Fasting or feasting, Navratri is the best!

Navratri is here! Nine days of worshipping the Goddess in her various forms, dancing away the nights with garba, visiting Durga Puja pandals, maybe even making a trip to see the magnificent Dushera festivities in Mysore, or going to look at the golu (which is somewhat like the jhanki one sees during Janmashtami) at our South Indian friends’ houses. But the best part is eating all those delicious offerings made to the Goddess, not to miss thelip-smacking vrat ka khana, whether you are fasting or not! Oh I love the kuttu pooris, the yam cutlets, the sabudana vadas, the green banana kababs….yum, yummier and yummiest!

Having lived in mixed neighbourhoods in many cities over the years, I have enjoyed the varied celebrations of this wonderful festival. But my best memories of Navratri are from my childhood.

Weeks before Dussehra, the city would reverberate with the sound of drums as men dressed as tigers danced on the roads and collected money for the Puja celebrations. It was a scary but fascinating sight to see them with their painted bodies and tiger masks and it used to be a challenge to try and avoid the streets they were on while we kids went to and from school. Sometimes our careful calculations would fail and we would be trapped in a street while the ‘tiger’ did its best to scare us silly!

And then there were the eats. We had a variety of them from neighbours and at home we had a different sweet, mixed rice dish and sundal every day, apart from other items that were offered to the Goddess. Just in case you don’t know what sundal is, it is a savory dish made from boiled chana, groundnuts, moong, chawli, white peas or any other whole pulse. Seasoned with a light tadka of mustard, red chillies, hing and curry leaves it is garnished with fresh grated coconut. This formed part of the haldi-kumkum ‘hamper’, along with betel leaves, supari and banana. Married women also got a coconut.

Dressed in our festive clothes, my sister and I made the haldi-kumkum rounds in the evenings, admiring critically the golu in the houses we visited.But it was not all fun. Visitors were expected to sing a song or two for the Goddess and not being great singers, we would be hard put to come up with a decent song at every house. This would invariably cause us to argue and bicker but the moment we entered a house we would declare an unspoken ceasefire,only to pick up where we left off once we left the house!

By the end of the evening, we would be dragging our feet through the streets on the way back home, tired and hungry. By then some of the bananas would have started getting quashed and my sister would declare that we would have to eat them up. And the sundal? That is another story altogether.

In days when ziplock bags had not been invented, it was wrapped in bits of newspaper or pieces of banana leaves, both of which would unravel in our bags and spill their contents, mixing up the different varieties. So what did we do? We ate up the contents that were threatening to spill out, of course! Soon with a full tummy, the fights of the evening were forgotten and we would be giggling away.

But back home there would be a Mahabharat with our brothers who were eagerly waiting for the ‘loot’ to be brought by their sisters. What did they find but very thin pickings and two fully stuffed girls!

Oh, those were the days!

Wish you all a wonderful Navratras/Navratri/Dussehra/Durga Puja!

The author is your regular neighborhood granny. Loves cooking, feeding her friends and family, telling tales and reading children’s books among others — on her Kindle. She is comfortable with people her age, older than her and of course all youngsters right down to infants. And oh, she is in tune with the times too. She has seen the telegram transform into Twitter and telephone into WhatsApp. You could call her Gadget Granny Seeta, if you like. She loves saying that the tip of her tongue is in the fingers on her keyboard! 

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