Defining eyes


I first applied homemade kajal when I visited an acquaintance many years ago. While I waited for my friend to get ready to head out, I chatted with her mother — a tall and slim, simple rural Haryanvi lady. As our mundane conversation veered towards the use of kajal, she mentioned that she had prepared some herself.

I had a vague idea about kajal being nothing but soot. But the small boxes available in the market contain a sticky substance which smeared, so I wasn’t quite sure. She showed me her preparation. The homemade kajal that I saw was, indeed, soot and a tad rough to the touch. I gingerly dipped my finger in it and applied it to the waterline of my eyes. To my surprise, it spread easily and gave a beautiful definition to my eyes. I wondered how she had made it, but our conversation was interrupted, and I didn’t get the chance to ask her.

Life has a funny way of answering our questions, and seemingly disconnected memories find themselves being connected into one big picture. I had shelved this memory of the homemade kajal in the corners of my brain. Until one fine day — on the first Deepavali after our wedding, to be precise — I saw my in-laws performing a puja.

I saw them pray, and then light a large earthen lamp. They then placed an empty lamp, upside down atop the flame, supported by smaller lamps around the flame.

The next morning, I saw our own kajal, ready to be used.

Kajal
The soot collected overnight, a.k.a kajal

This is post #13 in this year’s NaBloPoMo, or as Ra calls it Nano Poblano

NaBloPoMo = National Blog Posting Month = Thirty straight days of blogging

Don’t study!!


As little kids, we’re always told by our parents to study… Well, almost always. When I was small, my parents never really had much trouble with me as far as studying was concerned. But once every year, they had to tell me NOT to study!

Navratri is celebrated every year, sometime around October… Although it is celebrated at least twice a year, the one culminating in Dusshera is celebrated with the most enthusiasm. Navratri literally means nine nights. During this festival, various forms of Goddess Durga are worshipped.

Technically speaking, puja (religious ritual) is performed on each day of the festival. But I’ll fast forward to the ninth day. On the ninth day of this festival, we worship Goddess Saraswati, the Goddess of learning and knowledge. In any field, there is always scope for learning. And knowledge can be gained in any form. So all those items from which we can gain knowledge and wisdom are collected and a dias is formed. An idol of the Goddess is placed atop this dias and a puja is conducted. In the north, a similar puja is performed on Vasant Panchami.

A special Rangoli (decorative design) is made, incense sticks are lit, special dishes are prepared and offered to the Goddess…

As little kids, we used to look forward to Navratri – a welcome break from school, special dishes, the festive atmosphere around the entire city. But we had a another reason to be excited…

On this very special ninth day of the puja, it was absolutely compulsory for us not to study! Yes that’s right! We were told not to study. Now which kid wouldn’t want that? 🙂

We wondered why, on the day the Goddess of learning is worshipped, we were told not to learn… Nevertheless, it was a very exciting thought… how nice it would be if we didn’t have to study…

But when the day actually arrived, with nothing to do – we weren’t allowed to read, or engage in any activity related to art or use musical instruments, we weren’t even allowed to work on the computer or watch tv – the day was extremely boring! To not learn, then seemed a terrible thing indeed…

It is said that the Goddess herself offers her blessings to everything that is placed in the dias, so we must not study and wait for the puja to conclude and then study. But more importantly, by not allowing us to do anything, it was a lesson in itself… Life would be incomplete, and worthless without knowledge…

On the tenth day, the puja was concluded. We were told to pick up our books soon after bath and told to read something new… It signified a fresh start… We were once again told to study with interest (pun intended)…


On this year’s Saraswati puja, my mother and I spent the whole day cleaning the house 🙂