Sunday, September 04, 2011
The 10 day period would be full of plenty of Fun and Life---and even the Immersion on the 10th. day echoed the merriment!!We'd all make our way ceremoniusly along with the Idol to Chowpatty Beach---and once there would hire a Fisherman for the Immersion in the Sea.I'd have a strangle hold on the tiny hands of as many children as I could grab---we'd have the neighbours' kids with us too!!After performing the Rituals and singing the Hymns He'd be borne aloft and carried into the surging Waves---and our eyes would follow Him avidly till He disappeared beneath the Waves---leaving each one of us in tears!!The surging Crowds,the huge Idols borne in open,decorated Trucks and accompanying huge Crowds of People,the reverberating beat of myriad Drums accompanying these huge Crowds was both exhiliarating and terrifying at the same time!!!The whole Scene even today has to be seen to be believed---it's magnitude is such that perhaps it is the largest such gathering of any Community in the World--thronging Mumbai's Beaches in impossibly huge numbers!!!The routes are fixed and the City is declared at high Alert during this period!!The fervour is growing with each year!!!
The period between the late 80s and early 90s meant the Girls growing up , getting married and moving away.The first was Alpana in 1988,Sharmila in 1990,Shilpa in 1991,Sonal in 1992 and Lotta in 1993----5 out of 6 Girls married!!!This affected our Workforce now reduced to the 3 boys and Sayali---and ofcourse the domestic Staff as well!!!Alpana,Sharmila and Sonal ---all moved to the Statres after their Weddings---while Shilpa and Lotta remained in Bombay---bound by their own Family Traditions!!Besides Atya passed away on 27th. November 1994---and the balance shifted somewhat!!By the year 2000,both Aamod and Shilpa had moved to Bangalore,Lotta and Sayali to the States and Babu to Delhi----the Celebrations became quieter,more sedate and Milind's own death on 24th.February 2001 changed things forever!!!The Festival became a very quiet and private affair----shorn of all the liveliness and bustle associated with it!!A new orderbegan as Babu first brought Ganapati in his Delhi home and we scrambled to make it at least for the first day!!!After Babu shifted back to Mumbai a new Pattern established itself.We bring home Ganapati and install the Idol with due propriety.After a beautiful Vegetarian Lunch we disperse to visit various Friends homes to pay homage and thereafter visit as often as possible to pay our respects to Lord Ganesha----and finally on the 10th. day leave by 4 p.m. to immerse the Idol in the Sea with traditional propriety before the rush begins!!!
This year Sayali was back for Ganapati after a gap of 11 years---and a lot of things have changed in those 11 years!!The experience was a bitter sweet one---she was happy to be here but found everything was vastly different from what she remembered----and it was a shocking jolt for her!!For us the change has been gradual and maybe we don't miss the old order that drastically---for to tell you the Truth---- the new order suits us just fine!!!Today we all are much older and definitely do lack the physical capacity to match the way things used to be---so have to indulge in Nostalgia to conjure up the "Good" old days!!!
Friday, September 02, 2011
This year Sayali was back in Mumbai after a gap of 11 years---and was very excited to be home for Hartalika Pooja and Ganapati Festival!!Both Kartik and she had missed the Festival and Ganesha is Sayali's best loved Deity and she was
looking forward to her favourite "Ukadichey Modak" or steamed Fresh Coconut stuffed in Rice Flour Dumplings---a must have as an offering for "Ganesha" since these are His favourite Food!!!I will now relate the Experience through Sayali's eyes-----Past and Present!!!
We have been getting Ganapati for more than 62 years now---the Idol was first brought home at Sudhir's brother Milind's insistence during their childhood.Those days this was a huge Clan----a joint family of 4 brothers,their wives and children as well as their Grandmother all living together!!As Time passed Sudhir's grandma separated each of her sons because she felt that quarrels among the children would cause misunderstanings between her daughters-in-law and spoil the relations amongst her sons.Though now separate the entire Clan would descend for Ganapati and the the entire period of 10 days would turn into a Food Bonanza!!!Later during my childhood I remember attending the odd Ganapati or two in Bombay-----it used to be great fun---specially if you were a child!!Those days Friends and extended Family would visit to pay homage to the Deity at their leisure---the entire day and till late night it would be "Open House"---with people streaming in and joining the Family for whichever Meal was on---there was always plenty of Food to go around!!!Slowly things began getting more organised----and certain days would be set aside for entertaining different groups of People---extended Family,Friends,Court Associates so on and so forth.There would be 10 different Menus devised for these 10 days----and with the help of her large Domestic staff every evening would proceed like well oiled Wheels----perfectly orchestrated!!!
