Legend of Navatri


I often dream of my kid coming back from school on sunny afternoons, and after witnessing a whole year of his life in his sanity, would ask me the origin of every festival month after month. I am dreading those moments a little because that just means I would have to go back to basics very soon. All I remember of most festivals is how we stuff ourselves with food that could perhaps feed an entire village and then crash only to do this even more the next day.

So just as I return from my stream of thoughts, I hear a voice and I know it’s not in my head.

“Are you going for the show this year”, my over enthusiastic sister-in-law jabs me in my tummy and goes on before I even begin to answer the question that she asks me every year. I can almost read her face that says, who is this goofball of a woman our brother bought home as his wife, she has no interest in clothes, jewelry, dance, life all she talks is philosophy.

She turns to my husband and makes plans for the coming week and has designed all her 9 day looks in her head. Her husband who belonged to the same tribe as mine, is in a corner perhaps planning for the coming week and all the nirvana and liquor he would be gulping when the Mrs would be jibing to Falguni Pathak in a faraway land somewhere.

On some of the sane days when I introspect about my choices in life, I almost always hear my head gonging, ‘what were you thinking?’ I come from a home where people have never even danced at their own weddings and they celebrate a happy moment with chaha, (tea in Marathi) I had decided to walk into a gang of people who wanted to just go majja ma all the time just like the old uncle playing carom in Munnabhai.

Well it was the pre Navratri week and as we all know, it is only secondary to women preparing for their own marriage. They go completely berserk during this season being vain in their own vanity and fling open their closets to bring out their best. I have always managed to appreciate the whole euphoria from a distance but to compete with these veterans, I didn’t stand a chance. I was mulling over sleepless nights to my already snoring husband on how we could devise an intelligent plan to get out of the whole thing but try as I could, you cant really stop a true blue Gujarati from going to the event of the year. –Dandiya by Falguni Pathak.

Childhood and teenage years was all about exams, whether the boy in my class smiled at me or was he cock-eyed, whether dad would give pocket money or would I have to eat at home. These problems were worth stressing about, but when the rosy period ends and you settle into marriage, problems like what to wear for a dandiya night with the costumey sister-in-law is just really the tip of the iceberg.

So with a heavy heart I walked into the prestigious and festive air of the dandiya night with the megastar Falguni and her army of crazy fans. I was sticking out like a sore thumb but in a crowd of 2000 odd jumping jacks this was hardly a crisis. The music began and if I ignored some logistical details, this pretty much felt like Michael Jackson doing his moonwalk, and women throwing themselves at him.

My self training for overcoming the loud music playing on every weekend in every lane in Mumbai finally paid off. Once the music hammers onto your head instead of stressing over how loud it is , I just start dancing to it, so it gets out of my system. There I was smoothly sinking into the new environment I had walked into. But I must confess , that as much as I am sarcastic about all of the above mentioned things,I really love dancing. More freestyle than anything else, so I started teasing myself into jamming with all the dandiya experts around. My husband and his little gang of cousins were merrily swaying across matching steps and inventing new ones while I was trying to scientifically angle myself in the group activity. I must have stamped a few feet, unpinned a few dupattas much to my dismay. And yet I didn’t give up, I kept encouraging myself to go for it, and trying to match up with the legends around me.

10 minutes and someone loudly called off “ Aunty, dance nahi aata to baju hato”.I froze for a bit pretending it wasn’t for me. I guess I even saw Falguni pause for a bit and look around, but truth be told that was for me. I looked around to spot if someone heard that and if it was for them but turns out my sister-in-law with 2 left feet was also matching steps with the gang so it was really me. The words just kept echoing in my head.

2 months into marriage and people were already calling me aunty. I knew this day would come, when a grey hair would peep out of my mane and little freckles adorning my eye. I would be taking brisk walks in the society when little kids would start calling me aunty. I was realistically prepared for this somewhere post our fifth anniversary celebration. But this early uncalled for transition was blasphemous and got me red. Of course I couldn’t spot my offender, but my husband was swaying with them and I have a feeling he must have been in the chorus.

I quickly moved myself in the bystander area where the entry age was fifty. And I just swept across propping myself between a pool of grey hair and artificially dyed ones. I felt much at home, and am sure they invented the mannequin challenge on Instagram looking at me since I hadn’t even moved an inch from that moment until eternity.

I realized that day, that its OK to laugh at yourself and have a good time, that its fine, to be vain in vanity and even though age really shows in the curves of your wrinkles, you can eventually get closure by getting back at those “aunty” callers. I’m just figuring out how.


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