Sunday night, September 6
This weekend has felt the most like home in this city since I arrived. Friday night I got to set up camp in The Chocolate Room and talk to Avery and my mom, which was awesome. Before talking to Avery, I met Pratiksha, a friend of one of our interpreters. She’s my age and studying photography in Nottingham. We got to talking and she asked me what was on my before-leaving-India bucket list. I’ve always wanted to go to an Indian wedding, and she mentioned that one of her father’s friends was getting engaged on Sunday and invited me. Of course, I thought, okay, this guy is proposing and I get to watch, awesome. But I was happy to take her up on the opportunity to see how that kind of thing is done over here.
Saturday, we went for a group hike up to the top of Parvati Hill. There were lots of goats and dogs just lounging around the whole (short but very steep) way up, and at the top was a temple and stunning 360 degree views of the city. I had been itching to get up high and see how the city looked from up above since I arrived, and it didn’t disappoint. Pune is HUGE and as far as we could see in every direction lay the sprawling city. We walked around the temples and museum on the hill and took pictures for a while, soaking it in. I definitely want to come back up there for sunrise or sunset, to write or read or do yoga.
After coming down, we all went to two of the guys’ home and had tea and samosas with their lovely host parents, and then all went out as a group. We met two Americans and met up with one of our interpreter friends. It was such a fun time to be independent and have fun together in a new city.
Sunday morning, I got ready and met Pratiksha at her house. She has a beautiful home and very hospitable family. She gave me a festive kurta outfit to wear to the engagement and told me about the ceremony. Engagements are like mini-weddings in India, with many guests and many traditions celebrated with the exchanging of rings between the couple and gifts between the family.
We arrived and saw beautiful flowers decorating a large hall and about 300 people dressed in gorgeous and elaborate traditional clothing of every color. I was the only non-Indian and felt a bit like Rancho crashing a wedding in 3 Idiots, but Pratiksha explained every part of the ceremony for me and showed me what to do. We gave the bride and groom-to-be gifts and took pictures with them on stage when it was our turn, then ate the delicious engagement party lunch.
Sunday night, she had me over again for celebration of another puja. We have celebrated 3 festivals since arriving here. First was Raksha Bandhan last Saturday, a festival to celebrate brothers and sisters. Sisters tie a bracelet around their brothers’ hand and their brothers promise to protect them for life. Last Tuesday, my roommate Laura and I went to our Auntie’s relative’s house to celebrate a puja (festival) for women recently married. They play traditional Indian games (lots of spinning around, singing and dancing) and eat a meal together. It was really fun and cool to see and be included in. This festival is for the birth of Krishna and it is a huge celebration all over India. The streets were covered in new statues, ribbons and displays and loud celebratory music was played just for the day.
At her home, we watched a housewarming puja ceremony with lots of offerings and rituals presented by priests to bless their home. We met lots of family and friends and they took us out for a large meal afterwards.
Meeting local students my age has been the best experience so far here and led to many great adventures as well as so much learning about the culture. I hope to continue these friendships during the whole semester.
Christian, feminist, idealist, wife, poet, abolitionist, dreamer, adventurer.