Vantage point

Thursday, September 04, 2003


Most people I know say things like "You know, I believe in the Almighty and my faith is staunch. I pray everyday but I really dislike rituals and all".

So I guess I am a bit of an anomaly when I say that I don't believe in any almighties or prayers, but I have recently realised that I love religious rituals. Not because they help me achieve some spiritual goal or anything, but simply because they are fun and they give me a sense of belonging to my region/country. Families have annual picnics. Friends have parties. Schools have proms and reunions. Communities/Societies have festivals. I always knew that I loved the family picnics, parties with friends and school reunions. But one year away from my hometown has made me realise how much I miss the rituals related to festivals back home.

I had gone to the city on janmashtami (Birth anniversary of Krishna), and it just did not feel right! There were no pots hanging 4-5 storeys high, no groups of thin and lanky youngsters devising strategies on how to combine into a lasting pyramid, no girls standing in the balconies throwing water at short there wasn't a single dahihandi like we have in maharashtra on that day. I remember that in school, we had dahi handi every year. And in the evening, all of us would go to the nearest square to see which group managed to bag the 10K or 20K prize for bringing down the lofty earthern pot filled with prasad.

After I returned to the hostel feeling very nostalgic about the great fun we would have at those dahi-handis, I ran into a fellow I know to be very religious. He did his engineering from Pune so I thought he would understand how I felt that the U.P. janmashtami celebrations were drab. However he didn't share my nostalgia as he said "You know, dahi handi isn't mentioned anywhere in the Shastras. So true hindus should not mind if some such local rituals are not observed everywhere else. In fact the UP way of celebrating it is the Hindu way. If we follow the shastras, our emphasis will be on spirituality where it should be, rather than ritualism". I asked him to name a shastra which mentions the word "Hindu". He's yet to get back to me.

Have been getting the same nostalgic feeling this week, since it is Ganpati time. In Pune I would crib about the traffic headaches, the congestion and the noice levels during the 11-day festival. But here as I don't see a single pandal with a ganesh idol and innovative decorations, I long for Pune even more. Because Ganeshotsav means going out with your friends to downtown Pune and roam around all night visiting different "mandals" and admiring their decorations. Stop at some restaurant and have a 2 a.m. dinner. These restaurants are jam packed and serving their full menus throughout the night during Ganpatis. You know, there is a very unique pleasure that you derive from "bird watching" (the two legged kinds) at 2-3 a.m. Maybe the darkness enhances their beauty.

Last year I was in Lucknow for all 11 days of the Ganeshotsav. This year though I will be home for the last two days. Though the gang with whom I usually roamed the streets at night - Chaitya, Shantya, Satyen, Mihir, Anya, Chinya etc are not in Pune, I intend to catch hold of the remaining people - Ameya, Mitali, Vallari, Tushar...and spend the whole night of Ganesh Visarjan on the streets.

After having tapped into my "Memories" account for the past year, it is time to make some fresh deposits under the 'Pune' section.