Friday, October 21, 2011

First Delhi Temples with Family - Underground

My first outing with my host family to visit a local temple was surprising.  The temple had both an underground pool and very  macabre statues/tributes to Indian mythology and Hindi religion ! 

Monumental Visit - Safdarjang's Tomb

In my first 4 weeks in New Delhi, I was a bit home bound because all students were in exams.  Its been a relief to get out on weekends and  able to visit some cultural sites.   New Delhi's history and cultural importance is evident in the palaces and tombs scattered throughout the city.  Below is one Safdarjang's Tomb built in 1754 for a governor of the province.  It is a tomb of a tomb because the monument's sandstone materials  were recycled from a much older local  tomb.   Fellow AFS students and I walked through the grounds which feel like a mini- Taj Mahal.  

The Month of October in India=FESTIVALS GALORE - Dandiya Raas

 I 've come to realize that living in a host family is superficially all nicieties while  underneath stress and life "for real"  can be repressed.   I didn't see this in Chennai where I was an only-child in a home with 50 something parents who were more conservative, strict....everything was monotone, or as an & white.   My family here with parents, grandparent, siblings is more similar to what I am used to in the USA...traditional but hectic/busy.    Drama of life related to parental disagreement with each other or my siblings is likely to occur.  I had a taste of a dispute  this week which scared me.  I wasn't prepared to see emotion & rage overheat / bubble up.  By talking through in my family and with AFS counselors, we move on .      I stop and think ...perhaps the noisy celebrations of the festivals contribute to the stress, just like in the USA around holiday season,  right ?       So onto the next festival we enjoyed: 

Dandiya Raas
There are several forms of Raas, but "Dandiya Raas", performed during Navaratri in Gujarat is the most popular form. The Dandiya Raas dance originated as devotional Garba dances, which were performed in Goddess Durga’s honor. This dance form is actually the staging of a mock-fight between Goddess Durga and Mahishasura, the mighty demon-king. This dance is also nicknamed ‘The Sword Dance’. The sticks of the dance represent the sword of Goddess Durga.

The Month of October in India=FESTIVALS GALORE -Chaitra Navratri Kanjak Ashtami before more festivals.. its been a reminder week how intoxicating , but starkly different life can be in India.  I take a 25 minute rickshaw each morning to a school bus stop and then a 1 hour ride through traffic in a vehicle that can only be described as barely held together.   Same thing back.

 Today our bus broke down (again) and as I sat waiting in the heat,  guess I read  the peeling sticker on the seat back within context of all the festivals/crowds.    "  Check under seat for BOMB.  If BOMB found,  get a reward " .    I do look under the seat, but its out in the crowds that I don't think about it.   The markets, shopping and common areas in Delhi are targeted sites for the various India separatist/terrorist groups.  But here I am and fortunately there is a students home nearby where we can get a cold drink.    So Life goes on, I guess. 

                       Chaitra Navratri Kanjak Ashtami
Kanjak Ashtami puja is an important ritual during the Vasant Navratras. It falls on the eighth day – the Ashtami day – of the nine-day Navratri festival. Young girls (Kanjaks) are worshipped on this day in North India and are believed to have the Goddess Maa reside in them.
On the day of the Puja, my family invited young girls from the neighborhood and washed their feet and while chanting a prayer they tied red colored thread with jewels on their wrists. A tika ( like a bindi but a red mixture is used instead) was applied on every girl's forehead and then they worship them as Mother Goddess or Maa. All of the adults and family members then took a blessing from the children by touching their feet. After the ritual the children are given ‘prasad ' (food) , gifts and some money. Even though I am not a child I also got to participate as a "kanjak" and even though its a festival for girls... my little brother decided to be one too. :) It was pretty interesting and in a country where  women are often looked down on its nice to see a puja that celebrates the girls.    In Navratri, people walk for miles from their homes to the temple.  I'll post some pictures of this and the temple/streets. 

The Month of October in India=FESTIVALS GALORE - Durga Puja

Hi everyone! I'm sorry I havn't been able to post anything for a while with starting school here.  It is very busy also with the  huge amount of festivals and poojas/weddings that comes with the month of October here :).   I lost so many good pictures from  my Fuji camera as it is hard to focus.  Fortunately my family in US sent a replacement and now I am back taking better visual memories.   That.....and my little brother Pratyaksh is still potty training and one day "sprung a leak " on my Fuji,  so I couldn't use it as much.  ( Thanks for the new camera , Pratyaksh !!)  

