Saturday, July 28, 2007

Navaratri and NRIs ("non-resident Indians")

"A Home for the Indians": Each fall, Hindus all over the world celebrate Navaratri, a Goddess Festival that, on its culminating night, includes special forms of music, dance, worship, and the wearing by both males and females of their finest, most colorful traditional Indian clothing. Diaspora communities tend to have significant numbers of people whose homeland ties are to Gujarat, thus the folk "ring-dances" of garba, raas and dandiya from that Indian state are what people do mostly, in rented high-school gymnasiums all over North America. Nowadays, to the horror of their more conservative elders, a bit of Punjabi bhangra closes the evening for the benefit of the younger, American-born desis who want some cool music and dancing that is not strictly religious, to go along with a bit of flirting and lots of checking each other out. I attended my first Navaratri shortly after returning from India in the summer of '06. In the photograph, you will see a number of people in the foreground, getting ready to start another round of dancing. In the background, next to the oversized American flag but not visible in the photo, is the large Native American "Indian" emblem / mascot of the high school. To the right, you can see the sign that designates this particular high school as the "Home of the Indians." Hmm. A former student of mine told me that she has attended Navaratri celebrations in this very gymnasium for her entire life, and never noticed the signs and how ironic they are until I pointed them out to her. More intrigue and coinkidink, for your contemplation, from "the world wide web of stuff."