Category Archives: Festival

Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations 2020

Today is Ganesh Chaturthi. Lord Ganesh is the lord of new beginnings and remover of obstacles. We celebrate his arrival from Kailash. People bring idols of Lord Ganesh in their homes. The entire house is decorated. The days are celebrated with Aarti (ceremonies) and prasad (sweets) are distributed. My home towns of Vadodara and Pune used to come alive with beautiful decorations of community ceremonies. Here the idols will be large and a pandal(temporary stage) would be set up. These festivals gave us an opportunity to meet our neighbors. Many people prepared the sweets for Aarti at home. We also have dance and music performances within the community.

The community festivals are for 11 days. There are many memories associated with this festival. My father would take my sister and me for a visit to all the Pandals in our area. My mother’s colleague used to send her home made sweets for us. If I came up with any resolution after June, I would wait till Ganesh Chaturthi and begin from this day. Praying to Lord Ganesh before starting anything is a part of life. I share my love for modak(sweets) with Lord Ganesh. The sweet shops would make different kinds of modak and put up for display. I used to visit all the sweet shops near temple and get the most unique modak. This year the community festivals are being conducted at a smaller scale because of the pandemic. This has not stopped the devotees but has increased their creativity. People have come up with different ideas of creating their own idols. Many of us have learnt to perform the ceremony ourselves and prepare modak as well. Let us come together and pray a vaccine is found soon, the sick are cured and we are all able to overcome this difficult phase. Happy Ganesh Chaturthi.

The Farsighted Shopper

The precious Calculator

Whenever we buy gifts, we always think about its use to the receiver. Have you ever thought about gifting something which may not be of much use at present but may become a necessity in future. Seems difficult but its possible. Let me share a memory. My father, who was in shipping, had to visit Singapore for work. I was in 12th grade at that time. He was very fond of buying new gadgets. When he returned there was the regular big box of gifts, chocolates, etc. He got a new scientific calculator. My mother scolded him for spending on complicated gadgets which are not needed. He didn’t say anything but kept on smiling. At that time no one needed it. So the calculator was kept in cupboard. A year later, I was in college. I still remember the first physics laboratory. The professor mentioned everyone should have a scientific calculator. That day I came home and declared Baba(Papa) is the most farsighted person I have ever met. He did not know what would be my major in college, yet he got the calculator. That was my father, he knew what we needed way before time. He was unable to predict the same for himself. I often wonder what was it that gave him this power. I still don’t know how much salt would be needed in my meal until I taste it. Maybe it was his love for us, which gave him that ability. That is the father, who thinks about our wellbeing all the time whether he is travelling, shopping or resting. He always encouraged me in everything be it work, studies, etc.

Today is Father’s day. Let us take this opportunity to wish our father. The strongest pillar of our lives, the one point 24-7 helpdesk who can solve all problems, the farsighted shopper, the role model, the best friend and biggest gift of our lives. Happy Father’s Day.

New Year with New Challenges

Today, 14th april’2020 is Poila Boishakh, the first day of Bengali new year. As kids, we used to get up early, take bath, offer our prayers, pay respect to the elders and hug our friends and youngsters. My mother used to stitch clothes for us for new year. Special dishes would be prepared. There was an image of Goddess Durga in our house. She is dressed up as a villager in it. It always reminded me, God is within us and we can always make ourselves better.

Poila Boishakh used to be just after the final exams of the academic session. So we used to start our summer vacations with new year celebration. This year is different. It is a New Year with New Challenges. The world is going through an extremely challenging phase. The thought of celebrating new year in this situation may seem strange. New Year is the time to identify changes that need to be made to improve oneself. The past year reminds us that time and tide wait for none. This Poila Boishakh, let us resolve to maintain social distancing, let us ensure that we will continue to grow even while enclosed in our houses, let us resolve to believe good times will return. This has created free time for many of us. There are people cribbing about how to spend this time. Internet is brimming with online classes be it drawing, music, dance or new language. There are many book clubs. Most of the libraries have their apps from which readers can read online. This time has brought out the creativity of many people. Some of my friends have started their YouTube channels. As we continue with the shutdown, life without social life, may seem boring and monotonous but we should trust the God within ourselves and persist. Let us ensure, when this phase is over and life is back to normal, we will all be better human beings. Shubho Noboborsho (Happy New Year) to everyone.

