I hope you don't find my blogging of religious ceremonies too tedious. To be honest, I am relieved when a day doesn't hold a new unusual tradition. Today I was far from relieved. For Brahmins it was a day of fasting. This meant the Hindi teachers at Sambhali were both a little cranky and we finished school early (or rather we finished at the scheduled end time for the first time).
At home I was faced with a confusing message of which all I understood was 'no eating.' I heard 'market' mentioned a few times, so I asked in mime if I should buy my dinner at market. This caused profuse objection and I was assured that Rakhi, Soonu, Durga, Revi, Mooti, Jusraj, etc. (everyone) would go together. So for an hour I waited outside with the others for an invisible signal that only I didn't notice to indicate it was time to go.
It was very dark and exceptionally cold when we set off and we didn't stop at the market. We kicked our shoes off in front of a strange house a little ways down and wandered through a series of dimly lit abandoned rooms that tunneled us through to the back yard. Here the dark mystery of the night was drawn away as our barefeet hit a soft red movie-premiere carpet leading to a warmly lit outdoor space where dozens were eating under sparkling lights on the indoor-outdoor turf that had been laid out for that purpose.
I joined four of my relations in sitting in a circle around a thali (large plate). Teenage boys waited on us serving delicious subzi, chips, dhal, chipatis and sweets with amusingly repetitive English. The food was wonderfully satisfying and the atmosphere was warm and exciting, but I still had no idea why I was there.
After much questioningly it was explained to me in laughter that the food was for 'sub Khatri.' That is my host family and extended family's surname. Today was a holy day for the Khatri family god, Hanuman. So the next time one of the servers repeated 'what is your name' for the zillionth time, I said "meera naam Amelia Khatri hai." He beamed a smile at me and it was settled that I belonged there.