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.
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.
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.
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!