After Baba's death Milind continued with the earlier format---and after Sudhir and I married I became a part of it too.
These 10 days meant arranging Flowers in beautifully co-ordinated Flowers arrangements flanking the Idol in the Drawing Room.The Decorations would be made from many various items---Wires would be bent to form Trellises and these would be adorned with Satin Ribbon or Crepe Paper Hibiscus Flowers.The Deity would be seated on a Silver stool called a "Paat" and surrounded by silver oil Lamps in varied sizes.Silver "Modaks" would be arrayed in piles in front of Him---offered to Him by various members of the entire Family--extended included!!The scent of the Incense would linger on the Air after both morning and evening "Aarati" or singing of Hymns.The most enjoyable of all the evening Soirees was the "Mothi Aarati" which was the gathering of our entire Family and Friends---it would be an extremely enjoyable event!!!
This day meant everyone staying back for Dinner and that then would be a one Dish Meal----the most popular being Atya's Spicy "Khichadi" made with roasted Dry Coconut Masala and Green Peas!!!The Snack Menu used to be extensive too---fresh Green Peas "Usal"---these would be literally peeled by the Kilos each day--the entire Family and Staff pitching in and the Peas too were of a special quality from Saswad---a small place near Pune famous for this strain of short,stubby pale Green Pea Pods with tiny dark Green Peas inside.Each Pod contained barely 4-5 Peas---and that made this even more difficult---for a huge number had to be peeled to feed more than a hundred people---besides everyone took seconds!!!Along with the Usal there would be 3-4 different Varieties of Snacks----and Bone China Plates would be filled and refilled with maximum speed!!It was such a relief as the children began growing up---for that meant extra hands initially and finally all 9 of them took over---and were Kunda,Suhas,Neena and me relieved!!!It was literally back breaking work!!This meant that finally we did more than just smile and say "Hi" while serving the Snacks or a "Bye" while the Guests were leaving---for there was no time to sit and chat!!Besides the Snacks,there would be huge Churns of fresh Mango or Custard Apple Ice Cream too--and Silver Tumblers of hot Milk spiced with Cardamom-Nutmeg powder and flavoured with Saffron threads--chock full of slivered Almonds and Pistachioes.
This was an annual event which brought the immediate and extended Family together---and News as well as Family Gossip would be exchanged!!The evening would culminate with the "Aarati"---and there would be a lot of pranks being played during the period it would be sung!!The Harmonium,Tabla as well as the "Taal" or tiny Brass Discs would be clapped together to produce a ringing sound---there'd be scuffles over who would clang the Bells---and the beautiful ambience of Camaraderie and Fellowship would be so palpable so as to be felt physically!!!
Friday, August 26, 2011
India is fortunate in having 29 major Festivals for we have 6 Ethnic groups and 6 religions amongst us.For me, Diwali,Eid and Christmas have a very special in my heart.Many of my friends are Muslim and one of my best friends Jacob Aunty was a superb Cook.The entire house--specially Sayali--would wait for the special "Sheer Korma" or Vermicelli Pudding she used to send on Ramzan Eid--the culmination of the Holy Month's fasting!!Not just that, the Girls would invited most evenings to share in the special Food preparations and flat Earthernware Bowls of cold "Phirni" a Rice Custard and "Malpua" sweet syrupy Pancakes often found their way to our home!!The wonderful Kababs,Biryanis and Kormas would be a gastronomical treat but I loved a mish mash called "Haleem" made by slow cooking Cereals,Lentils and Meat together with Spices and Condiments.This would cook through the entire day and by evening this one Dish Meal would be deliciously ready for devouring!!It's first cousin "Khichada" to was just as yummy----and both of these were Ramzan Favourites!!Similarly we'd wait for the succulent and tender Meat from the sacrificial Goat on "Bakr Eid".The Goat would be fed a special Diet and fattened for sacrifice and this Meat is perhaps the tastiest as anyone who has eaten it would certfy!!Many of Sudhir's Muslim Clients too would show up with parcels of Fresh Meat or Tiffins full of Meat based Dishes on that day---those truly were the days!!!The Parcels of Meat still arrive but since I trim off as much Fat as I can it just isn't the same!!The Fat does add to the Taste!!
