Monday, February 09, 2009
One of the hardest things for me to tolerate in Hajipur is the noise. Traffic is part of the problem. There is 24-hour gridlock in Patna and Hajipur: walkers, bikes, mopeds, bicycle-rickshaws, motorcycles, auto-rickshaws, 3-wheeled tut-tuts, four-by-fours, buses, trucks, ox-carts, camels, and elephants share the road. There appear to be no traffic rules, other than that each driver must hold down his horn at all times, whether or not there is room for anybody to move.
The rest of the noise comes from festivals. I do not understand significance of each festival, but the order of events seems to follow the same general pattern:
1. Statues representing gods and/or religious figures are built out of concrete, clay, and paper
2. Statues are decorated with paint, textiles, and jewelry
3. Faces remain covered with cloth or newspaper until start of festival
4. After the ceremonial part of the festival, caravans parade through town. Caravans consist of: (1)cart loaded with loudspeakers and bullhorns blasting Hindi techno music, (2) throng of Indian youngsters gyrating in trance, (3) large generator for power to speakers, (4) cart carrying god-statue.
5. Dozens of caravans parade through the streets of Hajipur for 1-7 days. At the end of festival, each statue is tossed into the holy Ganges river, which is conveniently located at end of our street.
Luckily, I brought a 24-pack of earplugs with me to Bihar. I wear earplugs when I eat, when I sleep, when I read, and when I am in the car. Of course, cultural education and immersion are part of the reason I do this type of work in the first place. But sometimes I miss the peace and quiet of Manhattan.