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Celebrate good times

The holiday season officially kicked off this weekend. The Muslims are celebrating Eid, the Hindus are beginning the Ganesh festival, the Christians start up the Mount Mary cathedral Bandra Fair tomorrow, and the Jews mark Rosh Hashanah. The crescent moon is eagerly sighted from the rooftops, plaster elephant gods are paraded through the streets, firecrackers echo between the buildings, and shofar horns are blown beneath the Gateway of India. All in all, a loud, crazy, riotous season has begun, and we’ll all be lucky to have a good night’s sleep any time in the next two weeks.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eid_ul-Fitr

Ganesh finally gets online

GaneshIt has been a while, but I finally have finished up all 4 Ganesh immersion pages. There is some good stuff here, lots of which didn’t make it into the Facebook spread, so check out the better-late-than-never edition of this holiday.

And yes, I am away this week with Alea on our Week Without Walls trip, but though the wonder of the Internets I could schedule this in advance! How technological are we these days!

The family and the elephant god

Ganesh and FamilyAs the Ganesh festival gets ready for its final evenings, I decided enough was enough. We’d been here three years, yet had not taken a family picture with Mumbai’s favorite Hindu god. After dinner, we went down to our local temple and – with the help of our famous neighbor – got our photo taken with one of the soon-to-be-immersed statues.

If you missed the album on Facebook, you can see it here: a couple of days’ worth of festival shots. I’m still debating whether to make an actual webpage out of them, so these will have to do for now…

Ganesh street parade

Since this is the time of year when the drums, firecrackers, pyrotechnics, and music all combine to give us a sleep-depriving evening cacophony, it is only fair to acknowledge that the visual feast rivals that of the aural treat.

For many of the 11 days between last Wednesday and next Sunday, worshippers of the Hindu god Ganesh march behind brightly lit and colorfully festooned idols, taking them to the seashore to immerse the statue and bid farewell to him after his yearly visit.

Our house, while not in any way on a main throroughfare for these trips – especially since we are far from downtown (where the really crazy action is) – does get a fair amout of noise from these processions during the course of the holiday. A small side street apparently acts as a shortcut of sorts, and the Ganesh devotees make their way through the very narrow walls at a snail’s pace.

The other evening, after an extended round of fireworks went off (just as we were putting the kids to bed, of course), I decided to grab the camera and head down. When I got to the street, the place was crazy crowded, with the masses swaying back and forth and chanting. I ran into one of my fellow Kiara residents there, and we were soon tapped on the shoulder by another couple who had come out.

The worshippers were very tolerant of us running around taking pictures (as many of them were also), but at the same time they had a very specific purpose for being out that evening and were not going to be distracted from it. We observed and followed the procession for several blocks, and then let it head off down the road, eventually to reach the beach.

More pictures and descriptions of all this activity are on our webpage. It also links over to other pages showing some of the street decorations as well as the Ganesh activities and rituals (including the immersion). Enjoy!

Ganesh is back in town

Ganesh idol around the corner from our home  

The idols are all over Mumbai again, as Lord Ganesha makes his yearly visit to homes everywhere. Our school librarian put together a great little summary of the Ganesh story and the symbolism of the holiday. It is the most popular holiday around town, so it is handy to know what all the excitement is about.

Our corner of the city is no different. Just outside our house are strings of holiday lights hanging down over the street, and they lead up to the pandal that houses the neighborhood Ganesh. I went out for a walk last night just to see everything at night, and it was pretty spectacular. I have more pictures posted on the webpage with a little description of what was going on, so you can pop on over to see them.

I’m going to try to talk the family into taking a walk with me some evening – although now it is thundering and raining, so it might not be tonight!!

The holidays are here

This week marks the beginning of the big party season in Mumbai. Ramadan begins tomorrow, so all the Muslims are gearing up for a month of daytime fasting and nighttime feasting. There is a large Islamic enclave clustered around a huge mosque somewhat near our house (on our route to school), so it will be pleasant to see the green and white flags festooning all the buildings in that quarter.

The really big draw, however, is the upcoming celebration of the Hindu god Ganesh. The Ganesha Chaturthi is one of Mumbai’s biggest holidays. He is considered in some ways the patron saint of the city, and many people and neighborhoods go out of their way to celebrate him. In a nutshell, he is invited into devotees’ houses to bestow blessings for a set period of time, and then – just as any honored guest eventually leaves – he is ushered out with great fanfare (carrying all the worshippers’ worries and cares) and immersed in water. As the idols were originally made of easily-distintegrateable mud, the entire process also echoed the birth-rebirth cycle.

A large elephant getting ready to greet the god Ganesh

A large elephant getting ready to greet the god Ganesh

This is easily the most colorfully fantastic of the holidays,as each neighborhood tries to outdo the other in the sheer size and spectacle of their pandal, or temporary temple, and idol that is prayed to, sung at, and eventually set out into the water. I’m sure that Mumbai’s proximity to the sea has a great deal to do with the popularity of the event here, and the city’s reputation for ‘living large’ is certainly well earned at this time. Going downtown just this past week, we caught a glimpse of some ginormous elephants guarding the doors of an elaborate shrine.

We had the chance last year to attend a family celebration last year, and are looking forward to seeing the city all swaddled in lights and elephants again!

(ps: the pictures from our latest trip to FRRO – the first webpage addition of our seond year in India – are now posted!)

