August 15 is Indian Independence Day. We imagined that it would be like July 4th at home, but when we tried to find a big celebration to attend, we couldn’t find much. There were lots of events that day, but they were of the nature photography, cycling, kids athletic event, shopping deal sort. It seemed more like the kinds of things that we might do on President’s Day at home – less about the reason for the holiday and more about the day off. Given the conflicted feelings around the partition that occurred with independence, it makes some kind of sense. The only independence-focused event that we read about was the big event where Narendra Modi would speak and much of the article focused on the security measures being taken there.
We decided that this was the perfect day to rewatch Gandhi. Neither of us had seen it since it was originally in the theaters so it felt pretty fresh, and also pretty slow – interesting how movie styles change. We started it the night before, so just had half remaining to watch with our morning coffee. The movie did a great job of detailing the fight for Indian independence and explaining the hardening of the conflicts that tragically continue today. The New York Times had a fabulous article telling the stories of these persistent and deep conflicts.
By the time the movie was over, we could hear activity in the courtyard and headed out to see what was going on. We had read that there would be athletic competitions for children so we were prepared for that, but were
not prepared to see residents sitting in chairs while maids, gardeners, and guards were each called up and given a gift. We didn’t really understand what was happening, and it took us a little while to figure it out. We still don’t know what they received, but we hope it was really nice – they work so hard to keep our environment safe and beautiful here.
The kid’s competitions were adorable. We missed the earliest events with 2-4 year olds, 4-6 year olds, and 6-8 year olds competing, but we made it in time for 8-10 year olds. They lined up (with much coaching) for the very short bicycle race, foot race, or the triathlon that included a short run, bike ride, and a swim across the swimming pool.
They were all so proud and determined, but the event itself was really chaotic – it seemed like the organizers were making it up on the fly and had never before considered the details. It all contributed to the relaxed, community feeling. It was also the only event that reminded us of our own Fourth of July and the athletic events (this year organized Asa) at The Canal.
From there, we met our driver to go to Dastkar, a big all-India craft show with artisans from all over the country. It was at the Manpho Convention Center, which sounded to us like an indoor space, but turned out to be a large gated outdoor space. We walked past every booth a few times before settling on some acquisitions. Before considering furniture, we had to discuss the possibility of spending money to ship things home at the end of our time in India – it seems odd to think about that now, but the purchase was clearly the right thing to do. With that in mind, we bought a beautiful wooden end table with a carved brass top from the Rajasthan booth. We also got a bedspread and marble coasters from two different Uttar Pradesh booths, Tom got a shirt from Kerala, and Melissa got Rajasthani pants. We were delighted by all of our purchases.
On the way home, we passed a sort of parade/festival of some kind with everyone holding or wearing headdresses of marigolds. It came up so quickly, we couldn’t get very good pictures and we still don’t actually know what it was. Our driver tried valiantly to explain but between his limited english and our total lack of any other relevant language, we didn’t get further than the fact that it was a flower festival. Nothing about it online at all, but it seems many things go unremarked around here.
Back home, we settled into making Aloo Gobi for dinner (see Cooking Experiment: Aloo Gobi). It was decidedly mediocre, but we’re learning!