September 14, 2011

Paint Box

Pink Floyd, Relics 1973

I have mentioned in a long ago post, Love, American Style, that my Indian is a Special one (and he's mine, can you believe it?)  He is a Syrian Christian Malayalee, born and raised all over the state of Kerala.  He came to America to build a new life and has worked his ass off toward that goal. And unapologetically so.  He is not particularly sentimental about his heritage -- after all, he IS Indian, there is nothing that can really be changed about that and there is certainly nothing to be proved.

We are both adamant that our children are 100% American and in Any Colour You Like, I wrote about we also actively discuss skin color (I have found that for some folks that is Too Much Talk, for others, that is Not Enough Talk. Unlike Charlie Sheen, I NEVER WIN.)  For all the cynicism and politically driven separations currently in our country, we do love living here and fully intend for this to our home.  And in that sweet, precious idea of what it means to be American, there is a place for my husband.  He can be both Indian and he can be American (someday!)

With Manoj having a Catholic background, I struggle with the figuring out what to celebrate culturally in light of what is archetypically "Indian".  Diwali holds few emotions for him.  The same goes for Holi. Those are Hindu festivals and while he did join in the celebrations as a kid with his friends, they were not something that his family actively celebrated.  Once, he mentioned that what he loved most about Diwali and Holi was that he got out of school for the day (which leads me to ponder if this is not how Jewish folks feel about Christmas in America.)

However, in Kerala, there is festival in the fall that is uniquely Keralite and seems to transcends religion.  It is called Onam and it celebrates the harvest.

While I doubt that we will be hosting snakeboat races in the backwaters of our jacuzzi tub, parading elephants on our sidewalk, or busting some kathakali moves in our living room,  it did seem that even this here White Girl could muster up the skills needed in order to create a pookalam.  A pookalam is essentially a carpet of flowers that you arrange in front of your house. Frankly, I had no idea what I was doing.

Gentle Reader, has that stopped me yet? .

First, I drew an awkward, lopsided decoration with sidewalk chalk.

Emphasis on the "lopsided".

Then, I bought a dozen roses from the grocery store and pilfered a flower arrangement left over from my sister Maureen's wedding.

 In Grand White Trash Tradition that would make my daddy proud,  I realized as I was posting this snap that Arun was NOT WEARING UNDERWEAR in this photo.  A quick photocrop later and the authorities were thwarted.  Yet again.

We laid out the flower petals according to the design.

Unfortunately, we ran out of flowers.  The nearby Rose of Sharon was quickly relieved of some leaves and flowers.  Fortunately, it did not complain.

Overall, it was so much fun doing this with this Arun and Anjali.  Next year, we will buy far more flowers, but we will definitely still include the Rose of Sharon.  I loved that we used flowers from our own yard.

As we worked on the pookalam, Arun excitedly exclaimed, "I'm half-Indian today!"  And I told him, "You're half-Indian every day.  But you are 100% American.  You can be BOTH.  Isn't that cool?"

His beaming smile said it all.


Grace Davis said...

Kelli, this is absolutely stunning. I will admit that I did not introduce Filipino culture to my child and let my mother do it which was a big mistake because it was mostly Catholic evangelism. I'm sure we have the equivalent of a "pookalam" and I should seek it out as yours is beautiful - but not as beautiful as your children. Blessings to you always.

MLE said...

Wow, that looks fantastic! I bet Team Chaos had a great time helping put it together, and they're old enough now that they'll remember it as a tradition for your family. :)

luckyfatima said...

I love it! I wish you and your family a belated Happy Onam!

Moderndayhermit said...

You impress me beyond measure.

Me said...

So cool! I think it turned out lovely, and I love it that you go out of your way to give you kids both pieces of their heritage.

On a side note, I think that underwear/pants allergy is common among boys. Mine has it too.

Anonymous said...

That is just an awesome holiday in general...making art with nature all over you house? awesome.

Fweetieb said...

What a fun post. Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Happy Onam!

Bengalis and Malyalees have a lot in common: love of football (soccer), 'communist' state government and 'intelectualism' (whatever that means)! Some of my best friends are Malyalee :)

~ Krishanu

Olivia said...

This awesome and inspiring. As our children get older I need to bug my husband and find out if there are any Nigerian traditions we can celebrate.

Unknown said...

How wonderful! I think it's great to celebrate your heritage, isn't that the best part about being in America?

I'm glad to hear that you let Arun go sans pants. Mine does as well! I don't mind in the slightest, but he was upstairs the other day, playing with C's brother's girlfriend's kid and she asked him to come down and get pants. I think if they are going to live here, he doesn't have to wear pants to go up and play?

Monkey McWearingChaps said...

Even Keralite Hindus aren't too into Diwali, right? My dad said no one was celebrating it when he lived there.

Sorry I missed this...Happy Belated Onam!