Cherry Picking and Silk

Last Saturday, Yoke called us to go “cherry picking, drink tea and play mahjong.” Are there better ways to spend a Saturday? Since I couldn’t think of any, we agreed. It was around 10AM when he came knocking on the door. The day was gloomy with a forecast of rain and we were wondering if we should really go to this place. Till this day, I have no idea where we went though. Yoke being Yoke, he had asked a Chinese friend to come along, and she was apparently really keen. “Let’s not disappoint her,” he urged. Rain or no rain, it was decided to go. And that’s how we met Silk.

Silk’s just the nickname we gave to Yang. We got along immediately, especially as Silk is one of the few Chinese I have met who really really love India. Her Dad was driving us to the bus station from where we would take a bus to the cherry picking place. Silk tells us how her Dad has business in India, and how he keeps visiting Mumbai. She herself spent last winter in Gokarna. My ears almost dropped to the car seat when I heard this. Gokarna? I can understand people going to Goa, but Gokarna? “Oh! It was paradise,” Silk gushes. She stayed in a resort called Namaste Yoga, which was by the beach. She loved the food, the idyllic nature of the place, the people, the clothes. “Look, I am even wearing an Indian dress,” she shows. And indeed she was. Not quintessential Indian, but it will do. A black top, which she says she bought in Mumbai, and bright-colored “silk” pajamas which she bought in Gokarna. She imitates beautifully how the street vendors protest when she tries to bargain. “Arrrrrrrrrre you kiiiiddding me Madam?” with the typical Indian nod of the head. Silk has also spent a year as an exchange student in Berlin School of Economics, and is now about to join Huawei in Shenzhen.

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The weather was clearing by the time we reached our destination. Silk was joined by Jenny, another Chinese, who was a little quiet. They have been friends since school, Silk informs. And for the first time in China, I meet a Chinese vegetarian. Silk says that she stopped eating meat last year. “I just feel I am very lucky in life, you know. So last year, I made a vow while climbing Emei Shan not to harm animals. My little way of saying thank you for all the good luck I have had in life,” she explains. We hire a taxi to take us to the mountains – which is where the cherries grow. It’s late season now though, and most of the trees have been stripped of the cherries. For RMB38 you get to pick as many cherries as you want, and have lunch, play mahjong, and unlimited supply of green tea. A good deal, although I felt it could have been a tad cheaper. The spot we have chosen is right at the top of the hill. Sitting under a canopy with a now-fierce sun blazing overhead, we learn how to play mahjong.

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It’s addictive, apparently, although I don’t play.I just sit with cups of endless tea, my thoughts wandering through the green hills, before lunch is called. And what a spread it was.

Silk meanwhile continues to be entranced by India – and both Birdy and I are pretty amused. “Don’t you get annoyed with all the staring?” I ask. “Oh, I just ignore it,” she replies. “I know that foreigners will either love India or hate India. I just love it, you know. There is so much color, so much variety, and I feel that society is not as materialistic.” “Really?” I ask, surprised. We Indians, after all, love to make money. Just as much as anyone else. But it’s the feeling she gets from society, Silk explains. There is no frantic mad search for money. People tend to accept things faster. The last bit, I guess, I have to agree. I find her fascinating to talk to – she has great command over the English language, and having traveled widely, has more of a world view than ordinary Chinese.

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After lunch though, it was time for cherry picking. And it’s at this point that Silk was christened. She refused to walk through the rough undergrowth and bushes that cling to the hillside in search of cherries. The reason? The “silk” pajamas she bought in India! She doesn’t want them torn, muddied or otherwise ruined in any way. It was to be a hilarious cherry picking session. We go to a lot of trouble to pick a few cherries, as you can see in the photo below. But each cherry was worth its weight in fun!

