Remember that old saying You can take the girl out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the girl! As far as I’m concerned, it’s one-hundred-percent true. Ever since I began this series on India 2011, I’ve been looking forward to posting these views of a very different kind of India than the one I’ve shown you so far. It’s great to take your pilgrimages to religious temples and historic monuments, but for a very long time I wondered–where do Indians go to just get away from the proverbial rat race? Well, now I know, so I refuse to apologize for featuring these lovely village and country scenes before even telling you about the vineyard that brought us here in the first place. For now I’ll put the cart in front of the horse and save the talk about wines and all that and instead talk about the perfect getaway from crowds and traffic in Bombay.
Though we only have two days left before we leave Bombay for New York, Raghu planned a wonderful excursion that took us to Nashik, in Maharashtra State (incidentally, Bombay’s the capitol city). It’s about 180 kms away (or about 112 miles). Due to the roads and the heavy traffic getting out of Bombay, that isn’t exactly a day trip; it takes about six hours by automobile, so we’d be staying overnight. Nashik is considered India’s greenbelt and top producer of grapes (wine country), onions and tomatoes, and varieties of fruits and vegetables. It’s also where the nation’s currency and stamps printer, the Security Printing Press, is located. Incidentally, Hubby’s father was the Director of the Stamps Press in Nashik during the last three years of his career. One other tidbit you may enjoy: According to the Ramayana Hindu epic, it was Nashik’s forests where Lord Rama hid out during his 14 years of exile after killing the demon king–the one that stole Sita, I presume. Even though it’s one of the fastest growing cities in India, there’s still room here to breathe.
And talk about breathing room! We arrived at the Sula Winery mid-afternoon. After checking into our rooms, and sharing a tray of cheese and crackers washed down with glasses of wine on the dining room veranda, it seemed the perfect time take a late afternoon, leg-stretching, walk to explore. Tomorrow we’d tour the winery and sample the wines.
Right away we come upon a cow. I wasn’t afraid as we approached, but kept a respectful distance all the same. The cow and I “eyeball” each other as we pass. I’m not sure who was more nervous, me or the cow. At least I wasn’t thinking about cobras at this point. Raghu shared with me that he thinks that cows are awesome creatures and there is nothing more peaceful than seeing a cow resting under tree looking very contented. As a country girl who practically grew up with cows, I had to agree. Both of us, dedicated amateur photographers that we are, snapped away with our cameras, I with my point and shoot canon, he with his much more sophisticated, albeit heavier, single lens reflex digital.
What could be more appealing or more restful than lakes and mountains in near perfect weather conditions . . . and could that be a bird swooping down on that tree limb? I was so busy looking at the cow I didn’t notice.
Add to that puzzle another bit of mystery–how did this USA 385 Speed Bot come to rest in this pasture in India? There has to be a story there, don’t you think?
Ditto for this little objet d´art. It’s deceptively large in the picture. Actually it was quite small, probably about three inches long, and stitched from a gray-colored heavy canvas fabric with painted features and filled with some sort stuffing. It’s an interesting little relic and could be anything. A religious symbol of some sort? Voodoo doll? A pagan or religious amulet? Fetish doll? Most probably it’s a homemade doll some poor village child lost. Looks can be deceiving though. It’s either very frightened or very mean. Look at that mouth! I left it where it was for the next tourist to ponder.
With these kinds of vibes in the air, I must confess I wasn’t exactly unmindful of the fact that there might be cobras lurking about. I had read in the local paper from the hotel that cobras are quite common in the area. There was even a story about a resident living on the road we were on during the drive had reported one in his yard just the day before. And the sun was beginning to sink below the hills.
And then we were approaching this interesting looking structure I’d had my eye on for awhile during the walk. I asked Raghu if he knew what it was used for. Indeed he did. It’s an open-air funeral pyre Hindus use for cremating their dead. Traditionally located near a body of water (there’s just a glimpse on the right just below the tree branches), a pyre is prepared with piles of wood stacked on the concrete stage you see here.
The body, laid out on a stretcher, is then placed on top, feet facing south (so that it can walk in the direction of the dead). The chief mourner–usually the eldest son–facing south, walks around the pyre three times, sprinkling water and ghee. He then lights the pyre with a flaming torch. After the fire consumes the body, which usually takes several hours, the mourners return home, and the entire family must then have a bath, and begin a period of mourning lasting 12 days during which the family is subject to many rules and rituals. One or two days after the funeral, the chief mourner returns to the cremation ground to collect the remains in an urn to be immersed in a river. I tried to imagine what it would be like to attend a cremation ritual as a member of the family. I was mightily relieved when Raghu informed me that only men attend the actual pyre–women and children remain at home.
You may be thinking how barbaric. However, Christian burial–when it comes right down to it–is no less barbaric. Growing up in the southern U.S., where children usually attended funerals at an early age (at least in my community), I always worried as a child What if Aunt Harriet really wasn’t dead, just in a deep sleep or in coma? How horrendous if they woke up later and found themselves in a box in a pitch black grave. I think I’d just as soon be torched as be buried in the ground.
And here’s the edge of nearby lake just to the right of the funeral pyre.
And as dusk approaches, more cows standing nearby in that peaceable kingdom may have all the answers to all the deep complexities of life and death. But they’re not saying anything.
Well, we haven’t seen any cobras yet, and here’s a paved road home, or at least back to our rooms at the Sula BEYOND, so we elect to head back that way instead of crossing the fields in darkness.
On the way, we pass this pretty girl from a nearby farm, a perfect Kodak moment if I ever saw one. I ask and get permission to take a photograph–and get at least two shots in as quickly as possible. (Okay, I admit that I had to do a little adjustments with the light setting because it was nearly dark by the time I took these pictures. I think they turned out well in spite of myself.)
Just today I was reading the new PEOPLE magazine, in which the “fairy-tale” wedding pictures of celebrity-for-no-reason Kim Kardashian were featured. The bride was perfectly made up with diamonds worth millions of dollars from head to toe. She was lovely of course. But may I say, no matter how much money she makes just for being the daughter of a famous dead fashion designer, she (Kim Kardashian) can’t hold a candle to the natural beauty of this simple village girl.
Finally, nearly everyday here along the Wasatch front in Utah, U.S.A., we’re treated to a wonderful sunset. Here’s what that same old sun does on the other side of the world. It’s my National Geographic moment. And look! More cows!
(Next time we’ll take a look at the winery and learn a little about the wines themselves.)
Postscript: Daughter, S-I-L, Hubby and I enjoyed another Margarita evening on Thursday of this week. One year after the completion of my chemo- and radiation-treatments at Huntsman Cancer Institute, my scans are still clean. Happy to report we’re still living happily with NED.