NaPoWriMo – Day 22

As I said in my earlier post of the Day, Travel is most definitely on my mind 🙂 And coming across this old lighthouse picture seemed fated! I love Lighthouses – the fact of them, the reason they exist, their inherent mystery and romanticism – standing as they do alone, where two worlds meet – land and ocean! What’s not to love?!

In Goa, on Aguada Hill, a 20 minute drive from my house, stand two lighthouses within the precincts of the Fort built by the Portuguese in 1612. The old one, the one in my picture, is a wonderful structure with loads of personality – A Grand Old Dame of four-storeys built way back in 1864 and the oldest of its kind in Asia, and one I love to visit 🙂 She’s retired now, has been for a long while, a newer younger version exists to do the job; but her cracked, mossy walls, the shattered glass of her windows and her rusty weather-vane crown stand testament to a Life spent in unstinting, selfless service. Think of all the things she must have witnessed, all the yarns she could spin if only she could talk!

For now however she stands in somber silence, watching the world go by. I often wonder what she’s thinking!

1-Day 22

Weekend @ Patnem

This last weekend was spent with the Ardee gang at Patnem beach in Canacona, on the southern border of Goa. It was a weekend of fun, frolic and endless mojitos…well, it was for me 😉 We were nine families from Ishaan’s class in school and we took over the Cuba Patnem Resort where we were staying, almost entirely for the duration! For my part, this was a much needed break away from home, the computer and books – yes you heard me right – books 😛 My Booker project has been keeping me decidedly busy and the getaway offered timely relief. I took my helper Pushpa along, to give her a holiday and of course to handle Ishaan, which she did with much aplomb! She’s really good with children and they can tell. They flocked to her like ants to honey!

A view of Cuba Patnem Resort on Patnem Beach...

The Patnem beach, is in the manner of most South Goa beaches, much better preserved than those in the north. The sand quality is better and the number of tourists is still minimal, a rare sight in Goa these days. Consequently the beach is cleaner and more inviting, although there were an inordinate number of stray dogs around – not all of them friendly 😦 The journey from Panjim to Patnem took about 2 hours, but after we had got rid of the heavy traffic at Margao, the ride was scenic and enjoyable. The Cuba Patnem Resort where we stayed is a small resort with 15 cottages (both AC and non-AC) located smack bang on Patnem beach. They are rather dear to look at the cottages, painted in different colors with hammocks on every patio 🙂 Mine was sunshine yellow & overlooked the Arabian Sea, which occasionally obliged with a glimpse of blue waters.

My cottage by the Sea!

The Sea can be deceptively calm here, so swimmers beware! We spent the evening of our arrival frolicking in the waters and discovered the strength of the current, quite unexpectedly, landing often on our tushies 😛 Not very pleasant I can tell you 😉 The beach is lined with shacks and resorts fronted by the ubiquitous beach umbrellas. Home is one such I strongly recommend for its great food and ambience. They have an excellent vegetarian menu (their veg panini and pastas were a huge hit with our gang) and surprisingly serve no fish!! Sacrilege for a beach shack in Goa methinks 😛 They do however serve up tender coconut water from freshly plucked fruit on their property 🙂 I also recommend Dropadi (yes, that’s how it’s spelled!) at Palolem beach. The only problem here is the extensive menu which can make choices difficult. We had some honey shrimp & fresh strawberry daiquiris here that were spot on 🙂

What's a Beach without Umbrellas?!

There isn’t much to do in Patnem itself which didn’t bother us coz we went there to do exactly that – Nothing! Palolem beach which is a few minutes drive away, is much more developed with the mandatory touristy market, completely uninteresting to us locals 😛 I last visited Palolem in 1991 during my internship, when it was undiscovered and virgin and we felt like we had truly arrived in Paradise 🙂 Now it’s a sad shadow of its former glory, such are the ravages of time 😦 C’est la vie! Our first night at the resort we had a power cut – this is Goa after all – so we took the opportunity to lounge on the terraced roof of my cottage, sprawled on dew-laden mattresses and bean bags, playing cards and placing bets! Although the heat was pretty unbearable at first, a cool sea-breeze soon fanned our sweaty bodies and when the lights came back on two hours later, we were so engrossed in our game that we just stayed up playing until the wee hours of the morning! I can’t remember the last time I stayed up until 4 am – stayed up having fun I mean 😉

Yoga on the Beach! One way to Nirvana I suppose, although Mojitos work for me 😉

Day two was more relaxed and we just lounged around at the resort and Home next door. On the whole – a wonderful time was had by all – good food, drink, and company. The children were exceptionally well behaved (for a bunch of hyperactive 4-yr-olds ;-)) and we not only survived but emerged refreshed 🙂

Bottle on the Beach 😦

Can’t wait now for May, when I’m planning a trip to the Hills up north with friends! This is fast turning into an addiction!

Happy Birthday Mr. G!

Dear Mr. G,

You’re a year older and I suppose wiser (at least that’s what us mortals reckon ;-)), although when you’ve been around since the very beginning (whatever or whenever that was!), a year is probably like the proverbial drop in the universal ocean huh?! 

Happy Birthday Mr. G!

