Monday, October 6, 2008


It is that time of the year again. OK, so maybe us Indians don't have a single "festive season" like Christmas in many parts of the world, but so what? I think these nine days, known as Navratri(translation nav-nine ratri-night), can be classified as one. This time of the year reminds me of my childhood for many reasons.

The autumn break during school days was always cleverly timed to coincide with these days. The autumn break followed the Half Yearly Exam, if I am not mistaken. So you did not even have the "stress"(heh) of having to deal with studies for an examination that mattered a lot in terms of weightage, towards the calculation of the final marks and rank in class. My god, talking about all these things makes me feel so old! These concepts seem so alien now and the time when they occurred, ancient.

Next in line in this assortment of memories is the Durga Puja. No, I am not a Bengali. It goes like this- the Residents Association in the colony where I lived as a kid had a good number of Bengalis. More importantly, there was a good sized park in our neighbourhood. Combine these two factors and voila! you get a pandal (tent) filled with smoke, Bengalis in their best dhotis, sarees(as the case may be), a big idol of Kali Ma(another name for Goddess Durga) killing Mahishasura(who, according to mythology, could not be killed by man, mortal or immortal), skits, magic shows and other wonderful things usually associated with a carnival. Now the most important part of it, at least to us kids, was the collection of toys that were sold outside the park. Mind you, these weren't anything close to what was usually sold in the local shops. They were based on the prevalent theme i.e. bow and arrow(made of plastic or cardboard), sword(either fluorescent coloured plastic ones or thick cardboard covered with shiny paper), mace(usually my weapon of choice), masks(weirdest looking animals and one of a clown) and so on and so forth.

If the toys weren't distracting enough, there was food. Now that I think about it, I can't really recollect what all items were sold inside the park but I do remember that you did not need too much money to have a mouth full of assorted goodies. Actually, you did not even need parents. Collect a little amount(and by "little", I mean it) of money from your parents, join the kids in the neighbourhood(age ranging from tiny tots to early teens), the older ones incharge of the younglings. Or so the parents thought. But the arrangement worked perfectly. Once the difficult tasks like crossing the road and walking in the darkness were crossed, the group broke up into smaller ones, each going in a different direction, based on their likes and dislikes.

The next memory, in stark contrast to above, is Gollu. A familiar term to Tamilians, it is the tradition of arranging dolls in the house during the nine days of Navratri. Don't ask me what it signifies, it did not matter. As kids, we used to hop from one house to another, of course belonging to friends and family members. The incentive was the prasad(offering in the form of food) usually distributed by the lady of the family. The catch and the rather boring part- you had to earn it. How? By singing a song. Not just any song but devotional songs. When you are in school, devotional songs are surprisingly never short in number. So sing we did. After a couple of years, we had a routine. We knew which songs were to be sung(clue: stick to songs dedicated to a Goddess) and in which order(start with Lord Ganesha).

And what about home? Well, the significant ritual observed at home is the Saraswati Puja. If Diwali is for parents then Navratri is for kids. You see Goddess Lakshmi(wealth and prosperity) is worshipped on Diwali but Goddess Saraswati(knowledge) reigns supreme during Navratri. We were supposed to keep one text book each in the puja room, which was to be removed only after the end of this phase. Which meant that you could not touch these books during these ten days. Could a student be any happier? One funny recollection that comes to mind is that every year, without fail, the mathematics text book held a prominent, permanent position in the pile of books.

Simpler times. You grow up, beliefs change. Traditions and rituals? Some remain, some don't.


  1. Nice memories...

    I think today is Saraswathi puja.. If it is.. mom will have picked up a few books n put it infront of the godess today.. Damn i should have left my certification material n told her this is top priority puja reqd.

    Oh n Karuna.. One more thing.. Mathematics book? You too! :D

  2. Loved the blog! :-D Brought back old memories! for some odd reason, we bengalis celebrate the Saraswati Puja in January! :) and Navratri is basically Durga Puja to us! boyy, "THE" time of the year back then, NOT NOW! :) now, when am here, i've this feeling that 'I DO NOT belong here anymore'!