Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Random Musings

I am nearing retirement. No more extensions of service. Just three months to go and I feel lost already. My workplace doubled up for my social circle and I now realize how much I have drifted away from the Tambrahms in Jamshedpur. I remember the time some twenty five years ago when I would take out the clay figurines from my mother in law's trunk, all wrapped up in newspaper, wipe them clean and arrange them in the shelf of the only bedroom of our modest home and invite neighbors for "golu" during Navaratri. We had quite a few Tamilians in our neighborhood and we'd invite a few Bihari friends as well. It was a simple get together. I would also get invited to Lalitha Sahasranamam Bhajan sessions in the afternoons during Navaratri, 'haldi- kumkum' would be exchanged. We did not have a telephone connection and mobile phones were unheard of. Friends were invited personally with the daughters going from house to house with kumkum containers to extend the invitation. Initially people would be asked to come over on any or all of the nine days of Navaratri but later one restricted the invitation to specific days so that they were free to visit others on the remaining days.

Friends from college were invited home for lunch. We did not own a dining table or fancy cutlery. They gladly squatted on the floor and enjoyed a typical Tambrahm meal, were treated to filter coffee and a stroll in the neighboring park. I suffered no complex or inhibitions and was happy to be just 'myself '.

Then times changed. I decided to pursue my studies and enrolled myself for a Masters program in a local college and my excellent results prompted me to register for Ph.D. The subject of my Ph. D thesis was an annual crop that grew around Navaratri season. Thereafter Navaratri celebrations were shelved and the "golu bommais" - clay figurines that my mother in law had carefully preserved for years and my own addition to the lot each year were shifted to the loft and have remained there ever since we moved to our three bedroom apartment. I still got invited for "golu" but with old friends having left town or relocated elsewhere and not being acquainted with newcomers I seem to know fewer and fewer people. And all this when I can now connect through mobile phones and social/virtual apps.

But that was not the reason. I seemed to be happy socializing with my friends in college and was equally happy to relax at home during the puja break. But this Navaratri I seem to miss my initial days in Jamshedpur. Of course I do my bit by giving gifts of bangles and bindis to little girls in my neighborhood and visiting elderly ladies to seek their blessings. But with modest means I seemed to have derived more satisfaction then, even if it was just "sundal" wrapped in newspaper that I distributed. All the ziplock bags and aluminum foils that I can now afford seem meaningless.

While folding clothes this evening I was in an introspective mood and found myself wondering what I had gained or lost over the years. I hold on to expensive silk saris that I haven't worn in years knowing full well that my children would dump them without a thought. Maintaining them is a responsibility. But each of those are either reminders of the occasion of their purchase or I am reminded of the person who gifted them to me.

I feel that I was perhaps wrong in excluding myself from a social life that involved person to person interaction during festive occasions like Navaratri. This was a tried and tested method that was the lifeline of society and the only method of socializing particularly for women who were mainly homemakers. It also brought out their creativity and one was treated to colorful rangolis, bhajans and of course yummy snacks! I truly want to start organizing " golu" again. I wonder if it's too late in the day to revive the practice. No harm trying isn't it?

Happy Navaratri to all of you!


quaditi said...

Dear Grandmom,
very nice reading...your post reminded me of my mother,.... we were eagerly waiting for her retirement because we wanted her to stay with us whenever possible (not restricted by holidays), wanted her to do things which she could never do because of her demanding career.
I lost her few years before but did not remove a single saree from her almirah..each of them holds memory of her to me..from some sarees I indeed try to smell her...though I stay far away from my hometown but when i go home I try to use those things attached to her..
We may live our workplace/home..but we leave our footprints for others to celebrate your "golu".
Happy Navaratri.

L said...

I retired 3 years ago and it is hard. I do not feel interested in golu and bhajans and am hence a misfit amongst the women around me. However,I do put up a front and attend some of the Lalitha shasaranamam and since I feel the need to reciprocate(that's genuine), I celebrate Saraswati puja by giving vetralai paku to my neighbours. It is tough to find like minded people when you have not cultivated them during your working life, and your work friends are busy when you are free.

Hip Grandma said...

Aditi Halder: glad you make an effort to preserve your mother's memory. It is the best way to honour them.

L: you are right. Having had a fulfilling career, I never ever planned for life after retirement. It was as though I was going to work forever. To intrude into groups that have been formed already, doesn't seem okay. I have an acquaintance who often drives to her workplace instead of the local market on Sundays and holidays and wonders if she would do the same after retirement. I have three months to go before retirement and need to prepare myself for it.

shell said...

Dear Hip Grandma,
Thank you for writing this. I remember golu when my grandma used to live with us in delhi. Later on my mother became busy. Now I reside in Seattle and yesterday my husband ( brought up in Trichy) mused about how we did not do golu and how he misses it. Maybe next year :)

SJ said...

Dear HHG,

Isn't it true that the mobile phones and internet connections connects us to people far away but in reality disconnects us from those surrounding us ! In the era without phones and technology i think we wholeheartedly connected with people around us without any distractions !

Your retirement is golden era HHG, enjoy every bit of it !
Relive your initial style of gollu - just invite as many people as you can and try bringing the yester years magic - again !
Happy Dussera !!!

Hip Grandma said...

Shell: Golu had a special significance when women did not socialise much. Navaratri was an occasion when women would get invited for haldi - kumkum and girl children would be given due importance as " kumaris ". Their creativity and talent was appreciated and recognized. All states of our Indian republic celebrate it in different ways but be it Gujrat or Tamilnadu it was society's way of acknowledging the role of women or rather respecting the soft but strong feminine energy that is so much required to offset the aggressive masculine energy to bring about a balance that is essential for its well being. Women are now much more empowered and those among us who are better placed can now transform the lives of other not so lucky women by including them in our celebrations. For people like you living abroad this may be a means to link you to your roots. So do go ahead and organize 'golu' next year.

SJ: I think I will bring down my mother in law's trunk, dust the clay figurine and organize golu next year instead of sulking and brooding about having drifted away from my tradition. Once I get started it may not get shelved again. Dussera is over so let me wish you a very happy Deepavali!

Sangitha said...

Retirement is irrelevant these days, HHG. It is a space where you can do what you have always wanted to (professionally as well) but were never able to. People who teach are in any case super young - being with students does that to them.

Something tells me that you are going to be pretty busy in your 'retirement' - it is checking out of a job. Only.

I think the whole concept of retirement not required. There is so much to be done, so many people to help, so many ways to contribute - our society is far from being dependent on people who are capable of helping. This concept of not contributing from the early 60s when a person has so much going for them, pretty much at the peak of wisdom, with a better idea of what has been tried and which is a better way to go, seriously?

I hope you show us how retirement can rock!

Sangitha said...

"far from being independent* I meant

Hip Grandma said...

Sangi: I hope I live up to your expectations and do something productive after retirement.

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