Indian community

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Last night, Tod & I attended a party to celebrate the Indian festival of lights, Diwali (aka Deepavali). Murali, one of Tod's colleagues, planned the party for the Indian IT folks working at several of the investment firms.

The party started at 6; we arrived at 6:15 to find a nearly empty room. Nalnish greeted us with a chuckling explanation, "Everyone is running on Indian time and will be here an hour late!"

Sure enough, by 7, the room was full of people. Diwali is a happy celebration, though exactly what it celebrates depends on what part of India you're from. It really doesn't matter--Diwali is a excuse for fun.

A dozen children dressed in party finery ran around playing games, while two dozen men and women mingled or sat in laughing groups. Young mothers dressed in gorgeous sari, glamourous salwar kameez, and stunning gold jewelry collectively watched over the children, keeping them out of harm's way and ensuring that they all played fair.

We played musical chairs, bingo, and a challenging game of "Guess the Hindi Song." We feasted on curries, poori, biryani, carrot halva and sweets and then set off fireworks along the river.

It was, in many ways, a pretty typical family-oriented social event. But it was different, too. Not because of the curry dinner or the exotic silks and gems but because of the relationships.

It's difficult to write about this without sounding either sappy or like a clueless ethnologist. I envy the Indian community in Tokyo. It is a real society of families and friends.

Perhaps the practice of arranged marriages fosters a larger, tighter social network, since couples aren't burdened with the wrong-headed notion that their partner is the one and only person they will ever need to rely on. All of the couples seemed to care for one another, but they were equally connected to their friends.

By contrast, the "foreign community" that I belong to is mostly unmarried or childless couples like me and Tod. The bonds among our set are much looser than those I saw last night. Whether it's the lack of children or a general difference in culture, I don't know.

I like the idea of a very close group of friends, but I don't know if I'd like to live in one. I'm set in my ways and those ways include a lot of time alone. Distance. Sedentary separation. Focus on work. Momentary irritability when someone changes my schedule unexpectedly. Well, I exaggerate. I used to have a house where people just dropped by whenever. And I loved that...

Next weekend, there is a Diwali party in Futako-tamagawa where 2,000 people are expected to attend. Maybe I'll be among them as part of the larger, looser circle of the Indian community.

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Sounds like a great festival and yummmmy food. I think that one of the reasons the ex-pat community is so strong is due to the fact that there is that isolation. I agree that the Indian social support and structure must be wonderful, but like you, I wonder if I'm too set in my ways to have to also live up to the accompanying responsibilities.

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