The light of India

India Rant-The Dark Side

I need to vent for a minute. Why is it that Indian men feel this incessant need to poke into your personal space? It seems they are all trying to bother me about something.

Some want to take me on a ride in their rickshaws, tuk tuks, or taxis. Others want to sell me something I don’t even find it interesting. Prime example: a bindi paint kit. (Like I have the skills to actually paint a bindi on my own forehead) A few men have offered their unsolicited help with my train ticket. A handful have asked to take my photo. And most of the rest just creep up next to me and invade my personal space. It’s annoying!

It’s interesting that Indian women tend to be demure and conservative as they cover their legs and shoulders but the men don’t respect privacy and personal space. They aggressively demand your attention and don’t know when to back off. I’m over it.  For a culture where men still seem to take the lead role in the family and are typically the primary wage earners for the household, the Indian people could use a lesson in decency, privacy and respect of others.

Soon enough, I will be able to avoid eye contact with others on the subway in New York and I will enjoy every minute of it. Shortly after I get my fix, I’ll be on my way back to beautiful and snowy Colorado where I flourish and love every minute of my life.

Until that time, I vow to lose the ‘tude and enjoy every last minute of my time in India.

India Rant-The Bright Side

After I finished writing my last entry, I got off the train in Jaipur. My hotel scheduled a tuk tuk driver to pick me up from the railway station and escort me to the hotel. The hotel owner told me I was to meet a guy named Rafik outside of a restaurant called Refresh. Serendipitously, our meeting was refreshing. I passed through a few of the typical Indian men that I just had just finishing ranting about. From the minute I met Rafik, I knew he was the light I needed to get from the dark side to the bright side.image

Rafik is an angel and his story will explain why he has stolen a special place in my heart.

Born in Fatephur, a small village in northern Rajasthan, Rafik never had the chance to attend school or learn how to read or write. He had an arranged marriage at the tender age of 15. Now 37, Rafik and his wife have seven children. Four Girls and Three Boys-all under the age of 22, each born two years apart from the other.

Three months ago, Rafik arranged a special triple wedding for his three eldest daughters. His eldest daughter is the only one that is old enough to live with her husband. The others have to wait until they are older before they move out. Since the wedding was so expensive, he could not afford to send the other children to school. It costs 40,000 Rupees or approx. $650 to send his five youngest to school for 1 year. Rafik never had an education and even though he wants one for his children, it’s just too expensive and unfortunately, impossible.

Over the past 20 years, Rafik has travelled all around India driving tourists and locals in his tuk tuk and taxi. He has seen every part of the country yet he is still so proud to be a Rajasthani! Unlike the other Indian men I’ve interacted with, Rafik is gentle and warm. He is not aggressive or boastful. He is genuine, loyal and a sincere pleasure to be around. He has never had a sip of alcohol or a drag of a joint, beedie or charra. He is responsible, reliable, honest, gracious, kind…I could go on all day. Overall, Rafik doesn’t want for anything, only that his clients are happy as they enjoy their trip.

In Jaipur, it is typical for tuk tuk drivers to host one tourist or tourist group during their entire stay in the pink city. Since there are so many attractions to see, the drivers will take you around the city and wait outside while you meander through the various palaces, forts, temples and museums. You pay them for their service in a lump sum at the end of your visit. Even though I read about the protocol before I arrived, I was a little reluctant to spend money on a personalized driver to follow me around all day. On my first day in Jaipur, Rafik suggested he drive me around but I decided to try a group tour instead.

Boy was that a mistake!

I took a “tour” in a giant army truck with no tour guide, a driver that only spoke Hindi and 9 Hindi speaking tourists. It took us a full hour to pick everyone up. We were given an hour to see The City Palace & Jantar Mantar. In fear of missing the bus, I only got to see The City Palace. After waiting another 20 minutes for the driver to show up, he took us to some huge bazaar where I had no interest to shop but felt the pressure to buy. Eventually, we made it to Amber Fort. We had an hour to explore an enormous fort so I almost got lost as I tried to finish the quick visit. It was time for the tour to end and we had only seen two places when they advertised for six or seven. I hopped off the bus just inside the city walls and took another tuk tuk back to my hotel.

When I got back, I immediately called Rafik and decided to take him up on his offer.

The rest of my time was easy, effortless and fun! Rafik drove me all over the city. We hit Albert Hall, Hawa Mahal, Jantar Mantar, Ngaragh Fort, Jawal Mahar, Monkey Temple, Hanuman Temple, Iswar Gol and the Royal Tumbas. I even rode a camel.

He introduced me to a few local spots where I could find the best Lassi and Chai around. We enjoyed conversation over lots of Dahl Makhani and Palak Panner.

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I learned about his city, heard his story and enjoyed my final days of my journey in India with a man who has so little but yet so much. Rafik’s smile is rich with splendor, so vibrant and full of pure joy….Truly Magical!

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Thank you Rafik for being a decent man and guiding me around the pink city with ease, care and security. I am forever grateful for you and your kindness. You are a bright light that has surely helped me to see the bright side of this incredible journey in India!

Dhanyabad & Ram Ram Sa,

Denelle

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