Yeah, we bought bikes. Cycles as they say here. A pink one with a front basket for me, and a yellow one with gears for him. We are giddy! We refused to go to Decathlon, a French sports equipment store similar to the Academy in the US, and insisted on going to a local store. We ended up on a little street close to Commercial Street in downtown Bangalore, a few feet from a mosque. We tried three stores. In the second one, we were told one of the biggest lies I have heard in a while: “Don’t worry Madam, the bike is not too big, it will adapt to you in a week”. Ha!
Why bikes when you have a dedicated driver? Because it’s fun! Against my original wishes, we will be living in a gated community, which is big enough for me to simply ride around. There are parks inside the community, and my pink wheels will allow me to do more people watching. Also, some of the back roads around here are safe enough to ride on. Riding on the main streets would be suicidal!
Now for the second big thing of yesterday: we were invited to the Diwali pooja (prayer) at the hotel. Diwali is the Hindu New Year and it’s a big deal here, similar to Christmas in the US, though less in South India than in North India we were told. The hotel was hosting a pooja for its staff. The banquet room was superbly decorated. Garlands of yellow and orange marigolds, little Diwali lamps, and a beautiful altar with Ganesh and Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. As far I understand, Ganesh is the god of good luck. I particularly like the banana leaves on each side. The hotel had been given authorization to invite a priest to perform the ceremony and he was already there when we arrived, preparing the offerings of fruits. Each department from the hotel brought their books to be blessed and put them on the altar. The staff all sat on the right side of the room, on the floor, with three managers in the front.
The priest started chanting in Sanskrit. Loud. And didn’t stop for 45 minutes. Not a drop of water to soothe his throat. He kept throwing small items on the altar. Managers were given small things as well, such as flower petals, or rice to be thrown on/at the gods. The name of the hotel was pronounced, so the hotel itself is now blessed for a full year. Towards the end, participants (that means us) were given fragrant rice to throw. The priest poured a small amount of food (some unidentified sweet something with honey) in our hand and we ate it. And put a bit of the red powder on our foreheads. And we are now both sporting a red ribbon around our wrists for good luck, tied by the priest. I am not taking mine off until it breaks apart!
Diwali would not be Diwali without firecrackers, so outside we went, and boys behaved like little kids on the parking lot! One firecracker went over the trees and onto the street!
Aside from it being very interesting, as you don’t see a Brahmin at work everyday where we come from, for me, it was moving. There was no special club, no class to be taken, no test to prepare for before being invited to join. I felt honored to be invited in the first place (not many hotel guests were present).
Update. Between the time I wrote this and the time I was about to post, we decided to borrow the hotel bicycles. I fell twice (the bike was too big, it hadn’t adapted yet!), and neighborhood dogs thought I was dinner… Our pink and yellow bikes were delivered, and I am not so sure the cycle thing was such a great plan!