There are a couple of eyewitness versions to this story, a little-known incident that took place in Japan during John Lennon’s years as a homebody. Clearly neither he nor Yoko were entirely housebound in those five years. They were out and about, just not making records at that point. I’ll try to present the version I like best. In all the nine years since he first conceived this song in Rishikesh, India, John had never played it live. And the one time he did, it was to an unwitting audience.
After winning his appeal to stay in the United States, John & Yoko visited Japan at least three times before his passing, beginning with a 1977 trip that lasted from May to October of that year. Yoko’s parents were upper class people who had a summer home in Karuizawa in Nagano Prefecture. During a stay at Tokyo’s Okura Hotel in 1977, while Yoko was visiting her family, John and his friend Elliot Mintz were lounging around in the presidential suite when an elderly couple evidently took the elevator to the wrong floor.
This couple has never been identified as anything other than an ‘elderly couple’. I’d love to know who they were, although at this point, only their relatives would know for sure. They wandered in and sat down, apparently thinking they were in a lounge bar. John found this entertaining and as Mintz related, he began to play “Jealous Guy” on his acoustic guitar.
The couple sat and listened for a few minutes before walking back to the elevator and going, which left John and Mintz in fits of laughter. “It was the only time I think he ever performed for a party of two,” Mintz wrote. “They did not leave a tip.”
-The Frost Programme, Sept. 29 & Oct. 4, 1967
–Frost on Saturday, Aug. 24, 1968, repeated on The Best of Frost, May 18, 1969
–The David Frost Show, June 10, 1969/ July 10, 1969 & Dec. 16, 1971/ Jan. 13, 1972
As a talk show host David Frost was not a flamboyant fellow, but he was intuitive and could tease your dirty secrets out without making you uncomfortable. That’s probably what made his interviews with Richard Nixon so effective. While his name is intimately associated with the Beatles, as a band they put in an appearance on only one occasion. That would be for the world premiere of the extraordinary promotional clip for “Hey Jude” on Frost on Sunday on September 8, 1968. In order to maintain the illusion of a live appearance, Frost taped some clips at Twickenham Film Studios where he seemingly introduces the band.
By this time Paul McCartney had already made three appearances on one iteration or more of the Frost Show, the first as far back as April 1964, while they were neck deep in the filming of their first film, A Hard Day’s Night. Ringo showed up twice in 1969 & 1970; George Harrison appeared once in 1971 alongside Ravi Shankar, while he & John had expounded on Transcendental Meditation on two episodes back in 1967.
GEORGE: Your actions – whatever they are – are your actions. It’s all about your attitude toward other people. If you treat them good, they’ll do the same; if you hit them in the face, they’ll probably do the same thing. And that’s not much to do with religion. Action and reaction, that’s the thing Christ was saying. Whatever you do, you get it back.
JOHN: It’s the same in the whole universe, in all religions. It’s just opening your mind to see that. Buddha was groovy, you know. And Jesus was all right. It’s exactly the same thing.
John & Yoko made their first appearance as a couple one month after the premiere of “Hey Jude”, on the fourth edition of the latest iteration, Frost on Saturday on August 24, 1968, recorded live from Wembley Studios on London Weekend Television. while he was still a Beatle. The other guests included singer Blossom Dearie and satirist Stan Freberg. This interview took place two days after Ringo had left the group, during the sessions for The White Album; in fact it was also the day after the group had carried on and recorded all of “Back in the USSR”, without Ringo.
On this occasion the couple arrived in black clothes with small white badges on their lapels. They discussed their art project “You Are Here’, basically an unfinished art piece that invited people to participate.
Yoko Ono: “Usually people think in vicarious terms, they think ‘Somebody’s there,’ ‘John Lennon’s there,’ or somebody. But it’s not that. YOU are the one who’s here, and so in art, usually art gives something that’s an object and says ‘This is art,’ you know, but instead of that, art exists in people. It’s people’s art, and so we don’t believe in just making something and completing it and giving it to people, we like people to participate. All the pieces are unfinished and they have to be finished by people.”
