A Fair to remember

The colorful entrance to the fair

The colorful entrance to the fair

This Friday a friend of mine messaged me about a fair going on in my city. I googled about it and found its the North American Martyrs Summer Festival in Monroeville, PA. We left around 7:00 pm. This was the first time I was going to attend a fair abroad. Once we reached there the biggest challenge was to find a parking place. After parking we thought we will have to walk a lot but there was a shuttle to the fair.

Amazing rides

Amazing rides

As soon as we reached there, I was reminded of my school days. There used to be a ‘Summer Mela’ in my hometown Baroda. Visiting that fair used to be in the wish list of every child. It used to be a colorful fair with rides and delicious food stalls. This fair had all these elements. All the stalls were decorated with colorful balloons. There were rides, games and food. The aroma of fresh fries and cold ice-cream just aroused our taste buds. Everywhere kids were running, playing and shouting. To make this entire fair musical a live band played songs from 50s, 60s and 70s. I loved the rock and roll songs.

Live band in fair

Live band in fair

In this age of high tech entertainment, nothing equals the satisfaction of attending a fair. They seem to have fun for people of all age groups. The presence of family brings in security. It also allows us to spend quality time with our family. These are the opportunities when all the generations of the family come together and have a great time. By the time we returned it was late night, but we were so rejuvenated that we walked till the parking lot. Next time you visit a new place, make sure you attend the local fairs.

Food stalls

Food stalls

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Vasant Panchami

Goddess Saraswati

Goddess Saraswati

Today was Vasant Panchami. It means the fifth day of spring. In eastern side of India, it is celebrated as Saraswati Puja and falls generally in the month of February. The academic session in India begins from June and ends in April. The tension of exams starts clouding from February. Goddess Saraswati is the Goddess of learning. Hence Saraswati Puja is very important for every person learning something be it studies, music, art, etc. It is a very special day for 3 year olds. They are dressed in traditional attire of dhoti or saree. The priest makes them write a few alphabets on a slate with chalk. This is called ‘Hathe Khodi’. It marks the beginning of education in a person’s life. During our school days we used to dress up in new clothes mostly yellow and go to the venue with our school books. We offered our prayers with flowers to Goddess Saraswati. Then we used to have competitions for drawing, poetry recitation, etc. The flowers used for the ceremony were often taken by the students to be kept in books. I used to make sure those flowers are placed in all my textbooks, particularly those of mathematics. I still remember once a classmate in college started teasing me when a rose was found in one of my books. But the entire joke came to an end when I said its the flower from the Saraswati puja ceremony.

Detailed view of decorations

Detailed view of decorations

This year I wanted to attend this ceremony. It was going to be organized by the Bengali association of Pittsburgh. I was glad when my friend Sahana said she too was also going there and I can join them. It was -12 degrees Celsius as we drove. All the way there was snow on both sides of the road. I was reminded of my school days as soon as we entered the hall. The goddess was decorated with bright flowers. People were dressed in their traditional best. The kids looked elegant in their cute dresses. Everything was just as I had always celebrated, the prayers, the flowers and ofcourse the food. It was the super tasty khichadi with mixed veg curry, chutney, sweet, papad and fruits. We immediately felt at home inspite of being strangers. Below is my platter:

The delicious prasad

The delicious prasad

I am very thankful to my friend Sahana for taking me there. Kudos to the Bengali association of Pittsburgh for organizing this event so far. I just hope Goddess Saraswati blesses us all with knowledge. Happy Vasant Panchami and Happy Saraswati Puja.

A new Beginning

Today is First of January. The day everyone around the world wishes “Happy New Year”. Both 31st december and 1st January have always been unique even though they are not a festival. During my school days, when we only had Doordarshan, this was the only day when there were programs to watch till 1:00 am. In fact, entire family used to watch togather. I used to start asking for cakes right from 27th of december. My mother always found time to make one on 31st december. Generally the cake used to be ready by 10:30 pm and we used to have them at 12:00am. I miss those cold nights sitting togather with the entire family and having fresh cakes. With the advent of cable, different channels had different programs, so another activity of channel surfing got added to this day. Now as the day starts approaching we start getting invites for different events like fireworks show, DJ night, etc.

