Spats with expats are a thing of the past for the present, and almost everybody gears up for a whiff of festivity, desi style. Across Indian pockets here, one stumbles upon more and more 'tilak' sporting men in kurtas, while the fairer sex finally dons its slumbering kanjeevarams. The whole orchestration is like one huge radiant canvass that is coloured in an array of silk and gold. Indian stores too, ready for the event by decorating standard shelves with home-grown agarbatti, dhoop, maulie and anjali thalis.
While the 'rest of the whole place' is abuzz with Columbus' Day and Halloween, various cultural organizations here gear up for 'Mata Ki Chauki', Garba and Ramcharitmanas path. ICRA, Smyrna held a 'havan cum pooja' on Navami as did other religious centres in Atlanta. As usual, this is an occasion for people to cohabit not just a space they can relate to (precincts of a temple) but also ideas they identify with.
Add to this the fact that a light music radio station here decided to go ballistic about their success with listeners locally, and you had more than you bargained for. In a free promotional listener's lunch, on the very first day of navratri, they had all the Indians in Marietta hooked to the channel. Much like 'pandals' back home, many companies exhibited their wares, everything from apartment home pamphlets, to cars, to Delta Air free miles. Across the county, at the Global Mall in Norcross, Nritya Sankalpa organized for Indians here, a talk on the Bharatnatyam dance form by Dr. Sunil Kothari, a well-known dance historian and Padmashree recipient for 2001. He was here to give a lecture on Indian classical dance forms.
While the Indians are battling the Aussies back home, Alanta's Indians also decided to let their bats do the talking as they indulged themselves in the sport that is more like a national hobby. Cricket for India, 2004, organized annually by the Association for India's Development and the Atlanta Cricket Club took off on 23rd October on the grounds of Atlanta's pride- Georgia University of Technology, amidst much enthusiasm. The proceeds of this event would go to AID's grass root developmental activities in India. Given the spirit of benevolence that dominates the Indian sensibility especially during the festival season, this effort at lending an altruistic hand was even more pronounced.
On a more typically festive note, BAGA or the Bengali Association of Greater Atlanta, which has been in existence for 26 years now, organized a gala Durga puja ritual at the Shamrock Middle School on the weekend beginning 22 October. Partho Mukherjee, the President of the association said that this is the "biggest annual event for the Bengali community here, in the Southern part of America and people even drive down from neighbouring states to partake of the Goddesses blessings". The gathering was a like a lively microcosm extracted from the characteristic montage that Kolkatta is around this time. Fibreglass statue of the Goddess, 'dhaks' flown in especially from India and a scintillating performance by the renowned Bhoomi group of performers from West Bengal added zest to the gregariously heady celebration.
All this is symptomatic of a genuinely eclectic and exalted state of being one feels around this time of the year. The outset of fall coincides with the beginning of festivities that reach a pinnacle when they culminate in Diwali, just as it is in India. Fortunately for us, this year most festivals coincide with weekends, which makes for a more forthcoming participation from compatriots. This, coupled with the fact that every festival brings with it its own sets of food filled fun, Indian restaurants in the area have capitalized on this zeal for communal celebration. Chaat, pani puri, jhal puri and gulab jamuns are doing the rounds in every Indian buffet here and for once the average Indian doesn't mind spending a bomb on 'what-can-easily-be-made-at-home'.
This is our counterpart to Thanksgiving. We shop till we drop during ashtimi, and flock to tentatively tied up picnic or pot luck parties in the neighbourhood- all in the name of navratras. Don't blame us if we discuss the absolute lack of audience response to 'Bushisms', Oprah's new loose-it-quick cabbage soup diet or JLo's desperate measures at making the audience sashay to Shall We Dance. Bottom line- this is the time for celebrations galore. Any which way you like it.