As the sun sets on our Indian adventure, I wanted to take a moment to thank you guys for coming along with me. Your support, hilarious comments, engagement and prayers were felt and sincerely appreciated. I also want to take a moment to thank the sponsors, Romwe and HennaSooq. There aren't a lot of brands that support these types of initiatives (including some of your favorites) and these are two that put their money where their mouth is. I hope you will support them. So before we leave, check out what we left out--
First meal of the day-
They completely misunderstand breakfast. #ThaiNoodlesNaanRotiCurry and other spicy, savory ish.
Men holding hands-
These guys are not in a romantic relationship. Dudes hold hands here. It has absolutely nothing to do with sexuality. It's a sign of friendship and camaraderie and they do it, a lot.
We asked our Reality Tours guide, Suraj, about discrimination in India, specifically color-ism. He immediately dismissed it telling us it doesn't exist and then in the same breath said, 'but the girls prefer men with lighter skin'. #dead #WheresThatPreferenceComeFromTho
So that happened. Right here, at our hotel, in 2008. Hubby told me about the attacks before we left America, but I didn't want to know any details so that I wouldn't be totally terrified during the trip. If you want the deets, Hubby recommends a great documentary (Terror in Mumbai) narrated by Fareed Zakaria. Sadly, 170 people were killed by 10 terrorists during three days of horrible violence. #AsRealAsItGets I'm going to watch it when I get back.
We made it our duty to leave our hotel-house by at least noon each day, lest the door bell start going off. We had 2 maids, 1 butler, 1 fresh fruit lady (who kept the kiwis stocked for hubby) and 1 flower guy who would come to the door on the daily with a couple dozen fresh roses and lilies to refresh our situation. #WhatIsThatVelvet #ComingToIndia
The tide was high yesterday and 100s of crabs came out to sunbathe. When they started fighting each other, my first thought was #JamilaLemieux #OrNah
This one got me. The first time I saw it, I thought dude had a tick. I was trying to pay our cab fare and I didn't know if he was saying 'yes that's enough money' or 'no, boo, you need to come up with some more'. When the next guy was doing it too, I realized there was more to it. Shaking their head side to side, like from shoulder to shoulder means 'yes'-- but it kinds looks like our 'no', and if they're doing it while walking and talking it can become very confusing. We teased Nyasha because she's been here so long that while she's listening to us, she does it too!
So we sit down for lunch on Sunday at a Hibachi situation in our hotel. It was just us and a family of Muslim men. Their Muslim status has nothing to do with anything until later in this story. Put a pin in that. A Flipino chef named John Mark is doing the standard tricks-- knife flipping and spatula tossing-- and we were rooting him on. The other family doesn't look amused in the least.
So yeah, were we impressed? No. Did we clap and ooh and ahh? Yes. We were impressed as long as he didn't kill himself! After the other party told him with a straight face that the food was too salty, we turnt up for him, for real.
Give Folks A Chance-
Hubby and I chilled for at least a few hours a day out on the water front and discussed everything from philosophy to what we were going to eat for dinner. So when beggars and vendors came by, we were usually too deep in conversation to be bothered. This one guy came by three days in a row and asked to shine hubby's shoes. Hubby would always reply...dude, you can't shine sneakers. Today hubby woke up and said, if this guy asks me today, I'm going to say 'yes'. Sure enough, the shoe shine guy came through. Hubby immediately said yes and offered his shoes. Five minutes later, he and hubby were laughing, as hubby explained that the guy had been right. His sneakers were totally shinning. Sometimes you gotta give people a chance. Hubby paid him and I snapped this pic.
Me llamo, Hubby-
He randomly says 'gracias', 'si' and 'leche' to servers whenever we are out of the country. He never does it in the states, only when we are traveling and I drive the hell out of him. He doesn't even speak Spanish.
I might need Z+ security!
So if you've been reading the blog for sometime, you know that hubby got a PhD in Political Science from Duke University. He specializes in International Relations and conflict studies as well as race and ethnic conflict. While in India, hubby took advantage of some contacts he has, to secure a meeting with a prominent Indian politician named Maninderjit Singh Bitta (a.k.a. M.S. Bitta). I'm positive you've never heard of this dude, so I've asked hubby to give you a short history below.
Hubby writes: Sikh Nationalism has existed in one form or another since the partition of India on August 15, 1947. To say the partition didn't go smoothly is an enormous understatement. The partition was preceded by riots and a retaliatory genocide that killed nearly 500,000 people!
Approximately 14 million Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs were displaced by the violence, or voluntarily moved to either India or Pakistan. This event remains the largest single migration of people in human history. Sikh Nationalism seeks to create a homeland in the Punjab region of Northwest India and the movement has existed in one form or another since the partition. It reached its zenith in the 1980s and 1990s and at this time, there was lot of tension and violence between Sikh nationals and the Indian government. In fact, in 1984, the Prime Minister of India (Indira Ghandi) was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards in retaliation for a counter-terrorism campaign that included a raid on a Sikh temple.
M.S. Bitta was a Sikh politician that acted as President of the Indian Youth Congress and was loyal to the Indian government. Considered a traitor by Sikh nationals, Bitta became a target of the KLF (Khalistan Liberation Force). The KLF made two attempts to assassinate Bitta on July 7th, 1992 and September 11th, 1993. Bitta survived both bombings but lost a leg in 1992, and took shrapnel to the chest in 1993. Other bystanders weren't so 'lucky'. The bombings killed a total of 22 people and seriously injured dozens more. The Sikh terrorist that planted the second bomb (Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar) was convicted and sentenced to death by hanging. Since the 1990s, the violence has lessened considerably, but sometimes old scores get settled.
In India there are five security categories for high profile individuals. The second highest category (Z+) includes a security detail of 36-armed men. Back home we call this G-13 Classified. Since every now and again Sikh terrorists try to murder these dudes, Bitta was awarded Z+ security for life by the Indian government. He is one of only 17 people in India with this level of protection.
Now, not only was he gracious enough to meet with me, but he invited Nikki and I to have dinner with him and his family. Since we didn't pack for a formal dinner, we didn't know what to do. I tucked my shirt in and Nikki changed from ripped black jeans to not ripped black jeans. She was fearful of the 45 minute ride ahead of us and sat anxiously with the seat belt strap stretched across her chest (she was holding it with her hand because it had no buckle of course). But y'all should've seen her face when we arrived at the front of the restaurant where 5 very armed guards (think, flack jackets and machine guns) stood near the entrance. I took one look at the hardware and told Nikki that I thought we were in the right place. The dinner was amazing and I greatly enjoyed asking him all of my burning questions with the help of an interpreter. #AlwaysAStudent
While I expected to meet a somber man scarred by his experience with terrorism, the complete opposite was true. Bitta is a man with a great sense of humor and a warm personality. A natural politician. Bitta is also a remarkable man who has relearned to walk with the use of an artificial leg, and is a 59 year old nutrition junkie that only eats meat three days a week (only fish), never takes any medication, and is an avid user of henna. Nikki inquired about the henna and he informed her that he only uses the best stuff! You know she was able to secure a promise that he would send some from his personal stash to our apartment in Washington D.C. for Nikki to try. Today, Bitta, heads the All Indian Anti Terrorist Front which cares for victims of terrorism, and pays for the education of children that have been orphaned in this way. I asked him how he wanted to be remembered? He responded that he would like to be remembered as a man who stood up to terrorism and cared deeply for other human beings. So there you have it, we had dinner with M.S. Bitta.