I came into close contact with Catholics at the age of 3 years and 6 months---when I was enrolled in Carmel Convent in Chandigarh.The Nuns with their starched Wimples and Black habits were very impressive to my childish eyes and the Lord's Prayer imprinted itself on my mind.All through my School years the School Chapel became my Haven each time I was worried or upset by something---and the Black and White policy of thinking about Life taught to me by the Nuns and Moral Science continues to be an integral part of me till today!!The story about the birth of Jesus and Christmas itself became a very dear Festival.Decorating the Nativity scene before School closed for Winter holidays became a favourite activity during the days preceding Christmas.My friends and I would stay back after School every afternoon to finish decorating the Scene---and of course the Christmas Tree planted in our School Garden also would be festooned with chains of shiny Paper Streamers and garlands of Crepe Paper flowers!!Daddy had got me Peter Pan books as well as various books on Santa and the Elves and being a firm believer in the Little Folk I truly believed in the Magic of Christmas!!Daddy and I would sing Christmas Carols every evening for a month preceding Christmas----specially "Silent Night" and all those Christmas Songs sung by Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Jim Reeves, would echo from the Gramophone late into the night!!I knew each of these by heart and sang along too!!!Those were magical days--the ambience and the flavour has been lost today---the Magic too has disappeared!!After our marriage Sudhir and I would love celebrating Christmas by dressing up formally and going out to Dinner--and later when our daughters were young taking them to see Santa Clause to "Akbarally's" in Fort--standing patiently in line just so that they got their chances to clamber up into Santa's lap!!Thoufgh all those same Books were a part of their growing up too--the pragmatism of their Generation didn't sprinkle the Star Dust in their eyes and it saddened me!!
Diwali is the Festival of Lights----and since childhood the noise of Crackers was it's only negative aspect---and as far as I'm concerned--still is!!We had 3' high Brass Drums---and each year in my childhood Mummy and her friends would sit in our back Verandahs with Kerosene Stoves, wide Brass Woks and other Food Supplies in front of them--making the Diwali Goodies---both Sweet and Spicy!!There would be 5 types of Sweet Items and 5 types of spicy Snacks---and these drums would need to be replenished during Diwali thanks to the inroads we made into them!!Those were fun days to be a child--no worries,plenty of simple pleasures and uncomplicated lives.The best part however was the Ritual itself.A Silver Oil lamp would be lit in the wee hours before Dawn.Rangoli would be drawn round a polished wooden "Paat" made of Shisham Wood.Daddy and I'd be stripped down to bathing Trunks and then Mummy would ceremoniously rub us with scented Almond Oil from head to toe.That done she'd scrub us vigorously with "Uttaney"---an aromatic coarse Scrub made with Turmeric,Sandal,Herbal Powders,Chick Pea or Lentil Flours mixed to a thick paste with Fresh Cream.This is an excellent exfoliant and would be sent in one of my Aaji's Parcels from Poona---made by her with precise and loving care.When washed off with warm Water leaves the Skin silky smooth,soft and fragrant!!The moment I turned 6 years I was handed 2 Silver Bowls and had to anoint myself with both the Oil and the Scrub---Mummy condescended to oil and wash my thick hair though!!Till today I bathe for the 4 days of Diwali with this scrub---and though I have the Recipe I buy this ready made from my favourite Ayurvedic Store.New Clothes were stitched for the Festival--four Sets for 4 days---and that was the crowning glory after this wonderful bath to slip into a brand new Set each day of the Festival!!
