India is full of festivals and auspicious days and celebrations. Most are religious, or governmental special days. This time of year is the four-day festival of Sankranti. I think. Honestly, I am confused about the name. At school kids wished me “Happy Pongal” and wanted my phone number to call me today, but I see other names thrown around. It’s not the first time I am confused here!
Since January 14, farmers have been celebrating the end of harvest. This weekend, we could see them hurrying to cut down the last bits of rice. Goats were nibbling on the leftovers in the fields. It’s also time to give thanks to the farm animals, especially the bullocks who work in the fields and are so valuable to a village economy. They burn the old farming tools and replace them with new ones, such as the tread-rope used to tie the animals. This means a lot of new colorful ones are displayed in store on the side of the road. After the festivities, farmers will be on “holiday” for 2 months.
This festival is very interesting to outsiders because a lot of activities take place outside, unlike Diwali where most of the celebrations are indoors. By just walking in the streets, you can see a lot of interesting things. Hence my trip this afternoon.
Sathya wanted me to see the decorated cows (and the occasional painted dog, which made him laugh so hard), and village life during the celebrations, the decorated temples, farmers gatherings, so we embarked on a 4-hour trip to Tamil Nadu, our neighboring state. It sounds like a trek but it’s not. The state line is about 30 minutes south of here. A few months back, E. even managed to end up there on one of his soul calming Vespa rides. Sathya and I chatted the all way, talking politics, family feuds, law, philanthropy, and food. There is always a discussion about food! He used to be a tourist guide and still enjoys showing off his country. He also serves as my bodyguard when I get intimidated in a crowd. We drove south, and a bit more south, stopped at a shrine where he showed me idols of police officers, a practice particular to Tamil Nadu (yes yes), drove some more but still couldn’t find anything that looked like a village partying. So he stopped and asked a group of men hanging out under a tree in their dhotis why there wasn’t anything fun happening. Low and behold, the government recently banned bullfighting and tamings of the bull (a good thing from what I hear). Having nothing to do and no bulls to force feed alcohol to as entertainment, the men were bored and passing the day chatting away. We still drove around for a couple of hours, because the countryside is absolutely breathtaking, the weather was wonderful, and the colors so vivid.
Here’s a glimpse of my afternoon, from the back of a little white Honda (click to enlarge and for captions).