Like all new moms, I too have lost track of how days become weeks, and weeks months. When a festival is around the corner, my elder sister or my MIL act as reminders, suggesting the bare minimum rituals I should follow.
This morning, as sonny boy and I went to the park for our daily dose of Vitamin D, I was delighted to see a burst of yellow. Women dressed in yellow, yellow flowers shouting to be picked up at flowers, the familiar freshness in the air and Pandal with Ma Saraswati idol in the colony school – I didn’t take a moment to realize Basant Panchmi – Saraswati Puja is here!
While my family doesn’t practice any ritual as such, apart from wearing yellow and preparing sweet yellow pulav, Basant Panchmi occupies a very special place in my heart. Having spent 12 years in a Bengali dominated school; the festival has been a special occasion each year. After all, this was the only day in the year when we could wear the dress of our choice to school instead of the boring uniform! Unlike most kids who save the best dress for birthdays, girls in my school dressed their best on Basant Panchmi. The three day long celebrations provided us the much awaited break from classes, freedom to dress up as we liked, lot of fun, amazing Bengali sweets and bhog, and much needed blessings from Ma Saraswati before the final exams would haunt us!
A Day Before
A day before the festival, all eyes would be trained towards the school gate as we waited for Ma Saraswati idol to arrive. The moment we saw the tempo, we would leave everything and rush to the foyer. The entire school echoed with “Bolo bolo Saraswati Mai ki Jai” as we welcomed the goddess with flowers, songs and impromptu dance!
For us, this was the day of freedom, fun and festivities! Our usually over protective parents gave us the luxury of giving the school bus a miss. Instead, we girls took our sweet time to dress up our best and arrived at the school on our own, in groups. The security situation wasn’t as sorry as present, so the authorities let open the gates of the senior wings and one could enter and leave school premises at our own wish. For teenagers of a girl’s school, this was nothing short of living the college dream once a year! The senior girls would seize the opportunity to flaunt the best sarees and imitation jewellery, even as the eyes of senior teachers scrutinized the depth of their blouses! Best part would be the Pushpanjali time, when each one of us would pray to Ma for good marks and a bright career! Sounds of “Bolo bolo Saraswati Mai ki Jai” would fill the ramparts as those who waited for their turn took to dancing and singing! Wish we had mobile phones with cameras back then! The alumni also took this occasion to take blessings from Ma and thank teachers for shaping up their careers so well.
Morning gave way to the noon in no time and the aroma from the makeshift kitchen in the classroom signalled that the Bhog was ready. Our teachers displayed their culinary skills as they pampered us with the most delicious Bhog – the traditional Khichuri! After Bhog, we would dash to grab our boxes of Prasad which contained an assortment of the best Bengali sweets one could think of!
Awwww! I miss my school!
As we progressed to senior classes, the later part of the noon became hangout time with friends at Connaught Place before we returned home.
This was a moment that came heavy on our hearts as the thoughts of Ma parting left us teary eyed. Moments after the tempo left the school premises, taking Ma away, we would keep looking at the gate with gloom. Then the teachers would lovingly ask us to return to our classes and be good students till Ma returned next year.
More than a decade after leaving school and more than a thousand kilometres away from school now, I still feel the fragrance of flowers and incense sticks afresh in my mind. As I recall those wonder years, I pray Ma Saraswati for blessing my little one with knowledge and creativity the way she has been generous to me.
To, the Goddess, the mother, and the power – Bolo bolo Saraswati mai ki Jai !!!
Sharing few pics of my visit to the Alma mater few years ago
|My Alma Mater|
|The lovely rangoli|
|Flowers in full bloom|