Sunday, October 6, 2013

A Sea that Melts into the Horizon


It is actually amusing how the mind wanders and how memories deeply stowed away in the recesses of mind tumble out at the slightest provocation. An article in TOI triggered the memory of a beautiful surreal vacation that I took as a young girl in class XII with my parents and brother. Papa was posted in Barrackpore Cantt near Kolkatta and we all decided to take a small break and venture out to Chandipur-on-sea in Odisha near Balasore. He planned it because he wanted to show us DRDO’s testing range It is from here that many a missiles have been launched. We were booked to stay in the DRDO’s guest house right by the shore. Little did we know that we were in for a surprise when the sea, yes the sea, did a disappearing act.

At that time, this is more than 2 decades back, now now don’t start calculating my age Winking smile this was a very quaint little town and I remember I had run out of my camera roll and couldn’t even find any around the shops here. That explains the lack of pics in the post scanned or otherwise.

At night we went strolling on the well kept and manicured lawn terrace that overlooked the sea and watched the sea lapping up its waves till the shore. We chatted and heard the sounds of the sea and generally soaked up in the peaceful environment before calling it a night.

In the morning post breakfast we decided to walk to the terrace again to greet the morning sea and we were in for a shock. Where is the sea? Yes we were sure we saw it last night and left it right there before retiring. But surprises of surprises there wasn’t a drop on the sea bed and me and bro were out of our wits since we hadnt heard any of this and were absolutely unprepared for the sight. On asking the guard “bhaiya” there we got to know that this is normal, huh, the sea here recedes each day almost upto 5 kms and then comes back again. Yes we had heard about high and low tides but this was amazing and absolutely unbelievable had we not seen it our selves. The guard told us maybe we could take a walk into the horizon and go look for the sea. To that suggestion we jumped and as excited kids started our walk, a walk that was almost a km long and no trace of the sea. Mom sat on the terrace and watched us through binoculars, and after a point starting waving at us frantically since she was scared. All we could spot was the endless horizon spreading in front of us with no sight and sound of the sea.

It was a beautiful place, a lovely vacation and an amazing experience…all of it deeply entrenched as fond memories of a carefree childhood. Ahh I hope I had a digi camera in those days to capture it for posterity but all I have is stories unlimited for my grandchildren. Thank you papa and mommy for providing us with an abundant beautiful childhood filled with love and joy. 

Friday, October 4, 2013

Navratris Jaise Bhi


Celebrations and festivals are a few of the things that bind us all with a thread of unity. Though there does exist a cultural and traditional divide between the rituals and festivals of North and South India, Navratris is one festival that is celebrated all over. All across the length and breadth of the country; the flavors are different, methods are varied, rituals are diverse but celebration time it is. Hindus are one of the few that believe in and revere the feminine principle like no other religion. This festival is dedicated to the goddess, the mother, the feminine divine.

Navratis mean different things to different age groups and castes. While in North India the most predominant method is by observing fasts through the seven or eight days with kanjak celebration on ashtami or navami. For Bengalis, the last four days is the biggest festival with them decking up the pandals innovatively with use of a multitude of materials, feasting, indulging in pandal hopping, sindoor khela and dhak competitions. It is a community celebrations for Bengalis with no abstinence on either veg or non-veg food. Infact since I am an army product, at one of the sendoff parties when my mom wasn’t even eating regular veg food, this aunt was drinking alcohol and even enjoying her piece of chicken, she told us they belong to a community in Rajasthan where even the poorest of poor will eat non veg during these days since they worship the Shakti roopa of the Goddess, it sounded so cool at that time. Ah and how can we forget the famous dandiya dance that all the soaps on the TV are celebrating with fervor. By the way the farm house parties even arrange for Dandiya competitions for couples with vrat ka khanaa on the side even in saddi Dilli. Gujaratis and Mumbaikars are big on Dandiya and Garba during the season, film stars and celebrity singers perform at various functions throughout India and even abroad especially in US, Canada and UK.

In South of India people set up idols and dolls in several tiers or padis a customary ritual during navratris it is observed in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. In the evening when people visit the homes where Golu is sthapit they are sent off with Prasadam. It is kept for 9 days and packed up on the 10th on Vijaydashmi.

Dussara in Mysore is celebrated with a big pomp and show. During the nine days leading up to Dusshera Mysore city is decked up as a bride and various tourists from around the world throng the city to watch the beauty and soak in the revelry. This is one royal experience for sure. Various cultural shows are performed in front of the illuminated Palace. Dasara celebrations commence with a pooja performed to Goddess Chamundeshwari atop the Chamundi Hills with the presence of the Wodeyar royal couple, and state officials. On tenth day of Dasara, a grand Procession (Jamboo Savari) starts from the palace after the royal couple worship the idol. The main attraction of the Dasara procession this year 2013 will be the idol of Goddess Chamundeshwari which is carried in a Golden howdah weighing over 750 kgs on top of an elephant. The procession consists of dancers, musical bands belonging to State Police, Folk dancers, decorated elephants, horses and camels. Colorful tableaux created by different State organisations too form an integral part of the procession.

Keralites mark this period with worshipping of the book during the last 3 days. This period is celebrated as Sarasvati poojan period. On Vijaya Dashami day, the books are ceremoniously taken out for reading and writing after worshiping Sarasvati. Vijaya Dashami day is considered auspicious for initiating the children into writing and reading, which is called Vidyarambham. Tens of thousands of children are initiated into the world of letters on this day in Kerala.

This is also a time for shopping and auspicious beginnings, of rokas and weddings, of buying new cars and those sone ke haars. A great time for both publishers and advertisers, a time when corporates do maximum business and a time when consumers reap maximum benefits. No one remains untouched with the fervor and the festivities in the air just like that slight nip of cold. So whatever suits you fasting or feasting, dancing or buying, praying or meditating….just keep the faith, take a deep breath, bless the world and before I forget, raise your arms and scream out loud JAI MATA DI !!

How do you intend to celebrate these nine?