I’ve never been the religious types. I haven’t been too rebellious either, though I’ve had my fair share. Back when i was a kid, I would demand breakfast on the morning of important poojas when nothing was supposed to be consumed. I would insist on touching the person doing the pooja (usually my mom since my dad was hardly religious) just to break the maDi concept. And as recently as six months ago, during my father’s annual death ceremony, I cut up my sacred thread.
But I’ve mostly been harmless. I’ve never cribbed about going into a place of worship, though in most cases I’d just mechanically go through the motions. I have hated the really crowded and popular temples, such as those in Tirupati and Mantralaya, and promised not to go back there again. Some other temples – the more quieter ones – have made me feel spiritual. I can’t exactly describe the feeling, but let me tell you that it identical to what I felt when I had my first cigarette (no, i’m not a smoker; I smoke on an average one cigarette a year).
Diwali weekend has started, and I have no plans. I haven’t gone home to Bangalore. I’ll be attending work on Monday. Today was spent like every other lazy weekend – didn’t do much at all. Seems like tomorrow, too, will be spent the same way. I have no plans for Tuesday. And have no plans of making any planas. If I look out of my window, I can see some celebrations going on in the neighbouring complex (it has low-rise buildings so I can see pretty much the whole thing). There is some kind of a fair. Stalls have been set up. People look all decked up. Some “cultural programme” is happening. There was a fireworks display.
Apart from the food and holiday bit, festivals have never really meant much to me. Yes, there has been the odd fun thing – such as decking up the Ganapati mantapa, making shapes out of sugar syrup (Sankranti), bursting crackers, etc. But it has mostly been yet another day. Only special things being the special food and holiday from school. In IIT, I used to especially look forward to festivals as they’d more often then not give me an extended weekend to run off home to Bangalore.
I wonder if my indifference towards festivals has been because of my family background – where the stress has been more on rituals as opposed to the fun part. I wonder if my indifference is because I was in a very small family (no siblings), and with parents working for PSUs and hence returning home early every evening, the “family getting together and eating” was no big deal. Or maybe if my indifference stems out of my un-religiousness in general. That if I were religious I might have found more meaning in the rituals than I do now. I wonder if my indifference has to do with my being a process-driven person rather than a result-driven person.
As I’ve grown older, I’m seeing less and less values in most of these festivals. Of course, the incremental value of a holiday has gone up ever since I began working. On the other hand, stuff I used to find fun are not fun anymore. I fail to be charmed by crackers, though I must confess I still love the smell of them. I don’t have the patience anymore to sit and decorate the Ganapati mantapa. And after I’ve started watching my weight, the thought of making shapes out of pure sugar syrup has also become much less appealing.
The last really fun Diwali I can recall was in 1995, the year when there was a solar eclipse on the middle day. I remember going to see The Mask that day, and Rangeela the next day. I remember getting together with cousins and bursting hordes of crackers. I remember going to a chess tournament the preceding weekend and doing fairly well.
After that, I have just been going through the motions. Buying crackers, bursting them, pretending to enjoy them, but feeling empty at the end of it. In one of those years (1997) I’ve ended up nearly blasting my hand. In another (2001) I have played teenpatti, and made a princely sum of Rs. 3.20 . I have written exams on Diwali (2004). I’ve gone and attended quizzes (2005 and 2006), and even fallen in love (2005).
Ok I know this has been an extremely long and incoherent post. I would be really impressed if you are still reading this. There is one little way in which I plan to celebrate this year’s Diwali. My newest hobby is cooking. So far I’ve been cooking mostly basic stuff. Rice, chapati, sambar, rasam, curry, etc. I’ve made the odd sweet also – I’ve made Kesari bhath twice. But I think I should use this opportunity, and also those two ancient packets of milk lying in my freezer, and make some nice sweet. So yes, that’s how I’ll celebrate Diwali. I don’t know yet if I’ll share the sweet that I’m going to make. I’ll let you know on wednesday.