When I was younger I hardly paid any attention to the customs and rituals around me. As a child, teenager and a young adult, my priorities were different – it was to stand out, to be different, to refute the tradition and embrace the modern way of living.
It’s a natural progression of life. Today, I see my sister, an 18-year old confident and self assured teenager on the precipice of her adult life, wiggling her nose at the mention of tea. Her go-to beverage of choice is coffee. Hot coffee, cold coffee, or preferably the fancy Starbucks kind. I see so much of myself in her. At that age, I too had a strong aversion for tea. Perhaps because it was the preferred drink for adults, that automatically classified it as ‘boring’ for us teenagers back then.
Today, at 31 I cannot begin my day without a cup of tea. A cup of tea that I have seen my mother drink since I can recall my first memory of her. A cup of tea that she must have before she begins her morning, and then again in the evening after her siesta, and always always accompanied by at least 1 Marie biscuit.
This post isn’t about tea. This is about the circle of life. What seemed boring and traditional back then, seems relevant and even exciting now.
Navratras, the 9-day of fasting in the Hindu calendar, is much like the period of Lent. You abstain from certain food and drinks and pray every day to a different incarnation of Durga Maa. Growing up, I would see my mom, my aunt and my grandma look froward to these 9-days with excitement and trepidation – “will we be able to avoid the staples like flour and lentils“, “should we keep all 9-days“, “do we have enough motivation to do this without giving up half-way” were some of the questions that the 3 would consult and discuss with each other days in advance.
Over time, life and maturity have evolved their individual view points towards Navratras.
Today, I see my grandma, still following these 9-days religiously – Praying and making sure the lamp lit in front of the goddess is always at its brightest flame, preparing the special food with the same enthusiasm and gusto for all the family members and just bringing the traditional touch to the family.
My aunt, who always brings the positivity and fun in every family gathering, has lit up her household shrine to ward off evil. The beauty and dedication with which she does this, puts all of us other family members to shame.
My mother, who has long shed the external facade of being religious is withdrawing internally with every passing year. Her spiritual journey has led her to find her God inside her and draw faith and strength from that power. I have seen her shift from an ultra-religious woman who used to decorate her prayer room for these 9-days with fresh garlands and constantly burning incense and lamps, to a more relaxed easy-going believer who today lights a small wax diya surrounded by flower petals to signify Navratri, reinforcing the belief – the light lit from a happier soul shines brighter than all the lamps put together from a disturbed one.
I don’t know what exactly prompted me to observe Navratri this year. Perhaps this is a way to be grateful for all the things in my life. Lockdown took away my mobility, but it led me on a spiritual journey. It made me a calmer and kinder person. Observing tradition for these 9 days, felt like a good way to acknowledge the power that has guided me and led me to break away the shackles of the self.
A way to express gratitude and say thank you.