India Fest 2014
West Palm Beach, FL
February 22, 2014
The aroma of samosas and curry chicken filled the air as I made my way down the narrow roads of West Palm Beach, FL. Ah yes, there it was, the Meyer Amphitheatre camouflaged with an array of electric colors welcoming every stranger to the 11th annual India Fest on Feb. 22, 2014.
As soon as I walked in I could hear the beating of drums bouncing off the two gargantuan speakers that sat on stage. There stood a man playing the Tabla, (Indian drums), to “Ang Laga De”, (Touch Your Body with Mine), from the Bollywood blockbuster hit, “Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela”, (A Love Story of Bullets Ram-Leela). Locals gathered near the stage to chant and dance to the tune.
Suddenly, I felt a warm hand on my shoulder.
“Ma’am, would you like a henna design?” asked a stranger.
I turned around to find a serene woman displaying striking designs on her hand.
She pulled my fingers and walked me up a hill, away from the show to a tiny tent that had about eight or so women painting designs on the many sightseers.
“What would you like?” asked the serene woman.
“A peacock,” I responded.
She simply nodded her head and began to paint away. I asked her name but she refused to tell me; however, she started to articulate the history of henna.
She began to tell me that henna is used for celebrations whether it is a weeding or a saint’s holiday. In India, many women simply wear it to demonstrate that they are happy. Not only that, but is believed that the longer the henna stays on a brides hand, the longer her in-laws will treat her with love and respect. If the henna fades away quickly, beware; her marriage may not be a happy one.
Once again, I could hear the speakers bouncing in the pit of my stomach as “Thug Le”, (Rob Them), began to play. I couldn’t contain my moves and found myself in the middle of the multitude, swaying my hands in the air, murmuring words I did not understand. As the DJ kept starching, the dancing kept going. The once small crowd now was congregation of pirouetting enthusiasts.
Eventually the music died down allowing for the next performers to come on stage. Yadden Group, the musical act, consisted of three males and three females. Their performance entailed singing of memorable Bollywood songs. While I was not too keen on the performance, due to the pitchy solos against a soundtrack, the fans sang along, some in tears others with their hands in the air clapping along to the classics.
While the performances went on, my attention was drawn to the splashes of colors and paintings that were displayed in the many of booths that surrounded the event. I stood spell-bounded by a cloth painting of the goddess Kali. The goddess rested her foot over a dead mans body as her four hands held swords dripping in blood. Her inflamed tongue peaked out of her blue lips, as her hazel eyes pondered into the distance. The cloth was embroidered with gold metals and glistening diamonds. The owner of the booth offered the painting to me. He claimed that this goddess could help suppress my anger. His both ranged from silk art and embroidery to bandhani (tie-dye) and glass beading. Without hesitation I took my gift. As the night came to a close I was persuaded to dance to the final melody of the night, “Badtameez Dil”, (This Insolent, Ill Mannered Heart, Doesn’t Listen).
Throughout the day I spent my time trying on a collection of saris, an Indian garment worn only by females, and indulging in the delicacies of Indian cuisine. From Chicken Tikka Masala to a Mango Lassi, I couldn’t close my mouth. As a free admission event to about 15,000 attendees, there was no surprise that this occasion was completely enchanting.
Written and photographed by Leah Pritchett