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Global Music, Connecting Cultures Stories from the Rajasthani Road... from world music ensemble LIBANA

It is hard to write in the midst of amazement!

USA | Thursday, 10 February 2011 | Views [1949] | Comments [3]

Shopping for Garba costumes in Delhi!  (photo: Jared Weber Mattes)

Shopping for Garba costumes in Delhi! (photo: Jared Weber Mattes)

After bidding good riddance to umpteen feet of snow and ice and tolerating a manageably long flight by watching Hindi movies, Libana landed in Delhi last Friday night.

Wow. And Wow. And Wow again.

We were met in a couple of vans by our contacts from the American Embassy School and headed away from the airport into the smoke laden evening air (it is the end of "winter" here, so many fires are burned to keep Delhi warm--given what we just left, lets just say that winter is a relative concept!). Our first experience with the infamous Delhi "faith-based driving". A wild cacophony of constantly honking horns as buses, cars, vans, auto-rickshaws, motorbikes laden with a whole family riding sidesaddle, gaily decorated trucks, bicycles laden with more stuff than should be possible given the laws of physics, horses, and even pedestrians shared this utterly chaotic road (an equivalent of Boston's Route 128) where lanes were simply a suggestion and the flowing sea of humanity surged ahead in a miraculous and trusting dance. Everywhere we looked elicited an exclamation of some sort--from the microcosm of a rickshaw's marigold-adorned dashboard altar to Krishna to the tent covered openair market stalls on the highways side--we then knew we were beginning our adventure in Mother India.

Our first weekend held many great forays as we braved our way around Delhi. One of the teachers at the School knew we needed "costumes" for our new Gujurati Garba and Dandiya Raas dance, so off we went. No problem! We were led into a market area (sensory overload doesn't begin to describe what awaits on just ONE street)--and forged our way past street food vendors, sidewalk henna artists, thousands of Indian men hanging out, thousands of Indian women shopping, and all those same modes of transportation continuing to honk and vie for the same small piece of asphalt.

We landed in a Rajasthani clothing store where every square inch on the shelves vibrated with intense color, glitter, sari silk, mirrored fabric and hundreds of options for our every Indian costume need.

Our male Indian shopkeepers brought down skirt upon dress upon shawl upon scarf upon tunic upon pants upon silk upon gorgeousness--as we all sat there trying again to go from microcosm to macrocosm in a profoundly visually stimulating environment. How could one choose? But eventually choices were made (LOTS of mirrors set in red for Allison and black and orange for Linda), the requisite bartering happened, and Libanites--happy with their purchases, made their way downstairs and back into the perpetual circus-like feeling of Delhi. 

Every moment holds a challenge to what one knows as reality. Today, while sitting on the front porch of where Marytha and I are staying, a young man rode down the street on a bicycle pulling a dilapidated wooden cart filled with bags of stuff. He stopped, opened the gate, came in and yelled in Hindi up to the second floor. He then saw me-- at which point all time stopped and we exchanged a slow and generous Namaste-- and then he carried on with his mission--which became clear. He was collecting the neighborhood garbage. 

The morning air is filled with the sound of men on bikes riding up and down the street sounding "Paaaaa--niiii" in a very distinctive nasal street cry. Trying to sell water to whoever will buy. 

We are all going to try to stop occasionally from being in the moment of this utterly amazing culture and write. We WANT to. It is hard to stop being amazed long enough to open a computer!!!





LOVED reading this! Thanks for taking the time to share it all.

  Marianne Feb 12, 2011 12:58 AM


Oh sue, I can picture the street, the shops, and the roads. SO glad to hear of your experiences. I understand your desire to be and not to sit at a computer, but oh, are those of us back home happy that you took the time!

  Janet Feb 12, 2011 5:32 AM


Hello, Sue and Marytha.
Your travel journal appeared in my email--and I'm delighted to hear your impression of Delhi, and your experiences shopping and singing. Thanks for your gift of description. I was in Delhi only a night and morning, and had that incredible sense coming from the airport that the road was alive, and energy everywhere, and an elephant on the same side of the road as the airport bus, and a sort of magic that a hotel I didn't know existed, and couldn't have imagined actually appeared when the bus stopped to let me off. (I was en route to Kathmandu). I'm feeling blessed to be connected again through your journal--and I'll enjoy your connections vicariously. Thank you.
Rita Weathersby

  Rita Weathersby Feb 13, 2011 1:44 PM

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