Happy Saturday! I’ve got family in town and, for no particular reason, they all got excited about going to the Indian Independence Day Parade at the end of my street. Even though I kind of knew it would be a short parade with mostly boring business floats.
So, we had Grandpa in the wheelchair, which was fun because it means everyone gets out of your way. But also meant that once we were planted somewhere, we were kind of stuck there. Although you will be unsurprised to know that everyone was super nice to the old man in the wheelchair and gave us extra chairs and cookies and stuff.
After we got planted right at the end of the parade route, I took a random in-law relative with me and we went off on a dive for samosas and water, and none of the stores were open. It was 11:30 on a Saturday, and most places usually open at noon or 1pm on Saturdays. But it was the parade day! I would have thought they would open early and be trying to wave in customers. Yet another indication that this would not really be the most impressive parade in the world.
Good news is, we finally found a restaurant that was just opening and had to sit and wait while they made our samosas. In the air conditioning, with glasses of water, and music videos playing on the TV. Way way better than standing in the sidewalk on the sun waiting for a parade to start. I was a little disappointed when our order was finally ready.
(Also, this was one of the songs, which allowed me to explain to Random In-law the whole concept of the reincarnation romance. He was very nice about it, either because he was actually interested, or because he is still trying to make us all like him.)
And then parade! Just as we got back to Grandpa and turned the wheelchair into a samosa table. And yep, it was all business associations, just like I thought.
Started with bagpipers, as do all good parades. It was an all desi troupe of bagpipers, no idea who they are or how that happened. I could have a whole colonialism-British army-Indian soldiers explanation. Or maybe it’s just a bunch of desis who live in Chicago and happen to really really love the bagpipe.
And then float-float-float. All essentially the same. As I watched the 5th identical float go by, I started coming up with a theory in my head. Pretty sure there is just a company you hire and tell them “float style B3, colors white orange and green, drive it to Devon and Western and meet us there.” Pretty sure that’s actually what they did, because we went by the abandoned floats on the way back to the car, and there were all of these people who had been riding on the floats getting into their minivans with folded up banners, and other people rapidly deconstructing the floats and throwing them into trucks and so on. But it made for a fairly boring parade, the only difference was the banners on the sides of the floats, everything else was the same.
(See, this looks cool, right? Until you’ve seen 5 of them and they are all the same except one says “Patel Brothers” and another says “Republic Bank” and so on. But it’s all the same floats with the same people in saris sitting on them)
So I entertained myself by imagining the little personalities of the different groups. My favorite was the Malayalams. First, there was this huge gap in the parade and we couldn’t figure out why. Turns out it was because they had all jumped off their float and started drumming in the streets. And were just going ahead with that, and blocking the entire parade route. In a very “we are Malayalam and we break ALL THE RULES” way.
(Basically, this attitude, but applied to the rules of parade structure)
Oh, and the float right behind them that they were blocking was the Telugu association. HA! You can take the south Indians out of India, and yet they will still find a way to block access routes for each other!
Oh, and in addition to the general Malayali association float, there was a totally separate float specifically for the Indian National Overseas Congress (inaugurated by Sonia Gandhi in 2001) USA Kerala association. So if you thought “oh, I am sure once the Malayalams all get to the US, they are just peaceful and happy with their shared heritage and past political disputes are forgotten”, no, that is NOT the case. Still two floats in the parade. And the Congress one was the less rebellious one, where they all stayed where they were put on top of the float and nicely waved, instead of leaping off and drumming in the middle of the street.
And then the parade was over, and we wheeled Grandpa back to my place (passing the deconstructed floats with a city bus already weaving their way through them), and then sat in the front yard of my building and had a samosa picnic. And now I am in my apartment kicking myself for not yelling at one or the other of the Malayalam floats “WHERE DO YOU BUY YOUR DVDS???????”