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!

The Crazy Week That Was…

Do you know how sometimes, you blink, and a whole week has just gone by? It’s Monday again and you’re thinking…What?? Where did the week go? (That’s if you’re lucky! If you’re not, it could be a year or worse still your Life!). That’s what I’m feeling this Monday morning…exhausted and drained from a whirlwind V-day week. Luckily most of it was good, except for a close shave with Ishaan, which was rather scary. Haven’t had time to think much less write, and am far behind on reading my Blogs, so please forgive me friends! Now that Ishaan is back to school, hopefully, things will settle back down into a routine.

Monday (Valentine’s Day), was relatively quiet, and a staid start to a week without Hubby. In retrospect, it was lovely coz I had no idea of the roller coaster that lay ahead! It was also a dear friend’s Birthday and we made plans to have dinner on Tuesday with another friend, which was just as well coz for unfathomable reasons (mostly lethargy which is truly inexcusable :P), we haven’t met in the two years since I’ve moved back to Goa! And so that’s what we did! On Tuesday we met, first at her place for a long session of catching up and then had a great dinner at the Pan Asian Bowl, a restaurant with a great ambience & one of my favorite places for Southeast Asian cuisine in Goa that also makes a decent Mojito 🙂 Happiness all around 🙂 Did I mention my friend B is a whiz at crochet? She makes the hook fly, and weaves runners, tablecloths and doilies faster than you can say, ‘Fabulous!’ She’s also extremely generous and thinks nothing of gifting her friends with unique pieces over the years 🙂 She gave me two wonderful doilies on Tuesday! The best return gifts ever! I know…I have the BEST friends 🙂 Not to forget, she’s also works full-time as a Clinical Pathologist while raising a pre-teen daughter!

Examples of my friend's handiwork!

Wednesday, Ishaan had a holiday for Id. When we were young, I remember the Id holidays we got…we were always unsure of the exact day & date, because of the unpredictable nature of the moon! It added to the excitement and mystery 🙂 Ishaan was of course oblivious to any sense of excitement (he’s just too young!), and wanted to know why he wasn’t going to school (Now you believe me! He really is very young ;-))! I had to do something to keep him occupied and out of everyone’s hair in the morning, so we took a trip to the church atop Aguada hill in the tiny village of Sinquerim in North Goa, a 20-minute drive from where I live, which houses the famous Jail and Lighthouse. There are fabulous views of the Mandovi River and the Arabian Sea from the hilltop, which also houses the brick-red ruins of the Aguada Fort (Now a protected Heritage Site), built in the 17th century by the Portuguese. Unfortunately, the road up was congested with traffic – busloads of tourists who seemed to think their money bought them the right to saunter down the middle of the road without a care in the world! The price we pay for living in a ‘Tourist Paradise!’ 😦

View from the Gazebo on Aguada Hill.

After making our way to the top at snail’s pace, I decided to avoid the crowds at the Lighthouse and headed instead to the much quieter, indeed almost deserted Church. Most Churches in Goa are whitewashed and this one was no different. The grounds around were large but not maintained and the whole place had a distinctive ‘commune with Nature’ kind of feeling 🙂 There’s a small gazebo which offers a view of the Sea and the Jail located at the foot of the hill. I thought of the prisoners within its stony red walls…all that water and never a glimpse! Some punishment that! Ishaan was thrilled 🙂 He ran around and posed for pictures quite happily! We stood and stared at the Sea and then went off to explore the Church.

The Church

It was locked, but we ran into a few people. A father with his brood (all young), who were obviously chilling out like us on a school holiday, and a pair of sisters who were down from the UK & the US to collect the remains of their mother and transfer them to a family crypt. That explains why there were human bones and a skull in the garden, at one end of the passage!! The sisters seemed concerned that the children would be upset and tried to shield them, but in typical child-like fashion, they were totally unconcerned and only mildly curious! As for me, it was a throwback to my first year in Medical school when I first met a dead body, inhaled the overpowering odor of formalin and stashed a bagful of human bones in my locker 😉 All in a day’s work! Wonder where that bag is now?!

