Snapshots of Deepavali

And finally the day is here  – Diwali, also known as “Deepavali’ – The Festival of Lights.

On this historic day, Lord Rama vanquished the evil King Raavan, and returned triumphantly to Ayodhya. And in honour of this occasion, all of India celebrates it by cleaning out their homes, lighting lamps and being decked out in their finery.

There are pujas at homes and offices, gifts are exchanged, houses are decorated with lamps and lights  – kind of like the Christmas for Hindus.

Here are some pictures I snapped of Deepavali around me –

Prep for Puja
Prep for Puja
Puja at Office
Puja at Office

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Sweets after Puja

Gift Box from Office
Gift Box from Office
Dryfruits

Finally…The Garden City

After a rather uneventful New Year and a journey across 2 states, we have reached our destination – The Garden City.

When we arrived 2 months ago for a spot visit, the place was freezing, and it was raining all the time. This time when we arrived, the weather was much better and it has actually been warm. However, during the past few days, the thermometer has been threatening to go downhill and it there is a cold breeze most of the time.

There was a very interesting incident the other day. We are staying with my cousin and his wife and they don’t have a parking spot for their car. So, they (and around half the neighbourhood) park their vehicles along the kerb in front of their apartments.

Now, this area is stuffed with people of a certain region, who are among the most affluent and powerful around here. In order to spare the feelings of any who belong to this group, I will call them simply by the code name – “The Rudes”. Head Rude

A Rude family lives opposite our apartment and my cousin parked his car by their to the left of their home. the car was neither blocking their gate, nor was it bothering them in any other way. However, the Head Rude wanted the car to be removed, because, he claimed that the spot was his (as if the Government has given him the deed to the road) as all the surrounding area belonged to him. Therefore, he wanted the right to park anywhere that he chose. Cousin politely told him that he had no right to say that the road belonged to him. However, Cousin also said that he was willing to remove the vehicle if it bothered him so much.

CarBut nooooooo, the Head Rude would not be pacified. He wanted a fight, and what followed was a one-sided slanging match. The Head Rude, in spite of being told that the car would be removed, persisted in threats to call the Police and have the car towed away. Fed up with the guy, Cousin walked away 3 or 4 times after telling him to stuff it and do whatsoever was in his power. Each time, he would call back Cousin with some other infuraiting comment. And the best part was that, Head Rude was standing in his balcony and shouting out the threats, and didn’t even deign to come down (he probably feared that he wouldn’t be able to go back in a single piece if he came down).

Things began to get out of hand when Head Rude started calling names, again, in spite of being told that the car would be removed (I wonder what on earth was bugging him!). The neighbours started entering the fray and siding with Cousin. Finally, some relatives of the Head Rude pulled him away from the scene and apologised and politely asked Cousin to remove to car.

Placated, Cousin decided to move the car and parked it elsewhere.

Epilogue: Later in the evening when Cousin and Hubby went out, Head Rude came down from his Tower, and uttered a single word – “Saaaarrrry”*

*meaning Sorry in local dialect 🙂

Christmas Nostalgia

The smell of freshly baked cakes in the nipping air…..the sound of pealing bells…..the merry chatter of playing kids….these are all part of the special memories of Christmas.Christmas Cake

The word ‘Christmas’ is synonymous with happiness, holidays and cakes.

ExamsIn school, teachers would be in a hurry to finish off the portions for the Christmas exams, so that the kids don’t say that the questions were out of syllabus. Half-Yearly exams were conducted in the third week of December and we kids would be in a frenzy to be done with them. Because, after that would begin one of the most glorious holidays of the year, the 10-day Christmas vacations 🙂

At home, Mom would be busy finishing off the baking and cooking, while we  clamoured to get a Christmas Star hung in front of the house, and start work on the Crib and Tree.Xmas Crib

Another highlight of Christmas was the arrival of cousins and the amount of time we spent exploring the paddy fields, discovering hitherto unknown nooks and niches. Since we live in God’s Own Country, we don’t have any snow (maybe God prefers tropical climates like we have here). However, being December, the weather is slightly colder during the evenings and early mornings.

Xmas Star

These are memories from 15 years ago. For various reasons, it has been at least 6 years since I made a Crib or decorated a Xmas tree from scratch. Now that Baby has arrived in our midst, I would love to make a magical Christmas for him next year, when he is one year old. Till then, I will have to make do with borrowed Christmases at my relatives’ homes.

Thanksgiving Day across Cultures

Thanksgiving DayOh….it is Thanksgiving Day today in the United States. Or so my calendar proclaims. That set me thinking……how did the custom of Thanksgiving originate? Is it exclusive to the United States or are there such customs the world over? For that matter, what are the Americans giving thanks for when they celebrate Thanksgiving?

I donned my Google hat and started searching the term ‘Thanksgiving Moon cakesorigins’. One of the first answers that caught my eye was ‘Celebrated first by the Pilgrims at Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1621′. So Thanksgiving is in remembrance of the Pilgrims arriving safely on the North American continent. This was celebrated in December. However, later a Government proclamation decided that Thanksgiving ought to be celebrated on the fourth Thursday of every November.

Then I found the Wikipedia entry for Thanksgiving – “The Thanksgiving Bountyprecise historical origin of the holiday is disputed. Although Americans commonly believe that the first Thanksgiving happened in 1621 at Plymouth, Massachusetts, there is some evidence for an earlier harvest celebration by Spanish explorers in Florida during 1565. There was also a celebration two years before Plymouth (in 1619) in Virginia. There was a Thanksgiving of sorts in Newfoundland, modern-day Canada in 1578 but it was to celebrate a homecoming instead of the harvest.”

Well now…that makes one thing clear – The Americans have still not agreed on why they celebrate Thanksgiving.

However, after reading up on the subject, it seems that Thanksgiving is on a parallel with the PongalHarvest festivals in many parts of the world, all of which are intended to thank the deities for the bounty showered on them. India has different festivals for celebrating harvests – Pongal, Onam, Holi are all harvest fetes in different parts on India. Samhain is a traditional Celtic festival for celebrating fertility. The ancient Romans celebrate the festival called Cerelia dedicated to Ceres, the goddess of grain. The wine-loving Greeks also had two festivals dedicated to Demeter and Bacchus, gods of grain and wine, to make sure that they had a good harvest of grains and grapes. The Chinese have the festival of the Harvest Moon where they traditionally distribute moon cakes.

Thanksgiving is inherent in humans – the need to be thankful to some higher power. Life itself is a blessing and celebrating it and giving thanks is the purpose of celebrating Thanksgiving Day once a year. Though known by different names across different cultures worldwide, I sincerely hope we never forget the custom of giving thanks for blessings received.