The Tenth day

Durga Puja at Manjalpur Vadodara

Today is Dussehra or Bijoya Dashami. It is celebrated for the victory of Goddess Durga over the demon Mahishasur. The festival is also celebrated for the homecoming of the Goddess Durga along with her kids. This day marks the end of the nine day Navratri festivities. The house is cleaned early morning and special ceremonies are performed. We begin the day by taking blessings of our elders and wishing them Shubho Bijoya. We keep home made sweets ready for guests. Durga Puja is the biggest festival of Bengalis. This year Durga Puja of Kolkata was added in the Intangible Cultural heritage by Unesco.

This year was special since the Durga Puja was celebrated with all the rituals as it used to be done before covid. We met many of our friends after 2 years. The statement “We are fine” held a deep meaning for all of us. I have mixed feelings on this day. On one side its the blessings of the elders and on the other side the end of all the fun, festivities and holidays. The idols are immersed in water on this day which means the Goddess and her children leave on this day. It is gloomy to see the empty pandals. These events indicate everything has a beginning and end be it good times or bad times. Just as the artists and sculptors start working for the festival of the new year we should also look forward to creating new things. Just as we immerse the idol, we should also let go of our ego, frustrations, failures, etc and look forward to a new day with positivity. It may sound difficult and philosophical but if implemented, can make a huge difference. Last two years have helped us realize the importance of healthy relations and good habits. I hope this Dussehra, we are able to focus on improving our lives. Happy Bijoya Dashami.

Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations

Today is Anant Chaturdashi, the last day of 10 day Ganesh Chaturthi festival. Lord Ganesh is the God of auspicious beginnings. It is celebrated at community as well as family level. One can see the preparations way before the festival. The markets are full of idols. Many organizations conduct workshops for making the idols at home with clay. People bring small idols for the ceremonies at their homes. The communities bring larger idols which are set up in pandals. We worship him by performing various ceremonies. Aarti is done in morning and evening and sweets are offered. There are fairs held at some places.

Socializing has reduced due to the pandemic. Negativity seems to be everywhere. These ceremonies bring a change to the otherwise mundane life. They give us an opportunity to meet each other. The sound of ceremonious bells and the fragrance of incense creates a positive vibe. I take this time to do a rain check on my resolutions. As the day of Anant Chaturdashi comes near, I get a feeling of sadness. The idols are immersed on this day. The sight of empty pandals reminds us that all good things must come to an end. One must be prepared for all kinds of situations. There are so many facts of life taught by the rituals of different festivals. If only we could incorporate them, life would be so much better. I wish everyone a Happy Ganesh Chaturthi. May Lord Ganesh bless everyone.

Discovering a Hero

For most of us, our father is our first Hero. How would you feel if you found your father had achievements in bravery. The wars (1962, 1965, 1971) fought by India after independence (15 August 1947) are present in our school history. As we study about these our hearts are filled with pride for the defence services.

This year marks 50 years of the victory of the 1971 war. Let me share my school story on this war. The teacher had given an elaborate description of the bravery of our defense services during this war. I was so moved that I repeated the same description to my mother in the evening. My father listened to all this with a smile. At the end, I said I wish we could have met a war veteran of 1971. My mother replied “Why only 1971, you can meet a war veteran who was in both 1965 and 1971 wars. He is sitting right in front of you”. She pointed at my father. That day I came to know my father had started his career from Indian navy and was a two time war veteran. I never heard him speak about this. He showed me his war medals after I insisted. I don’t have words to explain how proud I was of my father. It seemed like discovering a hero further. I have seen people talking endlessly about their smallest of achievement but my father never spoke about his achievements. He taught me “Actions are louder than words”.

I have met so many people in my life but am yet to meet another war veteran. True heroes never speak about their achievements. They just do their work with selfless dedication. The discipline and dedication of Defense brings out the best in people. My father taught me many things through his life. I hope these values remain in our lives. I wish everyone a “Happy Father’s Day”.

Memories with Tea

Today May 21, 2022 is International Tea Day. Tea is referred to as Chai in India. It is a beverage made from tea leaves, milk, water, sugar, ginger and is served hot. It is so popular in India that there is hardly any road which does not have a tea stall.

It has a special meaning in every person’s life. There are many things associated with it. It is a morning ritual in many families where everyone start their day by having tea together. We also have it with evening snacks which gives us an opportunity to have informal chat with our colleagues. Infact so many discussions happen with tea that there is a famous phrase “Chai pe Charcha”, which means discussion on Tea. It is the first thing served when guests arrive. The taste changes based on preference of ingredients especially the ratio of milk and water. It can be enhanced by adding Tulsi (basil leaves), cardamom, cinnamon, etc. These additional features became permanent for many people during the pandemic because of their benefits against cough and cold. There are some people who seem to have the ability to make amazing tea.

