This year was the first year where we decided to welcome Ganapati Bappa at our residence. Till last year, The Almighty , Lord Ganesha, was welcomed at my in-laws place and we would joyously celebrate his presence. I still remember my first year of being a part of the celebration as the rightful daughter-in-law of the Iyer Family. It was a full on family event . I was just married and barely six month old in the new family and was witnessing the special celebration so closely. At my mom’s place, it was just the first day affair but here it was going to be a five-day event. I was purely anxious to experience the festivity so closely. Since then, the training began to learn each and every aspect of taking care of the culture and the traditions passed on by each growing generation. My grandmom-in-law, the oldest elder in the family , would instruct everyone and everybody would get busy in following the same . If she would find the output not up to the mark she would rightfully tell us our mistakes.
In the first few years , my grandmom-in-law and me would together prepare a few items of the mahaprasad( the first day has an elaborate spread of the prasad). My mom-in-law would parallelly train me with the other difficult preparations. It would include everything , sweet as well savory items which the Lord would eat. Then, my novice experience of handling the meals and prasad ended me in learning everything on trial and error basis. But, somehow practice made me near about perfect. The modak had to be aptly in the shape, the dal-vada had to be of small size and properly fried and so many other things . The many small things which we never would want to try in our daily lives were tried and tested by me. My husband too was getting trained to perform the puja, like an in-house priest so he too was getting confident on the procedure of the first day puja. This year, we decided that we takeover this big responsibility and learn by each passing year. The great day arrived and we with our happy hearts and energetic souls welcomed the Lord to making his graceful presence for the coming five days . I was feverish , tensed and tired with anxiousness . Both the boys are of extreme age, so tantrums too had to be extreme. Would they support in the preparations ? But all the anxiety faded away as we welcomed Bappa. As the tradition goes, all family members got together and all leading ladies including me got into the kitchen to make the elaborate meals. The living room had Bappa sitting gracefully and adorning the entire atmosphere and making everyone happy with his presence. My elder son, now 9, has been seeing all this since birth and so was my meddling 3-year-old munchkin.I was energetic and welcoming the people come and go. My neighbours too were playing their bit by participating and helping in the best possible way.
5 days just flew off. We immersed Bappa and returned home. The Bappa’s corner , now empty, only made me feel sad and suddenly I felt that I had a lot of time and with no work or no hurry. The next day, we all got back to our businesses , my kids got back to their schedule . My bones aching and my eyes drained out and with all the fatigue,I decided to sit quietly, all by myself. While I sat on the couch , the entire event played in my mind in rapid speed. Just before Ganesh Chathurthi we had a spate of viral infections making us infected with cough and cold and high fevers. At that time, I felt , would I be able to shoulder the big responsibility of welcoming Ganapati Bappa with no hindrances. As I thought of all that, it made me feel proud that we did a good job by taking over this responsibility from our parents. Some said, it’s too early for you to learn , some appreciated. But honestly , we took up the responsibility purely to learn and purely to teach our son’s the culture of puja and prayer , the tradition of aarti and the willful participation of all generations. These 5 days we saw each one us, including our neighbors, friends and relatives participate in every activity of preparation. It was as if we were celebrating togetherness. All regrets, pains and sorrows forgotten just to be a part of the pious atmosphere.My husband ensured that he put both the boys on smaller chores . It was just to pull them into preparations with their little protest . It was very important, that my sons should know the culture and there would be no scope of all these traditions dying a slow natural death.
Think about this , we got the cultutal doses from our parents , they in turn from theirs, but I am sure with each transferring generation the cultures would have got diluted a bit or a bend and bow of tradition was obvious. Maintaining religious sanctity is definitely important . The modernity introduced should not lead to dilution of cultural heritage or traditions .But the show must go on. Our children should know to pray they shoud know the baby steps to be taken now so that they are seasoned when they grow up and moreover they dont forget where they belong to. Be it a girl or a boy, it must be our effort to lead them to take up responsibilities. If we are so committed to make them strong in academics then why not make them strong in our respective religions, cultures and our traditions. Dilutions will only lead to extinctions and our younger generations may forget the existence of God, they may forget to converse with God. The prasad’s made , the decorations done, the aarti’s sung all these only teach our children to dedicate some time to God and to the belief . World is shrinking, with the religions becoming intolerant towards each other, our younger generations should only be taught to respect each other and to develop that oneness with God. By introducing our religions and in the best possible form will they not learn to have a sentiment of belongingness to their roots? Our cultural heritages are simple hence our children too should learn to be well-versed with their roots. Maybe , by doing this we will be successful in conserving religion and in turn conserving humanity. The festival concluded with zest and we were happy that we took our baby step to teach our children the meaning of religion in a very small way.
