April 30, 2017

Grandpa Sees the Subcontinent

Living so long away from Canada has afforded many unique experiences but carries the opportunity cost of not living close to my relatives and friends back home. Luckily, part of that downside has been allayed by my dad’s boundless curiosity that inevitably brings him over for visits. Even though he came to Japan for a week last year (our kickoff of the Shikoku Temple Pilgrimage), “Canada Grandpa” decided to undertake nine days of sightseeing in India’s northern region along with five days with the grandkids, daughter-in-law, and yours truly, in Gurgaon. 

“Go hard or go home”
During his group tour, Dad experienced far more of India than we have managed to do in the eight months we’ve lived here so far. Nine days visiting sights in Old and New Delhi; Agra and the Taj Mahal; Ranthambore National Park (tiger viewing!); Jaipur Pink City; Varanasi and the Ganges. So when he arrived back in Delhi to visit us, I was all ears, picking up pointers and advice, and was just plain glad to see him. 
To start, Dad accompanied Naomi to some of her charitable activities and he sampled some local food that put a dent in our “going out together” time because it dented his colon with Delhi belly. These things happen. I did get a day with him only for me—we went out to some sights he hadn’t seen in Delhi the first time around, bought some gifts for the folks back home, and even had an air hockey match at an arcade. The Rising Granddaughters maximized the time spent at home improving their listening skills and playing board games. 
To my surprise, Dad’s no prisoners competitive spirit extends even to the girls, as Elena found out to her chagrin. You have to earn a win in this family.
Despite the unlucky food choice literally putting a cramp in his style, it was a wonderful visit just as the weather was truly warming up. The girls have been studying hard and the effort showed as Lady E., M., and Grandpa were talking and yukking it up throughout the visit. We capped the trip with a visit to the Worlds of Wonder amusement park before he took the flight home. 
Thanks for the gifts, Pop. It was nice you saw the Subcontinent, but for us, the treat was just having you visit.

April 27, 2017

Holey Moley it’s Holi

The Holi festival is a wonderful example of how Indians have mastered the art of having a good time and collectively getting their ya-yas out without rancor. It’s a visually beautiful festival – oft described as the festival of colors and love – and a day to mark the beginning of spring. Goodbye gray sky, hello blue!
My takeaway from the Holi festival was vibrant colors, mayhem and entertainment--a societal stress break at the close of winter mixed with spiritual harmony and goodwill.

Although an ancient Hindu religious festival, I’ve read Holi has gained fans among non-Hindus in other countries and in Asia. There are Holi festivals in Vancouver and Toronto. And justly so. Something tells me the Grateful Dead received more than musical influence from Ravi Shankar, and the Love-ins of the summer of 1967 and later iterations such as Lollapalooza, owe a lot to Indian culture.

Water balloons, dry powder poofs and wet colors everywhere 
March 13: we celebrated with extreme joy among hundreds of other residents in the courtyard of our apartment complex. The word had gotten around the foreign community on when and where to start the festivities and parents had done meticulous preparation of water balloons and dry colored powders. We all wore old clothes. At the appointed hour mid-day, we met friends and their kids and it felt like we were the only ones there. This was yet another lesson on how time is perceived differently in this country. Soon enough the venue setup was completed by the organizers, music started blasting, more foreigners and local people arrived, and everyone started smearing each other with bright colors.
Then out came the hardware: water pistols and high-pressure squirt guns filled with colored water, and water balloons. Soon most folks were drenched and multi-colored. The Rising Daughters had a blast, as did Naomi and I.
The pervasive air of gaiety extended to interacting with strangers you would normally never speak with. That means nods of recognition, a few quips and random dousings, all socially sanctioned. Nobody got offended if they splashed you or you colored them.
Smiles abounded all afternoon. And that’s a good thing. The music kept the party going, there was an adult’s area for dancing and some alcohol intake within reason and the party shifted from family fun to a touch of buffoonery by the young men. Fire hoses were unrolled and geysers of water soon graced the skies. Yet the entire course of events was flavored with general merriment and zero violence.
The afternoon wore down but everyone in my neighborhood strode around with color in their hair or remnants smeared on their face.

I am a fan of being Holi.