Category: celebration

I see you

I see you

Dear sister,

I know you love festivals, just like every one else. You love to dress up and celebrate and have a house full of friends and relatives.

It’s Rakshabandhan tomorrow and the children are excited as children are wont to be for almost anything at all. The husband is happy too at this break from work, looking forward to spending time at home. The in-laws, ma and papa, love the change in routine. It gives them something to think and talk about for days before and after.

Yet as the day draws close this year, I see your heart sink, just a little bit. You put away the feeling of course, overlook the fact that you really haven’t been feeling your best, dismiss it as the onset of menopause or something similar.

The evening before the festival, the day maid asks for leave. You try to persuade her to stay back, but you do it half heartedly because you know she needs to be home too. You ask her to come in for a little while and have to be grateful for that.

They day dawns, bright and sunny, a trifle humid as rainless August days often are. Soon enough the house is full of sisters across generations, some with their better halves and children in tow.

Amidst happy laughs, rakhis are tied and laddoos eaten. After the ceremony everyone settles down for long lazy conversations. Hot cups of tea arrive and soft drinks do the rounds. ACs are switched on and conversations continue as morning segues into noon.

I see you, dear sister…

……through it all, a smile on your face, that becomes increasingly mechanical as they day grows hotter. I see you readying the puja thalis, making sure the aarti is ready, checking the boxes of sweets. You add some extra rakhis because you know someone will certainly forget to carry their’s. Even as you are counting the gifts one last time you are calling out to the children, making sure they are bathed and ready in their crisp kurta-pajams. The tween tries your patience and the teen is no better.

I see you welcoming everyone, handing out cool glasses of water calling out to the teen to tie the dog because your 4-year-old nephew is scared of him, even as you hug and reassure the little one. Then you’re lighting the aarti, helping through the ceremony. I see you making and serving out those endless cups of tea, remembering precisely who wants it without sugar, who likes it black and who wants it green. You give out cold drinks – a not-so-cold one for the nephew who has a cold, chilled ones for the teens and a Frooti to the one allergic to soda. Oreos for the kids, roasted mixtures for the adults, fruits for the uncle who doesn’t have tea.

Chopping, heating, hugging, smiling, joking – you are at a hundred places at the same time.

‘Why don’t you sit down bhabhi. Take a break,’ says your sister-in-law, ‘Can I do something?’

‘No no, the maid came early and finished the cooking already,’ offers ma. ‘There’s nothing much to do.’

You nod and smile and carry on piling the cups onto the tray. You’re in the living room wiping away spilt juice and wondering when you can get started on the washing up when you hear someone call out, ‘Come on bhabhi, we’re having a family picture. We’re waiting for you.’
‘Come on,’ says the husband, ‘Don’t delay everyone.’

And you’re back, adjusting your smile, looking into the camera surrounded by your family, this family that you made your own.

As the day ends, I see you, waving to the departing guests. ‘It was a good day,’ says the husband. ‘It was,’ you echo, even while your mind is drifting to the sink full of dishes.

Don’t think of them now, dear sister, give yourself a break. I’m not even sure I’m qualified to hand out advice but I hate to see you ignore yourself so. I hate to see you exhausted. Festivals are for you as much as for the rest of the family.

Something is not right if festivals leave you mentally drained and physically exhausted. Click To Tweet

And if no one notices, maybe you have to get them to notice.

Ask for help.

  • Ask the husband to chip in.
  • Take help when the sister-in-law offers.
  • Call out to the tween to fetch and carry.
  • Let the teens get their own drinks.
  • Put them in-charge of the younger kids.
  • Order out.
  • Let the dishes pile up.
  • Eat a laddoo.

This festive season sit, talk, laugh, celebrate so your lips lift up in a genuine smile when it’s time for the family picture.

 

If you, like me are incredibly fortunate to have the freedom to mould celebrations the way you want to, you may think this is entirely a figment of my imagination. I know for a fact, however, that festivals, for scores of women, mean just so much work. And they remain unseen, unappreciated – invisible hands that get things done.

This one is for them.

 

 

Linking up with #Chatty Blogs from Shanaya Tales

A normal birthday

A normal birthday

Amidst the crazy cheers of some twenty children ranging from the ages of 8 to 15 crammed in one small living room, H and N turned eleven this weekend.

This year they were very clear in that they wanted a ‘normal’ birthday party which, according to them, they had ‘never ever had’. The Husband and I were quite lost and if, like us, you are wondering what a normal party is here’s how they explained it to us: It should be at home (groan!). They should be allowed to invite all their friends (double groan!). It should have music and dancing and games, gifts and return gifts – the whole deal. Seriously, I see no signs of these two growing up soon.