Warm Smiles on Frozen Ice

Every city has its own way of celebrating festivals. I always look forward to the Christmas tree on ice rink in Pittsburgh. The entire PPG place comes alive during Christmas. Winter Garden is decorated with Santa of the world and live orchestra. The place holds a special warm family vibe during Christmas. People, dressed in their winter best, skate on the ice with their families. One would see people of all age groups in all colors of sweaters, mufflers and hats. Toddlers would be learning to skate. Their determination to skate is so strong that even after multiple falls on the frozen ice, they stand up and try again. They always have their elders to cheer them. This just reminds one that family support helps one defeat all problems even that caused by freezing cold.

This tradition is followed in the city every year, still it amazes me so much that I go there every year. The warmth of the smiles overcomes the bitterness of the cold. The secret is the presence of family. No matter how cold it is, the warmth of families skating together makes this a sight to behold. The spirit of festival lies in the time one spends with near and dear ones. When we are with our loved ones, the place and surroundings don’t matter, all that matters is the presence of everyone. The belief that there are people to love me, to cheer me even when I fail, is all one needs to be happy. A common question is “What is the best gift?”. I think the answer is to spend quality time without any gadgets buzzing around. So the next time you wonder about doing something special for someone, just spend quality with them.

Diwali Beginnings

Goddess Kali

The festival of Diwali has a special place in my life. There are tons of memories associated with it. The holiday, cleaning of house, preparation of sweets, new clothes, decoration and every activity makes the festival even more enjoyable. The bengalis conduct big celebration of Kali Pujo. Goddess Kali is the destroyer of evil. We pray to her to destroy the evil within us and guide us towards enlightenment. It is the time to clean our hearts and minds, to forget the pains of the past and to brighten our lives with goodness and positiviy. Diwali also marks the New Year in western zone of India.

Fall colors in park

It is a good time to make resolutions. This year I made a resolution to not give in to cold and explore my city. One way to do it is to find parks and wander around. Parks in cities are generally around monuments and have their own history. I started off with Monroeville Community Park. Fall was in full bloom with the tree leaves displaying an array of colors. To add to that an event for Halloween Trick or Treat was going on. There were kids dressed up in their Halloween costumes. Both the trees and the kids displayed a plethora of colors which would fill any heart with joy. I roamed around the park which completed my daily walking schedule. Trying to discover something through a healthy habit motivates us to continue it. The trip helped me discover the Halloween event. Lets see what the next park helps me discover.Till then Happy Diwali and Happy New Year to everyone.

Navaratri Gifts

Navaratri is a special time when the nine incarnations of Goddess Durga are worshipped. I got posted out of my hometown when I started working. I requested my mother to give me any spare kitchen items. She gave me six plates and bowls out of which none of the two plates or bowls were same. I asked her, how she got this unique set. She said those are my Navaratri gifts. Small girls (Kumari) are worshipped during Navaratri as Goddess. This is called Kumari puja. As part of this ceremony, they are invited, a small dot with vermilion is placed on their forehead. They are then offered food cooked specially for this occasion. After this they are gifted with plates, bowls and sometimes toys. As kids we used to have invitation from numerous houses in our neighborhood. If we were unable to make it, they would send the gift to our house. It used to be fun to get up early in the morning, take bath, wear new clothes and go for the ceremony. The festivities would turn even bigger from the 7 day (Saptami), when we used to visit the Bengali community. There we would have a huge idol of Goddess Durga along with her four kids. We would offer our prayers and meet up with everyone. Although these festivities are only for few days but we used to start preparing three months before.

This year I decided to offer gifts to Goddess through Kumari puja. Luckily all the Kumaris I knew were fond of books which happens to be my hobby as well, so I gifted them classics. All the kids were happy. We also visited the Durga Puja organized by Bengali Association of Pittsburgh. These festivities always take me back to my carefree school days. On the tenth day we have Dashami when the idols are immersed in water. We take blessings of our elders and wish everyone “Happy Dussehra”.

Independence Day Celebrations

The results of the recent elections in India, show that leadership is based on hard work, effort and vision. It is not based on heredity. I have always considered it a blessing that we have a constitution, which gives us the freedom to dream and achieve. Independence day is the time to show our gratitude for this freedom. I always attend the 4th July parade in Monroeville. The participants are different institutions like the church, schools, local bands, fire brigade, etc. They throw candies and chocolates at the waving crowd. Its so nice to see families standing on both sides of the road and cheering them. The best part is the kids, who come with their bags, baskets or buckets to collect the sweets.

The parade starts at 9:00 am. People come with their folding chairs and umbrellas and sit on both sides of the road. The performances by bikers, gymnasts, dancers makes it all the more enjoyable. As the parade proceeds, it feels as if the entire city has become a family. Fireworks are organized in different parts of the city at night. Independence day is the time to show our respect for the freedom we have. Its so nice to see some families make it a tradition to attend the parade. These traditions make the children aware of the constitution and their responsibilities. I just hope these traditions are made in all families everywhere and all of us respect the freedom. Happy Independence Day.

