Thursday, October 25, 2012

It's Festival Season Ya'll!

Yo! Nora! What's with the total desertion of the blog? Did you catch Denge Fever and your fingers fell off and you can't type anymore? Did you secretly return the United States and stop having hilariously traumatic experiences? Did Warner Brothers buy the rights to your blog and you're working on a movie script instead?

1. Who still says "yo?"

2. Though I have had quite a few terror inducing, franticWebMD search inspiring mosquito bites, and India continues to traumatize me on a daily basis, I do in fact still have my fingers, my sense of humor and my baseless dreams that this blog will be turned into a blockbuster staring Emma Stone.

The real reason I haven't written iiiiiissssss (drum roll please!).......

I'm lazy.

Here's what's been going on:

Festival season has begun in India and we've had the opportunity to take part in several Pujas (Hindu rituals) and attend traditional dance and music performances around the city.

Here are some photos snapped by the photographer I hired to be my husband:

Beautiful, fragrant flowers are used to decorate people, homes, cars and anything else decoratable during festivals. I asked my friends why, and they gave me the same non-answer they give me for everything, "it's auspicious".

During the festival honoring Ganesh, thousands and thousands of oil candles were lit downtown.  I was told by a nearby teenager that it's auspicious (of course) to light the candles because they "bring light to the world's darkness".

This lady cow doesn't actually have anything to do with the festivals, but was worth having a picture of for illustrative purposes. The woman sitting next to her was trying to sell vegetables, but she kept eating them! Because cows are (you guessed it) auspicious, she couldn't do anything but shake her head and hope Ms. Cow stopped.

Hundreds of dancers from all around Bangalore lined the streets. Each group had their own interpretation of the traditional choreography, but everyone danced together to the same music.

My dear friend Varsha is nearing the ninth month of her pregnancy, so I recently had the privilege of attending her Godhbharai, the Indian version of a baby shower. In Hindu tradition, much like in Judaism, you do not celebrate the baby prior to birth. So the event's purpose is to shower the mama-to-be with love and blessings.

All of the guests are women, though children are welcome as well. Mama-to-be Varsha had spent the afternoon sitting still so that the gorgeous henna design on her hands could dry in time for the event, and when we arrived she was dressed in a beautiful Sari with a wreath of flowers in her hair. Varsha sat on a special throne of sorts and married guests approached her to offer individual blessings, and present a gift. A coconut is traditional (Why? "It's auspicious". Right.) but sweets of any kind, clothing and jewelry are all common too.

Varsha's husband talked me through the ritual so that I could participate. I felt a little clumsy, but so honored.
Varsha manages a wonderful group of people in the same company I work for. A few of the women from her team prepared dances to perform at the celebration as a surprise.
These beautiful pictures were captured by my colleague Pamela, in the pink.
Varsha and Vivek have been wonderful friends and neighbors to us, and they're going to be exceptional parents. 

My favorite part of the event was when Varsha was asked to choose a cookie, several of which had been hidden inside a collection of embellished boxes. The cookie she ended up with would predict the gender of the baby. Varsha's cookie informed us she'll be having a boy (or a very sweet, very moist almond biscuit)!

Traditionally, not learning the gender of the baby via ultrasound is a practical superstition.  These days, in order to deter the practice of sex-selective abortion, it's also illegal. There are a series of customs in Indian culture that make having a daughter a very expensive reality, and for the many families in India for whom money is scarce, the birth of a daughter is a mixed bag.  Unfortunately, despite the law, these abortions, along with child abandonment, remain common practice in rural and poor communities.

Sometimes it's not just homesickness that makes me sad in India.

But sometimes because we're in India we get to be part of moments that are truly beautiful.

Recently we attended an art exhibit sponsored by Leonard Cheshire Disability, the non-profit organization with which Tal is currently working. Leonard Cheshire provides a variety of services to people with disabilities, with the goal of creating a society in which every person will  "have the freedom to live their lives they way they choose." All of the paintings in the exhibit were created by artists who are deaf. The works being exhibited specifically focused on each artist's interpretation of what it means to live without sound. The art was empowered and beautiful, and though the exhibit was themed, each piece told it's own story. And not one painting was sad.

We couldn't resist taking home one of the paintings.

Our attendance at this event landed us on the society page of the Bangalore Newspapers. Step aside Kim Kardashian there's a new socialite in town!

This weekend we had planned to go to Delhi/Agra to see the Taj Mahal, but the airline from which we'd purchased tickets picked this week to declare bankruptcy (why does everything bad have to happen to MEEEEEEE?)  Needless to say, our flights were canceled. I'll let you know when we get our refund. You let me know when pigs fly.

Check back next week to read about the adventure we're having instead: a 10 hour overnight bus ride for a 2 day get-away to the backwaters of Kerala.