As evening descended a familiar feel to the day took place. The lights brightened, the lamps were lit, all arrangements were checked many times over to receive the many guests who would arrive at our house, for the haldi kumkum event.
It was the Varalakshmi pooja and it was being celebrated in a very traditional way. The pooja being done in the morning, the evening was set aside, for the ladies who would come in bringing their smiles, their finery, their lovely silks and of course a lot of gossip too.
The main topic of discussion would weave its path from hot topics like which saree was the latest in pattern, to who had made the best prasad.
This year, we had a double bonus in the form of ‘Go Green’. Some of the ladies had brought in their huge bags to take home the bounty from the various houses they would visit. It was so heartening to see this awareness, because invariably they would ask for a plastic bag to take home the many cups, coconuts etc from all their visits.
It also took me back to the time, when we as kids would wait with curious breaths..for such occasions,…The colony where we lived, organized a small recital of VishnuSahasranam every Thursday , Each week it would be held in a different house. As kids we were not so much into religion, we were interested in meeting our friends, passing our time running around and of course trying to figure out what the prasad for that day would be. If it was in the house of ‘prasad choice’ , we had to troop in before the aarathi or else the glares we would get from our fathers or other elderly people in the gathering would make us run for dear lives. So it had to be at the appropriate time, time enough to be part of the recital, but not early enough to get bored out of our guts.. I remember there was this particular verse which would mean the last part was nearly close. It was the “ Vanamali gathi shaangi”….(for those who know this , will understand what i'm saying here )our well trained ears would catch hold of that word , and in we would file in, silent, sly and smug. Loud enough for the parents to hear our devotion, we would sing the last few verses with utmost precision ( of course we had been reciting just that for so many weeks, we had to be perfect at it ).
Then the time would come for the distribution of prasad…the much awaited part of the day. It was fun, the anticipation, the repeated requests for more, the patience we developed, just to eat what we loved the most. These small , simple events of our lives interspersed with so many bigger ones, it overlapped and then slowly got absorbed. Not knowing how, I realized, I have learnt most of the traditions, all handed down through subtle methods, none forced on us reluctant kids. No amount of persuasion can bring a bored child to smile, when he/s she is made to sit through something they don’t like. But they do learn by watching as they grow and this was obviously what our parents excelled at, without making it obvious.
Sadly kids nowadays hardly have time to absorb such niceties. They are more interested in their psp's, games, etc. :( I’m not saying it should be made compulsory. But traditions would die a peaceful death if it were not for such methods. If it means the kids get to eat their favourite sweet, only on such days, I’m sure they would wait with more interest…and relish it all the more. I’ve been trying to follow this too….tried never to force my kids to do something, but made it interesting enough for them to watch, got them to help around with the arrangements, invited their friends over so they have company and just let them be…
I’m hoping one day it will help pass on traditions and culture which Indians are so rich in.
Its very gladdening to say, that now after all these years, years of having lived in far off lands away from these old culture pots...the very same "prasada eating only" kids, have decided to facilitate the celebration of Ganesh Chaturthi...and when my father spoke to me about it, I could hear so much pride in his voice...he was proud of his many children who had withstood all the glares only for this...