…. Then there was this Saraswati Puja. For us it was a rare school festival than a worship. The school would suddenly turn into a picnic spot for one day. Class teachers would ask us to ‘pay’ some milk, some rice and some rupees as offerings to the goddess of learning. We would not miss paying. Parents adored our excitements and gave us things that were handy at home.
Father used to be invited to conduct the worship every year. In the assembly, he used to ask all of us to sing “jaya jaya saraswati, jaya jaya jaya.” But, we appreciated something else, rather than this singing: the haluwa and khir, the real boons of the worship, the produces of our own payments.
The teachers, assisted by bigger boys and girls, used to cook these delicacies in large pots. We would devoutly wait for a ‘filling’ share. But we could get only a little more than two spoonfuls on pieces of paper or leaf-plates. They would then ask us to leave fast.
We were told that the “big” ones would take control of the delicacies. They would feast the whole day, and even till night, with songs, dances, pranks and card games.
We would grudge bitterly on our way home, and sometimes curse them with diarrhoea and dysentery for sending us hungry and unhappy. But, there always was something waiting at home because Mother knew the ends of those rituals.
After all, who could be as loving as Mother and Grandmother on a day like that? ….