When you make tea for someone it shows you care for that person, which means a lot today. There are many stories associated with tea so I am very happy that there is a day dedicated to it. For me, tea is an opportunity to create memorable moments. Happy International Tea Day to everyone.

That interesting Series

April 23 was World Book Day. It was declared to promote the love for reading and writing books. There is some genre of book which pulls us towards reading. For me it was detective stories. I was introduced to the world of mystery by the “Famous Five series” by Enid Blyton. I still remember how I came across this series.

I was in fifth grade. It was in the first library class of the first week of academic year. We were allowed to wander in the library and issue a book of our choice. The books used to be kept in cupboards with glass doors. I don’t have words to express the excitement of opening each and every cupboard. I thought I would take the first book which makes me curious enough to read it. I went across the library openning each cupboard and looking through rows of books. There was one book which caught my attention “Famous Five: Five on a Secret Trail”. I was going through it when the teacher announced “We only have 5 minutes left. Please get your books issued by the librarian”. I had already made up my mind. I went to the librarian and signed the register. She too was impressed by my choice. It was so interesting that I completed it in a week. I realized this was the 15th book of the series and decided to read the entire series starting from the first book. In the next library class a week later I knew which book to issue. This time i went through each cupboard looking for “Famous Five: Five on a Treasure Island”. I finally saw that book through the glass doors of a cupboard. That was the only cupboard which was locked on that day. I requested the librarian to open it. She informed me it was locked because the key got misplaced. I requested her if she could look for it once again. If i had a chance to meet her, I would have asked how she felt when a fifth grade, two pony tailed girl in a uniform asked her to search for a lost key. She asked me why I was so bent on getting that cupboard opened when all the other cupboards are open. When I told her the reason, she asked me to wait and started looking through all the drawers. Suddenly she found the key in one of the drawers. I followed her to the cupboard, she opened it, I immidiately pulled out the book as I had memorized the location of the book and said “Madam, could you please issue this book for me”. She smiled and issued the book.

I recently found a book by Enid Blyton among old books gifted to us. Her works have always moved my imagination. Even today I would sit and read her works. Those books introduced me to the pleasure of reading the entire series. This was my story of how I found that interesting series which increased my love for reading. On this World Book Day, I would request everyone to just wander in the library and pick the book of their choice. You never know the treasure you may find. Happy World Book Day.

Red pens everywhere

The months of March and April are full of examinations in India as the academic session comes to an end. The situation of students is discussed in a lot of forums but very places have mention about the teachers. Being the daughter of a teacher, I have witnessed the situation on their side as well.

My mother was a teacher and was very economic, she always bought pens with replaceable refills. She would plan her schedule way before the examination season so we will see bulk of red refills bought. As soon as the exams would start, she would get bundles of answer sheets to check. Mom would make sure she had all the resources to check answer sheets no matter where she was in the house. So red pens would be placed on study table, dining table, coffee table or any other place where she might sit for 15 minutes or more. As the exams progressed, the refills would start getting over quickly. One day I needed to sign some form and I picked a black pen. My father came rushing with a loud “STOP”. He asked me try the pen in a rough paper. As soon as I scribbled on the rough sheet, I realized the black refill of the pen was replaced with red refill. Even the refills of the non-red pens were replaced with red refill. He gave me a black pen to sign the form. He kept it carefully in the cupboard with a “This is one of the last few pens with non-red refill left in the house”.

Today when I see students going for exams, it takes me back to my school days when we would stand outside the examination hall doing last minute revision till the bell was rung. It was the thought of the long summer vacation after exams that would keep me going. Next time you visit the house of a teacher during exams, don’t be surprised to see red pens everywhere.

Welcome normalcy with colors

My plate of colors for this Holi

The festival of Holi was on 18th march in 2022. There are news of reducing covid counts in India which makes this festival even more special. This is also called the festival of colors. I happened to visit a nearby market a week before and found the shops full of dry colors. Also the different types of instruments to spray water are amazing. The sight of these takes me back to my school days.

We celebrate this festival by applying colors on each other. People prepare special sweets. We used to visit each house in groups and were welcomed with home made sweets during our school days. Its been a month since the schools have opened for all classes. Kids are happy to be at the school premises after attending online school for almost two years. People seemed to be so happy with return of normalcy that they have extended the celebration to two days. Since 18 th march was a holiday so students and teachers were allowed to play holi in school premises on 17th march. For a change both students and teachers became kids.

