January 14 is Makar Sankranti, which is a Hindu solstice-harvest-new-year festival. Different states and regions have different ways of celebrating the holiday. Here in Andhra Pradesh we have ceremonial burning, rangoli chalk drawings, decorated cows, and most importantly, kite flying.
We woke up to a smokier morning than usual. Mike had the day off from work so despite the smoke we went for a walk to see the neighborhood preparations for the holiday. Women were out making the colorful rangoli and there was a band going door-to-door with its decorated cow. (They leached us out of quite a few rupees to get Muffin's picture taken with the cow.)
We discovered the source of all the smoke -- the first thing to do when celebrating Makar Sankranti, at least in this state, is to burn all of your old wooden furniture at dawn. It symbolizes getting rid of bad habits and vices and starting the season with a clean slate. Dozens of houses we passed had little fires burning or piles of smoldering ashes in the driveways. When we got home from our walk we went up to the rooftop patio to see if the kites were flying yet. All we could see were low, smokey clouds. Multiply all those little fires in our neighborhood by the thousands of Hindus celebrating throughout the city, and that's a lot of smoke.
When our housekeeper arrived she did a rangoli design on our patio. She's Christian, but has learned all the traditional Hindu arts that women are supposed to learn. The rangoli are sacred Hindu greeting areas for the deities. For us and our housekeeper, it's just fun decoration. She doesn't use a stick of chalk; it's all chalk powder that the women manipulate with their fingers.
We kept going up to the roof to look for kites but never saw any. The festival continues all weekend so we'll try again tomorrow. We could go into town to seek out the good kite-flying areas but with a baby and without a car that seems more complicated than I'd really like it to be. Next year Muffin will be old enough to have a little more fun and by then we should have our car here. For the time being we'll just look for kites from our roof.