I’ve just done some repair work. I bored my way into the Large Jet, through all those layers of insulation, to slap on a new category everywhere it was needed. These were significant holes to patch up, because I’ve realized recently that this category is shaping up to shape my entire experience of India. Holidays. Click to see them all.
Because – well, the holidays define what I can and can’t get done here. They deliver me a wriggling pile of excited children, or they whisk the little critters away, one by one but incredibly efficiently. They invariably enter with a burst of noise and color, teach me something unexpected, and leave a sugar buzz and a smile in their wake. I love a celebration and the surrounding rituals have always fascinated me, so I make sure to pay attention wherever I might be. In India, though, you’d have to bubble wrap and box yourself to miss the show.
I bring all this up because, in a move that would cause riots of jealousy among school-age students in the United States if only they knew, Indian students have another holiday this week. That’s right, a week after they went back to school from the Christmas/New Year holiday break.
People here don’t talk about “the holiday season” – they refer to a particular holiday season by name. This one is Sankranti or Pongal, the rare Hindu holiday that always falls on the same calendar date, the day when the sun moves back into the northern hemisphere, light and dark last the same amount of time, and the start of an auspicious period after a long inauspicious while (phew). The Mahabharata even marks it as the day when Bhishma, mortally wounded months before but granted the right to choose his moment of death (long story), chooses to die. From what I’ve gathered so far, it involves flying kites, drawing special muggulu, and several particular sweets. Because it’s Hindu, Sankranti is one of the whisking-away-children style holidays, so I’m not sure what to expect… we’ll see how it goes!