We play with colors from morning till afternoon. The mischievous ones even mix colors in water and user the water sprinkler toys to sprinkle water on others. Although most of the color is washed off but sometimes we apply so much color that it stays even after repeated scrubbing. Those left over colors show how much a person has celebrated the festival. Most of the neighbourhoods organize commmunity dinners. We too went for one. There a fifth grade boy had a colorfull chin and ear. I jokingly asked him how would he explain the colors on his face and ear to his teacher in school the next day. He very sweetly replied “Now we need not bother because both my chin and ear would be covered by mask”.

I hope the vaccines are found for all age groups and no one falls sick. May this Holi bring happiness, prosperity and health for everyone. Happy Holi to everyone.

Foodie at Festival

Goddess Saraswati

We celebrated Vasant Panchami and Saraswati Puja on 5th Feb 2022. This festival is very special for bengalis because it is also a celebration of learning as Goddess Saraswati is also called the Goddess of learning. This is the only day when we dont study but worship our books. Since learning is an integral part of my profession, so my excitement for this festival is same even today as it used to be when I was a kid.

Prasad

We get up early, take bath and dress up in yellow. We then have a small ceremony at home and then we go to the community hall where the celebration is organized at a larger scale. We used to apply leave in school for this festival as it used to be a working day. One of my fondest memories of this festival is the Prasad(offering). As part of prasad we have a meal which comprises of Khichadi, mixed veg curry, a fry and sweet. After the offering is made to the Goddess, it is served to the people. The community hall used to have a separate space for meals. We used to stand in line. It used to be fun seeing people dressed in different shades of yellow. The wait in queue had its own charm. We would discuss about everything, different kind of yellows, news, movies and ofcourse the upcoming exams. Everytime a known elder passed us, there would be one common question “Poda shona kamon cholche” (how are your studies going on). We used to answer this question a number of times on this day. Incase if you are in grade 9 or above, the question would shift to your preferred college and course. The khichadi (Rice and lentils cooked togather) used to be so hot that one could feel the steam coming out of it. Some of us would even compare the yellow of khichadi with the yellow of our dresses. We would sit with our friends and eat while the discussions would still continue.

This year the meals had to be taken home because of covid protocols. We wished each other while maintaining social distancing. I still hope, those days would come back when we would again have similar community festivals. May Goddess Saraswati bless everyone with the knowledge and health.

Bravehearts on Bikes

We celebrate the Republic Day on 26th January in India. A large parade is organized in the capital New Delhi which is telecast live in national channel. It is a ritual in my family to watch the parade. We used to have a flag hoisting ceremony in school followed by march past. It used to get over by 8:30 am in the morning. I used to rush home to catch the national parade from the start. The parade has march past and tableus of different states and government departments.

This year we celebrated the 73rd Republic Day. One of my most cherished part of the parade is where formations were done on running bikes. The precision with which people stood on bikes and saluted always awed me. I used to wonder about the countless hours one must have spent in reaching that level. This year it was also done by women. If it was only possible to know the emotional and physical effort, it would have inspired so many people. It is strange we have so many stories of hard work around us but very few of them reach us inspite of so many mediums like TV, ott, etc. I wish the series makers would have taken the stories of these ladies and shared. It would have made a huge difference. This year we also celebrated the 125th birth anniversary of Netaji Subhashchandra Bose who happens to be my favorite national leader. This made the Republic Day more special for me. I think these national days play an important role in reminding us about the fruits of hard work. Wishing everyone a Happy Republic Day.

Thoughts on Youth Day

Today is 12th January, Swami Vivekananda’s birthday. This day is celebrated as National Youth Day in India in his honor. We have always had his photo in our house. Stories about events of his life were told to inspire us. He was my first role model of public speaking. His participation in the World Parliament of Religions inspired me for Chicago trip which is there in one of my blogs (https://sanchitahobby.wordpress.com/2019/09/15/promise-at-9/).

Swami Vivekananda always followed his heart. There were obstacles in his path but he did not give up and eventually created history. People often associate youth with age but i think it is more with ones thinking. The day one decides to follow his or her dream, with determination to work hard and without bothering about the comments, that day the youth in that person stands out. One must not ignore their wishes regardless of their biological age. There are cases where people have started trekking in their 40s and conquered mountains, cancer survivors have run marathons, etc. The moment a wish takes birth in your heart, you should believe all the resources to fulfill it will appear. All one needs to do is put a little effort in finding them or reskilling for that wish. There is no goal that cannot be achieved with hard work.

One of the major problems most of us have is procrastination. If we can conquer that and work hard diligently then we can be anything we wish to. Swami Vivekananda will continue to be an inspiration for generations to come. He has given many inspiring quotes. My favorite quote among those is “Arise, awake and stop not till the goal is reached. On this National Youth Day, I hope everyone takes inspiration from Swami Vivekananda and works to create a better version of themselves. Happy National Youth Day.