Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Making of My Ganesha

This year was a landmark in my bringing home the idol, since I made it all by myself. I felt responsible doing my bit and though my son was a bit sceptical if I will be able to make it, for me it was a zidd and I decided big or small, however it turns out this is it, this time our Ganesha would be the one I will make. 
As I promised a couple of my friends and as mentioned in the last post, I am listing out a couple of tips and procedure as to how I made it. Of course being a ceramic stoneware potter made it that much more easier for me. But don’t fret, it is not difficult at all and the rewards include a heart that sings, deep creative satisfaction and of course the feeling of being Parvati (mum to my baby Ganesha) that I cannot shake off. Makes the visarjan that much more difficult but well even in there is a huge  lesson of loving and letting go. Isn’t that what life is all about anyways. Before I get into a philosophical tirade lets just do this:

Material Required:
Shadu Clay (I got from Pune, but it should be available in Mumbai too)
A knife not very sharp
A small tub to knead the clay (I got it in powder form)
A sponge
A cardboard

Try to begin the process when you have a couple of hours in hand so that you complete the entire idol in 1 sitting. Cause if the clay is at different stages of drying, chances of developing a crack are higher.

Step 1:

Knead the clay with water. This is a toughie, will make some muscles for you. Knead it well and go on with it till you achieve a nice smooth ball, almost like roti dough. Start with smaller amounts of water and go on adding as you go.

Step 2:
Pull out enough quantity to roll it into a thick slab. Do the entire process on a piece of wooden board and it will not stick as the wood will absorb the wetness.

Step 3:
Roll out dough and start with shaping the bum and thighs first, keep your fingers moist (not wet) and then add lower legs shaping it the way you want to position them. I shaped one leg in crossed position and supported it with a ball of newspaper. Newspaper will not stick to the clay, you can use it to support the extremities.

When you are sticking 2 pieces of clay together you could scratch both the surface a bit with the blunt knife and while sticking add paste of clay (wetter clay like fevicol consistency) and ensure that you press them in place stiffly. Keep wiping off the extra wet clay with the help of a sponge. Once the shape is done, you can create the crown, the halo, his jewelery, his drapes, go wild with your imagination and adorn bappa with what you want.To remove small bumps and to finish it well take the sponge and squeeze all water out of it and give a good wipe to the idol.

Don’t dry the idol in direct fan or sun, let it dry naturally covered with a clean cloth or a newspaper, it took 3 days for mine to dry. And then I painted him with poster colours and voila, my baby was set to rock my mandir. 

The best was when my son approved and fell in love with the idol, he was proud of his mommy and I was on the top of the world, really!

I wish you eco friendly Ganesha next year and the sheer joy that comes with it. Craft it, it’s a feeling like none other. 

Friday, September 23, 2016

Oh ji Sadda Kanaada

Haan ji Sarla penji ! assi land ho gye hain. Vaddi soni country hai te Trudeau… hai marr jawan kina cute hai usde dimple vekhe…hore ki
Before you wonder why I am channelling Pummy aunty getting into a verbal diarrhea in Punjabi language, hear me story. So this year we were slated to vacation at my brother’s place in Canada. Now you know how that airports are a mile long and can be a pain for senior citizens with knee problems etc, so I had requested for a wheel chair access, not that my brave mom used it, though wink wink if she had at every exit we would have breezed through. Well on touching down at Canada airport I insisted she take it since her feet were swollen and it had been a long tiring journey. To enable that when the doors of the craft opened, I asked a very gori chori, “hi where can we find the wheel chair?” and she went, “Oh ji tussi idhron bahar jaoge the tuanu uthe….blah blah.” I was like Jaw Drop What?! After paying almost a close to a lakh of rupees here I land in phoren country and get directed in my native even I am not as fluent. Face palm.

