Today was Baisakhi, the New Year by the Hindu and Sikh calender. It is sort of the Nepali New Year, but the celebrations aren’t too big. Apparently most of the New Year festivities have been moved to Desai and Dewali, because the hot, muggy weather around this time was getting too many people sick (myself included), and more people are likely to be working the fields as the monsoon approaches. Still, there was a nice big community feast at the shiny, white Shiva Mandir. My friend Anand, one of the other reporters, invited me to come by. His family was apparently in charge of cooking the 300 kg of vegetables required for the occasion.
I arrive by taxi and meet Anand. I take off my shoes and socks, and a Sikh man takes them and gives me a number, 137, on a small cardboard square. Anand explains that doing things for others today is a way to purify your past year’s sins. I also get a baller orange head covering. Apparently you aren’t allowed in the prayer room with shoes or uncovered hair. Plus it is hygienic with all the cooking being done.
The food was good, and free! I had a handful of sweet, buttery prassad dough in the prayer room, and then sat down in the main courtyard for my meal of rice, daal, roti (or some roti variant…they were calling it something else), mixed cooked vegetables, mixed pickle (love that stuff; wonderfully sour), kheer (a sweet rice pudding), water and a banana. Various people were coming around to refill our plates with any of these items, should we desire. I’m much slower at eating this stuff, so I was one of the last to finish that round, awkwardly sitting in the middle of the courtyard. But it was delicious.
The only downside of the occasion was getting my shoes back. Indians, as I’ve already discussed, don’t queue up, so getting to the shoe window was a pushing and sometimes painful press of bodies that took way too long. Seriously, Indians, everything will go smoother and everyone will be more comfortable if you just *wait in line.*
Anyways, here are some pictures. Anand has shots of me eating amongst the crowd with my bandana, but I didn’t manage to catch him later to get the pictures. Tomorrow, I hope!