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Another game of mahjong later, we are ready to leave. It’s almost 6PM when we hire the taxi to take us back to Chengdu. And what do we talk about during the 2-hour journey? India, of course! And then for no discernible reason, horoscopes. Silk and we share a common dislike for Pisceans. “Oooh, they are crazy, these Piscean women,” she says in a voice that makes us roll in laughter. “Never trust them, they will just have those big eyes, and limpid look, and everyone thinks they are soooooooooo innocent, but they are crazy. Cruel,” Silk adds. “I knoooooooooooooow,” screams a delighted Birdy, who doesn’t “believe” in star signs, but finds certain similarities fascinating nonetheless. Yoke, meanwhile, is utterly bemused. Silk, in case you are curious, is a December-born, Sagittarius.

We have dinner later at a new restaurant, and then we bid goodbye. “Thank you, my lovely Indian friends,” a text message from Silk later reads. She is getting ready for her graduation ceremony at the end of this month, before leaving for Shenzhen. I tell her that she must re-visit India again, and I know that she will. I am glad that India offered her its best face – I hope that she will never meet those crappy men who thrive on abusing/assaulting/raping foreigners. I hope she will continue to have wonderful experiences, see the amazing landscapes and colors of India. I hope we Indians will continue to be kind to her. I just don’t hope. I pray fervently that we will be so. It would be so sad to see her illusion of ‘paradise’ shattered. Let some illusions exist. It’s good for life.

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4 Comments

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  1. 1
    akshatha20

    Totally agree with all these advisories,statistics etc, but I just felt that, you made it sound like the situation is too grim in India. Not only this blog, my observation over a couple of old ones too. Well, everyone is entitled to an opinion……China may be much safer, because they follow zero tolerance against these kind of crimes, hope we could also adopt more strict norms. By the way, I was not with a gun… in plain clothes.

  2. 2
    akshatha20

    Come on Gudie, India is not as bad with foreigners or for that matter with any female traveler. I have traveled alone in 2nd class trains in North India… changed trains at desolate railway stations at odd hours, traveled to Guwahati and back in unreserved compartments as NCC cadets and have not encountered one unpleasant experience. I admit that it may not be safe all the time… but not everyone out there is waiting to abuse/rape travelers.

    • 3
      soulmuser

      Haha Voozy – you were the one with a gun! LOL! Of course, it’s not a generalization, but I have never felt safe. And statistically crime against foreigners is higher in India than in China. Not everyone wants to rape foreigners – thank god for that – most of the people I meet always talk of the friendliness and helpfulness of Indians – but these incidents keep happening, and that’s what is worrying. Check out this website and Wikipedia :–) I was only wishing that nothing happens to her because these things can happen anywhere in the world. http://www.touristsafetyandjusticeindia.com/
      http://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crime_against_foreigners_in_India

      • 4
        soulmuser

        And this is what US embassy advises 🙁

        U.S. citizens, particularly women, are cautioned not to travel alone in India. Western women, especially those of African descent, continue to report incidents of verbal and physical harassment by groups of men. Known locally as “Eve-teasing,” these incidents can be quite frightening. While India is generally safe for foreign visitors, according to the latest figures by Indian authorities, rape is the fastest growing crime in India. Among large cities, Delhi experienced the highest number of crimes against women. Although most victims have been local residents, recent sexual attacks against female visitors in tourist areas underline the fact that foreign women are also at risk and should exercise vigilance.

        Women should observe stringent security precautions, including avoiding using public transport after dark without the company of known and trustworthy companions; restricting evening entertainment to well-known venues; and avoiding walking in isolated areas alone at any time of day. If you are a woman traveling in India, you are advised to respect local dress and customs. Ensure that your hotel room number remains confidential and insist the doors of your hotel room has chains, deadlocks, and spy-holes. In addition, only hire reliable cars and drivers and avoid traveling alone in hired taxis, especially during the hours of darkness. It is preferable to obtain taxis from hotels and pre-paid taxis at airports rather than hailing them on the street. If you encounter threatening situations, you should call “100” for police assistance.

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