Father’s Magic

My clipboard at the end of college

There are few rituals we used to do before exams like preparing a schedule for studies, questions for last minute revisions, ensuring stationary was up to date, etc. One of them was to pull out the clip board and clean it. I had a brown clipboard. By the time I was in fifth grade, my clip board was so scratched that it had started looking old and worn out, just like the bark of an old tree. A week before the exams, I told my father, its looking so old as if it was older than me (I was 10 years old then). My father smiled and said “Leave it to me”. Two days later, there was a bright yellow clipboard at my study corner. I was surprised because a yellow clipboard was not available in the stationary stores that I knew then. That year everyone asked me about my clipboard in the exams. I was so happy that I wrote my name twice on it. The bright yellow always brought a smile even in the nervousness of exams. I continued to use the clipboard till the last exam of my college.

One might be wondering Papa must have brought a new one but my father was practical. In spite of all the scratches, the clipboard was good enough to continue a few more years. All the doors of our house were being painted at the same time when I mentioned my old clipboard. My father painted it with the left over paint and then nicely quoted it with varnish. It was properly dried and placed at my study corner. These were the moments when the magician in my father came out. There are many instances when our fathers become magicians in addition to being our friend, philosopher, guide, cheerleader and parent. On this occasion of Father’s Day, let us take an opportunity to appreciate the creative genius that we have as our Father. Happy Father’s Day.

Happy Holi

The festival of Holi is an opportunity to bring out the mischievous side of a person. It occurs towards the end of winter in the month of march. This is the last festival of the academic session before the exams. Its the best time to say sorry. The dry colors are ready a day before. Traditional sweets are prepared in every house. We visit each house, put color on each other’s faces and have sweets. Its the only festival where one does not need to dress up.

My colleague mentioned his daughter has given him the list of colors to bring. This reminded me of the Holi when I was in Sixth grade. A new liquid color was in market. We (me and my sister) had requested our father to bring us that color as well along with the dry colors. My strict grandmother declared no liquid colors. My mother tried to pacify us by saying those colors don’t get removed easily. On the day of Holi, we had played with dry colors and visited everyone’s houses. Still the feeling of enjoying the festival was not there. My sister was almost in tears for the liquid colors. My grandmother had a long list of activities which included cleaning the prayer area, taking a shower, plucking flowers and then performing the ceremonies. The moment she started these activities, my father, who was quietly watching us, handed us the packets of liquid color. He always had a solution for all problems. After that me and my sister had the time of our lives, coloring each other and all our friends. My mom was right, the color didn’t go easily. Even after multiple washing and scrubbing the next day I went to school with one ear red and one ear green. My sister had a red cheek and blue chin.

Holi, the festival of colors, is the time to forget the wrongs of the past and make new beginnings. Even if people dont speak the same language, you can simply put color on each other and hug. As if to start life like a blank canvas and fill it with colors of joy, happiness and love. I hope this Holi fills everyone’s lives with colors.

P.S. Just incase you are wondering what happened in school, the teacher had a hard time controlling her laughter standing in front of a class of students with Rainbow colored faces.

Meeting Santa Claus

One of the most cherished events of Christmas is arrival of Santa Claus. His loud ‘Ho Ho Ho’ and the jingling bells can bring smile on any face. As a kid, I used to wonder what might be there in his big bag. I always thought he dressed in red and white. While walking across downtown, I came to an exhibition in Winter garden. Although it was -4 degrees Celsius outside, the presence of warm smiles drew me towards it. The place was every child’s fantasy. A huge Christmas tree with ginger bread houses all around it. A live orchestra playing Christmas carols. But the most amazing part were the Santa Claus of the world. It seems he is known by different names in different countries and each culture has its own representation. But the sparkling eyes, genuine smile and the adorable personality was common in all of them. As I walked past each of them, I felt as if I am transported to that country, waiting like a child for my Santa to arrive. It seemed as if I was meeting Santa Claus differently. The aroma of cakes, muffins, biscotti and hot chocolate added the festive flavor to the event.

Santa Claus can bring smile even in freezing temperatures. It reminds me, a genuine warm smile can win our hearts even on the coldest day. Often we are so carried away in our day to day issues that we forget to smile properly. Sometimes a smile from a dear one is all we need to solve the biggest of problems. Maybe that is why festivals are held, just to remind us to smile, meet our dear ones and be happy. They are also the time to go out and enjoy the city. So the next time if someone asks you to describe Santa Claus, make sure to mention the smile because his outfit may be different but the smile is the same genuine, adorable one.