Last weekend we held a party to celebrate my baby son’s anaprashan.
An anaprashan is a Hindu feeding ceremony when, traditionally, a baby receives his or her first taste of solid food.
Actually, K has been wolfing down different foods in various states of solidity since he was about five months, but that didn’t diminish our anticipation for his day.
The actual ceremony and its blessing, which tends to be held when the baby’s eight months old, took place in April when we and K’s two sets of grandparents traveled to a Hindu centre in Buckinghamshire.
So last weekend’s event was a party to recreate the ceremonial first feeding in front of friends and the wider family.
My mother-in-law prepared a special menu for K, with small portions of boiled rice, dhal, mixed vegetables (carrots and parsnips with cheese), lau (an Indian type of marrow), fried aubergine, potato and pea curry, dried cabbage curry, fried salmon fillet, finishing with rice pudding and plain chocolate barfi.
It was, as you can see, rather extensive, but K was only required to take a taste of each item. Later my wife commented that it must have been a little boring for the guests – K ate everything offered to him without so much as the hint of a comedy rejection of any item.
The inclusion of fish in the menu is peculiar to Bengali custom but, being a non-vegetarian dish, wasn’t present on the same table as the statues of the gods.
On the day we were lucky to have one of the hottest days of the year so far. There was also plenty of room for my eldest son and his primary school friends to run about outside the church hall we’d hired, which was a blessing in itself.
Hiring church halls can be an amusing business. The hall we chose this time necessitated the signing of a contract that appeared to forbid ‘satantic’ rituals like Halloween parties and the like. No mention of parties to celebrate Hindu blessings so we seemed on safe ground there.
But some years ago, trying to book a different church hall for my seven year old’s anaprashan party, we did ask outright if they minded us holding it there. The lady in charge of bookings felt she should check with the vicar, who was fine with it. But there was an amusing moment when the lady was talking to my wife and asked her if she knew “Mrs Singh”, who apparently lived somewhere on our road. S managed to restrain herself from replying that, surprising as it may seem, she didn’t know every Indian person in our town.
Still, both times, despite the effort involved in organising and catering large parties, have been lovely occasions when we’ve shared important family moments with friends and family.