My first memory of Ugaadi (pronounced as Ooh-gaa-dee), the Kannada new year dates back to 1992. I was in first grade. My mum and I were living with my maternal grandparents in Bangalore from 1992-94, when my father was posted to Siachen Glacier (Siachen is located in the eastern Karakoram range in the Himalaya, just north-east of the point where the Line of Control between India and Pakistan ends). It was difficult station for families to stay because of rough weather and of course uncertain living conditions. So my parents thought it would be best if I continued the early years of my education undisturbed here in Bangalore. So anyway, Ugaadi was here and the house was bustling with activity. It used to be a full house back then, my maternal uncles, aunties, cousins and grandparents. I loved being in that house, with so many people around, there was no chance for a dull moment ever. As I woke up on that school holiday, I knew my grandmother would be cooking up a feast. But that was not the only thing I super excited about. I had been informed by my grandfather, that on Ugaadi, it is customary for everyone to buy a pair of new clothes. Now ever since my grandfather had given me this important piece of information, I had taken it upon myself to coordinate the logistical details of the affair i.e. bug my mom until whatever it takes for her to tell me when we can make a visit to the “the place”. It’s funny because I wasn’t even that into clothes as a child, but probably because it was my first Ugaadi celebration at Bangalore, I was excited about the traditions that came along. Coming back to “the place”, this is where I bought almost all my clothes in the two year stay at Bangalore – Bharath Garments on Chord Road. Anyway, the time came and we made the much anticipated visit to this little shop on WCR. My parents have, for as long as I can remember, encouraged me to make my decisions. So even in Bharath Garments, my mom asked me to pick whatever I thought was appropriate and I did pick. Point to be noted, I was six years old and my understanding of clothes came primarily from Duck Tales and Tom & Jerry. Another thing to know about my parents is that they let me roll with my choices; whether good or bad. :) Now, I sometimes wonder if “letting me roll”, when I had no clue where I was rolling to, was a good thing to do. :)
Having seen some 10 odd frocks, after careful consideration, I finally picked the one that I liked. I was very excited walking all the way back and when we got home the whole family was there, sipping their evening filter coffee. After multiple requests (read: asked once by my grandmother), I quickly rushed in to change into my new dress so that I could parade around in it. When I opened the door and walked into the living room wearing my brand new dress, I still remember the look on everyone’s face. It was a combination of utter shock and a desperate attempt to suppress laughter. Eventually, they all did burst into laughter after Ramesh Mama called it the “Ramzan Special”. Especially my cousin, Varun (who was just a year older to me) rolled on the floor and laughed as loudly as he could. I was so crushed for a couple of minutes out there. You know, how it can be for a 6 year old. Of course, in my case I was too much of a proud peacock to show that I was actually that crushed. Both my sets of grandparents belong to orthodox South Indian Brahmin families, so I guess they associated wearing anything out and out shiny to Muslim weddings or celebrations. I wonder why though, because the shine on some Kanjeevaram sarees and gold ornaments that women wear at South Indian weddings also very much holds the potential to permanently blind people. Anyway, so everybody in my family was totally amused, it just didn’t make sense to them as to why anyone would willingly pick out such a horrifying dress and that too in the presence of an adult. Though they really tried being nice about it but all that initial laughter had pretty much conveyed their true opinion about my selection. I can’t remember my Mom’s reaction after everyone saw the dress, I do remember her laughing on the “Ramzan Special” joke but that’s that. :) It really was a little offbeat; a shiny bright blue colored short sleeveless frock with gold colored dots accompanied by a golden jacket. Yes, GOLDEN! It was like a female Shehenshah outfit. Okay, I know that sounds like a disaster, maybe it was but that was my choice for the year 1992. I wore it happily to a lot of places. Even today in my family, to my utter despair, the ‘Ramzan Special’ joke is quite popular.
That was my earliest memory of Ugaadi.
The Hindu calendar begins with the month of Chaitra (March–April) and Ugadi marks the first day of the New Year. To Kannadigas, the eating of a specific mixture of tastes i.e. Bevu-Bella (Neem and Jaggery) on Ugaadi Day symbolizes the fact that life is a mixture of different experiences - bitter and sweet, which should be accepted with equanimity through the year.
Yesterday, 11 April, was Gudi Padhwa and Ugaadi. It was the first time in many years I was very aware of the onset of Ugaadi. I spent the first half an hour speaking to few of my most favorite people in the world and wishing them. After which I made myself a big cup of ginger tea and kande pohe and lazily read the paper. Then I cleaned the whole house, so that was a good start. Also, the Gods i.e. little idols in my Puja Ghar have been neglected for too long, they got a nice spa treatment yesterday (much needed). Oh and yes, I tied up torans of little neem branches to the main door too. Rest of day, I threw myself back in quilling from which I had taken a temporary break. And while quilling I watched reruns of an all-time favorite sitcom. Anyway, I managed to complete a monogram and four cards. [Note to self, try something other than flowers next time]. I had the perfect take away from my favorite joint in KP, so lunch was taken care of.
Finally in the evening, I did something that has for years now, scared the daylights out of me.
and that too in front of people.
You know, how on the dance floor people sometimes don’t know what to do with their hands? It’s exactly like that for me except that I don’t know what to do with my whole body. I wouldn’t say I danced like no one’s watching but I did have to shed a lot of inhibitions to dance the way I did. Actually to be precise, I think I danced like Abhay. Abhay was the cutest little thing in my grade 2 class. He didn’t know a jack about dancing, he could barely ever follow or remember the steps nor was he every in sync but he smiled and laughed through the dance sequence. Through his struggle to keep up, he laughed a lot at himself, which our dance instructor found adorable. He used to have so much fun at something he totally sucked at. Though I have none of Abahy’s cuteness and I’m compeltely aware of how much I suck at this, I still had brilliant time dancing! I barely managed to keep up the rhythm or the steps but it was the most fun I have ever had in an hour and a half. :) Physically exhausting but totally worth the sweat!
So that’s how I brought in my new year with a little bit of dust and bitterness, lots of quilling, cleaning, talking and dancing! Not too bad a mix, is it? :)