Yesterday Cassie and I had a genuine “expect the unexpected” moment. Our host mom told us that we would be going with the family to Puja. She explained that someone in the family moved into a new house. Cassie and I decided to google “house warming Puja” to see what we were getting into. Everything we read explained a religious ceremony where prayers and sacrifices were offered to the gods. We prepared (and dressed!) for a religious service. Our family seemed to be taking it pretty seriously so all signs pointed to something religious. We were instructed to be home by 4 so that we could get ready and leave.
The morning on the Puja Cassie and I went to school like normal. The first sign that it was a holiday was that there were almost no people on the metro. By almost no people I mean I was able to stand without having to tough another person. This is greatly different than our normal commute. When we got off the metro and started walking to school we started to hear weird voices and songs but had no idea where it was coming from. We started to notice temporary speakers set up in trees and on poles. They were blasting what we assume was a prayer. It felt like an amusement park where ads are played throughout the park. It was the weirdest experience.
That night we went to Puja. When we arrived at the house music was blasting from the front door. It was then very obvious that this was a casual family gathering rather than an honored religious ceremony. Throughout the night we ate chicken nuggets, drank wine, and listened to Brittany Spears. I also ate some of the best Indian food I have had since being here. The whole experience was amazing. It was fun to be an observer and watch family members interact.
One of the most interesting parts of the evening for me was that every room in the house was open. It was very common to walk into a bedroom and just see people lying on the beds talking, snacking, or even sleeping. We did not eat dinner until 10:30pm so I totally understand why napping is a necessity.
Once dinner was done we had about a 1 hour drive back in which my host dad ran through red lights, stalled the car in the middle of intersections, and did u-turns in the middle of the road. India is full of surprises.