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Meet the new-age devotees

Last updated on: August 29, 2016 12:52 IST

Over the years, even the choice of songs have become crass and vulgar -- Honey Singh, Badshaah and Mika Singh are top choices while welcoming the birth of Lord Krishna and Ganeshotsav.

It is impossible not to know about an impending festival in Mumbai -- the celebrations and related build-up begin days in advance, says Divya Nair.

Dahi Handi

IMAGE: Festivals in India are becoming more political and commercial. Photograph: Sahil Salvi

Once upon a time I used to reach home by 7 pm. Not any more.

August 24 I reached home around 11 pm as I had to stay late in office to finish some work. But the reason I was delayed beyond the usual was because no auto-rickshaws were available.

Most of the roads were cordoned off to facilitate Janmashtami's dahi handi festivities and the vehicles could either not reach the stand or were being diverted.

When I finally got a rickshaw I noticed how errant bikers, wearing branded t-shirts sponsored by local political parties, raced through the traffic, almost leaving us gasping away in horror. 

On the way, I passed blaring music and small melas where families had gathered in their finest clothes and best make-up. Young kids stood at the edge of the roads, clicking selfies, while playing 'catch up' with their buddies, least bothered about the festival or its relevance. 

Most mandals, including the one near my home, had a stage from where aspiring and more establsihed politicians were still making speeches and distributing prizes.

A day ago, my mother rang me up at 11.15 pm. I was startled by the late night call. She promptly apologised before reminding me it was Janmashtami the next day.

I told her it was impossible not to know about an impending festival in Mumbai -- the celebrations and related build-up begin days in advance. 
 
My mother instructed me to wash my hands and feet and light a diya at midnight to celebrate the birth of Krishna.

Later that night I was watching television. I skipped through the serials on supernatural powers, a transgender wife and several local news channels discussing the height of dahi handi pyramids and the minimum age of the govindas who climb up to take the handis down.

Even Savdhaan India was doing a special episode on a Krishna avatar tackling crime. Splendid timing, I thought.

I remember once being in Kerala for Janmashtami and how one of my maternal grand-uncles woke us all up in the middle of the night shouting: 'Krishnan janichhe' (Krishna is born) and ringing the prayer bell as he opened all the doors in the house, one by one, repeating the announcement.

He was clearly excited.

As my cousins and I resumed our disturbed sleep (while my grand-uncle continued murmuring his prayers), I had found one new reason to dislike festivals.

Much as I love Ganesha and His Stories, I hate the drums and the boys practising it through the night weeks before the festival began.

I hate the noise, traffic and inconvenience associated with all religious festivals these days. My friends complain about the noise and juloos (processions) that accompany festivals of all religions.

It would be a task to concentrate on our unit tests and, I am sure, no schools would accept ‘festival noise’ as a valid excuse.

Over the years, even the choice of songs have become crass and vulgar -- Honey Singh, Badshaah and Mika Singh are top choices while welcoming the birth of Lord Krishna and Ganeshotsav.

Nowadays Jhingaat from the hit Marathi film Sairat is played at all events and on a loop.

When my husband walked in a few minutes to midnight, I suggested he freshen up. As I tidied the mandir, I noticed my mother-in-law had left a bowl of kheer as an offering. Since both of us had not noticed it over the last two days, it had developed a mould.

Obviously, God has no time for our food. As I lit the diya and picked up the prayer bell, I wondered whether it was too late in the night to use it.

My husband opened the window and the loud sounds of the neighbourhood aarti, played through a loudspeaker, floated in.

The sound of my prayer bell was gobbled up by the high-pitched aarti.

As I quietly went back to bed, I wondered what Krishna must be thinking about his new generation of devotees.

 

Divya Nair / Rediff.com
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