I’m back now, from a week of :
Category Archives: holidays
To celebrate Earth Day in Hyderabad this year, we had power cuts in the night and a sunny 41.5C (107F) in the day, and our solar cooker test run! We mixed up a big batch of dal to be hot like the sun, with orange carrots & pumpkin, yellow turmeric, and red lentils & chilis.
But, despite these universally positive signs for solar cooking, after an hour the split lentils still weren’t cooked through, and we had to pop them on the gas stove to feed ourselves properly. This is roughly the plan I followed : any suggestions about how we do it better next time?
the things you’ll learn about your own culture when you’re the only person around to explain it. Over the past week I’ve told the story of Passover again and again and again, scouring my memories of photocopied haggadahs for the reasons this night is different from all other nights. The traditions of Jewish practice are very mysterious, here and in the New Jersey of my childhood Passovers, but understanding the symbolism behind those traditions makes the celebration universally accessible.
The first time in my life I went to seek out a synagogue was during my visit to Kochi. Photography was not permitted inside.
The first time I properly made my own matzoh was a few days ago, since Manischewitz doesn’t have too much business exporting to India.
– for a really nice Seder with really special guests.
Hello. I’ve been snaking across India so fast that by the time I was hanging out the door of my train car, watching the desert pelt by, I felt simple and enormous relief – because the landscape was finally moving as fast as my experience and that synchronicity let me begin to think.
Then the train slowed to a stop and I sped back up. I’ve begun to feel the pinch of timerunningout and I think this minor marathon was partly inspired by that; I have less than two months left in Andhra Pradesh and here I am wanting to see all of India while I have a chance.
But India is big.
It all started when my parents dropped in. I took them straight to you-know-where for a visit and then we picked up and went to Kerala. Kerala is renowned as beautiful, as soothing & relaxing, as tropical & fragrant with spices, but unfortunately the hype mostly obscures the beauty and relaxation. And I don’t believe that they have 100% literacy.
Even so :
We sauntered our way into Jew Town in Kochi, to visit the synagogue built there in 1568, on just exactly the days that it’s closed to the public each week. We went to see, at least, on Saturday morning… and, being Jewish, were ushered right in to hear part of the services. It is beautiful inside with pinks and blues of glass chandeliers, hanging textiles, Chinese floor tiles, and a man chanting in the middle of it all.
And we went to Delhi. I don’t like Delhi particularly more than any other city I’ve visited, but I’ve found a few spots in Delhi where I could happily visit every day, forever.
Impulsively dropping by a concert at the Ravi Shankar Centre was beyond imagination and description, good. Holi was colorful beyond what I could photograph (since I didn’t want the interior of my camera to turn pink). There was the clash of Glaser-on-India, there was frustration, and there was food.
And then – they left. The assault of outside perspectives left me with as much to think about as I’m sure the assault of India left them. One week ago, they left me with this tiny sliver of twomonthsleft in India, and there I was wanting to see all of it. Give me a day or two to figure out what happened next.
Sorry about the delay. Problem was, the day of Sankranti dawned an unbroken grey and the sky looked like this :
until it got dark. I tried to take a picture to show you, but it turns out there’s a little spot somewhere in my camera lens and it didn’t quite convey the emptiness.
Today, though, we had this effect instead :
And we had plenty of other fun news, too, as trickles of children started winding back into Sphoorti from brief visits to their villages. First, though, let me brag just this once. I heard music last night. I heard it coming from Ustad Zakir Hussain’s tablas, with Sabir Khan on sarangi, with Niladri Kumar on sitar, with Taufiq Qureshi on a Western drumset and his cheeks, finally all with all. The most adorable grouping of magnificent musicians you could imagine. They played a fusion concert, but as far as I could tell the important fusion was between them more than between musical genres. This was music that begged for synesthesia; Zakir Hussain played hummingbirds and Sabir Khan played the exaggerated scurrying of tiny ants, and both percussionists demonstrated how the rhythms are birthed from the daily stories of society, although centuries old. They weren’t playing us beats – they were playing us the kind of small epics that you only mention to the friends you chat with every day, the scoldings and the traffic jams and that elephant.
Small, Indian epics.
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!
I am so glad it’s a new year. A New Year! And you can imagine how pleased I was to be awarded the job of decorating for the occasion at Sphoorti. Of course, I wouldn’t dream of taking on such a monumental task by myself…
By the way, no one else seems very excited that it’s a new decade, too, but I think it’s awesome.