Even the Husband, who is exceptionally good at bargaining, couldn’t sway them this time round. The only deal he could strike was that this would be the last of its kind and that at twelve they would really be too grown up to be found playing passing the parcel at their birthday party.

That is how, come Saturday, we pulled out every single birthday cliché to put up a normal party. And it turned out to be as crazy, noisy, chaotic an affair as they come.

While the children and their friends had the time of their lives here’s what I did through those two hours..

Separated bunches of younger ones as they wrestled on the floor
Yelled at the top of my voice to explain the rules of the games
Yelled again to get them organised into teams
Handled charges of cheating from the losing team
Yelled some more to reiterate that my decision was final
Pacified one of the girls when someone shot party snow all over her face
Ran out to get the candles because I had assumed the cake guy would put them in and he didn’t
Lighted the candles on the cake more than once because someone blew them before the birthday girl and boy could get to them
Nipped the cream smearing ceremony in the bud
Made sure the plates were piled with cake, pizza and noodles.

I couldn’t have done it without my ever supportive sis-in-law and my dearest niece. Whew!

Don’t get me wrong, I love to have the children’s friends over and every weekend we have a bunch of them huddled together in their room. That was one reason I started the book club too. However twenty of them together, each in a rowdier frame of mind than the next, is a little beyond me.

Maybe I am just getting old even as the twins show no signs whatsoever of growing up. Oh while on growing up I have to add they did help with the party. They handled the invitations all on their own, from designing to printing and distributing them. During the party, H conducted the games and helped maintain order (when he remembered that he was the host, that is). N gave her inherent diva a rest and played the perfect hostess, passing out the food like a pro and making sure the younger ones were well looked after.

The two of them finally got their heart’s desire – the post party hugs and thank yous were proof enough and that made it all quite worthwhile. Doesn’t it always? As I hugged them close, glad that they were in my life, a part of me was praying they would remember to keep their deal next year.

Linking up with #Chatty Blogs from Shanaya Tales

And with Mackenzie at Reflections from Me

Birthday shopping and strange choices

Birthday shopping and strange choices

 

The twins celebrate their birthday this week and we’ve been out shopping. The thing is, generally I pick out clothes for them on my own. And it works fine for us. We rarely shop together. But come June and they want to choose their clothes for the big day.

I like shopping. Or at least I used to think I liked shopping till I started doing it for the children, with the children. Now I just plain dread it. Do read my previous post on my experience in the mall.

If you’ve read the post and are back here you’ll know how I feel. Of course the children have grown since then however one thing remains the same – my firm belief that shopping and kids do not mix.

But something’s just have to be done. Hence, it is with great trepidation that we set out for the shopping trip and with even greater apprehension that I enter that first store. In the girls’ section we look for a place for H to make himself comfortable. We move onto the dresses the and N likes one almost instantly which I think is borderline over the top – a white frothy concoction with shiny lace. I prefer another one in a slightly muted colour, a lovely colour, if I may add. She tries both. Pictures are promptly dispatched to the aunt who is perceived as the more fashionable one. (Seriously!) She okays the daughter’s choice. I give in, glad to have gotten over with it in the very first store. We keep the dress aside and walk to another floor to look for the son’s clothes.

The salesman shows all kinds of fancy shirts – formal ones, informal ones, jackets, hoodies as also trousers, shorts and what not. He looks at them, rejects most, tries a few then says no to the rest of them too. I want a plain tee, he keeps insisting. The salesman pulls out all kinds of plain tees but they are all rejected. No one can fathom what he wants.

Never mind, I console myself at least one is done. Down we go to pick up N’s dress. And she refuses to buy it. Just refuses.
What if I find something l like better in the next store, she argues.
But there will always be better clothes out there somewhere, I reason. if you like this one, take it.
She digs in her heels, No she says, I want to check out more shops.

So we leave the dress and go on.

We spend an hour and half sorting through scores of clothes in scores of shops with an extremely bored H dragging his feet, disappearing in the lanes and by lanes looking for ‘something to eat’. And then when we would finish with one shop we would have to go looking for him before we entered the next one. He didn’t find any food and nor did we find another dress. So back we go to the same store, pick up the same dress (which mercifully was still there) and we are half way through.

We then head to a nearby mall for a quick lunch. H spots a branded sports store and drags me there. He picks out a jersey set.
This is what I want, says he with absolute certainty.

