Thursday, September 18, 2008

Gauri comes calling.

When I was a child growing up at 233 Khetwadi Main Road Gauri Pujan used to be an annual occurrence there. It was all celebrated in the spirit of a married daughter of the house coming, after a long absence, to visit her parents for just a couple of days. It was more a social and family occasion than a religious ritual. No priest officiated on the avaahan (arrival), pujan (worship) and visarjan (departure) days. It was the Lady of the House and other womenfolk who did all the honours. I remember my mother and others like an aunt, a cousin, even Ujwal after our marriage collectively placing and arranging the Gauri idol on a huge teakwood bajot set against the west wall of the passageway that divided our terrace flat in half. They all kept mum while they were doing it for what reason I could never fathom. Gauri's special zari saree was stored in its own black tin trunk. Her ornaments were kept in a brass grill-work oblong container with a lid. In my childhood days, my aunt from Khar and her daughters used to come and stay with us for three days. So I, a lonely child most of the time left to my own devices, had some company for a change. Naturally, I used to look forward to Gauri's annual visit. On the second (pujan) day, in the evening, women guests would arrive for darshan and were given prashad (two saffron- and cardamon-flavoured pedhas wrapped in thin transluscent cellophane specially ordered from Damodar Mithaiwala on Grant Road opposite the Novelty Cinema and haldi kunku on the visiting daughter's behalf. It was an almost all-women affair except for a few exceptions made for the immediate family and friends - quite a gala occasion at 233 Khetwadi Main Road as I remember. I was allowed to skip school on that day. For a few years, I even used to have a khelacha (play) Ganapati for ten days. It was a silver idol with its own simhasan (throne) and chhatri (umbrella) and its own set of miniature silver puja paraphernalia all purchased from Mhaskar and Company on Girgaum Road where my mother shopped regularly and even had a charge account. I remember that, on one occasion, I created a miniature zoo with miniature animals, trees and stuff all from our in-house toy collection. On another occasion, it was a toy train on a ghat with a station on one side and so forth. Our second-floor neighbours, an extended Gujarati family, used to worship two Ganapati idols for 5 days. We used to go there for the evening aarati and also hold our own. Gauri ceased calling at 233 Khetwadi Main Road only after the death of my mother.