Friday, June 22, 2012

Aashadi Ekadashi

Vivek, my friend, called and said on 30th June, there is some ocassion due to which there will be a lot of traffic on the road that had Vithal temple and so the Wadala centre will remain closed. I tried to explain with my half-baked knowledge about Aashadhi Ekasdashi and realisedI didn't really know much about it, although as a child I celebrated it every year. The fasting treats were yummy but the 'Dindi' processions disrupted traffic in Pune completely. I have walked, and walked miles to reach home during college days, courtesy Pune traffic Management. That set me thinking as to how can I explain Aashadhi Ekadashi, which has great significance in Maharashtrian household.
So here it is Vivek for you and some other non-aware friends.
Shayani Ekadashi is the eleventh lunar day, Shukla paksha of the Hindu month of Ashadha (June - July), also known as Ashadhi Ekadashi or Ashadhi. This holy day is of special significance to Vaishnavas, followers of Lord Vishnu. On this day images of Vishnu and Lakshmi are worshipped, the entire night is spent singing prayers, and devotees keep fast and take vows (of abstinence from garlic and onions )on this day, to be observed during the entire chaturmas, the holy four month period of rainy season. These may include, giving up a food item or fasting on every Ekadashi day.
It is believed that Vishnu falls asleep in Ksheersagar - cosmic ocean of milk - on Shesha nāga, the cosmic serpent. Thus the day is also called Dev-Shayani Ekadashi (lit. "god-sleeping eleventh") Vishnu finally awakens from his slumber four months later on Prabodhini Ekadashi - eleventh day of bright fortnight in the month  of Kartik (October–November). This period is known as Chaturmas ("four months") and coincides with the rainy season. Thus, Shayani Ekadashi is the beginning of Chaturmas. Devotees start observing the Chaturmas vrata (vow) to please Vishnu on this day.
A fast is observed on Shayani Ekadashi. The fast demands abstinence from all grains, beans, cereals, certain vegetables like onions and certain spices and all kinds of meat and eggs.
a small town on the banks of river Chandrabhaga or Bhima, is main center of worship of the deity Vithoba, a local form of Vishnu. On Aashadhi Ekadashi, thousands of pilgrims, form of religious procession called as Dindi’s visit Pandharpur. These pilgrims are referred to as Warkaris. They sing Abhangas (chanting hymns) of Saint Tukaram and Saint Dnyaneshwar, dedicated to Vithoba. This customs started far back in year 1810. Tradition has it that two of the greatest devotees of the Lord from the State of Maharashtra, Sant Gyaneshwar and Sant Tukaram had set out on a pilgrimage to the temple of Lord Vittala from their respective places and reached the Divine Abode in fifteen days time on the auspicious day of Ashadi Ekadashi.

Today most of the processions carry Palkhi's (palanquins) with the images of the saints of Maharashtra. Sant Dnyaneshwar's image is carried from Alandi, SantTukaram's from Dehu,  Sant Eknath's from Paithan,  Sant Nivruttinath's from Trimbakeshwar, Sant Muktabai's from Muktainagar, Sant Sopan's from Sasvad and Gajanan Maharaj’s from Shegaon I have been to Pandharpur only once and the darshan of lord was mesmerising. That just explains why millions, every year go there.
As a child, I have been facinated with Dindi's and the Warkari's, with orange flags, forehead smeared with abir-bukka, waking, singing and dancing to the lord. One has to see the 'Ringan' dance performed by Warkari's. I am still hoping that one day I too shall join them singing, dancing to see the Lord.

Note- the images are from Net and I have no rights to them. The warkari image is Manodyna's pictures.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