The year 1999 was a very critical year of my career. It was the last year of my graduation and obviously very important because it will determine my fate of taking up a job and gathering experience or study further for a professional qualification like MBA or C.S. As I was a sincere student of one of the premier colleges of the city, the last year was simply getting claustrophobic because all the young aspirants would walk around the campus with their mission written on the forehead. Some were aspiring CA’s, some MBA’s and some were determined to enter the family business and give it a global lift. Some of them were in their last group of CA and were so sure that after graduation they would be getting their CA degree too. Traumatized as I was, would pity my own self for having a very poor intellect and would sulk day in day out seeing the accountancy chapters. Economics and other theory subjects flew seamlessly in my memory but numbers and debit/ credit would play games with me. My girl gang of friends would solve the accounts sums in a jiffy and me? I would take ages to understand them. I knew it was a mind block but I did try sincerely to understand and befriend the subject but all in vain. In my entire tenure of five years of graduation in commerce my balance sheet would have tallied just once and my friends would so easily tally the sheet. So now picture this, here I am already in self-pity mode thinking how dumb I am and my friends getting so intimate about their tallying of balance sheets!! Ah!! Accountancy practice sessions would be tragic and I would feel I am heading nowhere with all the three accounts subjects. March month was rapidly approaching and so was our board exam. First three papers were of my best subject – Accounts, and all the three occasions I was in deep grief and fear that I will be failing in my annual exam. My mom was all tensed up thinking of the failed mark in a board exam ! Cousins would call to console (had only one or two of them studying commerce then, rest all were science geeks). I would keep thinking of my results. That summer vacation, after the strenuous board exam, I decided to live my life fullest dreading that I might have to prepare for the October exams, which is a repeat exam for the subjects in which you have failed. It was a taboo to fail in my family. My grandparents and my parents would carry a sorry face and people would mock them because I failed. I would count my score every moment in my vacations and would think of the dreadful day.Come June and the rumor mills started churning. One fine day, we got the news that the results were displayed in the university. So all the co-ordination happened on the landlines and I set to see the result with the gang of my intelligent friends. I saw the huge rush on the display board and got worried thinking how I would take a failed mark against my name. I was getting nervous as well as anxious. I was feeling like vanishing in thin air. With cold feet I started the hunt of my name from the pass class list , moving to the second class and was so relieved that I was not appearing in any of these searched lists. This means I had not failed!! And this also means that I had either got a first class or a distinction. Distinction was a farfetched dream and never sought too but yes was happy that I had got a first class. My roll number stood right there on the first class list and with a bold 66%. I jumped on my feet ,shouted and hugged my friend standing next to me . And there I was a “first –class “graduate. I called up home on the landline and proudly told my parents that I got a whopping first class. My mom and dad that day would have been proud of me thinking that they were saved of so many misfortunes. Celebrations followed at our place with my darling mom flashing me everywhere like a trophy to everyone who came to congratulate me. Now the next struggle began whether to be at home and study for a professional course or to start job hunting and be on the move with regards to earning of experience.
The very next day of the result, I got an offer for a part-time job and agreed to do it. It was comfortable for me to study for the MBA entrance exam and work for experience too. The job was that of an accounts assistant in an architect firm and was offered to me by one of our family friends. I started travelling to the new office by train and then walking it up from the station to office. The road to office was very interesting. Since my office was in the prime Marathi locality I enjoyed watching the old residences. I was doubly observant about the mini walk to my work place. The small grocery shops, the spices grinding machine, the people walking on the footpaths were all the same, busy in from morning to – night. The fruit stall, the Udipi restaurant and the small individual houses were always full of life. It was a 10 minute walk. As I had to reach my office at 12, I would plan my start and would take the fixed scheduled train and then would reach my destination in about an hour. As days passed, I would see the same type of people day in day out who would walk in my opposite direction. I would guess they too were heading to their fixed commitments and they too would be taking fixed schedule commutes. Of which , there was a gentleman who would be dressed in a khadi kurta and a pair of jeans and at a particular junction we would be face to face with just a split second to notice each other. When I saw him for the first few times I tried to strain my memory as to where else did I see him. Of course, he was a TV personality ! His face would haunt me in my walks to work and ultimately I realized he was an aspiring actor and was making his career in Marathi film industry with some small roles. I was very intrigued with his personality. He would also stare at me and I would also give him a wavering look. I had already started my pursuit of getting into an MBA school and my new struggles were already playing mind games in all idle walks to my work place. What I noticed of this man too was that he too was struggling; his walks and expressions said it all. They were all filled with anxiety and hastiness. He also, I am sure was going through bringing something definite to his career. Google did not exist then and smart phones were not known. So obtaining quick results through search engines was not possible.I would just plug-in my walkman and would walk and would see this man almost every day cross my path. After a few months I got an offer from a bank and decided to quit my part-time job. The last days to work were hasty and of no fixed time and so obviously I did not see the budding star. Today, when I see him in the movies I feel he has come a long way, he is a national award winner and yes that walk really had an impact on my mind. The very sight of him would remind of me of my struggling days, of my progression too from a part time job to a plush private sector bank job. Strange are the ways of life, we all struggle in every phase and we feel that we are the pitiful ones who are fighting it out but fail to notice those in and around people who are also struggling, who also are rushing towards their goal and are also dreaming big while walking towards their destinations. Struggle is inevitable, small or big, challenges are there, either they make you or break you .We have to aspire but never forget what you were then and what you are today, you have always progressed. Did you not climb up the ladder from the lower steps to the higher steps? You may fall or skip a step but success is inevitable if you are struggling and on the move. All the riches come your way and you earn the brownie points in the little forms when you progress in your personal lives. Life attains a balance when you welcome your younger generations and then too you struggle. Don’t you think struggling is healthy if you are getting richer with all such riches? All the best for your struggles and aspirations!! Keep aspiring and keep struggling !!
I handed over my branded watch to the service center ,my most priced possession and a witness of my life and career. People used to envy it and would always say ,” This watch really has a charm”. I would laugh it out and would feel that I was the proud owner of the “lucky charm “. Somehow after my marriage and my graduation to “mom of two “this watch failed to show correct time and the dial too was cracked. While cleaning up my drawer I found my watch and I was sad thinking how could I ignore this lovely possession . I decided to get it repaired . Somehow you just tend to get emotional about some things and you relate them to your good old days. The watch repairer was an old man in his late fifties and was kind enough to attend to me even when he had a call to answer and a desk full of broken watches. I explained him the damage and also told him about my concern of whether it could be repaired .The watch repairer put on his glasses and checked the inside out of it with great astonishment. He promptly replied ” This watch is one of its kind. You won’t get such unique makes in the watches of today. I shall repair it and give it to you.” I was so happy, and thanked the gentleman for the same. I stepped out of the showroom with a new glow on my face.
