A cousin of Rakhi, Bhai Dooj is celebrated right after Diwali, often eclipsed by the enormity and the scale of Diwali celebrations. There are many things that get eclipsed in the routine rush of our existence. Like, when was the last time you walked on grass?
The ‘I’ in the following piece is not me. I just like to take the place of people and play their part for the fun of it.
“People hardly have any time for anything these days.”
“And these festivals come like a blizzard, all at once and hardly let you breathe.”
I was eyeing the elaborate thaalis containing sweets in all shapes and sizes, my face betraying greed and ravenous hunger as my mother chatted with my uncle’s wife about the torrent of festivals that invaded as well as brightened our mundane existence.
“Get some incense sticks from the other room!”
I heard mom’s instructions and went ahead to comply.
It was another happy-busy holi-workday when some age-old rituals had to be upheld and embellished with our new age improvisations of gifts and celebratory dinners.
An array of puja stuff had been laid out, decorated thaalis with an engraved incense stick stand and a glass of sparkling water. Laddoos and barfis lined on a large tray, salty snacks placed in another dish, flowers on the periphery of all the traditional decor. It all seemed like an offering to some deity. Obviously it is supposed to be an offering to some deity. My mother would anoint her brother’s forehead with a crimson teeka while praying for his well being and prosperity. My uncle would return the favor by blessing mom, his hands on her head, holding the customary paddy seeds, sweets and —–
“Grass. Get some grass! Quick! I had told your dad to get everything ready. Does he ever listen?”
My mother’s voice trailed into accusations as I set out to collect fistfuls of grass for the ceremony ; grass in the ritual signifies the bounty of nature and prosperity. Perhaps…
Finally, I got out, away from the alluring sight of the mouth-watering delicacies and mom’s never-ending instructions. This one was a petty task. Collecting grass. Pooh! I could get it in a jiffy. Just down near the parking lot maybe. Or in the garden.
My mother loves flowers. She had our gardener plant lovely roses, marigolds, jasmine, money plant, bonsai and so on. Our garden is a pleasing sight of ivy and vines tastefully cording themselves around the verandah railings.
No grass though. We don’t have grass in our pretty little garden. Obviously grass is not pretty. Also, our plants are all potted. Some dwarf plants do crop up in the vases but I haven’t seen grass growing anywhere. What would we do with grass anyway? It looks quite wild and unwanted as if it belongs to uncultivated land or something.
I moved on towards the parking area. What an imbecile I must be. What was I expecting to find? Grass sprouting through cement and mortar?
I decided to check out the neighbouring gardens. I saw bougainvilleas, cacti, ashoka trees, neem trees, peepul, laburnum and even those pink and white wild flowers that grow of their own accord. But I couldn’t spot grass anywhere.
My petty assignment was taking longer than I thought. I couldn’t find grass in my locality? Kids would snigger at my asininity. Just then, I hit upon my mistake. I was looking in all the wrong places. And the word ‘kids’ had given me the idea. Where do kids play? Obviously!
I just needed to check out some parks!
It came as a blow to me that my block does not have many parks, at least grassy ones. More glaring was the revelation that I had never bothered to look for any in all the years I had been living here. I came across a park which had one broken swing and a gang of boys playing cricket on sandy ground, a lot of dust accompanying their game. There were a few more in several nearby blocks where there were paved tracks for walking and a host of swings on yellowish-brown earth. These were among the well-maintained parks. Strangely, they were quite grassless. Save a few swards here and there, patches of dried yellow grass. Mom wouldn’t have accepted them for the offering. Even I knew that the ritual required bright green grass. It is said that brothers bless their sisters with grass. Grass denotes that blessings do not require anything save true devotion and feelings and even a blade of grass can be an invaluable present if you have the heart. Little did our ancestors know that soon a blade of grass would truly be tagged as an ‘invaluable present’ and plants as expensive classy gifts.
I wandered a bit more, determined to hit success in this quest of mine. Just then right between two buildings, where the water tanks are kept in a neglected space, I saw a clump of grass sheltered by a few dwarf trees of unknown origin.
Green grass! What a blessing !
I snatched fistfuls of it and filled my polypack to the brim.
When I reached our flat, my mother asked me, “Were you growing grass or what?”
I felt like saying “nearly”, I was dying to tell her about my newest discovery- that grass is on its way to extinction!