Monday, March 30, 2009

India 2009 Report IV - Dance the night away

India is a country of extremes: unspeakable wealth and intolerable poverty; searing heat and monsoon rains; terrible driving and, er, even worse driving. It comes as no surprise then that parties should follow the same pattern. The all-night event known as a Jagratha on Saturday night was to celebrate both the building of my uncle's new house and the birth of my cousin's firstborn son. I overheard someone saying that food for about three hundred people had been prepared and about four hundred turned up – and there were still tonnes of leftovers! The whole street was invited, as were many, many relatives and friends. The thing kicked off with dinner, which was held a little way down the street in my the house my uncle lived in while his was under construction. It was a buffet and the food was excellent, with several dishes and as many topups as you could stomach. People drifted in and out, so there were never too many people there at any one time.

The main event started at about 10pm with a religious ceremony for which not a huge number of people were present, although I was. This was all to be held on the upstairs veranda since this was the largest open space in the house. It was also covered over, just in case (which turned out to be wise – I was told the next day that it started to rain pretty heavily in the early hours). After the ceremony, I left to go and sit outside for a while since, with the coverings, it was quite stuffy on the veranda. I was also worried about the size of the sound system which seemed to have banks of speakers that wouldn't look out of place in King Tut's. I was right about that. As the band started tuning up, the level was still pretty loud outside. Like I said, a nation of extremes; they had the volume turned up to eleven.

This also shot down my plan to hide in my bedroom and slip on my headphones to try and cancel the noise – my bedroom was right next to the veranda, with one of the banks of speakers sitting outside! I stood at the edge with my finger in one ear and listened to one song before retiring to my room. It might not be much, but the solid brick wall at at least some dampening effect on the noise, but I put aside any notion of getting any sleep that night, and just lay down and closed my eyes.

You might say that since I had accepted that I wasn't going to get any sleep, I should have stayed up and experienced the whole thing. And I would have done, even though I dislike the music, finding it grating, had the volume not been so intolerably high. Obviously I had no way of measuring it, but it certainly felt louder than most gigs that I've been to – and with those you leave after, maybe, two hours. Here I had no choice but to listen. I couldn't help but remember an article I had read a couple of days earlier in a magazine that I had brought with me about the abuses of music. I had a solid brick wall between me and it, and I was still pretty wrecked after a few hours.

There was some stuff that I'm sorry that I missed though, such as near the end, small children were dressed up as some of the gods from the songs that they had been singing about which would have been nice to see. In the end, they finished at about 6am, after which I was able to get a couple of hours sleep but I was left tired and grumpy for the rest of the day, although, thank goodness, we weren't going anywhere that day and the most activity that I undertook was to try and help a friend with her laptop problems (something I failed in due to lack of a decent network connection and any driver discs).

My journey home begins tomorrow, with the long drive back to Delhi where I shall board a plane for home. As the philosopher says, if you want to come back, you've got to go away first, and I'm really, really looking forward to coming back.

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