DaddyDearest's date of *sob* death, according to the Gregorian calendar is January 20th, 2010. That day also happened to be Saraswati Puja that year.
Now the Hindu almanac follows the lunar calendar system and all festivals, religious ceremonies and occasions are observed accordingly. Auspicious ceremonies and dates of ritual importance are all planned according to the lunar dates called 'tithi'.
So while DaddyDearest's 'D' anniversary will always be January 20th, according to the Hindu almanac, the tithi will always be Saraswati Puja.
Saraswati Puja will never be the same for me again. It's like I get to mourn him twice.
Last year, Saraswati Puja fell on February 8th and we held the first death anniversary rites for him. MaaJanoni and I didn't perform any puja for Maa Saraswati, since we wer so busy with the puja and yagna for DaddyDearest. The date also happened to coincide with my 10th wedding anniversary. Sigh...
So this year, I was actually celebrating Saraswati Puja for the first time since Baba passed away, viz, after two years.
I wasn't too well this year, so I got up late. It also happened to be my birthday the day before...
Anyway, I woke up and saw that my MIL and the SIL were already at work with the puja preps. I sat down with them and watched them decorate the puja thalis and the idol of the Goddess. I remembered I needed a garland for DaddyDearest's photograph. The MIM said he would get one for me.
Things seemeed normal enough. Had the boys take a bath and gear up in their ethnic wear. I bathed and dressed up in new togs given to me by the SIL the day before as a birthday present. As per tradition I made the boys put their school books in front of Maa Saraswati and called up MaaJanoni asking her to put the EO's guitar in front of the idol she had as I'd forgotten to bring it home with me. Out of force of habit as well as love for this tradition, I put some books and a pen in front of the Goddess too -- my Gitobithan (i.e. Tagore's book of songs), a notebook where I write poetry and my editor copy of 'Chicken Soup for the Indian Soul: On Friendship."
The flowers for DaddyDearest arrived and as I garlanded him I found my eyes watering, but to my immense surprise, I found that I didn't sob like I'd expected to and for some reason that just depressed me. Was I all cried out? Was I *shudder* used to his absence? Had I accepted the fact that the closest relationship that I would ever have with my father from now on would be with his photograph? Had my heart hardened?
While I pondered my lack of tears, the purohit arrived and the puja started.
When time came for the pushpaanjali, I helped distribute the flowers and showed the children how they should stand, holding the floral tributes in between their hands.. We started repeating the mantras as per the purohit's instructions but I already knew them by heart thanks to...thanks to...thanks to DaddyDearest and that's when they came -- the tears. They just started gushing out and I sobbed as quietly as I could so as not to distress the children and cast a pall of gloom on the rest of the family. Memories of the last two Saraswati Pujas came flooding to me as well as a very pictoresque memory of a piece of paper with myDaddyDearest's beautiful, almost Tagorean, Bengali handwriting. On that paper, along with a few other mantras, he had written the Saraswati vandana for me before I'd left for JNU. I could see that mantra in his handwriting so clearly in my mind.
It was a memory that had been tucked away in the corner of my mind and as I repeated those words that day, I couldn't help but see them float before my very eyes. And so my eyes spilled over, along with my heart, with memories remembered, words once oft-repeated on a daily basis and the face of a dearly departed.
The children of course caught on and they looked at me with such love, such tenderness and yes, even a kind of childish pity. When I finally sat down, my YO cradled my head to his chest and gently rocked me to-and-fro while kissing me repeatedly on top of my head.
I'll never forget this.
I'll never forget.