If there’s one thing Indians are exceptional at, it’s hospitality. The picture above is from the rooftop of the guesthouse, overlooking the next door neighbour’s house that had become a makeshift temple for the Ganesha festival. The lights that surround it have been on all week, whilst people filter in and out of the back entrance in a steady stream. I’d often walked past and wondered what was going on, but never really had to gutso to go in and just ask. So when we stood on the roof this evening and saw Maneesh (the restaurant owner of Jhankar, our new favourite haunt) joining in the celebrations, we didn’t hesitate to join him once he hollered at us.
It didn’t matter that we clearly weren’t Hindu, weren’t Indian and were complete strangers. We were greeted at the door by the senior members of the community (My one fluent hindi phrase of asking someone’s name came in very handy) and were quickly ushered up onto the roof to enjoy the music and join in with the dancing. Everyone wants to shake your hand, know your name and know your country. Within about fifteen minutes of being upstairs, I’d already decided to join in with clapping along with the elderly gentleman next to me. He and what I can only assume to be his best pal, another elderly gentleman dressed it white, clearly had no sense of rhythm – clapping along to whichever beat seemed to suit them best – but I joined in anyway. I suspect they may have been slightly merry, but the less said of that the better!
In no time at all of course, we were then pulled up onto our feet and made to dance. First I tried to dance with my new elderly friends – hoping that their sense of random beat would cover up my awful dancing – but I was quickly whisked over to the women, who were doing intricate dances in a circle ( think the hokey-cokey, but with beautiful women in Saris and less ‘shaking it all about’!). Luckily for me, a middle aged woman who fancied herself as a bit of a bollywood dancer took me under her wing. Even better, the rest of the group were following her too, so it didn’t matter that I was staring! Once I let go of all my inhibitions however (the first time I’ve been dancing so much so sober for years!) it was so much fun. I felt like I was stuck in an eternal school disco, it was great!
To add to the school disco atmosphere, the children at the party decided to show me their break dancing skills. They were so good! They were very funny too. To my amusement, everyone at the party refused to believe that Will and I weren’t husband and wife, so the children also started to put flower garlands over us. This then quickly escalated into a full blown flower fight, which smelt amazing!
On the first floor of the house, was the real reason why the party was going on. The Shrine to Ganesha was ornately decorated with fragrant flowers, leaves and coconuts. Looking through the family album of the festival, it became clear how many hours of work went into the shrine, with all the decorations changed daily. Naturally, as this was an Indian party, we were not allowed to leave until we had tried something of everything in the Kitchen. Despite our insistence that we had already been out for a big meal (we had gone to On The Rocks for dinner) it was literally impossible to leave without eating until we felt as if we were going to burst. I liked it though, Indian people are possibly the most hospitable people I’ve ever met. They just want you to take an interest!