Welcome to my first attempt at a blog! I figured now is as good a time as any, having moved halfway around the world to Hubli. While I didn't know anyone on day one, I've since met many wonderful people, both those who have come from out of the country as I have as well as those who are native to India and have been teaching me a lot.

The plan is to update the blog somewhat regularly so that none of the posts get too lengthy (which is the case with the first several, as they were originally mass emails). We'll see how well I do at keeping up. Miss you guys!

Monday, March 16, 2009

in living color

Before coming to India, I’d learned a bit about two major Hindu holidays – Diwali and Holi, both of which, between the lights and the paints, sounded like pure chaotic bliss. The festivities did not disappoint.

Today we celebrated Holi. The story behind Holi seems slightly convoluted (not surprising given the number of gods total and the number involved in each festival story, the number of forms they each take and the number of possible stories behind each holiday). To make a long story short, this guy tried killing his son in multiple fashions, but because the son was a strict follower of Lord Vishnu, he was protected by the gods and made it through every trial. Finally, the dad decided to have his daughter wear a special fire-resistant shawl and carry the son into a fire. Bad news. Shawl was mysteriously lifted from
the girl’s shoulders – who was then burned to death in the fire – while the son survived. The girl’s name was Holika. Thus, the Holi festival. The night before Holi is celebrated with bonfires.

Don’t worry, good ol’ dad got his due – Vishnu came for him later.

Then there’s this whoooole color thing. Something about Krishna getting color painted on his face by his mom, and this happened during the Holi festival time. Something like that.

So around 9:00am this morning, the doorbell rings. I’d already been out running and had seen a few crowds of boys with colorful faces, so I knew the routine. But my landlord had said they weren’t playing Holi this because her son had exams the next day and they were locking the gate outside to avoid all craziness. Who could this be?

9:05am. I answer the door. It’s the housekeeper from upstairs. She’s probably in her early 20s, sweet girl, no English. She shows me one of her hands, full of yellow powder and beckons me outside. Svalpa, I tell her. Just a little.

9:07am. I change out of my tank and wash it vigorously, followed by a good face scrubbing. Fortunately, I’m not looking too jaundice. Back to the laptop.

9:15am. Text from Naveen: “You are invited to my home to play holi, feel free to bring friends.” Great! “Come anytime after 9:30,” he says. I’ll figure out what time everyone is heading over, probably around 10:30 or so, dressed in clothes I don’t mind destroying – I’d been warned.

9:18am. Doorbell rings. Geez! I don’t answer this time, I’ve already gotten my due and am planning to go out again. I hear a ruckus and some shouting. I wait a second and then feel guilty – better see what’s up and make sure nobody is in trouble. I scoot open the door and am met by three bright pink faces. What the heck?!!! Who let these crazies in my house?! I don’t KNOW this guy. While I’m screaming “beDa” (I don’t want any!), they’re forcing my door open – turns out it’s my landlord’s brother. I promise them I’ll be out in an hour, they shake o
n it and head out.

9:31am. Doorbell rings. Again? Really? Doorbell rings A LOT. Some pounding. This time Arati and Lesley start yelling that we’re being surrounded by a mob … which turns out to be my Fellows and Naveen (who was apparently unrecognizable). Guess they couldn’t wait for me to get to Naveen’s house. I come to the window – they really DO look like a mob and are difficult to identify with all the gunk they’ve got all over themselves. I put up a finger and tell them I’ll be out in a minute.

And so I go. And so I got it. Powder of all colors, smeared into paints, and buckets and bottles of water just to rub it in. I’ve got at least 20 pairs of hands rubbing the color into my face, ears and hair, and about 30 seconds into, I look like I’ve been hit by a rainbow typhoon.

We spent the next hour and a half trooping through Naveen’s neighborhood, throwing color on the unsuspecting (actually, I’m sure they knew what was coming – if I knew, they knew) passerby and applying new colors to each other with a vengeance, breaking only for holiday sweets and snacks. Somehow, it was endlessly entertaining. If my eyes hadn’t started to burn and I’d had a tissue to blow my nose (hey, what can I say? I’ve been sick.), I woulda stayed around for a bit longer, just to witness the scene.

As you’re reading this, I’m probably still tinged with a hue of peacock blue.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

ringing in the new one

I've decided that writing up blogs two-three months following the event is an incredibly poor idea. That said, I'm still doing it for my personal records, just so that I have some sort of account.

As a result of the Mumbai attacks, tragic and with continually frustrating ramifications, my New Year’s comrades and I canceled our plans for a big night out in Bombay, trading it for what we hoped would be a relaxed beach night in smaller Mangalore, off the coast of west Karnataka.

Our hotel, the Gateway (part of the Taj chain) turned out to be at least 30 minutes from the beach, but proved to be just the locale for the relaxation we desperately needed, which led to a vacation lived in the hotel itself. You could have barely dragged us by our hair from that place, we were so enamored.

Every morning we woke to a sumptuous buffet breakfast, had the small fitness facility to our selves, spent the day lounging by the beautiful pool and then wrapped up with a delicious dinner in the hotel’s restaurant.

Unsure of what to do for NYE, we elected to attend the party at our hotel (and heck, why not? We loved everything else about it!) The event was poolside and jazzed up by a pool fountain, flame throwers and a live band.

We were wined and dined by the hotel staff, and Kate and I narrowly missed winning the prize for Best Dressed Couple who won a free stay in a Taj (sigh) , earning instead a gift certificate to a clothing store, which we promptly lost. After most of the guests had returned to their rooms, the DJ entered the scene, pumping what I can only guess was the most current Indian pop, and we spent the rest of the evening dancing on the deck with the hotel staff who’d been so kind to us throughout the week.

Because of my incredible love for food (not like I have to tell any of you that), one of the girls joked that they should give me a tour of the kitchen. Conveniently, the evening before we left, they offered us a peek, so we all dawned hairnets and went inside to drool over the chocolate "molten lava" cake and apple pie. Who says India doesn't have edible sweets?! :)