J for Jai Ma Saraswati

Sr. T and I belong to families who have a strong faith in the Supreme power. In his family, we worship the two hundred plus year old family deities of Krishna and Radha known as Shaam Rai. Despite the fact that both my parents believed in puja and prayers, my faith suffered a massive hit when I lost Ma overnight in 2011. I had stopped believing in God and refused to even pray for some years.

Our faith is often triggered by our own fears and insecurities. And I happen to be the kind of mother whose life is defined by her son’s happiness to a great extent. After Tuneer was born, I was back at our puja room although not whole-heartedly. I had made it amply clear that I still had unresolved conflicts with Her (my God is a woman).

Other than the grand celebration associated with Durga Puja in Bengal, my all-time favorite Goddess has always been Ma Saraswati. Every year Baba would perform the puja, Ma would make a lot of delicacies, the house would be decorated with flowers and alpana (hand artwork using rice and flour paste) would be drawn on the floor. I would finish giving pushpanjali and eagerly wait for the bhog prasad

A part of the ritual involved keeping books in front of the idol during the puja and letting it stay overnight. In my house, it would mostly be a couple of  Mathematics books(belonging to my Professor Dad), a few pens and my complete set of textbooks for that particular year. I had this strange notion that if I left out any book, that subject would end up not being blessed by the Goddess. Keeping rationality aside, I couldn’t afford to take the risk.

Saraswati Puja
Saraswati Puja – 2019

Last year, we celebrated Saraswati Puja in a grand way since Tuneer had his hathe khori (the ritual of writing for the first time) before starting preschool. Because the kid had still not started any kind of learning then, I had decided to keep his story books in front of the Goddess. My justification was that the Goddess needed to know that Her next student was getting ready to take the plunge. I am not going to share the kind of reactions I received from my father, in-laws and Sr. T on that. All I can say is that I am glad that they didn’t remember it long enough.

This year, the Goddess and I both have tougher tasks at hand. The boy was already in the middle of his series of interviews. Some had gone well and a few could have been better. But the interaction of the most coveted school interview was scheduled immediately after the puja. So, without any second thoughts, we took off for a week to visit my in-laws’ place at Berhampore. I wanted the puja to be performed there following all the rituals in a perfect way. 

The priest uncle at my marital home had already given a longer than usual list of items needed for the puja (Tuneer special, he had said!). Those items started arriving forty-eight hours in advance. The Goddess made her visit in the form of an idol on the night before the puja. This time, I had dutifully packed Tuneer’s preschool books of pattern writing and coloring. The pencil, eraser, sharpener and a set of crayons had also traveled with us. Looking at these items during packing, my father had sarcastically asked if I intended to purchase the NEET entrance examination syllabus for next year puja. But as a mother totally focused on her son’s future, I decided to ignore the jibe.

On the day of puja, the boy was dressed up in an orangish yellow dhoti-kurta (the color is called Basanti in colloquial Bengali and is assumed to Her favorite). His books, writing set topped up with a pencil box and pen (purchased by Sr.T ‘s cousin brother – the only one who found my ideas acceptable) were placed in front of the Goddess. Everything went on smoothly except Tuneer’s refusal to let go of Sr. T even for a second. It was as if he had uncannily discovered his father’s embrace to be the safest zone for that day.

And that's the way to celebrate
And that’s the way to celebrate

By the end of the puja, we stood up to offer prayers. Despite not understanding the mantras, the boy repeated every single word that the priest uncle pronounced. As we opened our eyes chanting “Jai Ma Saraswati”, he realized that the puja was almost over. So he decided to get down from his father’s lap and spoke in a loud and clear voice, “Happy birthday Ma Saraswati. I will get you my favorite butterscotch cake but you will have to let me cut that with you.” Everyone looked surprised as Sr. T and I burst out laughing.

The truth was that until this admission frenzy took over my better senses, I had the habit of correlating every single occasion of a puja with the respective God’s birthday like Shivaratri for him was Shiva’s birthday. I had forgotten those childish connotations in the process of helping him move towards bigger things in life. But my ‘not so little’ boy had shown me the little joys of life at that moment.

That evening we ensured to get a tiny butterscotch cake for his ‘friend’ Saraswati. He not only took up the responsibility of cutting it on behalf of his friend but also gladly ate it immediately. Apparently, his friend Saraswati had told him that she was too full after eating so many delicacies throughout the day. The books and writing set waited as we had the maximum fun with his friend this year. Of course, I went back to pestering Saraswati for admissions again the next day onwards and our association continues in a similar fashion even today. 

I hope you had a smile on your face while reading this. I will be back with a new post on ‘K’ tomorrow. In the meanwhile, you might want to check out my other posts in this series here.

Author: Sonia Chatterjee

Who am I? An Ex-Banker turned Blogger/Writer/Solopreneur. Any qualifications? A Postgraduate degree in Chemistry followed by Post Graduate Diploma in Management. I am still trying to figure out how and when I can connect all these dots to what I do presently. Have I done any real work? If two years in Market Research and six years in Banking (three different Banks though) as Branch Head can be considered as real work. Where do I live? After a nomadic sixteen years in Delhi, Bangalore & Mysore, I am back to where it all started from - Kolkata. My favorite things - Food, travel, books and my three and half-year-old toddler son What is this blog about? Sonia's musings is an attempt to channelize emotions through words and pictures hoping they touch a chord with my visitors.

