We left for Faridkot, but not without stopping at one last Patiala temple.
Yes, we took a selfie in a temple.
The drive into this temple was the first time I can remember feeling mildly unsafe in India. Our car turned down a narrow road that was lined on each side by street vendors and entirely too many people. We inched through the crowd, people touching the sides of the car and the windows, and it didn’t take long before I felt like the doors were about to be opened. I slid my hand over the lock and pushed it down.
As soon as we stepped out of the car there was a group of kids, shoeless and open-handed, asking for money. The poverty here is overwhelming, so much so that I’m still not sure how to capture it with words. The kids were shooed away by a man who spoke no English, but took it upon himself to watch over us (figuring he’d profit, I’m sure). He helped our drivers rearrange luggage, found bags for us to put our temple freebies in, and kept the children at bay. I pressed a 100 rupee note (a third of the average person’s daily income, for perspective) into his hand as we left – the best $2 I’ve spent in a while.
Everything about the place was chaotic, even inside the temple, and everything about it made me uneasy. Settling into our car, just us five (and our driver), flipping the AC on and getting on the road to Faridkot felt really, really good.
We travel pretty comfortably around town, typically with several cars. When we’re traveling as a team to a new city, things can get a little cramped. Five big suitcases (which grow at every stop because Punjabis love to give gifts), five carry-ons, five (usually tired) people, one driver, and one minivan.
We were welcomed to Faridkot at Oxbridge School in what was our most beautiful greeting yet. We pulled up to the gate of the school and were met by at least a dozen teenage girls dressed in bright Punjabi suits and holding a hand-embroidered tapestry in the air like a tent. We filed under it, the five of us, and we walked the long road up to the school steps as they sung and tossed marigold petals on us.
I scrambled for my phone and recorded as much of it as I could. It was really pretty magical. We headed straight to their big lawn and the students performed dances for us, pulling us up out of our seats and onto the lawn with them.
Our first night in Faridkot was close to perfect. It’s smaller town than we’ve been in (just 80,000 people), and I found myself in a gorgeous, sprawling home. We barbequed for dinner, talked on the lawn for hours, and it was the most at home I’ve felt since being in India.