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Posts Tagged ‘shopping’

Virtual Vethalapaaku

Posted by Sowmya on October 7, 2008

Its that time of the year again……..which, you ask? Time to unleash your creativity, people skills and time management skills, etc all at once. Navratri it is! 🙂 It is celebrated in various forms across the country. We even had an entire chapter in fourth grade which took an extreme round about route to convey a simple message that Navrathri = Durga Pooja = Dassera = etc i.e. all are celebrated at the same time in different parts of the country by different people.

I am used to celebrate it twin-style – Tamizh and Gujarati. We have an elaborate golu to show off our Tam Bram heritage and we also participate in the local dandiya fest as typical Mumbaites. My golu is an extremely integral part of my life and takes a significant share of my kid-time memories.  For the uninitiated, golu, simply put, is a display of figurines (usually of gods and mythological characters) on odd number of ‘steps’. Gah!!! I am not explaining this very clearly. Take a look –


Thank you! Thank you! I know its awesome and I am insanely proud of it. Though I have no idea why this whole ritual was initiated, my guess would be that it was done to showcase (literally) people’s hidden talents. This whole ensemble takes humungous effort, time and patience as also a year round preparation to boot. I know, not everyone may take it so seriously like us. Anything and everything we see, is with a will-this-be-somehow-useful-in-golu look. Like, the iron piece standing in for a readymade kolam (rangoli, in Hindi) was part of our side-table in the living room. We took it off since it made the small table toooo heavy. The marble pieces serving as a border line for the golu were taken at the time of our house renovation from the contractor with us alternating between threats, bribes and down right theft. See, it does get our creativity to the fore 😉

Some background material – Golu was probably compulsory in the years gone by but like many other traditions and customs has been cast away by the majority. They are not to be blamed considering the sheer amount of time involved! The most important figurines of the golu are ‘mara pachi’ (figurines made of wood), which you can see in the pic above (Just above the Rama, Lakshman, Sita set). These are first to be kept on the golu  and the first to be taken off. People who are not able to do a full fledged golu usually display atleast the ‘mara pachi’. These and other figurines are usually handed down through generations and are something akin to family hierlooms. The other requirement is that the number of ‘steps’ has to be an odd number. The yester-years did boast of many ‘9 step’ houses but space and time constrains have led to an average of ‘5 steps’ in today’s times. Having done this, it is customary to invite every female member of every family you know for ‘vethalapaaku’. A typical ‘vethalapaaku’ comprises of even number of beetle leaves, beetlenut, turmeric pieces and a fruit, usually a banana. The married ladies are given a coconut in addition to this. New age fads include wall hangings, small boxes, kumkum holders, etc as part of the ‘vethalapaaku’. This is always accompanied by ‘sundal’ which is nothing but roasted daal (every daal makes a different yummy sundal). This sundal is an offering to the Gods of the Golu which is then distributed to the invited ladies. Sometimes sundal is replaced with laddu or kesari but mostly it reigns supreme on these 10 days on account of its ease of preparation. The 9th day is ‘Saraswati Puja’ and the 10 day festival is concluded with ‘Vijayadasami’. On the day of the  Saraswati Puja, we keep before Godess Saraswati a sample of all our learning material like study books, music instruments, ghungroo, etc. This is to thank her for her blessings and pray that we propser in all the literary and fine arts. These are kept for a day in front of the Goddess and taken out on ‘Vijayadasami’ which is said to be the most auspicious day to start any new venture, be it studies, music, dance, business, work, whatever…. It is also a day when we pay respects to our teachers who teach us these divine arts.

