Tuesday, October 28, 2014
It's the festival of Chhath. I will miss it of course, for the nth year in a row. I don't even have a count. The festival is now nothing but a tradition of nostalgia that surprisingly doesn't fade but grows stronger with time.
Chhath. A personal festival. Celebrated only in some parts of the country. And yet, it was as if the world celebrated it when we were younger, when we didn't know there was anything different that existed, that there were other cultures, other rights and wrongs, other shades of skin, of light and dark. As I type this, I realize that more often than not, I write nostalgia. And I wonder if this is who I am, if I am really trapped somewhere in the bygone, and then I realize that the present doesn't make me pick up the pen any more. Happiness doesn't make me pick up the pen. Fear and anxiety do. Loss does. Regret does.
Today, families that still manage to be families and get together on Chhath as an annual tradition would have come together. The late arrivers would have arrived today, and would have been teased as work-shirkers who arrived after all the pedakias and the thekuas are made and all the daliyas are prepared. Tomorrow, the day would be spent catching up, playing antakshari, dancing, and fake palm-readings; the children would disappear into their separate worlds with cousins, and wouldn't be found when looked for. Bedsheet tents would be made, ghost stories would be told, crackers would be burnt, fights would be resolved, tears would be wiped, while the fasting members of the family would stand in the river/ pond/ pool and play homage to the setting sun - all in the backdrop of the most melodious Chhath songs streaming from loudspeakers.
Tomorrow night would be a night of anticipations. The kids would hardly sleep for fear of oversleeping and missing the time before dawn. Showers will be taken with cold water in the freezing hours of pre-dawn and the music and the crackers would begin anew. The earthen elephant lamps would be lit to light the darkness and the sun will be awaited. Millions would pray to the rising sun that morning and then would begin the raiding of the dagras with all the food that was not to be touched till now. Children would be warned against having too many Gagar nimbus for the fear of falling sick, so there would be elaborate planning for stealing them, probably involving holding an open bedsheet on the lower floor to catch treats being stolen and dropped from an upper floor. Everyone would chew sugarcane, peeling it with their bare teeth, and the antaksharis and leg pullings would resume.
I would like to believe that this still happens in families. That the large three storeyed houses do not echo with the sound of emptiness. That some of the generations have not disappeared entirely, that people are not so disconnected that they aren't even expected to be part of this tradition anymore.