Setting Up Gollu With Grandma | Down-The-Memory-Lane

The months of September-October-November are important in India. After Ganesh Chaturthi, the climate in India shows marked difference from warm to going cold. The Winter Solstice gently drifts from Fall and the coldness takes over by November-December-January dates. The Spring Solstice happens in Mid-January harbingering a new lease to life.

Though I dislike cold now but during my younger days I was neutral to cold. But over the years of becoming adult and senior, I feel that I am not adaptable with cold climes. There was innumerous festival that are celebrated to honor our Gods, Goddesses, and sometimes demons like in Diwali. In South it is called Naraga Chaturthi (Celebration of Naragasuran death in the hands of Lord Krishna). Diwali celebrates the triumph of good over evil. I think that is common factor in all the festivals in India.

The post Ganesh Chaturthi there is much violence overcome by the deity honored for the festival. The Navaratri or Navarathram is a festival that celebrates triumph of the Trinity Goddesses’ – Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswathi against Mahishasuran, a demon. In this festival also the good overcomes the evil.

In the Autumn when the sun turns away from the Earth harbingering the darker season in the coming months, it is a beautiful transitional month to watch nature turn in color and in spirits. I always felt that the Spring and Summer were lighter festival and Autumn and Winter had heavier festivals. The color pallets of the season turn from light colors to deep dark colors.

Navaratri in 2020

The COVID-19 rules of Social Distancing and taking precaution against the virus has people scrambling to cancel all house visits. Navaratri is about socializing and display of artistic works of each family. The ten or five steps display of dolls and human lifestyle have great significance to believe that good will always win over any evil.

Navaratri is no longer the way it used to be in Srivatsam. All Grandma’s dolls have become rotted and was disposed back in 2016. It was during the move from independent house to the flat setting when we discovered the massive loss that hit us. It was quiet a shock for amma since it was Patti’s collection of dolls. There are family which are proud of its antique doll pieces.

The old and antique collections have a lot of emotional value and it could be quiet devastating to see something so precious get spoilt due to constraint and negligence. It was painful to dump the damaged and rotted dolls in the dumpster.  

In 2017, I decided to buy my own little collection of dolls for the puja room. The small permanent collection of Papier-Mâché dolls is in constant display in the puja room these days. I look forward to lots of things in my life and one of the important things in life is the puja room. I play with lots of lamp settings.

Navaratri Back in Those Days

These days socializing has been reduced and I rarely go make visits to houses. Moreover, old acquaintances have moved on, and only a few are still around me, who knew me as a child. I visit them and there are a few moments of exchange of pleasantries.

Navaratri was always my sister and I as a team. Even now if it is this festival, I would always remember her the most. I believe I have another equation with my sister which I do not have with anyone else. I am blessed in this lifetime with a great family. The equation of our relationship keeps changing but not the core values is fixed. I think each of the family member has a takeaway from the family values and it is in their DNA.

Grandma and Gollu Setting

Usually this festival is timed with our holidays after our half-yearly exams. Patti would pick the New Moon day or Amavasya afternoon post lunch to setup the gollu. Both my sister and I would be asked to move-push-lift-set the steps which would be an ensemble of moving boxes, broken staircase wooden slabs termites ridden (of course we had to clean that too) and assorted flat surfaced things.

Then my father’s white veshti gets used for covering up and pinning them to the setup so it all perfectly looks like a single piece of miraculously stable setting for the dolls to be displayed. Phew! That was a long sentence!

It is Patti who decided which doll went on which row. The process itself would be such a joy. The dolls were packed last year by us and you will find them as they were gently packed. The whole Gollu is packing unpacking of so many thoughts and desires of my Grandma’s younger self. The best way to experience it is when Grandma and her granddaughters sit down to setup the steps. Then stories flow no ending, bringing with its memories of old times.

I never got along with my grandmother but whenever there are tasks like setting up gollu or lamps for Karthigai deepam, I would be completely tamed. I loved doing these little tasks as part of her task force. I always loved the Fall-Winter-early Springs festivals a lot.

The fact that this festival celebrates womanhood and her ferocity which is controlled only by the spiritual force from within. These forces are channelized to get the creative part of the woman in various art forms. The Mahisasura in within each of us and the goodness in us needs to conquer the evil that lurks in us while making choices in life.

Every festival is conquest of good over evil and the fact that truth triumphs overall, brings hope to all. The goddesses protect and nurture the living being with their presence every year when darkness crowds the darker days of the year.

The use of lamps becomes more prominent after Ganesh Chaturthi. I think it was the best way to dispel darkness bring the enlightenment of light. There is much joy in the display that you find in the five steps. There is a whole story of toil and sufferance felt by each young bride to expectant mother to mature grandmother.

Every year Grandma would buy for us one new doll. I remember going to the marketplace in Srinivasan Rickshaw man’s tricycle. The incredible bargaining capacity of Grandma even now astounds me to date. The joy of purchase and trinkets for both the sisters would be the highlight of the visit to the market.

Present Day Memories

This year, we are as usual mourning, and this time, it is personal. Both my parents are no more, yet I feel the echoes of their spirits within me. I believe they will always be with me in spirits and I am happy for them. They have taught me much and the sense of loss is replaced with collected calm within me.

They may no longer be in the physical plane; they are a part of our collective memories of our family. My understanding as their child has expanded and comforts me whenever I feel alone with both my roof and ground removed from above and below me. The season is gently drifting to December Kutcheries soon. I am hearing the whispers of songs from the season as the echoes of spiritual connect.

I am even hearing the call of River Thiruvaiyur banks and there is hope that things will look better in the coming months. Human being are products of hope, desire, and greed. The mix of all these and much more emotional factors makes us for who we are.

I leave with a hope for all that if you spend a few moments closing your eyes in peace. The best of all situation will appear with clarity.

Happy Navaratri to all!