My Village Trip

Recently I attended my cousins wedding in a small town in Maharashtra. I rarely get to meet my cousins as most of them live in remote towns in Maharashtra. My daughter refused to come for the wedding stating a standard teenage syndrome- Boredom!!!.
The wedding was a far cry from the sophisticated planned( almost perfectly choreographed)events that we see in cities. The rituals are more elaborate, chaotic, loud speakers are too loud, food is simple( not fancy), sarees are shockingly bright( bling) and band baaja has local flavour. This one had an ochestra playing with one charlie singing away 70's songs. Yet, I thoroughly enjoyed this wedding because; I got to see a part of my folks who I have never met in last 17 years, there was a lot of warmth extended by village folks. Most people are gracious hosts and will embarass you by their 'adara thithya'( hospitality). I say embarassed, because we( city people) can never match their hospitality, not in warmth and certainly not in the time aspect. The rituals were fun, I got to wear the green bangles, 9 in each hand, applied mehendi to others, did  welcome aarti to the bride, I also helped her dress and apply make-up.
Meeting so many cousins bought in fond memories of my childhood days, when I spent my vacations with these or other cousins.This was the time when middle class wasn’t bitten by tourism bug, at least not to the extent it has infected today.  Today most families are nuclear and whenever they get a long weekend or vacations, they are spent in seeing some part of country or abroad.  During our time,  Summer and Diwali vacations meant dividing them between Nani’s place, Dadi’s place, Weddings in family and the balance breaks were spent at various uncles and aunties houses. We were a nuclear family and lived in Pune for larger part of my childhood and growing up days. I was blessed to have 5 massis’s and 1 mama on my Mom’s side. On my dad’s side there were 4 uncles, so holidays meant  FUN.
My Massi’s (aunts) lived in joint families and between them and their families they had at least 8-10 kids, hence visiting them was one big party time.  Sight-seeing close by places were a part of the holiday program and no we did not crib going to temples, weddings (even of not –so- closely related people). I guess, our parents didn’t give us much choice. The days were spent playing- various games and evenings were spent going to local sight-seeing places. Bhel, Paani-puri and Mewad ice cream was a treat. End of that vacation was also waited upon as the party who hosted us would gift us a dress material or money. This also was eagerly received and those clothes were worn with great pride and love( though on hindsight I feel there was a beauty in being ignorant of dressing sense or fashion sense). 
Looking back I felt, I felt I looked odd one out, distant in my cousins or may be I felt I was. My clothes were way too different and probably made me most under-dressed person there. I remember in my early 20’s I worked away from home, tried hard to stand out, moved away from relatives and yet when I met them after so long, I realised that I was trying to blend in..what was happening to me..why was I trying to belong to something that I was so away or was always trying to be different from. Is this the 40’s syndrome..or is it called Mitti Ki Khushbu( just like NRI’s who suffer from India pangs).. this trip has left me with a very confused state of mind..What was I seeking..does this happen to others? Whatever it was, it left me happy and rejuvenated one level for sure.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Life is beautiful only if you choose to see it so

Some times, some stray incidents happen in our life to create a paradigm shift in our thinking. This incident was about 10 years back. It was blazing warm sunny Saturday. I was working in JWT then. Some unfinished last minute emergency and hence I was travelling by train all the way from Thane to Parel. I managed to get a window seat, now that is a luxury in local trains in Mumbai. I always prefer travelling with train simply because it’s quick and you get a feel of people. Soon I got lost in my thoughts and was brooding over management of some expenses. It was financially a difficult period for me as Rajesh was out of work.
I saw a woman with small children sitting opposite me. I was lost in my home loan, bike loan and aspiring for a car loan calculations. Thoughts fly and so does time and I had to alight at Parel station. As I ran up the flight of stairs, noticed one child who was about 3 years old struggling to climb the stairs and the same lady from my compartment was almost on the top of the stairs holding older child in arms. I was annoyed with the mother for abandoning such a small child, he could have easily fallen through the railings and that too on rail tracks. What kind of careless mother she was? etc etc. I held him up and climbed the stairs and caught up with the mother. I was about to tell her my feelings and also give her a mini lecture in polite words but stopped to catch my breath. It is then that I actually noticed  her, a frail 26 year old housewife, simple saree, sans any fancy mangalsutra. Just a few black beads strung together in a thread. She looked tired and gaunt and was perspiring from all the effort. She put her 6 year old on the landing...the older child had a scarf tied on her head and was bald, pale with eyes protruding and had a surgical mask on the face. She looked at me with gratitude. I was tongue-tied and appalled, felt stupid...of course she had come Parel’s Cancer Hospital and the older child was a cancer patient and hence had to let the younger one climb stairs by herself.
I smiled feebly and deposited the child with her and walked away briskly..And suddenly all my problems seemed much smaller to me. I felt much smaller in front of that woman who was struggling to do everything to save her baby.
I still have tears in my eyes and can never forget the pain in her eyes. I learnt that day, if you feel unhappy about yourself –Just look around and then thank god for all the things that you have!!!

