Category Archives: Festivals, Fun & Frolic

Year-End Nostalgia

Coffee

*picture from footage.shutterstock.com

The boulevard outside the house is lined with billboards announcing New Year Eve parties. Every club promises the grooviest music, the ‘sexiest’ crowd and the coolest DJ. The markets overflow with people utilizing festive season discounts and work leaves that will otherwise lapse. Quite remarkable how they beat the Delhi chill to party, observes my Granddad. On his part, he sits wrapped up in his several layers of woolens, looking very much like an Indian-ized Santa Claus. When I ask him how he plans to spend the New Year eve, he points to the stairs leading to the terrace. Much like last year, he will walk up there and sit in the sun, munching on a few roasted groundnuts.

What is it about nostalgia that brings along sadness? Is it the pang of loss, of moments that will never again be? Several New Years ago, Granddad would be planning to take a train to Delhi. He would spend the season with his darling granddaughter, firmly postponing all work in his Kolkata office, much to the despair of a rather conniving boss. His friends would drop by at all odd hours, one of them particularly loud-voiced. It was this friend he requested to soften down when I would wake up early to prepare for Class Tenth exams. Granny would fix me a cup of hot milk and offer me an assortment of biscuits – I always opted for Britannia. When Mom and Dad switched on the Christmas lights, I would leave my books behind and jump in glee.

Granddad misses his friends sometimes. They aren’t around in the colony’s markets or the morning-walk park. Some of them are abroad, staying with sons and visiting daughters. Others, he is afraid, are no more. He looks at me sideways, when he thinks I am not looking, and blinks away a stray tear. His darling Granddaughter mustn’t be gloomy, he seems to say. He strokes my hair and warms my hands by rubbing them against his woolen housecoat.

I have always been fond of winter. Bathing in the December sun, cups of hot coffee, snuggling under the quilt. As a kid, I would handpick my mittens, sweaters and socks for the day. I would please my 4 AM riser of a Granny by showering nice and early. The homework would be done well in advance of the much-anticipated weekly – Mahabharata. Will I grow scared of winter when I grow old? Will the streets I now oversee abound with unfamiliar, unfriendly faces?

This New Year Eve I am staying in. The family will beat the chill with steaming hot food from the neighbourhood diner. I will watch the fairy lights twinkle, competing with the stars overhead. By the window, when the fog grows dense and dark, I will try and come to terms with how time doesn’t hang around and party. Amidst the pomp and show of the gazillions of New Year Eve parties, time will rise and be gone in smoke before dawn.

P&P wishes everyone a Happy New Year 2014!

Ten Things 2013 Taught Me

1.  Uneasy lie the brands that rope in celebrities as endorsers. One moment everything is hunky dory and there are people queuing outside your store. And the next moment, poof! Dope, a rape charge, a dead animal can shoo them all away.

2. There are moments in life when all you can do is sit by the window and watch the stars come out. For all the brouhaha about assertiveness and taking control of your life, these are moments when reflection is the best course of action.

3.  Trains offer the best opportunity to observe people. Flights tend to be sleepy, people absorbed in work, the view outside the window or their thoughts. But there’s no disguising vexation and true colours in a crowded metro where you long for the next person to either get down or offer you a seat.

4. The jhaadu* of modern society continues to sweep out introversion. It’s the age of conversations, or so they say. Of social media, communities and being interested in others around you. It’s increasingly difficult for the loners, especially after they perceive the hollow bottoms of most of these relationships.

5.  Health isn’t something you can ignore. This goes beyond a cup of green tea in the morning and cutting down on fats. It’s important to get sleep, feel de-stressed and take that vacation once in a while. Schedule a break when the rest of the world begins to obnoxiously howl into your ear.

6. Going to the movies can be harsh on the pocket. Especially in Delhi. It might be a good idea to go well fed so you can cost cut on the corn. Beware of compromising on the choice of movie, especially if the music is about Fevicol, Chewing Gum and Sari(s).

7. Time flies. Yes, you might have read this eons ago in school. But the full weight dawns on you when a wintery sun rises to a Christmas you no longer bring in with carols on the school stage. There are suddenly new responsibilities you can’t forget and go out to play. It might be a good idea to seize the day before it joins the league of moments you can only remember, not relive.

