Julie in the Banyan tree


Almost every winter since the early 90s, I have spent several months in India, mostly in Jaipur, Rajasthan. Back in Canada, people would frequently ask me "Why India?". One evening after dinner during the '95-'96 winter, I went back to my room in the small hotel where I stayed and started to write. An hour and a half later I had forty-five reasons why. And over the next couple of months I added about 20 more.

The number one reason is:

1. People. Most of all my friends. As well, I must include all those (besides my friends) who make India the crazy, welcoming, delightful place it is - the obnoxious little girls begging on MI Road, the salesmen who relentlessly try to lure foreigners into their shops, the saddhus, the rickshaw wallahs, the doormen in their elegant turbans, the guards in their military garb with their huge shotguns, the women sitting on the ground in the marketplace with their vegetables for sale spread out on burlap - they are all the spirit of India.

The other reasons are:

2. Bystanders are always happy to give directions even if they have no idea where you want to go

3. There is always time to accept an offer of tea

4. The musicians that play in the bands at weddings, even the most elaborate weddings, all seem to be playing different tunes at the same time

5. If you need change you can always get it even if you're not buying something in that store
Beggar children on MI Road in Jaipur
6. If the price is 6 rupees and you have a 5 rupee note and a 50, they will take the 5

7. Everything is flexible

8. Men walk down the street holding hands

9. Nobody is afraid to sing

10. Driving down the road eating a banana, when I am finished I can just throw the peel out the window for the cows (pigs, goats etc.)

11. The sun always shines

12. A pedicure in a luxury hotel beauty salon costs 75 rupees ($3) and a good haircut costs about the same

13. Giving is considered an honour

14. There is always room for one more person on a seat in a train

15. If the bus is full they hang out the door or sit on the roof

16. There is always time to visit with friends

17. Mehendi

Mehendi18. If it doesn't get done today, tomorrow is okay too or the tomorrow after that

19. In Hindi the same word (kal) means both yesterday and tomorrow

20. On your birthday you give presents to other people (usually sweets)

21. Food is always shared no matter how poor someone is

22. What is impossible one minute (not possible madam) becomes possible if you stand around and look anxious long enough

23. When I left my favourite pen in the public fax office I returned the next day and found it stuck neatly behind the calendar on the wall

24. You can't take a train from one city to another without being invited to someone's cousin's wedding or someone's home for dinner

25. Every day I see green parrots, mynah birds, peacocks and hoopoes

26. Grown men have names (nicknames) like Googooji and Tinky

27. Dal Batti Churma, a traditional Rajasthani feast

28. Monkeys, camels and elephants

29. Maharajahs, palaces and forts

30. Polo matches

31. Bicycle rickshaw chauffeur all afternoon for 60 rupees ($2.50)

32. Toe rings, bangles, ankle bracelets, nose pins

33. Sandals everyday, all year
Shantiji, grinding spices for dinner
34. Kite day

35. When it comes to spelling, close is good enough

36. Many women still wear saris every day

37. Bougainvillea, jasmine, queen of the night

38. Rose garlands

39. Gods and goddesses

40. Designs in powdered colour in the middle of the road

41. If a woman enters a bus carrying a baby and there are no seats, a woman who has a seat will take the baby

42. It is not fashionable to be thin, only poor people are thin

43. Shops have names like Decent Travels, Famous Tailors, Fuss Point Hairdressers, Precious Drycleaners and my favourite, a college called Smart Brain International

44. If you are stopped for a minor traffic violation, 20 rupees (bribe) handed over to the policeman will end the matter

45. In the evening at dusk the owlets come out of their tree where they sleep all day and perch on the sprinkler heads on the lawn

46. Festivals - Diwali, Festival of Light - Holi, Festival of Colour, etc

47. At night there are a thousand sparrows in the bamboo tree by the pool at the Rajputana Hotel

48. If we get a craving for Creme Caramel after dinner we can send somebody up to Niro's Restaurant to get us some

49. Fresh squeezed orange juice every morning

50. The first time I had my shawl dry cleaned it cost 30 rupees. The second time I had the same shawl cleaned at the same place it cost 25 rupees. The third time it cost 20 rupees.

51. My credit is good everywhere, no need to sign anything, I can pay when
I get around to it

52. The transport trucks are all decorated with silver and gold Christmas garlands and painted with birds and flowers and on the back it says HORN PLEASE and THANK YOU TATA
Decorated truck
53. I am referred to as Julie-Ji, Julie Madam, Julie Memsahib (pronounced memsaab) or (good grief) The Julie Memsahib.

54. Bombay (Bollywood) produces more than 700 movies each year, far more than Hollywood, all are musicals, most singing is lip-synced sung by an (approx.) 70-year-old woman named Lata Mangeskar

55. Rajasthani village men wear turbans in bright orange, hot pink or lime green with their sparkling white shirts and dhotis

56. Item from the "helpful hints" column of Femina magazine, a leading women's magazine: For an animated centrepiece at your next dinner party, mix water and vinegar in the ratio of 3:1 in a tall glass. Add a teaspoon of soda bicarb and several moth balls. The balls will rise and fall automatically for a long long time. Ranjana Pasupathy, Noida

57. Ramesh, one of the sweepers at Hotel Diggi Palace, sings while he sweeps

58. First cousins are considered so much a part of the family they are referred to as cousin-sisters and cousin-brothers

59. When a new refrigerator was bought for the hotel restaurant, it was decorated with a garland of marigolds, sweet balls and sacred symbols, a candle was lit in front of it and pujas (prayers) were performed by the resident Brahmin priest to ensure its success

60. I once saw man going down the road on a rickety bicycle with a baby goat in a burlap bag hanging from each handlebar

61. At the train station, ladies (correct term) get to go to the front of the line when buying tickets

Julie on swing at Krishna gardens62. Everything can be repaired - from my broken rubber sandals to my computer printer

63. A sense of the sacred is never far away

64. There is lots of time to just BE

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