Friday, September 5, 2014

360 degree turn

This time Ganpati was a particularly stressful time - getting up in the morning (earlier than usual) to clear up the pooja mess of last night, clearing the utensils and water, and flowers and getting the area cleaned up for the morning arti, getting ready for work, cooking lunch (this is a holiday period for my cook also), making breakfast, rushing to work, coming back, deciding a time when all family members will be available in the evening to perform the evening arti, getting everything ready of the evening arti and so the next day. It seemed endless and i was thankful that we had Ganpati for only 5 days!
Which seemed like such a weird thing to be thankful for!
There were times in my childhood i remember i wanted Ganpati to not leave ever. I used to cry at Ganpati Visarjans, because they marked an end to limitless sweets, gifts and merry evenings and also because i used to oddly get attached to the idol and wonder if it could swim or whether really his parents lived under the water and he was going back to them (the stories my parents would make up!)

With Ganpati came yummy food, food now that we think of in terms of calories consumed and fret.
With Ganpati came getting dressed up in new clothes, now it seems like another chore.
With Ganpati came the decoration mania and creative ideas, now it was about doing just enough and on the last day to pass it off as decoration.
With Ganpati came people visiting, laughter and talk, now it is more work for me - getting the guests food and making polite conversation.
With Ganpati came singing the arti and seeing who remembered most of it - my sister or I, now it is fretting about the length of the arti and glancing at the book to see the number of paragraphs left to be covered.

I am an atheist.
 I don't remember ever praying to God or asking him for anything. I was always taught that being a good and decent human being was a life well lived and God never pictured in this. My childhood was actually quite God-free. The fear of God was never instilled in us, as was the fear of doing something wrong and then having to face consequences on our own. (or maybe just facing our mother's wrath!)
It was always about being true to yourself, respecting yourself and others, knowing that you cannot lie to yourself and are always watched by your conscience (and extremely vigilant parents!) which will let you know the right from the wrong.

I do not believe in all the rituals that are to be performed, their order or their content. I don't believe God ever said do these things, in this specific order only or you will be damned to hell. As a child i used to picture God as an arts teacher, someone who would encourage us to push creative boundaries, be free and be good. So all these stifling, rigid rituals have never appealed to me. And as i grew up, and was given the choice to believe or not, i chose to stay away from these rituals. I chose to try and be good instead of know all the mantras. I chose to try and be respectful and calm, instead of pray. I chose to try and be kind, instead of perform endless poojas.
So Ganpati was never about worshiping God, as it was about getting together and celebrating the festival.

So it is not about my belief in God diminishing or wavering, it is about my perception - how i perceive the festival has changed.
When did this festival become such a burden?
How did welcoming Ganpati change from being joyous to arduous?

It was because as a child i only had to eat the sweets, stand and recite the arti, be with all my cousins and friends all day, play and eat some more. Now i am on the other side, where i have to keep the machinery working, buy / make food to eat, have everything ready for the arti, clean up, dress up and it all seems like an endless cycle, waiting to be broken.

So, then, am i going to take this tradition forward?
Or am i going to stop the tradition because being on the other side, makes me feel like a hypocrite, performing all these rituals when actually i don't believe in them at all?

Can it not be only about celebrating the joy of being together with family? Can we not celebrate the festival the way we want to?
I don't remember my mother ever sulking about the work she had to do, which was a lot more than what i do, or not making polite conversations with people who drop by, who were definitely more than the guests i have to interact with. She may not be an (open) atheist, but she isn't religious either. How did she manage to do everything with a smile on her face?

Maybe she did it for us, my sister and me.

In her words - "I will understand when i have children of my own."

1 comment:

  1. One more masterpiece from neha. looks like it comes naturally to is so difficult to be daringly truthful.