Tag Archives: festival

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

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.

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 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.

Celebrating Spring

Flowers

Flowers

It was 1st march, 2015. My friend Ravi called me up and said “Do not keep any plans for 11th april 2015”. When I asked the reason, he replied “Don’t you know, its Cherry Blossom”. I looked up the internet and found its a spring celebration. Being a bengali, I have always celebrated spring in India as Basant Panchami. That day I realised Spring is celebrated here too.

Flowers with trees and no leaves

Flowers with trees and no leaves

Everyone celebrating spring

Everyone celebrating spring

On 11th april’2015, we set out for Washington, D.C. After days of rain and snow, it was a beautiful sunny day. This lifted our spirits. As soon as we entered the city, we saw people walking everywhere. I had never seen so many people on the streets. We parked the car and started walking towards the Jefferson Memorial. As we reached there we saw trees with beautiful pink and white flowers. I was amazed to see that these trees had only flowers and no leaves. The city itself looked colourful. There were food stalls on trucks with images of mouthwatering dishes. At some places the entire lane was filled with the aroma of delicacies from all over the world from kabobs to pretzels. People came with their families. As a result there were kids all around. This reminded me of Mela(fairs) in my home town Baroda. I used to go with my parents and friends. Those were the amazing days when we used to have every near and dear one around us.

Cycle Rickshaws

Cycle Rickshaws

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Another surprise was cycle rickshaws. The last time I saw them was in my school days in my native place Raiganj. They looked really beautiful with all the spring colors painted on them. They say Spring is the king of seasons. It seemed so true, as if entire world has come to welcome it with open arms. The city personified happiness and cheer with kids running around hear and there.

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A new experience

Sight from my window on Gudi Padwa and Ugadi

Sight from my window on Gudi Padwa and Ugadi

Today is Ugadi(Telegu new year) and Gudi Padwa(Marathi new year). This was always a day of celebration in my hometown Baroda as well as in Mumbai and Pune. In school days, march was a month of tension as April used to be the month of final exams of the academic year. The classes used to be in full force with syllabus being completed for every subject. Everyday we used to be told to prepare for the exams by every adult we met, be it the teachers, parents or neighbours. Also the 10th and 12th boards would be going on. Hence the entire neighbourhood used to be silent. Still Gudi Padwa used to bring happiness and cheer. Some of us used to reschedule our new year resolutions to this day.

My best memories of Gudi Padwa are in Mumbai and Pune. In mumbai, I used to have a team mate Preeti. Due to our long working schedules we had become fast friends. Every year she used to bring Puranpoli for me on this day. In pune almost the entire city seemed to be decorated. People would be wearing new traditional clothes. The shops would be decorated. Sometimes the entire building would be decorated. Even in our software companies, ladies would come dressed in Sarees. There would be mails wishing everyone. Last year my maid specially made puranpoli for me.

Puranpoli

The month of march is really beautiful in Baroda(Vadodara), Pune or Mumbai. All trees are green and gardens are full of flowers. I loved to see the unripe mangoes(karies) hanging on the trees.This year I am in Baltimore and had a completely different Gudi Padwa. After a week of sunshine, it snowed. Hence instead of a bright I had a cold snowy Gudi Padwa making the new year a new experience. But then we all should have some unique experiences, thats what makes our life colorful. My work went smoothly throughout the day. Also 20th march’2015 is the first day of spring. Even google is celebrating it with a google doodle. I thank everyone who made this festival special for me.

I wish everyone a very Happy Gudi Padwa and Happy Ugadi.

The Christmas Tree

Christmas used to be a special occasion in school. We used to start preparing right from 1st December. Every class used to perform be it a play or a song before the school closed for Christmas holidays. The hall used to be decorated on that day. I used to look forward to see the Christmas Tree. Even as a grown-up I love seeing it. This year I was fortunate enough to be in USA in December. Hence as Christmas started approaching, it was available everywhere from Malls to offices. I even saw trees of different colors.

Christmas Trees in display

Christmas Trees in display

A white Christmas Tree

A white Christmas Tree

Some places had a decorated tree from first December itself. These trees gave a feeling of festive season.

A decorated Christmas Tree

A decorated Christmas Tree

The best part was visiting Washington DC on 25th December and witness a large Christmas Tree. It is decorated with lights of different colors. Although it was chilling cold, yet the whole scene was very warm with families surrounding the trees and the children happily playing around.

Christmas Tree at Washington DC

Christmas Tree at Washington DC

The Christmas Tree at the botanical garden had a small train running around it. This gave a feeling of Santa approaching. At another place a small village was created around it.

At Botanical Garden

At Botanical Garden

Train around the Tree

Train around the Tree

Village Surrounded by Christmas Trees

Village Surrounded by Christmas Trees

The whole ambiance was so beautiful and homely. It was also very peaceful as there was hardly any traffic. It was further enhanced by the Church bells ringing. I think this is the spirit of Christmas. To come together and spend time with your near and dear ones.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everyone.