Still, a Birthday’s a Birthday and yours just gets us all in a tizzy! We scamper around trying to get everything we need to welcome you into our homes in just the ‘right’ way; ordering sweets (cakes (if any) are strictly egg less I assure you :P), buying fireworks (what’s a little pollution in honor of a God?!), and veggies that most Goans will eat reluctantly for as long as you stay! I know of quite a few that are thankful you’re only here for a short visit 😉 I’ve always meant to ask you…would you like to try fish some day? I mean, it seems entirely unfair to keep the one thing we love above all else from you 😉 And I know that you love your chicken in Bali 🙂 I’ve always wondered about the fuss surrounding your arrival. I mean, you may be coming into our homes once a year but aren’t you always resident in our hearts? Wouldn’t we better off making ourselves worthier of your presence in our lives rather than our houses? But then what do I know? I’m a rebel of sorts, with my radical ideas and crazy notions 😛 Mom certainly thinks so!

Moving on (I’m already on the verge of being excommunicated coz of my perceived irreverence ;-))…there is the question of the gift. I guess most of us trust that your favorite sweet the ‘modak’, which we offer you this day will be enough. Coz seriously, what do you give the One that has everything? Although I wonder about that. I mean look at your kids!! You’ve got some serious heartache there! Me, I offer you a renewal of my faith and devotion, both given in a very private, discreet way, which is how I would like to keep it 🙂 A lot of people do love to deck you up in jewels and things these days though…it’s become quite the fashion. You do look rather stunning in all your finery I must admit 🙂 So that’s the gifts done and there’s not much else to it is there?

Just a few things I’ve always wanted to ask you, and some that I just wanted to get off my chest…you don’t mind do you? Nah!! Didn’t think you would 🙂

Does your mouse get the day off today? You know, it being your Birthday and all? I certainly hope so 🙂 By the way, we found one today, a mouse in the house I mean, and we let him go, coz we didn’t want to hurt him on your Birthday, but we did shoo him away. I’m afraid I cannot be tolerant of mice even for you!

Do you ever look at us mortals and wonder, ‘What on Earth was I thinking???!!’

Do you enjoy all the noise and smoke from the fireworks or would you prefer a quieter celebration? Be honest now!

Would you truly throw a fit if we offered you the good old ‘fish curry-rice’ combo? Everyone seems to think so, but I’ve always wondered 😛

Would you ever consider giving our self-appointed, know-it-all, middle-men, a whack on the head? Especially when they go into a ritualistic-frenzy that would be the envy of any self-respecting coven?! If I said ‘Pretty Please’ perhaps? 😛

But my main purpose in writing you this letter, was just to let you know, you’re my favorite God! Always have been, ever since I can remember. You’re just so cute and charismatic! Also, you’re smart! That helps 🙂 And my brother was named for you and he was pretty special! Another point in your favor!

And so here’s my Birthday wish for you. I wish you the very same thing I wish my loved ones…Happiness and Love always 🙂 Oh and when you see B, tell him I miss him and I love him…now more than ever. Oh and while I have your attention, would you please just make it so I can find the time and the inclination to get back to writing? Please! Pretty Please!!!

Have a Good one Mr. G 🙂 

Until next year!

Love, H ❤

 

 

Parenting Dad…Happy Father’s Day to Us!

I didn’t realize yesterday was Father’s Day until Facebook let me know! Honestly, what did we do before Facebook? 😛 Not that it made much of a difference once I did know. Have never been one for celebrating ‘Days’. For one it can get expensive 😛 Before you label me an ingrate however, let me assure you that I love my Dad dearly, probably more so now than ever, as the time we have together becomes more finite.

I’ve always been Daddy’s girl 🙂 Mom tells stories of how he doted on me as a child, doing everything he could, even carrying me long distances even when I was 5!! That fact assumes true significance when you know that I was always a ‘healthy’ child 😉 My favorite story is the one in which I’m hurt by broken milk bottles and Dad is telling everyone off 😉 Hearing Mom & Grandma describe it, I imagine the blood gushing from my hands (although the exact details are hazy!), and a river of red all over the kitchen floor where it happened; Mom & Gran having hysterics; and Dad gathering me up in his arms, yelling at them while trying to comfort me and run downstairs to the doctor all at the same time. I like to imagine myself as cool as a cucumber amidst all this chaos! Yeah, yeah…I like to feel important now and again folks, even if it was more than…well, however many decades ago 😉

But I have memories of my own too 🙂 I remember very clearly running up the stairs just after I had got my 10th Grade results. Here in India, 10th Grade is a big deal. It’s the last year of school, after which there’s a public examination (in every State), and one enters college. I had done really well and was among the top 50 students in Goa! I remember feeling nervously proud running up those stairs…wanting desperately to make Dad proud and afraid that I might have still managed to fail him somehow. You know the feeling! I needn’t have worried, as I flung open the terrace door and blurted out my news, the look on his face was everything I’d dreamt of and more 🙂 I remember him hugging me (probably coz we’re not at all a touchy, feely family!) and saying “Well Done!” or ‘Congratulations” or some such. It’s not important what he said. Sometimes I think it’s not even important how he felt. I think the most important feeling that day was how making him proud made me feel! Validated, worthy, proud and loved 🙂 It’s a feeling I’ll cherish forever, one that warms my heart to this day 🙂

