Friday, April 22, 2016

So many holidays

So many holidays

So for me tonight is Passover and here I am in pretty much the farthest corner of Sri Lanka. Janet had the sense at least to go home for ten days so she'll be with the kids for the duration of the holiday. I hadn't thought I'd feel sad or homesick about it but I kind of do. That's the price of doing business I suppose. Of course Passover is an ancient pilgrimage holiday that lasts eight days, something of a rarity in our world, while extended holidays and pilgrimage events are common over here in South Asia. 

Only last week was Sinhala-Tamil New Year, part of a three week school holiday that the kids are just coming down from. Then today is Hanuman Jayanthi, an important Hindu holiday for devotees of the monkey god Hanuman. Kim was down in Ollikulam at an all-night kovil celebration that ended this morning at seven with fire-walking. I am amazed at her devotion to every kind of religious rite she can get her hands on. I'm less comfortable with experiencing other peoples' rites--we've got plenty of our own, but it's great to see Kim out there always, and it seems going out on a limb to observe something new. 

My 5:30 AM bike ride this morning took me to a small kovil just around the corner from our guesthouse, a place that could be in the most rural area if it weren't just minutes from Batticaloa. It's right in the village of Tiruchendur just a block or two down from the Tiruchendur Murugan Kovil. The two roads on its front and side edges are sandy and unpaved and it's just a few steps from the lagoon. I was drawn to it by very loud music this morning, maybe in honor of Hanuman's day. There were only two worshippers I could see. What held my interest was an enormous tree with beautiful semi-succulent leaves and reddish berries in distinctive clumps, around which the leaves seem to radiate symmetrically. I should have known it wasn't a rubber tree when I described it to Thavarajah. He knew right away that this was a banyan tree, the genus Ficus. I should have known too. What a botanist. Anyway he told me several people saved their lives during the tsunami by hanging onto the thick branches of this huge tree. 

Other than my bike ride, where every day I seem to pick up a little more data on the built environment of the village, I treated myself to the early showing (10:30 AM) of "Theri" at the local Shanthi Cimema. Normally I would have gone for the 2:30 show, which gets you out of the heat at the worst time of day. Anyway at 10:30 there's still a chance to get some writing and thinking done. But I went to the early show to meet Ravi, his wife, and her sisters, who were coming up from their villagevfor a special outing. 

I got to the Shanti at about 10:15, and was greeted right away by the manager's son, or maybe he's the manager himself. There's a new show coming on May 7 and they want to give Janet and me free tickets since I started tweeting about the theater and the movies. Kind of fun being a VIP but really, I can afford the Rs 250. Ravi wasn't around when I entered so I kind of thought what a waste. Same old movie a second time and no jollies with Ravi and Jainthi. 

As it turned out the movie was better the second time, I "got" a lot more of the depth and pathos (really!) so I was happy to be there. At intermission one of Jainthi's sisters spotted me up in front of them (they had come in just at the beginning of the movie) and it caused a minor uproar. Ravi, Jainthi, and the sisters were relatively dressed up and he was so happy he bought me an orange soda and sat with me for the whole dramatic second half of the movie. 

All part of a great secular event during this holiday-laden season and then, as I was leaving, I was invited to a "fan-party" for the movie at 5:30 this evening. Cake cutting was promised and who knows what else. We'll see if I can fit in the time but meanwhile, it's all part of feeling more or less "in place" in a place where I don't share any of the holidays people are celebrating. 

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