An American friend recently expressed growing frustration that this will never be “his India.” The community of My Himachal, however, experiences something entirely different. Whether you grew up in HP or, like me, recently discovered this second home, you have the privilege of knowing this land as Your Himachal.
How can that be? What causes my friend from Manali to continue returning from his work on Everest to climb his mountains? What causes a father and daughter to take me, a hapless social developer, into their home after meeting on the bus and then to deliver me at my doorstep with a gifted Ganesh in my newly mahndied (hina) hand? At this festival season, let me share with you a story of My Himachal.
I celebrated my first Diwali in Kullu at the home of a family very dear to me. I had traveled to town to research a local NGO and the family thankfully convinced me to remain for the celebration. Before I awoke, the family began cleaning the home, hanging flower garlands, and painting Lakshmi’s footprints and rangoli up the stairs. I ventured outside, marveling at how the usually bustling Kullu streets lay still. When evening came, the family dressed in their best and we headed from home to home. We met the son of a business colleague, on holiday from his studies, and we met a wise, young sadhu who walked from District Chamba to celebrate Diwali with friends in Kullu. Each stop heralded more friends and sweets. After puja at home, we ate even more sweets and then the pataki show commenced. The pyromaniac in us comes out at Diwali, jumping through spinning fire and dancing with sparkers aloft. We fell asleep with visions of light before our eyes.
This Diwali, I will be away from My Himachal in Delhi. I look forward to celebrating, knowing it will simply be different. What is it about Himachal Pradesh that causes us to fall in love with its people, rivers, mountains, culture? This place is unique on earth. Happy Diwali, all! Next time, I’ll ruminate on another Himachali adventure.
Photo by: Arun
Sarah Hine lives in Hyderabad and is working on a start-up called PharmaSecure, Inc., that aims to reduce the sale of counterfeit drugs in developing markets such as India and Uganda.