Thursday, September 27, 2012

Vinayaka Chavithi/Ganesh Puja: my angst

After the puja is performed, new clothes worn, sweets eaten, it's time for Ganesh immersion. Went to Durgan Cheruvu the day after puja for the immersion with a grim warning from son: "Bring the plastic covers back. Don't throw them into the lake." The environmentalist that he is! Not that I intended to, anyway. When I went there to immerse my Vinayaka idol, there was something that was heartening and something that was distressing.
What really cheered me was the sight of many idols of mud and clay that would not harm the environment but blend into the lake bed. Yet to see the lakefront teeming with swaying plastic covers, in which the puja material like flowers and leaves were brought, was appalling.
And this was on the very next day of the puja. It's frightening to think how many more covers would be carelessly dumped on the shores in the ensuing days of celebration as more and more people would be bringing the idols for immersion!
I wish there was someone appointed there just to ensure that a bin is provided so that people dump the plastic covers in it.

Another incident that saddened me was the power cut. Hyderabad, which rarely used to have power cuts, has now become like other Metros where there is a huge lacuna between demand and supply. To bridge this gap, the government has resorted to power cuts of three hours a day. I was fervently hoping that at least this day be spared, but it was not. Sharp, at the appointed hour, the power was shutdown :(  I am sure that this would have proved to be a very frustrating experience for all the worshipers in the city. With most of the factories/organizations closed for the holiday, didn't the government have enough to provide uninterrupted power for this day?
To ensure that we were worshiping the right God, and offering the right offerings, we switched on the emergency light to complete the puja.
I hope the next year, these things are taken care of.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Vinayaka Chavithi/Ganesh puja : the preparations

Our Ganesha this year

Ganesha after our puja


Let me add a disclaimer even before I start writing this post.
I am not a person who is regularly into the traditional pujas and stuff. For me, God is everywhere and I pray wherever and whenever I feel the need to have a conversation with Him
I celebrate all our festivals by wearing new clothes, preparing sweets and a longer prayer than usual. But if there is one puja/festival that is done with great zeal, it is Vinayaka Chaturthi.When praying to this God, one does not ask for riches or any other generous gifts. All that we ask is removal of obstacles on the path to our intended goals
This post is for all infrequent worshipers like me who want to follow the traditional path once in a while but are not conversant with the preparations. Provided below, a check-list of all things that need to be bought or readied as it is considered inappropriate to get up in the middle of performing the puja. If I have left out anything, do let me know. Probably, the same method is used by all South Indians.
We need two of everything as we worship the pasupu vinayakudu first and repeat the puja with the actual idol.

No: Telugu  English  Quantity

1 Pasupu Turmeric
One is not supposed to ask 'how much' for Pasupu and Kumkuma. Their supply ought to be limitless.

Kumkuma Vermillion

3 Doodi  Cotton Two for each family member who performs puja To make Vattulu, Vastramlu, Yagnyopaveetamlu: (Wicks, clothes, sacred thread)
4 Gandham/Chandanam Sandalwood paste One teaspoon
5 Akashantalu Sacred rice Half cup Rice and a pinch of turmeric powder mixed with half teaspoon of water or a drop of oil
6 Agarbattullu Incense Sticks Two for each family member who performs puja
7 Karpooram Camphor

8 Aku- Vakka Betel leaf and Betel Nut Ten  of each
9 Panchamrutam Translated as a nectar made of five liquids Half-cup A mix of milk, sugar, ghee, honey and curd
10 Neellu Water Half glass for each family member who performs puja Insert spoon in each glass
11 Deepamulu Lamps Two Deepam to be filled with oil. Light them at the beginning of puja
12 Puvvullu Flowers About 250 grams for each family member who performs the pooja Any kind, one of which may be a lotus
13 Aakulu Leaves To use 21 varieties if possible, but I make do with 5 Of these, one that is compulsorily  used is grass. I try to include leaves of fruit-bearing trees like guava, jamun
14 Pallu for naivedyam Fruits as offering No limit but at least one per family member if possible Banana is considered Ganesha's favorite. Coconut is compulsory. And any other fruit that you want to offer
15 Jilledakayalu An Indian sweet
A sweet made of rice flour is compulsorily made for this puja
16 Vinayakudi vigraham Ganesha Idol One Available in the markets a day before or can easily be made with clay (link)
17 Pasupu Vinayakudu Ganesha idol made of turmeric paste One A few drops of water added to turmeric powder and shaped into a small mound
18 Data needed at the beginning of puja

Name of the Telugu year, the tithi, name of the week, your name, surname and your gothram
A camera

Gods and pujas have to be uploaded to Face book and other social networks (Sigh!)

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Barfi: Glimpses of a Beautiful World

Today if I was asked how I'd like to have my blog described, I have one word for it: "Barfi." 

This is added later: After all the obvious and unabashed plagiarism, I do not want my blog to be described as 'Barfi.'  Anything that is fake puts me off. Feel so betrayed when reading so many reports of plagiarism. Wish the director had at least acknowledged it in the movie. Even a delightfully silly movie like 'Bol Bachchan' had acknowledged it's 'inspiration' and paid a tribute to the original.
Yep, the movie is still beautiful, yet some of the magic is lost.

