Staying away from home and moving in a circle of people equally disparate from their homes creates a certain amount of bonding - almost a kind of alternate family environment grows. This doesnt happen in hostels because thats just a complete riot with so many crazy people around you that you dont feel lonely. (Of course this is a generalization and there are times in everyones lives when one is completely lonely even when surrounded with hordes of people). But, in my observation, once the community living of hostels gets over and you get over the initial rush of freedom AND money to spend (unlike in hostel) that beginning work in a new city brings, there is a certain amount of craving for more personal social contact.
Now you meet people who are all in the same boat in an alien city away from family and friends and you tend to congregate together - to form a, to phrase it melodramatically, replacement-family and friends. The nature of interaction is a lot different from other older social interactions though.
Anyway, after all the theorizing, heres the real crux. Ive been lucky enough to find a bunch of people here in the last 7-8 months who would fall into the category I have so academically theorized upstairs. With this group I have been celebrating the myriad festivals that dot the indian calendar in all their rainbow hues (pauses, looks at the sentence again...myriad, rainbow hues - reall? just who is writing this corny stuff, cant be me!). These festivals have traditionally (since leaving home) been celebrated only as laze around I-dont-have-to-work-today holidays. But in the last few months, thanks to this group, the celebrations have had a traditional bend to them (we may not adhere to all the nuances that our moms would, but atleast we take out all the fun elements and do them well)
So Diwali last year saw us having a proper pooja ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Puja ) at the house of one of my friends. In fact I will not lie, I always miss home terribly on Diwali but this pooja, a very simple ceremony, brought me a lot of peace and tranquility. I still missed home like crazy but did not mope around. Of course once this was out of the way we brought out the real kick ass crackers that had been bought from outside Bangalore to make it more economical - two sacks full of them! to really obliterate all peace and tranquillity in the area ( http://swappinglives.blogspot.com/2008/10/cracker-pooling-is-cool.html ).
In a similar vein, yesterday was Makar Sankranti ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Makar_Sankranti ), a festival I have never ever celebrated before (I think). It is the festival ushering in the harvest season for farmers in India. Also, I have flown a kite exactly twice before in my life (yeah, yeah Ive had a stunted city boy childhood). And the biggest and most fun part of this festival is, of course, to fly kites!
So a bunch of us, eight people, actually congregated at one couples place which had access to the terrace of their apartment building with twenty kites, ehuberant spirits and two left feets (as far as flying kites is concerned). Fortunately two of the eight had spent their childhood constructively and knew how to fly. It was awesome.
Getting the kite off the ground is the most difficult part, especially for amateurs. But once the kite takes wind and stabilizes a bit the soaring feeling is amazing. The rush of the breeze, the pull of the kite suddenly aware of the potential heights it could fly to, the sharp cut of the manja (kite-thread) burning across the your finger and the excited shouts of people around you screaming instructions - Pull, pull you dumb @!@^**#^ or the dheel de, dheel de $&$#^$*.
Really good fun. We flew kites in the morning, went out for lunch, cam back and flew them again till evening set in. In the end we also released the kite which was flying the farthest. It was over 900 meters away and I suspect it was in some jet stream and would still be flying. I was all for keeping it tethered overnight to see if it would still be afloat in the morning but was convinced by romantic and practical arguments (let it fly, release it let it attain its highest peak and all its capable of doing and it may drop across a road and the manja could give some serious cuts to two wheeler riders respectively)
A really good day and now im figuring out exactly why festivals are celebrated. If we open our minds and go with the flow the festivals are really awesome fun!