Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Celebrate good times, CHALO!

I strategically planned my trip to coincide not only with peak wedding season, but with peak celebration season too. This post will try to cover all the celebrations that I hit up while I was in India.

So I arrived in Delhi will the full intent of taking a week to recuperate from jetlag, and I used up every second LOL

That second weekend I was in India was Diwali, the Indian festival of lights. Long story short, Diwali celebrates the Goddess Laxmi (one of my favs) who is the Goddess of wealth and light and all things awesome. So naturally, people light fireworks to celebrate Diwali.

My neighbors were awesome enough to take me in as a kind of host family, and they invited me to their family's Diwali celebrations. The best compliment I got was my host brother telling me, "You're so naturally comfortable here, it's almost weird." And I was like "Sitting with your family at couches eating a ton of delicious food, talking loudly and laughing harder with everyone reminds me exactly of holidays with my family."

So we get to the family house and it's not long before we start lighting off fireworks right at the street in front of the front door!

Here's all the different toys we had to play with.

 This one was my fav!
This guy is OWNING lighting that firework. They had these other ones that literally just made this huge BOOM noise, and that was all. I HATED those ones LOL

So after dinner we decide to take the party to the roof!

SO much fun! My host bros even tried to steady one rocket by putting it in a Pepsi bottle...it ended about as well as you would expect...the rocket shot off directly at one of them. Luckily no one was hurt so we could all laugh it off. It was pretty freaking hilarious.

Then I finally got the ovarian fortitude to light off one myself

Not just any little one either, that HUGE box of like 20 fireworks in one!

You can see the spark going off!

And me hauling ass!

Of course I didn't light it correctly and it didn't go off.

So one of my host brothers took care of it

And the results were glorious

This one I lit and it actually went off. It was so hilarious how everyone kept on urging me to light fireworks...Panjabs are just like Italians with how they push people to do things, so I felt right at home!

This was by far the BEST part of the night! We had a shit ton of explosives left over, and of course my host bros say "Why don't we just throw them all in a bucket and light them all the same time?" What was great was they're hauling ass away from the fire and calmly tell me "You're going to want to get in the shed and cover your ears". The explosion was EPIC!

We then went in and all watched "Boss" together...my first authentic Indian movie experience with an Indian family. I had fun cracking up with my host mom and telling everyone "You don't have to translate for me, they overact so much in these movies that I can totally follow what's happening".

Anyway, it was amazing to Party All Night with my Delhi host fam...and learn about this song from "Boss" from them :)

So the next big celebration was a total fluke on my part. I wanted to see the Golden Temple in Amritsar, and luckily for me, the 24 hour period I was able to go just happened to be the Sikh Guru's birthday!!! So it's like the most auspicious day for Sikhs, and I was in their holiest site for that day!

This is me at the rooftop of my hotel during my whirlwind tour of Amritsar, and subsequently the only time I got to see the sun reflect off the golden temple. It's a story for another blog, but I got to see the border ceremony at Atari (best name for a city EVER!).
 When I got back to my hotel I just spent the rest of the night walking around the Golden Temple complex.
I was also looking for the langar...the place where people have the communal meal, and the special halvah that my other Delhi host fam told me to get.
There were SOOOO many people there, I didn't dare get in line to go into the temple that night because I would have been waiting for hours. 

 Queen of selfies!

 This is were priests were chanting from the Sikhs' holy book.
And getting fanned off in the process.

 And of course, then the fireworks started!!! ALL around the complex! It was amazing to just sit and take all of that in.
Me and bro ended up having running jokes about how at any celebration in India, fireworks are basically required.

Have you ever seen the Golden Temple by the moonlight?

I found the langar and the halvah. It was funny because you sit down and these volunteers walk around with buckets of food and serve you. So when the one guy came with more roti (bread) I tried to get more and he refused to give it to me. I had no idea what I did wrong, and the guy next to me goes, "You need to ask nicely for it" meaning I had to cup my hands and bow for more food. I totally over acted this for the next guy that game, and now it's engrained in me, even with friends in the States I'll cup my hands to ask for more food or to receive something from them.

I woke up early the next morning to get in line to enter the Golden Temple. No pictures are allowed inside, suffice it to say it was worth the hour long wait that started at 5:45 am. The interior is AMAZINGLY intricate and GORGEOUS!

Major plus waking up that early, seeing the sun rise over the Golden Temple.

