It took several days but Durga’s triumph was eventually inevitable. Once more, good triumphs over evil. Rama has his wife back and people dance on the streets. In India people don’t party as much as in Berlin but once they start, they celebrate several days and the whole village takes part. This year I already had to spend Holi behind the closed doors of the Vipassana centre in Dehli. Three long days I had the feeling of being confined next to festival, not having the possibility to have one glimpse on the hustle or even exchange a sentence with the other inmates, having to sit silently on my cushion, meditating.
When last week the Nepali New Year was closing in and the whole town of Kalimpong was busy with preparations, I was sure: I won’t miss another chance to join a big Indian festival. Especially since I haven’t been dancing for well over three months. We may use two huge bass drums in our daily Pujas but naturally no party feeling will arise. Techno and sitting still just dn’t work together.
And so I was quite happy when Chunu my neighbour (and cook) took me down to the little community house that is just below our monastery. Preparations ran high. The way down was already nice decorated. Inside the house two speakers were playing Hindi Dance loudly while people were busy decorating. It was almost a little bit like a small open air in Berlin.
The people there told me that the Puja would start the next day and so I came back to have another look. But still, there was no party atmosphere. Inside the house there were only two priests and their assistant, performing the puja. Everything was shining in colourful disco lights but the ceremony itself was rather traditional. One of the priests was reciting something in Sanskrit while his assistant was holding a plate in front of Durga, illuminating a butter lamp and doing a lot of other things. Such a Puja is really quite complicated.
Outside they cooked nice food. The women of the area around the monastery had built a nice Shelter, almost like a bar. Except that there was no alcohol, of course. They told me to come back in the evening. Unfortunately, I was to lazy. Soon after sunset music, clapping and cheering was echoing from the small house up to my dark room. But alone I didn’t want to walk all the way through the night.
But the next day I met with my colleague Jordan and Chunu and together we went down. And this time there was really something going on. Even from far away, we could hear someone singing. It sounded a bit like Karaoke, at least that’s what I thought.
But it was even better. A small band played big hits. And after they had finished a few young people demonstrated their skills in Hindi Dancing. Then the band played again some songs. It was more like a show than a party. The event was moderated by a middle-aged man, maybe the major of our village. Jordan, me and everyone else was sitting on plastic chairs spread out along the walls, watching the artists. Close to the end, there was group dance. Maybe fifteen minutest only, but these were wild fifteen minutes. Probably everyone knew that they only had so much time left and tried to used the time as good as possible.
The next morning our Durga was carried up to the street, put on the back of a pick-up and driven down into valley of the river Teesta and given to the water. But not all Pujas were dismantled that day. While shopping in Kalimpong I found several stages and my question, if it was possible to dance here later, was affirmed enthusiastically. Even until 11:00 pm. In the evening Jordan and me set off to Kalimpong. For the first time I walked in the darkness to Kalimpong. Almost no cars but many people though mainly on their way home. It may sound strange but in India the streets usually empty quickly after nightfall.
The first Puja we passed was closed already. But we were lucky on the second one. We were received enthusiastically and were soon in the center of attention. All guests wanted to dance with us, while we were given bananas and other sweets. After some time, we must have looked a bit exhausted and so they gave us chairs and water. Perfect hospitality. While parting everyone wanted to shake our hands and we were invited to come back on Diwali. Diwali is supposed to be even better, I am quite looking forward to it.