First Person: Berkeley goes all Punjabi this week

By Jane Stillwater
Wednesday June 15, 2011 - 12:05:00 PM

Every Sunday I try to get down to the YMCA and treat myself to a jacuzzi, a swim, some serious time in the steam room, a hair-wash and a granola bar from a snack machine in the basement. But when I went to the "Y" this Sunday, I was amazed to see all of downtown Berkeley crowded everywhere with Indian men and women, all wearing multi-colored turbans and bright saris. So I joined the crowd and followed everyone to a huge festival being staged in what used to be called Provo Park. 

Wow. Just wow. There were so many people of Indian cultural descent in the park that it was just like walking through downtown New Delhi. Magical. Amazing. I think I just saved myself the price of an airline to Mumbai. "What's the occasion?" I asked a group of young men standing around on the Allston Way sidewalk, listening to sitar music and eating chapatis. 

"It's a Sikh festival, our festival of life. Celebrating life!" Works for me. "And celebrating being healthy." Wellness is always good too. "People have come from all over California to celebrate this festival." And they originally came from the Punjab, where the Sikh religion was founded. "Sikhs believe in the sacredness of life and that all people are equal." How Berkeley is that! 

My only regret is that I didn't have my camera with me so that I could take photos of all the beautiful performances, all the beautiful children, all the beautiful saris and all the beautiful food.