Needless to say, I don’t remember Dad ever ticking me off or denying me anything I wanted throughout my childhood within reason. It’s a wonder I didn’t grow up thinking I was the center of the universe coz I certainly was the center of his! Or did I 😉 You guys can be the judges of that! There was one occasion though that I remember as clearly as if it were yesterday, when I threw a tantrum (I was very big on tantrums! They may be best described as flamboyant if you get my meaning! Much to my Mom’s satisfaction, Ishaan is now paying me back with my own coin so to speak :P), and stamped on his newly polished leather shoes! I got a well-deserved whack for my troubles! Dad was very particular about his appearance. He had a large wardrobe of suits and was always spiffily attired! Debonair is the word that comes to mind 🙂

Dad & I...I was 6.

Over the years I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that no matter what I grew up thinking, my Dad is not God. He has his faults and like in all of us, age does nothing to temper them. I’ve also had to come to terms with how much I am like him! It makes me at once very proud and very scared. I’ve inherited his looks, his love for beautiful things; his interest in photography; his generous spirit of giving; his keen intellect and curious nature; his laughter and love of a good joke; his stubbornness; his ego; his love for debate; his mercurial temper and his love for a good drink and junk food 🙂 He’s given me all this and so much more, it’s hard to know where he ends and I begin. And now, when he’s old and tired and spent, I find the roles reversed. I find myself parenting the man who taught me everything I know. I lend him my hands and shoulders for support. I help him find words, find meaning and often himself. I watched like an anxious parent when he took his first unaided steps after the surgery and I still watch him to this day, ready to catch him if he should fall. I buy him the junk food that he once bought me 🙂 and smooth his brow when he’s worried and confused, willing away his troubles, wanting to bear his burdens as he once bore mine. How did it come to this? Perhaps this is the circle of Life…parents’ father children and eventually children father parents.

So on this Father’s Day, I want to say THANK YOU & I LOVE YOU to the BEST Dad I could have had 🙂 and I know that if I can be even a fraction of what he’s been and continues to be to me, we’re going to be Ok.

Love you Daddy! Always will 🙂

Language versus Culture?

6th June, Ishaan’s first day back to school nearly didn’t happen because of the Goa ‘Bandh’. A ‘Bandh’ (for the uninitiated), is local lingo for a call to close shop, a Shutdown. Businesses, schools, transport and private enterprises that support the issue at hand remain closed voluntarily; those that don’t do so out of fear of violence (stone-throwing and tire-burning incidents are extremely common), usually for a day. The aim is to disrupt normal routine, cause inconvenience to the public (most of whom don’t give a damn about the issue!), and generally create a nuisance, in the hopes of attracting publicity and on the rare occasion surprising positive results from inept Governments.

This one, was organized by a group of people who claim to protect local Goan culture and language. As I understand it, they were opposing the State Government’s decision to grant aid to primary schools where English is the medium of instruction. They feel this will cause an exodus of students from primary schools that use the local language Konkani and Marathi as the medium of instruction (which also receive Government aid), and this in turn will lead to an erosion of what they term ‘Goan Culture’. They claim they have the right to protest, and certainly they do, this is a democracy after all, but I fail to see how shutting down the State will help their cause! In this case, moreover, the Government for once, is being inclusive rather than divisive. It isn’t doing anything other than granting aid to schools that didn’t previously get any, and it’s not withdrawing aid from any local language schools to do this! I would have thought that was a win-win situation all around. And still, they protest! But Hey! What do I know?

Other than cause a headache for all concerned, it’s difficult to see what they achieved, except I suppose, newspaper headlines (although I don’t recall seeing too many of those either!). Once they receive aid, English schools will be no doubt become more attractive and affordable to certain parents, who couldn’t afford them before, and if they choose to send their children there, shouldn’t that be their choice? Isn’t that what democracy is all about? A freedom of choice, including the choice to get educated in any language you want? How is this a bad thing? All this tom-tomming about democracy seems rather rich coming from people who are protesting this basic freedom in the name of Culture-preservation! From those who are looking to foist their own narrow-mindedness on the rest of us more open-minded citizens. Where does it say that Culture is something that must be forcibly foisted on a community? Isn’t society in general an amalgamation of Cultures? Isn’t that what makes for this wonderfully textured fabric we call Life? But again, what do I know?

