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French India, French Indians and mixed French-Indians

I wrote an article about French India, the French Indians and the mixing of French and Indians. It's all here!



A story of wedding, hair, rugby and alcohol

Any resemblance with existing persons is fictitious. Or not.  

Our small family recently completed its pilgrimage to Kerala, organized in order to attend a wedding. (an engagement actually but it might as well have been a wedding so we will take it as a wedding.) I was not sure sure it was a good idea: I was a bit worried, in all modesty, that my little Samurai and I would ‘steal the limelight’ from the bride (‘white people’, especially when they are introduced for the first time, have the annoying tendency to draw all the attention). I was wrong. No one could really steal the limelight from the bride, simply because nobody really cares about anything else than food (dixit my Malayali friends)...  


I arrived a little anxious because I had forgotten to put deodorant. And I NEVER go out without deo. A fortiori in a place where it is 35 degrees and 110% humidity. I did try to buy some in a pharmacy but in the interiors of Kerala, forget about it. But there again, I was wrong to worry: the moment we reached, an ‘auntie’ jumped at me and put me straight in the ambiance. She reeked of sweat that had been macerating for some timel! She started to undress my baby, dressed in a cute Indian outfit for the occasion, under the pretext that it was too hot. Without asking me my opinion, of course. No doubt that SHE felt hot to smell like this! Not shaken by her defeat (I didn’t let her go past the tiny sleeveless jacket), she went on – she was in a great shape! – with a nice “your hairstyle, no good”. Flaggerbasted, I found nothing to answer, and moved away. Coming from her, it was the pot calling the kettle black: her hair, already becoming rare, was gathered in a rat-like tail and dripping oil. This I don’t understand: oiling hair to nouristh it, ok. But going out with greasy hair? Maybe they find it beautiful when it shines? Like glossy well polished shoes? Needless to say, I have a problem with greasy scalp, as I do with odorous armpits... In short, this ‘auntie’ who was one of my favorite in the family, did not score many points this time...  


After this introduction, I had to face another situation: in India, a baby is not a person but a rugby ball. As soon as they see a baby, arms reach out, they grab him and pass him to one another. I must be a not-so-good scrum-half: at the sight of these reaching out women, one with rotten teeth, the other with a beard and another one without tooth but a mustache, I did not let go of the ball. To be honest, I did not give the ball to anyone, even to those who were not so scary. Just because the three pairs of arms who welcomed us scared me away, feeling totally aggressed. While it is apparently an act of “politeness”, politeness I was supposed to return by giving my child away. Well, I will be honest with you, I didn’t care one bit about going the impolite stuck-up bitch that would not let her baby go! 

And my baby played along and refused to leave my arms. Of course I don’t want him to be anti-social; I just want people to give him some time to adjust to all these new faces before being thrown into the scrum!

After holding on against almost everybody, people left us alone… I took advantage of the new found peace to let baby stretch and take a few steps. No sooner had he a foot on the ground that he got grabbed by an ‘uncle’ who had identified an opening and seized it! He got eventually passed in the arms of four women, who were not even from my husband's family...  


The wedding itself takes place in a hall, or a temple hall. The couple are on a stage all along. The ceremony lasts about ten minutes, during which people look at it – if it lasts longer, they may go out and chat waiting for it to get over. Then the buffet is announced! (On that day at 5 PM.) This meal is a little challenge: not only there is a monumental line with 500 people who throw themselves on it, but once you have waited for everyone to be finished to take your plate, these 500 other guests that have now moved on to digestion come and talk to you! You are therefore introduced to ‘uncles’ and ‘aunties’ (polite formulas to address elders, especially in North India), with your mouth full and your fingers dipped in curry. Not easy to remain classy. Therefore, even at the expense to be impolite, I ignored a person or two, in order to finish my plate fast, get done with this ordeal and go fetch my baby back! 


Once you are done eating, you have to go on the stage to take a picture with the bride and groom. Otherwise people will forget you came (Just kidding.) It is also a welcome distraction for the couple who is otherwise required to take the most fancy bollywood pauses for the photographer. (Not kidding.)  


And this is it; that’s about all that happens in a Hindu wedding in Kerala... At 6 PM it was wrapped up and everybody was going home. Or hide behind the hall to booze. Men only. And in secret.  Even if everyone knows*. Others return home, happy to have a new event to comment! Even if there's not much to feed on, apart from the food and the hairstyle of the foreigner (who caused quite a sensation, not in the right way I’m afraid). 


Morality: I will be eternally grateful to my favorite Indian for sparing me this and making our wedding an unforgettable event. And I look forward to attending a wedding in France and have his point of view! 


* Statistics show that Indians drink less than Europeans (4.3 versus 12.5 litres per year per person) except that we should remove from the equation women (who do not have the right to drink), pious men (who do not drink out of religious conviction), and all those who drink home-made alcohol, which kill mostly in silence, and sometime loudly (when more than a hundred people die, like it happened in June in Mumbai). Malayali drink 10.2 litres per year, quite far behind the guys of Andhra Pradesh (35 litres). For many Indian States, taxes on alcohol represent nearly a quarter of the State income (22% in Kerala); whereas it is less than 1% in France. This makes it difficult for States to tackle alchool consumption, as they regularly try. Only the Gujarat has been holding on tight, but the black market has been exploding. Increasing taxes (already at more than 100%) or making alcohol illegal is fine but it does not help much... 