The golu  in my house started a couple of years after I was born. My dad, being elated on having such a charming daughter (*blush blush*), decided to start the yearly custom. Initally we used woodden boxes and stacks of newspapers on a table and ‘built’ the 3 ‘steps’ which were then covered with a white cloth, usually a unused veshti (dhoti).  As is custom, we added a figurine every year, usually more and the Golu  grew bigger and better. Due to many constraints we could never manage to keep over 5 steps. With the collection growing year on year we needed a new idea. Eureka! Dad came up with this whole concept of keeping a section of the display on the floor just before the 5 steps. Actually you can say he pioneered it, atleast in our locality. We commenced this with a huge thermecol cut-out of the India map with a figurine in each state dressed in the specific traditional wear. Around 12 years ago, my mother remembered her childhood dream of having semi-circular steps instead of the usual straight laced ones. We hunted for a carpenter who could understand my mother’s vision and translate it into reality. It was not easy to find one in Mumbai cos few people there understood what a golu  was all about. We finally found our dream man who did a splendid job of creating a dismantle-able 5 step golu padi. Thankfully mom had the presence of mind to photograph each stage of the assembly line which, in later years, was put to very effective use as a guide for future assemblers.

If golu is all about creativity then I can assure you it definetely serves the purpose. All of us at home have come up with various themes, ideas and art work to enhance the display or hide some flaw in it. We have spent nights and days working on it and the end product usually took our breath away. We have drawn, painted, weaved, built so many golus and each one has been a cherished experience and have left us eagerly awaiting the next one. In the 3 months prior, all converstaions invariably turned to the theme of the year -what to do? how to do? what to buy? where to buy? I clearly remember my brother and me fighting to display our favorite dolls in the centre position or the one with maximum prominence. A couple of figurines were the ones handed over to us by our grandmom who never failed to remind us every year that she bought it for just a rupee some 40 years ago. You wont believe but that figurine still retains its charm and does not look a day older than 5 years. Golu  brings to me million fond memories of the 2 decades gone by…… Another purpose I see in keeping a golu  is that you get to meet everyone of your acquaintances. Thanks to the custom of inviting all females, we meet all our friends and relatives during these 10 days. It feels wonderful to catch up with them on the year gone by with promises to keep in touch more regularly. In fact there are people I meet only on these days since catching up otherwise becomes almost impossible. When it comes to my dad’s friends, even the guys turn up using this opportunity to meet the rest of the gang at one place. This is the only time I dress up, rather deck up with all the jewels my mom possesses. In the last few years I even took to wearing a saree leading to compliments and the usual its-time-to-get-you-married dialogue. My personal custom is to buy a new saree for Vijayadasami. If you want a logic for it, here goes – as I mentioned, this day is the most auspicious day to start anything. So I start my shopping for the year with a new saree. Hows that for logic? 😉

I do have a new saree this year but no golu. I am married and I was so keen to get back home and have other conversations with those sweet aunties who would come home for vethalapaaku, instead of the usual time-to-get-you-married lines. This time I realised how much I love this festival and how I looked forward to it every year. Though I troubled mom by postponing my share of duties, though I gave her a earful when she asked me to dress up, though I sometimes got totally bugged with the sacrifice of my sleep for golu  preparations, though I had to go around door-to-door and invite everyone to come home- inspite of all that, I still love it. I want to do it over and over again. I want to go through each of these experiences and then stand proud next to my golu to take a picture and put it on this blog.

Posted in NOW THAT'S ME, ZILLION YEARS AGO | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »


