Mumbai Diaries : A week of festivity

I have been super busy since Independence day- happy busy. One thing and another, I’ve barely found time to put my thoughts down. Here’s all that happened.August 15th marked India’s 75th Independence day. It was the first time since Covid entered our lives in March 2020, the residents of our building assembled together. Thanks to the celebration, I realized I had made more acquaintances from behind closed doors than I had ever made before, here – all thanks to art.

I had been sharing my art on the building whats app group, and though a number of people did not know me by face, they knew my name. It was really nice when people came to me and asked me if was ‘The artist on the group- Smitha.’ I know I have a long way to go in the field of art but I can’t say I wasn’t pleased- It’s a wonderful feeling to be recognised for the work you do, especially if its the kind of work you love doing. . Anyway, back to the celebrations of the Independence day which began with the flag hoisting and singing of the national anthem and ended with a few people from the building singing patriotic songs and distribution of breakfast boxes. Earlier, we used to have breakfast together but with Covid, food was served in a box which we had to take home and have.

I don’t understand those who consider celebrating the Independence day a waste of time or feel too lazy to be part of the annual celebrations. For me, celebrating it is a way of saying you value the freedom your country and you have and showing appreciation to all those people who are involved in keeping it free and safe. Just look at Palestine and Afghanistan if you still feel otherwise.

Here are a few pictures from the celebration in our apartment building-

My husband’s parents came over to stay with us on the 15th of August. We were finally meeting each other after two years and two months! With family coming, the house is full and happily so.

On the 20th of August we were invited by a neighbor to attend a puja (prayer ceremony) – the Varalaxmi puja (a prayer function). It was our second official invitation since the pandemic started. This prayer is held by people in Karanataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu and Northern Sri Lanka.

As per wiki, ‘Varamahalakshmi Vrata is performed by women for their own well being and that of all their family members. It is believed that worshipping the Goddess Varalakshmi on this day is equivalent to worshipping Ashtalakshmi – the eight goddesses of Wealth, Earth, Wisdom, Love, Fame, Peace, Contentment, and Strength. Due to the rising popularity of this holy day in some states, it is now being declared as an optional official holiday in India.

As per tradition, the idol of the Goddess is decked in silks and jewelery and an offering of sweets and fruits is made. Women who are invited dress beautifully as a way of celebrating the Goddess. I donned a silk sari and wore jewelery after a really long time but unfortunately, forgot to click pictures. However, I managed to click a picture of the idol decked up.

On the 21st of August, we celebrated Onam, the harvest festival which is celebrated by people from Kerala (from where my husband is), irrespective of religion. As per Hindu mythology, the festival is celebrated in memory of King Mahabali, a just ruler who gave up his rule for protecting his people. As per tradition, the festivities last for ten days.

During the ten-day festivities, devotees bathe, offer prayers, wear traditional clothes — women of the household wear a white and gold saree called the Kasavu saree – participate in dance performances, draw flower rangolis called pookkalam and cook traditional feasts called sadya. Sadya is served on banana leaves during Onam.

Hindustan Times

Below are a few pictures of the celebration at home-

My mom-in-law prepared all the traditional dishes which we had on a banana leaf as per the customs. There is no greater blessing than to have a bountiful table and to be able to break bread with those you love. As per tradition my mom-in-law ensured there were fifteen delicacies served on the banana leaf.

My in-laws serving the food on banana leaves as per the custom

A friend of mine who also lost his mum at around the same time as I lost dad, did not celebrate the festival because its not been a year since his mom passed away. Some people believe that its not right to celebrate festivals for a year of the death of someone you love. I believe that if you love someone, the best way to celebrate their lives is to move on, keeping them in your heart. I know this is what my parents’ would want. ‘You never know what life has in store for you so its important live and celebrate moments,’ that’s what my mom always said. I watched my parents practice this until they couldn’t.

After Onam came ‘Rakhi‘.

It is a time-honoured ritual of protection, the greatest gift that siblings give each other and celebrates the pure bond that exists between siblings. 

Hindustan Times

I remember for a few years during our childhood, my sister and I would tie a rakhi around each other’s wrist, promising to be there for each other, no matter what. We stopped the ritual when we grew older – we told ourselves we didn’t need a thread around our wrist to remind us of our responsibilities. That is not to belittle the importance of the festival which is celebrated by many in India. In fact, ever since I got married, my sister sends a rakhi to my husband. And he dons two rakhis on his wrist, very proudly – one from my sister and one from his.

As per tradition, when a sister ties a rakhi on her brother’s wrist, a brother promises to protect her throughout his life.

A picture of rakhis taken from the net.

During this week of festivities, a few classmates from my graduation class decided to connect through whatsapp. As of now the group has 63 of us. There are more to join. Since Facebook and other social media did not exist when we left college, a lot of the past is blurred in my head . But thanks to the group, decades of dust and cobwebs gathered in the attic on the top is slowly clearing away. Anecdotes of college days, photographs yellowed with time taken with cameras that have long become extinct, stories of protests, teachers, classes, has had me smiling so much over the last few days that my family’s been curious as to what it is on my phone that is making me giggle like a giddy-headed teen again. Its strange because I thought having joined the college only in graduation compared to the rest who had known each other since forever, and being the introvert that I am, I wouldn’t be remembered. I guess whoever said this was right -‘ Keep the ones that heard you when you never said a word.’ I kind of stuck to a few close friends and didn’t really spend time getting to know the rest. This group’s provided me the opportunity to get to know the rest- they’ve changed -the quiet one’s have shed their shells and spread their wings, and the popular, boisterous ones have matured into responsible, sensitive individuals, the ones who were always cheerful and fun to be around have gone on to make a difference in the world by working with under-privileged children and autistic children, there are those who found what makes them happy and followed their heart – music, baking, writing, training and so much more. It’s like in a week’s time, my world has opened up to 62 new people, with whom I share so much in common thanks to three years of college. That’s the beauty of classmates.

