Today is officially the first day of ONAM! Onam festival is a traditional harvest festival in Kerala and is the largest and most important in the state. It is celebrated by everyone no matter what religion or caste. “According to a popular legend, the festival is celebrated to welcome King Mahabali, whose spirit is said to visit Kerala at the time of Onam.”
Today we returned to Annie’s house who we visited yesterday. They were a lovely family and academic as both are retired teachers. They offered us lemon juice and also Bharfi sweet which was in lime and chocolate flavour. Annie's husband was very supportive and positive with regard to his wife’s work as a representative.
We then visited a Muslim woman at her home. She was the first lady we have interviewed who was not happy with the way she was treated whilst in office. This also made us question whether there may be discrimination within the Panchayat with regard to religion? Since there are significantly fewer Muslims in Kerala than Hindu’s.
After lunch we went to Destin’s sister’s house and met their family and Destin’s daughter Christina. We then went to Destin’s house. She has a beautiful large house with coconut and mango trees in her garden. We stayed at her house for a while and she made us chai (I’m not a tea drinker in England, but over here I love it!) It is served in small cups and is usually a lot sweeter than English tea! Her daughter also showed us some photos from her family album.
In the evening we went shopping... we went to a large posh store called Kaylan Silks and then went to some local shops on the round and I bought two Kurta’s which are long Indian tops for about £3 each! We then attempted to walk home in the dark and monsoon rains. However being unsure of the way (note to self: do not ask Indian’s for directions, they try to help even if they have no idea!) and after being followed and harassed by three guys we decided to jump in the back of an auto rickshaw. What an experience! We managed to squeeze four of us in the back, which meant Lauren was falling out most the way! The journey home only cost 30 rupees, which is about 40 pence.
After meeting many Indian families already it has already become evident to me that family values lie at the core of Indian culture. Families are very close and the parents and elders are highly respected. The married children usually live with the parents of the son.
I feel that in England children are becoming more independent at a younger age and sometimes growing apart from their parents, especially with the high rate of divorce, and family values may appear to be becoming less respected. However the Indian culture can sometimes seem too dependent upon the family. Young people, especially women, are not encouraged to become independent and move away from home to work or travel as this is seen to be too dangerous and the women are still traditionally the homemakers. There are positives and negatives with both cultures.
Many times when speaking about our plans to travel India Jenna and I were faced with a shocked reaction that two young women at the age of 21, and not yet married, were going to travel India alone. Many Indians I have met so far have never visited any other cities in India. However, this may be due to Thrissur being a comparatively small and very traditional town. In the urban cities peoples’ opinions are becoming more liberal, especially the younger generation.
Just some of my thoughts from the day!