Jokes aside, I guess this is what Canada is all about, lets each one celebrate their diversity like no other. 2 days post landing, we attended my nephews school for their presentation on South Asian cultural show, and I must commend that though Bollywood ruled, all the countries were celebrated. My nephew was part of the dragon dance. It was a wonderful feeling, only if this love and diversity gets celebrated all across the world, we will be in a peaceful place. I wish “Vasudev Kutumbukam” to all. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Gannu and I

Ganpati Bappa Moraya

Ganpati started visiting my house on a whim and zid of my then 6 year old who at that time watched the movie ‘My Friend Ganesha’ almost on loop. Being an indulgent mom I gave in to his wishes and decided to bring home the deity. Now, I am absolutely clueless about the rituals and didn’t know anything about the procedure. For me praying is personal communion. On his insistence I agreed and lemme confess I am ever so happy that I did it.
To begin with I called up my hubs cousin who lives in Mumbai to ask her what it entailed and how to go about it.  She sent me a detailed instruction on sthapana. Feeling a bit more confident with her details, on the D-day we ventured out to bring him home, and there found a couple of people who were buying the idol. We asked one of the ladies and she further elaborated as to how to take the deity home and welcome it etc. We felt happy and now knew more about the pooja. The 2 days went past beautifully, with my son feeding the Ganesh friend all his favorite food and believe me it was most endearing to see them bond over food. Ana would take food in the spoon, place it near his tusk and ask him to eat and then after a minute ask “Ok eaten? Tummy full?” That year clueless about visarjan procedure we went to Okhla barrage and again as luck would have it got guided by a very sweet lady with whom we shared boat space and did the visarjan. This was a classic case of when the student is ready guru will appear, the entire process seemed guided by the lord.
This was the start of a tradition for us as a family. However, past couple of years the urge to do the visarjan more responsibly kept gnawing at me. Last year I went to the potters who sell these idols and told them I want to do home visrajan and was looking for an eco friendly idol. He sold me one promising that it will dissolve soon …blah blah. Little was I aware at that time that he conned me. My home visrajan was not successful, later I realized the idol was POP and not clay.

Now I am a studio potter myself and this year the thought that I should make one kept niggling at me, especially after a friend suggested that “this will be your ultimate gift to Bappa”. Last year I had seen a friend post some pics of the Ganpati she had made, and she told me that the eco friendly clay used for the idol is Shadu mitti that is easily available in Pune. Getting this in my head I just casually asked my husband if he will be travelling to Pune and to my amazement and absolute delight he said “next week”. I piled on to him to find out and buy me some, which he did. Now it again did seem that the entire thing was guided. My son had apprehensions about whether I will be able to make a nice one worthy of keeping for the pooja, but I was confident and firm that even if I am able to make a much smaller one this is what it will be. We had decided we are not going to buy it.
Must thank my pottery teachers coupled with my experience in handling the clay, I DID it. I actually created one that looked awesome, and in any case Ganesh ji is such a cute idol that it looks beatific in any form. Have you ever seen how a couple of strokes on the canvas and it takes the form of Ganapati.
Anyway the joy of creating the idol myself was as satisfying and creatively fulfilling as birthing minus the labour pains. Yes, I felt like Parvati. I created him. Then painstakingly painted him with poster colours. The happiness, satisfaction and the meditative calm that I got from the entire process far superseded anything that I have done before. I can sum up by saying that my heart sang.
The visarjan was done at home and the next day the plants were watered with the same and the clay distributed in the plants. To say that I felt great is not enough. I thank God for guiding me and being present at every step. And while celebrating I did my bit. Each drop counts, every action matters.
So long Bappa. Till Next year, I am already itching to dip my hands in the clay.

To read the step by step tutorial on how to make Ganpati using Shadu clay, click HERE

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Tobermory Tales

When this year we planned to descend on bro’s family in Canada, my brief to him was that I wanted to do “different” things except for a trip to Niagara without which my mum’s agenda is incomplete. She is absolutely smitten by the gushing waterfall. One of the soujourns that the bro zeroed in on was a cottage trip to Tobermory and are we glad he did!

Sauble Beach
On the designated weekend we loaded our cars with essentials, luggage and a whole lot of sense of humour. After all it was a three and half hour journey in the SUV that was packed to the hilt and 3 young lads (almost teens) all of whom did not want to sit at the back. Anyways onwards and upwards (not really) we moved to Tobermory, stopping at the Sauble Beach. At this time of the season the beach was almost like one private beach for us, the blue of the water was shinning crystal and the water chillier than the beer I had. 

