Yesterday was yet another Holiday: Sankranti (known as Pongal in some parts of India). Sankranti is a harvest festival, and one of the most auspicious holidays, and it is celebrated when the sun transmigrates to Capricorn. In Hyderabad, the holiday is celebrated with sweets, colors, different kinds of rice, and kites. Ok, you probably want more detail.
Well, the first indication that it was a holiday was the fact that there were no classes. Aside from that though, the guesthouse served a special lunch for us on (real) banana leaves. Besides the many different amazing dishes there were two different kinds of rice (coconut and lemon) as well as kheer (rice pudding): it’s traditional to eat rice, as rice is the staple crop around here. There were also two sweets, and lassi (it’s an auspicious day, so sweetness should prevail apparently). Also relating to the auspiciousness of the day, it is traditional to buy and wear new clothes, so as to ensure a fresh start to the rest of the year (I think Sankranti is thought of as the new year but I’m not 100% on that. I’ve gotten varying answers).
Well, a bunch of us decided to jump on the “buy new things” bandwagon, and went off to Shilparamam, the market near Hyderabad. But that wasn’t the real reason for going there. For Sankranti, Shilparamam was holding a kite festival. In many parts of India (including Andhra Pradesh) it is traditional to fly kites on Sankranti. Many people write messages to the Gods on the kites. As the kites fly higher and higher, the likelihood that they will be read goes up. There were definitely a lot of kites in the sky that day. At one point I watched part of a kite fight (like in kite runner). No one won though.
Another part of Sankranti are beautiful designs on sidewalks and in front of houses. These designs are made with colored powder (apparently the same powder that we’re going to get covered with at Holi, but I’ll tell you all about that when it happens), and are usually about two square feet. In the middle is usually a small dish with water and flowers, or sometimes some pretty stones (I think these are all offerings).
Aside from Sankranti, we also decided that it was “bring your cute kid to Shilparamam day” as there were so many cute kids running around! I saw part of a miniature cricket game. It was great. Obviously, the kids found us as fascinating as we found them, and I definitely caught some people filming and taking pictures of us, paparazzi style. Most people asked though, and were very nice, and wanted to meet us. Well, by us I meant the group. I think I’m getting tanner, because I didn’t attract nearly as much attention as anyone else. I think I’m okay with that though. Haha, the blonds will only get blonder in the sun!
I tried bargaining for the first time yesterday! It didn’t go so well with the rickshaw driver, but I brought down the price of some earrings. I still absolutely hate bargaining though. I feel really dumb no matter what happens. I know I’m getting ripped off by Indian standards, which makes me want to keep bringing the price down. At the same time though, I know that I’m having a heated argument with someone, all so I can bring the price of something down by about ten cents. And that seems ridiculous, as I know that, even the marked up price is about half of what I’d pay in the states for the same item. The vendor definitely needs the money more than I do, so what’s the problem? Still, I guess if I’m going to be living here I’ll have to stop thinking in terms of dollars. Paying exorbitant prices (by Indian standards) will just upset the balance of things economically, and will perpetuate the stupid Westerner stereotype. So I’ll just keep bargaining I guess.