Delhi, Diwali, & Day of Birth

Posted on October 30, 2011


Oct. 24 – I am quite nervous entering Delhi. In fact, I have been nervous for several days, recalling the chaos of Mumbai back in 2008 when i last visited India. On that first trip, I had the security of a host Rotarian family and fellow Rotaractors to drive, bargain, and direct me from rickshaw to train to restaurant and home. This time it’s just ME…Well, now that i’ve made it just fine over the past 6 days, I can easily exhale and find time to write.

While feeling a bit apprehensive of staying in a major city while a New Year is celebrated, I reluctantly decided to stay in Delhi for Diwali (for me it felt like our 4th of July, Christmas, AND New Year’s wrapped into one!) I am so glad i stayed. Diwali is a family-oriented holiday and i could not have been with a more warm, fun-loving family. It began with an intimate Puja at my couchsurfing hosts’ home. We lit candles, sang songs, and gave thanks and offerings (food and money for it is an auspicious time to give for future abundance.) We later hopped from one family members’ house to another, enjoying good company, drinks, food, and more ceremonies. Of course, everywhere you looked there were bright bursts of light jumping and falling to and from the sky (starting the night before and carrying non-stop through the following night.) OH, and i almost forgot about my one day Indian make-over! All it took was one stop at FabIndia and i was all set with 2 outfits, head to toe. I managed to do this in 1 hour, actually. Had my host (male) not been waiting for me, I am positive I would have spent at least 3 hours in that 3-story shop…

After the days of celebration, I visit a few landmarks with my host. By far my favorite stop was Humayun’s Tomb. The entire property is full of precise linear geometry, joining 4 outer structures by narrow water channels with Humayun’s Tomb (w/ Persian-influenced architecture) at the center. And equally beautiful are the garden grounds, a wonderful green accent to the red sandstone pathways… Like the Botanical Gardens in Singapore, I could spend all day here… But the show must go on and by nightfall we are headed to what seemed like thee busiest mausoleum (Nizamuddin Dargah) in Delhi for some live Sufi singing and prayer. It was INTENSE, to say the least. As much as i wanted to snap photos, my eyes ears mind and self could not stop for an instant to do so. I did actually catch a few, but nowhere near the amount of visuals my mind was processing. The rush for the temple, buying of offerings (mainly flowers), taking off and checking shoes, sweeping of floors, begging children, lines for food, car drivers’ insane idea to drive through it all, motorbikes, and herds of people made it impossible to take your eyes off of your next step and of course the leader of the group (which always seemed to stay ahead 5 to 10 ft- not because he was fast, but because 5-10 indians would sardine-pack their way in between.) it was utter chaos. i felt like a sheep, but at least i was deciding my direction… Until, we entered the mosque property. That was a whole other experience of women not allowed here or there, you can’t sit here, don’t stand there, a sudden formation of men lined up for prayer, men trying to give offerings, lined up body to body creating a wall preventing you to move anywhere. It was this single hour that was more hysterical than any experience of India i had yet. But all worth it for the live Sufi music. Again, i wanted to capture and record, but i dare not cheat myself of full attention to this moment. All senses were in the present.

And the next day was my birthday. I tried to just invite my hosts out to dinner- my treat, but the mother gave an i’m tired kind of look and said “maybe.” To which i replied, “Well, we must. It’s my birthday and more importantly, I will be leaving soon and i’d love to take you guys out.” Well, it turns out we are all pooped from the day. I spent most of it waiting to buy train tickets to my next destination (Rishikesh.) And when i get home we agree to eat dinner at home… To my surprise, they buy me a cake and a few gifts. Too sweet of them!

Posted in: India