As my expatriate companion moved to open the door of our car, school officials came running to shake his hand and place a customary circle of flowers around his neck; the token of respect and affection in that part of the world. Hundreds had gathered at the entrance of the college to watch this arrival. Most of them had no connection with the College, but anything unusual draws a crowd in India, and they were here to see the fun.
Our guest looked over the heads of pressing school officials in the direction we were obviously intending to walk. Standing in the blazing sun in their startling uniforms was the band hired for this special occasion. On a signal from the principal the band would begin celebrations with an impressive roll of drums, and we’d walk slowly to the auditorium far in the distance where an address would be given by the visiting dignarory. Lined up on either side in perfect formation senior classes in uniform stood stiffly, ready to come to attention and salute as we passed by. This was a standard welcome with perhaps a little more icing on the cake than usual.
Soon we were on our way to the beat of drums, and loud cries as each unit leader brought his group to attention. Our guest gasped in surprise! Small girls darted about before the advancing group, throwing rose petals in front of this important visitor’s feet as we slowly advanced toward our destination.
The throng of onlookers following our procession murmured their appreciation for the “tamasha.” I explained that in Hindu mythology lesser gods always threw rose petals when major gods moved around, and we laughed at the thought. It’s a nice custom and doesn’t need to have religious significance, nor did we think ourselves of that much importance.
The address was well received, and the school received a large donation as a result of that visit. Our visitor approved the school’s developmental plans and recognized the need to support their quality education programs into the future.
Our guest couldn’t forget the rose petal ceremony though, and kept referring to this during the remaining days of my itinerary with him. Would he get that kind of welcome when he returned to the US? It’s very unlikely he did!
“© Copyright Ian Grice 2014 All rights reserved”
 Tamasha is hard to translate into English. Maybe tumultuous gathering will give you the sense of it here.