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Growing up Indian

Being a citizen requires more proof than just a show of papers

Growing up Indian meant shifting the party every time a festival came around — gyrating to the latest songs, devotional or inappropriately filmy, invoking whichever powers and beseeching whichever gods could miraculously get us more of the fabulous stuff each mum cooked up, pongal, biryani or barfi.

It meant sitting cross-legged, hands joined through the pandit’s incantations and squinting an eye open each time he stopped, hoping it was closer to prasaad-eating time. Soon, itching and snitching and squabbling among us kids prompted a stern bark from an elder —‘Shh, or go out!’ Go out? Go out? And miss the ladoos? Not likely.

Our noses were tracking devices. Come Navroze, we’d be swinging on the gate of the elderly Parsi couple who lived across the maidan. We’d cracked the system, assessing that our chances of being fed by them were the highest; they had diabetes and couldn’t eat as much as they cooked. Dhansak devoured, we’d leave their gate alone for the next year.

On our respective festival days, we’d scamper, freshly scrubbed and dressed, despatched by our mums from house to house, proudly balancing plates of snacks covered with crocheted napkins, often depleting the bounty long before it reached the destined neighbour’s house.

Eid turned us spiritual at lunchtime when the tiffins of biryani arrived, despite motherly spoil-sportedness: wash your hands. Who took all the chicken pieces? Wait, don’t eat like hyenas. Close your mouths and chew.

On Holi, our moms demonically insisted we starve, aka wash out every bit of purple from inside our nostrils before we sat to eat. Divine, that thandai mixed with silver oil paint that lined our teeth, sourced illegally by an older kid from the mechanics.

We’d sneak in with any bunch of Christmas carollers who happened by, lustily serenading the redness of Rudolph’s nose, in the hope some rose cookies would reward us.

We yelled ‘Asatoma-sadgamaya’ or ‘Hello-be-your-name’ with equal gusto, on whichever occasion demanded it. Our mums’ yellow dupattas doubled up as saris on Sarawati puja and shepherd’s ‘don’t-trip-on-my-headgear’ in Christmas skits. We sprained ankles, hopping in circles on one foot doing the bhangra, deafened ourselves to get up close in each Durga puja pandal, sported finger burns while making figures of eight with Diwali phuljhadis, smacked our sticks against unwary knuckles when impromptu dandiya parties lit up the nights.

No one complained, no one demanded our state, creed or surname before plying us with samosas, and no one grew up unIndian because of it.

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Printable version | Feb 27, 2020 11:42:47 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/growing-up-indian/article30641960.ece

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