38 thoughts on “J for Jai Ma Saraswati”

  1. That is indeed cute the way your son associated the ceremony with Ma Saraswathy’s birthday. As regards belief in God I was a deeply God-believing person once upon a time and used to visit temples regularly, but by the time I was in the forties, the hard knocks I faced in life made me reflect on my beliefs and now I am an agnostic who tends a bit towards atheism. I never visit temples unless I have no other choice. At least I have some inclination towards theism but my wife is a total rationalist. She never visits temples. But I have taught my daughter slokas and the epics of Hinduism like the Ramayana and Mahabharata. I did that mainly because I did not want my daughter to miss out on our rich cultural heritage, belief or no belief and I want my daughter to have an open mind and figure things out for herself.

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  2. Awesome. Hilarious. Just too good. I could literally imagine every scene with you performing the pooja and Tuneer in his father’s lap. And the best bit is how you manage to bring in his admission scene in all of your posts. Thoroughly enjoyed reading this.

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  3. I also believe in Almighty power. I also attended Durga pooja and Saraswati Pooja before my marriage while reading the post I was remembering all my memories. Connecting ourselves to that Power in any form is a blessing for me. How you are introducing with Tuneer is really nice.

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  4. Yes, your post made me smile, and how.
    I am someone who loves rituals, they keep us rooted to so many things. The Saraswati pooja sounds like such a beautiful one, the one day book get the respect due to them. This was such a lovely read, Sonia.
    It is adorable how Tuneer wished Ma Saraswati:)

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  5. Your post reminded me my initiation days. It is a nice practice. Gradually, it is getting out of vogue. May be in Bengal it is still practiced. Those who live outside, don’t hear much about this tradition.

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  6. I had also told my daughter the same thing. Like Shivratri is shivji’s birthday. And sometimes (now 6) she still says of when is some god’s birthday going to come. I need a holiday and some celebration. Children are so easy going they see the world as it is. 🙂

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  7. Interesting read indeed,the puja celebration with Tuneer, he is so cute…
    During our school days we used to keep the books of the subjects in which we were weak and simultaneously we always expected the books to be there for one or two more days coz as long as the books are there its time for no study.
    its true that our faith is often triggered by fear and insecurities..so much true it is.
    Sometime some incidents in life(mostly personal) leaves such an impact that our faith get lost with the causes and effects, once i used to be a deep believer of supreme power, still i believe in his/her existence but our frequencies do not match.

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  8. I have also dangled between not praying to praying to not following rituals to following a few. Goddess Sarawati is the Goddess of learning but I don’t really have her idol at home. I loved reading about Tuneer’s friend Saraswati and how you went about the puja. That cake bit was hilarious.

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  9. I and my brother had followed this practise of keeping all the books and pencils in front of the Idol in our schooling days,thanks to our bangla Maa 😀 I use to feel the same fear that if I don’t keep all the books I might not do we in all the subjects as this belief was instilled me.
    Later on I discovered another relation with Maa and with age and maturity Durga Maa became my favourite, my stength house.
    Now when I have a little girl in my house I take her to the saraswati puja pandal and make her pray.
    Loved reading you post, Tuneer looks cute in the ethnic get up.😊

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  10. the story and entire narration is very cute. I loved the innocence of Tuneer. In our society also Saraswati puja is celebrated with lot of devotion and pomp and glory.
    We generally forget the sweet little things, that we only teach to kids but kids don’t.

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  11. 😃 so Tuneer got a friend in Ma Saraswati. Wishing him the long-lasting friendship with the Goddess that takes him far in his ‘career’, including NEET!;)

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  12. First of all, Tuneer looks super cute in orange dhoti kurta and the dhol. I had a smile while reading the post. It really gives a glimpse that children are like clean slate and Learn very fast. The birthday announcement of Maa Saraswati was funny but is a reminder that children adapt quickly and that is why bringing up a child is probably the most important part in one’s life. Nicely put.

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  13. Hahaha! Loved that birthday twist at the end! 😀
    Btw, you and I have had similar journeys in a few ways.
    I also lost my mom all of a sudden, without any preamble.
    And then few years ago, I also had a major fight with God, and refused to even do Diwali puja at home!
    While I still refuse to do puja (idol worship), but I have patched up enough with God to be on talking terms with him. (Him, ‘coz I connect most with Krishna.)
    Find my J post @ Memories Of Journeys With Indian Railways

    Liked by 1 person

  14. An adorable post I must say, filled with the right amount of humour. It reminded me of my childhood days. We also used to celebrate in schools in Odisha and at home keeping our books beside Maa Saraswati.
    And your son looks so cute in the pic🤗

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  15. I taught my son the Saraswati mantra ‘Ya kundendu…’ when he was 3 and it gave me immense joy that he recited it everyday during our daily puja. We don’t have such a puja at our home but am sure the blessings of Goddess Saraswati are with her children always.
    Tuneer is very cute and smart, Sonia. It was sweet of you to let him celebrate devi’s birthday and cut her cake too. 🙂

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  16. I am sorry for your loss Sonia! Losing one’s loved one especially mother is not easy…
    Tuneer celebrated Saraswati Ma’s bday…that is so thoughtful and cute of him.
    May Ma Saraswati bless us all with knowledge!
    When we had Saraswati Puja at home, we used to keep our books and stationery in Puja room for a day. We as kids felt very happy that we have got a break from studies😊

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  17. I remember my granny doing the same ritual (keeping books and pencils in front of almighty) around Diwali, not sure of the ritual’s name though. School admissions are a tough task, and I love how well you have connected every letter with life. We also perform Saraswati Ma puja on the Basant Panchami, the yellow day.

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