Further on John elaborated, “The thing is, there’s no such thing as sculpture or art or anything, it’s just a bit of – it’s just words, you know, and actually saying everything is art. We’re all art, art is just a tag, like a journalist’s tag, but artists believe it. But sculpture is anything you care to name. This is sculpture: us sitting here, this is a happening, we are here, this is art, but yeah, if you gave that to a child, he wouldn’t have any preconceived ideas, so you wouldn’t have to say ‘This is sculpture’ or ‘This is a broken cup’, you’d say ‘There’s that – there’s glue, what do you do? You stick it together’.”
Other examples were Hammer a Nail In. Frost didn’t always get it when they talked about ‘vibrations’ or art in general, which was probably where most proper people were at in 1968. As someone with an odd imagination I found John’s comments on art insightful, and his sense of humor was as joyful to experience as ever. He was intuitive enough to connect his piece to the first time John met Yoko at the Indica Gallery in 1966, this may be the first time John told the story of how he met Yoko to an audience and how they connected over art.
Frost: I know this is a terrible condemnation of you, but I just felt like a man hammering in a nail.
Lennon: Winner! I felt like one hammering it in on TV.
Frost: Well in fact, because this is interesting, the thing with the nails for instance, it was banging the nail in – that the two of you found that you agreed on art and so on.
They also had a long discussion of their film “Smile”, wherein John just stares into the camera. When three minutes get stretched into one hour, one can see how much the facial expression changes.
Ono: Well, we’re not trying to explain, John. We’re just trying to communicate. And communication itself is art and art is communication. And so that, erm, people are getting so intelligent that you don’t have to explain too much, all you have to do is just touch each other, just shake hands, and so this is a way of touching each other.
Interestingly, as the credits roll “Hey Jude” is playing. John joins into the coda and encourages the audience to join in as the episode ends. The interview was so intriguing it was repeated on a highlights series, The Best of Frost, which was transmitted in some regions by LWT on late night Sunday, May 18, 1969.
Link: Beatles Bible,
By this time Frost had become a host of some repute. In 1969 he launched a weekly TV series in the United States, The David Frost Show, produced for the Westinghouse group for syndication. This involved Frost flying back and forth across the Atlantic every week holding down this series as well as his LWT series in England. On June 14 John & Yoko filmed a pre-taped sequence for the July 10, 1969 segment at Stonebridge Park Studios, where the previous December they’d participated in the Rolling Stones’ Rock & Roll Circus. Other guests included actors John Cassavetes, Peter Falk, Ben Gazzara & Julie London.
Lennon: What’s Bagism? It’s like a tag for what we all do, we’re all in a bag, you know, and we realized that we came from two bags – I was in this pop bag going round and round in my little clique and she was in her little avant-garde clique going round and round and you’re in your little tele clique and they’re in their…you know? And we all sort of come out and look at each other every now and then, but we don’t communicate. We all intellectualize about how there is no barrier between art, music, poetry… but we’re still all – ‘I’m a rock and roller’, ‘He’s a poet’. So we just came up with the word so you would ask us what bagism is – And we’d say we’re all in a bag, baby!
John’s first act was to throw acorns into the audience, calling them “acorns for peace”. John came in full Gandalf mustache & beard, and a blindingly white suit; Yoko was still in black. They came to discuss their peace campaign and bagism. John also held up a copy of Unfinished Music 2: Life With the Lions, playing snippets from ‘Cambridge 1968″ & “No Bed for Beatle John”. Yoko gave Frost a ‘box of smiles’; when he opened it he found a mirror inside that reflected back his own smile. Two Virgins was also discussed; Frost joked that the price tag had been placed in a ‘strategic place’.
