Monday, April 26, 2010
Ganesha and I became acquainted very early in my childhood when Amma told me the story of His birth.We use a Herbal Powder(Uttana) mixed with Lentil or Chick Pea Flour,Full Cream and Milk as an application on the body instead of Soap on ceremonial days -----mainly Diwaali and on the New Year Day-----according to theLunar Hindu Calender.
According to legend,Shiva's wife Parvati collected the dried "Uttana" from Her body and formed it in the image of a young boy.She breathed life into Him and asked Him to guard the entrance of the Cave She was bathing in---with explicit instructions to let no one in.After awhile Shiva returned but was prevented from entering by the young Boy----acting on His Mother's instructions.A fight ensued---ending with the Boy's being beheaded by Vishnu's Disc, the "Sudarshan Chakra". Parvati emerged after Her bath to find the Boy lying in a pool of blood---and began lamenting for the Boy---telling all present that She had authorised the Boy to guard the door.Shiva too had cooled down by now---and He sent His followers---Ganaas----to bring the head of a child whose mother was sleeping with her back towards him.The Ganaas searched far and wide and finally found a she Elephant sleeping with her back towards her child.They cut off the head and came back to Kailaasa----Parvati was pained deeply to see the animal head---but was helpless under the circumstances.The Elephant head was placed on the Boy's shoulders----and all the Gods bestowed Him with special powers-------Brahma bestowed Wisdom and Knowledge,Vishnu bestowed the capacity to clear all obstacles present any where in the World and Shiva accepted Him as His son and made Him the "Ganesha"---Lord of all His Followers---the Ganaas!!!!
One Diwaali---I must have been just over 3 years old---the ritual application of the ceremonial "Uttana"(Ubatan) Paste had me protesting at the top of my voice----it felt sticky and yucky in it's touch on the skin though it smelt heavenly----hence the protest-----so Amma diverted me with the story about the birth of Ganesha.She said once the Paste dried she'd rub it off and make me a small Ganesha of my own!!!My curiousity piqued,I became engrossed in the tale-----and in Ganesha!!!!He became a friend---a confidant-----one of those "imaginary" childhood playmates most children talk of.Even today I carry on full conversations with Him and His Father, Shiva.I feel a deep personal bond with Him---in fact He is the one I turn to in need---and to date He has never failed me.I draw all my Positivity and Strength from Him---He has seen me through all my illnesses.I recite 16 of His names daily morning and night----but I don't fast for Him nor am I a regular visitor to any of His Temples----He has blessed me with the capacity to picture Him in my mind's eye---anywhere in the World!!!!I carry Him in my heart always!!!
As Time passed---the Maharashtra Mandal would bring the Idol all the way from Mumbai-----and the Ganesha Festival would be celebrated for 10 days with lots of pomp and cheer ending with with the "Maha Prasad" or Ceremonial Lunch before the immersion of the Idol in the evening on Anant Chaturdashi,the 10th day after His arrival----the day to say a "Good Bye" to him for that year---and to ask Him to return early next year!!!
At my maternal Grandfather's old ancestral home of Saawantwaadi, the Idol is prepared on the premises itself with great care and installed with great Ceremony.Here He stays for just one and a half day----but His presence is celebrated with solemnity and Pujaa---He has His Trunk turning to the Right side instead of the usual Left-----and thus His Pujaa is supposed to have very set and severe rules of worship------care has to be taken to ensure that everything runs like clockwork and there are no glitches and hitches!!!Everything---- from each dish on the Menu to the articles needed for worship is traditional and are kept sancrosanct and utmost care is taken to perform the cooking as well as the Puja in a "Sovala" or a state of utmost cleanliness----meaning that my Uncles and Aunts can't be touched by any of us till the Worship and presentation of the "Naivedyaa" or Ceremonial Food to the Deity is over!!!
