Navratri is my favorite holiday. Here is a bit of what I wrote about it in Leaving India:
It is October and the women are dancing. All around the world we put on our long skirts and tight bodices, wrap ourselves in gauzy shawls, fasten jewels at our throats and bells around our ankles. We dance barefoot in temples, where we have temples; or community centers, high school gymnasiums, even bare fields. The dance is what remains the same: a sacred circle.
Garbaa, the word for the Gujarati folk dance, comes form a Sanskrit root, grb, for womb. Round and round we twirl to celebrate Navratri, the lunar festival of nine nights of dancing in honor of the goddess… As the garbaa speeds up, the cut mirrors that decorate our skirts scatter the light: swirl of dancers and audience, children, men, old people, teenagers; deities perched on altars, carved or sculpted, garlanded in gold and flowers; a moonless sky full of stars. If we could track one tiny mirror’s journey, all that it reflects and refracts, we might see the world entire.
At night we dream of circles, spinning, the earth tilting under our feet.
Last night I went to the seventh night of dancing at the Sunnyvale Hindu Temple. I went with my mother and her friend, danced up a sweat, and then took a break to walk around and hand out fliers created by Trikone urging our community to vote No on Proposition 8.
I’ve blogged earlier about my mixed feelings on the marriage issue as the hub of queer activism, but it’s also very clear that the initiative, trying to change the California Constitution in order to eliminate a civil right, is just pure hate and wedge politics. I was also really moved when I first saw the beautiful posters, which feature my friend Inder, his partner Ken, their children Mira and Kabir, and Inder’s mother, Mrs. Gurkirpal Kaur Dhillon, speaking about the importance of protecting her family.
I started by walking around and placing a few fliers here and there on tables. Then I went up to small clusters of people and asked if they were registered voters in California. It was interesting that this question was a bit threatening; there were long pauses in some cases, and one woman even started to explain that she was here on a visa, etc. I would say about two-thirds of the people I talked to said they were not voters, of whom most were probably not yet citizens. If they said no, I said thanks and walked away.
If they said yes, I asked if they would like an educational flier about one of the propositions on the ballot. Then I gave them fliers, thanked them, and moved on.
Overall the response seemed friendly and open. Only one woman looked at it and gave it back to me saying, “Here, you can recycle this.” But she wasn’t scowling or anything, and smiled at me later as we were back on the dance floor. I have friends who have done a lot of canvassing and who have a whole developed patter and way of engaging people, but I felt more comfortable letting people read the flier, which really speaks for itself, and maybe take it home and consider it. I didn’t really want to have conversations or debates. It also felt respectful of the fact that people were in the middle of conversations, social activities, and a prayerful environment and were kindly letting me interrupt them.
The dancing was great, really wonderful singers and musicians, and not too crowded since it was a weeknight. I also like the short hymns we sing at the end of the night as a closing prayer. Handing out the posters felt like a lovely offering to make — a way to share more of myself during the goddess festival.
Wow, that is really cool! I love the image of circles of tents…. and nine is just a magick number, eh?
I too await your book with bated breath.
And I wonder if this goddess festival aligns somehow with the Jewish Succoth, which aligns with a festival I grew up celebrating called Tabernacles. Tabernacles is also about circles, a circle of tents in the wilderness. As a child I slept for nine nights this time of year in a makeshift tent in my living room and imagined my family’s tent as a part of a circular huddle of tents–nine nights and ten days of feeling like a close knit community, circling the wagons.
And thanks for your activist work to stop the marriage ban. You’re the best.
I can’t wait to read your book!
Thanks for sharing the links and the story about distributing the flier.