Posted by Sowmya on June 3, 2008

Continuing my mission of visiting all Shoppers’ Stop outlets in the country (hehe…whot a mission!) I checked out the one at Harrington Road, Chennai. I guess I have visited every outlet in Mumbai, the one at Gurgaon and also Kolkata. I have a long way to go…and I will:) The best part of the whole trip was that I actually knew the way from home all the way to the SS outlet. Whoa! Was I overjoyed!!! I also know the route to my office but that has some unfair advantages over SS –
1. The 100 ft from Anna Nagar to Guindy has as many turns as a straight line possibly can. And Me Mumbaikar may not know that the hindi word for ‘kantha’ is actually ‘pyaaz’ but I do know a straight road when I see one.
2. I have been on that single straight road twice a day, six days a week, twenty-four days a month for the past 3 months
But this one to SS outlet had as many twists and turns as a Balaji soap, one-ways and subways (so very unique in Chennai)…I traversed all that and landed at SS at about 5 p.m. for some relaxed shopping as also window, shadow, etc shopping.
It was not too crowded for a Sunday evening…i wondered why. Then dawned the realisation that it was the IPL final between Rajasthan Royals and Chennai Super Kings. Regular readers (I know that is a non-existing tribe….but it kinda sounds kewl. Like there are actually ppl in this world, except my dear mister, who read this blog) might curiously note that my lack of posting wrt IPL coincided with Mumbai Indians losing matches in quick succession. Let me assure you that it is so. I shut my eye like the proverbial cat and thought if I don’t acknowledge it, it has’nt happened. Damn the team…not even semi-finals? That too at a time when mister and I were having one of our famous ‘Mumbai is better than Chennai’ arguments. Mr. Tendulkar, do you know what all I had to endure thanks to you and our team?? Anyways I am sure we’ll win it next time.
That was why I was not too interested in that final in which Mumbai’s only participation was the location….but can u have better crowds anywhere else 😉 Having realized the match schedule, mister decided that shopping, snacking, burping, negotiating with auto guy and travelling back home had to be completed by 8.00 pm. I was ok with the rest, but negotiating with auto guy??? Impossible!
Our list had 2 trousers and 1 perfume in it…if I was shopping alone, be assured I would have bought everything except the trousers and perfume. If hubby dearest had walked in alone he would have been in time for Rajasthan’s net practice the previous day. BUT as they say love is blind, maybe foolish, which is why he took me along 😉 I wanted pot pourri. He said trousers. I almost bought ‘3 mistakes of my life’ by ‘Chetan Bhagat’. Mister said trousers. I gazed longingly at the latest collection of ‘Hidesign’. Mister dragged me to the trouser section. Aaaaaargh! Those trousers! I had a tough time juggling between shopping and sticking to the list.
Hats off to my hubby! He managed to rummage through n number of shelves stocking x+y+z number of brands, pick 3 of which he liked (am still wondering how can a human being like ONLY 3!), find a trial room, try all 3 trousers, select 2 out of them, give measurements and negotiate with the shop assistant on time to be taken for alteration, all under half hour. By this time I would have decided that I should not be buying long kurtas since I have too many and maybe I should look at medium length or short kurta though not too jazzy & with too much work on it cos I had a few of those and my main requirement was for casual weekend wear. And this guy actually, believe me, actually completed his entire shopping for, what I am sure is, another 8-10 months. He would’ve paid the bill too but for the tech snag at the bill counter. Having paid the bill and getting membership cards and plethora of points for our half hour shopping we proceeded to the perfume counter, though not before issuing numerous threats on what all we could do to the shop assistant and his family if we did not get the altered to the perfect 43” within 20 minutes. That was mister’s scheduled time for buying perfume. Snigger, snigger
We sniffed our way to the ground floor where perfume man was waiting with coffee beans in his hand “Some perfumes, sir!” This has always bothered me. Only the perfume and cosmetics people ask us to buy their products. The garments, shoes, bags, etc counter staff never do that. Why’ o’ why? Guess that shall remain one of my life’s unanswered questions.
Then begun our hunt for the perfect perfume for my mother-in-law -light, daily-wear types. I almost fainted sometime after the 35th perfume and hubby did the same after he saw the price tag. We finally settled on a ‘pure lightness’ perfume which coincidentally was the first one we tried. Then started my actual shopping. It would have been scandalous if I actually bought only what I intended to. I mean what about retail boom and consumerism? So I picked some cosmetics and another perfume for hubby after sniffing through the coffee beans for like hundred times.
