These trees stood guard to the entrance of our village in Kerala since the beginning of my memory. Like old friends they've watched the seasons pass and, I suspect, shared many anecdotes between them.
The banyan tree in the image is estimated to be two centuries old. My brother and I, in our childhood, had the pleasure of holding on to its roots and swinging back and forth. Laughing, falling, crying, and then getting back up to repeat the cycle again. You could feel them gently chiding us for the ruckus and then lovingly gathering us back in its arms, as a parent would.
This month all of them were razed to make way for a wider road. While this was a sad moment, I'm not necessarily against progress or infrastructure development but I am concerned about its cost and long-term effects.
This poem never fails to pick me up. I found this beautiful piece of art on Etsy and thought of featuring it here.
To all my dear friends and family, Wish you a Happy Ugādi, Gudi Padava, Navreh and Sajibu Cheiraoba(1).
These festivals mark the beginning of the Lunar new year for many communities in different parts of India and while each festival has its own ritual, all of them involve cleaning, family, prayers, food and merry-making. (Don't all festivals?) In true Indian spirit, I also want to partake in all of them and absorb all the positive energy and hopefully, share some too!
Without being tone-deaf, I recognize that this time its going to be different with a #21DayLockdown and will not for the most part include all the usual fun but there is a silver lining. I'm now getting a world-class schooling about what is essential and I suspect you are too. Illusions, if any, are getting knocked down like a domino rally. Yes, having some savings for a rainy day is a good thing. No, that new feline-branded lifestyle shoe is not. Yes, having an ability to accept everything life has to offer in good measure is essential. No, most impulsive and fear based thinking is not. You get the drift.
On that last point, I'm reminded of an incident that happened about eight years ago. I walked into office like every other day and was greeted with a dīpa (lamp) and a brass plate filled with jaggery, kalkandam (lump sugar), turmeric, kunkuma and other assortments. My colleague who was at the desk wished me a Happy Ugadi and asked me to have a pinch of the prasadam. Gladly, my sweet tooth and I accepted a generous pinch, only to be hit with a mix of flavours all at once. I wasn't expecting powdered neem leaves and what followed was my face progressing through all the navarasas in quick succession. We laughed heartily and then I learnt that on Ugadi, the prasadam (symobolically) includes sweet, sour, salt, bitter, spicy and tangy flavours. Quite literally, I learnt in a moment that life will not just consist of sweet experiences, but a combination of sweet, sour, salty, and bitter episodes.
What a lesson and what a beautiful way to learn! No textbooks, sermons or cryptic language. See, there is a silver lining!
1) #Ugadi is celebrated in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana; #GudiPadwa in Goa and Maharashtra; #Navreh in Kashmir. #SajibuCheiraoba in Manipur. (I had to research the last two. Pardon my ignorance.)
2) Ugadi symbolism by Vasudha Narayan: Just as the different substances are bound together, one is reminded that no event or episode is wholly good or bad. Even in the midst of bitter experiences, there are sweet moments. One is also reminded that the experience of taste is transitory and ephemeral; so too, is life, and one has to learn to put pain and pleasure in proper temporal perspective.
3) Navarasa - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bgHTKfHp37c. Also, watch the master class by Jagathy sir - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PNIdreeRM4E :-)
4) Photo credit: N Bhaskar, The Hindu, 25/3/2020