On The Threshold Of A New year

I’m not one to make resolutions at the beginning of a new year. There was a time when, against my nature, I would copy my peers and make a list of resolutions…and never look at that list ever again. And even if I thought of my resolutions, it was just a fleeting thought which I’d push away with amusement.

My resolutions come up, in ones or twos, throughout the year. Some of them through learning from my experiences, of what I should resolve to do or never do. This works for me. It also gives me the time to work on them, if I tend to slack off a bit. A list at the beginning of the year never works this way for me! I guess I am a tiny part of a vast majority in this.

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Clicked by me in beautiful Vina del Mar.

Most New Year resolutions remain scribbles in a journal. I’ve met a few who feel awful that they haven’t been able to do anything on their list. That defeats the purpose of why one makes New Year resolutions which, I believe, is to make you feel good at the end of the year. That you’ve accomplished something…satisfaction at achieving an aim; a goal, by ticking off things on your to-do/to-be list.

This is one of the reasons why I do not make a list of New Year Resolutions. It puts a strain on me to tick off things on the list and takes away much pleasure and enjoyment of doing things. Makes it too regimental or mechanical.

So, here I am, looking forward to 2017 with expectations; some great, some small. A lot of hope, and some dreams! God willing, I shall realize the best of all my hopes and dreams and expectations.

On that note: Here’s to another year and another chance to set wrongs right, to do what has been left undone, and love more, care more.

Make new friends, travel to new places, try something new; learn something different.

Change what has to be changed, in ourselves too, and become a bit better as we improve things.

Revel in the blessings of family, long-time friends, God-given provisions for our needs – food on the table, clothes on our backs and a roof over our heads, with a bit of change left over, jingling in our pockets…enough to fulfill some wants too!

For children and grandchildren, for health, and available help.

From a place of gratitude for a year full of blessings – for help in difficulties, restoration of good health, reassurance when situations bogged me down and for material comforts too – to a place of hopefulness, faith, and the firm belief that God will be with me just as He was in the year that the world is ringing out…

I stand at the threshold of a New year and look ahead with joy.

HAPPY NEW YEAR TO YOU! May you be blessed!

 

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Diwali…the festival of lights

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We celebrated Diwali on Sunday. Diwali, basically, is a Hindu festival, however, it is celebrated by many other people of other faiths as well. The Hindus have a religious connection and perform pujas (religious worship of goddess Laxmi, the goddess of wealth) while the others, celebrate the universal belief that good, ultimately, triumphs over evil. They celebrate the essence of the festival. It also signifies light…the internal light that dispels darkness (evil) in any form, hatred, avarice, bitterness, ignorance, and brings joy, peace, and prosperity. So, generally, everyone joins in the festivities of bursting crackers, eating special sweets and food made particularly on festivals. It is also holiday time in schools and offices. There are gaily lit and decorated malls, restaurants and other places where various activities are available that kids and family can take part in…fairs, exhibitions, new movie releases, you name it. So, everyone is in a joyful mood and enjoys the festival in different ways.

Traditionally, diyas (earthen lamps) are used to decorate the house. However, the modern way is to use tea lights and electric lights. The cities, especially in the northern and western areas, where it is celebrated most, look beautiful as every house is lit up, the Malls, the markets, and shops are all decorated and illuminated. It’s a bit like New York or any such city in the US, at Christmas time, I suppose.

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Rangolis decorated with flower petals and tea lights.

My daughter-in-law celebrates Diwali and so, we had the entrance of our home illuminated. We also had rangolis. Rangolis, again are a traditional thing. They’re made as wet or dry paintings/designs using a white material like chalk, sand, paint or flour. Even paints, colored rice-water, gypsum powder, colored sand or dry colored powders. Often materials like seeds, grains, spices, leaves or flower petals are also used either as the only element or in combination with other materials. Modern materials like crayons, dyes or dyed fabrics, acrylic paint are also becoming common, allowing for brilliant and vibrant color choices We couldn’t do any such thing here. So, I decided to make re-usable rangolis on hand-made paper sheets (that was last year) and having preserved them well we were able to use them again. The hand-made paper was the color of the floor, off-white, and once the flowers concealed its taped edges…it looked like the real deal! The tea lights added the rest.

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Re-usable rangolis painted on very fine hand-made paper.

She even cooked us a meal which is made customarily in her home at Diwali. Delicious! The traditional sweetmeats were also on the table. A party at a friend’s place, Diwali gifts for the kids…and we notched another Diwali on foreign shores.

