Holiday update: New Years, Makar Sankranti & Republic Day

31 Dec – 1 Jan: New Years

After a Christmas that left hardly a moment to catch our breaths, my celebration of New Years was comparatively tame. With Prajyot, Saket, their parents, and my host parents, I went to another outdoor club to celebrate the end of 2010. We sat with some friends of my host dad and their families, including a 13-year-old boy named Akhilesh.

On our tickets were lists of 15 random numbers between 0 and 99, written in three rows. In the third to last hour of 2010, the 200 or so people in attendance played bingo while the emcees called out number after number. As my card filled up, I gathered from their Hinglish that there would be cash prizes for those with a completed row, and soon I needed only a “50” to win. Akhilesh, too, was waiting for a specific number. Two or three people had already won prizes, but numbers were still being called, which was a good sign.

Then I heard it. The number of Test centuries Sachin Tendulkar had recorded: 50.

(Tendulkar, an Indian cricket legend, has since recorded his 51st Test century. I’ll have much more to say about cricket in February.)

Egged on by several people at the table, I went up to the stage and handed over my card. What followed was probably the most embarrassing conversation of my life:

Emcee: “What’s your name?”

Me: “Mera naam Chris hai.” (My name is Chris.)

“Aap kya karte hain?” (What are you doing?)

[Pause] “I don’t understand, but my New Years resolution is to learn more Hindi!”

“Ok, we’ll stick to English. Chris…can you tell me what you’re doing here?”

“I’m a student. On Rotary Youth Exchange.”

“No, I mean why did you come up here?”

I pointed at my card and the completed row of numbers.

“Ah, I’m sorry Chris, but we’re done with the prizes for completed lines. You’ll need to fill out the rest of the card if you want to come up here again.”

I went back to the table disappointed but not distraught. After all, it was New Years Eve! How could I be sad? As fireworks went off around midnight, I stood on the stage which had become a dance floor, and shook hands with Saket-dada, Prajyot and Akhilesh.

I would have sung Auld Lang Syne, but I couldn’t remember the words.

14-15 Jan: Makar Sankranti

It didn’t have the pomp of Independence Day, the lights of Diwali, the exploding idols of Dussehra or the personal touch of Maha Laxshmi at our house.

But if only for the view of the sky one afternoon, Makar Sankranti was the most beautiful holiday I’ve been a part of in India.

Makar Sankranti, a festival of kites, celebrates the beginning of the sun’s northward passage in the sky. Although the winter solstice is about three weeks earlier, Sankranti always occurs on the same day each year. And what a day it is.

I made my way to the top of a six-story apartment building two Saturdays ago with Vedant and Akhilesh, among others. Awaiting us there were about two-dozen kites and probably enough string to circumnavigate the city of Nagpur. Soon enough, several of those kites were in the air, although most were eventually lost to the January sky.

But while the kites were still attached, they provided quite a show. A gibbous moon shone high in the Western sky, and several of the kites we flew appeared a fraction the size of Earth’s largest satellite. Once, our kite topped every other in our area, the taut string our only proof of its existence as it flew out of sight. Looking around the city, about 80 percent of the rooftops were occupied, with at least one kite flying from each.

The sky was so crowded, I had to remind myself several times what I was looking at: Not birds. Not planes.

Kites.

26 Jan: Republic Day

Wednesday was Republic Day in India, the 61st anniversary of the Indian constitution being signed into law. Like Independence Day, Republic Day is also a federal holiday, and flags and patriotism were again visible throughout Nagpur. In Delhi – the capital city of India – a parade was held that morning, and I watched some of the celebrations on TV.

But for the most part, the day was uneventful. I didn’t even hear that many firecrackers.

πŸ™‚

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One Response to “Holiday update: New Years, Makar Sankranti & Republic Day”

  1. Tarandeep Says:

    dat number game which u played is called “housie” and everything is beautifully written n m glad dat u r enjoying every festival of india which is actually a big thing! πŸ™‚

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