Saturday, November 24, 2012

Jalgaon: A Warm Diwali Welcome

Although it's a challenge to update our blog as much as we like, we do not wish to detract from any part of our amazing Indian experience.  The schedule has been busy and rich with culture, vocation, and friendship.  Here is a short update of my Diwali (Deepivali) experience in Jalgaon on November 13.  
Our team gathered together in Akola for goodbyes and a happy journey as Jigesh loaded our bags on the roof rack of the taxi SUV.  We heard "chello" and knew it was time to move on to our next destination, the city of Jalgaon.  Jalgaon is a city of 460,468 (according to the 2011 census), which is a small city by India's standards.  The drive was a little hectic, to say the least.   We had little room to move and were more than happy to get out and stretch our legs after an hour of driving.  The road conditions caused a bit of stress, we were worried about our luggage by the sounds coming from the roof as we navigated pot holes and triple speed barriers.  A thud came from the windsheild and we exchanged nervous glances.  Low and behold, an innocent little bird flew right into the vehicle.  Becky, our bird expert, appeared to be sleeping in the front seat.  All we could do was hope that she didn't see what we had just witnessed!  We carried on down the highway, each hoping to catch a little rest, but not really comfortable enough to find proper rest!  Before we knew it, we heard a bounce, bounce, and immediately turned to check out the back window... no time to share our worried looks!!  Alain caught a peek at our little bird, apparently released from the luggage and taking a hard fall.  I must admit, we were sorry for the little bird, but did feel relief that we hadn't just lost our luggage from the roof.  Before we knew it, we had arrived at our destination in Jalgaon, to yet another hearty welcome from local Rotarians and host families. 

I knew right away that I was in good hands when my host, Rajesh and his mom introduced themselves to me with a warm handshake and hug (you shoujld know that greetings are usually quite formal in India, with hands together and "Namascar" being a typical "hello").  Rajesh drove us up the street to his nearby home and the family had big smiles to share and I met them in the courtyard, each carefully preparing the rangolis for today's Diwali celebration. 
Combined efforts to create the colourful rangoli designs.  Usha is especially talanted at creating these works of art. 

We had conversation, delicious tea, snacks and some photo ops, followed by some much needed rest (especially after that stressful drive!!).  Walking down the spiral staircase after taking rest, I was as delighted as a kid on Christmas morning to see hundreds and hundreds of marigolds petals being removed from the stem and added to the gorgeous rangoli in the entry way of the Jawahrani residence.  The preparations for tonight's celebrations were well underway. 
Gorgeous flower rangoli made with marigold petals.

Together with Rajesh's mom, Prema, Matali and Priyanka, I visited a temple, a local grocery store, the family business, and a children's clothing shop (where I just happened to find an traditional outfit for my sweet Jacob).  On the walk back to the car, we purchased a few more diyas. 

Later on in the evening, when Rajesh, his father (Sitaldas) and brother (Vinod), arrived home from work, the family dressed in some of the most beautiful Indian attire I had seen!  They all looked so gorgeous and handsome.  Sitaldas led the puja (to welcome the goddess Lackshmi into their home), with support from the youngest member of the family, Karan, sitting closeby.  The children sang and Rajesh's mom offered a gift to each family member. 

The Jawahrani family
The Goddess Lakshmi
As the puja ended, the family greeted family and neighbors, exchanging well wishes and sweets.  And soon the festival of lights began.  Candles lined the driveway and crackers (what we call fireworks) could be heard near and far.  The young ones enjoyed lighting sparklers, and the young at heart filled the sky with bright and beautiful crackers.  Reluctant as I was, Rajesh convinced me to light a few crackers myself, "just light it, and run"!  So, that I did!  The excitement for the crackers never wained, but eventually we headed inside for dinner, sitting cross-legged round the mat on the floor, enjoying more company and great Indian food. 

These crackers were new to me and quickly became my favorites.  They spin on the ground! 

Thank you to the Jawahrani family for sharing your special festival with me. 



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