Tag Archives: festival

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.

Preparing for Diwali

Diwali Diyas

Today is Diwali and Kali Pujo. I always look forward to this time of the year. Its a holiday all over India. We used to have a mini vacation of 3 weeks during our school days. Preparations start way before the festival. Bedsheets, cushion covers, curtains, etc to be put up on this day are pulled out, cleaned and ironed. The entire house is cleaned and sometimes renovated. All these activities bring a lot of excitement for the kids as there are new things to do everyday. I used to enjoy setting up the diyas or lamps on the Diwali evening. The chief attraction was the crackers. We would go with our father and get the crackers.

These days I see a lot of hue and cry over pollution due to crackers. This year it is so much in news that sometimes it makes me feel guilty of using crackers as if our crackers are the only reason for pollution. At the same time a thought comes to my mind that Diwali is only for a few days in a year but the pollution increases the entire year. Just as we prepare our houses for the festival, can we not reduce the pollution the entire year. If we reduce the use of vehicles and rely more on walking or cycling for small distances, we would not only cut down on pollution but also improve our health. Even for work, if people opt for carpool or public transport, traffic may be reduced. Additionally people can also plant more trees. These habits would not only create better environment but also better health.

Today evening when I went out to light the diyas, it was dark. As soon as the diyas were lighted, the darkness was removed. The world has faced a lot of loss and sadness in the last 2 years. Diwali reminds us that we can come out of the darkness of dispair through the light of knowledge and persistence. This has been proved by the development of Vaccines. Let us not take away the enjoyment of festivals but use it as an opportunity to create a better life. May this Diwali bring happiness and joy in all your lives. Happy Diwali to everyone.

Wait for Shiuli

Durga Puja is a special time for a Bengali. We start planning weeks before the festival. My father had planted a shiuli(night jasmine) flower tree in our house. This flower blossoms during Pujo. It has amazing fragrance which reminds one of festivals. There are songs and poems dedicated to this flower.

This year I was at home after a long time. Everyday from the month of July, the first thing I did after getting up is to go and see the tree. There were no flowers even though the tree was watered regularly. I used to ask my mother if the tree needs any manure. My mother’s response was “Patience, the season is yet to come”. This continued till September. I was excited the day I saw the first few flowers. It meant Pujo is coming. I ran indoors and informed, shiuli flowers have come. This just reminds me, everything has a specific time whether its studies, opportunities or vaccine. One needs to be patient and things will happen. We have a tendency of rushing towards things inspite of being aware of haste causing failures. Often in this process we ignore many things. The seasonal flowers remind us to wait for the right time.

The years 2020 and 2021 taught us the important lesson of being patient. Life is precious. We need to spend time with our near and dear ones instead of running behind worldly things. The shiuli flowers only blossom during season. Let us sit back and enjoy the moment.

Enjoying with Colors

The festival of Holi happens when the season is about to change from Winter to Summer. There are warm days and cold nights. Many people fall sick. During my school days the final exam for an academic session used to happen in April. The month of march used to be full of internal assessment where our notebooks, workbooks and assignment books were checked. Falling sick had to be avoided because one may miss out on internal assessment.

On the day of Holi we used to prepare our bags with colors and pichkari. Pichkari is like a spray bottle. We would fill colored water in it and spray it on others. We would be given strict instructions to avoid water while leaving the house. Within 5 minutes of stepping out of the house, we would be colored and wet. In those days, cell phones were not common with kids so after 2 to 3 hours, it would be time for lunch. We would be so colored that it would be impossible to identify us. Calling up the neighbors to find out if we are near their house would not work. So our parents would come out in search of us. Once they found us, we would have to go home. That day we would spent long hours in shower. The rest of the day would be spent in instructions of being extra careful since we had exposed ourselves to the risk of getting cold by playing with water. The next day all of us would have colored faces. For a change, our school prefixes would be lenient in their checking. The amount of color on the face would show how actively one celebrated the festival. Although the festival of Holi would come right before the final exams, it would give us a colorful break from studies. I do pray those days come back again and we are able to meet everyone without the fear of getting sick. Wishing everyone a very Happy, Safe and Healthy Holi.

