Monday, October 27, 2003

Diwali in sede boqer:

I have been writing about Jewish festivals for so long that it seems a little odd now to write about a Hindu one. But this was special: the Indian and Nepali communities in sede boqer got together last saturday to organise a diwali celebration in the campus. It was going to be pretty weird, because diwali is the one festival that everyone in India enjoys if only for the usually forbidden thrill of exploding firecrackers. The city usually feels like a war zone, and there's always the distant roar of fireworks, like thunder. When i was younger, I loved the sensation of power that comes with lighting a particularly explosive cracker, but over the years, with age, I am more and more inclined to quieter and sedate displays of light. Which is as it should be, because it's a festival of lights, not of noise. Here, of course, we didn't have fireworks, but there were plenty of candles lighting up the entrances to caravans, giving the whole place a festive look. Of course, given the stark simplicity of the campus at any given time, anything that changes the way it looks increases the effect in a completely disproportionate way. The plan was to invite the rest of the sede boqerians to a meal composed of indian and nepali food, and play Indian music and generally turn the place into Little India. The students were welcomed by a putting a tilak on their foreheads by one of the girls, and it was the beginning of all the questions. What is it for, why me, what is it made of....
The really strange thing was to hear the different reasons for celebrating diwali. All the Indians here are from widely separated areas, and each had a different reason for the festival but this diversity was very interesting. The music started out by being a sample of indian classical music but rapidly degenerated into bhangra-rap and finally settled into modern dance stuff.
photographs are here.