I'll post these in sequence :

                                                                     Durga Puja

I will begin with the first festival I encountered here. It’s called Durga Puja. This puja is one of the most famous in the country and is especially celebrated in the Northern and Eastern states of India. The festival of Durga Puja is celebrated for ten days including the last day when the idol of the Goddess is immersed in a sacred body of water (ocean/rivers usually) The puja is also known as Navratra or Durgostab. The last six days are the days of actual celebrations with elaborate rituals and intricate ceremonies as well as social get togethers. The puja begins from the very first day when the ‘Kalash’ is installed in a home. The person who takes the charge of the Puja fasts for nine days (I tried the first two days, but I started to get sick from not eating correctly so I had to break my fast early :/ )  The intricate Puja ceremony begins from the day of Mahalaya when the Goddess is invoked. The real celebrations also begin from this day onwards. I found a little chart on the web which shows the days that actual celebrations are held for the Goddess Maa

Durga Puja Calendar 2011
The calendar or samay suchi for Durga Puja, along with the timings, is as follows:
1st October 2011 - Panchami
2nd October 2011 - Shashti
3rd October 2011 - Saptami
4th October 2011 - Ashtami
5th October 2011 - Navami
6th October 2011 - Vijaya Dashmi
On Durga Puja the President of our chapter in Dehli organized for all of us exchange students and we all went to her colony where there was a celebration being held for the puja inside of the colony. We all came dressed in traditional Indian wear and all of us girls wore sarees:) After making sure everyone had arrived we left Sudha's apartment and headed over to the Durga Puja tent where we watched the ceremonies held by the residents. One part of the festival was a dance where a person would dance with cups of hot burning coconut shavings in their hands. Sudha participated and she held four with two in one hand, one in another and one with her mouth! After watching the show and learning some history behind Navami and what that day represents, we went to get some food in the tents set up nearby that were full of all types of Indian cuisine. Living in a vegetarian family I couldn't help but have a few amazing chicken kabobs and a chicken roll. :) We spent the rest of the night hanging out in the food area and I met all of the other exchange students here in Dehli. It was a lot of fun and I had brought my whole family with and everyone (especially my counselor Anuj) was playing with my little brother Pratyeksh. I think the kid got about 7 or 8 ice-creams from everyone doting on him so much! Sadly the Americans couldn't make it, but later in the week I got to see them on another outing with everyone. I'll talk about that later in the post.


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Bad Camera ! - Lajpat Nagar

My first 2 weeks in New Delhi passed somewhat apartment bound. Exams are underway in the schools and I cannot start again until almost Sept 26th !!   

 Until my family was identified, the AFS hosting coordinator Rachna  and her family were kind to take me in.  I stayed from Sept 2nd in Vasant Kunj suburb west of  NewDelhi which was a small model colony with local market/shoppes, etc.   The area felt cosy and I became very accustomed to it quickly.

On Sept 12th I moved to my host family in  Lajpat Nagar area south and east of New Delhi. Lajpat Nagar is perhaps the most popular commercial location of South Delhi and known for Asia's biggest salwaar-kameez market and an area for  brides called Garam Gali.

With the festival break and following school exams, perhaps we'll have a chance to explore shoppes with clothing,  bangles, beaded decorative pieces and basic things.  The area is know for an  expansive range of food influences from all over Asia...... from delicious Tibetan Momos, Lebanese Shwawarma Rolls,  Chinese Garlic Prawns and then washed down with some fountain soft-drink or 'Banta', an Indian cold-drink made of fresh lime juice, rock salt, Limca and lots of ice.

So for now, pictures mostly of the area immediate to our apartment.  My camera is acting up and focuses at the wrong time, so I hope to figure it out.  Pictures take so long to upload when the internet modem service at times, I'll have to work on quality, not quantity.  I've visited the local Sikh temple, walked the area streets and parks, eaten street food (spicy corn is the food in the picture above), and helped with the family activities.   My mom is a great cook and is teaching me Indian recipes  where the staple is vegetarian. Recently she taught me how to make Laddhu which is a sweet comprised of powdered sugar, ghee and roasted chenna( garbanzo beans).  These are two photos of the Sikh Temple below.
Just a random pic of my little brother playing in the dirt at a construction site next door.

The Family

A local youth group meeting I attended with my sister to learn about Buddhism and its Theories

<----Making Laddhu
Hi everyone! This past week I have recieved my permanent host family. I have a very sweet mom and my dad can be a bit of a joker sometimes. My dad has a scientific/chemist supply business and my mom is a homemaker.  My 2 year old little brother Pratyksh is absolutely adorable. He immediately took to me and now follows me around :) My 15 year old sister Nitya is very nice and we share a bedroom together and already I feel as if she had been my sister all my life. We go out when we can and walk through the streets nearby talking and eating paani puris while she teaches me the ins and outs of Dehli. We have lots of plans to go out and tour Dehli after exams are finished on the 28th. I can't wait experience Dehli and I promise to post as many pictures as I can! For now here are a few shots of my home here in Lajpat Nagar.