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Monsoon of Memories: Janmashtami truly felt like a birthday party

By Purva Grover Email By Purva Grover
September 2022
Monsoon of Memories: Janmashtami truly felt like a birthday party

We kids had just spent half an hour creating the special delicacy—our version of prasaad, the offering to Krishna—for the visitors who decided to stop by our little jhaanki, the makeshift tableau we had created for the annual celebrations of Janmashtami, the night that Krishna was born. Our prasaad was a blend of sugar diluted in water. It did look chalky, but it was sweet and homecooked! We had our recipe of panjeeri, the solid version of prasad, too—crushed Parle-G biscuits. All of us kids in the neighborhood had prepared for this day for weeks, and on the day of the birth of Lord Krishna, we wanted to put our best act together.

When I hit the rewind button to the Janmashtami celebrations during my growing-up years, I am transported to the mellow sweet taste of our prasaad. For reasons unknown to us, the preparation of the festival always started with the discussion of who would play dress-up. The tallest amongst us ended up playing the father of baby Krishna, and the second tallest played the mother. After a lot of discussion, the tiniest and the nicest of all the dolls was picked out to be dressed as baby Krishna.

Our next step involved a lot of physical labor. A few of the brave ones amongst us spent many hours in the sun digging up mud to later fill up that space with water and create a “river”—the famous Jamuna that baby Krishna had been carried through right after his birth on the dark stormy night. The creation of the river was crucial—we had learned all about it in our books and stories narrated by our grandparents. In recreating our own Jamuna, we had not only bruised but also exhausted ourselves completely in the process. The arty ones had assumed the responsibility of building the basket in which Krishna’s father, Vasudeva, would carry him safely across the river which would be raging at the time of his crossing.

We all knew the story well enough to create Shesh Naag, Lord Vishnu’s serpent, using black chart paper with some glitter. Scraps of colorful paper were used to create a bunting to attract our audience—the elders as well as other kids from our neighborhood. A kind neighbor had offered us a battery-operated multi-hued light which, we were certain, would be the USP of our jhaanki. After this was done, we all were set to celebrate our hard work and have a good time. The event went well and like each year, we couldn’t help thinking that if we were fortunate and got enough visitors, we may even win the vote for best jhaanki in the neighborhood.

A few sepia-toned, and some in color, images of the years gone by are enough to make me crave the sweet offerings and get crafty with paper and twigs. On the said day, even to date, it’s easy to find eateries delivering peda, the yummy sweet prepared with milk, saffron, sugar, and dry fruits, and many other of Krishna’s favorite sweets, but there’s nothing like bringing one’s hands together for the homemade mellow-tasting prasaad.

Janmashtami, in my growing-up years, truly felt like hosting and attending a birthday party. It came complete with the blessings of the adults, buntings as decor, pretty clothes, and more. I would love to be invited back to it and wouldn’t mind DIY-ing the whole event, just like my younger self.

Purva Grover is an author, journalist, poet, playwright, and stage director. A postgraduate in mass communication and literature, she is the founder-editor of The Indian Trumpet, a digital magazine for Indian expats in the UAE. She can be reached at grover.purva@gmail.com. To comment on this article, please write to letters@khabar.com.

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