If i was asked about the best season i would always say not something like summer, winter or spring but my own nomenclature to that season which starts with Vinayak Chaturthi everywhere in India and culminates with the festival for the Sun God called CHATTH in Bihar. When the weather is just right neither warm nor cold to indulge in hectic preparations with added enthusiasm and much vigour. Although by the time obeisance is offered to the Sun God, a slight nip in air heralds the coming of the winter season. So this period between Vinayak Chaturthi and Chatth for me and many others has a name and it is called The Festival Season. And for me it is the mother of all seasons. i try my level best to soak in this season with the know how of what i was brought up with and of others that i have gathered during the years incorporating newer aspects of festivities not known to Biharis, for originally i have my roots in Bihar.
But Diwali always remains and shall remain what i have memories of since childhood and i try to celebrate Diwali the same way Ma used to do. That is from all that i can remember clearly.
Although then the religious part was exclusively Ma's domain while we kids would concentrate on just eating the specials, gathering as much crackers as possible for the Diwali day, and create a lot of fuss about the type of new clothes that we wanted to wear. The only preparation that i as a girl child would indulge into was making a Gharonda ( a toy house made with bricks and plastered with mud and later painted white with lime and finally decorated with colourful paper frills and everything that a child's imagination could think of). Later if i was not too distracted would help out Ma with Alpana http://www.culturalindia.net/indian-art/rangoli/alpana.html with pithaar as Ma called the milky soaked rice paste made thin with water to strike out brilliant white patterns on the floor and all parts of the room. The procedure being that first alpana would be made and then jau (paddy grains) would be sprinkled before a lit earthen lamp would be placed. The idea being from what i could gather was that pithaar alpana made the place free of impurities and fit enough for worship. Something like what we do when we use the holy water of Ganga to sprinkle and absolve both our body and the adjoining areas of impurities when we participate in any religious ritual.
Maybe i was missing making a Gharonda and also the paraphernalia back home so i decided to get busy.
The Gharonda prepared by my niece back home...this one made with thermocole
The regular brick Gharonda plastered with mud
i think of those fond moments when Papa would return from his Diwali shopping and hand me lovingly with an affectionate pat on my back my own basket full of glittering with mica dust the colourful kulhiyaa chukiyaa for my own Gharonda.
i just saw those tiny earthen pots and pans vividly... pastel pink...pastel green and pastel blue...felt not only the glittering mica dust on my fingers but also an ache as i went down memory lane. Took a deep breath and decided to relive the moments again.
i remembered all that was done and started two days prior to Diwali and have to confess that i became just too engrossed to think about anything else but how best to get the old paraphernalia back.
Maybe i was even missing my son and my family back home and my restlessness knew no bounds.
i was excited to let my imagination run free but deep inside i was trying to cull the sadness which kept tugging at my heart. An ache which was hell bent on making me lachrymose. i had two options, either to sit and remember the halcyon days with longing and tears or to shake the lazy and sad bones and get to action and make the best out of all i could afford to with my own skills and my own spirit which wanted it all back.
My own experience about dealing with sadness is that one should create work and just get busy. It is one potent remedy that finally helps you overcome the momentary pain and before you even realise what transpired you are already at ease looking forward to many more moments with a sense of joy and serenity that washes out any disturbance that could mitigate your own desire to participate in the festivities with full fervor. And if by becoming busy you have been even wee bit creative then you feel rewarded with happiness and satisfaction that comes at the culmination of your project, ' Dealing with memories and absence'. Maybe there were prettier and fancy diyas available in the market but mine was unique. For they were my own fanciful creations whereby i made use of many such items that were just lying in the cupboard probably needing to be made use of. Needless to say then of the immense satisfaction that made my heart leap with joy as i eyed the array kept haphazardly yet looking so beautiful.
A brief glimpse into what my project looked when it started begins with these vignettes.
Quite some work done with all sizes of diyas
Alpana on tiles and granite slab piece painted gerua (ochre)
The granite slab made ready with alpana for Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Ganesh
Alpana on a dark plywood near the stairs (this one a permanent fixture)
The entrance to the flat ready to welcome the Goddess
i feel that as we advance in age and time, we get these piognant memories of childhood and we yearn to have them back again. With changing times there is yet another fear coupled with guilt of losing out on our traditions and culture. With more and more of my gender joining the work force and having very limited time and patience at their disposal i wonder then what they must be imparting to their own kids about our own festivals. i am already thinking about the forgotten foods that i crave and neither have access to of knowing and feel strongly about the losing out on the so many rituals. i wish i had cared enough. But not all is lost. Not yet. For i see around me many such career oriented mothers who have the spirit and patience not only to indulge in the festivities but also inculcate the values of those rituals to their hopelessly skeptic but quite malleable kids.
And each time i think that i feel doubly blessed firstly to have all that time and patience since i decided to stay at home after working for sometime and most importantly for my upbringing which helps me remember and cherish the motions and cycles of the festivals to recreate it and enjoy it with some fervor like i used to when i was a child. Ask anyone and they shall tell you how excited i would be finishing one and moving on to the next on my agenda. Sometimes work with a maniacal energy to be ready on time before the first lamp is lit. Attired in my traditional saree and alta ( red colouring done on the borders of the feet by married women), manageable jewellery, bangles et al.
The end result like i said was that not only did the effort seem like play but also that i felt so joyous and thrilled that i forgot about my aching heart. i did not look around with tears in my eyes for my son to taste the chole (chick peas curry), dahi vadas ( Dumplings of lentil soaked in yoghurt) and gujiyas ( deep fried stuffed sweet) . Nor did i miss the streets of Patna lined up with idols of Ganesh ji, Lakshmi ji and all items required for the pooja bustling with excitement with ladies in their colourful attire and kids eyeing the colourful batashas ( sugar candies) made in the shape of animals. Instead the preparation went with added enthusiasm of looking forward to the grand finale. And it was one which not only will i cherish of my house in Chennai on Diwali as i will soon be moving out but for what i will be affectionately rememberd for by my neighbours and friends who share the apartment with me.
Sometimes i feel annoyed and deeply sorry about the new generation knowing more about Haloween and Valentine's Day than our own festivals but then we can't blame them. Maybe blame it on the changing times and the changing standards which is slowly eroding not only values but also the simple pleasures of life. i just wish and hope that some of us are keen and interested enough to slow down the process or else one day we will say things like," Once upon a time in our place back home we celebrated ..."
And while i thought of all i am blessed with and thanked the Almighty for keeping these auspicious moments alive in me i couldn't help remember this beautiful song which no matter how hard i try i can only sing the opening lines . The song portrays deeply and the clip depicts clearly the long lost simple but pure pleasures of life. When little was enough and we were just simply happy in our simple routines enjoyed with simple hearts.
Image courtesy: http://photos.ibibo.com/photo/5216493/festivals-pujas-ma-durga-laxmi