Celebrating simplicity

Today is Maha Shivratri, a festival dedicated to God Shiva. He is also known as Mahadev, the great God. It is also the day when God Shiva got married to Goddess Parvati. It is celebrated at home in my family. We get up early, clean the house, take bath and offer prayers to God Shiva. We offer fruits and kheer (sweet made of rice and milk). During my school days, the kitchen used to be full of the aroma of kheer. We used to help in getting the flowers and bilva leaves. In some places, the ceremonies are performed whole night. People fast and meditate. There are devotional songs meant only for Maha Shivratri.

We are brought up on tales on Mahadev. He occupies a special place in our hearts and lives. I have always been an ardent admirer of his simplicity. There are numerous cases where those benefited from him, have been ungrateful to him but that has never impacted his giving nature. He stays in Himalayas. Maybe that is why I love being in the mountains. The word meditation brings forth an image of him deep in meditation. With the rise in lifestyle diseases, I think we should take lessons from his life. Choose comfortable clothing over expensive clothing. Lead a physically active life. The more we can build immunity the better. A year of Pandemic has helped many of us to incorporate good habits and lead a simple life. On this Maha Shivratri, I do pray that the tough times get over. Best wishes of Maha Shivratri to everyone.

Celebration of Learning

Today is Vasant Panchami, a festival to welcome spring in India. It is celebrated on the fifth day of month of Magh in Hindu Calendar. It is either in February or last week of January. The celebrations are performed to welcome spring(Vasant). In East India, people worship Goddess Saraswati. Goddess Saraswati is called the Goddess of learning, music, knowledge and arts. We dress up in yellow, decorate the temples with yellow flowers. We put up our books and musical instruments at the house temple. With the exams scheduled for April, we pray to the Goddess to bless us with good scores. Community functions are organized where we all meet up. This is special for kids who are about to start schooling. A ceremony called “Hathe Khodi” is performed. The priest prays in the name of the kid and then helps him/her write a few alphabets with chalk on the slate.

During my school days we used to have drawing competition and poetry recitation competition making it a celebration of learning. The poetry competitions were very special. I learnt to face the stage from them. We used to be given a poem of one of the notable Bengali poets. The community hall used to be filled by members. We had to stand on stage and recite it. It used to be interesting to see different kids recite the same poem. The first poem I had recited was Lichu Chor. It describes the experience of a village lad while stealing lychee and getting caught. I was 8 years old. I could remember only 4 lines from the middle of that poem today. Funny part is these were the lines that I forgot while reciting on stage. There are music and dance performances. These events made me realize my love for performing arts. This year the celebrations were different with social distancing and mask rules in place. On this Saraswati Puja, I pray to the Goddess Saraswati the pandemic phase gets over and life returns to normalcy. Happy Vasant Panchami.

Support for festivals

Flowers at my house

Today is Diwali, the festival of lights. It always brings amazing memories for me. The house used to be cleaned thorougly before the festival. In the morning all the coushion covers and sheets would be replaced. The house would be decorated with lights and lamps. Special ceremonies would be conducted. One of the key requirements of any ceremony are flowers. My grandmother planted flower trees for this. We were scolded everytime we climbed those trees or hanged on their branches. During festivals, my grandmother would get up early, cleanup and pluck flowers for ceremony. We were not supposed to bother her at that time. The first few days were fine but after 4 days, the flowers at the lower branches were not there. At that time we were called to provide support for the festival. Then all the skills of hanging on the branches and climbing the trees would come handy. We would manage to bring the branches with flowers within her reach.

Flower tray for the Ceremony

Today my mother called me for the same purpose. I felt like a school girl looking for the higher branches with maximum flowers and then calculating how to bring those branches within reach. It filled me with an amazing energy and excitement. Co-incidentaly today is also the Children’s day for India. It just reminded me how important it is to keep the child within ourselves alive. The enthusiasm to find new things fills life into the dullest of days. Keep discovering. Its never too late to start learning. Go back to your school days, pick up that skill you wanted to have and go for it. Today all classes are available online. Also the day after diwali is the New Year in many parts of India. The best time for beginnings. Get all the blessings and start working towards a better version of yourself. May this Diwali fill everyone’s life with lights of happiness. Wishing everyone a very happy and prosperous Diwali.

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.

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.

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.