8. Do what your heart tells you is right. Notwithstanding the consensus about the brain’s superiority, a half-hearted decision you don’t feel strongly about/made under pressure will never succeed. This is true for all things human – education, relationships and priorities.

9. Count your blessings. You may not earn a million or own a palatial bungalow in uptown Mumbai. But you possibly have a friend to give a Christmas gift to, a family to hug, a little pet who looks at you fondly. Most importantly, you have the heavens above. While Santa may/not come riding in his sledge, you can go out for some role play and bless others in the world.

10. There are stories lurking in every corner. A story in every success, one in every misgiving. If there’s one foolproof way to bring in laughter and happiness, it’s ferreting out these little tales and realizing the lesson they carry. For ourselves and everyone around.

What have been your lessons in 2013?

*To read about lessons from a previous year, go here.

Bring in the divine this Diwali

The Sampoorna Lakshmi Pooja Pack: Everyone has a reason to pray

It’s that time of the year again. The roads are blocked, the markets are laced with gold streamers and houses are being spring-cleaned. Every year, when Diwali arrives, I am reminded of a very fond Dadi of mine. She would perform Lakshmi Pooja at home though several Bengalis usually celebrate the day as Kali Pooja. This entailed armfuls of prasad – all of it very tempting. When I came across Cycle Pure Agarbatti’s Sampoorna Lakshmi Pooja Pack, all I could visualize was Dadi and those armfuls of prasad. This neat and very easy-to-use pack is exactly like the magic wand that swings and behold, the stage is set.

Packed inside the orange confines of the box are over 30 elements needed to solemnize Lakshmi Pooja – the goddess of wealth is said to bless households on the moonless yet luminous Diwali night. Right from the twin-idol set of Ganpati and Lakshmi (the brother sister duo who are together worshipped on Diwali), the multitude of lamps, including a pretty floating one, to the paraphernalia needed for the aarti, there isn’t one constituent missed out upon. The surprises never cease – instead, they multiply when the pack, alike a Pandora’s Box, brings up a decorative rangoli, two sets of agarbattis and hold your breath – packaged Ganga Jal. Where and when, if at all, can all those living away from home, manage to put together such an assortment? Cycle Pure just answered that question.

Just when you are super pleased about this one-stop-solution of a pack, you get cold feet about when and how to use what – the pugi phala or the soubhagya alankaara, for instance. Though all the elements are neatly numbered, Cycle Pure has a finer solution to cater to these fears. The pack provides an instructional booklet in several languages coupled with an audio CD with Sanskrit shlokas. During the pooja, the track can be chosen to be a companion to your recitation or, akin a family member reciting the katha, play undisturbed. Needless to say, the sense of the divine that emanates post a successfully completed pooja, is beautiful. And with the Diwali lamps lighting up the night-sky, it is almost unparalleled.

Priced at 700 INR and available cheaper at a festive discount, this Lakshmi Pooja pack can be a terrific gifting idea for most. It will be especially useful for people who may, in vain, rush from pillar to post to collect all the constituents. It will even be wonderful for those of us who deeply miss the presence of someone like Dadi on Diwali.

We celebrated Lakshmi Pooja a couple of days ago – Bengalis have it soon after Durga Pooja. For us, therefore, it’s a double whammy of sorts. No excuse could be feeble enough to seek the blessings of the goddess. This Diwali, the house will glitter more than usual. The air will be rich with the aroma of agarbattis. And then, when the shlokas play, my family of five will fold their hands in prayer.

*You can order a Sampoorna Lakshmi Pooja Pack at PurePrayer.com, with free shipping and a cash-on-delivery option. 

New Beginnings this Mahalaya

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A whole month has gone by and P&P has been deserted. The dust of negligence has settled on the menu; the archives have developed strain with being shifted to the backburner so very often. This morning, however, marks a change. And no wonder, it’s Mahalaya.

In my mind, the last set-of-weeks is clubbed into one big, unpalatable blob. A lot has gone into its making – sleepless nights, piles of work, irritable moods and a constant crunch for time. Not a recipe I would ever like to re-experience. There is something, however, that tells me I will have this dish shoved down my throat again. But until the time comes, I am all set for delicious Durga Puja fare, beginning very soon.

