by Kiran Jhamb
Lewis Caroll’s Humpty Dumpty’s boast was that when he used a word, it meant what he chose it to mean.
Humpty Dumptyism did not exist only in Alice’s wonderland. It exists in our society today also. We, scornful like Humpty Dumpty, are not bothered about what the festivals mean, we make them mean what we choose them to mean.
Ganesh pooja should be an occasion for worshipping Lord Ganesh, for spreading good cheer, for cultural activities. Have a look into the ground realities. Take a typical ‘Society’. Let us start with ‘vargani’ Rs. 500 per family? No, Rs. 1000. A long debate. Where to keep the Ganesh idol? Another debate. Nobody is willing to run errands but everybody is an expert nitpicker. Once the idol is brought –
‘It is slightly khandit!’
‘Its trunk should have been turned toward right – no - left!’
‘Should have gone for a smaller/ bigger one.’ etc. etc.
Then ‘aarti’ days are fixed. There are postmortems in galore.
‘Her modaks were not well-cooked.’
‘101 wali brought a meager amount of sweets for prasad!’
‘Sharmaji’s pooja thali was not properly laid.’
People don’t turn up at the appointed time for pooja and then later complain that they were not called. So a smart youngster has come up with a novel idea - he simply disconnects the cable connection of the building at the appointed time. Bereft of TV, most of the bhaktas turn up on time.
The groupism and floor wars become conspicuous. ‘304 wali aunty’s pooja shouldn’t go undisturbed’ is the message on the first floor grapevine. This is the uncle from 202, “Apke mun mein itna dwesh hai, you didn’t even touch my pooja ki thali’ and the master stroke, “In this society a lot of discrimination is done between flat owners and tenants’ and the trump card of every quarrel, “Hisaab deekao. Mismanagement of pooja funds is going on’; while all the time our Mrs Mundra is screeching, ‘I, I alone slog and manage the show. Why am I not being given the due importance?” till I look askance at God’s idol.
If I were to use the technique of magic realism so much in use by the writers now a days, I am sure Lord Ganesh would literally turn his nose/ trunk up in the air and get up from his seat and stamp his foot, “Enough! I’m going. You louts, shout to your heart’s content and clear your doubts but I’m going. Spare me!”
Otherwise also Lord Ganesh by now must have been outraged at being forced to watch the current rage, the great cultural activity every night – playing Housie. Oh! What a refined interpretation of Indianans it is, not to mention the additional advantage of teaching the young minds gambling.
The second most popular activity is dancing of the youngsters to film songs. Most of the dancing consists of making obscene gestures. Lord Ganesh must be tired of suppressing his desire to dance his dad’s ‘Tandav’ at these young heads because he is supposed to be benevolent and not just just. Thank God, we burn our dead and not bury them! Otherwise, by now Lokmanya Tilak would have become a Catherine wheel in his grave, rotating at great speed.
Lord Ganesh, like me, has no other go than to accept this deliberate cultural distortion. Since I’m laying aside all my preconceptions and old-fashioned traditional prejudices and allowing the
modern views to really resonate, I’m even amenable to the suggestions of the younger generation. There should be a dress code for pooja - perhaps jeans and T-shirts? Lord Ganesh should not be made to feel left out. Therefore, he too should be decked up in XXL jeans. His ‘vahan’ should be the bike of ‘Dhoom’ and the mouse should ride pillion, wearing a helmet. This way Lord Ganesh will feel hip and trendy and be a real dude.
After the gyration of Ganesh Utsav arrive the Navratri, garba, dandiya - unlimited fun, socializing, dancing, masti. Religious mood, piety (come again!) – Hmmm! - are there at the beginning of the evening but then it is pure, unadulterated ‘masti’ and not ‘bhakti’ all the way. What does it matter whether you are John or Junaid or Jatin? Having limited number of dresses is a tragedy? Don’t fret. You can have dresses and jewelry on hire. Get on your party togs and come and join the fun. You don’t even have to spend on entry ticket because your college is show managing the event. Parents are rendered speechless before the logical argument that since our college management is involved, it cannot be that bad. It should not be called the commercialization of religion. It is such a big cultural service. Let me be politically correct it is the integration of diverse India and it should be glorified.
Form your own group and tap into the feel good sensation. When tired guzzle cool drinks, have a ‘dekkho’ at the ‘maal’ (naughty, naughty!), i.e. at the dresses, fashions, jewelry, footwear. Especially footwear. Once or twice you return minus your foot wear because someone by mistake must have taken it. Then you feel it to be odd and decide to get even. You even carefully choose the one you are going to get away with. Next time it is a dare cum profit business. Why do we have to wait for the religious calendar? Cannot we rename Saturday night as Devratri and have swaying to music every week in the name of goddess? 'Saturday, Saturday kardi rahendi hai kudi' is a popular number, no?.
Heterogeneous nature of city population has resulted in the loss of ‘community feeling’. When different communities try to adopt each other’s customs a strange kitsch emerges. Hedonistic tendencies, increased spending power, smaller families, and consumerism are making us substitute grain with faff. The spirit of festivals is gone only celebrations remain.
I must be an anachronism. I feel that the Pester Power of these festivals has greatly increased. We all know that most truths are so naked that people feel sorry for them and try to cover them up. I won’t let this truth be covered up. We tend to take the path of least resistance. By keeping silent we legitimize the direction being taken. So I am starting Protest Business. I am going to do my bit - develop a disgust kit for each member of my family so that they do not join in this mass masti. Values and ideals are cultural constructs. Have your fun parties but not in the name of religious festivals. My come-uppance is bound to come. Who knows? Either I will be forced to recant and adopt the Alice in Wonderland logic or be forced to have a great fall. Or, wonder of wonders I may find some takers for my line of reasoning. ***