Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Dung, Holi and Nostalgia

It’s probably too late in the day to be asking this, but how do you celebrate Holi when its 40F outside? I have been feeling rather nostalgic since this morning. I have been hearing about my family and friends’ Holi plans for a better part of today, and I am missing it all.

I grew up in a village. Ok, I am being less than charitable. I grew up in a small town. Holi meant collecting firewood, pieces of old furniture (a rarity in those times because people never threw anything away) and dung-cakes that could be obtained from a small dairy of only a few buffaloes. It sat right next to the flour mill, which was right behind the ration shop. We would ride our bikes or walk to the dairy; which come to think of it, was just a little more than a backyard cow-shed. We would approach the cow-shed cautiously, knowing we would not be indulged. We would be ignored for several minutes until someone would come out and ask what we wanted. Dung-cakes, we would say. In a small voice. I am sure, ours was not the first demand for dung-cakes that season. Kids from several neighboring “colonies” would come asking for the same thing. Free dung-cakes were a much sought-after prize.

We would be ignored again. We would ask again. Plead, maybe. Such is the spirit when one is young. Earlier, when the dairy was new, they would give dung cakes without much fuss. As the years passed and the dairy slowly grew its feet, dung cakes became harder to come by. In the end, we stopped going there to ask. Perhaps it was we had grown older and lost our spirit. Perhaps an awkwardness of early adulthood had set in and we could no longer bring ourselves to ask shamelessly and be a nuisance. Or perhaps the dairy-owners would not part ways with dung cakes that could fetch money. Or perhaps, it was the year they told us to take fresh manure instead of dried cakes. I don’t quite remember.

But while the dung cakes could be obtained for free, we got them. Depending on our timing and our diplomatic negotiations, we could procure anywhere from 2 to 5-6 dung cakes. As soon as the prize was brought to the holi-site, other kids would leap in excitement.

I don’t know why this Holi brought these memories in sharp focus. I have been living here for almost a decade and Holi was just another festival that was let slide. Chip is growing older and I wonder what kinds of memories he is forming. He is so removed from the festivals and two parents, no matter how enthusiastic cannot be a substitute for culture and its mores. I have been struggling to convey to him, my experiences of the Holi in a small town in a third world country in the late 80s. He obviously doesn’t get it. He is not even 4 and lives a world away. Literally. To me, Holi is one of the anchor points on which my memory rests. I can still smell the acrid smoke of the fire on cool nights.

16 comments:

choxbox said...

lovely post!
but hey dottie chip will have his own set of anchor points wont he? so what if they are different from yours?

rayshma said...

beautiful post, dottie.
agree with choxbox... chip will have his own memories... equally beautiful, yet very different. :)

Sujatha said...

Awww, happy Holi to you Dottie! About 30 years from now, Chip will reminiscing about the wonderful memories of his growing up years and be wondering about what his kids will remember when they grow up. :)

Just Like That said...

Awwww.. Hapy Holi, Dottie. Never mind about Chip- he'll be forming his own set of lovely memories- maybe about mowing the lawn..? :-) Its doesn't matter what the memoiries are about, so long as they make us happy

Subhashree said...

Nice post. He'll get an idea about it through your posts, if he is interested to read your blog. Don't worry.

Anyway, what do you do with those dung-cakes?

Shobana said...

Happy Holi and think of it this way...Chip will have his own ideas of festivals and celebrations that he may pass on to his children...but then again, they definelty won't be a match to what we experienced....the simple, down to earth fun, not at all related to material things.

Munchkin said...

This is something I think about a lot too..the fact that my son is growing up in such a different culture and that he might be disconnected from my memories and experiences coz they will only be stories to him...although it may not necessarily be a bad thing but well, it does make me feel wistful sometimes...especially now when he is in his first year and back home they would have made a big fuss about all his "first" festivals.. oh well :)

WhatsInAName said...

hey dotmom dont you worry :-) When in rome we have to be roman! That is the most sensible thing to do. And with changing times the ideas of fun and enjoyment are changing too. Like all have said, chip will have his own set of sweet memories, so what if they are different than yours!

maidinmalaysia said...

"He is so removed from the festivals and two parents, no matter how enthusiastic cannot be a substitute for culture and its mores."

absolutely agree

Mama - Mia said...

lovely post.

i was telling someone the other day that I wanna take Cubby to bombay to my building where I played holi! :)

bangalore is not big on boisterous festivities! :(

Mystic Margarita said...

This is what I keep thinking, too. That our kids will not be able to identify with the celebrations and festivities we enjoyed as children. And that's expected, too. like you said, two parents cannot be substitutes for a totally different lifestyle. But then, they will have their own memories, only it won't be similar to ours. Lovely introspective post, Dottie.

Subhashree said...

I think that most of us want our kids to experience the fun things we experienced in life so that they have fun too. Sometimes I think whether it is really that important that the kids should know about our childhood memories, but I can't seem to let go of it.

Tharini said...

Dear Dot!

Something for you here:
http://winkiesways.blogspot.com/2009/03/sisterhood.html

DotThoughts said...

That's true.. Chip will be forming his own memories, but the fact they will be such a chasm between his and mine is something I ahve yet to come to terms with...

the mad momma said...

well i'm still in this country dot - but my babies will never experience holi or christmas like the OA and I did because they are brought up in a home so different to the ones we were brought up in and they've come 30 years later. i dont mind. they'll have their own sweet memories and so will chip. how can he not when he has you two?

SUR NOTES said...

"Or perhaps, it was the year they told us to take fresh manure instead of dried cakes. I don’t quite remember."

Its those funny/bittersweet memories of growing up that he is collecting into his own little pile of dung/old furniture/wood.

The acrid smell and the memory of cool colours lingers for ever.

And ofcourse, i parrot the others- a very lovely post.