16 August 2008

Jai Hind!

This past Friday was Indian Independence day. I didn't do much to celebrate - mostly just went to work. Thought about going to a flower show with some other interns, but decided against since I had been told it wasn't great by one of the full-timers at MSR (also I don't care that much either way about flowers). For a bit I felt like perhaps I had made a mistake in not immersing myself in Indian culture, but as it turns out, I currently think I made the right choice for two reasons:
1) The interns never ended up making it to work (and I really need to get stuff done now so I can visit Linda next weekend in Jaipur)
2) I ended up having quite an Indian experience nonetheless!

Apparently, if one wants to celebrate Indian Independence day, the place to be is Spencers grocery store. Yes you heard correctly, Spencers grocery store. This was the second place I went when I took an hour out of work to do shopping. The first place was the Rebok store - I needed sneakers and they were having a sale that let me buy my pair for 55% off. My feet are really happier now, I'll have an easier time excersizing and even perhaps playing some ball (at my request, MSR has ordered a basketball for the lab) and the folks in the store were nice - it's good just to go somewhere, try on what you need, make a decision and leave. But I digress.

So I get to Spencers and the whole outside of the store is decked out with pictures of Indian heros, streamers, and banners - lot's of other shops had some decoration, but Spencers really went all out. You'll see right past the entrance a fellow dressed as a soldier who handed out Indian flags, paper flags w/ shirt pins, and celebratory sweets. He helped me with my pin, although I declined the candy. Next step was to leave my bags at the security desk (you can't bring a bag into a grocery store around here) manned by Mahatma Gahndi himself! A bit further into the store were various characters decked out with turbans, saris, swords and shields - various Indian folklore heros.

At this point a crowd had gathered around me while I shot photos (my iPhone is always a big hit around here). And I inquired what the traditional independence day greeting was (Jai Hind - "Victory to India"). Everyone was merry and I had a fantastic time! Subsequently, I actually did buy some groceries and probably even got an okay price b/c everything was on sale for the holiday (finally a bit of home ;-)

After finally leaving the festivities of Spencers, I did a bit more shopping then started to walk home. People were all over the street and there were far less cars than normal. Close to MSR (Microsoft Research Labs for those of you newcomers) I saw a fellow with a corn cart, and thought to myself, "why not buy some corn". So I got some hot spicy corn, took more pictures of donkeys resting outside of MSR, and then got a great shot of an autorickshaw as it was passing by (all of the auto's were sporting Indian flags). Finally I took a couple of the security guards who were quite tickled to see me walking around with Indian flags. They were so pleased, they even gave me a special Indian celebratory dessert (much better than the pre-packaged candies at Spencers. I went upstairs and back to work quite pleased with my adventure!

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