Use what he has granted you, my friend
While shafts exist the bow must not unbend
His word is sharp and always hits the spot
Unlike the quibbles, ‘if’, ‘maybe’ and ‘what’!
He is the sunlight slicing through the dark
He is the silence of the Twilit Park
Makar Sankranti, for most of the northern regions in India, or Thai Pongal for Tamil Nadu, or Magh Bihu for Assam, or Uttarayan for Gujarat, is the festival referring to a Solar day as per the Hindu calendar, occurring in January every year. For the farmers, it is considered one of the main festivals and as India has been an agrarian economy for a very long time period, the celebrations take place throughout the country. It marks the beginning of a new time every year, which is why sweets are exchanged on this festival. They represent forgiveness and leaving all the ill-feelings behind, starting afresh. The various fairs (Melas), feasts, dances, exhibitions of art are all indications to hearts filled with joy and renewal of energies.
As winter passes, the time of harvest also marks the flow of income for the farmers. Indeed a time for celebration! According to the Indian religious texts, on the day of Uttarayani, also called as Ghughuti in Kumaon language, the Sun enters the zodiacal sign of Makara (Capricorn), that is, from this day onwards the Sun starts moving to North. From then on, the migratory birds start returning to the hills. To spread the bliss across, people also make sweetmeats out of sweetened flour, deep fried in Ghee, giving them different shapes of swords, knives, pomegranate and drums, and feed them to crows and other birds.
‘Oo Lachhmi..! Beta, I need your help here.’
‘I’m coming Maa.’
Lakshmi picked up a log of wood and placed it in the fireplace for her father and his friends, having hookah.
‘Here. Take 100 rupees and get some sugar from the shop at the end of the street.’
‘But, Maa. It’s too less. Won’t be enough for the entire group of people. Our guests I mean.’
‘Okay. So, tell Sonu bhaiya at the shop to give more of 100 bucks. I’ll pay him later.’
Lakshmi looked down at the note and rolled it in her hands. Quickly wrapping her face with a woolen scarf, she walked towards the shop.
‘Okay. Here’s more. Don’t worry about the money. Tell Sarita to pay me whenever she can.’
‘Thank you Sonu bhaiya.’
‘If it weren’t for the kind neighbours we have, I don’t think we would be able to live here. With the bad harvest this year, I think I’m going to be just having one meal in a day, Sarita.’
‘Oh, don’t worry. We still have plenty for our family. This Sakraant feast tonight won’t affect anything. Given your love for food, it was really considerate of you to think of such a thing!’
They both laughed together when Lakshmi returned and handed over the sugar to her mother.
‘What happened? You okay beta?’
‘Yeah. What can happen to me?’
‘You sound off. Did that Sonu say anything to you now?’ Naresh held his daughter’s hand firmly. ‘You can tell me.’
‘It’s not Sonu bhaiya. His younger brother, Kuldeep is the one. But never mind. I handled it well.’ Lakshmi winked at her mother and with a smiling face, she ran towards the terrace to meet her little friends. While folding the clothes neatly into a pile, she saw 3 notes of 500 rupees each.
‘Ahhaa! This is nice. Thank you God.’ She joined her hands and looked up towards the sky.
‘Lachhmi betiya is a good kid Naresh. The other day, she carried all my heavy bags to my place.’
‘I know Jogi ji. I’m proud of her too. Here. Have one more roti.’
‘Arrree..No no. I’m done Naresh. Besides, it was such a good feast. Just meeting all of you was enough for us. This lovely bonfire!’ Jogi kept his plate down to enjoy the heat one last time as he rubbed his palms against each other and put them out again facing the bonfire.
‘This is for you Chaachiji. This is for Chachaji and this is for golu.’
Lakshmi gave 3 packets of clothing to Kusum and Jogi after their meals. Naresh and Sarita couldn’t have felt any more proud of their daughter. Ending the feast with a gift on a bad harvest year was something they hadn’t expected. They all hugged each other and thanked Sarita and Lakshmi for preparing a good meal and gifts.
‘Achhaa Lachhmi Good night beta.’ Jogi and his family waved bye to Naresh and Lakshmi while Sarita wrapped up everything.
‘Goodnight Bhaisaab!’ Naresh replied.
‘I’m really happy that we got you as our child, Lachhmi. I don’t know what we would have done without you.’
‘More surprises to come, Papa.’
Sarita went towards the door to lock it as the guests had left when she saw Lakshmi giving a shirt to her father. A tear made its way down her right cheek to her lower lip.
‘Oh Maa.’ Lakshmi hugged her.
‘You thought I would forget about you?’ She wrapped her mother in a pink shawl, which was newly bought.
Sarita cupped Lakshmi’s face in her hands and kissed her forehead.
‘But I didn’t get it. How did you manage all this? Where did you get the money from? When did you go out to the market to buy all of this?’ Naresh didn’t pause between his questions.
‘You remember what I keep telling you guys?’
‘God is with us.’
‘Magic still exists.’
Lakshmi winked at her father and ran across the verandah with Mowgli, her dog.
‘Places may differ,
Names sound all too familiar,
We all know it’s the same.
Essence, meaning and gratitude
So worry not my friend,
Celebrate the spirit
Feel the joy,
Let abundance flow in.’