“The present only exists for it, not the shadow of the past, nor the shadow of the future”-Siddhartha
On Saturday, September 29, people all over India woke up and went about their morning routine and then went to work. After all, it is a 6-day workweek here. However, this particular Saturday many people took the day off.
For the past week, Ganesha Chaturthi, the first Vaak and Remover of Obstacles, did something that my mother is fond of doing; he took a weeklong birthday. All throughout the week, there have been decorations and lights set up, and nightly celebrations held to honor Ganesha’s birthday. The celebrations consist of loud music and people of all ages dancing. At the end of the week, the idols (all varying in size) of Ganesha that have been in prominence for the week will be escorted to the shores of Lake Pichola where the Remover of Obstacles will be pitched. They throw him into the lake because it symbolizes the concept of Moksha, liberation. It is based around a law of the universe stating “that which takes form has to become formless again”.
The day is significant to myself as well, though no one threw me into the lake. This Saturday marked my first full month/4 weeks in Udaipur. Time can be difficult to manage when you are trying to accomplish so many things at once. Being present and mindful are prominent Eastern ideas that could improve the quality of life for a lot of Westerners. We are obsessed with being busy and splitting our minds in 15 different directions, rarely giving our undivided attention to someone/something besides work. Appreciation for living is lost. Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk who won a Nobel Peace Prize, explains this act of mindfulness through a concept he calls, “doing the dishes for the sake of doing the dishes”.
I’ve found a lot of Indian culture is centered around the idea of being present and conscious. One particular example is eating. Generally, people eat with their right hand here, and by eating with their right hands I mean, most meals are served with chapatti, circular pieces of unleavened bread that you can grab your main dish with. Papa Ji (the father of the man who owns Chandra Niwas) explained to me that they choose to eat with their hands because you appreciate your food more when you physically touch it as opposed to with utensils. It’s absolutely true. I’ve become more conscious of eating and have been eating better proportions because I’m more aware of what I’m eating. I’ve also learned that it is basically impossible to not get your computer dirty while eating with a chapatti, so multi-tasking without some collateral damage is unavoidable.
One more insight into Rajasthani Indian life. Washers are uncommon and dryers don’t exist. The machines require two things that are in high demand and limited supply, water and electricity. This means all clothes washing is done by hand and all drying takes place either on a line or with clothes hanging all over your room on whatever you can find, which is what I do. I’m not a fan of laundry with machines, and I expected to loathe doing it by hand in a bucket. However, I’ve found it’s not too bad. Once again, it becomes an appreciation for your clothes by having to manually wash all of them even if it does take a very long time and you end up soaking wet.