Lennon: We’re trying to sell peace, like a product, you know, and sell it like people sell soap or soft drinks, you know, the only way to get people aware that peace is possible and – It isn’t just inevitable to have violence, not just war, all forms of violence. People just accept it and think ‘Oh, they did it’, or ‘Harold Wilson did it’ or ‘Nixon did it’, they’re always scapegoating people. It isn’t Nixon’s fault, we’re all responsible for everything that goes on, you know, we’re all responsible for Biafra and Hitler and everything. So we’re just saying ‘SELL PEACE’. Anybody interested in peace – just stick it in the window, it’s simple but it lets somebody else know that you want peace too, because you feel alone if you’re the only one thinking ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if there was peace and nobody was getting killed’. So advertise yourself that you’re for peace if you believe in it.
John’s fifth & final appearance on a David Frost program was taped December 16, 1971 for later syndication, about a week after the Ann Arbor benefit for John Sinclair, & a day before his appearance at eh Apollo Theater. John is still in his black leather jacket. After Frost introduced John & Yoko he said we are in for a musical treat. They were joined onstage by David Peel & the Lower East Side for a rendering of Peel’s “The Ballad of New York City”, a simply folksy tune with John on a tea chest bass.
David Peel had served two years in the U.S. Army, around 1960. He was stationed in Alaska, which is kind of funny, because that was where my Dad served as a radio operator in the late 1950’s. John Lennon befriended Peel in 1971 when his band was performing in New York’s Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village. Peel had joined John & Yoko at the Ann Arbor benefit on December 10, 1971, and less than a week later, joined the pair again on this segment of The David Frost Show.
Both songs that Peel performed on this show would appear four months later on his third album, The Pope Smokes Dope (released April 17, 1972 on Apple Records). John produced the album as well as provided background vocals with Yoko Ono. The album managed to offend almost everybody, subsequently being banned in most of the world expect the United States, Canada & Japan.
This would be John’s first live appearance on U.S. TV as a solo artist. Joined by Yoko, Jerry Rubin & David Peel & company, he would perform “Attica State”, a bit of “Luck of the Irish” “Sisters, O Sisters” & “John Sinclair”, closing with Peel’s “The Hippie From New York City”.
Once more these were all acoustic performances. John & Yoko harmonized on “Attica State”. Yoko, in a green pullover sweater & blue jean, was multi-tasking, tapping a bongo while holding a lyrics sheet, which John refers back to. It was a problem he’d had in the Beatles too; he always had a hard time remembering the words to the songs he wrote himself. While he & the Lower East Side performed on the edge of the stage, a man in a red felt cowboy hat in the back was tossing paper airplanes over their heads.
After the song Frost invited members of the audience into a discussion about a fairer penal system. At one point a middle-aged couple questioned whether the Lennons were glorifying the prisoners in their song.
Yoko performed ‘Sisters, O Sisters”, then joined Frost for a multi-pointed discussion, including her struggle against discrimination of women, a realization that the public always listens to famous people, and the belief that communication is the key to peace. The pair then invited Chief Lion of the Onondaga tribe onstage for a discussion about plans for the New York State Department of Transportation to expand a highway through tribal land. A short film clip was shown with John & Yoko joining in the Onondaga protest.
Six days after their appearance at the Ann Arbor benefit, John & Yoko & the Lower East side performed “John Sinclair” in a more intimate setting. Yoko’s bongo was more perceptible, and John threw in a few variations to the tune: “Bring him home to his wife and kids/ We did!/ They gave him ten for two/ What else can the whole world do?/ Got to got to got to got…set him free/ Free!”
After the song, John talks about their part in the protest to free John Sinclair and their fight for peace. Finally, everyone stands as David Peel & the Lower East Side perform “The Hippie From New York City”, with John & Yoko standing in back. Again it is an acoustic version of a song about ‘a cockroach & Mayor Lindsey’ with bongos & flute.
Show would be broadcast a month later on January 13, 1972, on ABC-TV.
David Peel died in a veteran’s hospital, April 6, 2017.
David Frost passed away on Saturday, August 31, 2013, at the ripe age of 74.
Available on: Seven surviving segments, including John & Yoko’s appearance from 1968, are included on a two-disc DVD set, Frost on Saturday (1968), released by Network, October 4, 2010. Sadly, this seems to only be available in Region 2, i.e., Europe, Japan & the Middle East. There may not be any official release of the Lennon’s other appearances on DVD.
