Thursday, 20 November 2014

Autumn and Diwali in Punjab

Now that I have lived in India for over a year now, I am quickly learning to appreciate the autumn season.  The weather cooling down is a welcomed reprieve from the beating sun during May-August, and it’s much drier compared to monsoon season. I’m not one to usually enjoy the cold, but being able to wear a sweatshirt at night in Punjab is wonderful compared to enduring 45-degree temperature.  Lots of fruits and vegetables are in season and one of my favorite street foods, chilly potato, is on the market. 

In September I had the fortune of celebrating Dussera in the camps and in October I got to celebrate Diwali.  Diwali is known as the festival of lights and some people call it the Christmas of Hinduism.  This festival marks the coming home of Lord Ram after being in exile for a number of years and defeating an evil demon.  People celebrate this day by giving sweets to loved ones, decorating the home, lighting candles, and setting off fireworks. 

On the actual day of Diwali all the interns gathered and visited the camp.  We donned our Indian best and the camp loved how we looked!  They kept telling us we looked so beautiful and it really made me happy to gain their approval.  We took lots of pictures and everyone was loving the festive ambience.  We shared sweets and fireworks with the camp and they all seemed to appreciate it.  We offered them jalaabi, which are fried dough soaked in sugar, and delicious when eaten fresh and warm.  In the evening we enjoyed a nice celebration in the Dholbaha house.  Thomas and Manon set up a wonderful space for us on the roof to watch the fireworks, including a bonfire.  We decorated the area with candles and set off some fireworks of our own.  The most memorable was ‘the Bomb’ it started with an explosion of colors followed by the loudest blast that would scare even the deaf. 

Unexpectedly, while cooking our celebratory dinner, our gas ran out!  Fortunately, we had the fire going and were able to finish the dinner by campfire.  I’ve never tried pressure-cooking beans over a fire before, but I can now attest that it is possible.  Although it wasn’t planned, at the end we ate Bengan Bharta, Chana Masala, and salad all made from the fire and ate on the rooftop under the stars and fireworks.  Living in Punjab teaches us to live naturally, and that night was a testament to what we’ve learned.  The celebration was a lot quieter compared to my Delhi experience but I loved every moment.  For most of us, Diwali is not a customary holiday that we practice, but this year we got to partake in the celebration and soak in the excitement that is Diwali.  I’m so happy that this year I got to spend it with the camp members and fellow interns, it was a day I’ll never forget!

By: Margaret Arzon