By Karla D. Romero, Spark writer in residence
As I walked towards Circle Spark last Sunday, the morning was barely underway in downtown Indianapolis. I circled around the Monument and noticed that along with the extra seating and parklets provided by Spark, there were colorful new booths, stands and tables covered in even more colorful clothing, food and knick-knacks.
People began to arrive in large numbers, many of them dressed in dhotis, saris and other traditional garments. Orange, white and green ribbons and balloons decorated the stage that sat just a few feet away from the trailer I had to report to for Spark – “INDIA ASSOCIATION OF INDIANAPOLIS,” said the gigantic flag on the stage. It was India Day and my task on this particular Sunday was to facilitate the postcard project, which consisted of encouraging people to either create their own or send one of the many Monument Circle postcards (a partnership with the Indiana Historical Society) Big Car provides to anyone, anywhere in the world, for free (we’ll have them out every Sunday as well as other days until Oct. 16). As we began to set up, I felt several raindrops fall on my arms and before the rain could fall and wilt the postcards, Jim and I went back to the trailer, with just enough time to avoid the insane (yet brief) rainstorm.
I don’t know about you, but to go to work and to get to watch a rainstorm wash away the weekend at Monument Circle on India Day is quite a beautiful sight, especially when the sun finally made its debut. Once the rain cleared a bit, Jim and I gave it another go and set up the postcard table. On the sandwich board next to the table, I wrote, “MAKE A POSTCARD & WE’LL SEND IT! FREE!”
At first, it was hard to get people to come by, but a few curious onlookers did manage to make their way over. “What is this for?” Asked one of them. I gave them the spiel and they couldn’t believe it. “Seriously? You’ll send it anywhere in the world for free? Why?” Everyone asked the same set of questions, most of those questions with a hint of skepticism. After several answers to these set of questions, I found one that made the most sense, “Why not?”
We had a few more issues with the weather, but once the sun came out again and lunchtime rolled around, people started to crowd the table, many of them ate and chatted with me but weren’t interested in making or sending a postcard. “Do you send them to India?” Asked a young guy who walked by. I looked over at Nick Zuckerman who was there with me at the time and we both kind of nodded. “Yes, anywhere.” I answered. “We just have to make sure we put another stamp on it.”
A little girl stepped away from the Shalimar food line where she stood with her dad and asked me, “Can you send one to my grandma?” “Sure!” I answered. She spent several minutes on her personalized postcard and handed it to me. Although for the most part it was illegible, I could see that the recipient address line said, “Grandma.” She handed it to me and asked, “Do you know where she lives?” And walked away. Everyone who stood nearby laughed and a few minutes later, the little girl’s dad came up to me. “Are you really sending them to India?” He asked. I told him we were and handed him the postcard. He smiled, filled out the recipient’s address line with grandma’s address. “Thank you so much! Thank you!” He said.
Word must have gotten out that we were actually sending postcards to India, (on India Day, for free) because I was now alone and surrounded by people who wanted to send a piece of this day to their loved ones. “I cannot believe that you’re doing this for free,” said a woman who had sent a couple to family in India. More and more people came, several from Latin America, Europe, from all across the U.S., and many from other towns and cities in Indiana.
Those of us who had sent postcards or letters in the past laughed when kids came up to send one. “How does this work?” I laughed and explained it. Once they understood the purpose of postcards altogether, the majority of the kids who participated while I was there wanted to send several more.
In a time where new technology and fairly easy global communication is the norm, to see so many people, young and old, from all over the world, get so incredibly excited and emotional to send a physical object to someone they love is the kind of human interaction that perhaps reminds us that we need more human interaction.
Last Sunday, I was reminded that touching, making and physical presence as a community isn’t a luxury, but an innate part of the human condition. Many people who participated in the postcard project on India Day probably feel something similar. Now, can you imagine every Sunday being this fulfilling in Indianapolis? Spark is making that happen.
The historic and artist-created (Niina Cochran and Andy Fry) postcards available during Spark. This is a partnership with the Indiana Historical Society. Stop by and ask for one and we’ll mail it anywhere for you.