Thursday, November 4, 2010

For Tvisha – Age 7 (1973)

(Here is my mom in the center, and a few other ladies from our apartment building singing during the Ganpati festival celebrations)

Dear Tvisha,

There are several events during this year that are coming to mind very clearly.

School was full of fun with lots of friends, homework and exams. I was doing well too, and was in the class top 10. I will give all credit to my mother for that.

During our daily short recess in school that lasted only 5 minutes from 11.25 am to 11.30 am, the school arranged for those who paid for it, a refreshment that was usually a 12oz bottle of chilled Coca Cola. If Coke weren’t available then there was Energee, a flavored milk drink.

As soon as the bell rang announcing the recess, the kids would run as fast as they could to the long hallway outside the classroom where the refreshments were kept, pick one up and drink. We had a friendly bet to see who finished his Coke first (bottoms up if they could!). I used to finish first most of the times. Yes! :-)

Father Oscar succeeded Father Gaiety. Now that I think about it, Father Oscar had a brilliant idea by which he tried to pique the interest of the kids into the hobby of collecting stamps. During the long recess at 1 pm, once a week, he stood at the balcony on the 2nd floor outside his office and throw hundreds of stamps into the air to the kids below, and the kids did their best to catch and accumulate as many stamps as they could. For some years I had picked up this hobby of collecting stamps. I had several hundreds of stamps that I gave to another kid when I grew up.

At the home front, this was the first time that Krish, paati, your thaatha and I began living alone in the apartment that was full of people living as a joint family. Thaatha’s two sisters had been married off and they went to their husbands’ homes, and cuttle appa as you know passed away when I was 3+. Thaatha’s younger brother Ramudu found a job at the same bank as thaatha. Since his office was far away from where we lived, he decided to rent a small apartment near his workplace and moved there with his mother, who was my grandmother.

To be honest, it felt really sad to be without all these people who lived with us, and with whom we had such a great time. But then that is life - keeps moving, keeps changing.

The four of us countered this loneliness at times by doing more and more things together like watching movies, visiting Ramudu at his new place, visiting my relatives, taking more vacation trips, going to the park daily, going to music shows, etc., which was great fun too.

The best times during the year were the Ganpati festival and the Diwali festival. The Ganpati festival is celebrated all across Bombay to bring in the birthday of Lord Ganesha, and also to bring all kinds of people together to get a great sense of community.

We celebrated this festival in the building in a spectacular fashion for 7 days, bringing a 3 foot idol of Ganesha and offering the Lord daily poojas, and lots of food and sweets distributed to whoever came for blessings. There would be music playing on the loudspeakers all through the evening. The whole of Bombay had and still has a festive atmosphere during these 10 days.

We had daily shows that included Veena recitals by the some of the ladies in the building, magic shows, fancy dress shows, singing, etc. Everyone participated.

It was absolute fun. The final day, when the idol was immersed into the sea, was a sad day since everything would come to a standstill, and people would get back to their routine daily life from the next day onwards.

Another occasion during which the whole building came alive was during Diwali (festival of lights, to celebrate the triumph of good over evil). On this day we would wake up very early around 4 am, bathe, and offer prayers to God. We would then wear brand new clothes, and burst lots of firecrackers in our building compound.

My mother, who was a great cook, prepared so many different sweet and savory snacks. Imagine this: early morning at 5 am all the kids from the building, and even some of the adults were down bursting firecrackers, and wishing everyone Happy Diwali in their brand new clothes. After the crackers were done, we would then head to our each of our friends home and wish their family Happy Diwali, and devour any sweets coming our way.

There was exchange of sweets and savory items amongst the women in the building, including exchange of cooking tips, critical judgment of the dishes prepared and exchange of in demand recipes :-). I used to lend a keen ear to all of this.

To top it all off, there was a feast at home usually consisting of onion sambar, roasted spicy potatoes, rice, rasam, papadam, and rice payasam.

A tradition we always maintained on this day was to go see the latest movie in the theater. To this day, there are lot of prominent movie releases around Diwali, a sure fire way to earn revenues for the filmmakers.

Here in the US, mommy and daddy have made it a point to celebrate the above 2 festivals in a grand manner, so you can not only get a good understanding of our culture and our festivals, but also we can all have a great time with all your friends and their families on these occasions.

- Appa