We have just worked intensely hard for the cultural and religious events in Rait. These events were Mithuna Sankranti and the Mela. The former describes the entrance of the sun starting the third solar month in the Hindu calendar. This is considered to be a highly auspicious time in which women take part so that they can find a good husband. So what did the Rait Centre team do to take part? We made a gargantuous amount of Halwa (a sweet dish made of Semolina, raisins, ghee and of course oil). We served the Halwa on plates made from leaves. We focused on celebrating the Goddess – more in particular Bhumi Devi (a Hindu Goddess representing mother Earth) and had various pictures of her printed along with some of her inimitable traits. We also focused on Laxmi, Saraswati, Tara and Parvati. We had a quiz for the community members to attempt, if they answered the questions correctly, they would receive the amazing Halwa. The main aim was to get the children involved, so we could celebrate with them and link the traits of the Goddesses to the environment. As soon as the school finished for the day we went and got the children to come to the Restore to take part in the games we had set up for them. We had a funfair type of game where the kids had to throw a ring around a packet of cookies or a bottle of soda, if they were successful then they got the prize! Nonetheless, the kids were incredibly excited about the Halwa and the games and a lot of them seemed to be interested in Bhumi Devi in relation to the environment.
|Stand during the event|
|Interested school students|
A few days later we had the Mela event. The event is historically important to the state of Kangra. The story goes like something like this.... the king of Kangra and the King of Chamba had a battle in Nerti (Nerti is a town that is only 2-3KM away from Rait). One king was beheaded and had blood on his hands, he fell to the ground and his hands landed on a rock that is now part of a temple. All of Kangra state takes part in this Mela and celebrates it in their own unique style. We set up a stall in the central area of Rait. We made chocolate Ladoo’s (a delicious recipe of almonds, dates and coconut...THANKS GAJNER!!!!)... over a 100 of these bad boys. They were popular. Very popular. It was like Shakira in the form of food. Or Amitabh Bachan... whatever makes people crazy these days. Everyone loved them. The ladoo’s sold out in just three hours. For the rest of the day we served Nimbu Pani (water with lemon). Luckily it was a hot day, and the people found it to be a refreshing drink so they can continue their adventure in the colourful cacophony that was the Mela.
We stayed there until 7 PM. We handed out brouchers about the Mela, encouraging the story of the Mela. We had pictures printed of various community events all the previous and current interns were involved in. We also had items made from the women that were involved in the MicroFinance projects (hand-made stitched bags along with hand-sewn pine needle baskets and bracelets).
One man from the massive crowd of people had approached and asked “What’s this all about? Explain what you are doing.” I put on my ‘most positive ideal EduCARE intern’ hat and explained why we are participating and what was on offer on the table. I explained that the Restore items were made by the women in Rait to improve their economic development. He said it was a good initiative. I went back to my chair, he went back to his friend. They started talking and slowly approached the small table with the modest yet highly intricate and skilled items available on the table. His friend asked how much one of the pine needle baskets was and happily bought it. WE SOLD A RESTORE PRODUCT! This was a moment of celebration in itself and this boosted the morale of the team.
People came from everywhere to witness the hustle and bustle of the Mela. The small road (the only road) in Rait was swarmed by people of all ages, mothers with their mothers and children smiling enthusiastically at each stall and boys and girls having fun. Colours of electric orange radiating from the ultra sweet Jellebies, mountains of golden brown fried Pakoras with litres of bubbling oil, the aromas of the unhealthy and undeniably tasty food attracting people of all generations spellbinding them to their stalls lining up like ants to consume the food.
It was awesome to be part of this experience, to be on the other side of the table serving people experiencing how challenging it was to serve so many people. Despite the level of humidity, ear-piercing noises from the endless traffic and the mosquitos that were swarming around us we were more than capable of putting our best foot forward, promoting the organisation, our projects and ourselves. BRING ON THE NEXT MELA!
Jayan Amin - United Kingdom
SWASH project manager in Rait