After my marriage, He was a regular visitor to our home each year------everyone in the old home loved Him too-------every year Ganesha still graces Nikhil's (Milind's son) home during the 10 day period from Shukla Chaturthi-----Anant Chaturdashi in the month of Bhadrapad.It is a family event----in the old days there used to be lots of hustle bustle , many visitors,loads of Food and noise----today we are more sedate----many who then attended have passed on---many have moved away to the far flung areas---but the first day---the day of His arrival home----all of us including Sudhir's cousins make it a point to attend the Ceremony of His installation and offer their homage.Our Ganesha is a lenient one--His Trunk turns Left---and He is jovial----enjoying all the jokes and bon homie surrounding Him!!!
After we shifted here, He followed us here---of His own volition.We began recieving House warming gifts-------which would come from relatives and friends who visited us .Most often these would be small or tiny idols of Ganesha----Paintings,Pictures,Idols,Etchin
gs---some in Silver,Crystal,Stained Glass,Brass Images,Sand Painting------in every type of material concievable !!!! He sensed our affinity for Him----and He Blessed us with His presence!!!My daughter Sayali used to pass by the famous "Siddhi Vinayaka" on her way to School and back----she claimed that He'd call her to visit Him----no day was fixed for her visit---she just went whenever He called----even today the first thing she still does on arrival in Mumbai is go and visit Him in the Temple.Ganesha has blessed our home with His presence------He has bestowed on us the honour of residing in my home!!!!An entire corner in the "Ishaanyaa" or the North-East direction of my Drawing Room is dedicated to Him-----and is called the Ganesha Corner------in fact I'm running out of space there!!!!I know He'll create His own space-----May He bless me with His Presence and Blessings----always!!!
Friday, April 23, 2010
Each home has it's own persona and a distinctive character----our new home was no exception.The surroundings were truly out of this World---imagine finding a shady Tree lined haven---bang in the middle of the bustling Mega City of Bombay---also called the "Commercial" Capital of India!!!
We moved in on the 23rd.of May 1975----the Pooja took place in the morning followed by the Ceremonial Lunch---and all the Family members except Sudhir ,the two girls and me departed after Dinner---for the first time in our married life we were by ourselves at home----alone!!!!I was caught in the euphoria of it all---the fresh night Breeze wafting in through the windows---accompanied by a faint scent of "Raat Raani" or Night Queen---a very sweet scented Jasmine.Somewhere in the distance somebody was singing a Bhajan---in the "Waadi" or Coconut Grove of the Cottages across the road----the people had gathered together under the Stars to chat.Everything was silent and still---for me it was like being back in Chandigarh----I just lay awake for a long time that night---just listening to the Breeze whispering through the Trees!!!
The Rooster's crowing next morning woke me up-----it was still dark outside-----but I was too excited to go back to bed.I went to the Balcony facing those Cottages and sat in the dark----just drinking the ambience in with each pore of my body-----watching the Dawn change to Day!!!The Doorbell rang at 6.30 a.m.---my domestic help Vithoba had brought the Milk----and the day began in earnest!!!Everything was sparkling new----the Furniture,the Curtains----even my Utensils were mostly brand new---some old Copper and Brass ones were gifted to me by Atya as a remembrance of the earlier generations----but these were just that--show pieces.It was strange to wake up in a different atmosphere----with Birdsong and in the hustle bustle of a Village like atmosphere-----early in the morning the cries of the various Salesmen began sounding----the Sea Salt seller had started making his rounds---pushing his cart along---followed by the Knife Sharpner---then there was the Cloth Merchant with his wares draped across his shoulders----it was as if Time had stood still----how I loved all these things---I was getting re-acquainted with them after a five year gap!!!
