Navratri or Dusshera has got to be a festival that is celebrated with utmost joy in India. Like all other festivals of India, it is colorful, fun and filled with a lot of excitement. While the Gujjus dance their way through the ten days, the Bongs feed themselves scrumptious food from the various stalls at the pandals and not to forget our very own South Indian way of celebration, Golu or Gombe Habba. It is 10 days of utter enjoyment especially when you have both South Indian and North Indian friends as you get to have the best of both worlds. You get to go Pandal hopping as well as Golu hopping! 😉
Right from the assembly of the Golu, the mamis in the household “sweetly” order the mamas to bring the various dolls and the stands that are neatly packed away from the loft. There will always be the last minute errands to get new dolls because every mami always feels that there aren’t enough dolls even if the steps are completely filled. 😀 Every vendor has almost the same set of dolls but somehow the mothers in the house play the game of Spot-The-Differences the best when they go doll hunting. Once the dolls are bought after a lot of searching, bargaining and constant checking if the neighbor/rival mami have got the similarly themed ones, it is time to purchase the “gift” items! (Oh the woe to find the perfect one!) The gift given along with the thamboolam (Betel leaves, areca nuts, kunkum, turmeric and a coconut/fruit) has got to be within the budget specified by the mama. (Although the mamis coax them into understanding why the purchasing exceeded wayyyy more than what it should have been thus making the mama’s wallet very light!) The gift cannot be the same as the other mamis or the same as the previous years and it must also show the level of creativity and intuitive thinking of the mami! xD
As soon as all the purchasing is done, the steps are assembled either with slotted angles or with the differently sized tables and cardboard boxes at home. Mind you, it has to be odd numbered. (All you OCD freaks might be mouthing WTH no!) Once the steps are erected, the assembly begins with the adornment of the steps by the brand new veshti (dhoti) or a pretty saree. Mamis tend to show their originality and try their best to encourage the rest of the members of the family to help her. Now the placement of dolls is very crucial, the tall, heavy dolls are usually placed on the highest step and then come to the various themed sets like Raasleela, marriage, fairs and even cricket stadium sets! In the end, there has to be a chettiyar and his wife, representing the business class people selling pulses and veggies and fruits etc. (or in my case, even pizza!) Not to forget, the best way for a mami to show her imagination, is by setting up a fancy “Park”. Deciding the theme of the park is a touchy subject! The rules are the same as applied for the gifts. Usually, the children take the initiative and build tiny ponds and hills and wait patiently for the grass to grow in their makeshift park. The more engineering inclined families end up having water-falls and automated parks and pull their collar up high when visitors look at it with awe!
Once the invitations are sent to friends, family and extended families, the visiting drama begins! A fundamental rule is that every mami/child must sing at least one Carnatic song when they visit a house for Golu! A Golu visit is incomplete without giving chundal to the visitors. Most of the children go Golu hopping only for the gift and the different variety of chundal! Chundal is a traditional South Indian preparation for Prasad. Each variety is made using a particular legume and tossed with basic South Indian seasoning and a hint of coconut shavings finished with a squeeze of lemon. An essential component of the visit is a round of questions about the daughter or son of the house. A pair of Mamis is probably better detectives than the Sherlock-Watson duo! Gossip sessions are inevitable when you come to visit Golu! The mamas on the other side have no other go but to listen to the conversation or escape by binge-watching the daily news. (Poor mama, but hey! he gets to eat yummy chundal from different houses based on his Mamis social status!)
On the 9th day of Navratri, which is Saraswati pooja, the parents give complete authorization to not open your books as all of them are placed in front of the Golu in order to perform Pooja! (Best day for every kid!) Apart from this, the usual new clothes and yummy lunch follow, ending with the entire family watching a movie telecasted on TV for the first time.
A wonderful festival, with a lot of vibrant visitors, lively and curious children makes the 10 days the most awaited time of the year. Packing everything back into the boxes is a little disheartening but well, we have Diwali coming up soon! So, yayyy!