After a few days I got a call from the service center asking me to pick up the repaired watch. Now this service centre is located in the suburb where I have lived my pre-marriage life. I have lived my entire childhood there and so the emotional attachment is obviously more when it comes to thinking of all this. I wore the watch as if I had worn my good luck charm on my wrist. I suddenly felt that my good old days are back .The dial of the watch was little oblong and of light lavender shade.The strap was unique with no locks but would just fit on the wrist like a band as in it was stretchable. And lastly, it was bought from the then newly launched series out of the little bonus amount received from my first appraisals. The watch looked so beautiful on my wrist ! It just reminded me and gave me a feeling of becoming a spinster again . I already felt ten years younger. It felt like I travelled back to that time when I walked out of the shop with my dad and telling him that finally bought a branded watch from my hard-earned money. And today it was almost after a decade that I was going to explore those good old lanes with my free arms ( I mean it literally, as I always have either of my kids to take care of ).While walking in those old lanes I felt like Mr. Amitabh Bachchan of Piku who cycles his way in the small lanes of Kolkata enjoying the total recall of his past time spent there.I saw the small size shopping center which had all small traders with their small shops of clothes, earrings, music CD’s and footwear. Malls didn’t exist then and visiting a mall for shopping was considered a status symbol. These shops were our economical malls. They didn’t have big brands but the clothes bought from these shops did last for years. The goodwill was immense. I visited all those shops which had memories of me holding my parents hands and nodding for all the clothes that they chose. Faces of the shop owners had changed maybe I would have forgotten how they looked like. Obviously couldn’t ignore the fact that I have grown old too. I decided to walk more. Undeterred with the hot blazing sun I walked with my head full of memories to the market. I remembered how my mom would drag me there after our school to pick up the groceries and how I would grumble while walking as that would be a silent sacrifice of my evening play time. Stress levels were high in schools and sacrificing one evening playtime would be a colossal loss. Today while walking on the same pavements with my shoulders loaded with groceries I realized how difficult it was for our parents to reach these center points for grocery shopping unlike today where everything is online. I saw the railway station opposite to the bazaar and that reminded me of the 8.03 am train which I never missed to reach me to office on time. I saw that meeting place where after being betrothed my husband and I had met on my birthday as he was invited to be a part of the bash and was to get introduced to our other family members.I saw that ATM and ticket counters which had 24*7 snail like queues. And there, I saw an old blind man selling note books. During my college days it was my ritual to buy books only from the blind people who would crowd the bridge and sell stuff for a living. There was an old blind couple which would sit with their lot of notebooks and would efficiently accept the money and give you the correct change. The old man would wear a white kurta pyjama and a Nehru cap and his wife would wear a Marathi style nine yard saree. They had wrinkled faces, trembling hands. When asked about the cost of the notebook they would quickly reply and try to show you the quality of the note books. I would find it extremely painful to see them in this state. I would buy 2 or 3 notebooks and of higher quality even when I didn’t need them. I always thought it was my silent contribution to their living. Today, these people would be barely making some money or may be not. This time too I bought the note-book from this old man only difference was that he was someone else. That old couple would have got lost in time . Was wondering where they would be . I saw the sweet’s shop which was a living legend as it would supply sweets of high quality during results season. The shopkeeper would greet us with warmth and would offer us samples to eat so that we decide the best sweet to distribute to everyone to share our happiness. My parents would buy sweets from this shop when I scored excellent in board exams or even when I scored a higher score than my batchmates in my MBA exams. Now the dealership had changed and the quality of sweets didn’t look the same. That was a disappointment. The shop where one gram gold or Bentex earrings were sold had closed down but saw a small shop still selling it. I would sometimes buy small earrings for my mom on her birthday and she would accept it with pride.
I roamed that day till I realised that all these places haven’t changed much,people have changed. The marketing strategies of the shopkeepers have changed but the goodwill,the name or the place has not changed. Memories are so good .They make you feel so young, so alive and lastly nobody can change this gift that you carry for your entire life . I know every time I visit these places I will only miss my fond days,my childhood, the innocence and the simple yet satisfying life which we lived then . For me ,my icon of memory was the wrist watch, the old blind couple , the sweet shop or even the ATM or …oh so many of them !!
Take care of your memories for you cannot relive them.
Travelling to places, getting inquisitive of the lifestyle of the people staying in those places, the best sites to visit, the geographic, historic and demographic study is something that would love to do if my bandwidth would push me to the limit. Me and my husband , have this one liking which we undisputedly try to follow every year. It’s always on the agenda that one trip , an elaborate one, is definitely the award-winning trophy for the year gone by. In all my visits to the places that I have travelled and been there for a vacation I have tried to absorb the best practice of that place.
My cultural profile is an unusual blend of both dominating cultures of India. I am a Maharashtrian by birth and got to know the deeper and dense version of Tamil culture post marriage. After marriage,the culture, the rituals and a bigger challenge was to understand a new language !! After a decade of marriage, I have learnt most of the finer points of the Tamil culture but with great pride I declare that I have learnt the Tamil language. Though I cannot beat the typical Tamil accent but yes, it is a very faithful attempt every time from my side to speak flawless Tamil.
