As is evident in her eclectic choice of films such as Dil Chahta Hai, Daayra, and Pension, Sonali Kulkarni is an endearing mix of the traditional and contemporary. Though rooted in her modern lifestyle, the actress observes festivals like Gudi Padwa with traditional fervour. When she brings in the Maharashtrian New Year — Gudi Padwa, Sonali delights in the age-old customs that enhance the festivities. She believes in passing on the traditions that she received from her parents to her daughter not through words but by setting an example.
Excerpts from an interview:
What is the significance of Gudi Padwa in your life?
I celebrate Gudi Padwa every year since it’s the first day of the Hindu calendar. If I am at home in Mumbai, I see to it that like all Maharashtrian families, I raise a Gudi with my family and that we are all together on this special day. The Gudi is made of new zari cloth, a copper pot, kadu neem, shakkar ki mala, and a garland. I pray to the Gudi, to the new sun, and promise in my heart that I will be truthful and will choose to be happy though the year. If I have a holiday, then we make shrikhand or amrakhand at home and we have lunch together.
What childhood memories of Gudi Padwa do you have?
My childhood memories of Gudi Padwa are very simple and sweet. Apart from raising the Gudi with aai-baba and my brothers, I used to make a sweet dish from kadu neem ke patte and khadi shakkar. It was super bitter but we couldn’t escape and had to eat it every Gudi Padwa because Mom would say that if you eat this, you are going to be healthy for the rest of the year. I used to look forward to eating the sugar coin in the shakkar ki mala. I remember being pampered by my mom who would give me one coin at a time from that shakkar ki mala all through the next week.
What are the rituals involved?
The only ritual you have to follow for Gudi Padwa is to remember to raise the Gudi in the morning and take it down post-sunset... you’re not supposed to keep the Gudi till the next day. There is no pooja, no mantra that you are supposed to say.
What food is made at home; any special mithai?
I make some sweet dish — shrikhand or amrakhand — and a nice Marathi bhojan comprising of varan bhaat, batatachi bhaji, usal, poli and maybe papad and koshimbir. I love to share sweets with my neighbours. And I like to look out and see how many Gudis I can find.
Do you wear traditional nauvari and jewellery?
Clothes are very important too. It is not a must to wear a nauvari saree or dhotar... it is up to each family. I like wearing a nice saree from my collection. If I have time, I love wearing gajra, nath and Marathi dagine (jewellery) like the tanmani. Advertisements in newspapers indicate that shopping is an important part of the festivities...
Shopping on Gudi Padwa is considered to be very lucky. I try to buy at least a small amount of gold on Gudi Padwa. It is not a must, but it is thought to be shubh (auspicious).
What emotion does the day bring with it and leave you with?
I usually start Gudi Padwa day on a happy note. My heart fills with pure joy that I have the resources to lead such a good lifestyle and that I am a source of strength to my loved ones, be it my staff, relatives, friends and family.
Do you ask for your wishes to be fulfilled or do you express gratitude or a bit of both?
I don’t believe in asking anything from God, I prefer making promises to the universe, or the power around us. Because as long as I am doing good deeds, they are definitely going to bless us. If I keep asking without depositing anything from my end, it sounds very selfish, right? So I try to take a stock of my vaani (spoken words), my emotions, and my generosity. I strongly believe that what you give out comes back to you.
Do you explain the festivities to your daughter Kaveri and enlist her participation?
I have a growing daughter and I feel that it’s up to me to pass on to her the beautiful traditions that I got to see in my childhood. I like celebrating a variety of festivals like Gudi Padwa and I’m grateful that my entire family loves to participate. I see to it, however, that I don’t preach to my daughter every time we have a festival at home. I don’t say, ‘Mere bachpan mein pata hai kya hota tha?’ (laughs), or ‘Come draw a rangoli with me’ or ‘Put this toran for me’.
I like doing things for me as well, and I believe that when kids observe and when they feel the vibe, at some point in their life they are going to remember and do the things their parents did. I have taken out the compulsion for her, but I like creating the atmosphere and being happy because being joyous is infectious and everybody likes to participate in it. My daughter loves happiness as a mood and she is fantastic company for me while celebrating. Thanks to my daughter and my husband, Nachiket, every festival has unfolded tremendous joys for me.
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