Today we headed back to Halvad where we had visited the private school with the florescent light destroyers. We were all excited for our appointment with one of the moms we had met during our focus groups who had bravely come forward during our focus group to tell her own story as an example of how domestic violence is a problem even for wealthy educated families. She had agreed to be interviewed for our research and her house was conveniently located near some sightseeing we wanted to do later in the day. Our ride was uneventful except for a cow standing in the middle of the highway as if trucks and cars weren’t zooming by at 100 kilometers per hour.
Our survivor welcomed us to her parent’s home. She was so happy to have us, and we were so happy to see her. It was our first time conducting an interview in English, and our first time being able to connect verbally with one of our primary respondents. She took all of our contact information, and we hers, and we promised to send her a copy of our report when it’s done. She also got to connect with Jayshree. An educated financially independent woman like this survivor could be an amazing asset to Jayshree and Ila’s NGO. We were excited to have helped them make the connection.
Sightseeing consisted of several Jala family hotspots. First we went to their old palace. It was built in the 1400s but was abandoned because it was indefensible. Much of it fell down after an earthquake, but what remains is more than enough to give an idea of the grand splendor that the Jala family enjoyed a few centuries ago. The current palace is amazing, but the old palace was something else. Surrounded by a moat on one side and done in the Islamic style, the palace is decorated with intricate wood and stone carvings. A tall tower in the Islamic style stands in the middle of a sunken garden in the middle of the palace, and one can imagine saris sweeping the ground as women walked along the walkways taking in the sun and air.
We were able to take questionably stable stairs up to the roof where you could look over the moat. The railing was made of carved concrete couches and chairs. I imagined them covered in cushions and blankets, although now they are enjoyed only by cats and pigeons. We also checked out the women’s garden where men were forbidden. There were living quarters for the wives and concubines of the King and his children. Some women spent their whole lives confined to the garden. If a man was caught entering the garden the penalty was death. Just like at the current palace, there was a procreation room where women would meet with the King when he desired. It was obvious that the garden had been beautiful, but it was a poignant reminder of a woman’s place in India over the centuries, no matter how gilded the cage.
Next we headed to the Jala burial ground. Hindus believe in cremation, so the burial ground consisted of tall monuments to the dead. Dr. Greaves pointed out how people put gold leaf on the monuments when they come to pay their respects. He also pointed out the tall skinny monuments with an arm raised over some Hindi writing. They were everywhere. Those, he told me, are the moments to the wives who committed Sati, the ancient practice where a wife throws herself on her husband’s funeral pyre. The Jalas outlawed the practice a long time ago, but the raised arms were everywhere. Some were a part of their husband’s monument. Some were on the side of it as if added as an afterthought. Some wives even had their own monuments, and some men had more than one Sati monument, meaning more than one wife that had committed Sati.
The sun was setting so we snapped a few more photos before piling back into the van. For dinner we headed to our yoga teacher’s house where we helped his family make Puri (a fried flat bread) and then sat on the floor of the kitchen as is customary while eating dinner. We arrived back at the palace late and exhausted. We hung out with Jayshree and Ila for a little girl time and then it fell asleep immediately despite the loud music and drumming nearby.