This year, we made a random plan to visit the South of India, Tamil Nadu to be more specific. Our sojourn began with the capital city- Chennai.We landed very early in the morning in Chennai. It was a fresh Sunday morning and the climate was very cool. The roads were busy with the city’s lifeline-the public transport buses. They were loaded with people and were speeding on the roads. One remarkable and an impressive feature of Tamil Nadu was that the roads were so smooth. No bumps, no patchy roads and no road repairs which cripple the city traffic. Every road was clean and it felt that the car was smoothly gliding on the road. As we neared the residential areas, I noticed the typical trait of a Tamil house- a beautiful kolam (rangoli) adorned each doorstep. Be it a shop, an eatery , a tea stall , a house or a temple, kolam is a must. It is very impressive and welcoming to the people climbing your doorstep. The hotel, where we were staying, was one of the famous ones. Since my husband knew his mother tongue well we really didn’t find it difficult to follow what the talks were. I tried very earnestly to pick up the fast words .We decided to kick-start the day with a wholesome, salivating and lip smacking south Indian breakfast. We really had our taste buds tickling. The spread was amazing and we chose to eat the best. Not a novice to the authentic food, I chose to be the food guide to my parents who were accompanying us for the southern sojourn and they too were open enough to taste each delicacy. The waiter serving our table was a bit old and had a smile plastered on his face every time we called him to get our next order. My husband, I noticed , on all his visits to south India gets invigorated and starts praising the food that he dumps in his belly. We ended the breakfast with hot piping filter coffee which was served in the traditional small size steel glasses and had a small flat based davra( small hollow saucer to pour your hot coffee to cool) . The first day we kept it very low, visited the house of our close relative and then to a famous Sai Baba Kovil (temple) which was close by to our place of accommodation .The next day we visited Dakshina Chitra which is a heritage village that displays the various caste of Tamil Nadu and it also had a display of the each caste’s lifestyle. Like the architecture and lifestyle of a Chettiar house, a Tam-Bram(Tamil Brahmin) house, the house of the potter community and many more cultural displays . I took a lot of time seeing each house as it was a wonderful treat to my inquisitiveness . This place was quite widespread and varied but you simply can’t get lost in it as there are sign boards to guide you through. There were photo shoots happening of couples who would be getting married as these would form a part of their photo memories or wedding albums. There are famous food outlets like Saravana Bhavan, Murugan Idlis and some small-scale lunch homes. Lunch plates would be dominated by variety of Kootu (country vegetables cooked in coconut gravies with minimum spice) ,appalam (rice flour deep-fried papads ) ,sambhars and a variety of oorgai (pickles ). The plate is incomplete without rice which is the staple diet of south and it was served in huge amount in your plate. I am not a rice eater hence didn’t order it much. I substituted it with Kerala Paratha .After our lunch we drove to Mahabalipuram which had beautiful stone carvings and stone temples built by the King Pallava. The day ended with aching legs and tired faces but we had our fill of each ones likings that day. Our taxi driver too was very informative. His taxi service is usually availed by the politicians so we got a fair introduction of the political scenario as well. After Jayalalitha’s death , fondly called as Amma by people of Tamil Nadu, the city could preserve her legacy of helping and touching the classes and masses. You can see her photo being put up in cabs and hotels or even shops.Some fans would wear flashy Amma lockets or even coin sized rings with Ammas photo fixed on it. It’s really amazing to see a political figure carry such an aura and be famous among the people even after death. The next day we visited T-Nagar, the shopping hub of Chennai and promptly entered Sundari Silks , the huge saree shop in T-Nagar. The other saree shops each of them was multi-storeyed had a wide collection of sarees. Nalli’s, Noor Nalli, RMKV,Pothy’s etc.There were many jewellery shops as well.I was purely into window shopping as my wardrobe had it all!!
Our next destination was Shankaran Kovil ( our family goddess temple ) which has Gomathi Amman (Goddess Parvati ) as the prime deity. The train travel to the district of Tirunelveli where the temple is located had got us tired. It was an overnight journey and we even the witnessed the very rare rain drizzle when we got off the train . The wet mud, the smell of burnt leaves, the local autos and the small huts and the localites getting to their work ,were seen on that busy morning. We checked in a new lodge to freshen up. The lodge seemed to be of much better standards to what this town could offer.It didn’t exist when I visited this place after marriage. I still remember ,then, after a train journey of 36 hours we were accommodated in the house of the priest. I was a complete novice to the place, people, language and customs. All I knew was that I had to observe and not show my hasty clumsiness in over excitement . I was told by my in-laws to be ready for the temple visit at as early as 6.00 am. The weather was pleasant and the temple premises had speakers playing devotional songs. The women were seen with wet hair and fresh flowers tucked in their long hair drawing the kolam outside the houses . They had the big red bindis on their forehead and above that would be a dash of ash which has to be compulsorily applied when you start your day or step out of the house. This time when I visited I didn’t see much change. We settled for breakfast at a local eatery. People of all castes, creed and religion were seen coming to this place. There was one peculiar thing of the eatery , the serving staff was very cordial and served food with extreme gratitude and warmth. I was sitting alone on the table and the waiter seeing me a misfit to the typical Tamilian appearance and dressing started communicating with me in his broken common words and made me comfortable asking every time on what I would like to be served. The service was quick and the food was very authentic. Delicacies like vadas,masala vadas and kesari (sweet semolina cooked in ghee ) were all served in banana leaf. We quickly got ready to visit the temple. Our family priest guided us through each ritual and we performed them praying for the wellness of our children and our family members. Our priest every time while saying prayers would ask the star signs of all our family members and would announce our presence to each deity. The temple architecture , like all south temples have a Gopurams( a layered structure with all idols depicting a scene) and the temple below were built with black rock. There are no wood carvings but only black stone. The idols were beautiful and pleasing . The rituals performed were very systematic and would teach you to be one with the Almighty. I had draped a silk saree and my both kids had worn silk veshtis (south indian style dhoti).My parents were taken aback by the enormous stone carvings and the entrance door itself was enormous. After the temple visit we were to head to Madurai. Our another close relative had his independent house in the small city. We reached Madurai in about three hours