Festivals were memorable events. My favourite was Janmashtami when we decorated the wooden frame in the pooja room, with fruits and flowers. All the idols of Krishna were brought out from the curio cupboard and arranged according to their size. Dishes carrying a variety of sweets and savories would be offered to the naughty god child. Grandmother made miniature sizes of all those goodies for us mortal kids, to eat. She had an actual cradle ceremony for Krishna and invited the neighborhood ladies for His blessings.
Diwali was fun too, what with my own box of sparklers and flower pots. Grandmother would wake me up at four in the morning, give me an oil bath and let me wear my new skirt and blouse. Lunch would be a lavish spread of sweets .We would decorate the whole house with little mud lamps, the flames dancing in the breeze. It was a colourful festival, unlike the noisy one it is now.
Hundreds of children came home for Ganapathi festival, just as I would go to other houses. We were told that we would get good marks in our exams if we ‘saw’ hundred Ganapathi’s. I don’t know if that helped our grades, but it certainly increased our social contacts!
Ten days of Dassera had a thrill of its own. I helped grandmother arrange the dolls in the curio cupboard, on a seven step pedestal. Everyone did this in their homes and invited neighbors to this doll exhibition which lasted for ten days. Many ladies used their imagination to make this ritual a creative exercise and I remember seeing elaborate recreations of the Gemini Circus, a Zoo, a park and even the Jog Falls.
During Pongal grandmother would dress my braid with jasmine flowers and make me wear a gorgeous silk skirt and blouse. Attired in this finery, I was sent to distribute ‘til’ (sesame) and sugarcane to the neighbours. One of the objectives of this practice in those days was to introduce young girls to society as future brides.
Grandmother took me to all the places of pilgrimage she went to. I have had holy dips in many rivers and got jostled in crowds at car festivals. When I was around seven years, I had to accompany her to a holy shrine which was located on a hill which we had to climb bare foot. I remember her hiding our slippers behind a bush and finding it missing when we came back the next day.
I liked going with her to the movies. Grandmother had some problem with her knee and had to be pulled up the stairs while climbing. I was the official puller and the fringe benefit was seeing the movie. She patronized Kannada and Tamil films. She also took me to plays. In those days, adults did not have to worry about us kids watching movies because there was nothing vulgar or obscene. There was the usual running around trees and a few fight scenes. The romantic couple gave each other moony glances or sang lachrymose lyrics. They either got married or died when their parents objected to their marriage.