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Rashmi, the now President of the Village of Buhmel, with family and fellow villagers.
On the day of our arrival we were supposed to go to see Rev. Vinayak Jadav, a Jesuit and professor of journalism at St. Xavier’s, in the Village of Buhmel where he grew up. It was the final night of the Twelve Days of Christmas and the village had prepared a large meal and ceremony for us to partake in. Unfortunately the lads of our group were extremely tired as was Carole and the car was an hour and a half late – this is acceptable in the Indian culture however and has been dubbed “Indian time.” As a result we did not end up going. New Years Eve made up for the missed opportunity.

On New Years Eve, Fr. Vinayak, as we and the students call him, came to us upset that we were unable to make it the previous night and wanted to make it up to us by taking us to the Village of Buhmel where Rashmi, a Catholic woman, just won the presidency of the village. Not only is this a pivotal moment because she is a woman, but more so because she is Catholic. The drive was approximately an hour and a half and the scenery changed from the buzzing city to vast countryside. We drobe through tollbooths with two military guards, seeing slums worse than you could imagine and finally arrived to a procession of three vehicles with smiling Indians covered in “kanku,” pink dust, and flowers draped on string around their necks. 

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Photo by Jennifer Solorio: Being rubbed with kanku on the trailer.
Fr. Vinayak then told us to exit the vehicle and stand with Rashmi in a trailer filled with children and women being pulled by a blue and white tractor. They were so excited to see us they grabbed our hands and rubbed kanku on our cheeks and faces. Dr. Byers, Chris and I really stood out with the dust on our faces because we are so pale, while Jen and Jim were taking it all in with smiles as well. Soon we were hoisted onto the trailer for the ride of our lives. 


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Jen and Jim enjoying the celebration.
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Villagers dancing during the procession in Buhmel.
For about an hour we were part of a private celebration meant only for the village and treated like celebrities. Rashmi’s mother stood behind me and held my hand and waist the entire ride and three young girls behind me wanted to stand in front while I held onto them. We all wanted the attention on Rashmi, but she saw everyone with his or her smiles and gleaming eyes on us and she knew it was right to share this moment with us. She then gave each of us a necklace of flowers, they were a bright orange and yellow that caught the light of the sun in a perfect way that made them shine brighter than their natural color. As we road along the fireworks and firecrackers continued to go off and the stop-go traffic of the procession gathered more people. Rashmi would get off the tractor and pay respects to visitor elders before we would leave.  
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Photo by Jennifer Solorio: Jen, Dr. Byers and I .
For about an hour we were part of a private celebration meant only for the village and treated like celebrities. Rashmi’s mother stood behind me and held my hand and waist the entire ride and three young girls behind me wanted to stand in front while I held onto them. We all wanted the attention on Rashmi, but she saw everyone with his or her smiles and gleaming eyes on us and she knew it was right to share this moment with us. She then gave each of us a necklace of flowers, they were a bright orange and yellow that caught the light of the sun in a perfect way that made them shine brighter than their natural color. As we road along the fireworks and firecrackers continued to go off and the stop-go traffic of the procession gathered more people. Rashmi would get off the tractor and pay respects to visitor elders before we would leave. 

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Photo by Jennifer Solorio: The girl with our flowers.
Before we left Dr. Byers gave his flowers to a girl on the tractor, Jen gave hers to a girl near our car and I attempted to give mine to a girl away in the corner but she ran away….. Everyone, including the natives, thought this to be hilarious while I stood embarrassed. But then I timidly gave mine away to the same girl Jen did, though she was even afraid. I blame it on my blonde hair.

In sum, we all walked away in awe. As if we were just put in a movie or documentary. People wanted to shake our hands and be recognized by us. They walked away and screamed, “Americans” and a smile stretched from one eye to another with happiness that an American had just touched them. We walked in feeling normal, but left feeling like celebrities. The feeling would continue on into the drive back when we saw a camel on the busy road and into the night with a walk around the city of Ahmedabad.

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THE CAMEL!!!



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    Andrea is a recent graduate from the Diederich College of Communication at Marquette University with a double major in journalism and Spanish.

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