One of my favorite things about London is its diversity. Seattle is a pretty diverse place, too, but it’s different in London. People from other countries and cultures seem to hold onto their traditions better than they do in the states, and London really welcomes that. I’ve seen signs advertising specials on food for holidays I’ve never even heard of, and you can find greeting cards for almost every cultural celebration imaginable in the shops. Many cultural special occasions are also celebrated publicly. Today, for instance, was London’s huge Diwali festival in Trafalgar Square. Diwali is a Hindu Festival that represents light, new beginnings, and hope, and is celebrated over a period of five days (one of those days is the Hindu New Year). There ARE obvious religious elements to the festival for various Hindu groups, but celebrations like the one in Trafalgar Square are for anyone who wants to be there. I thought it sounded interesting, so I decided to check it out.
The afternoon started with a garba. That’s a form of Indian dance that’s done in a circle. Normally, I THINK it’s supposed to be somewhat choreographed, but since today’s garba was open to everyone, that would have been kind of hard to accomplish. Mostly, people just danced in a circle, with lots of clapping and turning involved. It was fun to watch the crowd in the circle get bigger and bigger as people got braver and braver (even the cops were garba-ing, if that’s a word). No, I did not join in. I may be fearless enough to take off for a foreign country for three months, but I’m NOT fearless enough to dance in public (especially when there are cameras around). 😛 If anyone would like an idea of what a garba looks like, check out this clip from Bride and Prejudice. The first minute of the video, and from 2:45 until the end show the dancing:
Colorful, isn’t it? Today’s wasn’t quite that pretty to look at, but then again, today’s wasn’t staged for a movie. 🙂 They WERE giving out free saris, but supplies were pretty limited, so I won’t be rocking a Bollywood look anytime soon (darn). The festival also included some food (all vegetarian), and lots of performances by Indian music and dance stars. I think some of them were supposed to be famous, but I know next to nothing about the Bollywood universe. I didn’t stay for the whole festival, but what I did see was lively and energetic…Indian people really know how to party!
(Just as the band was kicking into high gear with the garba music, I heard a busker playing Hava Nagila…..on the bagpipes. Talk about culture clash!!!)