Earthern ware Oil Lamps would be soaked in Buckets of water and dried in the Sunshine to season them days before the Festival and would be kept ready with Oil and hand rolled Cotton Wicks---these would be lit and placed on both sides of the Front Door---picking out the freshly drawn Rangoli in between in their golden Light!!These Oil Lamps would be used in the Dawns and the Evenings to decorate the parapets of homes in intricate Patterns---twinkling and glowing like tiny Stars in the Darkness!!Then the "Puja" would take place at Sunset---worship of all Metals in the House as well as Pearls,Diamonds and all precious Gems on "Dhanatrayodashi or Dhan Teras" at twilight that day for Dhan or Wealth consists of all that one owns!!This would be followed by "Narka Chaturdashi" and this involved ritual bathing,wearing new Clothes and visiting Friends and Relatives throughout the day.Next would be Laxmi Pujan or Diwali and this would fall on the last day of the Lunar Waning Cycle--on the Moonless night.A Puja would be performed for the Goddess Laxmi in the late Evening and on this day the Traders would close old Accounts and ceremoniously worship new Account Books and mark these with a "Kum Kum" Swastika---and the new financial year would be ushered in!!The next day is "Bali Pratipada" and again after a ritual bath a ceremonial Puja hails the new Financial Year!!On this day husbands give gifts to their wives and is celebrated with a lot of gaiety and fervour.The noise of Crackers bursting precededs Diwali by a week and exytends beyond it for a week or 10 days!!
To this day I stick to the tradition and still love anointing my family with the ritual Oil and Uttaney Paste.I still make all the Traditional Sweets and Snacks but in vastly reduced quantities because we don't eat all that much anymore!! The excitement of the Festival however remains and I love to follow all the Rituals as traditionally laid down by earlier Generations.Our daughters however have grown up and flown the Coop long back and I'm left with just the one Chick to smother---so poor Sudhir catches the entire brunt of it!!
Thursday, August 25, 2011
The month of "Shravan" by the Indian Calendar falls in July-August and is the start of the Festive Season in India.For the Hindus it has maximum number of Festivals in it and this brings a festive Air about it!!In the old days most people would observe Vegetarianism during this month---steering clear of even Onion or Garlic during this month.Mondays were special and Food was prepared according to the Menus passed down from Generation to Generation.Only the children would be fed Breakfast and Lunch on Mondays--all the adults both male and female fasted that day.An elaborate Meal would be cooked and served at 4.30 p.m. for those fasting.Rows of rectangular wooden Slats called "Paat" would be set out in rows.There would be square four legged Stools called "Chaurang" placed in front of each "Paat" and these had Silver Flowers hammered into each corner.Each Chaurang would also sport it's individual Silve Pot and Tumbler--this was known as the "Taambyaa-Bhaandey".My Aunts would draw fine threads of Rangoli around these Chaurangs and Silver Incense holders would be interspersed strategically in these rows to create a Festive and pious Atmosphere.The Chaurangs would then be set with washed and wiped Banana Leaves and the condiments would be served from left to right of the Leaf---beginning with a pinch of Salt,followed by a wedge of Lemon.Then came the Pickle,Chutney,Panchamrut,Koshimbir(Salad)
,Raita(mustard flavoured Yoghurt Salad),the VegetableGravy was followed by a dry Vegetable which in turn was followed by a fresh Bean preparation---say a Green Peas Usal which brought us to a Silver Bowl full of a Coconut Curry made with Tomatoes/Radishes/Green Mangoes or sprouted and peeled Mung Beans.There would be a mould of plain steamed Rice placed in the Center with a generous helping of Lentil Curry called "Varan" topped generously with melted Ghee.The Sweet would change with each Monday---the first Monday it would be Fresh Coconut stuffed deep fried Pastry--- Sweet Crescents called "Karanji/Gujhia/Ghugraa" and on the last Monday it would be "Puran Poli" a sweet Lentil stuffed Paratha.The intervening Mondays we were allowed a freehand in deciding the Sweets---so "Dudh Paak" a sweet Rice Pudding served with crisp deep fried puffed "Puris" was the popular choice for the second Monday.The third Monday was reserved for Vermicelli Pudding called "Shevayaanchi Kheer/Sevaiyaan" and again this would be served with deep fried Puris.In case the month had 5 Mondays an additional Family favourite of "Kesari Bhaat" or sweet Saffr5on Rice could be added on!!There would be a variety of "Bhajiyaas" or Fritters as well as fluffy Rice Pappadums and cCrispies.Small Silver Tumblers of thick "Kokum" or Mangosteen Curry were served along with the last serving of Rice to aid Digestion!!This entire Meal would stretch on an hour or two with the men and children being fed first and the women last!!
