This is the time of the festival of Navaratri, nine nights as it is called in South India, and Dasara as it is called in the North. The goddess in every form is celebrated, and in the south, women and girls are especially honored as depicting the goddess. They are given gifts, bangles, bindis, and everyone wears silk. There are elaborate rangoli designs in colored rice flour outside the house and the waft of jasmine and betal leaves floats by in the house, along with chundal – a traditional lentil dish with cocount made every evening with different types of lentils and beans each day.
Living in the states, I have sporadically celebrated this festival in small ways – making a sweet dish, wearing something nice etc. Since my husband isn’t super traditional and we don’t usually have time off, there isn’t much of a motivation. Usually, the indian community hosts a celebration but I have been to it only once in the past decade of living here. This year, at the last minute, I decided we should go – Anjali and I. So I pulled out our indian clothes from the trunk and we dressed up the way I did as a child, wearing bangles, bindis and beautiful clothes, me a saree and Anjali a salwar suit.
Get there we did – and Anji loved the ‘music time’ and danced and jumped up and down as garba music played on the speakers. (Garba is a dance from the North, especially for this festival where men and women dance going around in a big circle). She wore a black tunic embroidered with gold and maroon and looked like a small goddess herself. We even went around the circle a couple of times dancing together mother and daughter. We had to leave early for bed time, but just to see her dressed up in indian outfit was worth the trip, that along with seeing some dear friends.
I’m going to indian celebrations and making halloween costume (never done that before in my ten years in this country!) for my little one. I never cease to be surprised by what motherhood brings.
Wishing you beauty, peace and light-filled days and nights,
…after a three week journey to India with little nine month old Anjali and hubby.
As we all settle in, my thoughts keep returning back home, the lovely memories and hearts captured by our little one. Babies have such a wonderful way of meeting change – with wonder and openness and without comparing or judging. At each juncture, Anjali surprised us with her way of adapting to the newness of the situation and making the most of it. Like the heat of Chennai and the humidity of Mumbai. The airports and security checks and air travel. New places and new homes. One incident that comes to mind was when we went to a temple and Anjali was to be weighed in a large scale so that we could donate equal measure of rice. We were sure she was going to say, she had had it! She had just woken up from a short nap. Instead she sat on the scale, gave us a big smile, and proceeded to examine the chains with which the scale was held with great curiosity. It was a kodak moment!
What also surprised me was how calm and patient I was through all this, traveling with Anjali. I was traveling alone on our way back, since Abhi had returned earlier. And I found that she and I had this amazing connection where we were in sync with each other. She would turn to me, with each change, to check in and see my response. And if it was an okay, she was okay too! Witnessing that and being on the receiving end was a precious gift. That is in addition to seeing my parents and Abhi’s parents as grand parents, and realizing how amazing they were!
Returning back home has its own set of challenges and wonders. Its nice to be settled back at home again at the end of a long journey. Its also hard because we miss what we had, the love and convenience of having family around. So yet again, we face life in all of its uncertainties and changes. And as our hearts learn to make their way to equanimity, I can’t help feeling grateful for everything that comes our way. The changes that force us to grow and respond in wiser ways, and how we learn something about ourselves in the process. May this learning continue, with love and kindness…
Thanksgiving weekend. without planning to, I found myself face to face with gratitude.
We spent the thanksgiving holiday in Boston, a city vacation. not my favorite kind, but a last minute deal and not wanting to face the vagaries of travel, this was a perfect getaway, a bus ride away. mostly it rained, and we walked. Thinking that I could lose all the calories from the desserts by walking everywhere, I told my hubby that Boston was a ‘walking city’. and he acquiesced. so we walked everywhere in the rain! not the best thing to do, an adventure nonetheless. we mused on indian food and its myriad plays with the digestive system 🙂 we toured the John F. Kennedy Presidential museum, inspired by his speeches and the time. We went shopping on Newbury street and ate Thai food. We laughed at a crazy hindi movie called dhe dhana dhan and stopped ourselves from wondering why we were watching the movie in the first place. we ate kulfi made by my sister. a wonderful massage at the spa nearby was just what I needed.
In all the fun, gratitude didn’t play a major part. I knew we were having a good time, and I was grateful, don’t get me wrong. but it was a forced kind of gratitude. the sort you tell yourself you feel, but mostly you take for granted. On the final day, we were shopping for a winter coat for me. and we found a beautiful royal blue one. really gorgeous. and bought it. after paying a hefty amount, and back outside, I wondered how I could spend this insane amount of money on a coat when so many had none. so many people had no food, and here I was nonchalantly buying a coat. did I really need it ? more than that, I found myself asking, did I deserve it ? what gave me the right to own this and not those thousands out there who are poor ? It didn’t feel good. I was walking along musing when suddenly it hit me. gratitude. I looked at my shoes, waterproof that they were. coat in my hand. scarf on my neck. warm. and I said a silent thank you. thank you. at this moment, I’m grateful. to be warm and dry. and know I have my next meal. thank you.
