The mixed vegetable chitranna (seasoned rice) was pleasantly nice, not a fan when it’s breakfast but today it was carrying all the zest my mum’s been beaming off all week. It was the Varamahalakshmi (the Hindu Goddess of good fortune) vratha, the ceremony where women in silk sarees and super heavy gold jewelry offer special prayers to the goddess Lakshmi and in return she gives you good luck and fortune.
So my Mum likes the festival, but not the preparation for it; which makes sense because more things to do and no extra hands to help. So she’s a little cranky but also happy, these are states she’d be alternating between in the week before the festival. But this year she was less cranky, she got help in the cleaning up and didn’t cook extravagant meals and it was just every other day without meals and a lot of seasoned sprouts. She was wearing a red chiffon saree with a golden mango print (paisley), and her new favourite pair of golden jhumka (bell like ear-ring) and almost noiseless anklets.
So women are invited home to take offering made to Lakshmi, whom they embody or some such thing. I was giving these offerings because my sister wasn’t “supposed” to give them. This is sometimes fun and most of these women would ask for mum, I’d say she’s out and offer them the plate with flowers, turmeric and kukuma. They’d apply the powders take the string of jasmine to stick it in their heads with the same grace you’d use to strangle a baby. Then it was to give the plate with glass bangles and then I’d then offer them a coconut inside a little bag that had beetle leaves and nuts. Done, that’s it, go home.
So mum came back after going to someone’s house that was three kilometres away, I made green tea for the three of us. Over tea mum told me about the houses she’d been to and how they were doing. First was aunty S, whom mum met along with aunty R when they would go to Banashankari temple by bus. S had lost her husband sometime early 2016, so she’s not supposed to go to these vratha. Her older daughter is married, younger is engaged and to be married in November or so; the son quit his job at Dell and started his own company or something.
As mum finished tea, Mrs C came home and I was still sipping on tea and my sister was in her room sipping tea and watching a movie. C is the older women who lives down the road and I see her with her husband on walks in the morning before I leave to college and in the night when I’m getting home. I used to say hello to them till they got creepy, with their questions and staring. “You should cut your hair, I’m saying it for your dad. We live with dignity, growing hair and such things defeat our class. We shouldn’t certain things, boys should carry themselves like boys. Are you angry with me?” I smiled but didn’t say anything; she enquired about our other neighbours and left.
Mum now spoke about Mrs R, our Brahmin neighbour from across the road. “Are you Reddy’s?” “That’s the first question she asked me the minute I entered their house. I said we were Rajus.” People like her wouldn’t come home if they knew it meant we were from a lower caste, I guess.
Then Mrs B a Marwari woman from the building next door, we’ve been living next door for a year now but hardly ever spoke but we know a lot about them from our G aunty, our domestic help who also works at their house. B is from Kolkata, has been living in Bangalore for the last 26 years and knows six languages. She just got back from her sister’s house in Jaipur and we spoke for a good twenty-five minutes before she left.