KC Na-Nush

March 12 ~~Parcels and Cooking Lessons in Bharatpur~~

In India, Learning Vacation on May 17, 2013 at 20:03

We spent a few more days at Kiran’s, visiting the park and the city. We also gleefully shipped a parcel to Canada, mostly reading material and some souvenirs and gifts we have picked up along the way. Seeing the box disappear behind the counter at one minute after closing time produced a great feeling of accomplishment and led to some giddy high fives in the post office. It was not just the anticipation of carrying backpacks that weighed 4 kilos less. It was also because we had spent a very confusing and sweaty 3 or 4 hours carrying said 4 kilos to and fro between the post office and the market trying to track down the appropriate person for each step of the complicated affair of mailing a parcel. Oh India and your notorious bureaucracy! As mentioned in a pocket guide called Culture Smart India that I picked up here, ‘Bureaucracy is rife in India. People seem to have a passion for paper, documents and ledgers […with] old forms of form-filling very much in operation.’

As an example, routine hotel check in for Sh and I involves filling in 3 forms each (in duplicate) that ask where we are coming from, going to, our relationship to each other, our age, our father/husband’s name, and more, in addition to every single detail of our identity, passport and visa papers. These are for various government and anti-terrorism offices and take about 15 minutes to fill in. Then we enter all that same information in the hotel’s own ledger, where they sometimes generously let us make only one entry for the two of us.  Multiple photocopies are made of our passports, and the photos are carefully cut out and pasted onto each document. All these documents must be filed every Sunday, so there is also an elaborate system of date fudging to be learned.

The Culture guide continues, ‘With over 150,000 post offices, India has the largest postal network in the world. Efficiency, however, is another matter […]. As letters going to foreign countries have to have tikets, or stamps that are quite expensive by Indian standards, it is not unusual for these to disappear from envelopes before they can be postmarked.’

At the post office, we were sent in the direction of the market with instructions to get someone to wrap our parcel up for us. Found the international courier office, where after 45 minutes of signing and language barriers, we left with our bag of stuff now in a cardboard box instead. But parcels being shipped out from India have to be wrapped in this peculiar way where they stitch it all up with white fabric and place red wax tamper-evident seals on all the seams, like this:

parcel-2

parcel

 

We could not find a parcelwalla who could do this for us, although not for want of time and sweat invested trying. Finally, when one helpful gentleman had us wait 25 minutes, then reappeared from within his mother’s home with a taffeta scarf that she had generously agreed to let us wrap our parcel with, we decided to just go back to the post office before it closed and see if they’d let us send it in a simple old courier box…

Indeed, the woman accepted, but we were now faced with the ‘problem’ that the box was addressed directly on its surface, when in fact the address must be inscribed on a paper label. (!) Naturally, the post office is not a place where one can find such a thing, but after some initial resistance, the employee found us a sheet of fax paper and eventually even let herself be convinced to let me use some tape and a marker to write on it.

~~

We celebrated our parcel-sending abilities with dinner at the tiny Spoonbill Guesthouse and Restaurant. We had the best food we’d eaten in weeks, and were thrilled when flattered owner Mr. Singh (so far we only know 3 people in Bharatpur, all named Mr. Singh)  readily agreed to our proposal that he give us a cooking class the following morning. We have been trying to learn what we can about great vegetarian cooking while we are in India, but many cooking classes teach students how to prepare things that I will never cook, like the wide array of delicious deep-fried Indian delicacies. Early on in the trip, I had decided which dishes I wanted to learn here: chai, dal, chapattis, aloo-ghobi, coriander chutney. That’s all. Mr. Singh gave us a great little custom course on these dishes, and I hope to invite you all over for dinner as soon as I am home!

 

09_Bharatpur(Keoladeo Ghana NAtional Park)_Mar8-11 (123)

09_Bharatpur(Keoladeo Ghana NAtional Park)_Mar8-11 (122)

09_Bharatpur(Keoladeo Ghana NAtional Park)_Mar8-11 (120)

09_Bharatpur(Keoladeo Ghana NAtional Park)_Mar8-11 (125)

09_Bharatpur(Keoladeo Ghana NAtional Park)_Mar8-11 (128)

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