Thursday, 9 August 2012

Happy Janamashtami

The Composition period was a weekly fixture for about six years of my school life. They were meant to encourage creative writing among young students in both English and Hindi, but often their purpose was defeated, due to the lazy selection of topics. The year (especially in the Junior classes) invariably started with “Myself”, a pedantic account of who we were (age, class, physical description, parental occupations) and our interests (with studying being a most ubiquitous hobby). As the year progressed the teacher asked us to write on “Rainy Day” and “I wish I were...”.  And then, there was always the Indian calendar, crammed with festivals and national holidays to fall back on. However, I am quite sure Janmashtami never came up in all of those six years. Pity, since it was always my favourite festival (okay no, but it did come right behind Holi).

The fun started the night before, where we (a gaggle of ten 10-12 year old girls) would get together to strategise about our jhanki- a static representation of the scene of Lord Krishna’s kidnapping by his evil uncle.  And his subsequent rescue by someone else. I am still a little sketchy on the details to be honest. The meeting would involve taking stock of all the toys we could get to decorate the scene, besides the indispensable baby Krishna and his Uncle. People would volunteer to get earthen dolls, generally hand-painted to look like men and women from the Indian countryside, though sometimes an American Barbie would also make her presence felt. I am certain one year, someone said that they had a miniature version of a hand-pump that we could use.  We agreed. Mostly though, we tried to be historically accurate (more than some younger children, at any rate, who were not even shy of placing a car or two in the background). There were other bells and whistles too-if an old shoebox were available, we would fashion out a cradle (a reliable crowd puller) out of that.

The meeting was also important, in order to zero in on the best spot for our jhanki, among the ones available, in the colony’s courtyard. To prevent the favoured spot from being usurped by the other groups (especially our arch rivals-the boys in the same age group) we would solemnly promise to assemble at the crack of dawn, which at least some people claimed they took literally. I of course would saunter in a good 3 hours after everybody had set to work, and then immediately find fault with the way the mountain in the backdrop had been constructed. That would invite dirty looks from the others, and in some years, righteous angry words, or worse, the silent treatment. Of course, my tardiness would be forgiven and forgotten as soon as someone picked up a fight with the rival groups. These generally started with a Rohit making an uncomplimentary remark about our work. Padma would retaliate with a ruder assessment of theirs. Rohit would have disappeared by then. Arjun, who lacked the mental agility to come up with an adequately insulting repartee, would resort to mocking her Telugu accent. That was enough to open the floodgates of personal insults and sometimes even physical fights.

The evenings required sprucing up for the Puja, mainly conducted by one or two of those people in the group who knew a few devotional songs. The less spiritually inclined amongst us would stand at the back and mumble the words through, mind strongly focussed on the wonderful prasad that Akanksha’s mother would rustle up every year. That, and the afore-mentioned cradle were extremely important to bring in the crowds, as well as their donations.  My favourite bit, then, was when we counted all the money, inflated it by a certain amount and then made public to the rest of the groups. Since this creative accounting was quite popular among everybody, it didn’t matter much in deciding who the ‘winner’ was. There was a lot of preening involved if we won, but even if we didn’t, it never mattered. We distributed it amongst ourselves (with the exception of one year, I am regularly reminded), and then spent in on ice creams, while recounting the fun we had had during the day. I would promise at the end of the night that I would be the first person down, the next year. Someone would let out a disbelieving snort and raucous laughter would resume.


  1. mayn!!!.. you just almost brought teers of joy...just when i was missing our days of soo much fun and the enedless discussion over who would guard our territory first, u came up wid such an awesome account of all that we did in your perfectly selected words...i mean it was one hell of a day...every janmashtmi eve we would smirk at you reminding that you have to come on time and u consistently din turn up... the endless trials of getting a better mountain made than our rivals and then the pooja session when only namrata knew the devotional songs plus chiku only knew how to dress up...hahaha....and obviously you cant forget the one year when you guys did not give even a penny to us saying you'l need it for developing the LIBRARY of then when one year we managed to not let you take away our RIGHTS, we finally bought a 5 rupee cola bar or orange bar each and when a little amount was still left which could have been shared amongst all, we would end up in a joint venture for blue lays costing 20 almost repeat telecasted all of it in one go...
    P.S- i love the start and the end of your write up the most

    1. Haha! And i trust you realise who Padma and Arjun are? ;)

  2. I wish i could see a picture of that jhanki you guys made.. Made me remember of my mohulla days. Waise i treated it as any other holiday and went to play with the neighbourhood kids as usual. Once mom's birthday was on the day n it was different.
    P.S: Good work with the microsoft paint. :P

    1. Yeah, we have no photos, I think :(