Not only was it baby’s first Diwali, it was my mum and youngest sister’s too! I was really excited for my English family to experience the Indian festival of light, but I was equally as nervous about how the noise and smoke … Continue reading
I need to start this by saying how proud I am of my little chap. It was a bit daunting, inviting so many people to a party for a baby, everyone expecting to meet the new member of the family, how would he react? Would he be scared? Would we have to leave? In fact, to my relief, he was a perfect host! He had a nice power nap in the middle and cracked the most beautiful smiles. A social butterfly, dressed in red silk.
Traditionally in my husband’s culture, the naming ceremony will happen on the 12th day of a baby’s life. The name is chosen based on their birth chart, by a priest of Vedic astrologer. There will be a small ritual and the baby’s name is whispered into their ear, followed by a “welcome to the world” celebration. Rohan’s name was selected before he was even born, so no astrological charts were studied, but he wasn’t going to miss out on the “welcome to the world” celebration!
Nevertheless, Rohan’s name is written in his stars. Rohan is a Sanskrit and Gaelic name, we were so happy to find a name we both loved which originated from both India and the British Isles. Funnily enough, he was born on the Christian festival of Ascension Day, a festival some of my family celebrate, and Rohan means “ascension” in Sanskrit.
It was wonderful to have members from both sides of the family with us (my mum and smallest sister came from England). I’m sure, as we live between two countries, this will be a rare occasion. We had fun decorating the stage with photographs of Rohan’s first couple of months of life, his name in English and Devanagari (how did I do?), and all the clothes his family in England and India had lovingly knitted for him. We hired the same florist who decorated the hall for my baby shower (dohale jevan) and he pulled it out of the bag, once again.
First, a large brass weight dressed in Rohan’s clothes was passed over, in and under the cradle a couple of times. It seemed like an elaborate symbolic ritual, but in fact this was just to make sure the cradle was safe. I placed him in the cradle, while his great-grandmother, grandmother and great aunts sang a folk song as he rocks back and forth.
The next ritual is a rare one. When a woman is blessed enough to become a great-grandmother (panaji), flowers made of gold are placed on her head. This isn’t a regular occurrence, so my mother-in-law struggled to find golden flowers. Thankfully she did, just in time. Grandma was over the moon. I want to take a gold flower back for each of Rohan’s great grandmothers in England, when we visit.
Then we had the sweetest thing, Rohan’s atya (his paternal aunt) and maushi (maternal aunt, my little sister) performed a dance together for Rohan (who had fallen asleep, but we’ll show him the photos when he’s older). My cousin-sister-in-law is a classically trained Kathak dancer, she is such an artist, and taught my sister a storytelling dance. The story of naughty baby Krishna stealing butter. Not only was it beautiful, I am so proud of my 14-year-old sister for being so brave, getting up on the stage and performing in front of so many people!
A Hindu naming ceremony can be compared to a Christening, and it was really interesting to see how many people gifted Rohan silver spoons and silver coins. This is also a Western tradition. I’ve seen several people in England request guests at their child’s Christening to write a message to the new baby. We asked all of our guests to write words of wisdom for Rohan, and put them all in a jar. I want to add to the jar on his future celebrations and birthdays and give the jar to him on his sixteen birthday.
Oh, I feel emotional thinking about that!
It was a lovely evening, something I will hold in my heart forever. Thank you to everyone who came, and to those who sent wishes from a far. Welcome to the world, my sonshine.
Just when I thought the 8th of November could shock no more, the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, announced something that left the subcontinent speechless. In four hours, at the stroke of midnight, Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes (86% of the cash in circulation!!) would be void. I must have spent that entire day with my jaw on the floor. Everyone crowded around the television, listening to the commentary on this radical move towards fighting corruption. That buzzy feeling of history being made, electrifying the air.
As soon as we found out, we (along with the rest of India) checked our wallets to see how much legal tender we had left. We thankfully had enough Rs 100 notes to tide us over. To add an extra twist, the first day of the notes being withdrawn from circulation was a bank holiday. When the banks did open, and the old notes could be exchanged, there were long queues and a general sense of panic.
For a week after the announcement, there were concessions (originally to the 11th, extended to the 14th) to try to avoid chaos and disaster and give everyone the opportunity to get some cash. Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes would be accepted in hospitals, public transport, petrol stations, burials grounds and milk booths. Well, being unable to have chai, a disaster in itself.
Many are outraged by the inconvenience, restrictions on how much one person could withdraw daily and the waiting times at the banks. Many Tourists, who do not have Indian bank accounts, struggled to exchange their notes at airports. Those abroad with voided currency started to panic (if you are one of them, read this). Sadly, rumours and misinformation have spread like wildfire, leading to innocent victims.
Why take Rs 500 and Rs 1000 out of circulation, and why such short notice?
This was a bold move to tackle black money gained through corruption, tax evasion and to wipe out the fake currency from circulation. Last year, we withdrew a Rs 500 note, only to discover it was fake! The timing was strategic, so no one had time to invest their black money elsewhere.
I am no economist or political analyst, but this feels like a positive leap in the right direction, eliminating so much black money in one fell swoop. Yes, it’s been chaotic and inconvenient, and I am glad I wasn’t a tourist in India on the 9th of November. Our Rs 100 notes didn’t last long, yesterday we only had Rs 20, but our local daily needs shop gave us credit. Right now, all we can do is support each other, reassure anyone who has been misinformed and help those who can’t make it to the bank.
I’ve spent many hours sat soaking up the tranquil vibes on the marble floor of temples. I used to be a bit apprehensive and nervous to enter, fearing that someone would turn around and say, “hey, Lauren, you absolutely do not belong … Continue reading