and really felt pleased seeing our uncle who was to escort us everywhere the next two days. He was staying alone in this house and had rented out the upper floor to a family. Ours kids were relieved seeing the home atmosphere and so were we. Our uncle was elated to receive us and we were planning to visit the famous Meenakshi temple the next day. The gentleman to whom our uncle had rented the upper floor was the eighth generation serving the temple. The next day we reached the temple a bit early as later the crowd would start picking up and at this time of the year there are Sabrimala devotees that travel around and visit lots of temple before they start for Sabrimala. Our uncle and the tenant accompanied us to the temple. He arranged for a smooth darshan as he knew the priests of each temple. The temple was amazing, had an unbelievable architecture and was built by black stone. The temple had all Gods but the main deities Goddess Meenakshi and Lord Shiva were best in their form. The goddess was so beautiful, her body was made of green stone and her stature was that of a divine appearance. I had tears in my eyes when I saw the almighty in such a beautiful form. Lord Shiva also was beautifully decorated . The huge mandapam ( an arcade which acts as a cieling to each sub-temple) made me wonder how were these idols carved. Each idol was carved out of single stone and the mandapam too was made out of single stone. The carving depicting the scene of Goddess Meenakshi marrying Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu carrying out the marriage of Meenakshi and Shiva was worth admiring. The facial expressions of newly wed – goddess Meenakshi and Lord Shiva showing his superiority is beautifully depicted in this temple. I am a big fan of history and archaeology and had innumerable doubts in my mind but had all my doubts were clarified by our escort and our uncle. Meenakshi temple is huge , what we saw was just a one-fourth of the area. I truly kept thinking that how was this temple built, how would the rocks be carried to the building of this structure. Also, it forces me to think that there were no great modernized equipment’s to carve out such structure with such finesse . Who were those skilled laborers who were involved in building this magnanimous sacred place? What would be the thought present in the mind of the people then to erect such structures and depict scenes with such beautiful carved idols. Each deity had an unusual significance and had a faith attached by the people visiting the temple. That day faded away with local market visit and with a beautiful memory of the temple. After Madurai trip we planned to close our sojourn by seeing the Goa of south India, yes, that’s right, we decided to spend the last three days in Pondicherry. It was a five-hour road trip from Madurai . The journey was really pleasant and hassle free . The road was so smooth and our hired car driver too was making it comfortable for us. Pondicherry has French colonies, churches and you see some influence of Tamil with French culture in this place. Basically, it was a relaxing time spent here. We all took a walk on the side of the sea and since Christmas was round the corner the places were lit bright. It was quite a serene time that we spent. An apt closure of the year and of course satisfying too.
South India, Tamil Nadu per se has a lot to teach. The people have a lot of stickiness to their religion, culture and lifestyle. And that’s best suited to them. Yes , there is a resistance to speak in the National language but I see the new generation picking up on it too. The rituals , the food habits and the authenticity of the smaller and finer points are followed diligently. The infrastructure is good, all of them owe all of this to their political goddess Amma. The people are cordial , very basic and prefer staying in their limits. Next time you plan to visit Tamil Nadu ensure you have done homework on the places of visit . For me, it never ends here, I always feel that there could be more to the time spent. Like after every place that I visit , I always say to myself ,” I shall come again”. My southern sojourn made me adopt to the cohesion and fondness to the good pieces of my married culture and this time I saw me mature in my relation to this culture.
The auspicious month of Shravan brings in a beautiful spell in all our lives. It sets the mood of the festivities to follow and needless to say the grandeur with which we prepare for our all divine festivals make you feel light and invigorated.After Shravan comes the ten day festival of Ganesh Chathurthi which is the most pious and ofcourse the favourite festival of Maharashtra.Entire west coast decks up to welcome the lord.
At my in-laws we welcome the Lord for five days. My children too share the same sentiment that I do…of getting geared up to decorate the throne on which my Lord will be sitting to bless us.On the onset of Ganesh Chathurthi,we experienced light showers but then on the very first day the Lord decided to make a grand entry by pouring out the entire sky on the city. It felt as if he was blessing the kingdom with water so that no drought hits the black soil of Maharashtra.At home we were all busy cooking sweets and singing aartis,visiting our relatives. This time of the year I feel high on spirits and my mood is all elevated.
Five days just flew off and then on the visarjan(immersion)day we again had a cloudburst like weather condition.The condition was getting worst where waterlogging had begun and the means and modes of communications were slowly coming to a halt.We were thinking on how best and what time should we start for immersion.After much contemplation in the afternoon we started for immersion with our God seated on my father in laws lap. My husband was driving and we all seated in the car saw the huge downpour . The entire twenty minutes drive from home to the immersion spot all of us in the car were brainstorming on how we should carry out the most sacred activity in such a condition where the rain was so angry . Every year we immerse our God at Juhu beach and it is extremely crowded during the ten days. When we reached the spot to our shocking surprise there was not a single soul on the beach.The coast side coconut trees were swaying in rage as if they would now bend and break on our way. There were no traffic cops for patrolling and no life guards either.It seriously was a day where mother nature had poured her heart out. Inside our car, my husband,my eight year old son and my in-laws and me were just thinking of what next?? You cannot open the door, if you do so the gush of water will drench you.It was windy too!!! At this time, my husband took a very bold call. He decided to do the aarti in the car we did not light the lamp and after we finished our quick prayers we decided to take the next step .My husband stepped out to see if any lifeguard was there to help him carry the almighty to the sea.The Arabian Sea was showing its outrageous version and even though it was not a high tide, the coast of the very unlike Juhu beach was making us feel it will sweep you away. With great spirits and positivity my husband and my father-in-law picked up the lord and took him to the sea.It was a dramatic scene where I saw the tidal waves beating the coast and these two lonely souls carried our God and did a very systematic immersion. His almighty wanted to go back only in the hands of us and he made that happen.Every year the immersion plays a very sad sentiment within me but this time it was sad but a contented feeling where I felt that”He” chose it this way.