After a great morning, we had an equally happy evening. Wedding season continues in Goa and my aunts and uncle, who were down here for one in their family, came visiting. We had a wonderful time, chatting up and playing cricket with Ishaan! So Wednesday night, I was thrilled to have reached mid-week without incident and very happy. I should have known better!

Thursday morning started routinely enough, until a sudden wail punctured the air. I ran into the living room and Ishaan was in Pushpa’s arms howling his head off, bleeding copiously from his nose. He had managed to hit his face against the edge of our rocking chair and had a nasty bruise under his left eye, a cut upper lip and nostril! It’s a good thing I’m not squeamish at all – it wasn’t a pretty sight. He wouldn’t allow us to hold ice to the bleed for a while until he calmed down a bit (He was oh so brave!), and when he finally did, I was happy to see that nothing was broken and his eye was unhurt. After a while, when the bleeding had stopped and the hysterical household (read Granny and Pushpa), had calmed down, I took him to my friend and his pediatrician, so she could have a look, coz he still wouldn’t let me clean the wound. So I held him down while she cleaned the wound with Savlon and used a torch to examine the interior of his nose. No serious damage done and an antibiotic ointment was all that was needed, thank goodness. He promptly spat out his pain medication, but since he didn’t seem to be in any serious pain, I let it be. He was lucky to escape without a serious eye injury! Back home, he seemed fine except that he wouldn’t allow anyone near his nose.

The Buffet @ Fernando's

That same evening however, I took him to a dinner party in a wonderful restaurant in Raia (near Margao), called Fernando’s Nostalgia. I thought it would help us all get over the crazy morning. The setting was rather wonderful, with the interiors done up in the old Portuguese fashion, with terracotta figurines, antique furniture, old lamps and live music! There was a mini trampoline and a play area for the kids to play in where my wounded soldier played cricket to his heart’s content! I learnt that the owner Chef Fernando passed away 4 years ago, and that his wife was now in charge. Live music was provided by a singer on keyboards, who delighted us all with local Konkani favorites & the golden oldies…and I am talking serious oldies here…Cliff Richards & Engelbert Humperdinck, The Carpenters…you get the picture. He had a fabulous voice and took requests, which made for an entertaining evening! I danced to the peppy Konkani numbers with my son in my arms and I can’t wait for the day when he’s old enough to lead me on to the dance floor 🙂 He’s like me…loves music, loves to dance 🙂 An enjoyable evening, that really helped take the edge off Ishaan’s mishap.

Friday and Saturday were spent in the company of more visiting family & running errands with Ishaan in tow (NOT something I would have chosen to do!), and on Sunday morning, it was finally time to fetch Hubby home from the train station! Thankfully, the train arrived on time and then excitement took over as Ishaan spotted Hubby across the platform 🙂 There’s something so joyous about kids greeting their parents after a long separation! All these years while Hubby’s been jet setting all around the world, I’ve watched him come and go in mundane fashion. After a while, it’s just another part of the routine, if you get my meaning…but with kids, it’s very different. Their joy is a palpable thing – it’s almost a physical presence (the way they squirm and twist and want to leap into your arms :)), unabashedly enthusiastic and it’s infectious! A happy combination! After a boisterous reunion and the once over by Hubby, father and son were inseparable on the ride home.

I would have loved a quiet Sunday at home, but we had a ‘thread ceremony’ to attend and so after a quick shower, we were off to Margao again. Luckily, ‘thread ceremonies’, are not like weddings, and we were able to come home in time for a Sunday siesta…a must for any self-respecting Goan (indeed for any self-respecting human in my book!). And so that’s a wrap of ‘A week in the Life of…’ This week will be busy with work – I’m editing the Medical Bulletin for our State Chapter of the Indian Association of Pediatrics and that involves co-coordinating with plenty of busy doctors (always a nightmare, given that most of them don’t even check their e-mails, let alone respond on time!!). I have no doubt there will be a lot of frantic phone calls and last-minute panicked scrambling involved! But I have my own guardian angel S, (who dragged me into the project in the first place!), who enjoys this sort of thing and has mean convincing skills. I’m relying on her to see me through! Well, at least Ishaan will be back in school…Oooh! Fingers & toes, firmly crossed!

Have a great week ahead People 🙂