A lovely Diwali with the Kumar Family
03.11.2010 - 09.11.2010 76 °F
We left Shimla and the hurried streets of Delhi for the very un-touristy capital of Harayana province: Faridabad. We were invited by an old college pal of mine, Manali, to stay with her family for the festival of Diwali. Manali, along with Salman Rushdie, Ms. O'Connell of 5th grade, and a three Indo-Pak friends from high school are the roots of my desire to visit the subcontinent. Indeed some of my most memorable college moments were spent sipping homemade masala chai in Manali's apartment musing about Texas & India, politics & art, or the usual day-to-day absurdity that litters college gossip.
Regrettably Manali was in London for graduate school at the time of our visit, however her presance was completely felt. Chai-spiced conversations bubbled to life under the warm hospitality of her parents. Suddenly, her nostalgia for antique clocks and fine Indian cuisine (and it was VERY fine) materialized in the chime at noon and her mother's homemade delicacies. Truly, we were really spoiled there. At no point in the trip had we had a homestay. And if ever there was a place to call home it in the comfy sheets and glorious laziness of our time at their luxurious home.
Somewhere between chapatis and dal, Mrs. Kumar explained the intricacies of Hindu religion and the meaning of the lights of Diwali. Mr. Kumar peppered in with saucy tales of India's business worls and the cultural flavor of Hindu village life. We shot of fireworks & witnessed the beautiful color and form of Hindu puja (worship). We bought new clothes (a Diwali tradition) and spent a glorious day in Delhi. But most of all we got to see the heartbeat of India from the vantage of an actual home instead of guesthouse or hotel.
Its true that India has millions of Gods - and likely ten million different lifestyles. We saw one family in the spectrum of this place but it colored our thoughts about the whole of the subcontinent. When we left their lovely villa we saw India (and Hinduism) in a new, more refined light. Diwali at the Kumars had colored many of the confusing scenes we were daily witnessing. India was given a freshing coat of meaning which we took with us as we headed off to Jaipur and Agra, Rajasthan and Goa... Our final legs of out long three month journey.