It is better to light just one little candle than to stumble in the dark! Better far that you light just one little candle…all you need is a tiny spark…these words from the prayer we sang at Notre Dame Academy got ingrained in my consciousness and to this day, I wish I could light someone’s life in whatever little manner I could. It is for this reason that I love the festival of lights, Diwali. As a child, I remember how just days before Diwali, we went around our society collecting bricks, which we used to build small gharkulias or tiny homes made of bricks and clay that we painted with bright colours and finished them off by placing pots of sugar candy and puffed rice inside them as part of the tradition. I am talking of the days when I lived in a place called Ranchi now in Jharkhand, in India. I am not too sure if such a tradition was practiced in other parts of India too. We would begin our Diwali puja from this tiny home and believe me the pleasure of seeing it in its full glory with rangoli, lights, decorations, et al. on the D-Day gave us a sense of pride and happiness.
A bird’s view of India highlights two important elements of our country, colours and festivals. Yes, we’re a nation that takes pride in its ‘festive’ colours and colourful ‘festivals’. And what makes our country’s fabric so interesting and diverse is its history of more than 5,000 years. Each part and fable of our country offers a reason to celebrate, and one such lovely reason is Dusshera. As a child, I recall how school books introduced us to the festival and the teachings from it, the victory of good over evil, but I think I understood the meaning behind the festival only when I watched the Ramleela and the Ravana’s effigy being burnt in the open grounds! Yes, the drama, colours and fireworks made the lessons far more interesting than the words in the books.
I’m talking about another time. A time of bulky transistors and Eastman coloured mornings. When I’d be woken up by my grandfather, as he gently dragged me out of a flimsy mosquito net, our footsteps often colliding as I then sat perched atop his lap, staring out into a mist smudged October morning. Madhu dada, our Oriya driver’s son would soon turn up the volume as Shanti mashi, my toothless nanny brought Dada (I called my grandfather that) a steaming hot cup of Darjeeling tea, as we all sat in a curious semi-circle, listening to Mahishasuramardini – a two-hour telecast rendered in the overpowering voice of the late Birendra Krishna Bhadra – the saga of Ma Durga’s agomoni (arrival) on the auspicious day of Mahalaya that marked the start of Devi Paksha – the most sacred time in the festive almanac.
The sounds of Jai Mata Di purifying the air, beautiful idols of Goddess Durga in every nook and corner of our streets, invitations from neighbours to attend the colourful and pious Mata Ki Chowki, lovely sounds of the playing of dandiya sticks, swirls and whirls of stunning ghaghras, aroma of the singhara barfi and aloo halwa…just these words are enough to paint the picture of our country during the festival of Navratri in North India. Yes, soon it will be that time of th year when one and all will forget their differences and get together for a dandiya or garba session. Join me as I re-visit and wait for the immensely powerful and positive vibrations of Navratri to fill up our lives.
There many ways to know that the town is getting ready to celebrate Onam. The resonating sounds of the chenda and the rhythmic singing and clapping of Kaikottikali being one. And the fragrance of pookkalam and the procession of majestically embellished elephants being another. Yes, it’s the streets of Kerala that come alive and send across the message that the state is gearing up for Onam. Ask any Malayali to sum up his thoughts on this high spirited harvest festival and pat will come the reply, “It’s a celebration that brings together the entire state”, and it truly does and how.
Just as the delirium of Ramzaan winds down, the preparations for the next Eid get queued up. The frenzied bazaars provide a rich taste of the festive atmosphere – a rush to the tailors to stitch new clothes; that mad hunt to find matching accessories to go with the dress; new curtains and cushions to complement the fresh coat of paint at home; young girls scouting for trending designs and the darkest hue of mehendi cones; ladies discussing how to do justice to the upcoming freezer full of meats and sharing recipes of mutton, kalejis and botis – all of it make for a happy, cheerful portrait.
Ganapati Bappa Moriya – the sound of this pious chant is etched in my memory. It was an integral part of my childhood and is also an emotion that I want my children to respect. The festivities, colour, gaiety and delicacies of Ganesh Chaturthi are an important part of every Mumbaikar’s life. The decorations and processions fill up everyone’s heart with a kind of joy that is unforgettable. So when the twists of life brought my family and me to the shores of Dubai, I feared that I’d have to leave behind the festivities that had shaped my childhood and made me the person that I am. However, thanks to the benevolence of Dubai and its leaders and rulers, and of course the blessings of Ganapati Bappa I, for the last 15 years, have been bringing Bappa home each year.
On the 5th day of June’2004, when the Calcutta sun was setting, I was about to leave my birth place in search of a better career. With my backpack I was walking in the oldest railway station of India – Howrah Junction to board the Rajdhani Express to New Delhi. Howrah Station is a living example of the spirit of the city; where millions of people stroll from dawn till dusk. The terminal station is located on the west bank of the Hooghly River, and linked to Calcutta by Howrah Bridge. The Howrah station, the Hooghly River and the Howrah Bridge are the opening lines of the poem called Calcutta.