An Ode to Marathi Mandals of America
Updated: Mar 12
- Vaibhav M. Varkhedkar
Be it Sankrant, Holi, Guddi Padwa, Ganesh Festival, or Diwali, hands are shaken, hugs are given, and wishes are exchanged. The Mandal’s executive committees have performed numerous tasks and are a thankless job, apart from the applause they receive when introduced. Events are planned, entertainment selected, invites and reminders are sent, food is catered, and tea/coffee is provided at every event.
A Marathi Mandal signifies a place to escape from the daily grind, meet friends and family and talk about the vicissitudes of life. A home away from home.
For many, it brings back a bygone era when life was slower and didn’t have the hustle and bustle of daily twenty-first-century living. A period where devotional music flourished, and prayers were considered supreme. Of an era where the house was probably run on a tight leash by a patriarch, who held traditions and service to God as the ultimate acts. Devotional songs were sung every evening in the prayer room with family and friends. The household’s young women in their nauvari sarees working on their shringar since afternoon. The young men were occupied with the tuning of musical instruments to suit the sound of prayers. Meanwhile, in the kitchen, several women and cooks, preparing dinner.
It reminisces us of the dwellings with a dozen kids running through the corridors creating a ruckus, a bungalow, a flat, or a chawl filled with music, laughter, arguments, discussions, and utter chaos, especially during festivals. The Holi colors, the water-filled balloon fights, the Ganesh festival with an aroma of marigold and jasmine flowers in the air, the Diwali lanterns, faral, rangoli, and firecrackers. The memories of the bygone era—the ghostly remnants of the past lingering through our cerebrum, longing for the dearly departed moments.
It also reminds us of the evenings when we played cricket until dark. Be it hide-n- seek using an empty coconut shell as anchor, lagori, or carrom, the memories of those forgotten moments rush back. Those long rides on the school bus, eating chunia-munia (cooked green channa) or jujube berries purchased from a vendor outside the school.
Bollywood comes alive during each meeting of the Marathi Mandal. There’s nothing (not even cricket) that unites Indians like Bollywood. Gossiping about the latest affairs or the newest scandals is a guilty pleasure treat. Singing both old and new songs in our divine voices is a moment to capture.
Our Marathi Mandal also provides a platform for Indian and local artists to perform, both famous and budding. Be it a natak, classical music, ghazal, or an orchestra supporting a charity. Equally, the ability to dance to the beats is challenged, and many participate in most hip tunes offered by star-artists.
Importantly, it provides a sanctuary to all the Marathi-speaking community in the vicinity and to speak in our mother tongue and proudly admit. “Yes, we are Marathi, we are Marathi.”
Jai Maharashtra! Jai Chhatrapati Raje Shivaji!