sunday, 13 April 2014


Every foreigner entering India on an employment visa is required to register to the police withing 14 days of arrival. That's the law!

But it's not that easy, my friend! Even if you want to, it's not that simple! Remember that nothing in India is uncomplicated!

Before travelling I had to send innumerable forms duly filled, countless passport photos, passport copies, letters of the company taking responsibility of me during my stay, etc., etc., etc., to the Indian Embassy in Spain. But not happy with that, they want to see your face when you get to India! And you cannot just go to any police station! No! You have to go to the one in the place mentioned in your visa.

After settling down in the boarding school where I was going to live, my friend and I headed for the police station. After taking off our shoes (I still horrified at walking bare-footed anywhere), of course, a chubby police officer deigned to attend us. While my friend explained the situation, the cop just laid his eyes on me as if I was a kind of geek. I didn't understand a Word of what they were saying, but the cop simply shook his head over and over again. I guess that my friend even tried to bribe him (that's the way things work in India), but this guy was really tough and didn't accept any bribery (or perhaps the money offered was not enough!).

(Well, I have to say that this photo doesn't depict the police station, but the treasure office. I didn't have any shot of it. So, come on, use your imagination!).

The thing was that I couldn't register there, in that police station. I had to go back to Vijayawada again, since even though I was going to work in the school there, the letter sent to the Indian Embassy in Spain was written by the same community in Vijayawada. So, no need to argue (Indians don't know the meaning of that word)!

Vijayawada is only 546 km away from Punganur. And you may think, 'Well, it's not that bad!' But we are talking about Indian roads and Indian buses here! And on top of that, instead of going with my friend (with whom the trip would have been much more pleasant) I had to go with a not so nice fellow. Thank god he just fell asleep and kept snoring all the way. One jeep ride, one bus ride, one auto ride and 11 hours later, we reached the boiling Vijayawada!

But as everything in India takes its time, there was no need to hurry. Instead of seizing the time, well, they decided we would go to the police station the following day. So, there I was in the scorching sun in this hideous city, sweating like a pig, and waiting for the next day to arrive!

To kill the time I decided to go shopping. That always cheers me up. I wanted to find some shampoo and some tissues (which is also a difficult task). When I dared to get out of the air-conditioned room and into the torrid streets, I was followed by a bunch of kids asking me all kinds of questions in 'English'. I seemed the Pied Piper of Hamelin, but luring children instead of rats! They followed me around for hours until I managed to get lost in a crowd. But so lost was I that I couldn't find my way back! A police officer happened to be there. Noticing how adrift I seemed, he stopped me and asked me for my passport, which I didn't have on! And I didn't even remember the name of the community where I was staying. But the buddy was nice, and instead of taking me to the police station for not carrying any documents (which he could've done perfectly), he just showed me the way to the river from where I told him I would be able to find my way. That would've been another 'funny' experience to tell!

So, the next morning, the secretary and I went to the police station. I was warned to wear Indian clothes. So, there I was, trying to look natural in a chuddidar, leggings and a veil. But, how silly of us! It was the second Saturday of the month, so everything in India is closed: schools, offices, banks,... everything, including the police station!

So, I was trapped in that city for the weekend! I decided to take it easy and go sightseeing. I visited some Hindu temples, I saw a puja,... In the end, it wasn't that bad.

On Monday, the secretary, three Austrian guys and I took off for the police station again. And what was our surprise that we didn't have all the documents required. We lacked a letter written by ourselves saying, in other words, that we promised to 'behave well'. As it was my last posible day to do it (remember that there are only 14 days to register), they allowed me to handwrite it just there. But the other three had to come back the following day. Two hours and a half later I was received by the officer in charge, or whoever that big fish was, and I was asked questions such as: what colour are your eyes? what is your father's name? and the like! At some point I wanted to shout, 'if you want to know the colour of my eyes, just look at them yourself! And if you want to know my father's name, look it up in my documents, asshole!' But, of course, I didn't. I was my best me, I behaved myself and I restrained the evil within me! I, obediently and quietly, signed some papers and finally I had my Indian residence permit! Or that is what I thought!

That night I took a bus back to Palmaner. It had to leave at 10 p.m. but it left nearly two hours later. My friend picked me up there, after waiting for me for three long hours!

Three days later I was told that I had to go back to the police station. Since my three signatures were not exactly the same, they were not sure if they were authentic! Luckily, they managed to send a boy with the papers and I just had to sign them again, being very careful this time that the three signatures were exactly the same!

Welcome to India!

Sunday, 6 April 2014


Also known as rangoli, it is the art of creating patterns on the floor (usually in front of houses and temples) using flour, coloured sand or flower petals (chalk in our case). Its purpose is decoration, although it is said to bring good luck, too.
Design vary depending on the occasion. They are usually inspired by nature, but they can also be in the form of abstract art. So you can find geometric shapes, deity impressions or flower and petal figures. They can be every size and are generally done by girls and women, for festivals, auspicious observances, marriage celebrations and other similar gatherings.
If there's one thing Indians like doing (apart from making flower strings) is decorating their houses and worship places. Some would say that they always do it in a cheesy manner, but anyway that's the Indian way.
But muggu is different! For me it's a creative expression of art. Girls learn to do it from their mothers, so at a very early age they are experts! At school they make competitions to see which pattern is prettier and more original.
To do it, first you have to clean the surface where you are going to draw it; wet it lightly if it is on soil. Then you draft lines of dots. Each dot has to be in the middle of the two dots in the upper row. After that you link the dots building the desirable sketch. Finally you fill the model with different colours. And there it is! Muggu is ready!