I have a travel rule that I never visit the same country twice (except for Costa Rica). There are a total of 196 countries in the world and I average 2-4 country visits a year. At this point…well you do the math…I will need to find the fountain of youth in order to accomplish my goal.
However, even if your home is 24 hours away you can’t help but go there yearly or every other year in the case of Nelli who’s hometown is in Manipal India. I wasn’t really excited to go because we had just been there the year before and because of my on-going issues with his Mom. In addition, my first trip to India was good but some aspects had turned me off…has there been a country that you didn’t love or is that an ungrateful or rude thing to say? Each country brings an experience and I know I shouldn’t put my particular one experience as a view of the entire country but I just can’t help the feeling that India isn’t my dream land. Nelli really wanted me to visit his hometown though so on the account that we would be visiting Sri Lanka as well I agreed to go.
There were a couple of roadblocks en route to going to India. One is I learned at the last minute that we wouldn’t be traveling to Hampi. Hampi is probably the most historic and well known tourist site in Karnataka. I really wanted to take a day trip here but Nelli wanted to prioritize staying as much time at home so I was really bummed about that.
Also, a month-ish before we were suppose to go Nelli got a call from his Mom about “why are you marrying her? why are you doing this to me? Why aren’t you marrying an Indian girl?” Are you serious? Here we go again. We had been engaged well over 6 months and she had expressed her well wishes. At this point, nothing surprises me – I will never be able to tell or trust if she’s really happy about me. It was kind of upsetting to hear those things especially since I would be staying with her when we were in Manipal. I even considered staying in a hotel but Nelli convinced me otherwise.
The day we got to Manipal I was exhausted. We took a flight from SFO to Germany then to Mumbai then to Mangalore and then an hour car ride to Manipal. We were able to mayyybe rest an hour before we walked to the temple where his dad performed a blessing/welcoming ceremony. I got the obligatory stares and played the dance where I wasn’t sure what to do – do I walk 3 times around the idol? and of course there were some ceremonies I did wrong like not throwing the water correctly or something. I wasn’t too bothered.
The next couple of days where like any other trip home. Lounging around. Getting fed by your Mom. Eating at local fav spots. The only sort of touristy things we did was go to the beach, go to an overlook site, and visit the Belur temples on our way to Bangalore. I eventually got sick during my stay in India which is becoming all too familiar on my international trips. The amount of dust in the city made me get a serious cough. Usually, since I’ve had past experiences I brought some sudafed and vitamin C but I didn’t bring any cough medicine which made my cough even worse. Manipal however felt different than any other country we’ve been to because we’re usually so much on the go that it was interesting to just sit around and relax. It would have been better if there was air conditioning lol. Speaking of the house amenities, it took awhile to get used to it. I was very uncomfortable with the bathroom situation. The toilet was actually in the shower (yikes). So when I would use the bathroom, the toilet and floor would be wet from the shower. I also don’t think a lot of Indians use toilet paper and just use a hose because they brought a fresh roll for me to use. I really felt they were trying to make my stay as comfortable as possible like getting these basic toiletries for me which was nice. Another thing that took some time to get used to was the bed. The bed was hard as rocks! My back hurt a lot the first night but then I got used to it. Also, it’s very hot so nobody uses covers however even if it is 90 degrees I have to put something over my body so they gave me a sheet. The last thing that took some time to get used to were the bugs! I feel like the outside and inside of the house is really integrated so nobody would be surprised if there spiders in the corners, or ants crawling on the table, or lizards darting in and out. The only thing they did not want in the house were mosquitoes. Seemed like other insects were harmless and actually helped kill the unwanted bugs. ooooook.
How were my interactions with Nelli’s parents? Short and simple. The first thing Nelli’s mom said to me was apologizing in advance because her English isn’t that great. I think all of us were nervous to speak to each other for fear of not understanding each other. Nelli’s dad was really nice and was excited to show me around the Udupi temple. He showed us the different parts (that temple is huge) , idols, wagon looking things, ornate carriages (?), cows, horses, and of course where Brahmins sit and where everybody else sits for lunch (sigh). I did three things with Nelli’s mother: eat, attempt to cook, and shop. We went to the mall every day because that was the common language we spoke and I also needed things for the wedding. I got a lengha for my sangeet with the associated jewelry as well as pieces for my mangalsutra (yay!). What really made Nelli’s mom warm up to me was surprisingly the amount of food I ate. So basically she liked that I was a fattie? Apparently, she loved the fact that I ate all (and more…) the food she cooked. I think I had 10 mini-dosas in one sitting. You just never know with Mrs. Nelli on what makes her tick.