I’m no historian nor any expert on Goan politics, but I do know that language has always been a contentious issue in the Goan context. We have a history of language agitation and when all else fails, politicians can always rely on the ‘Language’ issue to stir public passions and win votes. I find the whole issue silly, but then that’s me and I’m only Goan by the accident of birth 😛 When Goa became a State in 1987, there was a huge agitation to declare the local language Konkani, the official State language. Until then, all official Government business was conducted exclusively in English (still is). Now people wanted Konkani to be used too as opposed to Marathi (the State language of neighboring Maharashtra). Unfortunately, Konkani is more of a dialect, a spoken language rather than a written one. It is heavily influenced by both Portuguese and Marathi and changes in the way it’s spoken and the words used as you travel the length and breadth of our tiny State. We don’t have our own word for ‘Thank You’! We use ‘Dev Bare Karu’ which means ‘God Bless You’ or ‘Obrigad’ which means ‘Thank You’ in Portuguese! Similarly window can be ‘zanel’ (derived from the Portuguese ‘janela’) or ‘khidki’ (derived from Marathi). What you call it depends on what version you were brought up speaking. For me, therein lies its inherent charm 🙂 Hubby who was raised in South Goa speaks a Konkani that is heavily influenced by Portuguese. My family, speaks a version that is heavily influenced by Marathi because we are from North Goa and also because we’ve lived a large part of our lives in Bombay. Hubby studied in Marathi until 5th Grade (very common at the time), when the medium switched to English. It was terribly hard for him and he had to repeat the grade, because English was so unfamiliar. I, on the other hand, have studied in English all my life. I guess the point I’m trying to make is that we both became doctors, we are both multi-lingual and we share the same values and principles in Life. Culture or otherwise, I don’t see that the language we studied in has made that much of a difference in the grand scheme of Life!

Perhaps that’s why I have difficulty understanding why parents nowadays expect schools to teach ‘Culture’, and how Goans are increasingly equating Language with Culture. It seems regressive and is scary. I do not consider myself any less ‘Cultured’ or ‘Goan’ just because I choose or prefer to speak English most of the time! The one has nothing to do with the other! Schools are for education. ‘Culture’ is something you learn and absorb from the environment you live in at home, in society and yes in school too I suppose. I’ve always thought of it though, as an ongoing process – part active learning and part osmosis, and I expect Ishaan’s school not so much to teach him ‘Culture’ as to teach him about ‘Culture’. For our part, we will do our best to raise Ishaan to respect and value life, love, integrity, equality and hard work, both in himself and in others, and honestly, if that isn’t enough, I don’t know what is! What is this ‘Culture’ that these people are so afraid to lose? Most of the time, they use the term to exclusively represent their religious beliefs and rituals, which are necessarily a part of Culture, but not its be all and end all. And again I say, this is something that is taught in family, handed down through generations, evolving along the way. I find it hard to imagine a static Culture. To me that would mean something is terribly wrong. I think any Culture that is not ‘dynamic’ and able to evolve with the times we live in, will find it extremely hard to survive.

But as always, with an issue that’s close to my heart, I digress 😛 No one with half a brain is deceived by these self-proclaimed upholders of ‘Goan Culture’ (their version of it), for a minute! For one, most of their children have either studied or are studying in the very schools they now say are ‘Culture-Killers’. For another, most of us recognize this for what it really is, a vote-getting stunt backed by unscrupulous politicians as elections approach. But politicians posture, organizations lecture and gullible members of the public get swept away by the rhetoric! The local papers have been full of nothing else this last week, presenting the issue from every conceivable angle complete with expert opinions and comments. Is it just me or does this seem like a silly waste of time? A Brouhaha over a complete non-issue!

There are more, much more important issues that one can choose to protest. Issues that mean the difference between Life and death – female infanticide, the state of healthcare, the sorry state of our infrastructure, corruption, unemployment, rampant tourism and resultant environmental abuse…the list is endless. But no! Lets choose instead to agitate over an issue that will only give more people the chance to learn a new language if they wish. That will make learning that language more affordable. That will significantly brighten their job prospects! Oh no! That will never do! Coz if we progress as a society and evolve rationally, where does that leave corrupt politicians and their hired stooges? With s*#$% on their face, is where 😉

So no indeed. Let’s protest! Long Live Goan Culture! Hip Hip Hurrah 😛

* The views expressed in this piece are mine and mine alone. I reserve the right to change them without explanation whenever I choose 😉 If you agree, welcome to the land of the sane 🙂 If you don’t…get well soon 😛

Freedom & a Dragonfly Symphony!

Today is the day! Liberation Day! Today, after 2 months, I’m FREE 🙂

Ishaan’s started school!! He’s Happy & I’m Ecstatic, as well you may imagine! I love my son, no really, I do! But, and I know you’re with me on this readers, two months at home entertaining a toddler, while coping with my Dad’s illness, was no picnic in the park! In fact, I venture to say, a more trying and effective form of torture has not been invented! Don’t quote me on this though 😉 😛 Don’t get all serious people, just trying to reclaim my sense of humor, that’s been MIA these last couple of weeks.

After what seemed liked a lifetime (I know, I know, it was only two months!), the morning stretched in front of me, long, promising, delicious 🙂 And to think I might have had to wait for another day! Yup! Imagine that! Sacrilege! There was a Goa ‘Bandh’ today (more on that in my next post), which basically meant no public transport and a general shutdown of private enterprise including schools. Government offices were running but probably on skeletal staff. Ishaan’s school however assured me that they were open and that it was business as usual for them, and since school is only a 10-minute drive away, we decided to give it a go. It was pouring this morning (like it has been these last few days), and as I cuddled Ishaan, I must confess to feeling both relief at having my mornings back and guilt at that relief 😛 This double-edged sword of a ‘Mommy-heart’ is just so…whatever!