Besides the Mondays there were "Narali Pournima" or Coconut Full Moon Night---dedicated to the Sea and Cocnuts were ceremoniously offered to the Sea that day."Naralli Bhaat" or Special Sweet Rice flavoured with Coconut and cooked in Coconut Milk was served on that day.The birthday of Lord Krishna had a set menu as well the highlight being the "Saanzoree"----a sweet Paratha made by stuffing a Sweet Semolina Pudding flavoured by Saffron,Cardamom and Nutmeg Powders and liberally added Dry Fruits, cooked in Coconut Milk in crisply fried Flour covers would be served.Dishes made from tender Taro or Colocassia Leaves also were relished and cooked as Curries with tender ears of Corn or rolled with spiced Chick Pea Flour and steamed.These Rolls would then be sliced into rounds and served seasoned by a "Tadkaa" or Seasoning of hot Sesame Oil flavoured with Black Mustard, Sesame and Cumin Seeds with a generous pinch of Asafoetida Powder or deep fried like Fritters till crisp!!The entire month would pass by feasting to the gills--and finally the Ganapati Season would arrive!!
Many families hosted Lord Ganapati for a day and half or 5/7/10 days ---and this was a strict religious ritual--hence Food served was "Sattvik" or Pure !!Different Fauna and Flora was required for that period---the Menu too handed down through earlier generations and cooked the most popular item on the Menu being the steamed Sweet "Modaks" or Dumplings made of Rice Flour covers stuffed with raw shredded Coconut,Jaggery,Poppy Seeds and Saffron stuffing.These resemble steamed Dimsums and taste simply heavenly!!The best part of this was the variety of Vegetarian Food served during these 40 days!!It used to be so extensive that one didn't miss non-vegetarian fare at all!!
I still remember the excitement of beginning to eat Fish again after Lord Ganapati left---the moment the Idol exited ceremoniously through the Front Door with a lot of Fanfare---Fresh Mackerels made their entry into the house through the Back Door---and vigorous preparations of breaking the Fast with a Dinner of hot spicy Mackerel Curry served with hot Fried Mackerels ,Steamed Rice and Pickles would begin in earnest!!!
Pictures of plump Steamed Modaks!!!
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
Pushpa's durable Rangoli.
Rangoli in a combination of Flowers and White Marble Powder.
Rangolies below are done using the Dot Method and Traditional Design in White Marble and Coloured Powders.
Since early childhood the Traditional "Rangoli" has held a very dear place in my heart!!An integral part of the Festivals all through my growing up years and right up till now it is an Art Form I simply love!!"Rangoli" Powder is fine White Marble Dust----and trust me a little weighs a lot!!This fine but rough Powder slips through one's Fingers to trace beautiful semicircular Motifs and Patterns outside the Doorsteps of our homes,round the Traditional Banana Leaf Platters or sparkling Silver Thalis(Plates) at Mealtimes and as decorative Floor Designs in corners of our rooms during Festivals.Various Colours are mixed with this Powder to create a Multi Coloured Design---the result is a rich effect of these Pictures brightening up the drab floors!!The earliest recollections I have is of Mummy drawing this around our Silver Thalis during Diwali---using an silver Incense Stick holder.This holder could hold 5 Incense Sticks and had 5 holes at various levels on it. Mummy would upturn this triangular thimble like thing,fill it with the White Marble Powder and use this as an Instrument to draw intricately linked Patterns. I still remember watching fascinatedly the beautiful movements of her supple hand as she first traced out these slender white threads of Freehand Patterns in a round shape and then placed Silver Thalis stacked with Traditional Sweets and Snacks in the centers of those graceful lines!!Of course the ones she made just outside the Doorstep would be semi circular but she'd draw one in a corner of the Front Door--using bright colours depicting Flowers or Geometrical Designs.She had a ruled thick Brown Paper which was divided into tiny Squares.All four corners of each square had holes made in it with a smouldering Incense Stick---this was Daddy's job and hence it was very precisely done.This would be laid in the Floor and the Marble Powder sprinkled over it.When the Brown Paper was lifted it would reveal a large number of equidistant Dots on the Floor.These Dots would then be joined by thin fine lines to create Patterns and these lines would be defined even more by using some extra Marble Powder.The Patterns formed would be filled in with a myriad bright Colours and Contrasts--creating a stunning Piece of Art!!
