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But Where Are All the Kites?

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.


Daniela Swider said…

I have been reading your blog for a while now and have a couple of questions as we are also posted to India (New Delhi) though not until May of 2012.

We were thinking about importing a vehicle but the vehicle regs said that the Government of India does not allow importation of left-hand drive vehicles any more. Are you importing a right-hand drive vehicle or did I misunderstand the regs?

Also, I know you have a little one. We are expecting a baby in March. He will be more than a year old by the time we go to India but I was curious what you do for malaria/Dengue fever prevention as a family and especially for your baby.

Stephanie said…
Hi Daniela,

Congratulations on your baby!

That's right, you can't import left-hand vehicles anymore. We bought our car from someone leaving Chennai. It's been a huge pain to ship within India so I recommend importing one from another country (you can buy online from Japanese companies and they'll deliver to India) or buying a car from someone leaving your post.

We opted out of the malaria pills. My husband and I took them at our last post for the last two years and wanted a break. Malaria's not as prevalent here as it is in other parts of India; I don't know about Delhi. There's no dengue fever vaccination or pill. We have mosquito netting around the crib and plug-in insect repellent that you can buy here. We try not to have the baby outside after sundown, which is when the mosquitoes are at their worst, but if we're out I use deet-free repellent on her. She's had very few bites -- none since we got the mosquito netting hung properly. If you want malaria pills for the kiddo, there are child doses. At our last post a couple of babies were taking it. (Malaria was really bad there. I stayed on the pill during my pregnancy because getting malaria would have been worse than the tiny percentage of side effects from the pill.)

Feel free to email me if you have any other questions. stephanie.s.diamond at gmail dot com

Cara Lopez Lee said…
I love the brilliant colors of Indian holidays. It looks as if Muffin does, too. She seems fascinated by the decorative cow, while the cow looks a bit overwhelmed by so much costuming. Thanks for sharing the gorgeous photos. I'd love to see the kites, too. Here's hoping...
Anonymous said…
Time for the Weekly State Department Round Up and you're on it. Please let me know if you would like to be removed, broken links etc.

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