Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Diwali in Delhi

We went to a Diwali party tonight that was set up for us by Beth’s contact in India, Sumitra. Sumitra runs Women on Wanderlust, a travel company specializing in women only tours around India and the world. Beth says a company like this couldn’t have existed in India ten years ago and it is proof of India’s progress. There is a rising middle class now in which wives and daughters have the money, leisure, and freedom to travel.

The Diwali party was held in the large front garden of an elegant white colonial building. There were clay oil lamps on the ground and white lights strung on every vertical surface. Large white pads – like California King sized futons – were on the ground to sit on once shoes were removed. Men in white kurtas carried silver trays with toothpicks and small bites of deliciously spiced chicken, fish, cheese, potatoes, broccoli and cauliflower. Undoubtedly the best hors d’oeuvres I’ve ever had. There was an open bar, so I decided to investigate Indian red wine. The other ladies liked it, but…happy grapes come from California.

A holy man performed a very long blessing ritual with incense, fire and marigold petals he threw in by the fistful. Then he tied red string around our wrists – the way this was explained to me is that the holy man blesses the string and the wearer makes a wish on it. Only when the wish comes true can the wearer remove the string. I could, however, be completely mistaken, so if there are any experts out there…I don’t want to hear it. I wished for good health for the trip, which failed utterly. That may have been due to user error.

On Diwali, gambling in honor of Lakshimi, the goddess of good fortune, ensures good luck and prosperity for the following year. Sumitra invited some teachers to help us learn an Indian card game called “Flash,” which is like poker with only 3 cards per hand. So there we were, a dozen women sitting on giant futons playing 3-card poker with highly entertained (and patient) teachers, using matchsticks for bets. I ran out of matchsticks embarrassingly fast. Give me Texas Hold’em any day. So there you have it – I went to India to drink and gamble.

Fireworks are a huge part of Diwali, and the young men at this party were quite literally having a blast. One would sink a firecracker into the lawn, run to get a lit match, run back to the firecracker, light the fuse and LEAP backwards to avoid getting hit by the explosion. Some of the guys handed out sparklers to the ladies. Others created a mine field of firecrackers at the gate to the yard and around the driveway, setting them off in such rapid succession that it sounded like machine gun fire. It doesn’t matter where in the world you are, boys will be fire hazards.

I sat down at a table on the lawn with Melany and the Australian woman and listened to their conversation on being happily single. The Australian woman, in her 60s and absolutely stunning with 9 grandchildren, has multiple boyfriends at any given time. She goes out to dances and political balls regularly and has to beat men off with a stick. “They all want to get married!” she complains. She never wants to be married again, loves her autonomy, and says “I’m the king!” Melany has a similar opinion: men are fun as long as you can send them back home when you’re sick of them. They both agree that they no longer have the patience to compromise or to be anything other than blunt. I can just picture these pitiful 60 year old men trailing after them like puppies, whining “but why wouldn’t you want to get married?” Because it’s too much damned work, and these gals have been there and done that. Melany and the Australian laughingly apologize for sharing this wisdom with an innocent 25 year old, but I explain that as a child of divorce, I can understand how a dog and a gardener can easily take the place of a husband. Even a dog is too much work for the Australian, she likes her freedom. But Melany agrees – she has a dog. I’m certainly getting different perspectives on dating on this trip. And none of it is very complimentary to men.

Don’t worry, I still like men. But then, I’m 25 and don’t know any better.

1 comment:

Pocketmouse said...

the cracker in the last picture is one of my favourites: FlowerPot! or as it was called in my city (in tamil): booshwonam!!!