Friday, September 09, 2016

Bappa : A State of Mind


The city, alive with Ganpatibappas arriving everywhere.

Some, with the building kids skipping along , chanting Ganpati Bappa Morya  with some parent carrying the deity home, lightly covered in the best household silk.

Some, in what look like chariots, emblazoned with the owner's name, escorted with a couple of bands,  drummers, ladies in traditional finery (sometimes on motorcycles) , and general leader types, walking at the head of it all.

Some Housing Society Bappas, on carts , being enthusiastically escorted to halls, where the residents wait to welcome him.

And then there are Bappas, who preside over depictions of society ills, victories of truth over falsehoods, congratulating the Olympic heroes, and recommending Swachh cleanliness as being next to Godliness.  

Ganpati Bappa, admired by people across caste and religion, an opportunity for folks to visit friends and partake of the celebration.

One goes back to one's childhood home in another city , on a visit.

There are more rooms than people there. Some having shifted for traditional reasons, some having flown the nest .  But the walls , chock-a-block with memories

There are childhood memories of Ganpati celebrations in the house, vociferous artis recited along with visiting friends and relatives; you never really sat down and learned the artis; you simply participated and they imprinted themselves in your memory , as you continued to bring clarity to the words as you grew up. The excitement of distributing prasad, evenings when folks gathered and kids recited things , performed dramas, and a whole bunch of small kids giggled behind covered mouths as they observed an elderly aunt singing something classical, and performing difficult taanaas . Someone always glared at them, but  Ganpati Bappa never did.

Then there would  be the day when Bappa would be leaving to return to his own abode. Prayers, artis, prasad , and there would be a Shidori or packed refreshments of Poha, dahi, jaggery etc that would go along with Bappa .

Lots of singing of "Ganpati Bappa Morya, Pudhchyaa warshi laukar ya " , lots of bravado , and a mind , not so happy at the departure of a special guest, Bappa.  A procession winding around the colony, making its way to the well nearby,  a final arti, an immersion, and a quiet return home, with some soil from the immersion site.     

Sometimes , for a moment , strangely one feels like Bappa. 

Once a year, a homecoming.  To a place , where there isn't anyone, but just someone you have known since childhood, who took care of you and assisted in the house. He is almost 80 , and has an amazing memory. You are in touch with him, mostly on the phone, and he never fails to ask about family who stay beyond he seas. Their children and their children's children. You are never at a loss for words and conversation when you meet him.  

There isn't any special decoration, but the walls come alive with old photos on the wall, some huge crossstitch embroidery laboriously done by you as a child, still displayed above a door. And old radio plays AIR , not the commercial version, but the local station; bhaktigeet in the morning, patriotic songs at some point, and assorted  small audio plays and announcements and news.  Like Bappa, you are there only for a day or two, so you do not want to get involved in getting the kitchen fully operational, meals and all. 

The phone rings. Someone has found out one has arrived. Lots of conversation, reproaches, promises made to come later. One also has to make some calls , and for a while the technology rules.

The daughter who has accompanied you for her own activities, take a round of the terrace; your bad back prevents you from rushing up and down with her.   She comes back gushing about the amazing coconut palm, huge colocassia leaves, and a wildly blooming ajwain bush. All nurtured by him .

He busies himself in the kitchen as you get organized for the day. The homecoming demands a home meal, and he looks disapprovingly at the daughter talking bout eating out. He has learned so much from the matriarch of the house , who is no more. For  a while you don't see him, busy as you are with getting refreshed with a wash,  a rest beneath an old creaking  fan , and a quick cup of ginger tea.

An hour later , at the ancient dining table for a simple lunch, steaming plates of rice and a potato rassa as only he can make it; the children of the family , and the children's children, swear by it.

And then he brings out the piece de resistance; the prasad of the day, as it were. 

While we were getting settled in, he has gone to the terrace, plucked a bunch of colocassia leaves, made a stuffing of spiced besan, steamed the colocassia rolls, and is now , having fried them, urging you to taste Aluwadis  अळूवडी, made from home grown ALu अळू or Arbi leaves.

These are special leaves,  he explains, not like the ones you get in the market, which often leave a scratchy feeling in the throat. This is Doodh-Alu , which is never scratchy, and a broken stem generates sweet white sap , hence the name.

There are no words to describe the meal and the Aluwadis अळूवडी. Much urging to have some more. Finish the rassa , he says , because he is "keeping a fast" . 

It isn't just the food.

It's a homecoming like no other.  To an otherwise empty childhood home. A single day  when it all comes back to you. 

An almost  annual visit, sometimes much delayed . But what a homecoming.

You leave the next day .  Full minds, full hearts, full eyes.

Like Bappa, who also stays for 1.5 days.

Like I said, sometimes strangely , for one infinitesmal moment, one feels like Bappa. 

Truly, Bappa is a state of mind ......
 

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