India is a country filled with millions of people, and in each region there a different traditions, religions, and festival practices. One thing I’ve learned while being here is that people in India take their festivals seriously. Returning to Punjab after being in Dharamshala for our Quarterly Meeting, we arrived to find large festival preparations and people buzzing with excitement. Right now there is an ongoing 10 day festival happening called Dusserha. Toy stands, food vendors, and small children’s rides abounded within earshot of the community we visit every other day. All the excitement from this fair has tempted the children with its presence everyday, meaning that we couldn’t ignore it. The children in our community asked us repeatedly if we could take them on the Ferris Wheel nearby, and they were so persistent that it distracted them from our educational activities so much that we finally had to give in.
After about an hour of begging, the 7 of us foreigners came trailing into the fair with about 20 little boy and girls in tow ranging from 2 years old to 13. The excitement from the children was chaotic. For these children, this is the opportunity of year. Riding a Ferris Wheel is exciting, and scary, fast, and dangerous. They were terrified of the height and screams abounded as we all reached the curve at the top. Of course, this was a sight for the community. They aren’t used to seeing foreigners, and they definitely aren’t used to seeing them with a bunch of children that live in tents along the government’s trash dumping site. This was a big deal for us too, as we hardly ever leave the camp with the people who live there and receiving attention from the outside community felt a bit strange. But ultimately nothing could distract us from the shear joy and excitement on the faces of these children.
This was as much a treat for them as it was for us. They probably never have the chance to enjoy the fair even though it was only a few meters away, and we also would have never ventured over there otherwise. We all had an amazing time (despite the precarious condition of the Ferris Wheel), and it was a day I’ll never forget. This was not only a once in a year event, for most of us it was a once in a life time opportunity.