Firozabad –>Etawah: ~70 km, 100 degrees
As we got closer to Etawah we began looking for a place to sleep. According ‘the Internet’ maps checked the night before, there were a couple options, one called hotel Krishna. Turned out to be a truckstop for the many trucks of goods carriers and they turned us away. Disappointed, we pedaled on for another 12 km to find the town of Etawah as the sun began to set.
As we arrived in Etawah the warm welcome was clear. Many local people rolled along with us, bike taxis, children and some motorcycles. They had lots of questions including where we are from, where our bikes come from, where we are going, and why are we here. Answers: America, America, (name next town or Varanasi) and… To see India and you, which often made them laugh but of course is the truth.
The group traveled with us to the local hotel where we logged in. India Gov policy is for all travelers to not only sign in but for copy of passport, Visa and travel plans to be on file.
We woke up in Etawah with plans to pedal on but the town had more in mind for us. After breakfast we stopped at the Internet cafe where we met Abhay who told us about the local temple Navratri celebration and highly encouraged a visit. We returned to the hotel to check out, gather our bikes and packs and possibly stop by the Temple on our way.
As we stood in the lobby, a kind and happy gentleman I had smiled at several times throughout the day approached us and explained that his daughter had become engaged and they were hosting the ring exchange ceremony in the banquet room of our hotel. He invited us to participate. We asked for a later checkout so we could see the ceremony and join the family for lunch in honor of the couple.
The ceremony was beautiful with many customs throughout (that the brides cousin explained for us and allowed us to view up close) the bride enters the room more than an hour before the groom to kneel on stage with the Hindu Priest and pray as well as give and receive offerings. Gifts of fruit and sweets are brought by her family for the groom’s family and sit to the left of the stage. The bride’s younger sister serves as what we know as maid of honor, ensuring the bride is taken care of through preparations and the day.
Many more rituals and photos to share from this event and subsequent lunch which was so inviting we decided to remain in Etawah for another day. Upon leaving the function and thanking the father of the bride for his generosity he asked” You were going to leave this morning?” Yes. “And I invited you to stay?” Yes. “And now you are going to stay in Etawah for another day?” Yes.
“So it is me who is grateful.”
From the outside India appears unmanageable. The trepidation we entered with is smoothed over by the warm and welcoming people who tell us “you are my guest.”