Last week, we went to Delhi for Aakash's father's funeral. (This is a very long, detailed story. I won't be offended if you skip a few paragraphs if you're in a rush!) It was a really whirlwind of a trip. We arrived in Delhi Monday night around nine and went to Aakash's cousin's house for dinner. Vinnay and his wife Yashika were wonderful hosts and we were lucky to spend time with them. Around eleven, we started off for the airport. First, we parked the car in a lot and got into a van with one of Renudidi's cousins. (Renudidi is Aakash's stepmom.) Then, we went to the airport to pick up Renudidi. Her flight was delayed, but we waited and got to know her sister and nephews who had come to greet her as well. After she arrived, her sister took her luggage and along with her cousin, Vinay, and the owner of the van, we set off. But first we drove somewhere else and switched drivers. (The whole trip was very confusing for us. Apparently the original driver owned the vehicle, but they hired a different driver to take us to Haridwar.) Anyways, then the five-ish hour to Haridwar began.
We left around one am I think. Once we got out of Delhi, it was extremely dark and bumpy. For anyone that doesn't know, traveling outside of cities in India means driving on a dirt, mostly two-ish lane road, and the bumps and holes are more than numerous. Aakash and I were sitting in the backseat where there were no headrests or seatbelts. We knew we were in for a trip when Vinay, who we had previously established NEVER wears a seatbelt, reached and buckled his. I couldn't see outside the vehicle at all, but the trip basically consisted of us driving really really fast, then someone slowing down (which was tough, because that's when you knew to brace yourself for bumps) and driving over CRAZY bumps. More than once, our heads nailed into the roof of the van. There was also constant eye-blinding headlights in both directions from other vehicles. When the driver came upon a truck in front of us, he would pass it, more often then not starting a terrifying game of chicken with another car that was heading straight towards us. Needless to say, I got some sleep, but not a lot. Luckily, Aakash slept a good amount, or at least more than me.
Finally, when it started to slowly get light, we stopped for some chai, then drove a little further and parked in a (sketchy) parking lot, behind some small temple. We changed in the car and walked down an alley past some sleeping beggers, who were slowly getting up. At the end of the alley was a small, sort of open outdoor amphitheater with a roof and steps that stepped down into the Ganga (Ganges) River. I was shocked at how fast the river was flowing, although the brown, cloudy water did not surprise me. Some priests approached us and Vinay said something and they lead us to the end of the amphitheater where we performed the rites. I couldn't understand what he was saying and I was not sitting close, but from what I could see, this is what happened: They poured the ashes onto a big plate. Vinay, Aakash, and Renudidi were given flower petals to pour on the ashes. During the whole thing, the priest was chanting (in Sanskrit, I believe) and Vinay, Aakash, and Renudidi were instructed to repeat things after certain phrases. Money kept being placed on the plate and then another priest brought a cup of water from the river and the main priest poured it over the ashes. All this happened a few times, and then the ashes were dumped in the river onto one of the steps that was submerged. The whole ordeal was very quick. Traditionally, you are not suppose to photograph anything during this, but I took some pictures for Meera. (Meera, I'll send you a link once I upload them.)
Obviously that was the most exciting thing that's happened in the past ten days. Aakash started lessons with his guru. He had two lessons, but now his guru is out of town and doing some recordings, so he has a week or so to practice before his next lesson. I've starting singing again, which is nice, but feels a little off. However, it gets better all the time. Monday, Aakash met Tanmoy Bose in the recording studio and played some stuff for his upcoming album. Last Saturday, we had some Americans over to play Cards Against Humanities, which was awesome, of course. These were friends we met through our British friend, Jess, who unfortunately couldn't make it. One humorous thing that happened was with our new friend Matt. When we first met, we shared an auto home together, because we found out we lived on the same street! Anyways, we walked home and parted at a corner for each of us to go home. (Although it was night, so Aakash and I actually got lost. Oops.) Anyways, when we invited everyone over to play CAH, I found Matt looking for our house when I was meeting other friends to show them the way. Anyways, after walking to our house, it SHOCKED both of us to find out we actually live at the same address. He told us he lived at "70 Cornfield Rd," but apparently he mumbles (you get that, right Julie?) and he lives at 7C like us. To get to our flat, you open a gate, walk up two half flights of stairs (which leads to Matt's door), then open another gate and walk up another half flight to our flat. It was pretty funny to find out we weren't only street neighbors, but we share a gate and a washing machine.
Anyways, I think that's more than enough from me. I hope you're all well. I've been feeling a little under the weather and have been sleeping a lot, but hope to find a dance class and start looking into teaching in the next week or so. I love you all and hope to hear from you soon.