The windows of both our Bedrooms face a huge Vegetable Garden-----lush with Spinach when we moved in.There are tall Coconut Palms,Banana Trees,Drumstick Trees-----Jacaranda,Gul Mohar and Laburnum Trees too there------it is a pleasure to stand in the windows-----specially on Moonlit nights in the cooler weather------the Moon plays hide and seek in the swaying fronds of the Palms!!!!This Garden acquires a newly minted ,fresh look during the Rains----the rich loamy scent of the wet Earth surrounds us----it smells like Heaven!!!This farm has a deep Well on the premises---used for watering their fresh grown produce---as well as for other household needs.We buy fresh Spinach,Amaranth,Radishes or whichever leafy Green Vegetable they grow in rotation----as well as tiny Egg Plants and the pale Green Monsoon Ladyfingers(Okra)during the Rains from these Folks.The view is breathtaking from my side of the Bed----clear or dark Grey cloudy Skies----according to the Season----- with waving Coconut Fronds etched on it.
In the 1st year here I had Vithoba who had been with us for 20+years and was a trusted family retainer---Atya entrusted our household domestic jobs to him.He lived with us and slept in the Domestics' room downstairs--coming up early each morning with the Milk and leaving after washing the Dinner Dishes.Unfortuately his wife was diagnosed with Cancer so he had to go back to the Village to care for her---and I joined the ranks of those who employed"suttya Baika" or freelancing domestic help.These women worked freelance in a certain number of homes---their timing and wage were fixed according to the chores they did.For the past 34 years this system has worked fine with me----my Chhaaya Bai has been with me since 1990----her younger sister-in-law Vanita since 1997------so help wise I'm set---Thank God for His Blessings!!!!
The Cottages across the road were the most fascinating--I loved seeing their daily routine!!!Those days the Mills were still working------and the folk living in those Cottages were working there.For the first 5 years after we shifted here there used to be lots of activity in those Cottages---Weddings,"Baarseys"/"Naamkarans
"(Christenings),Get Togethers--- and Poojas galore----specially during the month of Shravan(mid July-mid August)----there used to be festive air around always thanks to all these activities.There would be Cloth Canopies in the various doorways,loudspeakers would blare out the appropriate types of Songs all day ----this would last till past mid-night-----there would be lots of"Varaats/ Baraats" or Bridal Processions---Girls would get married and move away----new Brides would move in as daughters-in-law!!!They were truly halycyon days-----wonderful to recall as memories!!!
Then disaster struck---the Mill Workers went on Strike---and all the prosperity across the road went down the drain!!!Jobs went--Mills suffered lock-outs----pandemonium reigned---and those first 5 years turned into an old memory----never to regain it's lustre again.Women---even those who had never worked outside their home------stepped out to work in our homes as hired help----it was a saddening time for us all!!!The "Waadi" was being developed into a Housing Society but due to lack of Funds the Construction was left incomplete-----the earlier peacefull environment had totally disappeared.This empty shell of a Building stood for almost 20 years till a settlement was reached in Court.Till then this empty shell would come alive during the Monsoons as a Playground for children living in the Shanties----also it was a popular base during the Kite flying Winter Season!!!
Today there is Construction going on there---gusts of Dust float across the Street----covering everything with a fine film.The Tower will be 27 Storeys high----those beautiful days are now a part of memory----I wish I had photographed the sight before it faded away!!!
Monday, April 19, 2010
Hind sight always gives a clearer view of the past----accentuates the past mistakes and highlights the Plus Points!!!Today I too turn to look back and find that Life as a whole has been extremely kind to me---there have been times of hurt and pain but the resilience gifted to me by The Almighty at birth has been my mainstay always!!!The saying"No Gain without Pain" is sooooo true!!!!
I had a very happy childhood---my parents weren't indulgent but they ensured a secure,healthy and happy environment for us while the three of us were growing up.Our home was always filled with lots of Laughter and Positivity------despite the constraints of a conservative Society of the period,we enjoyed quite a bit of Freedom of Thought.In fact my father did all he could to aid my love for reading Books by ensuring a steady supply of quality English Literature----the Convent School education did the rest!!!!When I married I was well read and knowledgeable about a lot of things----and didn't hesitate to bore people around me by flaunting that Knowledge.This became a joke---I'd be asked questions and when I began giving the answers the topic would be deliberately changed---supposed to be good natured ribbing---but humiliating to the object of it.Sudhir hated it----and told me to answer to the point only----unfortunately something I still haven't mastered even today---I still give long winded answers!!!!However today those same people seem to hang on every word I utter!!!
