So our train from Goa to Kochi is delayed. We are not sure when it is arriving so we decided to speak to our Honcho about his life. As previously mentioned we are using Vodkatrain to help us get around India. One of the good things about using them is the Honcho they provide. A Honcho is a local, usually a similar age to us, that they employe as our tour guide. Normally there would be a group of us on this tour, however this time around it’s just me and Mark which for us is a bonus because we get a private tour at the cost of a budget group tour. It’s also been a good way to get to know our Honcho well and get a better understanding of Indian culture.
Our Honcho is Ashwini, also know as Ashu. He is 27 years old, studied Tourism at university and he absolutely loves his job. He currently lives in Delhi as this is where his work is based but he is originally from Sirmour Village in the north of India.
We’ve heard the words “family system” a lot from Ashu as he has been explaining what life in India is like. He comes from, what we see is a fairly strict family, and he has told us that because he is an only child it is his responsibility to support his parents as his father is due to retire in the next couple of weeks. He told us that in metropolitan cities children don’t always do this anymore, but for him it is something that he has to do.
His father’s retirement is happening soon and he said that they will have guests over to celebrate. “I spoke to my mother and she said that 2600 guests have been invited” at this, both Mark and I stopped and I actually said to Ashu “Do you mean 2-6-0-0 or 2-6-0?” he laughed and told me that no it was in fact 2600 people that had been invited. There would be only vegetarian food which is all Ashu and his family eat – a sweet rice dish for desert, rice, lentils and vegetables for the main. His family would also provide alcohol for the guests even though they themselves don’t drink. From this, Mark, being Mark, tried to calculate how much rice alone would be needed. His calculations worked out that if 2600 people went to the celebration and each person ate 300grams of rice they would need around 900kgs-1000kgs, taking into account that Ashu told us some people go up 3-4 times and that the rice is also needed for the desert. Ashu estimated the cost of the food alone would be 30,000Rupee(AUD$750) which is one month of his father’s salary before he retires. When he retires he will receive a pension because he worked for the government for over 40 years, this will be around 12,000Rupee (AUD$300) a month.
From this he explained to us that weddings were another huge celebration where a similar number of people would be invited, if not more, and it was compulsory that there be a representative from each family, that was invited, to attend the wedding. As gifts go, he said that people would give money and there would be someone (usually an elder) there to record the gift and gift giver in a book. Ashu said that when it came time to attend a wedding of one of the guests they would open up the book to see how much money they gave and give at least the same, if not more.
He is not married and does not have a girlfriend as his parents will choose a wife for him. He expects he will be getting married in the next year or so. His parents asked him what he wanted most in a wife and they will go out and find someone they feel is appropriate. It’s not as simple as them picking a wife and getting married. Once the bride and groom have been agreed upon by both sets of parents they go to visit their priest who analyses their horoscopes. There are 36 points (or topics) which both the bride and groom’s horoscopes are scored on. They need to get a minimum of 21 to match for the marriage to go ahead. If the score falls below 21 they will not get married. So after everything, it comes down to your horoscope.
We learnt that a lot of the country still follows very rich traditions in their daily lives, however across the major cities these traditions are softer and people are slowly taking on customs from western culture.
Overall, speaking to Ashu has opened our eyes to just how different life here in India is compared to Australia. Especially when he asks us about what we do and our response is “Whatever makes us happy”. What we’ve learnt from Ashu is, I believe, his point of view of India and his take on India, drawing from his family, his traditions and his education. It has been fascinating speaking to him, but hopefully before we leave India we will be able to get some other perspectives on life here.