Mahalaya marks the end of Pitripaksha and the beginning of Devipaksha. Simply put, it squeals –“Durga Puja is here in less than a week!” When I was younger, I would wake up at the strike of dawn and tune in to Birendra Krishna Bhadra’s awe-inspiring recitation of Mahalaya. I would hum “Bajlo Je Tomar…” when the song came and spend the rest of the day jumping around in glee. Today, back home after that blob of a time, I couldn’t manage the dawn thingy. But, I was delighted to discover that the charm of the day lingers on still…resplendent with the glory of former days and warm with the promise of delight.

Today, the air is fragrant with hope (not to forget, err, the whiff of gastronomic wonders). Understandably so, considering the Goddess is visiting her home, complete with her family. For a few days that pass by quicker than sand off the fingers, we will deck up in our finest finery. We will lick our fingers as we dig into cutlets, momos and biryani. We will click pictures of the fairy lights and tap our feet to the music in the winds. And before we know it, winter will wrap her snow-white hands around Delhi.

Here’s wishing everyone a Shubho Mahalaya. Please lend me a hand in warding the evil of neglect off my darling P&P.

This time, that year

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Rain in Pune

A misty monsoon in Pune – three years ago

The city is freshly bathed with rain. My windowsill oversees a lawn that is greener, flowers that have blossomed. And yes, there’s moonlight (or is that a nightlamp?) that’s streaking in, filling my room with light.

Today reminds me of three years ago, when my life took a turn that has changed a lot about me. I have become a little less paranoid, a little less worried about everything under the sun. I believe in my dreams better for there is a support system that convinces me of their strength. When the stars come up in the night sky, I think back to the skies from that day in June. The memories are fond…vivid. They make me smile when I am low and reassure me that in spite of everything, stars do fall and wishes do come true.

“How on earth can someone have green-coloured pastry?”

“It isn’t green. It’s jade.” I murmur.

R gives me a look that only he is capable of putting on. Other people marvel at just how much we are capable of eating. Outside, Pune glimmers with a light sunshine – the kind that precedes a rainbow.

As we walk in the twilight, I realize how time has moved on in the city we first fell in love. The world rushed by on tiptoe and continues to every passing moment. But even now, when the breeze catches one of my earrings unaware, R never misses out on telling me how they are huge enough to swing on. We still ask for the extra spicy panipuri and the bhaiya smiles when I urgently ask the second one to be sweet. R giggles and shakes his head, devouring his plateful.

R, you know how I tend to dwell – on everything. I love the way you make my world beautiful. I love the fact that you are my world and I, am yours.

Happy Third Anniversary R.

27.6.2013

When Three Ain’t a Crowd

“Three is old!” claimed P&P this morning. He looked all worked-up, his brow laced with sweat.

Apparently it seems, P&P is under the impression that he is now getting old. All very well to celebrate first birthdays and second ones, for that matter, but when you are three, life ceases being romantic. You are then burdened with expectations to perform – did you get hits for your latest post? How has your subscriber base been faring? Are visitors looking for relevant keywords? Blah and more blah. Whatever then happens to all the fresh-to-the-world glitz and benefit of doubt is a story that is conveniently hidden under the bed-sheets.

So, anyway, I have managed to convince P&P that three is not all that bad a number. I mean, going by his logic, I should already be extinct. Since I manage to wake up to the dust and grime of life every day, I gather that phase hasn’t yet arrived. In fact, the two of us manage to delight over a plate of bhindi and aloo. Mom would gasp if she knew how I have taken to the bhindi I would once loathe. But you see, we all get birthdays.

Looking back, I think, P&P has had quite an interesting last year. He moved to Pune again, settling down into his native place snugly. Though I have not been able to give him time proportionate to the mind-space I have for him, I know he understands. He blames deadlines, schedules and the mean ‘corporate’ life for all that and appreciates how I am still the sweet girl who christened him thus on a hungry afternoon.

 I turn to him whenever life brings up a highlight. Whenever there is a rainbow in the sky, an owl by the window or for that matter, a damp squib on the floor. Though only three, he is capable of being my agony aunt as well as my connoisseur of art. Though he beams when a visitor comes by and leaves good-things-to-say behind, he knows that if none else, I will always be by his side.

