(It’s been a while — like a 295 days kind — I must admit. So, as I celebrate this blog’s almost 100,000 visits and change of domain name/address from theadwanders.wordpress.com to thediaristwanders.com, I’m finally blogging again!)
I’ve always loved sunsets — that’s known. But when you have a baby (yes, I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl!) who’s awake and lively at sunrise, you don’t have much choice but to get up and enjoy the morning sun too. So, on our trip to Anilao, Batangas (it’s actually in the municipality of Mabini), little Tara Freya decided she’d like to have some vitamin D while along the shores of Balayan Bay (we stayed at Arthur’s Place Dive Resort). Mommy needed some vitamin sea too, actually. 🙂 But, tell me, which do you think is a more beautiful sight — our smiling little one or the backdrop of her happiness? Anilao is a great place for sure but I won’t trade Tara and that smile for anywhere else.
I first ‘experienced’ Diwali in 2011, at Little India in Singapore.
I was walking around with two friends when I saw these massive makeshift arcs lining the streets of Little India. Clueless that we were, we thought these were just day-to-day decorations to the community, reflecting the Indians’ colorful way of life.
Little did we know that we were right smack in the middle of a full on Festival of Lights and a season of prosperity for Indians, particularly the Hindus.
I celebrated Diwali properly while a VSO volunteer with Yuva Rural in India, assigned in Nagpur, east of the state of Maharashtra where I was based. When I say “properly”, that means we lit up some diyas (oil lamps) and firecrackers (although I don’t really light one these days), made (well, watched how they make it for me) rangoli (colorful and beautiful designs people put by their doors or house surroundings), participated in the community events, performed the puja, and ate Diwali food!
Lights and Firecrackers
Diwali, or the Festival of Lights, is being celebrated in India for several reasons, mostly religious. Most commonly (or at least that I was made aware of), Diwali celebrates the return of Lord Rama to his kingdom in Ayodhya after saving his wife Sita from the Demon god and his exile in Sri Lanka. According to the Ramayana, Lord Rama’s return to Ayodhya was welcomed by his loyal subjects and celebrated through the lighting of diyas or oil lamps, hence the “bursting” of fire crackers and lighting of fireworks.
My colleague Ratna was the chief instigator, err, organizer for the simple Diwali celebration at our office. She got this oil lamps. They’re really small!
She also played as my fairy godmother and draped me into my first saree ever!
Prayers, songs and dances
The community temple also played songs (and I guess prayers) all the time (and I mean all the time) during Diwali!
They also set-up a pandal (like a stage/platform) wherein prayers were sung and performance were, errr, performed.
I especially liked it when they had the cultural performances of several dances! Every song has meaning of course but I was enjoying too much to ask my translators — the Meshram kids and their friends!
Colors and more colors
With Diwali comes not only lights and firecrackers but of course, colorful-than-usual idols, rangoli powders and other decorations!
My friend Rahul, who happens to be from Nagpur, invited me to their home which is on another side of town. The trip was worth the wait meeting his family and seeing all the Diwali action!
I liked taking pictures of rangoli so much that I took a picture of almost every rangoli I passed by — on the street, by the gates, in a supermarket! Literally, every rangoli, everywhere!
The Puja and the Food
Diwali is also the time to perform Lakshmi puja, a prayer ritual to goddess Lakshmi (and other gods too!) for wealth and prosperity.
So, as part of the celebration, I had my fair share of firecracker bursting and fireworks lighting! And, I observed and participated in a family’s Lakshmi puja and aarti!
Of course, an Indian festival, or any other Indian occasion for that matter, is incomplete without food! I got to taste Auntie’s cooking (and Ratna’s too I think!) and that of their neighbor too!
Being a foreigner who, even after eight months of living in India by that time, remain unknowing of the many facets of Indian and Hindu culture, I consider myself lucky to have experienced Diwali in a truly Indian fashion! I even got Rs. 100 note from Ratna’s neighbor, since I was the youngest of the visiting people! I felt like it’s Christmas and all my aunts and uncles are giving me money! Hehe 🙂
For this, my heartfelt thanks to my adoptive family the Meshrams, to Datta Sir’s family, my colleagues at Yuva Rural, and Ratna’s family. I probably wouldn’t have experienced Diwali the way I did if not for y’all!