Unofficially, there is at least one bootleg I’m aware of, now. John Lennon Live & Sessions 1971-1972, a two-CD program featuring rehearsals as well as the Tea for Two Rally, The Attica State benefit at the Apollo & all the songs from his last David Frost segment, taped on December 16, 1971, plus 0music from TV appearances on Aquarius & the Mike Douglas Show.
On a different bootleg, THE BEATLES: MOVIES AND MEDITATION 1967 VOL. 4, a 90 Mn. DVD. Among random Magical Mystery Tour home movies & How I Won the War premiere clips, there is also John & George’s two appearances on The Frost Programme on September 29 & October 4, 1967, although only the second program is presented complete.
I shared this tweet a few hours ago:
The most distress aspect of the abortion dispute, from the beginning, is that the onus is always on women. The rancor and punishments always directed at them and no responsibility attached to the male. Men have as much to do with pregnancy as women…
But no punishment is attached to their actions. Without their sperm, you wouldn’t have a baby, whether it was voluntary or forced on the woman. Oh heaven forbid we should ruin that boy’s future, he’s a good old boy, and she, oooo, she’s just a…oh please, let’s not.
None of the so called evangelicals seem to give a rat’s that a woman’s life might be ruined, or lost, because we know abortions are not going to stop. They’re just going to be rendered unsafe by a pack of odious, unfeeling justices pursuing their own agenda.
Make no mistake, no man is going to be charged, no billionaires will face consequences for taking part in impregnating a woman, which si another obscenity perpetrated by this generation of vipers.
I’d like to add that admittedly, I’m not fond of people, especially politicians with their false cozying up to the religious maniacs who have spent the last 40 years turning this country into a backwater as venal as Russia under the communists.
But I value LIFE, which includes humans, not matter how dense they are. Nobody in the GOP or the religious right/wrong seem to realize a lot of young women are going to die because of this decision–or NON-decision–by the conservative justices on the Supreme Court. Maybe they don’t care. They were certainly fine with Donald Trump committing mass murder last year. I’ll be watching, and pushing with every other decent person, to make sure this ass-backwards law in Texas takes a dive, and to see to it that this SCOTUS does not take us back to the Dark Ages.
–statement by Sherrilyn Ifill, President & Director-Counsel of the NAACP’s Legal Defense & Educational Fund (LDF)
May 11, 1972 [recorded on May 5, 1972]
The last time John Lennon & Yoko Ono came to The Dick Cavett Show, their segment had gone over and ran into a second show. John had been invited to come back and perform. Eight months later that came to pass, under very different circumstances. John was facing deportation at the hands of the Nixon Administration. Even worse might have been the choice of song John had come to perform. But that comes later.
Coincidentally his former partner in crime George Harrison had appeared on the show two months after John, and not long after his historic Concert for Bangladesh. Broadcast on November 30 of 1971, George was in his long-bearded, full beard & mustache period, along with his Indian guru Ravi Shankar. After the monologue he performed guitar behind Gary Wright & his band Wonderwheel on their song, “Two-Faced Man”. It was a bit of musicians returning the favor; after Wright played supporting guitar on George’s All Things Must Pass LP, George helped Wright record his 1971 LP, Footprint. Though George was in the background, his slide guitar was unmistakable.
At the time John Lennon was 30 years old, and George was only 28. Noting all the promoting going on with John’s last appearance, George said there was something he forgot to plug, namely John’s latest single “Happy Christmas”, which George was happy to oblige. He also believed we should show Monty Python’s Flying Circus in the United States. Well, soon enough…
An interesting conversation followed on the confluence of drugs and rock musicians. The first time he and John took LSD, for starters, they didn’t know it’d been slipped into their drinks by a dentist at a party.
At the time, the film for the Concert for Bangladesh was still in the editing process, but George did bring a clip that rolled in the middle of the show, from the concert featuring George & his all-stars performing his song “Bangladesh”. Ravi Shankar also performed, his face scrunched up with such concentration for a man playing such a relaxed sounding tune. Ravi too had a clip, from his film Raga, which had limited engagements in the United States.