Monday, April 30, 2012

My ex and current Flame

I have been watching the trees in my residential complex, whole 20 days passed and there was still no activity. Then I wasn’t around for a week, so I missed my walk with Teio. Yesterday, suddenly as scanned the trees absent mindedly, I noticed small clusters of orangey red flowers breaking through the green foliage of Gulmohur Trees.  I was so delighted  that I started humming the song “ Gulmohur gaar tumahara naam hota” I have no clue who sang this song but  I think it’s very beautiful  and romantic too...Just doing apt justice to the flowers. The orange canopy makes scorching summer heat tolerable and beautiful, a relief for thirsty soul. So aptly called Flame tree
The older the tree, the more beautiful its foliage. In my childhood, I lived in defence area in Range Hills, in Pune. There were many old cottages/bungalows with huge compound around it and all of them had a Gul mohur tree right at entrance. Each tree, in full bloom was a like painting created by God. No leaves, just enveloped in the orangey red bloom. My hobby was to watch the shapes that each Gulmohur tree created and even today, whenever I pass through that area I can't take my eyes off those trees. As children, we ate a part of the flower too.
My concept of house was to have a Gulmohur tree in the courtyard and I fulfilled it in virtual space. When I played Farmville on Facebook, I had a row of Gulmohur trees lined up in front of my cottageJ)))

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

My school enemy

My daughter heaved a sigh of relief after her maths paper and I perfectly understood the feeling. The four letter word that terrified and harassed me through school life was MATH.
No matter what I did or how hard I tried, I just couldn’t get it right. So terrified I was of maths, that my hands used to go cold by the end of the paper( they are called as panic attacks) and I used to get nightmares of writing maths paper long after I had passed 10th.  Thankfully due to memory gaps, I have forgotten most of my trying days but some events are still etched on my mind.
 Every simplification complicated my life while factorization created those many hurdles. During the Math paper, I was the first one to ask for supplements. Most of my time went in scribbling over rough sheets. I always managed to get different answers by different methods and finally left the honorous task to the teacher, to choose the problems that were solved correctly. 
The one topic that I never liked was quadratic equations and also the ones  where the water tank has two taps, one that fills with x diameter and one that empties it with y diameter. And we had figure out when the tank would get my naive mind always had a question ..why would you want to fill a tank, only to empty it out and what would I learn by solving this. Take another example, one train of x length travelling at some speed crosses the other train of Y length  travelling at some another speed, in xy minutes, so calculate when they would eventually cross each other ....WHY  why must you torture kids by giving these kind of problems.
Needless to say that I the moment I passed 10th, I dropped it like a hot brick and ran in the opposite direction. I don’t know how but I think God really, honestly came and wrote my maths paper else how can I explain a distinction in that subject. All was fine, till I came to my MBA exam...again this time it was Maths and Stats but then things changed.  I met a Teacher who really taught me the basics and made it very easy and interesting for me for me. The teacher was Dilip Oak and I sincerely wish, I had met him earlier in my school years wouldn’t have been so bad.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Self Gloating Moms

Meera called . She wanted to wish my daughter the very best for her exams. It surprised me as she never ever calls. She went on to chat about how today’s education system is full of competition and how its marks are really not the real barometer of anyone’s career or life. Since my daughter was in ICSE, she asked if they would be on par in 11th standard with other kids. I said yes they would. I frankly feel a child should be allowed to learn and not made into a race horse that runs with his parent’s aspirations. We talked about how children get stressed and one shouldn’t do this and so forth.  Then she went to ask how much did my daughter score in the exams and after hearing her marks  went to on gleefully announce that her son gets 90% and was hoping for more in the SSC board exams. And was preparing for his engineering and also planning to study abroad. She went on to say that of course not everybody is a star and cut out to be engineers and it is important for a person to do what he/ she likes and some more things that were very contrary to what we were discussing just 5 min back...Oh yessss!!!  then I realised that this was indeed a clever and deceitful tactic of putting other people down and I had walked right into it. I had met many of these Self Gloating Mom’s in my life time. Their objective in life is to put others down...Now I am not a person who believes in calling people and insulting them but I certainly don’t like to take things lying down... I thought I had to return this favour.
I reminded her that I was not a topper in school or college ( she was a year senior to me). Also bought to her notice that I was a 70% average student, from a small town, finished my MBA  and worked out a career across the best of MNC’s and  had work life which was far more challenging and different than most other professions. And that I strongly believed however good your education is, at the end what matters is, what you do with it. I assured her like me, my daughter will eventually find place that belongs to her. My friend mumbled something about being late and then said a quick bye. Just to give a background (My wonderful friend was an engineer by profession and had worked for 3-4 in the initial years of her life and then did nothing of that career post marriage).
Yes , it important to me that my daughter does well economically and all that in life but one has to realize that each child has  different capacities. And for me it is important for her to be happy and a good human being. If I can succeed in that, then I feel that I have done my job as a mother.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Sometimes ghosts may be the last thing that will scare you in darkness

