Self Expression Magazine

Our First India Festival Experience

Posted on the 20 September 2013 by Raina

One month back “D” and I went to an event called “India festival” at our local temple. I wanted to blog about it since then but something or other came up. Finally today I sat down to write about it.

This is an important event for both of us because it is “D” experienced many first’s in context of India and Indian culture at this event.:) Until now, the only India “D” was knew was me, my brother, my brother’s girl friend and two of my friends. I know Indians, (my knowledge is limited to my relatives and friends so excuse me if I am wrong,) in US live within closed communities following Indian way of life. I was never one of them because of my initial bad experiences with the Indian community at our university. I stayed away from anything Indian.
Our lifestyle was always a mix of both the cultures but more inclined to American way of life, because let’s face it cooking spaghetti is fast and easy then cooking Biryani. Especially when your man loves spaghetti, it makes sense to give him what he wants. ;)

This event is also important for me as I was feeling homesick. It was supposed to be a carnival type of event with Indian stalls, food and cultural activities. I was also expecting some rides because “CARNIVAL” according to me should have rides. To my surprise, there were no rides. The stalls were not too many as well. They had a couple of stalls with Indian garments (Sarees ) and Indian Jewellery. One stall with some Indian story books, puja books, language books, and picture frames of Gods. One stall with Henna artist and Bindis. All in all, it was smaller than expected, but we had a good time.

I was worried about “D” because he was doing this for me, and I was not sure how he is going to react to so many people in one place. I know, it is not very different from a county fair, but we don’t go there either. I was super excited to eat all kinds of chaat after a long time and “D” sampling them. As it was his first-time tasting chaat, I was not expecting him to love it. I thought maybe he would be amused by Pani puri/Gol gappa.
NOTE: The problem is the place we live does not have Indian store/ restaurant. We should at least travel an hour to get very high-priced Indian groceries. “D” does not like the idea of driving, and so we don’t get to go there often. Sometimes “D” gives in because of my puppy-dog eyes. ;)

Anyway, we got Bhel puri, Pani puri, Samosa chat and Pav Bhaji. I know, it sounds crazy but not for a chaat hungry Indian. They were not very great because, for some reason, the stall owners thought chaat=green chutney. Tamarind chutney was in a squeezy bottle and was offered only when asked and that too like prashad. Even then I wanted to eat because as I said I was craving for chaat. “D” sampled everything. He liked the puffed rice in Bhel puri but not the green chutney. He actually hated green chutney. He thought Panipuri was interesting but preferred to eat it without Pani because according to him, Pani was too cold, and he likes his food hot. I know, it is weird Pani puri without pani, but it is his first time. He thought green chutney spoiled samosa chaat. Pav Bhaji was a hit; he loved it. He thought it tasted like garlic bread and marinara sauce. It is funny because the first time I ate garlic bread and marinara sauce, I thought it tasted like Pav Bhaji, and that is the reason I love garlic bread. :)
I wanted to eat more but was full, (my hunger for Indian food is insatiable). We saw everyone walking towards the temple from the parking lot, and they told us that cultural activities were about start. “D” asked me if I was interested? I was not very much into it but thought it would be nice to have “D” experience it. Therefore, we went inside the temple and “D” got a chance to look at all the murthi’s inside the temple. It was his first time inside a Hindu temple. Though he did not know what to do he liked the experience. I was really happy because he was getting a glimpse of India’s culture.
Afterwards, we sat inside a big prayer room and waited for the dances to begin. I would have liked to see some play’s too, but there were only dances. Not that I am complaining, I really enjoyed the dances. The organizers were asking the crowd to settle down and not block the fire exit. “D” thought that it was weird that crowd would not calm down or listen to the direction of the organizers even after being asked repeatedly. I was laughing inside because it is D’s first experience with our “Sab kuch chaltha hai” (everything/anything will work), and “never follow the rules” attitude. This is because I am very anal about following rules, especially in USA. I feel like if I wanted to break the rules I might as well live in India. The sound was too loud and “D” had to close his ears. I was worried for him in the beginning because “D” hates deafening noise, but he told me not to worry about him and enjoy what I was missing for so long. This put me at ease.

After the programs, we went back to the stalls as I wanted to have a kulfi. They were out of kulfi so I decided to get chole bature with the left-over coupons we had. “D” loved it and thought it tasted like a fried ball of dough; it is funny because that is what it is. I let him have the whole thing as he did not get much to eat. I was relieved because when we go to India, my mom and aunties will have something to feed him for breakfast other than toast. He does not like Idli, Dosa and Sambhar. Therefore, if you know about the Indian mom’s you will know that this will make them really happy. In south India, we eat puri for breakfast too.

Finally, “D” bought the very famous Indian book series “learn a language in 30 days” and obviously, the language he chose was Telugu. It was for sale on Amazon for $11.00+shipping but here it was just $5.00 so, that is a steal. Though “D” does not have time for learning Telugu now, the book was still worth buying at that price.

We got into the car and were driving back home. I was very happy because it felt like finally I was at a place where I belonged. Don’t read too much into words, it does not mean I don’t feel like I belong with “D.” I am home sick and it is just a feeling of something familiar. I enjoyed every part of it, but now is the time for the D’s report. It is the time for the most dreaded question “How did you like it?” To my surprise, his answer was “I loved it.” Thank God for that. When we stood in the line for food, we saw people pushing and cutting the line. I thought he would be frustrated, and so I asked him to go sit while I get the food. Therefore, to hear that he loved it was a big relief.
He usually likes his music without lyrics, but he said he loved the songs and dances may be that is the reason he sat there for two hours despite loud noises. He said he enjoyed looking at the Indian jewelry, sarees and murthis. I bet he would not have felt the same if I wanted to buy one of those jewelry pieces. :) He said he was happy that this made me happy. He knows he will never go wrong with that dialog. :)

I know this might be a totally different from what real India would offer, but I like to think it as a positive learning experience for us. It helped me understand what I should look out for on our trip to India and helped him get used to the chaos that is India. I don’t know how he is going to deal with the staring because when we come across Indians at the grocery store, he tells me that they were looking at him with a pout. I tell him that it is a common facial expression, we usually don’t have a smile all the time, and we tried to avoid eye contact. Perhaps, he will get used to it or not.

I don’t have any pictures from the event. I am just lazy to take pictures and always regret not having the pictures later. :(

Comment down below to tell me about your first experience with a new culture.



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