Well, now you know why I’ve been so busy all of last week. I hope to make more time this week to write and paint and read your posts. If you’ve reached here, I want to say, ‘Thank you for stopping by.’

Hope things are getting back to normal at your end of the world. Here, in Mumbai schools and malls are still closed. The cases have dropped and we’ve started moving around a lot more with the necessary precautions. I believe I can say things are back to normal when schools open their doors to students. Until then, we are simply carrying on- living with the virus. As WHO said, India maybe in an endemic situation.

I’ll end with a line that Louise said in a post she wrote – “Life is a constant adventure when you say ‘Yes’” This is such a powerful thought that reminds you to say ‘Yes’ often and to let go of all the inhibitions that hold you back.


Smitha All Rights Reserved.

16 responses to “Mumbai Diaries : A week of festivity”

  1. robbiesinspiration Avatar

    Hi Smitha, what a great post. I really enjoyed learning more about your festivals and the celebration of Independence Day. Your building looked amazing. It is lovely that people in your building know you through your art, that is something to be proud of. I have another blogging friend from Kerala and a friend who celebrated the rakhi ceremony with her brother. It is such fun that we can learn so much about other cultures and celebrations through our blogs.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Smitha V Avatar

      Hi Robbie 🙂 Thank you! So glad you enjoyed reading it and happy I could share some of the Indian culture with you. I learnt so much from your book.
      It was a delight to be recognised, Robbie. My children were especially proud that their mom was recognized despite sitting at home (they actually said it 🙂 ).
      Absolutely, I’ve learnt so much here through this community and we’ve developed such wonderful relationships here.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. robbiesinspiration Avatar

        It is a tribute to your talent that you were recognised, Smitha.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Infinite Living Avatar

    I felt so warm and joyful in my heart as I read along your post with the wonderful pictures. These festivities, the celebrations, the meals, the presence of family elders – it is all such precious energy to be in. It can be easily taken for granted and also its importance gets reminded in times like living far away from your country, losing loved ones and the current pandemic situation.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Smitha V Avatar

      Thank you, Pragalbha for taking the time to read. I wanted to pass on the warmth I felt…its been too long that we’ve been on our own after the losses …you know. It makes me happy when you say you felt warm and joyful reading the post. Every moment of togetherness is so much more precious now.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Infinite Living Avatar

        You are welcome. Yes I did feel it :))

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Manja Maksimovič Avatar

    Oh Smitha, I’m so happy for all your festivities and gatherings and reminiscing and rejoicing. You and your family look beautiful and happy and the Pookalam is gorgeous. The fireworks photos are amazing, not sure if you took them or not, but in any case most splendid.

    I noticed two interesting linguistic matters:
    1. Varamahalakshmi Vrata. In Slovenian, ‘vrata’ means door! What does it mean over there?
    2. You say that sadya is a feast, over heard ‘sadje’ means fruit! 🙂 How curious!!

    Next week I’m getting a blogger, Crystal, on a visit from the USA with her boyfriend. Existing! We will have them at home in Tuscany for three nights and then drive them to Slovenia for four nights, and then they return by way of Venice to Rome for three more nights. Imagine that!

    I wish you more lovely together times. And happy 75th Independence Day to India!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Smitha V Avatar

      Hey Manja, it’s so good to hear from you again. I was determined to celebrate everything that came my way this time🙂. The Pookalam was done by my elder daughter and me younger one took the photographs from her bedroom window when we were asleep. It happened at midnight.
      ‘Vrata’ means ‘fast’
      How indeed interesting…which language is ‘Sadje’ in?
      Wow! Crystal’s holiday sounds super fun. Thank you for sharing it. You brought back memories of our holiday in Venice and made me dream of returning. I read Venice was flooded recently. Hope things are ok now.
      Thank you for the Independence day wishes🙂. It’s so good to have you back here.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Manja Maksimovič Avatar

        Just like “vrata” means “door” in Slovenian, “sadje” is also the Slovenian word for “fruit”. I must say that I haven’t heard of floods in Venice for quite some time, but they are common there. (I’ve seen some footage now! A rare summer flooding, damn!) I’m always here somewhere. 🙂 Will be busy now but will catch up.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Smitha V Avatar

          Ah ok. You have fun playing guide to your friend ( how I wish I could visit too). If only it was possible at the snap of one’s fingers😁. Take care and looking forward to seeing beautiful photographs and reading of your experiences. Have fun!

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Manja Maksimovič Avatar

            Thank you, you too! And oh, excuse my ignorance but which language is yours? 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

  4. balroop2013 Avatar

    How nice! It’s good to be busy and when there are festivals lined up, its all the more fun! Stay blessed and take care.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Smitha V Avatar

      Yes, it is and so much needed after the long period of quiet and isolation. Thank you Balroop ji for your blessings. I cherish them❤

      Liked by 1 person

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