So it’s festival time at last and the season has been kicked off with Navratris, also known as The Hunger Games.
A dandiya tent has been put up in our building. Somewhere close, a Ravan effigy is being installed only to be blasted 10 days later. Tam-Bram friends are sharing articles on ‘This Golu design will blow your mind!” Falguni Pathak’s posters are all over the city. Ghagra Cholis and ‘no-onion-no-garlic food packets are flying off the shelves. And all the non-vegetarians have hung up their cleavers and duly given up meat eating for 9 days.
Infact, I didn’t even know today was the first day of the festival. But thankfully my broker from Gurgaon sent me a ‘Jai Mata Di! Happy Navratri’ Whatsapp message with a gazillion icons; lest I sin.
This is one of the strangest festivals of our country.
And thats a huge feat considering our country is full of bizarre, unexplained, illogical rituals, which in my opinion have been created by ancient economists simply to promote consumerism.
Consider Rakhi for instance. I get symbolism I really do. But hordes of sisters thronging to their brother’s houses to tie a thread on their hands only creates traffic jams, not a strengthened bond of love. Seriously woman, get insurance if you’re so keen to be protected. Learn Taekwondo. Get a guard dog. Anything is bound to work better than a thread with a sandalwood button or a Doraemon stuck on top of it!
And of course there’s Diwali. Which apart from the Rangoli and Diyas for me is a complete nuisance. People make lists of who gave what last year and then pack gifts of equivalent value + inflation to ‘make it respectable’. Careful cross referencing is done so that you don’t end up sending your boss the same gift he sent you last year. Or make sure you remove all visiting cards packed inside the gifts (dammit) before recycling and gifting it to someone else. And then there are the crackers which are burst at 3 a.m for their melodious sounds and can make anyone jump out of their skin, forget the poor strays.
But wait. The icing on the cake has to go to Karwachauth. Or better known as the ‘Stay Hungry Stay Foolish’ festival (Steve had a good hunch about this!). No husband lives longer if you eat lesser. Not connected. At all. And while I’ve done this myself for 3 years (lowering eyes in embarrassment), I’m pretty sure I’ve realised that a hungry, hypoglycaemic wife will definitely reduce the lifespan of her husband, not lengthen it.
So back to the Hunger Games.
I live on the 6th floor of my building and for the past week, every single time I’ve taken the elevator, I;ve come across at least one person asking the other ‘Aur, 9 din poore fast rakh rahe ho na aap?’ to which some of those respondents said ‘Nahi, main to sirf first aur last day karti hoon, can’t handle it, bahut acidity ho jaati hai!’
I hear this, take a big gulp of air and wait for my floor to come desperately.
My next door neighbours too have been on a eat-meat-while-you-can spree. Well this is India and I understand if you want to polish off that unidentifiable piece of meat in your freezer before you’re mauled to death. But doing that everyday, thrice a day, because of a self-imposed ban on healthy eating has got to be bad your digestion, no?
I come from an all veg family, so basically we don’t cook any meat at home, only eat it everytime we eat out. And let me tell you, its not easy avoiding those judgemental aunties as you order your chicken momos on the 3rd day of Navratri! They look at you in disgust, mumble something about ‘western culture’ and go back to forwarding that awful sexist joke on Whatsapp.
Heck, but thats going to happen only if you find non-veg anywhere, right. Most restaurants show religious restraint (ahem) and stop serving butter chicken, replacing it instead, with No-Onion-No-Garlic Butter Paneer. And here in Mumbai, the grocers take one step ahead and stop stocking eggs during the 9 days. Guess will have to make belief with Tarla Dalal’s Trick Paneer Egg recipe till then!
Navratri for us, all through our childhood used to be watching the elders of the house go on a 10 day crash diet, to be followed with binge eating of fried, fatty carbs, a.k.a, ‘vrat ka khana’ – as a result, no one ever complained. (Brownie points to early proponents of Hindu culture who started the tradition of buying the non-believers with rich, yummy, fatty food).
Food aside, there is Dandiya, ancient India’s answer to Tinder and I really don’t need to say what happens in this annual congregation of backless cholis.
My favourite though has to be Ramlila. Nothing can beat 20 bad actors on a garish set with a terrible sound system. The drama of Surpanakha’s nose chopping is just brilliant as is the abduction of the clearly clueless Sita. The icing on the eggless cake though, has to be the burning of Ravan and his cronies. It’s almost therapeutic to watch them burn. Just replace his 10 heads with the faces of 10 people you hate the most and you’ll find yourself passionately cheering on Ram as he makes his aim.
All in all, a pretty fun 9 days lined ahead of us all.
Wish you all a Happy Navratri. 🙂