Humans at times are more dangerous than ghosts!!!
Maitreyee, my friend wrote this on her face book and it reminded me of an incident that happened in 1994. I was working in Mumbai and staying as paying guest in Vile Parle, in a flat shared by another friend, a journalist by profession. Those were the times when the STD calls used to be at ½ the rate post 11pm or something like that. It was our usual practice of going post 11pm to make call to her parents. Parla was a middle class Maharashtrian and Gujarati locality and was very safe .
That day it was past 11.30pm and we were walking back to our PG accommodation .We had only our wallets and house keys with us. The road was quiet except for few hawkers who were closing their wares and few people.  On the road just outside the walkway to our lane was a Police Patrol van.
  A man was walking ahead of us and turned into our lane a little after we turned inside. There were only two building and we thought he may be someone’s guest. Our apartment was before the second one. Again the man seemed to walk towards the other building but turned in to ours just after us. I thought maybe he made a mistake. Often people mistake one building for the other and so we let him go ahead of us. Most people had closed their doors and there was no security in building. My friend Jyoti (with her journalistic instincts) had sensed something amiss and pulled me back just as we entered the building. Not to be taken aback, I assured her confidently that this being our building, we shouldn’t worry about it. The man by then had reached on the top of first landing. He turned back and stepped aside saying “ jaiye jaiyee, gabhriey nahin..’. I felt it was weird but still started bravely going up. I was just about to go past him, when he turned and tried to grab my neck, since I was already instinctively aware, I jumped the entire steps in one long jump and was at the exit in the next step. My friend meanwhile ran out , screaming for help..Since the Police Van was just out side our lane, they came but by then the man had vanished.  He probably scaled over the back side wall and melted into the darkness.
The Police searched the place twice over but couldn’t find anybody. In this entire commotion not a single person from the building even bothered to open the door. The police had noticed us walking up in the lane and thought the man was our acquaintance. We were rattled to our skin or bones whatever the expression was. Needless to mention that we both  did not dare to report this incident back home. One thing we were sure of was that man was certainly not after our wallets as he had enough time to snatch it while walking with us or on the staircase.
As precaution we ensured that some always dropped us till our doorstep. I always made sure that my female subordinates or friends are always escorted till door step. I personally avoid travelling alone late at night. I also avoid any red eye flights from other cities because one is unaware of roads in a unknown city.
And last but not the least I thank God for protecting us that day .....

Thursday, January 19, 2012

My Adventures with baking

Last afternoon, I woke up from my afternoon siesta, to the aroma of Banana Cinnamon cake with was heavenly. Homemade bakes have something special about them. There is a taste of love, affection and great effort that blends in with all the goodies to give an unbeatable combination. My daughter too shares the same passion and I am glad that she too gets all excited about trying new things.
Late evening, she excitedly served a slice to my husband, who took a bit and said he didn’t prefer banana cakes. She was very dejected and actually this episode took me back in time, when I started baking at home and all my experiments were graciously/ or rather bravely eaten and encouraged by my father -Baba.It was his encouragement that added charm to my experiments. Mom ofcourse was a little strict on wastage of food ingridients, gas or electricity.
 My affair with baking started when I was 12-13 years old. At my mom’s place, although we were vegetarians, occasionally an egg was allowed. Mother had just learnt how to bake a cake and I added on to it by adding orange zests or lemon rinds or some such thing. The first oven was a round aluminium tin that was kept on gas with a little sand pit underneath it. The next one was an OTG and microwave came much later in life. There were no cookery shows like today nor was internet . So whatever you got from some magazines or recipe booklets that came with non-stick / new cooker was eagerly tried on. I tried many things from cakes, biscuits to buns.  Cakes turned out pretty good but cookies and breads were a disaster. Biscuits that needed hammer to break in or buns that tasted funny and cakes also sometimes behaved weird ...And Baba has the record of being one and only man who very graciously ate it...even if it had gone horribly all wrong. I remember trying to make a bread with wheat flour instead of maida and boy! It just refused to rise...not knowing what to do with it,lest my mother see's it, my bother served it to our dog Julie (who would gobble up anything) just turned her face away in sheer disgust.. My brother of course had a great time laughing at me and that was a joke that I had to bear for many years.