Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Memories Awakened..

It is amazing how memories are stored, recalled and how they associate with our senses of smell, touch, taste and sight. Unlike computers, memories get classified in to these different criteria and are then stored and during recall get associated together again.

Where am I going with that? As I was driving yesterday to work, it was one of those typical late fall cold early mornings. And since I get to work as the sun is coming up I often drive when it is dark. I usually listen to the news on the radio and focus on my driving. The highway was deserted in stretches and pitch black and I happened to notice the sky was clear and I could see the stars.

It’s a common sight right, but more folks on the move it’s one of those simple pleasures we often don’t have or take the time to appreciate. After enjoying the vista as I came down the road for a few seconds, my mind was filled with memories of a night from what seems like eons ago as a child.

It was the night of Kojagiri Purnima. Some info about it from Wikipedia follows.

The Kojagari Purnima is a harvest festival celebrated on the full moon day of the Hindu lunar month of Ashwin (September-October). The rainy season is over and the brightness of the full moon brings special joy. This is a traditional celebration of the moon and is also called the Kaumudi celebration, Kaumudi meaning moonlight.

At night, goddess Laxmi is worshipped and night vigil is observed. According to a folk-tale, once a king fell on evil days, and was in great financial straits, but then his queen observed this fast and night vigil, and worshipped the goddess of wealth, Laxmi. Consequently, they were blessed by the goddess and they regained their prosperity.

Some people believe that on this night Laxmi moves about from place to place asking, "Who is awake?" ("Kojagarti?") and shows her pleasure on those she finds awake. Hence, the night is spent in festivity and various games of amusement, in honour of the goddess. So people sit in the moonlight singing songs, or keep themselves entertained in some other way. They fast from solid food and take only fluids like coconut water or milk. Milk is boiled till it thickens, and milk masala (called kheer, a readymade combination of dry fruits) is added to it and drunk. It is a harvest festival and is celebrated throughout the country, particularly by Maharashtrians i.e. by people residing in Maharashtra, India.

My dad worked for the railroad in India and we lived in staff housing, one of those featureless apartment buildings that the government constructed in India. The tops of these buildings had what are called terraces, which were mostly places that held big iron tanks that stored water for the denizens.

But there was also a wall that ran along all the sides that was about 2-4 feet tall, so it was not like you would just fall over the edge unless you wanted to.

This was also a place for us kids to play, place to do some kite flying. It was also used for drying pappadums and other sorted goodies in the hot Indian summer for use thru the rest of the year.
It was also a place to gather or socialize, which is where this memory came from.
So after running off track with that let me get back to the night that I remember in bits.

Bombay never gets cold at that time of the year, but back then the night air would have a bit of a nip to it. I remember mom telling me about this celebration and how it would be fun esp for us kids. We had this family live there called the Wadnerkars, and the kids had a granny and they for some reason had taken care of the food for the evening. I can remember them bringing up this huge pot of the most delicious batata wada (spicy potato fritter) along with chutney and this huge container of thickened, sweet spicy milk being doled out to eager folks, especially us kids who got to eat first.

The evening was rich with festivities with different kinds of skits put up by the residents and games and a general controlled, fun kind of chaos that seemed very apt for that great evening.
And so the memory has stayed with me years later, especially of standing in front of the food and waiting for granny to serve us kids .. my mouth watering, eyes eager with anticipation for the culinary delight. I recall looking up like a lot of us did and appreciating the star filled sky and the milky way. It was for me a simple pleasure of life as a kid and something that I am happy has stayed with me for so long amongst a few others.


ATTORNEY: What was the first thing your husband said to you that morning?
WITNESS: He said, "Where am I, Cathy?"
ATTORNEY: And why did that upset you?
WITNESS: My name is Susan.

Sidewalk Art


Sai said...

This is such a beautiful post. I would like to add in marathi "mala mazha lahaanpan athavla" yummm batata wada.....yummier kheer! By the way there is nothing like "Ajji chya haathche padartha" It could be Wardnekar Ajji or yours or mine! :-D

Love the sidewalk art!

Asha said...

WOW! Sanjay, you know more about these festivals than me! Good job of writing abt traditions and mouthwatering food too.Glad I got to read this early in the morning.Craving for Batata Vadas now.I have similar Latkes.
Loved that joke too, is the husband still alive?:D

Happy Holidays:)

Donviti said...

awesome picture bro...

have a great thanksgiving. I will be at my sisters tomorrow all day. If you see a gold (foreign) car at the top of the street you'll know I'm there.

Nancy Willing said...

Happy Feast!

Diana said...

That sounds just too cool. Nothing better than getting to stay up really late as a kid, especially with great food.

Aditi said...

oh my god the sidewalk art was awesome.. i had to stare at it for a few seconds to figure out how it was done...
those were some wonderful memories... they stay for a lifetime dont tehy.. and batatawadas... now there is something yum

priya said...

Happy birthday to saggi boy. Just sending my wishes to all blog buddie sborn this month.

Keshi said...

Alot of things trigger far away memories. Even smells, songs and places remind me of things that happened yonks ago. Nice one Jay.

lol @Cathy! He screwed it for sure!


deepsat said...

nice post!! quite true!! so many things trigger some of our memories!!!

beautiful pic on the sidewalk art!! those guys are awesome!!


Prometheus_Unbound said...

You know even Kojagari Poornima is celebrated by a part of the Bengali community. Those of us who have their roots in East Bengal/ East Pakistan/ Bangladesh, also celebrate Lakshmi Puja on this day. Doing my engineering in Nagpur, I came across Kojagari as celebrated by Marathis. Was struck by the amazing resemblance.

Somehow, your post starting off about memories, brought back memories. Have a look at this pic:

Claire said...

Wow, what a great post - I love eharing about different traditions and festivals.


ishita said...

songs do that to me...@ bring back memories...sum happy...sum sad...sum better forgotten and sum...that leave me smilin and wishin i wz back there...

luvd this read....:)

and the pic...that's simply wow!!....!!

Sanjay said...

Thank you all for your kind comments. :)