Foreword: So, I’ve been a bit of a slacker the last half a year. I’ve written blog posts about my adventures around Victoria, saved them to my computer, but left the poor things there to be forgotten about. But I’ve decided to get back into it and entering a travel writing competition was just what I need to get me going again. So here is my entry about my first night of Diwali in India.
“Arrrhhhhhrr!” *Speaker crackle* “Arhhhrrr ahhhhrrrrr!” *Crash* *Chime* *CLANG*
Startled, I sat up abruptly in the dark, my head hitting the roof of the tent as I pawed around blindly for my phone. It was sometime in the obscure hours around midnight and I couldn’t figure out where I was. *CLANG* “Arghhhhr!” Suddenly, it all came screaming back to me, quite literally – Diwali. I was camping on the banks of the Ganges, and the local temple must be marking the beginning of the festival. Satisfied with my skills of deduction, I rolled over and went back to sleep.
*Chime* *Speaker crackle* “ArghhHHHH!!!!”
For about five minutes.
The night dragged on for an immeasurably long time, especially when the neighbouring village’s temple joined in. Rather than celebrating in-sync, it seemed as if they were only trying to drown the other out. What had initially seemed beautiful was morphing something else entirely, as I whimpered into my blanket and gave up on the notion of sleep entirely.
By 5:30am, the first hint of morning had begun to seep through the fly of my tent as both temples continued to party on. Shallow eyed, I emerged, ready to action my plots of revenge that had been formulated in the early hours of the morning. Instead, a haze of smoke caught in my hair as our guide smiled and added some gloves to the masala chai brewing on the fire. Local dogs eyed off the honeyed porridge, grinning when they were caught in the act. The sun burnt the Ganges orange and I watched as the locals submerged themselves in its waters, cupping their hands full of water and raising it to the glow, thanking the Gods for another day.
Over the next 24 hours I’d watch peacock dancers line the streets, eat my weight in pakoras at a local painter’s house, set off countless fireworks bought from the local market (whilst retaining all of my fingers) and set candles on the sacred river. But despite the excitement, resplendent colours, dangerously good flavours and beautiful hospitality, it was those four cups of smoky chai at six o’clock in the morning that made me raise my mug to the sun, on the dawn of the festival of light and make a toast – “To India. And to what I’m sure is going to be a lifelong friendship.”
Pouring the first cup of glorious masala chai
Puffy-eyed but gloriously chai filled
Playing with flares during Diwali
One of the smallest, but most beautiful fireworks that we set off
Peacock dancers at Khajuraho
Homemade pakoras – I must have eaten about 70 of them