This week was amazing – a memorable one in my life. I must have done something pretty good in previous lifetimes! – I got to see Pt. Ravi Shankar play live in concert. and not just see and hear him, but do so sitting in the front row. It was something I would never have imagined to happen.
Seeing him play was witnessing the intimacy between a musician and his music. the intimacy, the connection, the joy. Rumi says in his poem called ‘fierce courtesy’:
‘The connection to the Friend
is secret and very fragile.
The image of that friendship
is how you love, the grace
and delicacy, the subtle talking
together, in full prostration,
outside of time.’
Witnessing this friendship is a gift that softens the heart. and time stops. in certain moments of his playing Khamaj, something happened in my heart for which there are no words. There seemed to be such joy in his being as if he was but an element through which divine grace in the form of music was happening. you knew there were no words to describe the experience, when a 7 year old behind me came out in the front and clapped voraciously 🙂 there are no words to describe music!
intimacy is such a gift. this intimacy with ourselves, with what passes through us, from us, to us…it is a beautiful thing worth practicing for. when we can know our thoughts, our ideas, our physical sensations, our emotions first-hand, when we can sit there on the front seat and be with our experiences in life, we go beyond being present. therein is grace and beauty. compassion. creation. As a wonderful friend of mine reminded me, we create in every moment, when we participate and connect to our experience. we may not create like Pt. Ravi Shankar, but we can experience that joy nevertheless 🙂
may we have the profound compassion needed to show up for what is, accept and embrace things as they are.
I’m just returning after a beautiful vacation in the Caribbean. Standing on the sandy beach, listening to the ocean, the blue waves crashing into nothingness, the blue skies, the breeze on my skin, I could not help but think that this was divine intervention.
This vacation was nothing like anything we had done before. For one, it had happened spontaneously. just deciding we needed time together and doing it – without the usual rationalization and analysis and picking the right deal. Taking the window of time that suddenly seemed to be available, and going for it. The first day I was there, my mind tried to find various reasons for why I need a vacation. and suddenly, as I caught my mind doing its act, all of these reasons fell away.
There didn’t have to be a reason to go on vacation. It was okay to have a good time. It was okay to take time out. and most importantly, it was fine to just be. without worrying about it.
what a relief! This allowed life to happen. I had the most amazing time in the Paradisus Resort in Punta Cana. The most friendly people I have met. the warm weather. the feel of the cool water. in the company of the man I loved.
And as I step back into normal life, I can see why they call vacations, a recharging of the batteries. you don’t even realize that your batteries need recharging till it happens. and when they do get charged, how different it feels.
My gratitude to the divine intervention. may it happen more often 😉
christmas vacation of 2008. holidays. one of the loveliest times of my life has been these past few days. times of acceptance. happiness. celebration. and above all love.
Daalu and I were in NYC over Christmas. the first few days were tumultous for me – it always is-as I get accustomed to any new surroundings. and then I learnt the lesson of letting go. of surrendering to the care and love of another. so often we want to do things right. be perfect. want our vacations to be perfect. somewhere in the time in NYC – I had the reckoning that no matter what I am perfect or not – this vacation was going to memorable.
that is the thing about vacations and trips. the fact that you are making the trip itself is so special – that no matter what you do – or don’t do – it will be a celebration, an event that will bring wonderful memories when you look back at it.
I am proof of this. we had a great time in New York. But by the time we were in NYC for 3 days, I was ready to say quits to the noise – the lights – the constant stream of thousands of people walking the street. the very things that excited me the first day in NYC. My body hurt from all the walking and the sheer energy of the city was starting to get exhausting. and yet, when we were back at home – I was already fondly looking back at our days together. it had been lovely. and we made it lovely by simply being there. showing up. :).
the title is so apt for our time together. Daalu and I were constantly trying to please each other and do things for one another. finally, we had to realize that the supreme joy we could give each other was simply by being ourselves. neither of us expected anything from one another than to be. it was a joy to realize that all over again :).
The first couple of days, I was obsessing about what next to do – where to go – how to do everything. that I forgot that the beauty of our vacation was not in the place we were visiting. it was in the company. in each other. and then was that moment of eureka – when I stopped living in my head – and really saw what was staring me in my face. the love of the man of my life.
life is so humbling! we relearn the lessons we have already learnt, over and over again. and every time there is something touching about it. about the human spirit and its capacity for love.
may our hearts expand in love and may we pay attention to life as it is right now. in all of its wonders. and may this year bring happiness and joy to everyone.
with love, S.