Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Another day?

The last few days have been....Well.... less then ideal. After visiting Agra, where I was slapped in the face with a huge culture shock,  we arrived in Srinagar, Kashmir in northern India. 

I was slapped even harder. 

I thought I was being stared at in Agra, but here,  I initially felt like a freak show.

Kashmir is a predominantly Muslim state.  About 90% of the people here are devoutly Muslim,  the other 10% Hindu. This means women cover their heads.  As a non-muslim I arrived without my head covered. I was acutely aware of being the only Caucasian women on the flight into Srinagar, the Kashmiri capital, and I believe I am the only white women within an hour flight of here. 

I now know what it's like to be a visible minority and to be stared at because of that. It a feeling of both amusement and annoyance.

The staring I can deal with, it was the ignoring that I couldn't. 

Wait, did I just say I was being ignored as well as being stared at?  How is that possible?  Let me explain. 

I am traveling with my brother.  The people we have been interacting with have addressed questions and comments to only my brother. This includes the taxi driver,  hotel workers in Gulmarg ( small little town ) and the waiter who served my brother food first,  nearly taking the spoon out of my hand as I reached to serve myself. They've introduced themselves to only my brother as I stand there.

In Agra, this happened but on a less obvious scale.  Here in Kashmir, it's more pronounced. And it's a bit upsetting.

We traveled to a small skiing town called Gulmarg. I am almost certain I am the only white women many of the people here have ever seen. The hotel was very rustic.  Think log cabin with wood heat level of rustic with a bed that felt like a plank of wood ( which I had to share with my brother. Ewwww! )

I hated it and I couldn't get warm.

So.....cold....so very cold.

So, I decided to leave and head to New Delhi. My brother wants to ski so he's staying in Gulmarg. But that meant I had to spend a day in Srinagar, by myself,  before my flight left. That should be interesting.

And interesting it is.

Was the taxi guy and his friend flirting with me? ( The driver even sang one of his favourite songs ) Did the guys at the hotel ask to add me on Facebook?  ( Yes they did. ) Did that man at the check point say hello to me?  ( He sure did.  ) So what gives here?

I have a theory involving two parts:

First,  my brother is not around.

Second,  I covered my head.

It's like magic.  All I had to do was ditch my brother and cover my head. It was that easy.

I'm currently lying on a bed on a house boat located on Dal Lake in Srinagar. It's a hostel I booked for the night.  When I arrived,  I felt like I was being welcomed into a home. The manager and his father warmly greeted me,  serving me tea and cookies. Sitting on the floor,  we talked for a bit and they showed me to my room.  It's old but completely welcoming.

It has a wood burning stove for heat and this adorable little vanity and mirrors.

The manager not only arranged but accompanied me on a sight seeing tour. I spent too much money on a hand made Kashmir wool carpet and hand embroidered pashmina, but I consider it worth it. I learned how the carpets were made. The size I bought takes over a year to make with the larger ones taking up to 4 years.  Just for one carpet! I'll go into more detail on this later.

And guess what I decided to do? 

Stay another day!

I know,  crazy white girl in a Muslim state,  but Srinagar has kind of grown on me and I'd like to see a little bit more. 

No comments:

Post a Comment