There are so many aspects, interpretations as well as rituals associated with every Deity that the Scriptures are replete with stories and anecdotes. Each one of us can derive that which most resonates with our own inner self. As the many WhatsApp messages and FB posts were surfacing today with greetings and blessings for Basant Panchami  & salutations to Ma Saraswati, I remembered a conversation between my Mom and I.

Always bursting with curiosity, as little girls are, I had once enquired looking at a Calendar with images of Ma Lakshmi & Ma Saraswati about who they were. Mom said to me – “This is Ma Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth & this is Ma Saraswati, the Goddess of Studies. Ma Lakshmi sits on a lotus, because wealth is not stable and can be erratic. Ma Saraswati on the other hand sits on a Rock, because knowledge once gained can never be lost and will always stand solid by you.”

My grades in School are testimony to how profound an effect that had on me and how committed I got towards having stability in my life. In typical middle class Punjabi attitude prevalent in those times, she missed out telling me about the Goddess being the custodian and benefactor of all Creativity too. Can’t blame her though; music, painting and dance were not considered such great investments of a student’s time in those days. She did initiate me into embroidery, knitting and few other good girl’s talents  though, but with the exception of cooking, the others never quite enthused me.

Thankfully, Ma Saraswati did not allow my efforts to be lopsided. I had my nose in every co-curricular activity in school, whether it be Drama, Dance, Debate, Music, Painting. As long as my grades did not suffer, I was allowed to participate and I did. And those were some of the most joyous moments of my childhood. When today I saw my childhood friend Gomathi’s FB post on a visit to Nrityagram, the memories of her dancing on stage, teaching me Bharatnatyam steps in school during free periods, all came rushing in. The most memorable times that another childhood friend Ameeta and I could recall when we met after 30 odd years, were all to do with Recitation practice and song practice and story books. Art Sir Raju too had a special place in our hearts and while we may not have had news about the other teachers, the sad news of his having passed on found its way into discussions among friends from that era.

As a parent myself, I have tried to support and promote my children’s innate interests in Music & Sports. Not being a Tiger Mom, I didn’t ever push them too much on academics, to the extent of often being labeled as too lax about it by many well wishers. Their creative pursuits I tried to be as supportive of as I was of their academics. Whenever I listen to them, and their friends, jam in their room at home, those moments are as gratifying as knowing about their promotions & accomplishments at work. Why just them, when I heard from my son that the members of Band Agam, whose music I totally loved, are also alumni of BITS Pilani, simultaneously pursuing careers in IT, I was thrilled to bits! I applaud them, as well as their parents.

It is possible to go to the other extreme of pushing the kids too much and putting them under too much pressure to perform, even in the field of Arts and Sports, just as in Academics. But if that is done then instead of being a joyous emancipating experience, the pursuance of their creative endeavour may become a chore. Some may silently begin resenting the activity.   I know, I know, sometimes you need to push, especially in this super competitive World. Whether it be a seat in IIT or a scholarship in Juliard, it is always limited and kids will have to compete. There may be some who could argue that if not prodded on, children may not achieve excellence. I confess there is some merit in that argument, but that would be a whole other discussion for another time.

Here, I just wanted to talk about Ma Saraswati. And also thank her, for never having forsaken me.  She made sure I always remained interested in learning new things, acquiring new skills, appreciative of the beauty and splendour of music & cinema, painting my heart out on the canvas in bold strokes and bright colours, humming and singing (despite my son’s protests), penning down the continuous flow of interpretations of the ancient wisdom in the current context: above all she ensured I could always keep pace with the rhythm of life, since that is the greatest art of all. Ma Lakshmi has bestowed her blessings on me from time to time, but Ma Saraswati has always been with me, rock solid. As my salutation to her on this special day, I submitted a draft chapter of my 1st book to a Publisher today!

In veneration

Signature of Artist Annu Kalra