Ishaan was happy to be back in school! He’s been asking to go ever so often during the holidays that I dared to hope, he meant it! Turns out he did 🙂 He kicked off his shoes, and marched fearlessly into class only to slip on a damp patch of floor & land on his tush! That was enough to start the waterworks, especially since Hubby was around! But he calmed down soon enough and was swept away in his teacher’s embrace as she cooed happily in his ear! God Bless all Teachers 🙂 So with Ishaan happy at school, I spent a lazy morning tackling stuff around the house. Things that I had let slide over time. One large garbage bag of thrash and one angry outburst from Dad later, it was time for a break.

Out in the garden, the rains had taken a break too. As I walked around, I noticed a new Water Lily bloom 🙂 A vision of beauty on a slender stalk that grows in muddy water…Nature is full of miracles. The sight of that flower was such Joy 🙂 It made me feel like everything was going to turn out fine. 

My Zen fix for the day!

I took a lot of shots experimenting with my white balance settings and as I made my way back to the house, I found myself serendipitously in the midst of what can only be described as a symphony of dragonflies 🙂 They whizzed and darted around the garden to some mysterious rhythm, inaudible to us mere mortals, stopping occasionally mid-air, occasionally on a leaf or a flower, those translucent wings beating a million times a minute!! Such grace, such precision, such beauty, such freedom! In that moment I wanted to be a dragonfly. I wanted what they had. An escape to Freedom and the joy of dance! I noticed soon that some were in a mating frenzy! Perhaps that explained all the energy and joie-de-vivre 😛

This took me by surprise! Didn't intend to catch them 'in flagrante'!

It’s been so long since I’ve had a moment like this, I’d almost forgotten what it felt like. The joy of it, the peace of it, the serenity of it. I did take some shots but mostly I just sat quietly and watched, and let them heal me in the way only Nature and her wonders can 🙂

A thing of beauty 🙂

It’s been a wonderful start to my week and I wish the same for you 🙂

Here’s to Dragonflies, Symphonies and the joyful Freedom they bring!

Happy Monday, People 🙂

Demon Diwali

This is an old post that was initially a page. Switching from ‘Page’ to ‘Post’ requires me to hit the ‘Publish’ button and so you will see a whole lot of new ‘old’ posts on the Blog as revamping progresses! Sorry for the inconvenience and confusion, although far be it for me to stop you from actually reading some of them if so inclined! They haven’t been read much and would love your attention 😀

This Diwali, there’s an undercurrent of sadness for me and mine, but there is also great joy & comfort in Ishaan! It’s his first Diwali and we’ve stuck to good old (is there any other kind?) tradition!

Narkasur!

Diwali is celebrated for a thousand reasons in India – every community picks their own 😉 It’s a democracy after all!  Here in Goa, it’s a celebration of Lord Krishna’s victory over the demon ‘Narkasur’! Yes I know, yet another demon, yet another victory!! It’s a wonder they kept a track of them all 😉

This Narkasur guy harassed the Gods & Men, in the usual manner of demons until, the Gods ran to Lord Vishnu and begged for help! They always did this! Never was Indra as King of the Gods able to handle any demon himself! So, Lord Vishnu as Krishna fought and defeated Narkasur, who to save himself from certain death hid in a little excessively bitter fruit called the ‘kaarit’, which Krishna then coolly proceeded to smash with his big toe!!!!

The moral of the story – when you’re trying to save your life, don’t hide in a fruit!!

The humble 'karit' and a diya...symbols of a Goan Diwali.

In honor of this rather squishy death, we Goans duly smash our own little ‘kaarits’ and symbolically have a taste, each of us turning into momentary Krishnas’! 😉 Well, be that as it may, we have ‘Narkasur’ competitions here in our major cities, Panjim, Mapusa and Margao.

So, this year, like all ‘good’ parents, Ishaan loaded into the car-seat, off we went to Panjim for a little ‘demon-viewing’! It was pretty cool actually…normally sleepy Panjim was buzzing with traffic and people. Both moving ever so slowly, stopping after every few meters, to gaze upon the sometimes fierce, often funny ‘demon-faces’, all to the accompaniment of the latest Bollywood hits, blaring from giant loudspeakers! Deafening! Colorful! Hilarious!

3 in a row!

 

 

We joined the procession and viewed a few ourselves, unloaded Ishaan and took the mandatory picture! He blew the demon a flying kiss and promptly lost all interest!

Now, that’s what I call setting priorities 😉

Kiss and be done with it! That’s my boy! 🙂

Nostalgia

This last weekend was a trip down memory lane. Bittersweet.

Saturday, we took Ishaan to see the Carnival Parade…or maybe I should say, the remains of what once used to be a great Parade 😦 I remember when I was a kid, we always went to watch the Parade. We went early to get ourselves good seats at a vantage point from where to watch the colorful floats, King Momo – the King of the Carnival, and the dancers 🙂 There was always a festive atmosphere in the streets and the locals were out in full strength – there weren’t many tourists then. I wonder now, whether it truly was the atmosphere, or whether it was just us children, finding joy in the little things as children so often do, seeing wonder in everything and allowing our imaginations to do the rest 🙂 I wonder, because I see the sorry state of affairs the parade is now in, the forced festivities and the feeble turnout (mostly tourists) that along its new & altered route, cheering along the motley ensemble. When did this happen? Just another icon of my childhood gone…Poof! Disappeared like so much smoke 😦

Ishaan however, unaffected by the loss of my childhood memory, enjoys himself! We walk along the route for a good 20 minutes, following a float that depicts a rural Goan village scene, complete with a well, a cowshed and three life-sized buffalo effigies, one of which is being milked for water from its udder!! That has even me laughing…water from a buffalo, like milk from monkeys 😛 The floats are accompanied by local Konkani songs blaring out from a concealed player. After a couple of repeats, they begin to jangle my already frayed nerves. Not so much the music as the heat though, which is murderous and has caused me to sweat like a pig (not an exaggeration!), and my blouse to stick to my back like I’ve just come out of the shower! My only interest in coming to the parade is to show Ishaan a good time and get a few good pictures. The latter though proves difficult, since we’ve missed a good part of the parade including King Momo, and most of what I see, I don’t care for.

