Wednesday, 14 October 2009


It is Diwali this weekend - and nothing outside the home to show for it. But so it was for Navarathri.

I was missing all the Navarathri fun, I felt, and I did miss the seeing the kolus of Madras.

So I was pleasantly surprised when my nephew and his wife invited me over for kolu. We went expecting an artistic arrangement of mementoes and cute toys.

Imagine my delight when I saw a display on five steps (made with stuff bought from Home Depot - the famous do it yourself chain store) and lovely kolu bommai's on them in glorious bright colours. Shalini told me that they had brought the dolls over from Madras over various trips. I admired her - with a toddler and a five year old, and going to work, she had done a wonderful job - and asking people over too to visit the displays and feeding them ‘sundal’ and coffee! Shalini told me that some of her friends also had kolu displays.

This part of Jersey city where we live, called Newport, does have quite a few South Indians. There are many like us, parents who have come to be with their children and grandchildren for a while. And they have formed a kind of informal group who meet in the evenings regularly. Being a sedentary kind of character, I prefer to be at home and play with Samyukta.

Meanwhile I learnt from Jago,a lady who assists us with the cooking,that in another part of Jersey city there was a different kind of celebration on the Friday night of Navrathri.

We decided to check it out - and when we went there, I could not believe I was in the USA, and that this was not India. Such was the atmosphere that night. The main street had been closed to traffic by 9 pm, and there were police cars on either side to keep it blocked. We left home - Vandana’s parents and I,leaving a sleeping Samyukta with her father and grandfather. A stage had been constructed on the side of the road on which a lady and her group were singing popular dandiya numbers, to which everyone was dancing. There were young and old, men and women, some carrying babies in their arms,traditionally and colourfully dressed, all dancing away to the hypnotic rhythm.

(Click on collage for an enlarged view)

I watched open mouthed, amazed at this show of a part of India – I am told most of the Indian population in this area is from the North. Those present there on that day were mostly second and third generation immigrants, keeping the tradition of their country of origin alive. We watched for nearly an hour, the tempo never slowed nor the mood fade.

Funnily I have never seen a dandiya dance at home – Navarathri in Madras is mostly about kolu!

Let me see now what is in store for Diwali - the twinkling illuminations across the river are a part of every night. “Just wait till Thanksgiving and the Christmas season,” says Sriram.

For Diwali at home, we have planned on celebrating as usual – new clothes, sweets and the other trappings minus the fireworks.