We got late for the party tonight. But the birthday flavor has by no means diminished. We plan to invest in a brand new costume for P&P, several tales to light up the days to come and a promise of many more fun-filled birthdays in store. Do drop by to say hello. We would love to have you.

Happy Third Birthday, ‘Of Paneer, Pulao and Pune’! 

*picture from www.cupcakebusinesscards.com

Packed Weekends in Pune

 Indo German Mela

Pune is brimming with activities this January. As I sat and mulled over all that weekends could be used for, I counted a number of very interesting options.

For instance, you could sample some quality cinema at the Pune International Film Festival. It would be a welcome break from the several, not-so-inspiring films up for consumption at the city’s multiplexes. Or, if you are in the mood for diplomacy, you can go check out the Indo-German mela at the Deccan grounds. On till the 20th of this month, it offers an interesting journey through urbanization over the ages. Note: Gorging on some traditional Indo-German food at the Beergarden is a wonderful way to appreciate the journey! And then, there’s also the Times Pune Festival which is certainly among the biggest in the city, with food, music and theatre rolled into one.

It helps when the first month of the year is all animated and chirpy. This is the time when New Year resolutions are still hale and hearty and the heart is brimming with good intentions for every soul it comes across. The first quarter’s results are still far away and economic indicators are but figures. In such times, appreciation for the fine arts come easier than it does on a cranky mid-year month when festivities are nowhere in sight. Anyhow, hush. It makes no sense to foresee bleak times ahead when Pune is going all out keeping this winter as warm as possible.

Where to, then? Well, after much deliberation and thought, we ended up flying kites at a friend’s place, with those wonderful events postponed to the next weekend. Home-made delicious food, newly-wedded hospitality from the couple and a taste of Pune’s scorching January sunshine. Quite a happy Sankranti, I’d say. 

Goodbye 2012!

 

It seems just yesterday that we had a conversation with 2011. Twelve months down the line, 2012 is in queue to disappear under velvet covers, never to emerge. Time, much like its mythical reputation, is ready once again to gallop away on its golden carriage. All that we will be left behind with is smoke. And memories.

“So you live in Delhi. How can you feel excited about going back to that fateful land?” But that’s where my home is! The onlookers sigh, even shake their head. All Delhi means to them is the nation’s rape-capital. The land infested with monsters ready to jump at you at every dark corner of the road. It saddens me, the reputation my city of fond remembrances has acquired. As a pigtailed, spectacled girl of seven, I remember collecting bottlebrushes every winter morning. Playing Badminton with Mom every summer evening and then dancing with the sparrows on the terrace. How can the city that has seen me grow up degrade into one that wishes ill onto every other denizen?

I remember how the year had started on a rainy note. Interpreted by many to signify a washing-away of old and debilitating ways of life. 365 days since then and I wonder if we have washed away way more than imagined. Have we not washed away our belief in the basic goodness of mankind? Have we not also washed away sensitivity towards the frail, the deprived or the ones who think differently from us? 2013, though you are still in the dark, all I want from you is sunshine. The kind of warmth that reaches to our hearts, unlike the cosmetic dazzle that laughter now seems to be about.

The year gone by introduced me to several new people – with several new ways of thinking. It took me to a multitude of new places with fantastic sights and sounds worthy of keeping away in cold storage. You know, for that winter when grandma will sit by the fireplace and tell a tale to a host of animated grandchildren. P&P too has had an exciting time, what with the constant travel, new readers and much-appreciated support from the ones who have stuck around since its inception. And then, of course, 2012 also took me back to Pune, back to R. I realized all too quickly that no matter how overcast the sky may be, those people in olden times had got it quite right. Love, in all avatars, indeed conquers all. It brightens up your world like nothing else can.

2013 opens with a challenge. I am sure it has many others to unveil as the months go by. The winds of Pune beckon even as I try my best to lap up as much of the Delhi sunshine as I can. Sometimes, this constant to and fro gets on my nerves – am I a pendulum? The packing, the unpacking, the goodbyes and the hellos – no less! I long to settle down into permanence but then, as R tells me, bliss takes its own sweet time to arrive.