After we narrated this account to everyone some said you could have immersed Ganapati bappa on the seventh day but it was always why deviate..when you can you should your sheer will your trust in “Him” will sail you through all odds. My son witnessed some wonderful qualities of his father…he saw the immense composure in time of adversity and the truthful and pure conscience with which you worship God to which God reciprocates that He is there with you in all odd and tough times but you should keep your faith and trust in Him. He will sail you safe and never let you down..Truly our bappa proved it right and made our faith stronger. Ganapati bappa morya!!!
Ever since I have learnt creative writing and felt it is a skill that I possess, I kept pushing myself to make this passion a full-time effort to make me a writer in the long run. Writing to me is like venting out my original self and when I read the output I feel I am feeling better , I feel rejuvenated. My written words play a wonderful chemistry in the write-up and I feel proud of my creation. Its been 3 years since I chose to take up this alternate career. In these 3 years I could build up a writing portfolio to begin with and last, but not the least, my confidence seems to get better that I can write well and I need to reach that level of excellent penmanship.
Starting from this academic year , I decided to teach creative writing to the secondary school kids and thought of devising the curriculum all by myself. It was a fabulous experience to start something new and after such a huge hiatus. I felt liberated. Teaching, as said , is not so easy but when teaching your own favorite subject, it certainly is fun.
Here below, I present you a fantastic write-up of my first student ,Tanya Batra, studying in the eighth grade. About Tanya, her favorite subjects are History, Math and Engineering. She loves reading on these subjects . The assignment given to Tanya was to choose any topic of her choice and present a small write-up. She surprised me with such beautiful words and I decided to publish it in my personal space. So here we go!
The first rainfall
I remember the sky being overcast when I had gone to bed last night. I stood in the balcony to see the night sky. It was my favorite pastime to find constellations in the night sky when all was silent and all were asleep. There was no moon in sight only a few stars peeking through the clouds.
I woke up to the sound of heavy rain in the morning. I had curled up in my bed. There was a sudden drop in the temperature making the weather very pleasant and cool. I switched off the fan and looked out of the window. Dark rain bearing clouds crowded the sky roaring now and then and then. The hide-n-seek of thunder and lightning began. Roaring and rumbling shook the sky. The trees by the road were freshly bathed as if they were rejoicing in the first monsoon showers. They appeared very verdant and it felt as if they were back to life after the scorching heat of summer. The raindrops pattering at my window pane seemed to beckon me to come out. I noticed a pigeon flapping water off its wings on the opposite window.
By the time I came for breakfast , the rain had reduced to a drizzle. I sat in the balcony to listen to the soft pitter-patter of the last few drops of rain.
It continued to drizzle till afternoon. The rest of the day was pleasant with cool breeze flowing. When the night fell I could still smell the wet mud of the parched earth from the first rainfall.
31 st December 2016 ,it was time to say a good-bye to the old year and welcome the new year. Old thoughts good or bad would linger in your mind, you would mull about the lessons learnt and would always hope and aspire for more better quality of life in the days to come. I did that in the last few days of the year 2016, I sat back with a piping hot cup of chai and made mental ” post its”of what the year that will end was like.Like all of us think, old thoughts should get wiped off and new should replace them. Every thought makes an earnest attempt to impact your thought process to be positive in approach and make a lasting impression on your mind. The year went by me enjoying my motherhood in its second innings, my husband exploring new career avenue, my elder son became more receptive and intriguing about life matters( sometimes it was very tough to handle too). But the closure of the year was good.
Year 2016, gave me a test of my own capabilities, it made me aware of my strengths and weaknesses, it was like a revision of your own self. Why I am saying this ? It’s because, it was me and only me who managed my infant in his babyhood that included his extreme hyperactivity at every milestone, his illnesses , where I sat up the entire night with him finding a cozy warmth in my lap, his diet and love for trying various food and of course his every expression that made me aware that yes!! you are his proud dad and mom is. Of course, his father was there to witness it but only in the last hour of the day , when my little learner would be a little awake to create a bond with his father and impress him with his baby talk. Year 2016 also was a satisfaction of being a good ideal daughter where I planned a foreign trip for my parents who have always and always thought of their daughters and family members. Thanks to my cousins in Canada and Mumbai. But the year gone also was a litmus test of being a mother of my seven-year old son where he was facing challenging times with his behavior and battling insecurity of having a sibling.