Some beach cricket and sea gull chasing later we left for Tobermory. As an aside I don’t know why but everytime I said Tobermory I thought of Sabarmati, weird eh but there is weirder stuff out there.
Once there, we checked intoTubby Lounge, a nice well maintained place with cottages overlooking Lake Huron. For a small village town and almost end-of-winter season the town was pretty well packed and teeming with activity. Popular with divers for the shipwrecks, Tobermory also happens to be Canada’s largest fresh water harbor and is divided into the “Big Tub” and “Little Tub”.   The town is dotted with quaint art galleries, a huge supermarket and patio restaurants overlooking the dazzling lake. Post settling the luggage in our cottage, we moved out to the lakeside to catch one of the most magnificent sunsets that I have ever seen, and believe me I have seen many, I heart them.
The next day we planned for a cruise that would take us to the Flower Pot island. On asking a few people the idea that we had was that it was a smallish island that will be covered in a heartbeat (well not literally). So, we hadn’t factored in much time, we should have. Cause the island is amazingly beautiful with many trails that take you to caves, grottos and open up to beauty. We did some and had to miss some since we had to take the boat back, and weren’t willing on being stranded, accessible only by boat, on an island ! though sometimes I do fantasize about how it would be like to be stranded on an island, but in my fantasies there is loads of beer, books and no snakes or slithering biting insects, add SRK and it looks perfect.
We booked us with Bruce Horn Cruises and were whisked away in a glass bottom boat that revealed a ship wreck within 5 minutes from our embarkation point. 
Hospitable pleasant hosts, narrated some of the history of the island peppered with humour. Once we left the shipwreck area, we literally zoomed towards the Flower Pot Island, the lake was enveloped with fog that lifted only in parts to reveal a vistas with even more water and a stray bird or two. With droplets showering on my face and strong winds in the hair I stood at the stern and loved every moment.
Lighthouse Big Tub 
Approaching Flower Pot Island
We disembarked at the island and a couple of steps away encountered a snake, eeewwww a real coiled snake sunning itself. Moving onwards we found a nice cosy bench where we offloaded our bags full of goodies and hungrily took a lunch break. Munching on a huge roasted chicken while listening to the sounds of the lapping water and shooing away the sea gulls was quite funny and satiating at the same time.
Tummies full, we started our hike, while the father joined us mommy sat and relaxed. Surrounded by tall trees that won’t even let the sunshine fall on the trail, we marched ahead on the mushy ground and soon reached the first look out that opened out into a glorious view of the lake and the flower pot shaped rock. A couple stone throwing by the kids and selfies over, we ventured to the sea cave that was to become our next stop. A flight of stairs led us to the naturally formed cave. It is interesting to know how this cave was formed, Do read about it in the pic.
One of the most fascinating natural haven, a trip to the Flower Pot Island should def be on the list, while in Tobermory. Initially we thought it was just one rock formation that some artist type perceived as a flower pot and hence the name, but NO, we were wrong. Flower pots are actually rock formations, a type of sea stack that is created due to natural wear and tear in a manner that the top remains heavy and the bottom becomes narrow.
We wound up before the last boat exited the island and reached where we had parked off and set out to drop the tired kids and  grandparents to the cottage. Me, bro and sis-in-law decided to go and check out the tall viewing tower that would give us a birds eye view of the island located in the Fathom Five National Marine Park. Huffing and puffing up the tower on innumerable winding steel steps, we finally reached the top. The effort seemed worth its while, we were way above the tree tops and could see far and wide, and like the sis-in-law pointed out it will be a wonderful view with the trees all aflame with the fall colours, I can only imagine it.
All of this activity later, me and bro decided we had earned our beer and the pit stop was at a nice place with the patio overlooking the lake and yes free wifi from where I posted all the pics back home to hubs dear. 
A pitcher or 2 (who remembers!) of the really smooth Sleeman draught later we went on the pier to catch a yet another beautiful sunset. Life is Good.