Another topic of discussion is RESOLUTIONS. This is the first thing that one asks after wishing new year. The biggest joke is they are made to be broken. On a serious note, we humans are never satisfied with whatever we have or are. We always want to improve. The concept of resolutions symbolizes this behaviour. We often set very high goals which require continuous dedication and sacrifice. Again most of us are too lazy to stick to it and so the resolutions are often broken within the first few days. This year I thought of welcoming the new year with lots of colors. It was too cold to go out and buy flowers. So I thought of creating my own flower. I always admired my mother’s ability to make beautiful things using crochet. So I tried my hand at crochet. After 4 hours of struggle, I was able to make the flower below.

My first colorful flower of Crochet

My first colorful flower of Crochet

I just wish all of our lives are as colorful as the petals of this flower. I was so happy that I also decided to make cake. This was another challenge as I had never made one before. Since its the new year, let it be a new beginning of my culinary skills (which need a lot of polishing). Below is the outcome of my effort.

My first cake

My first cake

The blurred face on cake symbolizes the unknown things that future holds for me in the year 2016 and that I will try to welcome them with a cake. Both these experiments just made my day. I hadn’t done any of these before all on my own. The best thing was I was doing it for myself. A learning from this is anything you do will be successful if you do it only for yourself.

HAPPY NEW YEAR

Celebrate the Change

Yesterday evening, it started snowing. It was the first snow of this winter in Pennsylvania. My room had become so cold that I lied down underneath the blankets. After a few minutes I called up my aunt and mom to tell them about the snow. Both suggested making Khichadi. Its a dish made of rice and lentils. The very name of Khichadi brought pleasant memories. During my school days, my mom used to make khichadi regularly in winters. As I was not fond of vegetables, she used to add them in the khichadi. I still remember the hot smoke from freshly made khichadi along with fried fish and tomato chutney.

Finally I got out of the blanket and started cooking khichadi. As a tribute to my school days, I also added some veggies. The aroma and the warmth of kitchen removed the laziness of cold. I made up my mind to enjoy this change of weather. I was so energized that I fried prawns and eggs too. Here is the platter after cooking.

Celebration of first snow with hot Khichadi

Celebration of first snow with hot Khichadi

The aroma seemed to warm up the entire room as I sat eating. I went near the window and saw a beautiful sight where the snow covered cars seemed to shine in moonlight.

Had I continued to stay inside blankets, I would have missed such a great sight. On a philosophical note, like season changes, we also face sudden changes in our lives be it work, friends or family. It all depends on us whether to hide inside blankets and resist it or celebrate it with hot khichadi. So how did you welcome the climate change at your place.

Shubho Mohaloya (Happy Mahalaya)

Jai Ma Durga

Jai Ma Durga

Yesterday night, before going to sleep, I told my mother to wake me up before 5:30am. It was Mohaloya, the first day of Navratri. As a school girl this used to be a yearly ritual. We used to get up early and watch the Mohaloya presentation. Every year the story of Goddess Durga destroying the evil Mahishasur was presented with songs, dance and chandipath. It used to begin at 5:30 am and get over by 7:00 am. I always felt watching the programme made a pious start of the day.

The most amazing part was the Mohaloya Chandipath recited by Birendra Krishna Bhadra. His recitation is so unique that even today the same recitation is played in all the channels. All the songs of the program made me feel that festivity is in the air. I was brought up in Gujarat in western part of India. The festival of Garba begins from Mohaloya and continues for the next 9 days. In east of India, today is the day when the sculptors paint the eyes of the Goddess Durga. The markets are flooded with traditional clothes of various designs. The beating of the dhak(traditional drums) would give a feeling of the arrival of good times when we would be with friends and family. The tension of studies would be placed aside for a while. It would seem as if festivity is in the air.

