Yay, the weekend is finally here!! And I am off to my mother's house for Saraswathi pooja. I will be seeing my son after 3 weeks...can't wait!! Navarathri is a very important occasion celebrated with a lot of gusto across the country. A lot of people talk about how it is a celebration of the sacred feminine and 'Shakthi', the female side of all things. But for me, navarathri is associated with golu. For the uninitiated, golu is a practice where they arrange dolls in steps in as artistic a manner as possible. Not all families do it. I dont. But my mother started this a long, long time ago and still continues to this day. The story is that when I was 3 years old, I went to someone's house to see their golu and came home and cried that I wanted one too. And she started it. And kept on doing it year after year. Amma started off small, with just 3 steps and kept on accumulating dolls with each passing year and the golu tradition grew and flourished along with me. I remember, we made a park once, with a lot of grass and sand and little dolls of people and animals. I know that everyone who has ever had the tradition of Golu must have made a park at least once. But my mother did it long before it was in vogue and huge crowds from the neighborhood turned out to see it. I could'nt stop smiling, I was so proud of it!! I still have a photo of me standing on a chair alongside the Golu, clutching my bunny rabbit doll. Sundal is a very important part of golu. Navaratri, more than anything, is a social occasion. You go to people's places and invite them to come over to your place. And when people come, you give them the usual kumkum and vethalai, pakku and stuff and sundal, which is a navarthri special. When I started learning carnatic music, it became a PAIN to go to these golu affairs. I was going through this shy, anti-social phase and wherever I went, people would tell me, oru pattu padina dhan sundal.(You get sundal only if you sing a song.) Well, some of those mamis' sundal was so bad that I'd shut up and not open my mouth at all. The other mamis made sundal that was to die for. Amma and I would go house to house and collect our booty and bring them all back home where appa would be waiting with all his tastebuds in readiness. And then the analysis would begin...some looked so bad we would'nt even open the covers. And there were others we would fight tooth and nail over. As I grew up and moved out for college and later to Bangalore after marriage, amma could'nt maintain the scale of the festivity all by herself. Down came the number of steps again, till they became nothing more than just symbolic golus with just one step and a few old dolls. This year, I did not eat any sundal at all. Usually, I make it a point to at least invite a couple of people over but work was so crazy that I could'nt even do that this time. But I did one bright thing. I sent my son over to my mom's place. I could see a spring in my mother's step again this time. She tells me she has a very pretty golu this year again, after all those years. And she tells me my son has had his heart's fill of sundal. As for me, I am going to get my first sundal of this year tomorrow from the mami who makes it best in the whole world - my mother.