Saturday, December 13, 2008

Bakreed with the Ahmeds

Last Tuesday was the Muslim holiday of Bakreed, a goat sacrifice festival. (No easy link, I'm useless too at explaining at beyond just the above...) We were invited out to the Ahmed family homestead to celebrate. Aijaz has 7 brothers and 5 of them live with him in the same compound with their families. Including everyone from a one month old baby to Aijaz's mother (Dadi) there are over 50 people living all together, and over 40 of them kids. The family lives north of Varanasi, on the banks of the Varuna River (extra credit if you can find it on a map!). As we bounced through a tiny village with streets only just wider than the car Ben triumphally yelled, "This is the life!" And indeed it is.

We were welcomed by Aijaz and then the people just started pouring out of the gate. He led us up to the roof where a small table was set. And then the food started to come. We began with sweets, followed by more sweets, and then more sweets. Most involoved dried fruit, coconut or sweetened milk, or a combination of the above. All were delicious. The main course was chicken and allo paratha, a mashed potato stuffed flat bread which is probably the closest thing to manna or ambrosia that mere mortals will ever eat. After the main course, more sweets. And then more. The kids kept flocking and soon swept Caitlin and Ben off to play games and explore. We also drew pictures, including a stunning masterpiece by your's truly as I attempted to show the elder Ahmeds where exactly we are from. (RandMcNally has nothing to worry about!)

Eventually Chris and I were able to waddle away from the table and out to "Aijaz's Temple" - a lovely Hindu temple complex centered on a naturally occuring shiva linga. The resident sadhu gave us a long explanation and patiently endured excessive bell ringing by the youngest of the group - our two and about 4 small Ahmeds. We explored the river bank, watched a train rattle by on the bridge over head and marvelled at the buffalo herd grazing nearby. Then we rallied all the kids (yes all of them!) and played probably the biggest game of Sharks and Minnows ever. (Chota Muchli, Barra Muchli for the Hindi wallahs out there.)

After the sunset we headed in for chai and photos. Chris made friends with the other Ahmed men and I was bundled off to visit Aijaz's wife's room and well as Dadi's where I was asked to show off my pathetic Hindi and asked to stay forever.

We did eventually depart, with promises to try to return for the next round of weddings, and with hearts just overflowing with happiness. Of all the adventures we've had here, this is undoubtedly the highlight for me. To be welcomed so warmly by strangers, and to be feted so generously by people who have so very little was moving and touching beyond words. Chris kept telling me that this was the India that he loved, and finally I can see why he's always wanted to come back here.

So, the pictures! It was very dark and very dusty, so please forgive the quality. First are the Ahmed adults, with Dadi in the middle and Aijaz to the immediate right, with a pink shirt and brown bag. His wife is right beside him, in the peach colored sari.

Now a shot of the kids playing carrom,

and finally the whole entire crew!


hk said...

Hi there,
My friend Erinsson guided me to your blog. Great descriptions of everyday life and unique events! The kids look like they absolutely love it there. I was in India earlier this year and I'm reminiscing reading your blog. Thanks.

Susannah said...

is chris standing on something in the last picture??

ehirunner said...

No, I'm almost always at least 4" taller than everyone else...and you will be too.

Grandpa George said...

I'm reading this for the 2nd or 3rd time, just like I sometimes read letters I've love. This, indeed, is the life, as Ben put it. I do not think most US visitors get this close to real life. Thank you, Fulbright.

This reminds me of a Nepali wedding and some Indian festivals we attended in Scranton, though the setting was different. It also reminds me of some family celebrations Mom and I attended in Los Mochis, Mexico when we were helping run a children's summer program.

We're having a great day here. Meg and Lucy arrived from snowy NYC, and we've all been captivated by Lucy's new tricks--she's on the verge of walking, and also has a charming crawl. I think she is saying "MomMomMom...."