 

King Momo - Carnival King!

They start the parade these days at 3 o’clock in the afternoon, a ridiculous hour for any parade (but especially in this early summer heat), and a time when Ishaan is enjoying his afternoon nap. Still we manage to catch a few floats…two circus cars with a few clowns and children (sweltering in the heat and their costumes, poor darlings!); a large Gorilla smothered in giant bamboo; and a gigantic praying mantis that moves up and down thanks to a guy that’s pulling a string attached to its behind! I’m beginning to wonder what the theme might be…Endangered animals and murderous insects comes immediately to mind 😛 There’s a float sponsored by Maggi, that has large product effigies covering the truck in their trademark red on yellow colors, with two Carnival masks stuck on to one side. Following the truck are a group of dancers dressed in yellow & red satin, trying to muster up some energy & carnival spirit. They’re not doing a very good job and I for one don’t blame them. Suddenly a fight breaks out right next to where we’re standing! A couple of guys get physical and everyone around joins in the shouting match, parade easily forgotten!! Thankfully, there are police around and as they appear, surprisingly prompt, one of the aggressors slinks away and all is quickly back to normal!

By 6 o’clock we are done and so is the parade. We walk to the car and relax in the cool blast from the AC…Heaven! Ishaan seems happy which makes the ordeal worthwhile 🙂 He thought the mantis was a dinosaur and I don’t bother to set him right 😉 On the way home though, I’m still reminiscing about the past, the way things used to be and how most things disintegrate with Time rather than endure – even memories.

Carnival Memories!

Sunday on the other hand is fun. We are at my Dad’s ancestral home, in the sleepy village of Amona, an hour’s drive away from home. We’re here to witness a traditional ceremony called simply ‘Dev’ (literally translated as God), that has been taking place, probably over centuries. A few family members have gathered and the women are seeing to lunch, while the men get ready for the ceremony. I like the concept of ‘Dev’. In return for us going to the temples to worship, every so often, ‘God’ pays us a home visit! He comes to us in our homes and blesses us. Howz that for a great God huh? 😀 I remember the ceremony only vaguely from when I was a child. I seem to remember whirling colors on tall sticks, standing in the afternoon sun with my uncles soaking in the air of expectation. I remember throngs of villagers, sweaty bodies and a subconscious acknowledgement of religious fervor. I remember thinking, ‘This is fun!’

We get there at noon and Ishaan spends time playing cricket in the yard with his cousins. I watch as my uncles get ready to welcome God! Turns out, He doesn’t need much. A couple of wooden seating boards (‘paath’ in local lingo), some flowers, a few incense sticks, coconuts, a gorgeous brass lamp and some coconut pieces mixed with jaggery for ‘prasad’ later! My uncle decorates the final arrangement with a ‘rangoli’ (a decorative design using colored powders), in two colors, white & purple, and all is readiness. His arrival is announced by loud drumbeats and the family all rush out into the yard. I see Him arrive! He, consists of  two brass hands, each one atop a tall, decorated pole (I see later they are painted red and decorated with pictures from Hindu mythology), wrapped in brightly colored, layered saris, one red, the other green with gold borders. The poles are held by two men in traditional dress, and coming into our yard they rest them on the wooden platforms. As one, the family bows their heads, at once welcoming and worshipping. We tell Ishaan to fold his hands and inexplicably my eyes are tearing up…I feel part of a collective whole, a solid core of belief, faith and joy. I feel protected and I know deep within – All is right with the world. The feeling is rather overwhelming, but thankfully private, coz I’m not an overtly religious person and I don’t actually believe in rituals. But it’s a powerful moment and I am moved.

Godly visitors!

A priest arranges a head on the platform, a silver God’s head, decorating it with flowers and we bow once again. Then he asks God to bless our entire family, keep us safe, happy and successful, wherever we are. To the thunder of drumbeats, the two poles are twirled in unison, a whirl of bright colors, and brought down on our heads, and I feel the light touch of the sari on the nape of my neck. I’ve been blessed! Then they’re off after a final salute from the family and we eat the coconut and jaggery mixture, before moving on to the mandatory fish-lunch! That’s it, a short and sweet ceremony of barely 20 minutes, that somehow manages to refresh and uplift sagging spirits. A divine boost, if you will 🙂

It’s a good feeling and as good a way as any to be starting off a new week with 🙂

Have a great week ahead People!

Om Namah Shivay!

