Saturday, December 6, 2014

The Ceremonies Begin

Yesterday my mother organised a Puja - the Sunderkaand Paath - since my sister is getting married next week ( Yayyy!). Vijay and I drove all the way to Noida and walked into my Mom's home. I did a double take - there were about 5 elderly men sitting there, none of whom I had ever seen before in my life. Was this wrong house? No. These were just the Pandits. Apparently a couple of them had bailed. This was going to be one heavy puja, I figured. Mom, as usual, had it all under control, floating about in her simple yet elegant green salwar kurta - the arrangements had been made wonderfully, with the furniture removed, sheets laid out on the floor, even a microphone and various other puja paraphernalia laid out and ready.

It began shortly after we arrived. The little booklets with the words to the paath were handed out and for the first few minutes, I was very enthusiastic, singing along and clapping with all my might. My sister, demurely dressed in an orangish Anarkali-type thingy, turned around a couple of times and asked me to cool it, but I beamed at her in the 'Hey, you're getting married and I'm the older sister! If you think this is embarrassing, wait till you see me at the Sangeet!' sort of way. It was a complex message but we've always had a bit of an understanding, so she got it and turned back around with a sigh.

My enthusiasm waned quickly enough. The words were complicated and I kept losing track. Soon I figured that just making loud nasal sounds in the approximate tune also seemed to be working but I tired of that too soon enough. We were sitting in the back of the room and my back was beginning to hurt and Vijay had made himself comfortable by leaning his heavy frame against my shoulder. He whispered to me that he was going into a meditative state, which I assumed meant he was going to sleep now.

The puja went on and on and on. I kept looking at the clock. And then my sister, who looked brave and resigned. And then I saw my mom, who looked at various points - intensely involved, emotional, peaceful but overall, I knew she was happy about this whole thing. I leaned back and tried to meditate. After a long time I opened my eyes and looked at the clock. Exactly one and a half minutes had passed.

Three hours of energetic singing from the Pandits, each playing some tinny instrument or drum, loud and fairly harmonious. I was as impressed as I was agonized about the whole thing. My bum was hurting and Vijay and I were very, very hungry. When I was on the verge of breaking down and crying, the singing ended. And then....a Pravachan started. Oh yes. Another 30 minutes of my sitting there in stunned disbelief, while the rest of the group listened, seemingly quite interested in the lesser known stories from the Ramayana. My stomach was rumbling now but everyone ignored it. Even Vijay was clearly awake now and leaning forward and smiling. I wanted to bop him on the head, but refrained, given the general setting.

The highlight of the ceremony for me had been during the beginning, when one of the Pandits turned around and handed me his cellphone, asking me to turn it off. I was thrilled. Never in my life EVER had anyone EVER asked me for ANY help with regard to technology (my young children don't count). I was now a tech-genius. I gazed at the phone in my hand, unsure of what to do. My sister and Vijay simultaneously whispered 'The button on the top'. I pressed it with all my might and then powered off. Yes indeed - I was now a tech genius! I felt like my young nephew Pikki, who is known to the be go-to guy in the family for tech-related issues. I felt young and rejuvenated and all-powerful like I'm sure all tech-geniuses feel on a regular basis.

But now, the thrill had worn off and the Pravachan was still going strong. Suddenly a phone rang from the corner of the room. Loudly. Everyone ignored it but I could see it was throwing the Chief Panditji who was giving the Pravachan off. This would mean it would take longer. I scrambled up to the phone. I suspected it belonged to one of the Pandits but all of them were cleverly disowning it at this time. It was a Blackberry sort of thing, on charge in the far corner, and for the life of me, I couldn't figure out how to switch it off. One 'Savita' was calling and she was the persistent sort because it had already rung about 12 times and she was still waiting. I pressed a couple of buttons and disconnected the call. Within a minute, Savita was back, and the phone was ringing loudly again. This time I did the clever thing. I simply answered the call and Savita started speaking. I put the phone on mute and quietly put it back where it had lain. For the next several minutes, Savita kept talking to no-one seemingly without noticing - apparently, her Pandit was the strong and silent type -and we were not disturbed again.

And then it was over. The Aarti, followed by the handing out of the Prasad. Vijay was quite aghast at my eating the entire apple. He gently suggested that it was Prasad and we could have taken it home for everyone there. I mumbled 'Whatever' and continued chewing.

After the Pandits had been served, we sat down to eat and it was the most delicious meal of my entire life - alu-sabzi, kheer, puri, raita and even some pumpkin thing that tasted divine. Mother was still very happy about the overall proceedings having gone successfully. I hugged her and then we were off for another long drive.

It wasn't until I had put the kids to bed at night and was sitting and watching my favourite show House ( the only thing I ever watch occasionally on TV) that I realized what had happened today. It was the point when House tried to weasel out of Cuddy's birthday dinner because her Mom was going to be there and she growled at him.

'House. I need you there for two hours behaving like a normal human being. Yes, you will be in hell but I will feel better having you there. THAT's what a relationship is. We average our misery.'

It left House stunned.

It left me stunned.

That's what it was. We do stuff like this for each other because that's what a relationship is. Of course, Mom wasn't miserable. She loved the Puja. And I know she felt good about having Vijay and me there. It also explained why I actually felt so good despite having internally moaned for about 4 hours today. After all, my sister was getting married and this Puja marked the starting of the proceedings and putting everyone in the right frame of mind, invoking the blessings of various powers and beings but more importantly - getting the family together. It was great! It was a great day!

Plus - I now felt kind of like Dr. House. A Tech-genius and a fantastic sociopath of a doctor. Not bad for one day. Not bad at all!