It was our last workshop in Ajmer before Diwali break and Colleen, Tricia and I were working pretty dang hard. They were teaching and stitching and I was filming around the clock. We needed a breather, you know, like a Diwali dance party before lunch. Along with the the women of Vatsalya and the artisans of Anchal, we filled the bottom floor of our workshop space and boogied down. There was lots of singing and dancing and force feeding of sweets all to the sound of a beating drum. I tried to match their fluent moves and, judging by the the majority of the ladies' faces, I probably looked like a drunk elephant on a unicycle. Maybe I'll get a henna tattoo of that. To back up a shimmy, Diwali is the Festival of Lights. It's what would happen if Christmas and New Year's were sandwiched together and spanned an entire week. It's a joyous time for family festivities, feasts and fairy tales. This year, I got to experience it at full volume. Diwali is a time that makes me a little jumpy in the camel skin sandals (No, the camels died before their exteriors were harvested for my feet). It sounds like bombs are going off every every other minute, day and night. As if the rickshaw horns and incessant Indian drone weren't enough for your ears to compute, add an onslaught of explosions. Makes a guy nervously yank on his scraggly beard a little more than usual.
Colleen, Tricia and I were invited over to the lovely abode of Jaimala and Hitesh Gupta. They both work alongside Colleen's Anchal Project with their own NGO, the aforementioned Vatsalya. In the little time I've known them, I really really love their presence, their genius son and rest of their sweet extended family. The Guptas emit a calm, glazed with grace. They seem to allude anxiety so nimbly. They are teaching me things I thought I already understood. This whole trip is a return to life school. It should be noted that the Guptas also introduced me to Ghazal love ballads from Pakistan. Many of the words sang in these songs don't exist in English.
The night started with a Diwali ritual with the whole family. We each went around the living room alter and when it was our turn, dipped a a finger in a red paint made of flower dye. We then made wish and dabbed a mini Ginesh wherever we chose. Grandma was shaking some bells while many of us were just clapping. I grabbed a seashell and started banging it on a plate. Again, not sure if that really fit the protocol but it was participation, which is paramount at times like this. I felt like I was part of the family that night. It should be noted that the feast we had was one of the best meals I've ever tasted.
Before leaving, we had an existential 'meaning of life' conversation on the Gupta's rooftop. Well, we tried to but the explosions painting the night sky made that a challenge. Still, we pondered and postured about the ancient Indian culture and the Western world's teenage arc of existence. A timeless evening, one that I am still glowing from.
I forgot to mention the jam session I had with their son Kartikey, who is an awesome prog drummer. I played the keyboard and he whaled on the skins and it sounded awesome through the explosions. Next year I'm going to see if Grandma will bring her bells into the mix, could really help our Diwali band sound fuller.