On Wednesday, Ishaan had a school holiday. It was for ‘Mahashivratri’, loosely translated as ‘The Night of the Great Lord Shiva. On the day, all over India, people celebrate the festival by fasting, performing ‘Pujas’ and praying for the well-being of loved ones. Like everything in Hinduism, there are several legends about Mahashivratri. Some believe it is the wedding day of Shiva & his wife Parvati; others, that this was the night he danced the ‘Tandava’ – a divine dance symbolizing creation, preservation & destruction; still others that this was the night he manifested in the form of the Lingam(the phallic form, in which he is most commonly worshipped to this day). Whatever one chooses to believe or disbelieve, it’s a day of worship, piety and celebration all rolled into one, like most Hindu festivals!

Shiva is one of the super Gods, part of the Holy Hindu Trinity of Gods, Brahma – the Creator, Vishnu – The Protector & Shiva – the Destroyer. They’re the big guns…like the Godfather, the ones that all the thousands of little Gods go running to in times of trouble (and believe me that’s more often than you think!). They grant boons, kill villains and reward devotees much like their juniors, but they just do it better, and bigger! He’s always been my favorite. I like his no-nonsense, down-to-earth attitude and although he’s not the best looker (what with the deadly ‘Eye’ in the center of his blue forehead, the deadly Trident in his hand, the matted locks of hair that hold the mighty river Ganges, the ash-smeared blue-skinned body and the snakes he uses for jewelry!), his charisma & the divine aura that surrounds him, attracts every kind of life-force. And he welcomes them all…the good, the bad and the ugly; offering them all his love, his advice, his protection. What’s not to like?

He’s wise and simple, often granting terrible boons to his devotees that help them become monsters! And when he gets angry…the ‘Eye’ opens and burns whoever has pissed him off to a crisp! Now that’s a power I could do with some days 😉 He once burned the God of Love, Kama (Cupid’s Hindu avatar), to a crisp, in a moment of rage, because the poor dear had shot a love-arrow at him, at the request of the other Gods, when they were trying to get him hitched again after the death of his beloved first wife, Sati. However in a typical God-like display of forgiveness, he later revived Kama at the request of Kama’s wife Rati (Goddess of the Moon), and his own second wife – The Goddess Parvati (she is the Mother Goddess incarnate and also a reincarnation of his first wife Sati! Confused? Don’t be…just go with the flow :P). I identify with this guy…he’s quick to anger, quick to forgive and bears no malice, rather like me 😛

Did I mention he’s big in Goa? Well he is and my family worship him at the Mangeshi Temple. I’m not big on rituals, but I’m surrounded by them and there is no escape. There’s an interesting story that I would like to share that happened a long time ago…when I was newly married. It’s a tradition for newly married couples on Hubby’s side of the family, to worship at the Mangeshi Temple. This involves getting up at the crack of dawn, bathing, dressing in traditional garb (a 9-yard sari for women & the ‘dhotar’ for men), and entering the innermost sanctum of the Temple, where the ‘Lingam’ is located, to worship. Inside there’s a well and at the end of the ritual, the couple draws water from the well to bathe the holy ‘Lingam’! Hubby & I for one reason or another hadn’t gone through with this ritual in the first year of marriage and frankly were completely unaware that it even existed! One day, we found ourselves at his ancestral house and were about to enter to pray to the family deity, when we were stopped in our tracks by a pair of black snakes allegedly cobras but I can’t prove it), that seemed to be involved in their mating dance! They were on the front porch and were in no mood to let us pass. We tried to go around the back (Yes we were silly! Young and silly, wanting to enter a house with snakes dancing on the porch!), but they appeared again at the back door, rather miraculously, and we couldn’t enter. Finally chastised, we headed home and narrated the incident to our in-laws as nothing more than an interesting anecdote. Should have known better (but we were silly & young!). My in-laws took a rather serious view of the whole event and my father-in-law set off immediately for the Mangeshi temple to discuss with the family priest and interpret the significance, of what to them was clearly a divine sign of some sort! The priest duly informed him that we had failed to perform the ritual ‘puja’ at the temple, and this was Shiva’s way of reminding us that we had forgotten! Snakes are Shiva’s pets so to speak! And so, off we went, obediently, into the inner sanctum, duly purified and properly attired to ask forgiveness for our oversight and blessings for a happy marriage. In true God fashion – He forgave & blessed!

In traditional garb! This was taken 2 years ago.

There’s another great story that I like, about how he got his blue-skin. The Gods & their cousins the evil ‘Asuras’ (demons) were once involved in a quest for ‘Amrut’ (The nectar of immortality, Ambrosia), and were told that the last jar of the stuff was at the bottom of the ocean bed. They were also told that the only way to get it, was to churn the ocean and drain it, to reveal the hidden treasure. So off they went to the Holy Trinity and on their advice, used a giant snake tied around a mountain as the churner (don’t you just love these stories ;-)), and had a sage drink up the ocean (child’s play to a great sage that!). Still they churned, but instead of the Nectar, poison spurted up which would have killed them. Again, they asked the Holy Trinity for help and Shiva offered to drink the poison so they could get to the Nectar. And so he drank up and as he did the poison turned his neck & skin blue…and so he’s also called ‘Neelkanth’ (neel = blue, kanth = throat), in many parts of India, especially the south. He rides a bull…his faithful mount Nandi (an idol is found in every temple dedicated to Shiva), drinks ‘Somras’ (alcohol to me & you!) and is God to ghouls and humans alike! He is father to my favorite ‘Ganesha’, the Elephant God, and a great dancer! In his dancing form, he is worshipped as ‘Nataraja’, Lord of Dance.

