Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Gift

It is amazing to think about the world, and how in all its apparent vastness it can come shrinking down to the size of a single conversation between a few human beings. Last Saturday night I had the pleasure of attending the wedding reception of the daughter of the chairman of the Local Spiritual Assembly of Bangalore. During the wonderful festivities, which were opened by three wonderful prayers from the Bahá’i writings, I had the pleasure of being acquainted with a certain Mr. Mark Perry and his lovely wife Azadeh Rohanian Perry. It seems as if we had a mutual friend by the name of Vesall Nourani (pictured at left), who I had the pleasure of serving with at Green Acre Bahá’i School in Eliot, Maine this summer. They both live in the same community of Chapel Hill North Carolina, and Mark told me that on the eve of their departure to India Vesall was over at their house showing them pictures of his summer at Green Acre, which had included pictures of me! Both Mark and I thought this was rather humorous and talked later on that evening about what a special place Green Acre held in both of our hearts.

Some relatives of the Groom, who was originally from Shiraz, had also came to attend the reception. Among those kin were three youth, Rahil, Maaman, and Martha, who were among the Bahá’i youth from Shiraz who were arrested and thrown into prison earlier this year for allegedly teaching the Bahá’i Faith. The Bahá’i’s are heavily persecuted in Iran and a new wave of victimization has swept the country in the last few months. I had the wonderful bounty of being able to speak with Rahil, and Maaman about their experience. They both were quick to let me know that it was a misunderstanding on the Iranian Governments part as they were only holding moral development classes for children and jr. youth, and were being very careful not to associate it with the Bahá’i Faith at all. Somehow they were reported to the Mullah’s and were scooped up and thrown into jail. Maaman recounted how she had been blindfolded and forced to walk to an unknown location to sit in isolation for hours before the Iranian Government interrogated her about her activities. Both of them said that all the youth put in jail were in good spirits the whole time and that what had happened to them was nothing compared to Mona’s story. They were in Jail for six days before they were released. I asked them if there was one thing that they would want to tell the world, and they asked the Bahá’i youth of the earth to take advantage of their religious freedom and to take on the glorious responsibility of instilling morals in our most precious resource: children. What a wonderful gift those precious youth have given the world.

You can read more about what happened to the youth of Shiraz Here

And if you wish to know more about Mona’s story Please Click Here

To find out the latest news regarding the persecution of Bahá’i’s in Iran, click Here

Sunday was the birthday of one of the most popular Gods worshipped in the Hindu Religion: Ganesha, the elephant headed God. Starting around six o’clock many troops of drummers congregated on the street outside of our apartment. They were drumming in front of a rather large Ganesha idol and there were many youth dancing in the streets. Geeta’s cousin had invited us over for dinner so Michael, Geeta, and I loaded up into an auto-rickshaw and made our way over to Geeta’s cousins house. For the festival of Ganesha’s birthday in Bangalore, the local Hindu families each bought an idol of Ganesha, some made of clay while others are made of salt, and decorate it and give it an offering of food in the form of a meal, which is placed in front of the statue. Then, sometime in the early to late evening hours the families join a procession of thousands to Ulsoor Lake, which has a section of it partitioned off especially for this event. The Ganesha statues, some measuring 12 feet high or more, are then dunked and immersed in the water and left to dissolve. This is because they are giving the statue back to the earth, from whence it came. After looking at Geeta’s cousins dressed up Ganesha Idol, Michael and I went to the lake to watch the festivities while Geeta made her way home. Upon nearing the part of the lake where the dunking was being held, neither Michael nor I knew what to expect. Upon entering the gates our eyes beheld a glorious, shocking, bewildering, amazing, surprising sight. Thousands upon Thousands of people were all standing around a square arena with descending stairs on all sides that led to a giant pool of brown brackish water. Hundreds of people at a time were dunking both themselves and their Ganesha Idols in Adam's ale (water). The smell of incense invaded our nostrils and our brains went wild with this sight, which held no comparison to anything previously seen in both of our pasts. The stimulus was amazing and we watched as a crane would slowly lower pallet after pallet of giant Ganesha statues along with eight to ten men to the waters surface. The men would then exert five minutes of extreme effort to get the statue dumped into the water. The energy, which was emitted from the crowd, was absolutely amazing as thousands of people were all celebrating this festival for Ganesha. The only thing I can compare it to would be New Years Eve at Times Square, only on a smaller scale.