My ignorance in running a household was a major drawback-----the live-in staff ran the home on well oiled wheels---I knew all of them from childhood---they too had often . indulged me as a child.I however had lost sight of the fact that the situation had changed-----I was no more a favourite visitor-----now as a housewife it was my duty to pay attention to details---it was after all MY home!!!Those days being a good Cook was of paramount importance!!!!Also besides that----- to be recognised as a skilled housewife one had to be conversant with Embroidery,Knitting and Tailoring as well ---each household owned a Sewing Machine!!!Thanks to the Nuns except Cooking I was well versed in all these other things---but not very fond of them.I much preferred my Books------and adored the company of my neices and nephews----telling them stories and playing games with them was my favourite pastime.
I wasn't very particular about my Closets being clean nor was I concerned with the day to day running of the home---planning the Menus for the Cook,directing the Staff on various ways of doing things---these were areas where I felt would be presumptous of me to interfere ----this was perhaps one of my biggest mistakes!!!!My laidback attitude was termed laziness and I was chastised for being so disinterested.That's when I realised that I had jumped into the deep end of the Pool---my being young was not an advantage for me----I had to prove my mettle among my peers--though they were way older than me!!!I tried to keep my untidyness at bay by ensuring that my Closets were clean---but beyond that I was clueless about what else to do????This again was criticised----now being uncaring and thoughtless was another added tag.These small things hurt deeply but here both my naturally bouyant Nature and Sudhir's silent but strong support came to my rescue.Today I keep a good Home--not impeccable but pretty good----after all I learnt most of my lessons the hard way!!!!
Life has it's own methods of bringing home the necessity of lessons that need to be learned----and that is exactly what happened.Lotta's birth opened my eyes to my new responsibilities----bringing up a baby!!!The idyll was over----the harsher truths of being a parent came to the fore----sleepless nights,trips to the Peadiatrician---the works!!!Slowly I began learning the ropes of looking after another human being through trial and error---that too one that was totally dependent on me and absolutely helpless to begin with!!!Sudhir was a totally hands on father----a nine day wonder in those days-----I owe him big time for standing with me always!!!He was my Great Wall of China---standing firmly between me and my detractors and actively encouraging me very positively to learn new things to improve my housewifely skills.After Sayali's birth we shifted here-----I'm aware that there were quite a few people looking to see whether I'd swim or sink----my heartfelt Thanks to The Almighty for giving me Sudhir----I swam------ slowly turning into a fish!!!
Am I bitter today about the taunts I had to bear?No I'm not----some of these do rankle yes,-----the mean comments have been relegated to the back burner of my mind------and those that were constructive have helped to make me into a better Human Being by helping to improve myself and recognise and modify my faults. I'm not magnanimous enough to forgive and forget-----a Saint I'm definitely not---but I'm definitely wise enough to move on with the maxim of "Live and let Live".I hate unpleasant situations in any environment specially in Family situations, so have never retaliated even once-----now it is too late and the wish to do so too has faded!!Ihave let bygones be bygones-----no sense in holding grudges.I now take care to be wary around those who hurt me and don't venture too close to them---the attitude being "thus far and no further"!!!
Today I am proud of the fact that we didn't rely on anybody to help us bring up our children---in fact we rarely left them with either his or my mother----Sudhir genuinely felt that the two of them had each reared their offspring so it was unfair to saddle them with ours.The fact that both the mothers were there should we need them was a great source of strength for us----but by God's Grace things turned out well.
Looking back I sincerely feel that I have had a very good life so far---blessed as I am with a great husband,1 beautiful Grand-daughter,2 Daughters and Sons-in-law----pray God that His Blessings continue!!!!
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