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All of us missed having these girls over for the festival, but was this feeling more for them, or for our rituals which we felt had been incomplete?
On the occasion of Kanjak pooja yesterday, a group of childhood friends met online and came up with this surprising discussion.
The WhatsApp group had been really active last few days, and today everyone was pinging with the same question “What plans?” “How are you celebrating?”
The last week had been unusually dull when you compared it to the excitement that this occasion brought every year.
She wasn’t sure if she was disappointed though. The elaborate decorations and celebrations seemed dated over the years, and with age, she often found them tiresome. Still, the rituals were important, as they often are, more for those performing them than for those they are intended for….
This year, however, was different, with no scope for festivities or functions. The WhatsApp chat, however, had helped to lift the mood.
They went back a long way, this girl gang of theirs, having traversed childhood, friendship, and sisterhood. Now their bonds were even stronger, as they usually are when we begin to find ourselves and be more comfortable with ourselves. She reflected how they were all different, with radically different strengths, interests and even beliefs; yet they always came together like parts of the whole. Such was their understanding and consideration for each other, that they all became each other’s strengths.
She knew each one had been busy last week, but everyone had taken the time to connect and share the events and their highlights. It warmed her heart and reinforced her belief that this fast paced world sometimes kept one away from the people and things that were most important
The lockdown and completely altered the scenario at home, and had been challenging even for an accomplished and acknowledged multi-tasker like her, and she hadn’t had time to reply to many of the messages.
Why not have a Zoom call for all of them? Just 10 minutes because she knew everyone had their own craziness going on! It would be great to have all of them in the same frame, if not in the same room.
The idea was an instant mood booster and everyone agreed to log in in an hour.
An hour later, she had quickly finished with the signature traditional breakfast. She did feel pampered by everyone’s attention, even though she realized that even today the cleaning up would be her job, as there was no help. Everyone at home had remarked how they missed the usual visitors and activity, and had tried to compensate and make the day extra special.
As everyone came online, it was as if the years melted and the woes and gloom of the present did not exist. All nine of them, finally in one frame!! They were chattering again like a bunch of girls, everyone speaking at the same time.
“What are you wearing for this special day?”
“How have all of you been? “
“So, missing the chatter of the kids in the morning rituals?”
“How is the lockdown progressing?”
“Muted celebration this time?”
She laughed. It was difficult to keep up with everyone
Once the initial excitement of seeing everyone had died down, she thanked everyone for remembering her at this special and auspicious time of the year, and especially today.
“You know girls, it has been a muted week, but it did give me a chance to reflect on how we some times complicate events and days with rituals and processes.… Yes, we look forward to celebrations and I did miss being the star of the show for a while! But then I realized, this year, there was no noise pollution disturbing those who were unwell, there was no plastic waste generated from packaging and decorations. The disposable plates and cutlery that fills garbage bins had disappeared. The frenzy that leaves me exhausted had been replaced by a leisurely pace.”
She knew they were with her; they always knew when she was in her contemplative mood.
“Also, I realized that I used the peace to introspect about what this time of the year meant to me. Honestly, for the last few years, I had been feeling restless. We do this ceremony every year and look out for young girls to invite as the chief guests; then we give them gifts and pay obeisance to them. The next day, we are back to our lives of privilege, redefining the distance between them and us. Wouldn’t it better if we genuinely took up an aspect of their lives that would make a difference? Like, pledge to pay for education of just one of them? Educate them about menstrual hygiene? Speak to them about their concerns and limitations? Empower them in any way?”
This year, especially, my privilege made me feel hypocritical. While we were locked into our lives of abundance, the poor and marginalized had been locked out of their lives itself. All of us missed having these girls over for the festival, but was this feeling more for them, or for our rituals which we felt had been incomplete?
This situation where we are challenged by an unseen lethal virus and are forced to stay home has definitely brought with it the realization that we are advantaged in our affluence. Would this realization not be humbug if it didn’t bring empathy along with it?
As she had expected, Durga found everyone agreeing with her sobering thoughts. Parts of a whole, they were, after all, she smiled
As and when we find ourselves returning our usual routines, what I would really like is that everyone remembers how we celebrated the festival, without compromising on its essence, yet without pomp and show and hype.
Can we try to make this minimalist way of celebrating a way of life? Is it too optimistic to hope to extend this to other festivals??
And, if we all explore, even one small way in which to make a difference in the lives of the girls we look for and pray to on this day, we would have done our bit; and the heavens above will shower everyone with their blessings.
Image source: Shutterstock
Shalini is an author and a practicing doctor specializing in respiratory pathology.
Her book Stars from the Borderless Sea (2022) was longlisted for the AutHer Awards 2023 (Debut category).
Shalini was awarded a Jury Appreciation read more...
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