Again, Michael and I being the only white people we could spot, stood out. And because of that we got a lot of attention ourselves, no doubt making people wonder why a couple of white guys would want to observe this festival of Ganesha. Group after group of Ganesha dunkers would stop by us and ask us to take their picture. A few even erupted into cheers upon hearing that we liked India, and had us dance with them. After about 45 minutes of watching the dunking, which was going to continue for hours, Michael and I went across the street to visit the Ganesha temple and then made our way home, with people stopping us on the street every five minutes or so wanting to talk with us and have us document the occasion by taking a picture that in all likelihood would never be seen by their eyes.

It was an intense evening to be sure, and the experience is one whose essence can truly not be given by text and photo alone.

The adventures never stop and I am continually showered with bounty upon bounty. For all of those whose prayers are directed this way, they are felt, and reciprocated generously.



Blogger Diane said...

[Hundreds of people at a time were dunking both themselves and their Ganesha Idols in Adam's ale.}

Thaddeus, what is Adam's ale? Is it a type of beer?

Another fine entry and I was moved to tears when I clicked on Mona's link and read of her journey to martyrdom. I had never read this particular account before. Oh I was at work and so glad no one happened to come in whilst in the midst of my tears :)

Love, Mom

12:02 AM  
Anonymous Luis said...

Thad, what an unexpected place to meet Mark and Azadeh! I had the pleasure of working with them, as you might know. They are such an inspiration. And what a precious opportunity to meet the Iranian youth, and to share a portion of their story with your friends back home. Thank you so much.

8:46 AM  
Blogger King of Vegetable said...

Adam's ale is another name for Water...I was looking for other names of water and I found that one. It was uncommon and I thought it would be interesting to use that word!

9:13 AM  
Anonymous Caitlin said...

That sounds like an amazing experience! Do you know if this festival is mostly celebrated in many states, or just in the bangalore/Karnataka/surrounding area? Do people use rangoli to decorate streets and sidewalks in karnataka for such festivals?

wonderful seeing those pictures to get a glimpse into the excitement!!

11:48 PM  
Anonymous Georgia said...

Oh Thaddeus, that is absolutely amazing! You are experiencing another culture! It is absorbing into you! You are absorbing into it! WOW!!! I had no idea ANY country is this excited about a religious holiday. America certainly isn't....I love the picture of you with the Indians and you all have your arms slung around each other...race unity in action!

4:44 AM  
Anonymous Laurel said...

You are amazing Thaddeus. What an excellent entry. My family has known Mark Perry for years. He turned my dad's story ("The Trust") into a play a few years ago. P.S. I can't believe you stayed for that wedding you walked in on. Only you:)

4:39 AM  
Blogger mo money said...

wooooah that was an excellent and entertaining story. i can't wait to hear more. i am definitely a fan of this blog and really happy for you that you're having such a good time! Allah-u-abha Thad. :)


4:05 AM  
Anonymous Vesall said...

Hey Thad! I'm so happy that you got to see Mark and Azi! Now I get to ask them about how you're doing when they get back! Thanks for the blog, I hope you continue to have a wonderful time.


7:47 PM  
Anonymous kathy said...

Thaddeus, I'm really enjoying hearing about your adventures! Thanks.

5:02 PM  
Anonymous mae said...

A few even erupted into cheers upon hearing that we liked India, and had us dance with them.

haha! what a fun intercultural adventure! I haven't been to India or Times square, but this festival sounds much more amazing. It's also really interesting that you keep being singled out as a racial minority, which sounds like a positive and enriching experience.

What do Ganesha's godly duties entail?

2:54 AM  

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