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The Diwali centerpiece on the dining table

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Diwali mithai (sweets) Green: Pistachio barfi, Yellow: Besan ladoo (chickpea flour ladoo) and orange: Moti chur ladoo (also made from chickpea flour)

An Indian Christmas

I love Christmas. Come November and the so-called Christmas spirit wells up within me – the air around takes on a festive feeling – and I start to plan eats, dinners, lunches, decorations, gifts. It’s been the same year after year, and nothing’s changed. Has nothing really changed?

I guess it has. I still plan all the above, but I hardly execute anything much. Yes, a lot has changed in that way. I miss Christmas. I miss the Christmas celebrations as I knew it for five decades. I tend to slip into reminiscences of days gone by in an effort to capture a bit of my childhood…a part of my teen years…a bit of my youth…and a chunk of the rest of my life before I left behind all that was familiar – an Indian Christmas in our home.

It is at times such as these that my mind dredges up things like an article, written a long time back on faithwriters.com. I searched and sure enough I found it! Just re-reading it brought back all the “Christmassy” feeling I so love to feel. So instead of writing a whole new piece which would be less enthusiastic and would dive to depressing lows, judging by the mood I am in, I’d rather reproduce it here and be euphoric!

An Indian Christmas by Joy Clarkson (2007)

Just a fortnight ago, I was desperately trying to pack forty-eight hours into my day. There were so many things that had to be done in preparation for Christmas. Cakes to be baked, gifts to be bought, traditional sweets and savouries to be prepared, decorations to be put up, furniture to be upholstered (as it was done four years ago), living room curtains to be replaced, and a carpet too perhaps, a party to be planned…it was endless. Oh yes! The salon, how could that be left out. The last thing I needed on Christmas was bad hair, dull skin and rough hands.

How I love Christmas. The whole world seems so beautiful and happy in its preparation to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Personally, I feel more charitable; more forgiving; able to overlook the meanness of people and truly meet it with joy and love. Whether you are a believer or not, nevertheless, the spirit of Christmas embraces you with love and a feeling of caring and sharing.

The malls are decorated. Santa caps sell like hot cakes. People like to strut about with these red caps. Christmas is so commercialised, that’s sad because Santa Claus becomes the main figure!

The church is open throughout the day for people of other faiths, who come in a continuous stream to pray, despite the cold, even at midnight on Christmas Eve. All of us ‘busy’ folk who don’t find time to go to church throughout the year, can be seen in the front pews on Christmas in our Sunday Best.

” Seasonal Christians,” whisper the hoity-toity regulars, and then don their church faces. I smile and bow my head to thank God for making it possible for me to be in His House to share in the joy of His birth.

” I’m a seasonal churchgoer but a regular Christian,” I whisper to my neighbour, who raises her eyebrows as we all rise to sing. I like a little humour, a little laugh. Though I doubt my Christian neighbour found it funny!

I’ve never been able to outgrow the excitement and pleasure of buying and receiving Christmas gifts. The hunt for the right gifts, the mental arithmetic as you try to adjust everything into your budget, the minor disappointments, the major delight in giving and receiving ‘ just what I wanted ‘ gifts.

An overflow of this feeling is also present in my culinary pursuits.The most arduous task used to be preparing salt meat. The entire process takes about twenty days. So does the beetroot wine. However, this is a simpler preparation which only needs time to ferment. The successes and disasters in the kitchen, as the goodies get in and out of the oven and the frying pan, fill the home with laughter and much consoling too.

Decorating the house and tree is a family affair. As each one pitches in, at times, it does run into mild differences of opinion, which are quickly resolved….that’s the spirit of Christmas. The flower rangoli is designed and diyas placed at the entrance. Tea lights are put on the balcony wall. Candles of various shapes and sizes are a part of the decor.

Finally when all the baubles, tinsel, lights, tree, bells and bows are in place and the cakes, sweets and savouries are done — It’s Christmas Eve and the refrain of ‘Silent Night, Holy Night…’ wafts through the house as we light all the candles and switch off the lights. The star hanging in the balcony is lit and it swings in the breeze. The wind-chimes pick soft notes. The carol is the only other sound as it plays softly….” All is calm, all is bright, Round yon Virgin mother and child…….Sleep in heavenly peace, sleep in heavenly peace.”

A transformation takes place; such peace descends on each one: “A peace that passes all understanding.”

NOTE: Rangoli – An artistic design made on the floor with flower petals or dry, coloured powder.

Diyas: Small earthen lamps.