Neighbors gathered in the open-air foyer for the nightly puja during Navratri, when Hindus worship nine forms of the goddess. My mother-in-law was recovering from surgery and as the next eldest female in the house I was charged with performing the aarti. I slipped my feet out of my sandals, onto the cool marble floor, and took my place in front of the puja altar. In my hand I held the steel plate my sister-in-law had expertly arranged with rice, a small oil lamp, and an auspicious red swastik. Bells tinkled as women sang along with a recording of the aarti song blaring from a portable tape player. My arms grew tired as I used the steel plate to create clockwise circles in the air, first in front of the altar and then in front of each neighbor’s face. They cupped their hands to wave smoke from the oil lamp over their heads, a form of taking blessings from the goddess. The warm October air was heavy with the fragrance of incense, and the experience that filled my senses slowly filtered into my psyche. My journey as an American housewife in India had ceremoniously begun.