Reblogged is a series of blog posts on my life in India coming from the weblogs I set-up. It’s an attempt to put the stories all in one place! The post Holiday Vacay Round-up: New Year in New Delhi was originally posted on January 12, 2013. I spent the New Year celebrations in Delhi with VSO co-volunteers, the welcoming family of Tito Ben and Tita Agnes, and friends. This was part of my south-to-north holiday vacation from December 23, 2012 to January 7, 2013.
After spending Christmas in Goa with co-vols Sue and Rosie, and her twin Penny and Pen’s BF Tom, and my friend Leah and fellow CouchSurfer Sumin (who were both hosted by my former CS host Warren), I proceeded to New Delhi, where I’ll celebrate the coming of 2013 with fellow Filipinos and VSO volunteers! Plus the wedding of Minrose and Shishir (which provided an opportunity for us to wear sarees!) and Rajie and Pras’ housewarming party!
But before that, I had to take a 43-hour train ride first from Madgaon in south Goa to H Nizamuddin in New Delhi! It was supposedly just a 38-hour journey but due to the fog in the capital of India, we were delayed for 5 hours! This train ride with Goa Express is the longest I have taken, beating the 36-hour journey from Bhubaneswar to Mumbai last October!
My weekends these days are spent sleeping, in an attempt to recover from the toil of long weekdays and quite recently, Friday night parties. This weekend however was a welcomed change to spending time with family–living and the dead.
It was my maternal grandfather’s birthday. Had he been alive, he would have turned 83 years old. Therefore, in true Filipino fashion, we trooped to the Manila Memorial Cemetery armed with food, drinks, candles, umbrellas, and of course, tablets and phones for photos! (That no one has uploaded yet!)
After celebrating Lolo Camilo’s day, we headed to SM Aura to check out what the hype (or bashing) was all about. After getting lost twice, we finally made it! Apart from getting two new pairs of jeans (they’re on sale!!!) at Forever 21 and some lip gloss (realizing the need to look presentable these days!), we headed over to Ikkuryu Fukuoka Ramen and indulge in some Japanese noodle goodness!
Suffice it to say, ramen is the house specialty–the centerpiece of Ikkuryu Fukuoka Ramen’s sleek long black menu. If my memory remained intact after having food here, there were about 15 types of ramen and noodle dishes you can choose from.
We had Kimchi Tonkotsu ramen (the one with reddish soup) that is quite spicy for Filipino palate (twas fine with me after my Indian curry exposure) and this other ramen with the egg which is an-egg-added version of the original Tonkotsu ramen. Both moms (ours and our cousins’) agreed that the flavor was really rich and that it’s very tasty!
We also ordered a fresh tofu salad which was a mix of cold fresh and smooth tofu on top of green lettuce. I can’t identify what sauce was used but it’s yummy, and complemented by the small tomatoes and crisp tofu flakes (I think).
We also had the original yakimeshi fried rice which was so tasty that it really had our moms thinking whether it was cooked in lechon oil or in the karaage fried chicken that we also had. With bits of pork, carrots and greens, I couldn’t agree more.
We also had something that is similar to Yyakisoba but this one is cooked in Tonkotsu soup (imagine chopsuey) and was also very savory. You should try putting it in your ramen soup too, just to savor the last few drops of the soup. This was actually for the rice as advised by the really cute paper table mat graphic but it works with the soup too!
I would say that while the price is quite steep at P380 per ramen order, on the average, the amount of serving and the taste makes up for it. And while the classic tempura and California maki favorites are unavailable, their menu offers you alternative choices that are really great partners for ramen. All in all, for the flavor and the experience, I would say that Ikkuryu Fukuoka Ramen’s value for money makes it worth a visit!
Life is short so take a leap of faith. Let’s wander, explore and discover. Come and journey with me.