And so I bid adieu to the Golden Temple and sent the Guru all the best birthday wishes!
I just have to post my fav dance scene from the movie that introduced me to Amritsar...with the man dancing who is the reason I'm into Desis ;) I swear to God, I saw Naveen Andrews as the Sikh soldier in "The English Patient" and it was all over...then I saw him dance in this movie and I was even more twitterpated...then he WINKED at me when I saw him at Comic Con at the "Once Upon a Time in Wonderland" signing and I was down for the count. Oh, plus they sing about kites in the song, which ties in nicely to another celebration I talk about later in this post. Also, I was at one of the weddings and heard this song and the people at my table "You know the 'Bride and Prejudice' one is a cover right?"

 The next major celebration that happened was Christmas. I just so happened to be in Kerala during that time. Kerala is a state in south western India and has HANDS DOWN the BEST food in India. But that's a topic for another post.

This was the gorgeous view that I got to enjoy my Christmas Eve and Christmas from.
This was my view on my walk during Christmas eve back to my hotel in Trivandrum.
Just headed back to my hotel. And of course on Christmas Eve they lit off fireworks everywhere on the beach! LOL
On Christmas day itself my hotel told me to check out the boat races that are traditionally held on Christmas.

Just in case you weren't sure it was Christmas. Oh, and a little tid bit of info for you that I got from my Kolkata host dad: India has more Christians than Australia. So in case anyone was like "there's nothing to do in India for Christmas"...not true! Christmas is even a day off at most workplaces! Hear that US employers? I want to start getting Diwali, Durga Puja, Holi, and a myriad of other celebrations off work LOL

Yeah, this is were I stayed in Trivandrum...such a peaceful way to celebrate Christmas...as opposed to at my mom's place with 30 Italians eating to the point of pain and talking louder than most would think is humanly possible.

 Next celebration was of course New Year's. I was in Goa, with the full intent of partying my ass off the entire time I was there, because as anyone will tell you, Goa is THE place to be for New Year's. But, personal reflection and healing won out. I ended up spending the week at an Ayurvedic clinic at Baga beach (ironic because Kerala is actually where Ayurveda originated). But it was exactly what I needed, and I actually didn't touch a drop of alcohol the entire time I was there.

I actually have no pics from New Years Eve, I just sat on a rock wall next to the beach with a bunch of people and watched the fireworks happen and enjoyed that moment. It wasn't a year since my Dad had passed away, so I needed that time to reflect, remember, and repair. I was gorgeous seeing the whole coast line light up with fireworks at midnight, and such a special way for me to ring in 2014, a year that has brought so much change and growth for me.

This was the New Year's Day meal that welcomed me the next day (I had yoga at 6:00 am LOL). There is no other way I would have celebrated the New Year, because I came out of that entire week feeling like a new person.
Onto the next celebration, the kite festival in Ahmedabad!
They had a maze set up at their convention center highlighting places to visit in Gujrat

The kite festival is no joke

Like, SOOOO many kites, it was awesome.

A Taj Mahal kite? Awesome!

There were so many people flying kites in this open field, and they had like reps from TONS of different countries flying their kites.


I went out and bought some kites and string so I could partake. Luckily, these kids came up and taught me how to tie the string to the kite.

And some other awesome guys came up and taught me how to properly fly a kite, because I hadn't done it in years.

I started to get the hang of it though

Flying that kite like a boss...I think I might have even cut someone else's kite :) I know people were cutting my kites like no one's business LOL

I was in love with this string, but everyone told me it was shitty and would get cut way too easy...but look at the gorgeous colors!

And I REALLY wanted these Indian flag kites :)

So I got back to my hotel and asked the staff if they were flying kites, and they were like, "No". I then proceeded to climb onto the roof with staff members and enjoy the fun that is the Ahmedabad kite festival.

This guy is from Rajasthan and helped me get the kite going from the rooftop. I had tons of fun being the designated line feeder.

Seriously, I'm a five year old...but I challenge any of you NOT to get this excited when you're flying a kite on a rooftop.


Yeah, the staff was getting a kick out of me.

It was so much fun to just sit on the roof and see the sky filled with kites. I remember like a roof across from us were these guys that kept cutting our kites...and I'd always look back at them, shake my fist and yell "CURSES!!!" It was so much FUN!

Kite flying is serious business!

 The view of Ahmedabad from the hotel's roof

So I lucked out and got to celebrate two events in Ahmedabad. It was also the Prophet Muhammad's(PBUH) birthday! There was a HUGE parade!

