Day 19:

Another day and night means another wedding. There has been at least one wedding each night for every day I have spent in Jammu City. I’m positive this is a low estimate as well, seeing as I pass multiple wedding halls decorated each day. For the sake of argument, let us assume that only one occurs per night. 365 days in a year times two people each day equals 730 people getting married each year. If each of those couples has an average of two children, roughly 25 years from now, that number goes up to 1460 people per year in Jammy City alone. If each of those children and their spouses have an average of two children each… you get the idea. I suppose what I’m trying to say is there are a large number people here — and this is a substantially less populated town than either Delhi or Mumbai.

I would finish the project I was working on today, which unfortunately meant that I didn’t get to do much else. Breakfast came and went with the usual fanfare surrounding it. Taking a familiar seat near a window in the white room, it was time to get finish up so I could enjoy the rest of my trip without distraction. The hours until lunch passed quickly. Siddhu came and sat with me for a while, watching me work as we did our best to converse. Somewhat surprisingly, we were able to communicate significantly better than last time we tried this — proof that language barriers can eventually be overcome.

Lunch was at (yet another) uncle’s house. This one was not far from the Kaul residence, so we walked the few blocks to our destination. Upon arrival, Sheetal was informed that she needed to pick up a cousin and left shortly after to do so. During her absence, I conversed with the family as well as I could. There is something I can’t quite explain about the language difference, but I feel as though I’m beginning to understand sentiment. I can pick up a few words here and there, but nothing that I can translate quickly. That being said, I feel as though I’m beginning to understand what people are trying to tell me or ask of me, even though the words don’t make sense. It’s an interesting development that I am intrigued to explore further.

I had grown tired of staring at my computer for the time, so I accompanied Sheetal on some errands in the afternoon. She had found another scooter to borrow — restoring our preferred method of travel throughout the city. Gearing up in our helmets and scarves and jackets, I couldn’t help but be reminded of my first days in Jammu City at the Circuit House.

The task at hand was to acquire a birthday present for a one-year-old and some gifts to bring back to the States. We had scouted a few potential stores earlier in the trip to purchase the kind of gifts I was looking for, so we knew exactly where to go.

A ten or fifteen minute ride sat between us and the area of town that would ultimately be our destination. I can’t stress enough how much more pleasant travel by scooter is than travel by car. The feel of the wind rushing by our scarf-clad faces combined with the infinitely increased mobility instilled a sense of calming relief in me. If you are wondering how one could possibly find calm in the always-unpredictable, relentlessly loud, sometimes dangerous traffic, you will find no real answers from me. It is not a feeling I can easily put into words. It should be noted that I do not feel the same way traveling via car — only scooter.

I have been searching for the answer to a question that has been with me since arrival here. That question is, “with this mess of a living, breathing traffic jam, why don’t I see any accidents?” Although I don’t have a concrete answer, I do have a theory.

It seems to me that perceived traffic speed is completely relative and contextual. This is going to be somewhat hard to explain unless you have experienced traffic like this. As we traverse town, voluntarily throwing ourselves into and out of traffic lanes, it doesn’t necessarily feel any different that the city travel at home, albeit with less (note: no) rules. However, if I happen to glance at the speedometer, I notice we’re averaging somewhere around 15 to 20 kilometers per hour — or roughly nine to twelve miles per hour. This rate of speed make it very easy to react to unexpected situations. The strangest part of the whole matter is that I never feel like we’re going slower than my commutes at home. Even on the highway, I would be extremely surprised if I was to learn that I have eclipsed more than 100 kilometers per hour — about 60 miles per hour. I drive significantly faster than that on the way to work each day. Again, this isn’t meant to be a complete answer to the proposed question, but I believe it has begun to make some sense to me as I seek an answer. I also don’t want to give the impression that traffic has no room for improvement — on the contrary, I believe there isn’t much room for degradation.

We had arrived at our destination by the time I finished this thought. There is a good chance I didn’t speak a word during the ride. Occasionally, I have a tendency to get inside my own head and forget life goes on around me — I apologize for that. Our gathering of items went quickly — my desired gifts at the first stop and a blanket for the birthday gift. Shortly after, our never-ending quest for quiet resumed, as did my never-ending quest for coffee.

There is a chain throughout the cities I have visited here (note: except Sainj) called “Cafe Coffee Day.” It is the closest thing I’ve seen to an American coffee shop, barring one crucial difference — hardly any coffee is served here. Most drinks are a combination of milk, ice cream, water, sugar, and/or chocolate syrup served with a minuscule amount of coffee. I have found a drink I can tolerate however. It is called the “Vegan Shake.” Consisting of coffee, ice, and too much sugar — no matter how many times “no sugar” is said — it is tolerable and welcome. This drink is what I have ordered each time I come to one of the shops — this visit being no exception.

With my coffee in hand, we took a short drive to a park near the “coffee” shop. This park, while not as secluded or vast as some of those previously visited, was pleasant none-the-less. We found a bench with a view of a large water tower. Although we had no specific agenda, we ended up talking for what seemed like hours as the sun set over the city. It may well have been hours — I completely lost track of time. By the time I landed back into the reality of my surroundings, it was time to head home.

Sheetal had a dinner to attend tonight. I would have to politely decline the invitation on this particular night to finish the aforementioned project I was working on. Because of this, we stopped to get some food before the final home destination.

Chaat is a term used to describe the mixing of various chutneys over flour-based hollow pastries. At least that is as far as I understand it. We ordered several kinds of chaat — one Gup-chup chaat and one … other kind of chaat. I must apologize, as I have forgotten the name. Gup-chup chaat involves thin liquids and some diced vegetables that are to be poured into one of these hollow pastries, which is then eaten in a single bite. Although it is not my favorite food I’ve had on the journey, I did like it significantly better than the first time I tried it at the wedding. The other chaat was more to my liking. These same pastries were covered in a thicker mix of chutneys and yogurt and served in a bowl. It was actually quite tasty, although the chutney to pastry ratio was skewed significantly in favor of the chutney. Finally, as we were leaving, I purchased a few samosas — potatoes baked into a pastry shell — to take home.

Off to her dinner, I was left along to finish my work. It is unfortunate I had to attend to this work at during my time here, but it was good to finish it in order to free myself for the rest of the trip. The night ended quietly, resulting in a feeling of completion and accomplishment for me. Although the day was somewhat tame, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I’m beginning to sadden that my trip is coming to and end.

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