Barfi is a panorama of beautiful moments strung together. It lets us have a glimpse into the beautiful side of the human minds, an ideal world where there is no malice, no rancor.
The movie starts with a funny ditty and the smile on your face starts with this beginning. Just don't miss the beginning. The Chaplinesque moments within and other moments captured have you feel warm and smiling throughout the movie.
The movie is almost like Kamal Hassan's "Pushpaka Vimanam" as none of the lead actors really talk to each other. Two of the three leads are physically challenged, Ranbir Kapoor playing a deaf and dumb character and Priyanka Chopra, an autistic. The beauty of these characters is that they don't evoke pity with heart-rending OTT performances. On the contrary, you find yourself warming up to them as they are as normal or as flawed as any of us are--falling in love, being jealous and possessive, making mistakes of wrong choices but all very humane: amply demonstrated in unselfish gestures where each could have what they wanted but choose to give it up for the person they love. I am dying to reveal all such beautiful moments but then I might be giving away the story. Just one of them, my favorite scene from the movie. There is a moment is every girl's life where she starts being aware of herself as a woman. And jealousy causes this awareness in the life of Priyanka Chopra, when she sees Ranbir Kapoor interacting with another girl, Ileana. The preening in front of the mirror, quickly hiding this when Ranbir Kapoor walks natural and so unexpected an emotion in the mind of an autistic girl!

A MUST watch. It's decades since such a movie was made. It has all the niceness of Amol Palekar's movies of the 70s... remember movies of  'Choti si Baath' genre? It is so easy to understand why we people keep visiting and revisiting those movies...movies with wonderful stories, with great scope for performances, where both the male and female leads have equally balanced portions...
Why the critics have stopped short of a 5 on 5 rating is incomprehensible.
Life imitates Art, they say. Will I be considered foolish if I hope that with more such movies getting made, people in the society will turn as loving to each other?

Friday, September 7, 2012

Showing respect: the Indian way?

From an article in TOI
1. The 49-year-old, Gurgaon-based CEO of a software product company was in for a rude shock some months ago when one of his young employees peeped into his spacious cabin with a beaming smile and said: "Hey, your cabin's goddamn big... What fun man!" The irritated chief executive instantly summoned a senior hand, a 52-year-old, to check on what could be done about the cheeky geek. The senior executive told the CEO, "We have an army of such guys, how many can you reprimand? It's their style."

Another instant: 
2. A guy wrote an extremely anguished mail on a forum seeking suggestions when he found "an extremely junior and subordinate staff" address his boss by first name in her mail. He feels she should not have addressed someone very senior  (age and position) by first name. He wanted to know how he should advise or warn her to follow proper etiquette while addressing seniors?
(This was written in such atrocious grammar that had I reproduced it as it is, it would have been incomprehensible)

Another instant:  
3.  A well-known food blog says that unless you show respect by addressing as ji/garu/shri/shrimati/Mr./Mrs./Ms., your comments will be ignored...

What do you think of these instances?
If I was in the place of the CEO in the first instant, far from getting irritated, I would have smilingly waved him in and  invited him to explore the cabin as he seemed to have liked it so much. Why and for what he should be reprimanded is beyond me. He hasn't shown any disrespect towards me with those innocuous remarks. On the other hand, he has openly expressed that he liked the place. He might be considered disrespectful if there was an important meeting going on and he had intruded.
If only the seniors more experienced know how to harness this abundant energy of the youth without impeding their thought process, without ridiculing their ideas however implausible they seem, without denting  their self-esteem through discouragement, but work in unison by giving a positive direction to the yet-uncontaminated minds, they can achieve wonders.

In the second instance, I was quite befuddled by the query. What is the meaning of "an extremely junior and subordinate staff"?
A dictionary search threw this meaning for Junior: of lower rank or standing and this meaning for subordinate:  belonging to a lower order or rank/subservient or inferior. Do I infer then that being in a lower rank permits one to consider the person as being subservient or inferior? 
If the criterion for showing respect is age, then should I respect Osama who is older to me? And if the criterion is position, there is the once President of Uganda, Idi Amin. Again, I do not understand what did this person want to "warn" the subordinate about? Mind you, the content of the mail wasn't mentioned anywhere. So my assumption is that there was no issue there.

In the third instance, I do not understand how tagging the blogger with ji, or garu or Ms. or any other title portrays respect to the person.To be able to give a detailed and simple step-by-step guidance to cooking and to have so many clicks on the You-tube, is truly an amazing accomplishment and inspires respect for the work. But to demand ( "I expect and insist") respect through such tags takes away something.
I have read blogs by many senior citizens of India...people in their 60s and 70s who have hundreds commenting on their blogs and addressing them by their first name. (Zephyr and Gappa to name just two). I respect these really senior people, not because of their age but that despite their not-so-robust health and advancing years, their yearning to keep blogging and be able to keep up with the times (as evidenced in their writing on contemporary topics...topics which people of all ages can relate to).

On the personal side of relationships, in India, the touching of feet is considered the ultimate sign of obeisance. But then whose feet does one touch? Any person who is older to you or the one who inspires in you that reverence towards him/her? And looking at the way these Pairi Paunas (feet-touching) happen, I wonder whether they are paying their respect or playing out a farce. A quick 30 degrees bend forward and sometimes side-ways, your hand brushing against the legs just beneath the knees is Pairi Pauna? Personally, I don't allow anyone to touch my feet. I am not God I say, and am as imperfect as everyone else is.

'Respect' is 'to show regard or consideration for.' Every person's being, his space, feelings and thoughts deserve to be respected irrespective of his age, position or status.
Respect is a two-way street. Authoritarian ways never beget respect. One of my favorite authors in Telugu, Chalam, said that in a society that believed in the children being indebted to their parents, he proclaimed caring for and bringing up of children as the fundamental duty as parents. To all those parents who demand respect through unquestioned obedience, I ask:
If Ji/Garu are signs of respect then why Pithaji, aap but Ma, thum ( in Hindi) Nannagaru, meeru but Amma, nuvvu (in Telugu)?