Check out this vid, you can see the beginning of the parade and see the sky filled with kites :)
Check out the CAMELS!

This was my first Muslim celebration with a large Muslim crowd, and it was so fun for me to see such a huge Muslim community come together and celebrate so flamboyantly.

Like these guys coming in with flags on bikes...that's pretty sweet. 
So the BEST kite I saw was this MODI kite!!! He was the Chief Minister of Gujrat (the state where Ahmedabad is in) at the time, but everyone knew he was going to run for Prime Minister of India. I was begging everyone on my roof to cut and catch the Modi kite. The funny thing is, someone on our roof actually caught it, and I was pleading "Reel it in so I can get a pic with it!" but everyone was pretending not to understand me, and of course the kite got cut :(

Beautiful sunset from the rooftop.

Must get a picture with the camel!

All of those lights are lanterns that people sent up from their rooftops. And of course a couple fireworks were set off.

I got my pic with the camel!!!!

Setting off a lantern

Celebrating Muhammad's (PBUH) bday is NO JOKE!

Vid of the parade

There were so many different floats!
And of course, it's a celebration, so there HAS to be fireworks!

Got a vid to show you guys how close I was to watching the fireworks go off :)

Here's a vid of the different floats, and all of this happened literally right outside my hotel.

This float was really cool

Awesome window decorations at my hotel wishing everyone a happy kite day :)
And now the last celebration I was able to attend. It was actually an event scheduled so that I could attend it, and goes to show how amazing friends in Kolkata are. So, when I volunteered with United Way of Kolkata I became friends with the Program Executive and visited his village outside of Kolkata the first week I was there. He then said that there will be picnic put on for the elderly people and children of the village in January and invited me to go.  Despite the fact that the picnic could have been rescheduled to accommodate his commitments, he was able to keep it on a date so I could attend, and it was one of the reasons why I came back to Kolkata for a second visit during my tour of India.
So after a 45 minute local train ride to Barrackpore, I was met up by my friend's cousin who got me on a bus toward the village.

We got down and hopped on a cyclerickshaw toward the village, Telini Para. What a view heading in, right?

Of course I get there and the first thing his family gives me is mishti :)

Best way to say hi to everyone who I remembered from my last visit to the village was to give out the beginning snacks.

Dipankar (I call him Kenny cuz he works at KFC), who's my friend's cousin, with a bunch of the kids.

Three of my littlest best friends with one of the kites that I brought back for them from Ahmedabad (you can tell how long those kites survived LOL)

Of COURSE I got in on kite flying. I also got to play a pretty serious game of badminton too!

No joke, they cooked the food out in the field

Even more serious....the dancing!!
Like, it was amazing! I have actually never been to a club in India. When all the expats and club goers scoff at me, I reply "Nah dude, the village picnic I went to was LEGIT enough for me!"

I got soooo excited when they put on Shakira

Me with my littlest bestest friends, who kept on dragging out to the field to dance even though I was exhausted.

Just thought this was a cool pic of people out in the field working

The kids picked these flowers for me, plus they loved the selfie screen on my camera.

The field me and the kids went for a walk around
The field where the picnic was held

Me with my friend's sister and her husband (the newly weds)

Now comes the fun part, the FOOD! Here's the guys coming around serving the rice.

Pakoda!!! (Battered and fried veggies)

Daal! (Lentil Soup)
Um? Some delicious Bengali food!!!

Because I'm a gigantic kid...they stuck me at the kids' table

Goddammit that food was SOOOO good. And what's sweet is everyone remembered that I'm vegetarian and made sure not to give me any of the maach (fish)

Dancing on full bellies!!!

Seriously, a BILLION times better than any club!
This chica played a helluva game of badminton!

Me and my friend's sister

We were all gearing up to go home.

Check out the guys in the back hauling off the speaker! That's right, they bring speakers out to the freakin field for the picnic!

And everything gets loaded onto a cart (check out in the back left of the pic)

Walking back to Telini Para

Even walking home the party doesn't end!! Truly: Ain't no party like a Telini Para party, cuz a Telini Para party don't stop!!!
Gratuitous pic of the train station for any of my Obama supporting friends who would potentially get a kick out of it.
So that's it for the celebrations blog. So many different parties, ceremonies, and celebrations that I was fortunate enough to take part in during that trip to India. Here's to many more good times to be had!