On periodic visits to our Family home I still remember my Aunt Shashi Kaki would first sprinkle Water from a Silver Pot (Taambyaa) outside the Front Door in the narrow lane leading to our Ancestral home in Kolhapur.She would then proceed to draw fine threadlike lines of Rangoli Powder on the ground using her thumb and forfinger to do so--these would be Traditional Patterns in Geometrical Designs.She would bathe in the early Dawn and then draw fresh Water and perform this task---before worshipping the old Wood and Coal Stove prior to lighting it---an unbroken age old routine --she still worships her Gas Stove in her new Flat before she lights it even today!!!
I began doing this as soon as I was old enough to draw recognisable objects---and progressed to making huge Rangolies on my Drawing Board---a Gift from Daddy on a Birthday.By laying this flat it gave me an excellent base for making this---and our Garden outside would be full of Flowers---and sometimes I'd use those instead--or mix both the Mediums--specially in our Drawing Room---the Jewel bright beautiful Colours and heady scents of the Flowers would permeate the House---adding a new Dimension to the Festivities!!After I married Sudhir, Atya got me a large square of darkly polished Wood--this became my Canvas for Rangoli Pictures---the subjects ranging from the prints on our Saries,Curtains or Bedsheets to copies of the elaborate Greeting Cards we recieved during the Festive Season!!Each time I wiped off the old one to draw a new one Atya would regret the absence of a Camera---those were pre Camera days in our family!!
After we shifted here in 1975, Savita Vahini and I became neighbours----of the same age and both having 2 daughters each---we began living diagonally across the Landing from each other.Both of us were artistic minded and each major Festival saw these Rangolies drawn outside our Front Doors---we'd wake up early at Dawn and spend hours squatting crosslegged on the floor drawing and colouring these for hours. Savita Vahini and I would participate in an unspoken race to out do each other with our inventiveness and to be the first to finish our Drawings---even if it meant waking up as early as 2.30 a.m.!!!She and I continued this for a long time.Unfortunately her husband Arun Bhai passed away in August 1994--and that put a damper on things.Besides being of the same age the two of us were also undergoing Menopause---so things sort of began quietening down .Five years back she sold her Flat and moved away to Pune to live near her daughters---and since then everything has changed.Today Anuradha, my next door neighbour, is a renowned Artist and she draws beautiful Rangolies----patiently drawing and colouring her masterpieces---while I draw a small Design to mark the event.My Drawing Room these days smells of Flowers as these Flower Rangolies are easier and quicker to make---I also use various coloured Lentils and Rice as well--for this means a tasty Hot Dish named "Khichri" the next day---so no wastage----but though I am now too heavy to sit down comfortably and besides it is difficult to get up without support but still I spend an hour drawing this outside my Front Door--after being woken up at 3 a.m. by the burst of Crackers in Diwali!!My friend Pushpa uses a Wooden Base,Mirrors,Gold Tissue Cloth,Gold Braid and Sparkling Crystal Beads of different shapes to make durable Rangolies which can be displayed as Objects of Art for 6 months or more.Her Rangolies come in various shapes and sizes--making ideal house warming Gifts as well!!The Blog begins with a Picture of Pushpa's Rangoli!!
Here are some Pictures of Flower Rangoli--with a lighted Lamps embellishing these!!
The immediately above Picture is of a combination of Rangoli Powder and Fresh Flowers.
Get An Email Alert Each Time KOMAL53 Posts