The first of anything is of utmost importance to the people of India and especially my family. The “firsts” are celebrated with gusto, pomp and splendor. So this “first” blog had to be crafted and posted on an auspicious day. The first word uttered by a baby—will it be Mama or Dada? Dada means the next baby will be a boy and Mama means the second child will be a girl, or at least that is what my mom believed! The first solid food is given to the baby on a carefully chosen day and the person who feeds the baby his or her first morsel is also carefully chosen. First steps, first day of school, first report card, first day of menstruation are all celebrated, commemorated and stored in our collective memory banks.
When my son Joeti, now 21, was a year old, my mother who was visiting from India, suggested we start his education in keeping with the traditions of ancient India. We chose my beloved Uncle Easwaran as his guru or “first teacher.” My mother spread fine white sand on a fancy silver tray and Uncle E carefully traced a sloka or Sanskirt saying on the sand holding Joeti’s chubby fingers in his hand. Later, he wrote out the saying for us in Sanskirt script and it hangs framed on our home office wall. Roughly translated it means, “Oh Mother Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge, most auspicious, with beautiful big eyes like lotus petals, kindly bless me with knowledge.”
I chose April 15, 2014 (no, not tax return deadline!) but because it is a special day for people of Kerala. It is “Vishu” or Kerala New Year. So while you are (hopefully) reading these words on April 15, I would have woken up my son Ajay, 17, early on this morning and with eyes closed I would have led him to our living room. There on a side table he would be asked to stand (bend his over 6 feet 1-inch frame) and open his eyes. He would gaze at the bounty spread before his sleepy eyes: Fragrant mangoes, yellow bananas and a stately pineapple will be tucked among vases of golden blooms (yellow is an auspicious color for Vishu). Orange-yellow squash, fresh coconuts and silver containers filled with rice, white beans and draped in gold jewelry will be glitter and sparkle in the light of oil lamps (and some candles). He will look into his reflection in the mirror and I will ask him, “do you see the Lord Ajay?” and like a four-year-old he will rub his eyes and ask, “but Mom it’s just me.” And I will reply, “That’s because the Lord is within you. Now carefully look at the fruit, vegetables, grains, beans, jewelry and light and may your year be filled with prosperity and happiness.” Then he will receive his “token” or Vishukaninatam. Some cash, a new book and a new shirt. “Where’s coffee? And what’s for breakfast,” he will ask and in seconds we are back in Davis, getting ready to start another school day.
Welcome to Meera’s Blog: And may your coming year be filled with auspicious words, delicious foods, and plenty of love and laughter!