Lord Shiva as Nataraja, the Dancer.

 

He is Timeless – wisest of sages, granter of wishes, destroyer of ignorance, master of destiny, and keeper of the balance of the universe – in His name is hidden the secret of Nirvana.

He is, to me, the epitome of Cool 🙂

Shiv-Parvati!

p. s. ‘Om Namah Shivay’…this simple chant is used to invoke his name and may be loosely translated to mean ‘Holy Is Thy Name Shiva’.

p. p. s. I’m no Sanskrit nor religious scholar however, so don’t take my word for Gospel 😛 Google Him for more info 😉

The ABBA Choir!

No sooner do I write about ‘living in a fugue’, the Universe conspires to lift up my mood. Almost like a divine response to my SOS 😉

My friend M had passes to a music concert for Monday evening (her daughter was playing the piano and singing with the choir), and although she asked me to go on Friday, I couldn’t confirm until Monday morning, life being what it is. When I got up Monday morning, my head was heavy and still spinning from the after-effects of another full week & busy weekend, with no alone time. I desperately needed to get away from it all. What better way than music right? Thanks M – I owe you one 😀

Had a busy morning meeting with the printer, making changes to the Bulletin that I’m editing for our Pediatrics Association (not my preferred way of beginning the week!). Then picked Ishaan up from school and by the time I had lunch and put him down for his nap, it was time to leave for the concert. Whether you believe it or not…I’m convinced Time is flying even faster than it normally does…it’s being a pain! Finally, we were on our way to Margao. It’s an hour-long drive and at last I felt myself begin to unwind. I think I might have given M a headache with my chatter…Sorry M 😛 Just blame it on your great company 🙂 We were early and had time for a leisurely coffee before making our way to the venue.

The concert showcased the NAMAH Chorale, a 35-member a cappella choir (singing sans instruments). NAMAH, is conducted by Dr. Christo Fernandes, a diminutive man of enormous talent who is the driving force behind another group – the Choir of  The Goa Institute of Management, where he teaches Human Resource Management. As I said…a man of many talents! The singers come from different backgrounds (students and senior citizens, local & international talent are all welcome!), and most have little if any musical training! As Christo mentioned yesterday, NAMAH started as an experiment. An attempt to see whether people from different walks of life and no musical background, could make music together. Needless to say…they can & how! I have attended their concerts before and they are brilliant 🙂 Another thing I love about NAMAH is their innovation…they sing hymns, but they sing Pop as well and while that may not appeal to purists, I think it’s wonderful! Music is Music and that’s that! This concert was called ‘Thank You for the Music’ and was dedicated to ABBA, which made it very special for me coz I’m a complete ABBA junkie 🙂 And to add to the cool factor, all proceeds were donated to charity. Three schools received musical instruments and books to help their under-privileged students discover the musician within! What could be better?

Maxie Miranda, who plays the guitar, opened the concert with a couple of Brazilian songs, sung in his trademark accent. He was followed by a dance performance – a fusion piece with two dancers performing in different styles, contemporary and Bharatnatyam, a classical Indian dance form. They were followed by the Goa Institute of Management Choir, which started with a hymn and ended with a popular Bollywood number sung in Choir style! They had all of us clapping and clicking our fingers to the music! They were followed by the famous local band, Alcatrazz that enthralled with ABBA numbers. Their lead singer Sandra, has a wonderful husky voice tailor-made for ABBA songs and when she launched into Mama Mia…I could hardly stay put in my seat 😛

They also sang ‘Does Your Mother Know’, ‘Voulez-vous’ & ‘Waterloo’ J Finally it was time for NAMAH to take center stage and they had us enthralled from the start. They sang the famous Tagore poem, ‘Where the Mind is Without Fear’, and followed it up with a fabulous rendition of the patriotic Vande Mataram, a song that never fails to bring tears to my eyes.

Then on to a tribute to Boney M with One Way Ticket, to the Beatles with ‘Yesterday’ (another favorite), and then, it was ABBA time again! Money, Money and I Have a Dream and for a grand finale, Thank You for the Music. The songs make me nostalgic and remind me how awesomely talented ABBA were. I know the lyrics to every song and they take me back to a time when I was young (oh so young!), and carefree! Happy Times! So if you’re reading this and are not an ABBA fan…keep it to yourself 😛 If you are…share your favorites!


It was a wonderfully, uplifting evening 🙂 A much-needed energy boost to begin the week with! As is wont in Goa, we ran into friends…an old school friend and a medical school classmate…both after more than a decade, both wonderfully warm & essentially unchanged 🙂 Don’t you just love it when that happens? J We went backstage to meet with Christo and the others and by the time I got home it was 10.30 pm. The house was asleep except for Mom, who was up (of course!), and had dinner waiting 🙂

It was rather Perfect! I felt happy & pampered and peaceful. Amen 🙂