Makar Sankranti to me is a festival which I associate with my home state, Bihar. I rarely celebrate this festival in Kolkata which is my home. There are some occasions when my mind goes back to the customs followed in Bihar and Makar Sankranti is one such festival. I still remember my childhood days when after our annual exams were over (those days the academic session ended in December) we headed to our home town. On January 14, it always was be very cold and without fail the sky remained overcast making it more difficult to bear the chill.
The day before the preparations started as we had to make Lai or laddoos of sesame seed (Til) , puffed rice (Muri), beaten rice (Chuda). It was such a wonderful sight how there were different techniques to make those laddoos, it was said that making that of beaten rice was the most difficult one. The jaggery syrup had to be of different consistency for each and when the Muri and Chuda was mixed in it and made into balls, they had to be instantly shifted to a big round plate made of wicker and you have to constantly shake it so that the balls roll on and the laddoos were formed or else they would crumble. I remember this technique as I was one of the persons doing that. We as kids have to show some responsibility and we can only be assigned that task as it was the most easiest one. But still I felt important as I had a role in the creation of the laddoos.
The lunch comprised Dahi and Chuda, imagine having Dahi in that cold. But we simply enjoyed the meal along with the laddoos that were of course the perks. Then the ritual of kite flying took over if the weather allowed. Sometimes it rained too on that day. Night time was reserved for the special Khichdi which had all the assorted vegetables in it and dollops of ghee, savories knows as tilauri which were small dried balls made from pulses, papad and tomato chutney as well as chokha or bharta made from mashed potatoes and roasted brinjal.
Sometimes you remember the festivals with the food you have on that occasion. What has remained imprinted in my mind are the things I loved and enjoyed. Of course Makar Sankranti has many rituals all across India and it has a great significance in Hindu custom but for me as a child those things had little value but what mattered to me was what I will get to eat and how I will enjoy.
I guess festivals should be enjoyed to the core. Even if you follow the rituals you should like doing that, that is true celebration, isn’t it?