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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The ashtami pooja of my childhood. setting out to buy the pleasures of the world with 40 paise in my hand.

12th oct 2013

It is ashtami today, the son's birthday as per the lunar calendar.

Saw the pictures posted by a friend on FB.  Ashtami pictures...  with the picture of Ma Durga and the prashad of puri, chaney , and halwa. The ashtami pooja amongst the North Indians, the devi pooja, the kanchak pooja and the prasaad. I was immediately transported to the childhood when it was a special day for us girls.

There were 2 Punjabi families and 1 one sindhi family in our building.  We would dress up with bindis and paayals , call out to the other friends and visit these 3 families. There were never any formal invitations. The aunties would call out from their balconies and our mothers would get us ready and pack us off.

We arrived to a warm welcome at the neighbours... "aao beta, yahaan baitho." we would all sit in a straight row. The uncle would arrive with a small basin of water. He would then wash our feet and wipe them with a towel. Our foreheads would then be adorned with a vermillon teeka...I can almost feel the kumkum, cool , as it touched our forehead.

Then came the best part.. the Prashaad. Poori, with halwa, a little black chanaa on the side, a spoonful of fragrant long grained basmati rice and the best part - a coin. 5 paise at one household, 10 paise at the other. and we loved the aunty who gave us the 25 paise coin.

I remember rushing home , asking mum to pack all the prasaad for my tiffin box that day,  the poori , the halwa and the chanaa.

And then for the most interesting part,  counting the loot. 40 paise was a big amount.

Pocket money, spending money was never a part of the culture at home. If we  really wanted something , we would tell mum and if she approved, she or dad would get it for us,  as and when possible.

One item which was never even considered was the bubblegum. How I longed to chew on  that piece of 
pink gum!! The fruity fragrance as friends chewed on it was enticing. What was more attractive was blowing that bubble balloon ,  and then seeing it go splat across your lips... peeling it from your face, pushing it back in the mouth , chomping on it again and then blowing another bubble . aaaaahhh.

But no, the bubblegum word was banned at home.

Then there were the smaller gum balls. red, green in color,  available in the school at the small store in the school compound.

The ashtami money was ours to spend. or so Ii thought. I would bravely declare, "This is my money, I am going to buy the gum balls and the bubble gum". Mother would try to convince me otherwise. "why not the 'seeti wala' lollipop?"  I had really not learnt to rebel then,  so mostly it was the lollipop.

One day somehow, mother relented. and bought me a bubblegum. The  square of 
pink gum in a brown wrapper.  That was one happy day.

Munch, Munch ...Chomp Chomp.... and then I tried to blow that bubble.  The friends saidyou have to suck every bit of sweetness from it. Only then would the bubble happen. So I chewed some more. and then tried again. Naaa!!..I could not do it. Plus there were hazaaar other instructions.... "don't swallow it, it will stick inside the throat, don't swallow it, it will stick inside the tummy" ...stories and more stories. I remember being so tense that after 2 unscucessful attempts  gave up.  Have never touched one again.

I was a generous mom to my kids and bought it for them on one or 2 occasions. They were never fascinated.

Ashtami. We also had a maharashtrian family as neighbours . They celebrated this day too. Here the rituals were a bit different. Kaka would wash our feet and adorn it with a dot of kumkum. His wife whom we called "aai",  would apply the halad kunku . After this we sat with with our arms outstretched and then she or kaaka would apply   chandan
black bhukka and  on our wrists .. right upto the elbow.

Sweet puris made out of red pumpkin - vaan - they called it, and masala milk in little silver 'vaatis' would be offered to us. The keshar strands floating in it and the odd bits of chaaroli . I was the pet of this family and the earlier night I would have helped aai remove the silver vaatis from her cupboard and wipe them clean after she had washed them. I also got the privilege of selecting the vaati of my choice - one shaped like a द्रोण .

We moved from goregaon in 1980 . Moved into a gujarati neighbourhood where these rituals were not followed. We had moved from the chawl culture to the flat culture... a strange one where you lived in a CO-operative Society but hardly socialized.

 I grew up, and was no longer the kanchak...

When the daughter was born, through her I once again  relived some of the joys of my childhood, of Ashtami days.. The prashaad. the same request of packing it in the tiffin box.

The 5ps , 10 ps and 25 paise aunties were replaced by the tiffin box aunty, the Rs 10 aunty and another who gave a little gift each year - a box of fancy hair rubber bands, hair bands, small purses or  a pack of embroidered kerchiefs.....

Then we moved to this new place. and here on ashtami day, we saw a new tradition . The prasaad would be sent to the girls... to their homes. a paper plate with the eats and some money would be sent over. most of the joy was lost. the tradition was being followed alrite... the rituals only. it is after all the age of convenience. 

Why do we hold back? we want to, we do it to,, but why the half hearted effort?

The pictues the friend posted  today brought back so many memories of the childhood... mine and the daughter's

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