Oct 2016 - India Samvad

"Which Country Does Durga Live In?"

It is a usual evening. The clock ticktocks at its pace and sooner than we want, the rooster announces it is six o’clock. It is time to reluctantly say bye to friends next door, climb down the gate, dust traces of enthusiastic gardening from the purple and orange skirt and plod indoors with heavy steps. This time of the evening is most difficult to come to terms with. It feels like the longest part of the day. It is time for shower, followed by dinner. There is a ‘book’ from school to read and today there is a song to be practiced for an upcoming performance. For a five year old it is a packed evening.

How do you make it easier? You try to pack in as much. It reminds me of the sneaky chef baking muffins out of zucchini and sneaking red beans into brownies. At dinner you chat about the day and about coming days. You begin to explain the song that is to be sung. You take each word; you simplify it, translate it if needed, and try to relate it to her experience and understanding. You do all this while simultaneously translating cultures, ideologies, beliefs, traditions, rituals. You explain it while deconstructing and rephrasing your own understanding and perspective.

In between bites and spoonfuls of daal, roti and sabzi I begin talking about festivities at the Indian music school. It’s a nine day program and the occasion is ‘Navratri’. ‘Navratri’ is a familiar word now. She has heard it many times over in the past days. She has overheard conversations among the Indian circle about fasting, not eating certain foods during the day, turning vegetarian, visiting temples, running behind schedule because of puja etc. The session tonight seems to take on shades of a focus group. For some parts it’s like going into flashback and having similar conversations with the older child- why nine days, why not everyday? Why do some people turn vegetarian only for those days? Why do people need to go to a temple to pray? Etc.

The song that the children will present is in raag Durga. She knows Durga. She has seen her several times. She is an image of power. Her third eye has intrigued her.

“Does Nana have a third eye?” she had asked when I tried to explain the concept to her first.

The song is about Saraswati. I begin to describe her persona. She knows her well. We move on to the lyrics. I simplify them to tell her that Saraswati is very good at music, singing, art and craft; is intelligent, knowledgeable, strong, speaks politely and is kind. My daughter gives me a long look in the eye and then a big smile appears and spreads quickly beyond the ears and right up to the forehead. Her eyes sparkle. She shakes her head in disbelief, “She is just like me!”

The next day she has a question. “Which country does Durga live in?”

The same evening we book an Uber. Booking is confirmed within a minute. I get a message saying Durga will arrive in 4 minutes.

May we all recognize the power within.