Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Views From Our Balcony

There's a lot of noise here in India. We sleep with the fan on high every night in a weak attempt to drown out the sound of the trucks honking their horns. (Seriously, ya'll will not truly understand how annoying the horns are until you're here, trying to sleep. They have creative horns, which are just crap!) But every now and then, a noise filters into our window and we feel compelled to run outside onto one of the balconies.

Yesterday, we were in our office, pretending that we were working on, um, work, when in reality we were checking to see if anyone had posted comments here on the blog. (Yes, people, that means you...let us know you're listening!) There was some yelling outside, and I looked out the window and saw that our neighbors had come out onto their balcony. I said, "Hey, they're outside." At this point, Brad whipped his head around the corner of the window, fast enough to get their attention. The mother turned to look at us, and by the time she and I made contact, Brad had already disappeared from the frame. I gave a meager smile and wave, while Brad descended into giggles. We laughed for a bit, and then realized that if the neighbors were interested, it was probably something cool.

We ran out onto the bedroom balcony (we get the best view from there) and saw a small crowd of men. Many of them had red cloth wrapped around their heads and they were dancing furiously in the street. There were two religious symbols: the first was housed in a decorated white miniature temple, and I unfortunately couldn't see it. The second was one of the Hindu gods*, on the back of a flatbed truck, surrounded by people.

A few interesting things. First, there weren't any women, which I found strange. Hinduism isn't segregationalist, at least not in terms of gender. ** Also, while some of the men danced with passion, almost to the point of crossing into being a whirling dervish, others were subdued. A few noticed Brad and I taking pictures. (You can see them seeing us in the images.)

We asked Shyla what the festival was for, and she said it was North Indian and therefore she didn't really know. But I have to say, they seem to like their festivals here! It's so great to see such vibrant celebrations happening in the streets. I hope I have the guts to participate some day.

*I want to be clear that the Hindu concept of God is complex. I know that some people may read this and think that Hindus, having many gods, are polytheist. Brad, I'm sure, will give a better lesson some day, but for now, let's just say that they have many names for the different aspects of God's personality.

**There are some schools of thought in Hinduism that promote casteism. Again, something Brad can talk more about. I must stress, however, that it is only some sects (denominations?) that discriminate based on caste.


Kathrin Biemann-Monfette said...

All this was happening from your balcony? I like the photos, more photos! It's funny when you said you were giggling after they saw you. I can imagine this. So were they doing this on the road outside, or just a dirt path? What is the ornate box like structure? Is that were they carry one of the Gods?

joshwall said...

Funny thing. I grew up with people dancing around things sitting on the back of pick-up trucks, as well. But the things were normally kegs of beer and the passionate dancing was ususally that drunken stumble...

Penelope said...

What fun! This may be a very dumb question, but does a local newspaper ever list the parades/festivals that will happen in town? Also, how long did it last? A few minutes? Hours?
P.s. I actually do check the blod everyday after checking my inbox...and if I am incubating something, I check it more often. In fact, I kindly request an updated photo of you and Brad to be posted and some pics of your apartment.

Brad said...

I have seen listings in the paper of some festivals, but I havn't really looked for it. I bet that somewhere in there there was some mention of what the festival was.

Most of the parades, like this one, are pretty impromptu. Actually, instead of "parade" it is called "darshana" which (loosely translated) means "seeing and being seen by God." The idea is that many people are too busy or simply can't go to the temple, so the devotees bring the temple to them.

This darshana was short - just a few minutes. Later that night, though, there was another one - maybe around 9:30pm.