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roaming the world and enjoying the scenery...

Dahi Handi

Celebrating the zany youthhood of Krishna, teams travel the city today looking to make human pyramids and reach the ‘pot of curd’ hanging over major intersections. I caught a glimpse of some of the teams on the way home from volleyball practice – and got caught up in the traffic. I have become very zen-like in my acceptance of the road congestion. I just sigh (and smile if I have my camera:)).

When I got to the house, I got a call from Susan (who was at book club) telling me that a friend of ours wanted to take a look around but was not entirely comfortable going out alone. So with the spousal permission all taken care of, out I went and actually got to see a teal complete the human pyramid task.

Basically, groups of youths roam the city looking for these pots of smelly curds (usually dyed with food coloring) and try to stack each other up high enough to reach them. Every year there are plenty of accidents, as the pyramids tumble down, but every year the prizes (and the number of groups) increase. Take a look through the pictures and get a glimpse of yet another side of life in India…

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!

Love is a battlefield

Pink Chaddi PosterAt least it is in India. Valentine’s day has become a major cultural flashpoint here, as modern holidays clash with ancient traditions. Decrying the Western notions of amorous love and displays of affection, Hindu nationalist groups have threatened to raze shops that sell Valentine’s day gifts and beat up couples holding hands today.

While it may seem like a pretty innocuous holiday about which to raise a fuss, tensions in the major cities have been running a bit higher than normal lately due to a recent event in southern India. A group of men beat up women who were in a pub, calling them un-Indian for engaging in behavior that was as deviant as having a drink in public and dancing with men.

As an example of some of the thought processes at play, here is part of an actual comment about a Valentine’s Day news piece (from the article linked below):

There is conspiracy plotted by jehadis and christian church and have openly asked men to lure hindu girls whenever they can and after marriage convert them to their religion and have as many children as possible to increase the head count. Valentine Day is just another invention by christian church agents to lure and trap hindu girls.

Tempers have flared on all sides, and V-Day (as it is referred to here) has become a central theme. Some groups want to ban it as an indicator of a moral slide brought on by the abandonment of traditional values, while others want to elevate it as an indicator of India’s emerging acceptance of and presence on the world stage. Because of all this, we awoke to a news paper declaring that all police vacations had been canceled and the city would be on high alert all weekend.

Of course, an event like this takes on a life of its own, and a self proclaimed “Consortium of Pubgoing, Loose and Forward Women” has declared war on groups that attack women. They have started a campaign to send pink panties to the headquarters of the Sri Ram Sene, the organization behind the pub violence. There has been enough success thus far to earn the attention of local papers (check out the comment wars on this one) as well as the New York Times, so it will be interesting to see if this manages to get the Hindu groups’ “panties in a bundle.”

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!)

Aurangabad, Ellora, and Ajanta

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The pictures and travelogue from our most recent weekend trip are now posted. Visit the city of Aurangabad, climb to the top of the Daulatabad Fort, marvel at the mini Taj Mahal at the Bibi ka Maqbara, hike the Buddhist, Hindu, and Jain caves at Ellora (and scramble around gigantic elephant statues at the Kailasa temple there), and circle through the painted Buddhist caves at Ajanta. Great stuff…

Tie a yellow (or red, or white, or green) ribbon

Tree RibbonsDriving home from school, we noticed that there were a bunch of trees along the way with string tied around them, and asked our driver what that was all about.

Iqbal is a Muslim, but gives us insights into Indian traditions of all different religious backgrounds. He replied, “Hindu women believe that they are reincarnated 7 times, and so they tie that around trees to be with the same husband every time. It shows how much they love the husband and are glad to be with him in this life, and they pray to enjoy all of their lives with him.”

Susan asked, “What if he is a jerk and they don’t really want to spend another life with him?”

Iqbal glanced back and said, with a gleam in his eye and a smile on his lips, “Then they find a really small tree, ma’am.”

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.