But all that ends well is meant to have ended the right way. The last day of the year we headed to Ashwini Gardens , a beautiful resort situated in Bordi ,with our cousins ,many of us as parents and some of them as bachelors and spinsters, ensured we bid a grand farewell to the year gone. Our inseparable children were all geared up.They too were creating a bond among each other like their respective parents. The new year morning, being Sunday, we woke up and headed for a piping hot cup of chai. It was very cold in the dining area, but it was pleasant enough to calm down your mind. I was relaxing , unlike everyday morning my rush to make two set of breakfasts and packing of each meal tiffin was absent. Each sip of ginger chai made me enjoy each peaceful moment . After a small interval, we were called for breakfast and lo! it was really an elaborate and a tasty treat. Before we could tempt our tummy , we drank Neera which was straight from the sap of the tree and of course in the purest form. It had a very sweet taste and was really refreshing. Ashwini (the proud owner of the resort) gave us a scientific explanation of how healthy it was to drink neera on empty stomach . Post this we attacked the spread of breakfast.It was a very simple breakfast but what made it most beautiful was the entire second generation of our family were hogging and were enjoying the light banter. These set of cousins (my husbands cousins) ,their wives, our children and our unmarried cousins, all of us had so much to talk and tease about. Precisely, the hot piping chai, sandwiches, with tenderly stuffed capsicum ,veggies and cheese, Kande pohe , masala omelette, sunny side up omelette and the crispy butter fried toast were all just playing their roles of tickling our taste buds and instigating our breakfast talks with so much of laughter and positive reflections of days to come.While I ate my fill,I was eternally happy that my year began with so much of peace, happiness and needless to say with my very own people . That day we all left the breakfast table only with giggles and my husband too felt that he could spend his new year eve with his best buddies with whom he has grew up.
Needless to say, I started trusting the very fact that if you want a good start ensure that you have a good breakfast. It is really important that you eat well to begin well and live well!! Some of my friends follow this diligently, they include a variety of spread on the breakfast table , like a bowl of cut fruits, some milk shake and whatever you wish to add along with these two portions of nutrition. As I finished my breakfast, I made a conscious decision to remember my major actionable for the year 2017. How good was your new year breakfast ? What mood are you carrying for the year to come ? If you havent ,never mind , it’s never late . Rise up, cook up soulful meal and eat well and I am sure your taste buds too will tickle your thoughts and you too will know your actionable for this year. Happy breakfast and happy thinking!!
The night fell with a silence. There was a slight nip in the air. As I stood in my window watching the quite life outside , I saw the world calling it a day. Somewhere saw a father stroking his baby to sleep , somewhere saw a big screen TV playing news . The pigeons that create a nuisance throughout the day cooing in my window ,fluttering their wings randomly ,disturbing my little one’s beauty sleep, have all settled on the window sill with their necks tucked in. The park next to my apartment is closed and will be back in action the next day early morning.
Remembered those quite old days , when working in a hard-core corporate , used to be home fighting the traffic drenched with sweat and fatigue. Seeing the garden where I felt I could also be one of the many moms out there swinging my child and enjoying his version of day spent. I always used to look forward for this part of the day . I would love to wrap up of the day with my son’s innocent talks on what happened during the day. The dinner used to be a rich one ,not by means of we literally stuffing ourselves silly, but with the light banter that we as a family used to have. We used to laugh our hearts out when our child used to give his version of his seen world for that day. It only generated positivity for the day to come.
Ultimately , its only that however the day is, the night falls and we choose to wrap up our worries, good thoughts and our anxieties . We drift ourselves to sleep with all these feelings and we know that the next day to come will again be a new day,a new hope , a new beginning. I still saw the dad stroking his baby to sleep and felt there he is still struggling to end the day but babies as naughty as they are they choose to postpone the sleep. Only to get that little more time from his dad which she yearned for the entire day. Today the night truly is mesmerizing , all beautiful and all were just getting to retire with their pillows of worries, happiness , togetherness, regrets and anxieties. Some choose to stay awake , some choose to just say.. chill I want to rest come what may be. It is true night is just a beginning of the day next. Sleep well this night!
It has been three months that I lost my grand mom in law(Paati) . The grief and the loss was unmanageable. She carried a legacy of being very kind and affectionate to all who came and met her from far and away. Everyone was blessed by her and were treated royally by pampering them and asking us to serve them with home-made food or snacks. This was a common trait of both the grand moms.A year back I lost my grand mom(Aaji- Maternal side). Both these leading ladies had a wonderful life. Though they led the toughest of the lives but they ensured that the only property they could pass to their descendants was love and feeling of oneness. Our childhood was always made special because of our grand parents. They made us feel special on special occasions like birthdays and result days. My grandfather came from a very poor background but he earned good education of his time and secured himself a job in ANZ Grindlay bank. Aaji came from a very rich family but her father chose to get her married to an equally opposite economic status boy. In todays matrimonial scenario, every prospective bride or groom tries to tick his/her match with the comfort index. By comfort index I mean comforts like an owned apartment , car and a six figure income job.
I never had the opportunity to stay with my paternal grandparents but had heard from my father that my grandfather was very calm and a thorough gentleman who chose to live in his basic minimum needs. Our grandparents didn’t have lavish apartments but managed to house relatives from natives far and close by in those few square feet homes. Wonder how they did it!
I always wanted my grandparents to never die.The concept of death somehow was not applicable to my near and dear ones. Was a bit selfish thinking if my grandparents die , I will lose my childhood and wonderful priceless memories attached to them . When I got myself a job in India’s top brand bank, my grandfather on his death-bed gave all those advices which when I think today make me feel that they were so relevant. On his death , I felt that he died very early. He could have waited. Aaji lived longer to see her great grandchildren. You really need to be fortunate to embrace such a death where your eyes have witnessed your generations living a happy life. My aaji always used to bake a cake on my birthday in her aluminium case and used to coat it with colourful icing and proudly write my name on the cake. She never knew English but she would write my name with so much of perfection, it would be written bright as “Happy birthday Moushumi ” .In her last few days , she ensured she kept giving her bit of advice to us and ultimately she chose to die saying I have seen everything in life now I don’t wish to live and there she was lying in her sweet slumber.
