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As promised, I have stories with which to regale you. I’m writing from a sugar-induced stupor, polishing off the box of sweets I received from an all-too generous wife of the Director of the Great Himalayan National Park (GHNP). You see, Diwali is the celebration of lights but it might as well be the celebration of all things sweet.
Sweet Stop One: We began the Diwali Bonanza Friday afternoon, stopping at my friend’s aunt’s home where the uncle shared his philosophy on the Father and love and logos and love and the Son and Father are one and love. By the way, he’s Hindu.
Sweet Stop Two: My friend, his wife, his son, his brother, his sister-in-law, his nephew, and I descended on the home of the Director of the GHNP. Apparently the Director and his wife do not practice any religion and do not celebrate Diwali. I think the wife grimaced at the thought of providing sweets, juice, and chai to the entire lot but she dutifully set about her service and was a gracious hostess.
Sweet Stop Three: I stayed in the car while we stopped at my friend’s uncle-in-law’s place and avoided a certain sugar overdose.

Intermission: Puja: I followed the goddess Lakshmi’s painted footprints up the stairs to the patriarch’s bedroom and watched the family offer rupees, sweets, rice, and devotion before a neon Shiva, requesting Lakshmi’s financial provision. We went from room to room, placing candles to guide Lakshmi to the home.

Sweet Stop Four: We waddled down the road to the grand patriarch’s home, a 92 year young man that lights up every time we meet. I also met a holy man that walked across a mountain range to be in Kullu for Diwali.
Sweet Stop Five: After a terrific show of firepower in which the pyro in me made its Indian debut, we had dinner and a final dose of the sweetest white, round balls you can imagine. And I ask myself how I could possibly be eating more sweets as I type!

There are a few other tales left to tell. Panki and I were taking a motorcycle ride high above the Beas River and passed a sadhu (holy man). Panki told me that the man has held his hand clenched in a fist above his head for years so that his fingers have atrophied and his long nails curl.
On our way to meet the former Director of the GHNP, Ankit and I came across a traditional wedding celebration. While the women surrounded the bride, the men of the village, in traditional dress, danced circles around a band playing long horns and drums that resounded across the mountainous terrain.
I figured the day after Diwali, a Saturday, would be a good time to return home, avoiding the crowds traveling home on Sunday. Apparently someone leaked my good idea to the masses. I had to take three buses to get home and ended up standing for 3 hours of the 7 hour journey due to lack of seats. Every the optimist, I was glad to at least be on a bus with a tall ceiling so I had enough headroom.I returned home to find a large, boldly colored banner over the end of my street, marking a marriage celebration. The tell-tale tent was being erected outside the house as I passed by. If you haven’t guessed it, this is the marriage season in India. I counted no fewer than 5 weddings on my daily jaunt. A loud band, food, and gaiety marked the day of the marriage down the street. The following day, as I was preparing to leave for the local University, I heard wailing. As I turned onto my road, the sobs became louder. Then I realized my un-auspicious timing – the bride was in the car, preparing to leave her family forever. She would no longer be part of their family and now was forever joined to her husband’s family. All the attendees gathered around the car, blocking the entire road. The family crowded into the car to bade final farewells and comfort the distraught bride. I am told this wailing is expected, dare I say required, to express how much the bride will miss her family. Regardless, in its final moments it resembled a funeral more than a wedding (in my oh-so humble opinion). What fun stories to re-tell!


Mo said...

I love remembering these celebrations. My first Diwali was during my transition from Nepal to India. We crossed after sunset and the Nepali immigration was closed. Luckily I was residing on a border town so we snuck in and came back the next day to take care of the passport paperwork - a little crazy. Do you enjoy the milk sweets? I had some that were more desirable than others, but yikes, they are SWEET! Loved the pictures.

Anonymous said...

Dude - your hair is sweet in that pic. You rock Sar!

And - oh - do I remember the sweets!!!