Let me begin with wishes for a very happy Navarathri and Eid to all of you. Festivities being part of the Indian scene getting in and out of shops has been a tiring experience. Not that I am a great shopper but getting a hair band for my scanty hair took me nearly half an hour what with enthusiastic teenaged girls crowding the ladies corner picking out make up kits and accessories to deck themselves for the pujas. I found myself sorely missing my grand daughters who have just begun to understand what it means to own bangles and stuff. That reminds me. I happened to look at a photograph taken soon after I finished my 11th standard boards. I could hardly recognize the teenager looking back at me. She had worn danglers (Jhumkas) and a ‘mattal’ to support ear rings that would pass off for mini plates and a vertical line instead of the round bindi I normally sport these days. I really wonder if I was really that crazy and if I was indeed so when did my teenage enthusiasm die? Be that as it may Navarathri is the time when girls are given special treatment. For my part I did my bit for the girls mentioned in my previous post and escorted a handicapped friend Prema to visit a friend of hers whose husband is recuperating after a mild stroke that had him hospitalized for a week or so. And again the visit took me back to the days when I had just arrived at Jamshedpur and we all lived in the same locality. Prema’s family has done for me that which I need several more births to ever repay.
My mother in law was seriously ill and bed ridden. She was forbidden the intake of more than 5 gms of salt per day and her kidneys were failing. Being diabetic she would be constantly hungry and with 2 small children I’d be at wits end unable to cope with her demands for spicy (forbidden) food. Prema’s mother was a friend of my mother in law and the dear lady would say that since she cooked early for her husband who left for work at 8 in the morning I could come over to her place anytime to pick up stuff for my mother in law. I’d sometimes knock their door at 6.30 in the morning and come back with steaming hot food.
“V was not always like this” she’d say referring to my MIL. “It is her illness that is making her act strange. You think she’d eat all of it? She’ll probably just taste a bit of it for a change and refuse the rest. Don’t worry about anything. You can come over anytime.”
To her credit I must add that she never discussed all this with anyone nor did her children, Prema included, question the reason behind my early morning visits. In fact Prema doesn’t even remember any of it now. But I have not forgotten the favor. It was like having my mother close by. My mother in law was also completely at ease about my contact with the family. She knew that T mami (Prema’s mother) would never set me against her. There were times when I’d have a complaint or two against my MIL. Her advice would be the same.
“Don’t bother about her outbursts. She’ll cool down by the time you go back. Do you think she’d have spared P (my SIL)? She is one person who is the same within and without. You’ll soon understand.”
True, my MIL was like a pressure cooker releasing steam from time to time. One had to understand the soft interior behind the tough exterior and T mami helped me see it.
I don’t know why I am reminded of my younger days so much these days. I lost a dear cousin to cancer. She was younger to me by a year and the first leaf to fall from the branch that sprung from my mother’s side of the family tree. She is mourned among others by her 82 year old mother. She was in great pain and has perhaps found liberation in death. We shared a childhood together spending our vacations in Gobi at my grandfather’s place. Her mother was an inspiration to me with a balanced temperament and uncomplaining nature. Those were days when parents generally let children run wild during vacations – no special treatment or attention. Anyone who was free would feed the children and one would fall asleep on mats spread out in a common hall. I wonder why the current generation of young mothers are so protective about their children.
My child won’t eat this or that……….
My son is an angel he’d never start a quarrel…….
My son won’t get sleep unless the AC is on……..
When we were young and up to mischief, anyone including the servant could scold us and our mothers would go about their work as if nothing had happened. They interfered only if there was a danger of children hurting themselves during a quarrel and the maximum punishment inflicted would be to withdraw the culprit from the scene. Never mind who started the quarrel. But we were happy as long as we got to enjoy ourselves.
Is this over protective attitude due to the fact that we have smaller families and more time in hand, thanks to modern gadgets? Or is the affordability in terms of money and means having a negative impact on inter personal relationships? Does one feel the necessity to flaunt one’s status in life even to one’s own parents and siblings? I am only generalizing but there seems to a subtle change taking place in society and the next generation of children may perhaps tend to be more self centered and uncaring and this will not be good in a society where the divide between the rich and poor is increasing by the day.
To conclude, I may add that almost all festivals are celebrated to denote the triumph of good over evil. Different reasons are quoted for celebrating Navarathri. Devi Mahatmiyam says that even with the combined strength of all the gods and demi gods, it took a long drawn war before Shakthi won the battle against Mahishasur, a demon. Ram led a battle against Ravan and ultimately defeated him. Demons are vanquished and justice prevails is the message. Even Gods could not accomplish it in a day. Corruption, terrorism, caste differentiation, communalism, avarice, dowry menace, female feticide and unhealthy competition are some of the demons that damage our social structure. We may not be able to change the world. Why not begin with changing ourselves and inculcate the value of community life in our children? They need to be sensitized by parents and no time is better than the present time. Let us begin right away. Happy Navarathri!