I love how this season brims with expectations, promises and anticipation. Though not many of these materialize into what they promised, isn’t life all about hope, love and delight? As 2012 prepares to slip away from underneath the door, I hope the coming times will bring contentment and peace into the world. The sun is streaming in from the window as I write – in magical little rays. We never know. The good Lord may just wave about his sparkling wand… and all that is crooked in the world will be set straight.

Here’s wishing everyone a splendid New Year 2013!

Birthdays in a Flash

The thinkers often talk about the one moment when life will flash by in front of your eyes. They warn you to live well so you don’t regret the flashback. I have no clue if this is an omen of some sort but I get that flash every once in a while. It usually comes at important junctures and in moments when you need to look calm and composed. In fact, it can sometimes be quite a spoilsport.

At the airport yesterday, I saw a mental audio-visual of my growing up days. And I grew up really fast, or so I hear. Nani tells me I was born with a huge bunch of curly black hair. They had to make trips up and down the staircase when I learnt to hold things. Err, to collect all the stuff that I would drop from the balcony. Does anyone have insight on why children do that? I was very protective about my stuff otherwise and would ensure everything was in place when the other kids – the neighbours’, for instance – left. Mom would help me cut out the lions and elephants I would draw for my school holiday homework. She would sit by patiently as I painted them red and brown and yellow. All of the Delhi summer afternoon, until the evening breeze beckoned us to the balcony. And then, when Papa would arrive, Grandpa would fix all of us a glass of aam panna.

Sometimes, it is so hard to believe you are growing up. Especially when you gorge on the aloo ka parantha and bask in the sun just as you used to when you were small. The sun is warm and serene, the afternoon resplendent with memories. At other times, it is impossible not to acknowledge how time has flown. How tall you have grown, how friends are getting married, how you need to travel back to Pune the next day. At such times, I hold on to Mom in a super-tight hug and tell her how much I love her. I order a plateful of hot pakoras from nani’s kitchen. I sit with nanaji and Papa and talk about how the youngest cat has been learning to climb. Then, I get a semblance of peace. The moon comes out in the night-sky as I stand hand-in-hand with R. I gaze at the twinkling stars and I find the skies of Pune merging with the ones back where the rest of my world is.

When tomorrow dawns, the sun will rise to tell me it has been a year. One whole year since I acknowledged I am getting older. Since P&P refuses to go without the customary celebration, I grant him as much. 

So here goes – it’s a ‘Happy Birthday to Me’ from P&P! 

Cake

*picture from fragranceflora.com

An Ice-Cold Delhi

Diwali

*picture from breathedreamgo.com

Winter is on its way. Or so it seems. Mornings are now foggier – or smoggier – and it gets dark before Dad gets to come from work. But more than these weather-symptoms, I get vibes of winter from more human sources. Quite interesting, if you know what I mean.

People are vacationing on Diwali. Going out of town to the beach and the hills with their house left behind in the dark. With no lamps or lights or glitter on the walls. Sometimes, with a housemate or so – often elderly-  left behind with the other darkness. And I used to think Diwali is about decorating your house together and gobbling down sweets with silver paper on them.

Televisions, mobile phones and cars are being bought. The newest varieties, the most happening brands. On the sly, houses are also being sold. The ones your parents had put together with a penny collected a day. All for a fancy flat in an uptown area, possibly with no accommodation for the former house owners.

Youngsters hang around in beer bars, discotheques and shopping malls. Lost to the world outside the glass bubble. They return home all “high” and mighty, lighter on all accounts – including the cash. The concerned parties are hushed up and asked to get inside quilts before the cold wave could come in through the window. But it already did.

Whatever happened to “happy family” moments that we grew up relishing? When they are missing, all I see is jazz. And for jazz, I never did acquire an ear. Festivals for me are still about family. Together, we light lamps, set up streamers, make a rangoli. We devour milk cakes and rasmalai, gaze at the firecrackers in the sky and I never gather the courage to light some of my own. We pray to Ganpati Bappa and wish for health, happiness and laughter.

Delhi is getting cold. This Diwali, I hope the lights warm up some of the hearts which have forgotten how special it is to love and be loved by their family.

P&P wishes everyone a very happy and prosperous Diwali!

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