DAY FOUR OF LOCKDOWN: 28th March 2020
By Kulsum Mustafa
Inspirational Indian: Wielding her pen like a surgeon’s scalpel Journalist Puja Awasthi’ s stories are chiefly about the common man and his social issues. Her writings have archival value-based as they are on solid facts and lasting emotions. But here we are focusing on ethereal Puja and her passion for donning conventional saris, each one of them has a tale to tell and she sure does tell it well. Each Navratri, Puja dresses up for the Gods and this year too she has kept up the tradition. Puja brings for us the symbolism of dressing up, even when there is darkness all around and nobody seems to care.
“My Mother always told me that God- the Supreme Creator, is your best friend, you must go to meet him often and when you do, wear the best clothes you have. Following her advice, whenever I visit a Temple or any religious function I wear a saree “, says Puja.
“A super busy gynecologist, my Mother lived that belief most vividly during the nine days of fasting- twice a year during the Navratris. Every morning she would dress up in a new saree before stepping into the small prayer room and there would be a second new saree for the evening worship. That meant 18 sarees for one round of fasting and 36 through the year- a collection which I looked forward to building with her,” says Puja.
The sudden passing away of her Mother left Puja in a period of darkness. As a blot of ink, it kept growing, until she decided to adopt her faiths and rituals without question. The fondest of these, of course, is the dressing up for Navratris ( bit).
Over the nine days as she worships different forms of feminine energy- one wears different colours to symbolise different aspects of that being.
This Navratri has been no different. Despite the all pervading gloom, the sadness, despair and the helplessness induced in the atmosphere by the pandemic of Coronavirus for Puja nothing has changed, as far as the Navratri dressing is concerned.
TALES THE COLOURS TELL
“That symbolism of colour, of course, extends to life beyond the religious sphere. Thus white for peace, yellow for happiness, red for passion; and green for quests are held to be apt colour associations in everyday living. The deeper strand to that symbolism is that we are beings of many parts- and in a life well-lived, anger (channelled correctly) has much place as love,” she says as if attempting to lift the garb of black gloom that seems to have covered humanity.
It is interesting how from the first day to the last day Puja sets out a saree, with one piece of accessory to go with it.
“Technically, each day is to have a specific colour- for the form of the Goddess being worshipped- but I am not sure I ever get the order right. One year for instance, despite much planning a friend and I discovered we were two days ahead of other saree lovers!”, she says.
Unlike her mother, whom she called Amma, not all Puja’s sarees are new. Many come from her Amma’s treasure trove.
“I especially wear some of hers to feel enveloped in her hug. And I fret too much over that one piece of accessory- unlike Amma who was a fuss-free dresser. But one saree a day is all I do, except for the final day of fasting,” explains Puja.
SYMBOLISM OF DRESSING UP
“For me, the symbolism that dressing up offers is the overpowering feeling of going back to Amma- who I am sure would have wanted to flower and not wither in the face of any adversity.”, she explains.
Through her saree Puja has a message to convey –which goes beyond dressing up.
“In these fraught times, where we seem to have been brought to our knees by a rogue virus, that gives me a steadying sense of discipline and habit. It is my way of telling myself, and those who enjoy the photos I post in those vibrant sarees, that we should remember all the qualities in humans and expressing them well is the key to living fully. It is in the knowledge of those traits that we have our best chance of tackling any obstacle.
“So, as I say for now; Keep Calm, Keep Writing, and Saree on!
I am sure her Amma would have approved.