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Choosing Joy Because We Deserve Happiness

by Vidya Sury October 28, 2012 21 comments
Choosing joy lighted candles

It is true what they say about the balance of life. Last week was a mix of joy and sorrow. When that happens, I follow my Mother’s policy of choosing joy. Why? Because I can. I  appreciate all that I have and try hard not to focus on what I lost.

Grieving is good, but living is better.

Did I just say something very profound? Maybe I did. Just popped out, you know! Except I’ll always grieve over the loss of my Mom. Everything else, I can cope with, accept and move on.

So, as it happened, we had the nine-day festival of Navratri, where we celebrate the triumph of good over evil. However, sometimes I am tempted to think that good and evil are a matter of perception. In mythological terms, however, it is all about slaying demons – real ones.

We could also choose to see it as slaying our personal demons and move on. Today, I think that is most apt. More about this in another post, though.  Let us talk of pleasant things today. (Click any photo to see original size)

I love Navratri, and not just because, all those years ago, I was born on the ninth day of this joyous festival, dedicated to Saraswati, the Goddess of learning (which is why I was christened Vidya Saraswati). I love it because of the atmosphere at home. Today, we only follow a fourth of the rituals and traditions we used to, decades ago – but the memories haven’t faded.

A week before the festival, the house would be thoroughly cleaned and if necessary, painted. There would be prayers every day. We would plan the “golu” or the doll display, which is a tradition in most families. (though not in my present one – this goes by what the husband’s family’s traditions are, you know)

So, in my grandmother’s house, the week before, all the stored dolls would be retrieved from our attic, and the number of steps planned – usually eight or ten. A couple of days before these steps were assembled and the dolls arranged, we would sprout seeds to create a tableau of fields with little houses, bullock carts and all those things that go with a rustic setting. Some wilder sprouts would be used to create a jungle with animals.

Oh, what fun it used to be! There’s some kind of order to arranging these dolls, and here’s what we would come up with. This is not ours; it is a photo of the doll display at a mall we visited a couple of days ago. But you get the picture.  It reminded me of our own lovely dolls and figures and the set of wax vegetables and fruits that used to fascinate me as a child.

I remember, once, wanting to bite one of them just to see how it felt. Errgh! Click to enlarge this photo. It is a beautiful display.

Choosing joy Golu
We would plan what to wear on each day – with matching accessories – read jewelry. Here’s a glimpse of how we would dress – pure silk full skirts and blouses with jewelry to match! I wish I had photos of me as a child – but alas! there are hardly any.
Choosing joy little girl

We would invite all our friends and neighbors home to see the doll display and when they visited, they would sit for a while, sing songs and be offered the specialty of the day – called “sundal” made from soaked lentils along with “tamboolam” consisting of a coconut, betel leaves, betel nut, a fruit, flowers, bangles and a coin and usually a little gift. Everything is planned well in advance – you can imagine the preparation that goes into this!

Choosing joy tambulam

One of my neighbors, who is quite artistic, presented me with this nifty little drawstring bag. Inside, were the contents you see above. Pretty, no?

Choosing joy silk potli

On the ninth day, Saraswati Puja also known as Ayuda Puja (ayudam = tool) day, we also arrange all our books and tools at the altar and worship them. It is a long story. (Read it here). As children, we used to rejoice that we did not have to do any schoolwork on that day until we were also prohibited from reading storybooks! We’d find ways to occupy ourselves, playing, singing, talking, and of course, eating and having a great time.

Vehicles are washed and garlanded and decorated with banana plants. This is not my car. I don’t own one. I only have a scooter. I clicked this photo in the parking lot of our apartment condo.

Car adorned choosing joy

The entire area looks festive with the shops decorated, even the street side ones – like this one. He’s the tender coconut seller in our street. He’s one of our sources of health – packaged in heaven, delivered by him. See the garlands.

choosing joy coconuts

The mall we visited had some lovely displays – all the pillars had fairy lights. At the entrance, they had this beautiful display of oil lamps:

diwali lights choosing joy

Outside, there were rows of these: yellow, orange and red cloth stretched on a frame, bordered with fairy lights and lit from behind. As evening set in, they looked quite gorgeous.

choosing joy lamp

And what is a festival without strings of fairy lights eh?

choosing joy fairy lights

The next day, also called Vijaya Dasami (Dasami – 10th) a little puja is performed, and the books are distributed from the altar. This day is also auspicious as most children begin their formal education on this day – hence called “vidyarambam” (which is vidya + arambam = learning + beginning). Children are asked to trace, with their finger, the alphabet on a tray with rice in it. Like this:

>Choosing Joy vidyarambham

In our apartment complex, we had a doll display and there were prayers recited every day. On day 9 and 10, there was a variety of programs after the prayers. On day 10, Vidur also performed a couple of songs after which, we had arranged dinner for all the residents. It was a lovely evening together with all the families with all the children running around dressed in new clothes. Dinner was a yummy affair and we all went home, sated, happy, ready to catch some TV and read and sleep.

Thus concluded this year’s Navratri. I just realized there’s so much more I can share with you, about this festival, only, it will have to be an ebook! Now, we await Diwali, the grand festival of lights.

Have a great week ahead!

Think of choosing joy!

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Julie Barrett October 28, 2012 at 11:41 am

Hi Vidya, I just love all of the traditions, festivals, and celebrations that you share. It makes me realize how little time we spend here in the US on these things…as if Life is so busy that we don’t have time to physically create all these things of beauty and edible items anymore. When we do tke the time, it seems that it is the same every year and not all that inventive (such as turkey on Thanksgiving, with the very same side dishes year after year). You make me want to try a more creative life!