We paid for these stuff, accumulated more points on our membership card. I bravely fought for more points to be accumulated but mister would have none of it. He marched to the trouser guy to get the altered ones. When I think of it today, if that had been ready then, maybe things would have been different. But it was not to be. Destiny! What else can I say? They needed another ten minutes to get the perfect fit. It was that moment that mister made probably one of the top five blunders of his life. He said those ‘you-know-what’ words –“Sowmya, why don’t you see if you like anything?”
He did’nt realize then that he would reach home only after Shane Warne would reach his. So off we went to the ladies’ section of the store…………
I admit that on most occasions buying a formal shirt / trouser is a traumatic experience for me. It would, for you too, if you weighed even 20% less than me. My general approach in such a situation is to pick the biggest size available. Then I feel so good about myself when it is slightly big for me and pick one size smaller wherein I feel ‘thin’. That’s a pick-me-up I often use. Feel free to borrow the idea….you’ll feel great!!! So I scanned all the brands available, picked quite a few I liked and proceeded to the trial room. On the way tragedy struck. My route was blocked, barricades in front of me in the form of my mister. He relieved me of many shirts and all I was left with were a mere 4. Maybe he realized his mistake and was trying to make the best of his situation but destiny always has its own way. For once, I got a trial room without being reminded of the ticket queues at peak time in Thane station. Wow! This was turning to be a nice day. At the perfect moment when I locked myself in and began trying out the shirts the Electricity God decided to play truant. Poof went the power and I was stuck inside for all of 3 minutes. How I survived that long in the pitch dark room with only myself to look at on all four side merits a post all by itself. Right, it was scary.
After that cam the bigger scar(e). I did not fit into the first shirt I tried. Thinking I picked the wrong size, I tried shirt 2. Same result. I started to get oh-so-slightly worried. When shirt 3 also refused to yield to my demands I let out a cry of anguish. What am I to do now? Can I never shop again? Do I need circus tents as mister so often teases me? All those blissfully happy moments of scanning through few thousands of garments and picking the 50 I liked. Then trying them on, selecting the 30 best through carefully devised scientific procedures combined with the ever reliable close-my-eyes-and-touch-one methodology in which I always end up touching 2. What do I do now? What do I live for? Can I ever enter a store again? Will I be able to lead a normal life again?
I ran out of the trial room, dumped the rogue shirts in a corner and ran far far from the garment section to the ‘Crossword’ where I am not judged by inches, feet, shapes and such other disgraceful yardsticks. I scanned through shelves and shelves of books –my best friends. Mister found me gazing longingly at the ‘Top 10’ list. He did’nt budge, not giving any allowances for the fact that I was just recovering from such a major trauma. He left me waiting at the entrance of the store and went to find his altered trousers. I am sure, by now, you must be tearing your hair apart to find out what the title of the post has got to do with the actual post. Well, here it comes.
As I was waiting I happened to spot an open book. Enquiries and further investigations revealed that it was a pledge book. Basically everyone could write down something as their pledge and hopefully fulfill it sometime in their life. The concept sounded cool. I read the previous entries which ranged from selfish desires to world peace. I was inspired. I borrowed a pen from one Mr.Perfume and proceeded to pledge –
‘I pledge that I will use my skills and talents to the optimum so as to be useful to myself, my family and the world at large.’
How does that sound? Well, don’t ask me as to what I am doing to that end. This is the first step and the agenda for the week was only to make the pledge. I shall figure out something soon and definitely keep you guys posted! Mister was back with his 2 new trousers and we set off. Then came his casual question, “so how many kilos did you pledge to lose?” I was stumped. Why did I not think of that? Another unanswered question of my life!
We reached home on dot at 8 with mister complaining that he would miss the opening batsmen walk from the pavilion to the crease. Well, well the match started at 8.15 and he did not miss a single step!
I’ll be going to Westside next week in my eternal quest for the perfect shirt. Keep watching this space.

P.S. Hubby, I know you would probably be the only one to read this. But you know my temptation for exaggeration far exceeds that for even chocolate and that I am only doing this to improve my writing skills. (Obviously! No doubt! 😉

Posted in I WENT TO, NOW THAT'S ME | Tagged: , , | 3 Comments »