On our way to celebrate Mamoni’s birthday, we got a knock on our door from Mr. Yadov, the property’s head security guard. The company owner, Nikhil, was hosting a Murti pooja, or a Hindu blessing for the property. This ceremony was a form of pujaa or celebration. So we all headed out to see the pujaa on our way to the car waiting for us at the gate.
The space reserved for the ritual was considered a holy space, so we were required to take off our shoes. The holy man offered many blessings to the property. The Hindu god Ganesh is considered the god of houses and good luck related to living quarters. A beautiful, ornate Ganesh statue was central to the ceremony.
We were given flower petals to throw at the Ganesh statue to bless it. The holy man also passed around a special fire. We were to gather the smoke toward our face. Applause also occurred a couple of times as well as repeating of phrases in Hindu. At one point the holy man’s cell phone went off during the ceremony which the kids and Ran giggled about.
Above: Putting the Ganesh on the pedestal, where it will remain.
Today was Mamoni’s birthday so we prepped ourselves for the hour and a half drive (due to traffic) down to their apartment to celebrate with them. It was her birthday but she cooked such a feast for us. First the kiddos ate and it was all of their favorites—pizza, French fries, shrimp, special cakes. The kiddos had Heinz Ketchup with their fries. It turns out Heinz has a plant/distribution center in Mumbai. And no nasty corn syrup in the India version. We have to buy Heinz organic in the U.S. to stay clear for the corn syrup nastiness! I also thought it was fun to see that the label advertised that they also sell a mint chutney—one of the most popular India condiments.
Then the adults had some delicious Indian food including the best dal that I ever had, flavored with oranges. Plus potatoes with coconut milk and a delicious meat dish. It is common in Indian homes to eat in phases. The kids ate first around 7:30, then we ate with Ira Dida around 8:30. Mamoni and Budu were going to eat much later, like 10 or so.
Much discussion ensued over whether it would be possible to watch the Madrid/Barcelona game on TV that night, in the middle of the night. But no such luck. Also talk about a music concert that will happen this weekend. Classical Indian music concerts last all night long, especially since some ragas are designed for playing in the evenings and others in the morning. Strategizing was occurring regarding when and whether to take naps before or in between portions of the music festival and what house was close enough for resting. With the kids here I am unable to participate in these adventures!
The kids enjoyed watching Ira Dida make her Paan. Paan is a vice in India that is enjoyed by many. The Paan Walla sells Paan out of carts along the streets and people make it at home as well. Pan is a beetle leaf that is filled, sometimes with tobacco and sometimes with herbs. Wikipedia says that is filled with areca nut (betel nut) and slaked lime paste or kaatha brown powder paste (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paan). But everyone puts their own regional spin on the concept. It is often eaten after meals. Ira has stopped putting tobacco in hers and instead had some spices that tasted like minty cinnamon. Kaden and Carson thought it tasted like toothpaste.