Harleena Singh October 28, 2012 at 11:59 am

Loved the pictures Vidya!I do look forward to your Sunday’s specials :)Oh yes…Dusherra was celebrated, but not with so much of detail as you mentioned. We do the little basics and when we were kids Dad ensured he took us to see Ravan most of all. We are more with Diwali than Dusherra our end, but I love the rituals that are followed in most houses this time of the year.Thanks for sharing. 🙂

Linda Wilson October 28, 2012 at 1:18 pm

Good morning, Vidya!

What lovely memories of childhood. Isn’t it such a shame that too many countries let their customs and traditions slip with the passing of time. Too many youngsters in today’s society don’t understand the meaning behind many of the ‘parties’ they attend, which when we look at them originally had very deep meaning for the very character of the communities in which we live.

Knd regards,
L x

Linda Wilson October 28, 2012 at 1:29 pm

Good afternoon, Vidya!

How lovely that you remember festive days from childhood. I wonder how many children in our modern societies will be able to recall what they did as they get older. Pushing buttons on games machines doesn’t have quite the same colourful appeal – well, to me at least!

Kind regards,
L x

Joy October 28, 2012 at 3:03 pm

The title drew me right in *grin*…yes, choose *joy*!

I do feel that grieving is a part of life..when we choose to live in heart-centered ways, cycles touch us…it doesn’t necessarily “have to hurt”, but it can when we choose to hold onto it. I grieve a loss, yet it inspires me, instead of paralyzes me…looking at this article, and feeling your message, I think it does the same for you…such a beautiful legacy to your Mom…her love is interwoven with yours so the depth of what you share is amazing!

I ordered your friends book…because *grace* is right up there with joy 🙂

And, wow, Vidya, the photos and descriptions are so beautiful..I love how you celebrate with rituals and honor culture…the feel is like nothing I had experienced in my life. (So I live vicariously through you!). The color, the food, the presents (and presence), the joy, the celebration…so much in your reflection..thank you!

And, fairy lights…well you know my heart is celebrating all that you have shared today! Thank you 🙂

Betsy/Zen Mama October 28, 2012 at 3:53 pm

A beautiful story of your festival and of course I always enjoy your beautiful pictures. Once again, I’m envious of all your festivals! How wonderful to chose joy to remember your aunt. And yes, you said something very profound when you wrote: Grieving is good, but living is better! I couldn’t agree more but then I haven’t had a close loved die. When it does happen to me, I will always remember what you wrote here. Can’t wait to hear about Diwali!!

PS I’ll visit Pamela Fagan Hutchins’s kindle book today!

thoughtstomull.com October 28, 2012 at 4:30 pm

Absolutely delicious descriptions and pictures of this wonderful tradition, Vidya!!! Loved it!

retired not tired October 28, 2012 at 6:16 pm

Your memories are wonderful. Thank you for sharing them.

Keetha Broyles October 28, 2012 at 1:20 pm

All the lights are so pretty, but I especially like the triple flames.

My Inner Chick October 28, 2012 at 11:09 pm

**Grieving is good, but living is better.**

You are always profound, insightful, joyful, inspiring, & deliciously divine.

Have I told you lately how much I love you?


Galen Pearl October 28, 2012 at 11:37 pm

You know I love these posts! What a gorgeous display, and what a wonderful tradition. It seems to me that there is always some joyful celebration going on in India!

carolynhughesthehurthealer October 28, 2012 at 7:47 pm

I love your cultural posts Vidya. They transport me to a wonderful world that is full of fantastic images and history and celebration. What a joy to read!

StarTraci October 28, 2012 at 10:33 pm

I love the beauty of the festival and that good triumphs over evil. As you pointed out, we sometimes need to be reminded. Thanks for sharing.

Happy Sunday!


Elle, mtivational blogger October 29, 2012 at 11:20 am

You’ve outdone yourself Vidya. What a beautiful post…I love your trips down memory lane that you share with the rest of us. Thank you so much for giving us a peek into your wonderful traditions.

Loved the pics as always.

Love Elle

Pattu Raj October 29, 2012 at 2:10 pm

Loved it Vidya. The write up and the photographs.. awesome. Well done.

Terri Sonoda October 29, 2012 at 4:00 pm

Your stories and photos of the festivals are delightful! Thank you so much for sharing. I LOVED that little handbag!

Rgine Marne October 29, 2012 at 3:03 pm

Hi Vidya

I love it, “I choose joy because I can”. it’s so true isn’t it? We have a choice, we can be happy or we can be miserable. The point is what are we choosing?

Evelyn Lim October 30, 2012 at 2:38 am

What a celebration! Your culture and country is certainly very colorful and vibrant. There are so many interesting details to the tradition. Lovely pics! Thanks for sharing, Vidya!

Suzie Cheel October 30, 2012 at 7:12 am

This is such a beautiful sharing of yes joy and such a wonderful story of tradition. You opening comment Grieving is good, but living is better.
brought a smile to my face.
I love that you have shared the lights- pure magic

Unknown Mami October 31, 2012 at 2:59 am

Beautiful. Choosing joy is the way to go. Wonderful post.

Saving Grace | Vidya Sury, Collecting Smiles June 4, 2018 at 4:19 pm

[…] 1, 2012. Do grab the book – if you didn’t already when I urged you to download it for free in my previous post. Join Pamela’s launch party here – Sadly I guess I’ll just have to be a […]


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