Rakhi!

ImageRaksha Bandhan is a Hindu holiday celebrating the relationship between a sister and her brothers and “cousin-brothers.” The custom is that a sister ties a rakhi, a holy thread, on the wrist of her brother. In return he offers her a gift (usually money but often clothing etc) and the promise of protection. Sounds like a pretty great deal to me. Unrelated or adoptive brothers can also receive the thread if they also promise to protect their adopted sister.

Rakhi shopping is incredibly fun and the selection is immense. My colleagues have assisted me in the hunt for the perfect specimen and I’ve bought them (rakhis not my colleagues…damn you ambiguous pronoun reference) in 4 different states of India. Although I prefer a simple rakhi thread, they have incredibly glitzy and ornate ones for the taking. And lest you think it’s a very solemn custom…keep in mind that they sell Spiderman rakhis and rakhis that feature cartoon versions of the gods eating McDonalds hamburgers and drinking Coke.¬†My eyes nearly popped out of my skull when I saw that little gem and a little part of my public health self died inside.

So, to my amazing  mountaineering brother Josh and all my cousin-brothers and adopted brothers- I have rakhis for you but they will have to wait until I get back. And nary a french fry will grace your rakhi threads, rest assured.

Note: there is apparently some confusion about the actual date of Rakhi- government offices, schools and my coworkers will celebrate it tomorrow but Google (and some other people) say it should be observed Wednesday. As usual, I have no clue but am happy to celebrate any day!

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Independence Day!

On this day, in 1947, India achieved independence from Britain after a remarkably non-violent movement led by thought leaders including, famously, Gandhi.

We had a small celebration at work on Tuesday with traditional songs and yummy Indian snacks. In fact, the South East Asian Regional WHO office celebrates national days for all 11 member states because there are staff members for all countries. But our office is in New Delhi and thus there are lots of Indian staff members so today is particularly special and we all get the day off.

And me? I celebrated Indian independence at the American embassy (hah!). This was mostly because there was a security risk throughout most of New Delhi based on terror threats. Therefore, I tried to avoid any crowded areas such as the Red Fort where the prime minister hoists the flag and gives a speech. Instead, I enjoyed my day swimming in the pool with my boss 8 year old and eating tricolored Indian pastries. Of note: I am an equal opportunity celebrator, I celebrated American Independence Day by wearing red, white and blue and eating watermelon with a fellow American colleague- a tradition that baffled our Japanese friend.

But today I was feeling quite patriotic about India. It was one of those days where you just feel happy to be alive. And boy do I have a lot to be thankful about. Everything was cooperating: the autorickshaw drivers agreed to use the meter, the weather was comparatively mild, I got to practice some Hindi, the food was good, and I got to be part of a great family for the day. Tomorrow off to the sacred Ganges for the weekend. I’m already feeling sad about the fact that I only have a mere couple weeks left here.

Happy Independence Day, India!