Astami — The Worship of Little Girls as Mother Goddess

Astami, this day of worship of little girls as mother goddess.  I didn’t know this.  I’d lost the day before fighting with the Government.   We are close to some of the neighbors at Gibi’s flat, as my room there was home for me when I was in India.  So some of the neighbors have followed our work, and the creation of Shishur Sevay.  Now they come with gifts and praise for the children.   So the evening before, these friends had called to ask if they could bring breakfast for all the girls, which of course I said yes to.  I imagined one of them stopping by with some breakfast treats.  Had I known this was a day of worship of little girls, I would have dressed them up.  I am not only an anxious mother, but a self-critical one too.

At nine in the morning they arrived, the whole extended family, with shopping bags of food, utensils, and a special plate with elements of worship.  It was beautiful.  They tied a red string around each girl’s wrist, and put vermilion powder on their foreheads (mine too).  The food preparation began and we set up in the classroom to eat, bringing choto bacchas upstairs too.   Really, this was how I’d imagined it would be.  In class the children are learning the meaning of "opposites."  This morning was the opposite of their socially isolated and acultural lives in the institution.

It was a quiet home day for the children.  Gibi and her children were with them for the day.  I went hunting for a courier, and then came back to sleep.

Another evening of pandal strolling…. this time our first stop being the pandal close to our home.  The local "clubs" get together to build pandals.  They solicit contributions door-to-door.  So this year, as they came for donations, I reminded them we were an orphanage, and asked, "And what will you do for our children?  We are in your community?"  The response was really lovely.  One club put up a big banner with our name and address, in Bengali, as I’d requested.  Another club took our Annual Report and put it on poster board just outside the entrance of the pandal.  So, on Astami evening, the children posed in front of the poster with their pictures, and again under the banner with our name.  Some local club leaders joined us for pictures too.  It was so good for all of us.  Then we made rounds of other pandals.  Along the way we met one of our teachers, also out for the evening.  The children called out, "Auntie, Auntie," and crowded around her.  We are a familiar sight, the community is familiar to us.  With the local leaders we mention our troubles with the Government.  They assure us we are safe, that no one will come to disturb us.  The community now feels blessed to have us with them.  They feel chosen.

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