Of, course, that was only the beginning of how crazy everything suddenly got.
His grandfather Rankin had passed away the day we went to Darjeeling and when we got back to Bangalore 24May we found out that his service was 3 June. We looked into sending Tim and the boys back early to attend the service but with no advance purchase, tickets were $4,000-7,000 one way and we decided it wasn't feasible. The email he received from his mother that night made him think that maybe he needed to go after all.
We went to bed with no decision made, but the next day (30 May) we were supposed to meet the extended family of Kalani's friend Prabunjuna to travel to Udupi, 10-hours away for his Bhramopadesham ceremony, which is one of the very important Hindu life events. When we woke up, Tim announced he needed to leave. I spent a few hours getting his return ticket changed to flying out the night of the 31st, then quickly packed, ran out and grabbed an autorickshaw with the boys, barely making it to our meeting point on time.
A couple hours into the drive we stopped at a pretty place on the road and all the aunties started pulling our food. In addition to the great tiffins of lemon rice, curd rice, and other Indian foods, they'd brought sliced bread and cakes in case the boys didn't like the food. The picnic was a really nice break from driving and when we got back into the van, someone turned on a movie for the kids. A couple hours later all sorts of snacks were passed out, and just before entering the Western Ghats (which you have to drive over to get to the coast), we stopped for tea. The ghats were gorgeous: deep green thickets with a mist blowing in, but sadly, night fell while we were still in them so we only got to see a part of the forest.
The next morning we got up early and after meeting people, left the hotel around 6:30am to go to Prabunjuna's event. It was a fascinating ceremony. In the old days it was the time when the parents sent their child off for education and was preformed with the new guru and the parents. Today, most kids stay at home for education so it's not quite as intense a moment but still very special. There were a lot of pooja (prayers) by the temple priests and Prabunjuna's family. Pracana and Swarupa, as the maternal uncle and aunt, had a large role in the ceremony. During the ceremony, Prabunjuna was given a mantra by his father, one that he will use for pooja for the rest of his life. His uncle's family gave him some silver vessels that he will use for drinking a special water at the time of pooja, three times a day from now on. At one point in the ceremony, he was symbolically reborn with his uncle's help. Another big part of the ceremony was receiving the 3 strings that he will wear over his left shoulder and torso for the rest of his life (the stings can be replaced, but there must always be a string on him from now on). There was a lot more that I didn't catch too. After the ceremony he sat on a chair made from rice and rice stalks and "begged" for alms. This is also symbolic at this point but originally, when the boys went away for education they were only allowed to subsist on what they received as alms. Irregardless of parental wealth -- the parents were not allowed to provide for them during their studies.
During the ceremony, everyone left at various times to go down to the area where the priests served breakfast. At another point in the ceremony, Prabunjuna's grandfather came and got us to to the the Krishna temple. It turned out that the hotel we were staying at was in the temple complex. There was a huge line to get in and they only let a few people in at a time so it took a long time. The temple is quite beautiful with a lot of gods and lots of silver. This temple is famous because years ago a lower caste man came to pray to Krishna but due to his caste was not allowed inside. He sat outside at the back of the temple, faced where the god should be and started to pray. Inside, the god statue turned itself around to face the rear of the temple and a hole appeared in the outside wall, revealing the god to the devout man outside. Now the statue faces the rear of the temple and the hole in the wall is preserved for all to see. After that we went back to the Prabunjuna's again where the ceremony was still going on.
After the ceremony there was a lunch. A most-amazing lunch. All the food was served typical south-indian style with a banana leaf in front of you onto which servers place a variety of veg foods, starting with some veggies, pickle and salt, then the arrival of rice and rassam. At that point I thought the next round would be curd or buttermilk to pour over rice and end the meal but I was very wrong. Men just kept coming with more and more food and more and more variety. I'd done a really good job of eating everything on the first few rounds but by the end I was incapable. Tim would have been upset with me for the amount of food I ended up having to leave on my leaf, but when I apologized people laughed and said that at an event like this it would be an insult if I had left a clean leaf -- since then the hosts would not have taken good enough care of me. No worries on that behalf: I was well-cared for and well-stuffed by the end of the meal.
It turned out to be a very ornate Devi temple and this was an auspicious day to visit so there were tons of people there. We quickly went to see the goddess then rushed out -- Prabunjuna had to be back to Udupi for a ceremony that night and there was a lot of concern since it had taken nearly 1.5 hours to get there and would take the same to get back.
It was about 10pm Saturday night when we got to Nitin's house and I checked email and found that I was being requested to switch my Tuesday field visit to Monday. No problem. I got up early, washed some clothes, packed and made a run with the boys to a local bookstore so that I'd have some way of entertaining them while I worked. By evening, it turned out that Nagendra couldn't make it to MM Hills until Tuesday so plans have been changed yet again.
But Sunday's news is that the monsoon hit Karnataka earlier than expected and the Saturday morning rain we had in Udupi/Mangalore was the first day of monsoon. Pretty cool to be there for that.