Weeks 32 & 33: Farewell and Festivals

Weeks 32 & 33

February 5- 17

Boards preparation has been ongoing during my time here, and I’ve written lots about the steps of the twelfth graders. As a final (this time, I promise!) goodbye to the seniors, the NSLI-Y girls were a part of school’s farewell ceremony. It was reminiscent of both an American graduation ceremony and prom. All of the 12th grade girls in the hostel spent the day at nearby salons. I went to the house of my good day scholar friend, where my saree was wrapped in three different ways before we settled on one.

When I showed up about forty minutes late, it seemed early! This event, like most others here, was a step in combating my aversion to photos. We started with just over an hour to take pictures. The castle was the most sought out background, although I am not sure how we all scaled the ledge in our sarees. The main program was held in Khel Prasad, our huge auditorium. The bulk of the evening was the ramp walk, in which paired students walk down a runway in front of the administration. At the end of the ramp, you could pose or spin. Megan and her partner, for instance, replicated the handshake from the Parent Trap. My partner and I ended up deciding to run down the ramp. It was spur of the moment, I was nervous to trip and excited- much like I have felt on my exchange year.  Principal and President Sir handed out awards for the students, ranging from best in Geography, to most accomplished basketball player, to Miss/Mister Farewell (the equivalent of prom queen and king). The five NSLI-Y girls were all honored with the Global Citizen award, classic. Each award-winner got an awesome sash to wear as well as a book. Although it has seemed like my friends have been studying the entire time I’ve been here, now is the real board crunch time. I am so happy I could enjoy the evening with them before their tests begin.

The day before farewell was our big oral Hindi exam, the OPI. We were all pretty nervous as we walked to a nearby administrator’s house for the test. Since the examiner is based in New York, we did not start until late evening. My test started just after 9:30pm. Thankfully, the administrator who hosted us for the evening let us order pizza. I spent the weekend before practicing at friend’s house, which helped me to feel comfortable, although the questions were not at all what I expected! I was proud of my ability to even speak the entire 45 minute conversation in Hindi. At the end of the two week period, as I am writing this, we have just received our results. We all did a great job. Go behenchara!

We have gotten to celebrate two festivals in the past two weeks- the Lunar New Year and Mahashivratri. Emerald Heights has been hosting a group of students from Beijing. As we changed into our pajamas one night, we were called to put on our “casuals” and head to the principal’s bungalow. We were surprise-invited to the Lunar New Year celebration, which involved lots of dancing, tug of war, Domino’s breadsticks and Indian Chinese food. I was sorry to make my retreat when we headed back to the hostel before their New Year bedtime of 2am. Over the past seven-ish months, meeting other exchange students has been a great way to learn, have fun and notice our own growth. The five of us recently cracked up, looking back at when we met our German exchange friend Lara in September. After just our first month, we figured we knew everything about school life. Little did we know, we hadn’t even discovered that the fourth tap from the right on the boys’ side gives cold water.

Maha Shivaratri is celebrated in honor of the Hindu Lord Shiva, the destroyer of the universe. On the day of the festival, most women hold fast for Lord Shiva and the Goddess Parvati. I got to take a chutti (holiday) from the hostel and celebrate with my Nani and Nana, maternal grandparents visiting from out of state. The college campus where I live is home to an ancient Shiv temple, so the campus is open exclusively on the festival day to worshippers. My nani and I had a great 

img_1495time people watching on our front steps. Worshippers in colorful sarees walked through our usually quiet campus with baskets full of fruit and flowers, sometimes balanced on their head. The small temple was beautifully decorated with lights and banners strung between the trees.

These two weeks have also included a fair amount of preparation for our trip to Varanasi next week. We have each begun research on a topic of our choice, which will be expanded on with interviews on the trip. I am super excited for my project, on the origins of Buddhism. Stay tuned!


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