Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Navratri -9 Days of Maa Durga!

Navratri the time of the year when I  get transported to another world, a world thats full of hope, love, peace and ( I believe so!) In the past couple of years I have been dedicating a post on my blog to Maa, Goddess Durga. This year too let me touch another aspect of my life that revolves around Maa.
Navratri is a festival dedicated to the worship of Maa Shakti, Goddess Durga or Parvati as she is lovinly called by her beloved devotees.  The word Navratri means 9 nights in Sanskrit. During these nine nights and ten days, nine forms of Goddess Durga , are worshiped.  It is believed that Maa Durga visits earth during these pious days. The 10th day is celebrated as Vijayadashmi or Dussehra. 

How we prepare for welcoming Maa at our home? 
The preparations begin much before the actual Navratras. 
Cleaning the house- Cleanliness is next to Godliness as it is rightly said. The misssion begins atleast two weeks in advance with spring cleaning of the house. My mother in law's pet project. She plans everything to the T.
Mother in law and her group of friends follow the ritual of doing kirtans (prayer meets) during the 9 days. The ladies book the day when they want kirtan at their homes. They invite women from their neighbourhood to attend the puja, Decorate their 'Maa ka darbar'- place to worship Goddess, sing bhajans, distribute prashad and gifts to the ladies. Worship, celebrate and seek blessings of Maa Durga.

The first Navratri puja is at our home, where we expect around 50 women to attend. It is certainly one of the biggest events in my family. Just love the way my mother in law diligently prepares for it. Over the years it is more like a routine that we follow. In fact festivals are a way of keeping the hopes, hopes of tomorrow being better. In India we celebrate many festivals, they also keep women and the older people busy throughout the year. Busy in things that they love doing. Parents expect their sons and daughter would visit them in case they don't love together.
Preparations begin with the shopping list. The following items feature on the list:
1. Chunni (decorated dupatta) for Devi Maa and other things that form part of her shringar (dressing and ornaments)
2. Mathe ki patti - The narrow ribbon with "Jai Mata Di" written on it that women wear aound their foreheads during the Pooja.
3. Items to make prashad - dryfruits such as almonds, cashew, dates, raisins, peanuts, ramdana (sweet found in dry prashad), makhane and dry coconut.
4. Cardamom, clove, aniseed, mishri (crystallised sugar)
5. Shringar to be given to all the ladies attending the puja - henna, sindoor, bindi, nailpolish, kajal and a gift can be a household utensil, a towel, tray, bowl or anything that one wants to give away.
6. Fruits for the Puja and also to be given in the prashad - generally 5 different types of fruits are kept in the puja such as apples, pears, bananas, orange or sweet lime, pomegranate etc. 
7. Coconut to be given to all the ladies.
8. Milk seasoned with cardamom and almond to be offered to the ladies as a lot of them fast during this period and may not have tea or other snacks or beverages.
9. Curd - to make the panchamrut (5 nectars - milk, curd, honey, sugar and ghee), required to be offered to the deity and also all present. 
10. Kalash - lota (water pictcher), mango leaves (7/9),Coconut.
11. Kalava/ Mouli - Roll of the thread generally tied on the wrist of all the devotees.
12. Haldi kumkum and akshat - sindoor, termeric and rice sued to do the tika of the deity and the ladies.
13. Diya to light in front of Goddess Durga
14. Diya for arti
15. Flowers and garlands for the puja.
 The items are purchased in stages and kept ready for the puja. In fact perishables are bought just a day prior.

The First Navratra
The day begins with decorating the 'Mata ka darbar', where an idol or a large picture of Devi Maa is placed for worship and making arrangements to accommodate about 50 ladies. It is generally our living room, the sofas are adjusted or moved and we make place on the floor, covering it with Rugs,daris and carpets so that everyone can be seated comfortably.

In the temple, the kalash is made and placed. Jau or barley is sown, that grows during this time and used for puja on Dussehra, that falls on the 10th day.. The temple is decorated with garlands and flowers. Diya is lit, this is the 'akhand jyot' that will light for the 9 days.

We generally fast during this period. The kirtan starts at 3pm and goes on till 6, singing Devi bhajans and distributing prashad. Its also an occasion to meet and catch up with everyone. Festivals are after all an opportunity to celebrate the company of family and friends.

