Over the weekend P and I went to Providence, Rhode Island to meet my sister for her birthday dinner, but also to check out WaterFire.
We had been to WaterFire before, but I think it is a neat program and didn’t mind checking it out again. It is an award-winning art installation that uses the Providence canals in conjunction with pyres of fire to draw people downtown on Saturday evenings. Usually there is a lot of music, and the fires and downtown city lights reflect in the glowing canal water. There are even Venetian-style gondolas with gondoliers, and couples can sip wine and nibble on cheese and crackers from picnic baskets while serenaded on their cruise. Its hard not to consider it beautiful and romantic. This past Saturday there were even several live swing and jazz bands around downtown and people were dancing in the street.
Our friend D came with us. He had heard about WaterFire but had yet to visit the program which happens every other weekend throughout the summer months. I guess he was expecting something really large and spectacular (which I would still argue that WaterFire falls into this category), but when we got to the top of the stairs walking down to the canal area he took a quick look at the row of brightly burning fires and said, “That’s it?”
“What do you mean, ‘that’s it?’” I asked, “Isn’t it nice? You don’t see the canals lit like this everyday!”
“Well… it looks like Pashupatinath.” He said, mentioning the holy Hindu river temple in Kathmandu where many of the city’s population cremate their dead, “Sure there’s music, but I don’t see what the big deal is.”
The more I thought about it… the walkway, with big stone steps where the crowd could sit and watch the river fires, look very much like ghats in places like the holy Indian city of Varanasi. I guess this beautiful romantic scene (for me) could look very much like a cremation area in the South Asian context.
Different life experiences, different perspectives.