Thursday, November 23, 2006

Even as baseball fanatics cringed and chafed inwardly this season, marking a record low in MLB viewership, sports enthusiasts in Chicago were busy focusing their energies on the performance of the Bears, which has also, alas, disintegrated into a Dolphins-generated doom. I have missed saying “Go Sox,” a lot this year, and every time I passed by Curragh’s, I imagined cold, tame beer being swigged down by hopelessly taken Sox buffs as they ogled emptily at the big screen, gasping and then hushing their own spirits down. And it was then that I would sigh and move on in my stippled thought patch. It is hard to go back to twiddling with one’s baseball enthusiasm.

But that’s not all Fall has brought. Every year, as Fall kicks in, haggard Indian moms like myself get busy cleaning and shopping, as well as toiling in the kitchen, concocting secret recipes for honeyed candy and Marshmellow peeps, possibly, alongside laddus and barfis. Fall always brings with it a new hope, of color, brightness, and merriment. And while the entire citizenry around us gets busy stocking up on gifts and goodies, we get busy choosing Halloween costumes and Diwali candles. For us it’s not just about pumpkin pies and cranberry sauce, but also about ‘halwas’ and ‘samosas.’ Our string lights not only adorn the Christmas trees, but also illuminate the ‘Puja’ corners, tucked away in a closet somewhere, or another nook that the kids can keep from. If Fall means bringing out the wool and fleeces, it also means dusting off the silks and silver. If the Magnificent Mile represents the quintessential holiday embellishment, Devon Avenue helps our suburban Chicago homes light up. In these homes, stars and candles glimmer in harmony; the welcome wreaths lead you to the tinkle of the sacred bells; the stockings and garlands brim just as fresh; and, underneath the spiffiest and scariest of tiny Halloween costumes, a trinket or two clinks, waiting to complement the kurtas or lehengas that may well follow suit.

And this year too, there has been enough uproar to get the city to prep itself up for the holiday season, and in all the bleak, blustery days that have ensued since the chill crept in, Falloween has been eventful as ever. The trees, having blushed flamingly, and having bathed themselves in the most flamboyant of auburns and ochers, have finally given up and liberated their leaves. After a good deal of conscientious underpinning, local pumpkin patches and rickety fog machines have churned out yet another eerie Halloween. Although, in my case, I barely managed to hunt the teensiest “froggie” costume down on the eve of Halloween for my little girl. She was quite amused by the whole affair, and had it not been for those layers of thick fuzz with snappy Velcro fastenings, and a narrow hallway full of equally sweaty, screeching toddlers who were ragingly high on sugar, she’d have garnered a few more bonbons in her little bag. And even though I did whisk up some meringues and spook up the house with hand carved pumpkins and paper lanterns, the ‘paneer rolls’ and ‘rasmalais’ that graced our little Halloween party outdid the entire candy bandy.

Well, even as the nip in the air plummets, and scores of fellow desis pack up to leave for home, I cannot help but think of the sun. It is going to be a brutal few months, yet, as it is always wont to, the holiday season seems ebullient as ever to me, as it rushes in with a crimson speckled cheer. Snow-men, starry lights, purple skies, popcorn pops, stocking-fuls of surprises, and cranberry strings up that tree are waited upon with bated breath, and a ravenous passion. Even in all the excruciating iciness that November inflicts, one nearly lusts after the flurries now, and as those frost bites are balmed, wood burned bitter blue, warmth caressed, luscious grapes firmed, the perfect tangerines grated to garnish the pastries, plush wreaths hung, paper cards sought, new possessions bagged, and lest I forget - the turkey stuffed, here’s wishing all of you a most glorious holiday season.

Past Falloween, flaccid leaves, crackling
underfoot, pause to unite with the snow.
Bare trees too make a silhouette, amidst sparkling
stars and lights…morrow will be better than you know.


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