The  Navratri colours for 2014 are:

 Pratipada - September 25 2014 (Thursday) - Yellow

Dwitiya - 
September 26 2014 (Friday) - Green

Tritiya - 
September 27 2014 (Saturday)- Grey

Chaturthi - September 28 2014 (Sunday) -Orange 

Panchami -
September 29 2014 (Monday) -White 

Sashti - 
September 30 2014(Tuesday) - Red

Saptami -October 1
 2014 (Wednesday) - Blue

Ashtami - 
October 2 2014 (Thursday) - Pink

Navami -
October 3 2014 (Friday) - Purple

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Home maker or a career woman - As you like it!

Just the other day I was checking my facebook page, was logging in after 4-5 days and had lots to catch up on, as far as updates from friends were concerned. While going through a profile found something that caught my attention and that later made a great discussion. Won't call it a debate as this wasn't face to face and no one was catching anyone else's neck! But the opinions shared by different people indeed were very interesting and that's what led me to write this post. Even before you read it, let me apologise in case it touches a wrong chord with you. But let me also add that some facts are pretty uncomfortable.... we must not turn away from reality right? Now that I have made myself a bit clear (and not to be chewed up by some of my dear friends).... please read on!

No offence meant but am a bit curious, when women who are home-makers write/declare their professions as," Stay at Home Mom and loving it." and similar others.... whereas the ones who are professionally employed do not write, " I am so and so and loving it!" 

Ofcourse, its a tough job especially when the children are younger. Some were quick to say that it was just a cover-up for their insecurity. If the column asked to list their profession, that's all they needed to do. Adding on how they felt about it was petty. It's similar to women announcing how they were proud to be women, as if men were not happy and proud to be who they were!! 
This is plain logical isn't it? But social media is ones own personal space that one wishes to share with his or her friends. 
The point here is why SAHM had expressions such as, " I am loving it, This is the best thing to do and am proud of it, I am my own manager and CEO" are just a few of them. 
Maybe in spite of it being such a tough and responsible job SAHMs really do enjoy it not the same could be said about the others at all times. A friend was quick to add that These were self obsessed words. People often used such vocabulary /content to over shadow their actual roles. Those who do it ,and are not sure if that's what they should be doing use adjectives like these. Whereas the ones who love it stay calm, enjoy and you can see it when sometimes they share the moments of that joy.
A friend who has been a SAHM as well as a full timer on job said, "there is nothing to love about being at home and I speak for myself. You enjoy watching the kids grow alright but there are moments of frustration and of not earning despite being educated. I have always been a happier and more tolerable person whenever I have worked.You can ask my husband and kids".

A more experienced lady had to say this,"Lets not blame them they indeed are trying to prove some point, that they may not be earning money but their SAHM job demands respect and recognition...unfortunately our society is yet to accord them thus. We may consider their tag line 'and am loving it' SHAM but it's an effort to assert their individuality. No offence meant but to see your kids grow in front of you is sheer delight, to wait for them when they get back from school or when your husband gets back home from work may also be a way of life and that too a happy and interesting one! we do get judgemental at times and hence this struggle for identity."

Yes agreed but sometimes staying at home is a privilege that not all can enjoy or afford it. Living in cities and having to deal with the monster of "price rise" it sometimes demands both the husband and wife to take up professional careers to earn their living. A friend who has been a SAHM said that it was a thankless job and some day say it just to convince themselves. 
To each his own I've seen a classic example of someone taking credit for the kids school results by throwing lines like ,"today the benefits of having given up a career and opting to be a SAHM are clearly visible " to a working mom whose child did equally good.

As career women we have to give our 100% everywhere, be it work or at home. Somewhere we still get branded, at work it is said that the women have their family over careers and at home its the other way round. So we need to state and prove our priorities no matter where we have reached in your careers.
As individuals we all have our own insecurities. A stay at home mother may want to validate her decision when she says something like that, similarly a mother with a professional career may want to validate her decision in some other manner. May be the options available for each are different and hence the expression is different. But neither of them need any validation from anyone. There is no need to justify anything. We need a big heart to understand that. Our decisions are our own, it is not a judgement on anyone else-A mother is a mother....simple!
A friend who gave up her career shared this, " I think leaving your job to be a home maker is not an easy task at all especially if you are with your in laws. The only sunny side, to console yourself is that you are taking care of your children as per your plans and are not dependent on anyone. Other wise you are financially so dependent that all your creativity goes for a toss."

You better love what you do, whether SAHM or a working woman! If you do not then CHANGE!! Its not as important to anyone else whether you're "loving it or not!" The best place to be in is, have a choice to the above, power is in choices.

Pictures are taken from google