Before John, the first guest on Cavett’s May 11th show was actress Shirley MacLaine, who was very different from how we know her today. She had already done one memoir at this point, and her movie The Possession of Joel Delaney had just come out. She turned out to be a very articulate guest. She had spent the past year campaigning for a candidate she ‘can’t mention’ on the air, because of network rules. She had travelled the country meeting people and had discovered a very different picture from what the media and politicians told us. Hmm, some things never change.
John & Yoko came on halfway through the show. Right off, John observed that Cavett had tossed his tie into the audience during his opening monologue. John said he was crazy about malted milk; “I was on cheeseburgers, but I got over it.”
Things quickly turned serious. “We’re really frightened because some people feel we have to leave this country,” Yoko said. They had chasing Yoko’s daughter Kyoko and her ex-husband Tony Cox all over the world. Even after they got custody of the child, Tony Cox ran off with Kyoko while fighting the courts in the Virgin Islands and Texas. Yoko hadn’t seen her own child in two years; John had to switch channels every time a child came on TV, because it was another reminder her daughter was missing somewhere in America.
Then there was the deportation case, going back to a drug bust in the UK in 1968 that was dismissed. The new charges were trumped up: “They’re after us because we want peace.” People assumed they were going to San Diego to cause a ruckus (they weren’t) and were even blamed for the Chicago riots in 1968, which was interesting since they were not politically active at the time.
At the 46-minute mark, we were treated to an insert. John had come to perform his newest single, “Woman is the Nigger of the World”. ABC felt this was a “highly controversial issue” with the audience, Cavett said, explaining the insert as the only option to a full deletion of that segment. And some complaints did come in, most of them directed against the ‘mealy mouth’ insert that Cavett was forced to put in.
Explaining the song, John said it came from a quote from Yoko in a 1969 interview. John was still a chauvinist at the time; they talked about it and had the song in their heads for two years. Then they joined their back-up band, Elephant’s Memory, on stage. John stripped off his black leather jacket and performed in a purple shirt. The saxophonist was taken in the spirit of the song, swaying in front of his microphone. Yoko had taken up a bongo, smacking it on the beat. John delivered quite a passionate performance. I think he even remembered all the words this time; he had a habit of forgetting his own lyrics during live performances. He wrapped things up by walking off the stage, with Yoko behind him, and sitting back down while the band winds the song down.
Yoko closed the show with her own number, ‘We’re All Water”. John doesn’t even step into the spotlight shining down on Yoko. You’d have thought people would have conniptions when she sang, “There may not be much difference/ between Chairman Mao and Richard Nixon/ if we strip them naked!” And there it is again, that shrieking we all know and ‘love’. Give her props for singing most of the tune. Between screams she yells, “What’s the difference? What’s the difference?” After spending most of the song in the dark behind lead guitar, John walks back from the stage, playing over Shirley MacLaine while Yoko shouts and John proudly introduces Elephant’s Memory.
Before closing the show, Dick asks if he’s met the best two of the Beatles. Surprisingly, John disagrees, saying he should meet Paul. “I think Ringo you’d have a good time with.” While this was the end of this show, John also had an even more fruitful week with Mike Douglas…
Available on: All three episodes featuring John & Yoko were released on a two-disc DVD, The Dick Cavett Show: John & Yoko Collection, @ Oct. 31,2005 from Shout Factory. George Harrison’s appearance was part of a collection released a couple months earlier, The Dick Cavett Show: Rock Icons, 3-discs, @ August 16, 2005, also from Shout Factory (the same outfit that archives the Power Rangers series on DVD).
September 11th & 24th, 1971
Back in the day we had loads of talk show hosts, in the afternoon or early evenings, and these were populated by laid-back, conservatively dressed gentlemen in suits and ties. They were respective to their audience; these shows were not circuses like Jerry Springer or any idjit on Fox News. David Frost and Dick Cavett were the cream of talk show interviewers.