About paati,she was a very pious lady. I remember nurturing her when her disability was evident. Though she stayed with my in laws, we used to visit her almost every weekend and would spent time with her. My husband and his brother were very affectionate towards their grandparents . Had to be because they took real good care of both of them. Before marriage I was slowly getting introduced to my new family. I would wonder,it would be difficult on how I would communicate with paati( I am a Maharashtrian married to an Iyer)but she built such a strong rapport with me by speaking in Hindi.Small episodes of cooking together in kitchen, she asking me to make simple dishes of her choice with complicated names, me combing her .. all this made me feel as if I am being lucky to have such a noble soul around me. Her small stories of childhood mischief’s and her love and affection towards me made me feel that she was not my grandmom in law but my very own aaji.
I always felt I am lucky to have witnessed such living legends.They have ensured that they drench us with their love and affection and we will ensure we pass on this legacy to our children. Paati passed away on the day prior to Ganesh Chathurthi and it felt as if she chose the time to die.She waited till she saw my husband, called out for him and breathed her last.It was as if we all had to see her go peacefully. My grand parents died peacefully without any struggle. On their death day they asked for bathing even when they were immobile , they chose to don the best clothes which they had kept in separate on for their last journey. As if they knew they would be dying on this day. All these souls were clear when to call it off ,when they were truly satisfied and when they would say very happily – I will be no more. So very obvious was their last few hours and so very clear were they about they calling off their life and inviting death. Today I feel , they all have truly rested in peace. They all chose the moment of death, they all chose to lie sound and we all said to them- “Thou shall rest in peace”.
Come December and we look forward for closure of the year . It is this time of the year when we think and review our achieved goals or agendas.Also,December is a time to go for a short trip. As rightly said ,one should plan a vacation every six months.I feel its the best time of the year to visit places in India. There is generally a cold wave in most parts of India. We cousins decided we go to some close by destination so that we don’t waste time in travelling . I suggested we go to Bordi, a small town just 3-4 hours drive away from Mumbai. I have been visiting Bordi since my childhood. I still remember getting off the shuttle train at Gholvad station. The railway run chai stall had those glass jars having sweet nankathais, gluco biscuits and mini jeera butters . We used to binge on these dipping them in hot piping chai celebrating our good old times. This time we had travelled by road so the fun part of travelling by train was absent. I kept visiting this place off and on as my friends parents chose Bordi to be their town to reside. My cousins were totally clueless about this place. Hence the inquisitiveness was high and so was the excitement. We chose to stay at Ashwini Gardens which is located in Borigaon in Bordi.
Bordi is a small town which is located approx 25 kilometers from Dahanu located in Thane District, Maharashtra. It is known for its chickoo orchards and lavish Parsi Bunglows. We started from Mumbai around 5.30 pm and drove down for 3.5 hours approx and touched Bordi around 9 pm . I could see no phenomenal change in the town as we drove the roads. Bordi had a tinge of influence of gujarati lifestyle. But marathi was the language which you could use for communication. The streets were calm like any small town which switches off after 8 pm. The next day after a sumptuous breakfast we decided to head to the beach. To our disappointment the patch of the beach where we chose to settle was badly littered. We wrapped up early from the beach and headed back to Ashwini Gardens. Must acknowledge staying at Ashwini Gardens was a wonderful decision. The road parallel to the beach has some new schools and colleges coming up. We could see young kids walking it up to their institutes. Parallely, we could see a group of school girls cycling on the road. The 1970’s scene of a bollywood movie with the fleet of girls headed by the heroine cycling boisterously flashed in my mind.It was Christmas and we could see group of boys and girls hanging around on the beach road.It was my nephews birthday the next day and we were hunting for a bakery shop in Bordi. Finally we reached Gholvad station and found a bakery shop. The shopkeeper gave us a few cake pieces to taste such that we could freeze on our flavour of the birthday cake. Bang opposite was the Gholvad station and lo! memories of the hot chai and jeera butter flashed in my mind again. But my stomach did not permit me much to go ahead and relive the experience.Due to the excellent weather one can feel the tickling of taste buds and ultimately you end up putting on a few more calories.
Travelling to new places, exploring lifestyles of people their food habits and culture have always been my interest.We can witness varied culture across our states which is enough evidence of our countries rich heritage. Bordi has Warli’s as their local inhabitants. You can see these local adivasis working on the farms as labour hired by the people who own chickoo and banana estates. Evenings were pleasant and there was a cold wave throughout the night. We can soak our brain and soul in immense peace and tranquility of the atmosphere. There are no serpentine traffic lines on the streets, no timelines to rush up with our schedule. Just a peaceful way to spend your day. I woke up everyday with the sun saying a good morning to me. Though, I have this privilege of seeing the sun rise from my Mumbai house but seldom do I stand in the gallery and absorb the energy.We had the opportunity to witness the weekly bazaar of Bordi which is held every Saturday . The chowk which was empty all these days was fully bustling with the local people from far and near places. It was a colorful extravaganza of various spices,clothes,toys. We city dwellers are very obsessed about wanting to eat farm fresh produce. So , my co sister and me chose to pick a lot of leafy vegetables,fruits at very reasonable rates. The produce was very fresh and of good quality.The women selling veggies were adivasis or natives of close by villages.I always wanted my son to witness all this. Kids should know the other part of world which is devoid of cell phones, i pads and laptops. They should know that there is also a a rural India existing which has no state of art technology. The market had a section which was selling dry fishes. I was enjoying walking it up the market as the busy street was very lively and very colourful. That was our last day in Bordi. We packed our bags and the fresh veggies with farm fresh chickoos and bananas and started our journey back home.
I am glad we planned our christmas vacation in this rural not so urban town. It helped us rejuvenate our mind. The beauty of this place is the chickoo gardens and the strong influence of Parsi community. That’s why I call Bordi a sweet basket. A fully loaded sweet chickoo basket. If ever you get a chance to visit this place ensure you take a tour to one of the chickoo orchard and needless to say, savour the sweetness of this sweet basket.