Saturday, September 30, 2006

First day in school.

I cannot quite recall if I went to school the very first time on a Dashera or a Gudi Padwa. It seems likely it was the latter because it happens to be the New Year Day according to the calendar (Nirnaysagar) the Mankars used to follow in those days. My first school was Sirdar High School, 12th Khetwadi Lane, not even two minutes’ walking distance from 233 Khetwadi Main Road. I remember being taught to write the first letters of the Devanagari alphabet (‘Shri’, ‘Ga’, ‘Ne’. ‘Sha’ that together spell Ganapati's name, a synonym for ‘auspicious beginning’) on a writing tablet made of proper slate and set in an off white or light brown wooden frame. I say ‘proper’ because soon afterwards all we could find in the market were faux slates with a tin writing surface. After writing my first lesson on the slate, I was asked to keep it in front of the family devghar (literally ‘home of the deities’) and bow down to it. In our devghar, there were pictures of our family deity (Maheshwari) as well as Rama with Sita and all his brothers, Vithoba and Rakhma and Shri Dattatraya, apart from a Shivalingam. Also, Gudi Padwa was the day my mother used to have erected a Gudi, a sort of an improvised flag made of a silken saree and adorned with a long garland of saffron coloured marigold flowers and mango leaves, to herald the New Year. On Dashera, people used to worship implements or tools of one’s trade. For instance, our car used to be garlanded and worshipped with all reverence and, later on, even my portable typewriter. Not a bad idea, I reckon, considering they help us to lead our lives and do our work a bit more easily and comfortably. And, though, I worked for an ad agency run by the Bhadralok Mafiosi for 11 years, 7 months and 4 days, &, I never managed to visit Calcutta or experience Durga Puja which in our part of India is celebrated as Navaratri (literally 'Nine Nights') culminating in Dashera.

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