Talk shows like this take me back to a time when people on these shows could sit down and listen, when people often had intelligent things to say. Of course in those days in the United States, and everywhere actually, we had but three major television networks, PBS and a handful of UHF channels that nobody tuned into. We didn’t have 500+ channels to surf, and we never suffered from short attention spans. Well, that’s enough grump-old-man stage for now.
This would be John Lennon’s first interview on American television since the breakup of the Beatles the year before. Admittedly it was mostly to promote clips from their avant-garde films and new albums. Ironically this show was broadcast on September 11, thirty years before that date became significant. A clip from this show was employed in the film Forrest Gump; specifically, at approximately 16 minutes in, Yoko was CGI’d out and replaced by Tom Hanks.
As the couple crossed to the stage and sat down, the house band played a low-key snippet of “Come Together”. The beginning talk centered on their hair, which John & Yoko had cut short a year earlier to auction off. John was nervous and sarcastic at first; both of them chain-smoked throughout the interview, another sign of how times have changed. Once he found that he couldn’t bait Cavett, John relaxed a bit and was more forthcoming after that.
At one point John commented that he never expected to sing the same silly love songs in his old age. “So a long time ago I said that I didn’t want to be singing ‘She Loves You’ when I’m thirty. I said that when I was about twenty-five or something…Imagine being like fifty and still singing ‘Yesterday’.”
John also admitted to the influence of James Thurber on his art. Throughout the show John made every effort to share the spotlight with Yoko. The first of their clips to be screened was part of Yoko’s avant-garde film Fly; apparently the network censors only allowed a shot of the lady’s foot. We never got to the fly crawling on the more interesting parts. Cavett remarked, “When the censor found out that the movie was called The Fly, you can’t imagine what he thought.”
The talk drifts to Bagism, in which the couple had held press conferences in Austria, in a bag, in 1969. ‘There’s no prejudice when people are in bags,” John said, “It’s total communication.” After the commercial break, they invited members of the audience to come up and get in a bag. “Let us know when you’re through voting!” Cavett quipped.
The lights came down for the premiere of the promotional clip for Yoko’s first solo single, “Mrs. Lennon”, which debuted on this show. It was a sort of sad dirge that she carried very well. The second film, Erection, was not exactly what you’d think, you dirty minded folks. The film follows the slow-motion coverage of a skyscraper being constructed. Well, with Yoko, umm, in the background…
“I don’t care what happens when I’m dead,” John said, just tossing it into the conversation. Only with hindsight had that become a tragic, chilling observation. Finally, comes the debut for the clip for “Imagine”, probably the first time anyone had heard the song outside of the studio, a song soon to be iconic.
John got to explain, yet again, that “Lucy in The Sky with Diamonds” was NOT about drugs, it was about a drawing his son Julian had shown him. He said he got a recorded birthday greeting from Janis Joplin, but it didn’t get to him until after she had died. To the question of drug overdoses, John had to ask why people are using drugs or alcohol or whatever. “Is there something wrong with society that (we) have to use these things to guard ourselves against it? People take drugs or alcohol so they don’t feel what’s going on around them.”
The session was so enjoyable, John said he’d love to come back and do a live performance. It went so far over the allotted time that the following episode, the week of Sept. 24, Cavett introduced three additional segments from John & Yoko’s appearance. Discussion roamed over the subjects of Indians and Red Indians (properly Native Americans nowadays), abuse through the ages, the Bed-Ins for Peace and the surprising reaction against them, while also taking questions from the audience.
In fact, John would have the chance to perform less than a year later. And that’s another blog.
The first Neil Diamond song I ever heard was “Sweet Caroline” from 1969, so I can say that I was literally listening to that man before my wife was born.
Hot August Night should be on one of those lists people are fond of on the Internet, in the Top 5 of the Best Live Albums Ever Made for instance. I have good memories of this LP, it was in my Dad’s record collection when we were living by ourselves in the 1970s. there’s four of those records now, but I’m only going to be looking at the first.