Indian Dance

We get these little tastes of Indian culture from time to time here at the school, and today was one of those special occasions. There has been talk of a ‘famous Indian dancer’ coming to perform at ASB – her name is Malavika Sarukkai and she is lauded as one of the best of the best classical Indian dancers. There was even a performance last night: Sunday evening is a really tough time to make anything happen with a family (even ignoring the hellacious traffic here), so we gave it a pass. Luckily enough, she was scheduled to come during the school day.

We had a special schedule all day long to accommodate her performance during the last hour of school. Now, anyone who knows anything about kids is probably thinking, “What the heck is that school thinking, screwing up the whole day’s schedule and putting the kids on edge so they can sit and watch a lady dance during the last hour of school? What a recipe for disaster!” I’ll have to admit, I was thinking much the same thing, especially given how squirrelly the kids were all day long. But boy, was I wrong.

Malavika DancingMalavika came out and introduced the performance by invoking a prayer to Ganesh (whose blessings are supposed to clear all obstacles out of your way for a successful undertaking). Then, instead of dancing, she actually led the kids through a rundown of the instruments that were playing, giving each musician a brief solo, and then showed some of the basics of the dance moves. When she finally got around to dancing, the kids were raptly watching to see the foot movements and hand motions that she had described.

After every few minutes, she’d take a breather (literally) and come back to the microphone to describe her art some more. To finish the performance, she asked the audience to suggest a line of poetry that she could interpret. The first thing that leapt to my mind concerned a man from Nantuckett, but I remained discreetly silent. The stanza that made it up to her was “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood and I took the one less traveled.” I mean, it was really darn close – I sure didn’t know that it was in a yellow wood (what kind of trees are yellow, anyways?).

She proceeded to dance her way down a road not taken, coming into contact with bees and rain and flowers and animals – signified by her hands. And the kids knew exactly what she meant! She showed them sights of her working in the garden, meeting a god – all your pretty typical afternoon goings on down the back roads of India. All in all, it was a spectacular performance and a super way to round out a crazy day.

Eid Mubarak

Eid celebrationWell the kids are in bed, but the fireworks are just starting to go off all over. It is Eid, the end of a month of fasting for Mulsims, and our neighbors downstairs are gearing up for a big party tonight. I wonder how that will compare with the Oktoberfest party we are planning for next Saturday? Many of the drivers at school are Muslim, and most have been fasting, so the afternoon rides home – when they’re feeling the effects of a full day with no food – have not been for the faint of heart!

It is pretty interesting to live in a place where all these different festivals coexist so well. The Ganesh season just wrapped up and there is another Hindu festival happening now too (with however many hundreds of god there are, it is no surprise that there always seems to be a party going on). And the Christians have… Halloween right around the corner!! (let’s see how many hackles get raised with that comment!)

Elementary soccer teamHad the big elementary school soccer tournament today – last day of coaching for me (yay!). We went 2-0-1, but the team we tied won on goal differential. Oh well, it was a fun day in the sun. The tough part about it was that Breck wanted to be on the team, but there were only 12 allowed (and 63 went out). Kind of a rough deal to have to make cuts in grades 1 through 3.

Anyways, after swimming with the kids, we all spent a quiet afternoon getting ready for Monday. We will be going to an Eid celebration tomorrow too, so will be interested in seeing how that goes.

The saga begins…

So Uncle Rob wrote me a nasty email the other day saying “You ought to list everything that you show on the front of the webpage. What’s wrong bonehead, haven’t you ever heard of a blog?” Or words to that effect. So we’ll give it a try. No guarantees on how often it’ll be updated, but at least I’ll try to get links in to our most recent stuff and all.

I don’t understand it, though. I thought the cool thing about the web was that you could see things – you know, pictures, videos – cool stuff. Who wants to sit around and read a bunch of text? Well, apparently Uncle Rob does.

So what is the story so far? Our family, after living for four years in Belgrade, Serbia (actually, Dave lived there 4 years, while Susan and the kids went back to the states after 3, but that is a long enough story to preclude it’s being retold or explained here), moved to Bombay (Mumbai) India in the fall of 2007. The parents are both teachers – Susan is doing 1st grade this year, and Dave has middle school math and technology – who are riding the international circuit – and their two kids are in 3rd (Breck) and 5th (Alea) grade.

We’ve had a family webpage for 10 years (8 at the present domain name), with one of the more voluminous areas being the travel pictures we post. When we came to India, we started right up showing people what our life was like.

We’ve spent the first two months settling in, and I guess that is what got Dave’s brother Rob all bent out of shape. We’d posted a number of pages with the things that we’d seen, but apparently not well enough organized to keep him happy. Here then, in the order that we did them, are the pages that already appear on the India webpage. Sorry for the late start, but I’ll try to keep things more to your liking from now on. Satisfied now?

Our first pages were built on letters that we wrote to family and friends about out first impressions. Interestingly enough, we called them “First view of life in India” and “Second view of life in India.” I forgot to warn you about the strong literary streak running through my blood, didn’t I? Then the kids and I discovered a gecko on the roof, so we shared info about “Our first pet.” Guess I’ll have to put something up now about our second pet, seeings how we’ve got one now. But you’ll have to wait…

After we got settled in a bit we made a trip downtown shopping at Chor Bazaar (the reason I’m not writing too much about these is that I’m playing catch-up ball, and the info is already located on the pages themselves. We then took a weekend trip to Lonavala, which was where all this fussin hoopla started, because it was there that we visited the Karla caves – named after my sister (and after Susan’s too, but hers is with a C not a K).

We were here in time to see the Ganesh immersion festival, attend an arts and crafts fair, and hike around Matheran. There is a lot more scheduled to happen, including a trip to Goa at the beginning of November, so hopefully this will keep Uncle Rob satisfied.