SHAKTI, LAKSHMI AND (OM) SHANTI (OM)
I'm almost afraid to write this, but I've had the most fun couple of days since............ well --
since I was in India.
In fact my mouth hurts from smiling too much.
Now that's a first....
After teaching my 10AM class on Friday I drove towards Little India on Devon Avenue. I wanted to see what was going on for Diwali and pick up some sweets.
I thought I'd eat at Uru-Swati. But somehow I ended up the vegetarian place up the street, where I know the owner quite well.
She was wearing a stunning, sparkly salwaar kameez that put my everyday blue cotton salwaar kameez and matching bindi to shame. And she had the jewerly to go with it.
(It's good to buy new clothes for Diwali, and then to wear them. Apparently this weekend was the time to take them out for a spin. So earlier in the day I wore a new yoga top and jacket, purchased on Wednesday for that very reason).
She sat me down and said we'd go jewerly shopping as soon as she was free (we'd talked about this earlier in the week; during Diwali - and especially last Friday - it is auspicious to purchase jewelry and/or coins. Gold is best, but a silver Lakshmi coin will also do. It is meant to bring wealth in the new year).
We had chai. Then customers came. She waited on them. I read the paper and waited on her.
Then her friend came in.
Her salwaar kameez was even more fabulous. Lots of sparkles. She looked like a model.
We chatted a bit. She too wanted to get a Lakshmi coin.
The owner brought us some thalis (meals) and soon they were gone.
And, finally, so were the customers.
We headed down the street to one of the bigger jewerly stores.
On the way, people looked at us and we looked at them. Most were dressed up.
The women who worked at the jewelry store were wearing their best dresses and saris; it was like an amazing fashion show.
The atmosphere was festive; everyone was complimenting each other on their outfits and matching jewelry and shoes; they were even nice to me (especially when I pulled out the few Hindi words I know).
This store's one-ounce silver Lakshmi coins were $25, but they said they'd give them to us for $23. (Lakshmi is the goddess of wealth. Over half of the NRI's or non-resident Indians in Chicago come from the western state of Gujarat, where they worship Lakshmi on Diwali). Gold was just under $800 per ounce.
Before we left, they offered us sweets.
Then we went to the store across the street, where the women were also wearing sparkly new dresses and saris.
We started complimenting each other again, and talking about different styles (such as the butterfly sari, and how styles in India come and go, but here in the US it doesn't matter if you wear something a few years out of date).
There were no men around - or if there were any we didn't notice them - and we marveled over the dresses and jewerly and ate sweets and talked girl-talk and it was heavenly, and something this tomboy has rarely experienced, if ever.
Shakti. Female energy.
Plus, they had the same Lakshmi coins for $20, and said they'd give us each a dollar off.
Of course we said yes.
When the woman in the beautiful sari handed us our change, she said,
"Already Lakshmi is bringing you wealth."
Later I went to Uru-Swati to pick up sweets, and the owner would not let me pay for them.
I gave most of them away on Saturday.
Also on Saturday, after teaching a workshop where Lakshmi smiled on me, I met Bindi and the Colonel at Piper's Alley, to see Om Shanti Om.
I found a parking space right in front of the theater - unheard of in this congested area.
I sat around watching people coming in. One man wore a long top, but I was the only woman in a salwaar-kameez (I wore a bright red-and-purple number with mirrors, and matching over-the-top earrings).
Upstairs, Bindi and The Colonel got snacks while I got in line.
The line was loooooooooooooooooooong, and looped around the corner.
I was dumbfounded; usually, when Bindi and I see a Hindi movie in the city there are exactly four people in the audience; Bindi, two Indian guys and me.
Despite the long queue, we found decent seats and waited for the fun to begin.
The film began with the song and brilliant video from "Om Shanti Om" from Karz (see previous post), only this time Shah Rukh Khan's character - Om - was in the audience. He dreamed he was singing the song. Somehow, they made it look like he was singing and dancing on the spinning record, wearing a silver jacket that siad "Monty" on the back.
It was amazing.
As was the rest of the film. I've never seen a Bollywood movie make fun of Bollywood before, and it was hilarious.
They took good-natured swipes at many famous Hindi movies, and few Hollywood ones as well.
They got NRI's, too.
But the humor was never mean-spirited.
I laughed. I cried. I tapped my foot. I nodded my head.
I laughed more, though.
And I was smiling nearly the entire time.
The songs were great, and the plot moved quickly.
As if that weren't enough, a who's who of Bollywood icons past and present (and, in at least one case, incarcerated), made appearances.
From the film: Salman Khan, Sanjay Dutt, Saif Ali Khan and Shah Rukh Khan(yes, many Bollywood stars share the last name Khan. And Dutt. And Kapoor. Some are related (and ride on their parents' coattails) and others are not).
Following is the full list of stars who appeared in the film; the two that really poked fun of themselves were fortunate son Abishek Bachchan and Akshay Kumar- the latter of whom reminds me of Cary Grant and who, according to TJ, shaves his chest (because the hair there is turning gray).
Sanjay Dutt (who is currently in prision)
Saif Ali Khan
(In other words, everyone but Aishwarya Rai and Aamir Khan).
And if you stick around til the very end, you also get to see everyone who worked on the film.
If you see one Bollywood movie this year, this is the one.