What? A teeshirt and a pair of shorts? That, by the way, cost way more than the daughter’s dress and don’t look half as as glam.

It’s their birthday, I remind myself, even as the son is saying the same thing on a loop. So we buy the jersey and head home after a good four hours. I’m not complaining though, I’ve been let off relatively easily this year.

Wait for their birthday pictures people – while she will be looking like a frothy concoction out of a fairytale, he is prepared to look his own version of Messy on the football field.

Choices I tell you!

Linking up with Mackenzie at Reflections from Me

I’m in charge of my celebrations

I’m in charge of my celebrations

The twins had a poem by Byrd Baylor in their last unit titled ‘I’m in charge of Celebrations’.
It is about a girl who lives alone in the desert. She’s not one bit lonely, though. She makes  her own celebrations. She celebrates sandstorms, rainbows, meteor showers and whirlwinds. She celebrates whatever makes her happy and writes it down in a little book because she ‘wants to remember it all her life’. “Last year I gave myself 108 celebrations other than the ones they close school for” she says.
Isn’t that delightful?
Here we are, living in a wonderfully vibrant country that embraces all kinds of people and gives us hundreds of real reasons to celebrate. However, we’re so constricted by the narrowness of our own minds that we’d much rather give it all a miss. We’d rather go out and mess up other people’s celebrations, or make fun of them, or label them anti national or post caustic updates on our Facebook and twitter feeds.
We’d rather celebrate hate than love.
With Valentine’s Day round the corner the debate of ‘should we shouldn’t we’ is sure to come up yet again. How about we let everyone be in charge of their own celebrations? And get busy planning our own. Just for a change, maybe?
Meri wali Diwali

Meri wali Diwali

Diwali to me has always meant being home. No matter where I worked, no matter how much the work pressure, Diwali would see me braving crowded trains, sometimes sitting through the entire 26 hour journey, to my parents.
Home, now is with the Husband and kids. The celebrations aren’t the same too. Just as much fun, but in a different way.
I clean (yeah I do that sometimes) and so do the kids. We buy pretty knick-knacks. N begins to think up rangoli designs way in advance and H always makes a late entry and wants to make one too. The diyas are bought, washed, dried and painted. The large ceremonial pot is cleaned and filled with water ready for flowers and floating candles. Gifts for dear friends are picked with care and are kept wrapped and ready. I go hunting for Ganesh-Lakshmi idols. In this part of the country solo Lakshmi idols seem to be the norm but back home the two gods were inseparable. For years I thought Ganesh and Lakshmi were a couple, wondering where Vishnu ji fitted in the whole picture!
Lunch that day is frill-free because cooking is not my forte. I try to stick to what I can handle – large chunks of paneer in tomato gravy, potatoes fried a golden brown, hot puffed puris and soft dahi wadas with tamarind-jaggery chutney. Basic stuff but it works for us. I make up by laying out the table as prettily as I can with my best china. Oh I also have the mandatory jimikand that makes your tongue tingle crazily but is must-have on Diwali lest you be reborn as a chhuchhundar
The husband fusses round putting up the lights and then goes mithai shopping with the kids. He completely forgets that he’s a diabetic and buys much more than we can consume. I pretend to be angry but I don’t really mind because I know we’ll be sick of them before the week is through.
In the evening we set out the idols and the silver coins, the flowers and the diyas. After we light the diyas we have a small puja ending with an aarti. I gave up most of the other rituals because I don’t have a knack for them. I simply cannot remember them all and I got tired of calling up my mom every year. I do try though, because it would be a pity if H and N lost touch with all that’s traditional.
After the puja we carry the diyas and place one in each of the rooms, with the hope that our home and our lives are forever lit up with their radiance. Then we’re off to visit friends, exchange mithais and gifts and watch the fireworks.
Later at night, we switch off all the lights and sit amidst the flickering  diyas and twinkling lanterns. We watch as the skies light up periodically in a shower of fireworks with H and N flitting from window to window calling out to come ‘see this one’. 
It is truly beautiful.
That is what I am grateful this festive season – that I can celebrate Diwali exactly the way I want. I love that I have complete liberty to weed out all I don’t like – the must-be-done-cooking, the craziness of spring cleaning, the long drawn out puja, the mandatory gifting – all of those things that stress me out and make me not want to celebrate at all.
That leaves me with only the good parts, surrounded by the warmth of family and friends, and makes me welcome Diwali with all my heart, just how it should be.

What’s your Diwali like? What are are the things you’ve done away with or added on?

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