Most people in the family fast and feed poor girls on either of these days. Mummy sends biscuit packets and money to slum children – her belief is not restricted to nine girls or poori-channa. When we were in Delhi and C was little, as early as five in the morning, the doorbell would ring and a pados ki aunty would hand me a paper plate with googey halwa, soft and salty kala channa covered with two limp poories. It had a one-rupee coin stuck into it. Then all morning many such plates arrived and D and I ate only that whole day.
C grew up and life in Bangalore made us forget many such celebrations. So this year seemed like the perfect chance to not miss. I wanted C to experience the traditional way it is done and also thought it was a good opportunity to socialize by inviting little girls from our apartment complex with their mothers.
So C and I took a list to market to buy churis for the girls. They were extremely lovely. I took my time making sets, imagining each girls' wrist size, tying them with ribbons of different color according to sizes. Then I bought shiny little drawstring bags to keep the money in. All this, two days in advance. The excitement was building up.
I fasted on saptmi, the seventh day and in the evening went to invite the girls. The first child did not give a conclusive reply. Not a great beginning :( The second agreed. The third mother, looked at us and nodded even before I opened my mouth to state my purpose. Yes, yes, she said and after my house all the girls could come to her house. Fair enough. The fifth and sixth child were traveling. The seventh little girl hit her head with her palm and sighed ‘how many houses will I have to go!’ Eighth child confirmed. At the last home, I was met with questions such as ‘isn’t nine too early?’, ‘you want her bathed?’ but the real damper was ‘aapka jugaad ho gaya kya?’(meaning if I had been able to herd in the required nine girls). I realized then that the socializing, fun time I was looking forward might be seen by many as having a very self-serving motive. But there is all kinds.
I got up at five to make pooris, halwa and black channa. The dining table was moved to make place for seating on the floor. Alpana and candles decorated the entrance. The beautiful angels started to arrive sharp at nine - yeah, bathed and dressed beautifully. I washed their feet (symbolically, by sprinkling a few drops of water), applied tikka, did arti, touched their feet and asked them to bless me. One of the naughtier ones raised her palm to do so others giggled. And they loved the churis! Then they sat alti-palti on the floor to eat. We had a wonderful, wonderful time. C enjoyed it and I hope the little girls did too.
PS: Photo quality is bad as the search for the next camera is still on.
AFTERTHOUGHTS: Nothing moves Indians like the fear of afterlife and the wrath of the gods. They offer diamond necklaces and gold crowns to idols of gods but will doubt the intentions of those who devote themselves to the service of the needy. If it was told to them loud and clear that feeding nine girls on Ashtmi every year would secure a berth for them in Heaven, perhaps it would gradually instill in them a respect for the girl child.