The eyes flutter open just at the exact same moment the alarm goes off, a quick glance outside and it is still dark. There is no temptation to hit snooze and go back to sleep, as is the routine, because it is after all "pandigai-naal" (festival day), a special day! The kids had been prepped since a week, that Thursday was "pillayar umaachi"'s (child speak for Lord Ganesha) birthday and that everyone should wake up early to do Pooja to wish umaachi happy birthday before going off to school. The prep talk was meant as much for the husband as it was for the kids. As I am standing over the stove mixing kozhakattai maavu (modak dough), with my freshly washed hair tied up covered in a white towel, I open the kitchen window to let the cool air in, and it is still dark outside. I have my phone softly playing "Sukha Karta, Dukha Harta vaarta vighnachi Nurvi purvi prem krupa jayachi" in Lata Mangeshkar's sweet voice. I am suddenly consumed by this wave of nostalgia and longing, thinking about my childhood days in Mylapore, when the house would already be abuzz with activity. My mom, fresh and beautiful, hunched over the stove. My dad stringing mango leaves and hanging them out at the door in a clean white veshti, and my sister and I waiting patiently to get instructions from my mom to make the dough cups for the modak. The air is festive, and the cacophony of the cassette player playing the "Aarti Ganpatichi" album, the cooker going off, with something sizzling on the pan on the side, and the TV blaring on another side with the Ganesh Charurthi special programs. I am broken out of this reverie when my husband walks out, raises an eyebrow to acknowledge me and proceeds to pull a cup out of the cabinet to microwave for his coffee. I try to get his attention from his phone to point to the filter coffee decoction and milk I have boiled, because festival days call for special things, even coffee. He is completely oblivious until he has heated up the milk and his instant coffee and looks up to find me frowning at him. He scurries off to the bathroom to shower because I had instructed him to not touch anything in the kitchen until he had showered the previous day! The kids are still asleep and my longing for the festive atmosphere at my childhood home returns. My 8 yr old saunters into the kitchen with a "good morning amma" and I reflexively move away from her, asking her to go shower first. She looks confused for a second. My husband is back in the meantime and hurries her into the bathroom, simultaneously trying to wake my 3 yr old up, saying they were going to be late for school. The normality of it all annoys me. It annoys me that he gives school as the reason to wake her up instead of telling her it is umaachi's birthday. I frown to myself and continue on with the task of filling the sweet modaks. The 8 yr old is all dressed for school and is asking where her morning cereal is, and my husband is, as usual struggling to find something the 3 yr old is ready to wear for school. No one but me seems to realize that today is not like other days, it is a festival day, and these little things should not matter. But no one else seems to note that. As I am decorating the altar with the flowers I had my daughter bring from our garden, I can't help feel irritated to see my daughters going about the usual morning routine of eating their cereal and my husband packing their lunches while chatting about something irrelevant. The prayers are all finally done, with the husband and the kids all standing around impatiently. I quickly put a hand on each of them, alternating between touching their faces and the flame from the camphor burning on the plate in my hand. I hurry to the kitchen to pop a kozhakattai of each variety - sweet and savory, into their mouths while my husband is collecting the keys, the ID etc., like a usual day. As I watch my kids run to the car, I find a lump forming in my throat, thinking what the future will be like. Thinking that this will probably be the last of generations that will find special meaning in a festival, probably be the last generation that will believe. Just as the tears are threatening to spill out, I see the 8 yr old rushing back up the drive way, hurriedly untying her shoes. I glance around the kitchen to see what she forgot to take, and just as I am getting ready to ask her what happened, she comes in, kneels at the little altar specially made for our beloved Pillayar umaachi, mutters a slokam with closed eyes, and does a namaskaram. Spontaneously, without prompting. She pops another modak into her mouth and rushes out, careful not to step on the rangoli adorning the outside of my home, while my husband is gesturing at her to hurry up. I glance outside and there is daylight. The lump in my throat has vanished and my tears just stay at the corner of eyes. My heart is light as I look at my daughters drive off with the husband to tackle the day. I spend an additional minute looking at the Ganesha, looking resplendent and beautiful with fresh flowers and the fragrance of agarbathi hanging around. As I get ready to tackle my own normal day, the playlist from my phone has ended and is repeating the Aarthi again.... "Sukha Karta, Dukha Harta vaarta vighnachi Nurvi purvi prem krupa jayachi" "Bestower of happiness, destroyer of sorrow Remover of Obstacles Giver of love in the form of abundant blessings" Indeed. Happy Ganesh chaturthi, all.