The clock never halts, that we all know, but for many years now, time seems to be sprinting at a hare’s rate of knots, with a new week beginning and ending, leaving one wondering how it was already Sabbath Sunday and yet hadn’t been able to shoehorn half of the work that was supposed to have been near completion on Wednesday. So today it’s been exactly one month since the last Navratra, better known as Navratri, and quite literally, it seems barely a couple of days ago that the festive feel was at its zeal for nine consecutive days—come twilight and diyas were being, with all one’s heart steadfastly lit, the “home mandir” dedicatedly cleaned and gleamed with, perhaps even, a pristine new “moorti” of Durga Mä installed, maybe even hailing in the services of a Pandit, with the neighbours invited for the “Mä ki Chowki” event. Only know of a few who would give a fit-for-a-king “bhandara” a pass, post the Aarti—songs sung in the praise of the deity. Nine days of what I’d say are for many of us, “Fasting and Feasting.” Think that’s the title of one of Anita Desai’s books minus the “and” if my memory hasn’t gone comatose, near to breathing one’s last. However, no going off on a tangent this time round—a promissory note I handed to myself at the very outset. Back to fasting and feasting—a work associate, have to bite my tongue hard for her name not to sneak out of my mouth—pulls out all stops during Navratri. This time she went dizzyingly sky-high in her free-handed open heartedness, ferrying bagfuls of fruit—pomegranates, oranges, grapes, pears, watermelons, and whatever fruit was available in the nudgingly elbowing for space pushcarts of fruitwallahs—to the office. Her staunch nine-day fasting and actually over-the-top story for another day. With all the continuous “fasting” on fruit, and come breaking fast time, post-sunset with her “Aaloo Dahi ki Sabzi,” “Kuttu ki Atta ki Puris,” “Saboodana Khichdi,” her countenance acquired a radiant translucence and she, dear lady, is both plump and pleased as peach. And aah, before I run away with more imperative fine points, have to press the pause button slipping in another in-your-face fact—those who do the full nine days of fasting, invariably seem to wear an upper-hand expression, if poor you observes the first or the last, and if you happen not to fast at all, then you are labelled a defaulter, blackballed, and left out in the cold. Hello?? You might just want to say your piece/peace and let the ardent fasters know that you are a Believer, think you are a good human, ever-ready to tender a helping hand, but abstaining from food (though not a glutton, by a long shot) just is not your cup of tea but your explanation is cold-shouldered, while you are housed in the doghouse to do time till Navratri is over. And yes, it’s bonus, icing on the cake time for restaurants, eateries, and Zomato takeaways with their stellar Navratri thaalis boasting of Popcorn Paneer, Kacche Kele ke Shammi, Singhare ke Pakode, Quinoa Kofta, and to wash them down, there is buttermilk. Breaking one’s fast, not in the precincts of one’s own kitchen but at a delicatessen serving superlative authentic “fast food” works out to serve two purposes—an outing and with due diligence, observing down-to-the-last letter the veneration, the reverence required to honour the nine Goddesses. And as said, during Navratri these food saloons or takeaways do booming business, smiling ear-to-ear all the way to the bank with the dough. (An aside: the first time I’ve used the word “dough” for money but since we speak of food-huts, I think “dough” sounds in place, and before using the word thought of my brother, Rahul, who would always, much to my chagrin, say “dough” for money, as if he was using some code privy to Scotland Yard!) While we are cataloguing on things included during the Navratra phase, then, however, can we leave out that this occasion, this stretch, is also the harbinger of shop-till-you-drop time. The auspicious cycle to be object-oriented, to guilt-free go on a Consumer-High. So flatscreen, high-definition TVs are sold, in chorus, as are mobile phones. (Buying the latest Apple, while dumping last year’s perfectly-in-order model, shouldn’t raise brows because fresh purchases are sanctioned by the distinct alignment of the constellation of stars!) And cars of all brands, though the bigger the better, and thereby classified as brighter, fly off the shelves during this spell. And since everything, as in everything, can be bought on Easy Monthly Instalments, no need to fret; on the contrary, be upbeat! Yes, and then the bamboozling, completely incomprehensible refrain of our sunk-like-the-Titanic economy! Consumeristic craving relabeled as Existential Choices. Speak of rebranding, or is “rebaptizing” the more befitting word… To lorry in a different yet connected direction: precisely two days after Navratri, April 1st, I and my significant other had some bank-related work. The bank’s shutters were down and securely bolted by two intimidating oversized locks. All banks were closed after the fiscal year end. Why so?! The premises were being tidied up. Why no ping notification over our mobiles, informing the customers, since life was always online?! Anyway, not to get into this further, need to take stock of the clock. McDonald’s was next door. My husband’s footsteps involuntarily led him there, with me tagging behind. I hadn’t seen the inside of one since heaven knows when. I wish I had videographed the scene. It was all about being die-hard carnivores with a fang-like vengeance. Was it because of the 9-long days of abstinence, of self-denial, of self-deprivation?! Ripping into double-decker Mahaburgers, tearing into fish fillets, shredding away chunks of meat with teeth grinding ceaselessly. Papas mauling mammoth bites of hamburgers and then, with paternal abundance, handing over the same for his junior to graze into. Senior and junior taking turns in gobbling the singular burger. Mum’s popping chicken pops in her waddling babe’s mouth as if she was dribbling balls into a basket net. Clearly, so much of this panorama should warrant, should it not, for us to hunt and restore India, that was Bharat.
Dr Renée Ranchan writes on socio-psychological issues, quasi-political matters, and concerns that touch us all.