Rang Bi Rangi by Erin Lopez

Recently we learned about adjectives in our Hindi class, or rather “visheshun”. The word that really captivated me was “rang bi rangi”. Not only does it roll of the tongue, but also it is the perfect word to describe India. The fourteen of us entered into a culture marked by colorful clothing, cuisine, and character. It is safe to say that not one of us has seen a single saree or kurta (traditional Indian dress) with exactly the same patterns and colors. I look forward to seeing the new patterns our teachers wear each day, because as of today they have not repeated a single outfit. There is a cabinet in my room full of my host mother’s 40 different sarees.

Furthermore, the food is just as colorful. Whether you are eating the world famous Alfonso mangoes (a Maharashtran speciality) for the third time in one day (guilty as charged), or you are drinking down spinach soup (palak saar), the aluminum plates we have learned to eat from are never lacking in color. Any vegetable or fruit market or spices in our respective kitchens will attest to the multiple hues eminent in Indian food. The colors in our foods have expanded our palettes to new tastes and complex spices.

What is even more interesting, is how important color is in the art and design aspect of the culture. In our art classes we have learned to create Rangoli, and have seen professional Rangoli color the streets.  Rangoli is a traditional art form where the artist creates intricate symmetrical designs using colored powders, flower petals or rices. The pieces are meant to welcome someone or celebrate particular festivals, and can be swept away when the event is done.The sidewalks are not grey cement, but rather red and yellow. Numerous temples which decorate the skyline of Pune boast radiant colors. In the Bollywood movies, colors bring the musical numbers to life.

In our language classes, we have learned that Hindi does not have different names for different shades of colors. For example, if you wanted to say something was deep red, in English we might say crimson, but in Hindi you would repeat the word “lal-lal” (red-red), and that would suffice. No matter the variety of shades in the rainbow, there is only one name. It has all seemed to workout so far in our descriptions.

As far as character, we have become aware of the colorful character of the people through our host families. On the morning ride to school, we exchange stories supporting this claim. From architects to yoga instructors to math professors to doctors, we have the opportunity to engage with the colorful personalities of the Indian nation. Our host siblings have illuminated the hard working yet jubilant theme prevalent in the youth of India. On every street corner, museum, net cafe, temple and saree-shop, all will attest to the prismatic identity in a nation that is full of diversity and yet steadfast in unity.

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