In my school days it was only national television Doordarshan. Today different channels have different representations, each leaving its own signature on the event. I would like to show this to all the people who say culture has gone for a toss. Even today, entire families get up and watch the mohaloya presentation. The demand is so much that all the channels take the initiative to create their unique presentations, thus generating opportunities for creativity. With this year’s dhak I want to wish every one a Happy Mohaloya.

The ultimate sporting experience

Tennis, chai and bhajia.

Tennis, chai and bhajia.

With US open finals today, the last grand slam of the year 2015 is coming to an end. I always enjoyed watching sports, be it Tennis, badminton or football. This is the reason, world cup soccer or olympics were almost like a festival at home. We used to have the meals ready before the matches. We used to wait for days before the opening ceremony. As a school girl I used to complete all my homework beforehand so that I could watch the opening ceremony. We used to watch the opening ceremonies live irrespective of the timezone they were held in. The effects used to be visible next day in school.

We inherited this love for games from my father. He was a an ardent sports lover with absolute devotion towards soccer. The effects of the game results were clearly visible on his mood. An average conversation during US open Tennis would be like this:

Me(just after returing from office): Hi Baba, how was your day?
Baba(With a sad face): There is a sad news
Me: What happened? Are you all right?
Baba: Serena Williams lost in the semi final.
Me: Oh! I understand.

During English Premier league if he was exceptionally silent on any morning, it simply meant his favourite team Arsenal didn’t do well. Even in front of Telivision he was as excited as if he was sitting live in the stadium. The kitchen would be ready with milk and biscuits. He would prepare tea or coffee during half time of soccer or commercial breaks. It used to be monsoon during US open and he used to get hot bhajias (onion fries). Watching any game with him used to be an ultimate sporting experience. Looking back that used be an amazing way of spending quality time with each other. Sports brings us togather and motivates us towards a fit life. As a school girl I used to be able to identify many flags with the country names after the opening ceremonies. It also encourages kids to go out and enjoy the weather even in this era of all the digital entertainment. But this enthusiasm for sports would not have been there in us without my father’s encouragement. Thanks baba for inculcating a nice hobby.

The Surprise Wish

fathersday

It was 21st june’1998, Baroda, India. The third sunday of June was made famous as Father’s day. I was in school and we had just come to know that there is a Father’s day too. The Archies Galary was full of Cards with beautiful messages for fathers. My father was in Singapore. He used to call us every week particularly on Sundays.

I can still remember that Sunday. It was 6:00pm and I was completing my school work for monday when the phone rang. I raced with my sister and was first to pick up the phone. “Hello” It was Baba calling from Singapore. I was so excited that I didn’t even say hello but wished loudly “HAPPY FATHER’S DAY, BABA”. Before he could reply my sister took the phone and shouted the same. We didn’t hear any voice for the next 5 seconds and thought the call had disconnected. Mom was just about the keep the receiver when she heard a loud “Thankyou”. Then Baba said, he too had seen a lot of decoration for Father’s day in singapore and was wishing we had such an occasion in India. When we wished him he was so surprised that he was speechless. He also stated the wish had made his day.

It is strange but a small wish can make a day. Some people say that these days are just a means of making money. But I feel that in this fast paced life of today we often forget to tell our near and dear ones how much we love them. Its not just grown-up people but also students. Days like Fathers day and Mothers day make us realize how fortunate we are that we have guiding souls in the name of parents with us. In fact they are global festivals which are celebrated by everyone irrespective of their location or community. Also you don’t need to give expensive gifts to make someone feel good, even a small wish can make a difference no matter how far you are. Lets take this as an opportunity to tell our fathers how much they mean to us. This year again Father’s day is on 21st june. Today you are not there with us Baba, but still I would go ahead and wish you a very HAPPY FATHER’S DAY. Thankyou for always being with me.