Wednesday, July 31, 2013

"Shiny happy people holding hands"

An American in India

                  Exciting news! After about thirty years of protest, the people of Andhra Pradesh (the state with which the city of Hyderabad is located) have succeeded is breaking away into three smaller states. I am not very experienced with politics, however, it seems that by dividing into smaller states there is a wider dispersion of government aid among the people (though I am sure it is much more complicated than that!)
Either way, I am no longer in Andhra Pradesh, instead I am in Telangana state.

                   I have found that location plays an enormous role in the identifying of one's self. At least, this has been prevalent in my own personal experience. For example, it wasn't until I was registering with the local police that I began to identify myself as a 'foreigner'. Since then I have become very aware of the attention that is brought to me because of my skin color. This color pigmentocracy has its negative and positive effects. On one hand, I get the feeling that people (mostly young people) are interested in me and would like to chat and become friends. One the other hand I get the feeling that some people view me as a walking dollar sign. There is no telling how many times I have paid 'tourist' prices, though I am not complaining.

                To be clear I am not judging the people of Andhra (excuse me, Telangana), I am merely making observations. One of the most interesting interactions I have noticed is the way that young people socialize. There is not much difference from the socialization found in the U.S, except that young men are much more comfortable displaying their affection towards one another. It is quite common to see boys my age walking with their arms on each other shoulders, holding hands or even linking pinkies. My friends and family back home might see this as 'queer', though I assure you that this is an expression of friendship and compassion. It's quite beautiful in my opinion.

                An outstanding cultural experience occurred last weekend! My yoga theory teacher invited the entire class to her house for a Pooja in honor or Sri Krishna. Upon arrival I noticed that there were many people (maybe a hundred) congregating in and around a large beautiful house. As I took off my shoes and walked inside, I was immediately greeted by loud singing and jubilant dancing. Yashoda (my guru) gestured for me to join the circle of dancers and begin singing, chanting, and dancing. What a way to arrive! After the dancing subsided, a Brahman (scholar of Hinduism) adorned in lavish surroundings of flowers, pictures and fruits, gave a recitation of sacred text.

              Then Yashoda gave an outstanding performance of Kuchipudi dance, a traditional art form that depicts a story from Hindu texts. Yashoda's dance told of Lord Krishna saving the lives of his devotees by lifting a mountain to shield them from the lightning and rain of the God Indra. After the dance, Yashoda and her husband were seated together before the Brahman and recited a series of prayers. As we prayed, a man came around the room giving us each a handful of flowers that have been blessed by our previous chanting.

            One by one, each person dressed the idol of Krishna by placing their flowers, a spoonful of milk, and bit of orange dye directly on the idol that sat before the Brahman. When I went to reach for the dye I did so with my index finger. "Ohhh no no no!" said several men around the Brahman, "You must use your ring finger." I am still unsure as to the significance of the finger, but it was a funny exchange to say the least. I then took it upon myself to walk by the Brahman and bow as I touched his feet. He spoke in Hindi as he touched my head and gave me a banana. We then partook in the eating of prasad (food that has received the blessings of Krishna), and it was delicious! I have always enjoyed viewing and participating in different religious ceremonies and rituals, and this Pooja was extremely interesting and inspiring.

Nathan King (Granola Bear)

No comments:

Post a Comment