We had to eat Neem leaves on the morning of Gudi Padwa. As children, abiding by the traditions of the festival of Gudi Padwa was mandatory. Mom would dress up in silken saaree and the fineries to welcome the new year. The aroma of something sweet being cooked in the kitchen would tickle our senses while the whole atmosphere would revel in it. But the question that kept swinging back and forth like a pendulum onto us siblings was why begin the new year chewing these bitter neem leaves and shove them down the throat? Dad would then patiently explain the philosophical angle of it before the scientific one. Just like we mortals welcome happy moments in life with enthusiasm, so should we learn to embrace the bitter moments too that life would hurl at us. It helps maintaining a balance between the sweet and the bitter. While we were yet to learn the nuances the answer would not seem convincing for the boisterous hearts of ours. It was also explained that neem is high on medicinal properties and helped healing a number of ailments. Chewing these leaves would shield us from the varied infections and keep us healthy throughout the year.

Dad would be aware of our weird expressions when he came to us with a pinch of crushed neem leaves and hence made sure he mixed them well with sugar and rolled them into tiny balls so as to facilitate gulping easily. Only then would he set up the Gudhi and decorate it with garlands and colourful battashas (sugar candies in a flat shape) and the rituals would follow.

Adhering to these traditions, I pulled out a Paithani today and wrapped myself up in it. Softly I murmured into dad’s ears, whose spirit is always around and conveyed to him that I had my pinch of neem today. Little tears flew out but he wiped them and said, you will be healthy and happy forever. My Gudi Padwa is replete with the blessings and the smiles from all around.

Wish you all a very very Happy Gudi Padwa. A red Paithani with green can never go wrong on a traditional festival like this. 🙂

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