(1) In India: ; ; ; 


(2) In France:  ; & xml = t_3203 ;


Week-end at Mount Abu

The weekend had started well...

The 11-hour day train journey with BabySamourai had proved less tiring than expected, and we had even arrived half an hour early! (Since this is rare with Indian trains, we were not prepared, and since in most trains, there is no announcement, we almost miss the stop!) Finding a taxi to climb from Abu Road to Mount Abu had been very smooth, even at 9 pm. And after a 40-minute ride, we were at the hotel!

This is where the disenchantment began... The beautiful pictures of a large garden and mountain view on the website did not let imagine a small garden “under maintenance” right next to a busy road. The price of the room did not suggest the lack of a functional shower or clean sheets (the guy had to come back three times to bring us a decent duvet cover). Given the place I fully agreed when my favorite Indian decided to lock the door for the night. Although this did not prevent a guy from barging into our room at two in the morning! It was a drunk neighbor who had been fighting outside with his wife very loudly for more than an hour... When you have spent more than 100 euros per night, you have imagined a peaceful haven. Landing in a shabby hotel is quite a shock! Especially when you learn that breakfast is not included, even though you remember very clearly having selected the option with breakfast.

I did not want to let myself surrender to despair so, as soon as I got up, I looked for things to do in the area – it might be useful to add that I had booked this weekend on a whim, finding the word “Mount Abu” romantic. I turned to the Lonely Planet and Oh My God!

“The town is certainly unlike anywhere else in Rajasthan, a green, serene and welcome retreat during summer from the scorching temperatures and arid beige terrains elsewhere.” So far so good. “Gujarat and Rajasthan’s favourite holiday gateway, Mt Abu is a particular hit with honeymooners and middle-class Gujarati families; unlike the hill stations of northern India, you won’t find many Western travellers here.” Here it is either very good news (I have found a lost paradise) or very bad news (there is a reason why foreign tourists avoid this city). And then this story with Gujaratis... One must know that, according to the cliché, they have money to throw by the windows, nowhere to spend it (so they don’t have high standards in terms of accommodation), and as soon as they leave their native Gujarat, a “dry” state (where the sale of alcohol is forbidden, in tribute to Gandhi), they aspire to get drunk and make noise. The locals accept it, the cash inflow compensating the inconvenience ... And then, according to our local guide, as they do not see many tourists at home, as soon as they spot some at Mt Abu, they are more interested in the Caucasian passer-by than by the monuments. Which would explain all the requests of selfie I got...

“Sunset point is a popular and lovely place from which to watch the brilliant setting sun, though distinctly unromantic unless you find that being thrust red roses, bags of peanuts, or Polaroid cameras gets you into a loving mood.” Not the sexiest description of a place… In one day, we visited the beautiful temples of Dilwara –  where we were not alone! – all in marble, a specialty of the region; climbed to the temple of Guru Shikkar, the highest peak (1,722 meters) of Rajasthan (in the Aravalli range); wandered in an abandoned haveli in Alchagarh; and played Holi with a Gujarati family that was passing by. After this beautiful day just a tad suffocating because of the crowds, back in our sordid hotel, we decided that the two remaining train tickets available for the next day (instead of our tickets booked but not yet confirmed for the next to next day) were a sign of fate, and we shortened our stay ! But we still had a whole day to occupy ...

“Trekking. Unused by most local holidayers who remain firmly enchanted with the pedalo-and-pony attractions of the town, Mt Abu’s hiking trails are many and various, leading you in just a few minutes into untouched wilderness. Here, you will find tranquillity, solitude, wild flowers and birdlife in abundance – as well as the odd snake, leopard or bear.” Everything is there: nature, no Indian tourists. We booked immediately! And so, it is wearing ballerinas and ignoring the age of my son (3), I went on a 4 hour trek. And it was fantastic! A complete reconciliation with the region…

If I was to do it again (and who knows?), I would choose my stay better (perhaps the Connaught House or the Krishna Niwas, or a heritage property: Mount Abu was apparently the holiday gateway of all the kings of the region (Rajasthan and Gujarat) and each king had his own property, leaving behind a total of some 50 heritage places. I did not quite understand if they were coming all at the same time, like full summer party, or if in turns.) I would avoid a long festival weekend, Diwali and the summer (too packed), and the winter (too cold). And I would only go trekking!

Inde,Rajasthan,Mont Abu.Abu,Mount Abu,train,hotel,trekking

Inde,Rajasthan,Mont Abu.Abu,Mount Abu,train,hotel,trekking

Inde,Rajasthan,Mont Abu.Abu,Mount Abu,train,hotel,trekking

Inde,Rajasthan,Mont Abu.Abu,Mount Abu,train,hotel,trekking

Inde,Rajasthan,Mont Abu.Abu,Mount Abu,train,hotel,trekking

Inde,Rajasthan,Mont Abu.Abu,Mount Abu,train,hotel,trekking

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