Happy Nowruz, Nyepi, Gudi Parwa, Thapna, and Cheti Chand, too!
And a Happy Springtime to all the rest of us, also.
Earlier today, I posted a short note on my Goodle+ about a lovely encounter I’d had with an Iranian woman who was on her way to the Kitchener’s Farmers Market to get some last minute items she needed for the Nowruz party she’s having at her home this evening. I’ll get back to the story of Sara and me in a moment, but right now I want to note that this year, exceptionally, March 21 also marks the New Year’s Eve for not only Iranians but also people in many other parts of Asia, too.
This year, Nowruz, the Persian New Year’s Eve, coincides with the equivalent holy day in much of the Indian subcontinent as well as on the island of Bali, where it’s known as the “Day of Silence”, a day of fasting, silence and meditation by which the Balinese prepare themselves to usher in the New Year on March 22, when “the youth of Bali practice the ceremony of Omed-omdan or ‘The Kissing Ritual’ to celebrate the new year” (Wikipedia).
Here’s some more of what Wikipedia has to tell us about this year’s March 21, which, as I learned today, is celebrated by millions of our fellow human beings, some of whom live in Canada and have made their home in the city where I now reside: Kitchener.
Ugadi or “Yugādi,(Ugādi ‘Samvatsarādi Telugu” Telugu: Ugadi/Yugadi (ఉగాది/యుగాది), Kannada: ಯುಗಾದಿ Yugadi,Konkani/Marathi: युगादि yugādi and Gudi padwa in marathi) is the New Year’s Day for the people of the Deccan region of India. The name Yugadi or Ugadi is derived from the Sanskrit words yuga (age) and ādi (beginning): “the beginning of a new age”. It falls on a different day every year because the Hindu calendar is a lunisolar calendar.
While the people of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Karnataka use the term Yugadi/Ugadi for this festival, the people of Maharashtra term the same festival, observed on the same day, Gudi Padwa (Marathi: गुढी पाडवा). Marwari, people of Rajasthan celebrate the same day as their new year day Thapna. Sindhis, people from Sindh, celebrate the same day as their New Year day Cheti Chand.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ugadi
Interestingly enough, there may indeed be a historical link of origin for all of these holidays, since the very word by which the people of the Indian subcontinent and the citizens of modern India call themselves – a word which does ultimately derive from the Sanskrit Sindhu, the historic name for the Indus River — actually made its way into the modern world by visiting and staying in Persia for a while, where it became the word Hindu we all know. As Wikipedia also explains, “According to Gavin Flood, “The actual term Hindu first occurs as a Persian geographical term for the people who lived beyond the river Indus (Sanskrit: Sindhu)”. The term Hindu then was a geographical term and did not refer to a religion.”
As a relatively newly minted member of Canada’s Green Party, it delights me to find that so many of my fellow Canadians celebrate the Spring Equinox as the day of new beginnings, as the eve of the Earth’s solar New Year, as it strikes me as something that seems not only emotionally and naturally apt, as true to the natural cycles of life’s seasons on our planet, but also, and precisely because of that, as something wonderfully rational, too.
Here in Kitchener, our March 21 began rather gloomily, with periods of rain interspersed with snow flurries and then, by about 1:00 pm, and at first only very tentatively, a ray of sunshine here and there. It was at about that time that I had my brief encounter with Sara, the Iranian woman I mentioned earlier in this note. She was crossing Queen at King, pulling behind her a bright yellow shopping cart, an exact copy of which I bought a few years ago, as my hips were then beginning to deteriorate (I had no idea what the matter was at the time) and I could no longer carry heavy items around. It was that burst of bright yellow in my field of vision that first made me notice Sara, and I now no longer remember how it was that we fell talking, each of us a perfect stranger to the other – perhaps it was while we were standing waiting to cross Queen Street, with an exchange of weather-chat we Canadians indulge in at the drop of a hat.
Sara was a bit downcast because of the weather we seemed to be stuck with on the first day of Spring, with some rain, some snow flurries, but also a few rays of sunshine (which she hadn’t noticed) every now and again. She became wonderfully animated, however, after I’d asked her where she was originally from and congratulated her on the Persian New Year’s Eve. Suddenly, there was a chance to tell someone else about how much Iranians love nature and how the real New Year for them has always been the first day of spring, when everything comes alive again. The trees, the grass, the earth beneath our feet even — everything springs back to life and a new cycle of generation starts with the first day of Spring and the first day of the Persian New Year.
She then mentioned her brother who now lives in the Netherlands, and who’s been sending her email photos of the tulips in bloom and all the wonderful scenes of spring already in full swing in that part of the world. She was longing for some signs of fresh greenery, of Spring itself, here too, and was amazed when I told her that you can find plenty of them in Victoria Park, where, over the past 10 days or so, I’ve been taking photos of nature gradually coming alive again. Although I couldn’t show Sara these photos just there and then, here they are, a record of what this March 8th and March 18th looked like in downtown Kitchener.
When I told Sara that I myself wasn’t an Anglo (which she’d taken me for, as people often do because of my residual British accent, but that’s another long story), and that I’d been born in former Yugoslavia, it then turned out that her brother used to visit Yugoslavia while it still existed (Serbia, she said, then quickly corrected herself, wondering if I might not be from Croatia, perhaps, and so offended by the very mention of Serbia) AND that she could still speak some Serbo-Croatian herself! At which, she began to tell me all the Serbo-Croatian words and expressions that suddenly flooded out of her mind.
An Iranian-Canadian speaking Serbo-Croatian to a Yugoslav-born Canadian in the middle of downtown Kitchener might sound like the stuff of fiction, but although Sara did surprise me, I wasn’t as astounded as I might otherwise have been because only two years ago I’d met a Vietnamese man – my then physiotherapist – who also spoke an astonishing amount of Serbo-Croatian, a language he learned here in Canada because he’s such a devoted professional that he wanted to make his patients from former Yugoslavia feel more at home, feel loved and welcomed, so he picked up enough of their language to carry on a conversation in Serbo-Croatian and thus make them feel less like complete “strangers in a strange land”.
The sudden outpouring of Serbo-Croatian words and phrases out of this lovely Iranian woman whom I’d met purely by chance did surprise me, though. How on Earth did that come about, I asked? Well, she’d taken English-language classes for newcomers to Canada with a bunch of people from Serbia, she explained, who taught her so much Serbo-Croatian that, at a party a few years ago, a guy who didn’t know her took her for Serbian!
But do I look Serbian?, she asked me, with such moving incredulity in her face and voice, taking her hood off to show me how dark her hair is. Oh yes, you do, I said, there are lots of women in Serbia and Montenegro and Macedonia and Bosnia who look just like you. My own hair, I went on to explain, pointing to my yellow tresses, comes from a bottle! And you’re a very beautiful woman, Sara.
As it happens, even our names are very similar. Hers means a princess, mine a little queen.
Unfortunately, Sara didn’t wish me to take a photo of her as she hadn’t done her hair this morning and is shy about having herself photographed (which I sympathize with entirely, as I often feel the same way myself). Although I don’t have a picture of Sara to put here, I did take some photos at the Kitchener Farmers Market – where we parted ways, each of us intent on her own shopping errands – and here are some of them.