Through the Looking Glass

4 Sep

a.k.a. Goodbye Ganpu


I’m not religious. That’s an understatement. If I had my intolerant way as Empress of the World, religion as a construct and a practice would be officially banned and I’d happily skewer secret societies out of existence. My weekly foaming at the mouth necessarily includes how stoned the masses are on ritualism, symbolism and the debilitating need to worship. Add to it the human penchant to vilify nature as part of the revelry and I’m ready to burst a blood vessel. Ergo, my reaction to socio-religious occasions like Ganpati is a resigned trip to buy ear muffs and periodic shuddering about sound pollution and the state of the sea.

So it took me more than a little by surprise when I found myself peering curiously at the crowds at Chowpatty a few days ago and patting the little idol I took to school today for show-and-tell when it toppled over. For the first time in the 26 Ganpati festivals I have been witness to, I didn’t shut my windows to the sounds of the streets. I let the reverberations stream in, pretending not to listen to the roar of the crowds and the insistent throbbing of drums, louder than the rain that poured on their upturned faces, watched the lights and the flowers from the darkness of my balcony, pushed back the faint stirrings of a vague something as I saw truck-sized statues trundle their way toward a watery grave and I wondered. About what it is that so many people seem to find in faith and belief that I cannot be a part of. About why I can only find higher power(s) in leaves and waves and certain people. About how the socio-religious propriety gene went missing in me.

But this once, I wasn’t the critical outsider. This once, I was part of that little bobbing universe. This once, I walked willingly into the inevitable, not away from it. And I write this to the rhythm of an insanity I have long disowned. Now, I’m unsure. And I guess I’ll have to wait a whole year to find out whether this was momentary madness or old age has arrived some decades early.

Bleddy popular culture. It’s finally had its way with me.


13 Responses to “Through the Looking Glass”

  1. surabhi September 4, 2009 at 9:07 am #

    with these views, i’d propose your name for empress of the world any day 🙂

    i let go of my cynical, critical self when i hear the primal throbbing of drums gone mad as they inch towards the sea…

    its the pandals with their blaring bhajans based on film songs that have me clawing off my skin.

  2. maidinmalaysia September 4, 2009 at 1:21 pm #

    you were floored by a wave of ‘participation-mystic’. It happens when there are crowds, you know.

    In chennai, it happens like this…


  3. Orange Jammies September 4, 2009 at 8:21 pm #

    surabhi: Yeeha! I have ONE vote. :mrgreen:

    maidinmalaysia: That was yesterday. I’ve concluded it was temporary insanity. Especially after looking at that picture.

  4. dipali September 5, 2009 at 10:56 am #

    I shy away from all such shenanigans. But I sometimes feel a touch of envy for those who belong so totally to their heritage.
    The photograph is lovely. Ganpati is mostly charming.
    I’m with Sur on the blaring bhajans. On most loudspeakers in public places:(

  5. Anindita September 6, 2009 at 11:08 am #

    Welcome to the land of doubt. I gave in to smidgens of belief last year — midlife crisis, I think. 🙂 I do think Ganapati is rather cute though.

  6. Amrita September 7, 2009 at 1:01 am #

    hee! I’d join in just coz I like the spectacle of it. Of course, I don’t have to live with it every year.

  7. CrazyDiamond September 7, 2009 at 1:39 pm #

    “momentary madness or old age has arrived some decades early”…heh…but rebelling is the sign of youth. You dear Jammie just revolted.

  8. Orange Jammies September 8, 2009 at 9:07 am #

    dipali: It’s taken under water. 🙂 Is that easily visible?

    Anindita: Honey, if I want cute, I’ll carry a Cabbage Patch doll. 😉 Actually, that makes me think about perceptions of the divine and the moods we attribute to the gods.

    Amrita: When I was visiting from the U.S., it was all “Oh, how lively!”. Now it’s just “Somebody shoot me.”

    CrazyDiamond: No, no, I feel revolted. Good sense prevailed the morning after.

  9. dipali September 8, 2009 at 11:42 am #

    Now that you mention it! Otherwise I wouldn’t have known.
    Beautiful anyway:)

  10. Orange Jammies September 8, 2009 at 4:45 pm #

    dipali: Yup, he’s immersed.

  11. Pri October 14, 2009 at 11:58 pm #

    Hey! Back to reading your posts after a long time. And congrats on your “Adele”. In my first job, I remember encountering Cinderella glass slipper-look-alike delicate pearl machines (those were Macs tho) – so I can imagine how proud you must be of your black beauty.

    About the rituals – in Kolkata here, Durga Puja is big, loud, colourful, crowded, all lit up, and a mad blur of four days. And that’s the only puja I really enjoy cos I treat it as a spectacle and not really as a puja 🙂 Ritual worship makes me actually feel slightly uncomfortable (shudders)

  12. Orange Jammies October 15, 2009 at 1:13 pm #

    Pri: It makes me very uncomfortable. And more than a little annoyed.


  1. Hang a Ding-Dong on my Tree « Wisdom Wears Neon Pyjamas - December 23, 2009

    […] for you anyway), let me tell you about a tradition we’ve instated. Now you know I’m not the epitome of traditional and you also know I’m anti-symbolism. That said, I do value personal meaning and bonds and […]

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