My wife and I saw Neil Diamond in Seattle, around 1996. It was paid for by our mother-in-law, which was one of the few good things she ever did for us. There was a good vibe running throughout that concert. “America” is a song that’s best appreciated live; everyone was holding hands, including us, during “Sweet Caroline”.
Neil Diamond is a consummate performer, and on this double LP he’s at the height of his powers. It’s hard to believe that man was shy in high school, although that seems to seep out in the times he shares dialogue with the audience. It’s an astounding performance captured at one of his favorite venues, the Greek Theater in Los Angeles. It was the first record released on the brand new label MCA, which came about from a merging of the Uni, Kapp and Decca labels.
Apparently it was a quick turnaround from performance to release, as the concert was recorded, naturally enough, on August 24, 1972, one of ten sold-out concerts at the Greek that month. It was in record stores by December 9.
It has its share of deep cuts, lesser known songs like “Porcupine Pie”, “Soggy Pretzels” and “Canta Libre”. We agree, my wife and I, that this slowed down version of “Red Red Wine” may be one his best renditions of that song. And there are the hits–“Solitary Man”, “Sweet Caroline”, “Shilo”, “Play Me” and live cuts from what was then his most recent LP, Tap Root Manuscript. My wife always cries when he does “I Am… I Said”, and I’m pretty sure Neil was deeply affected, too. The show closed with the inevitable “Brother Love’s Travelling Salvation Show”.
The album sleeve is one that has to be seen. One wonders if Neil ever looks back at that cover and asks, ‘Wow, did I ever have THAT much hair?’ Here’s to you, Neil Diamond, and may you have many happy years to come.
This is my first venture into the realm of Hindu festivals. What I’m about to provide will be a gross simplification, I know, an outline of its meanings at best. There is much to learn, and I’m only beginning. Well, here goes.
The Festival of Navrati is celebrated in India and all over the world over nine nights in the autumn, post monsoon season. Also known as Durga puja or Sharada Navrati–nav (nine) ratri (nights)–it comes in the Hindu calendar month of Ashum, roughly in September or October. The festival honors Goddess Durga, who defeated the buffalo-demon king Mahishasura in battle, and to honor the feminine power. The goddess rides a tiger or a lion, and each of her many arms carries a weapon–a conch, bow and arrow, a sword, javelin, a noose and a shield.
Over this holy week each day is dedicated to one of her nine avatars. The nine forms of Maa Durga are:
-Goddess Shailputri, considered the most important manifestation of Durga; she contains the aspects of unconditional love, mercy and knowledge;
-Goddess Brahmacharini signifies love, affection and fidelity, and is also a symbol of toughness. By worshipping her with pure love and devotion, she will bestow immense stamina to hold on while you fast. She is represented as one who loved to walk barefoot;
-Goddess Chandraghanta is worshipped as a goddess of peace and forgiveness, with the power to eradicate evil. While she is ready to destroy the wicked, her devotees see her as a compassionate mother;
-Goddess Kushmanda is credited with creating the universe with her divine smile. She is believed to improve health and to bestow spiritual fulfillment
-Goddess Skandamata grants knowledge and wisdom to her devotees;
-Goddess Katyayani, a warrior divinity who fulfills the wishes of those who worship her with a pure heart;
-Goddess Kaalratri destroys ignorance and spreads light. It is also possible she was a precursor of the diety Kali;
-Goddess Mahagauri fulfills the desires of her devotees. This form of Durga represents purity; and
-Goddess Siddhidatri, the final form, fulfills all the divine aspirations of Maa Durga.
This was the day I’d always dreamed of, since that first afternoon I saw those spycams on their spindly metal rods posing over our traffic signals. Only a few appeared at first but as time moved on, they began to multiply like fleas at every traffic stop. I fumed every day, even sped past those electronic signposts screaming “Speed Limit Exceeded”, just to be contrary. Maybe it was cowardice not acting on our frustrations sooner, but the generations pass, new voices arise with the balls of the young, and I was proud to be invited to stand with my grandson as we tossed a tow cable around the spycam’s neck and yanked hard.