India at crossroads: The new gets fused with the traditional

You know we have the famous `A Ha' moments when time stops for a fraction of a minute and you remember `that' minute clearly. The kodak moment, etched onto the walls of memory.

Diwali for me is like that `A Ha' day...a day like spring, full of energy. An energy coiled up within that wells up. It has the whole country turning its face to the sun, to the 'diyas' that we light, to the festive embrace that cups the day. The day is paved with the glittering light of a hundred diyas. Okay, so maybe I am getting carried away, but it is a very special day for me. I am proud to be an Indian and I am proud to celebrate Diwali and I can crack jokes at its expense and laugh but no one else can! Selfish, maybe. A bit like your mother ­ you can laugh at her but no one else can! What I want to share with you are the details of the morning puja we had in the office, like we have had all these years. It was traditional, where the light of eleven diyas shines like diamonds on the thali, where the pundit's voice washes over us like molten gold. So, midway through the puja the pundit's mobile began ringing.

His eyes opened, but his voice never faltered from the mantras while he juxtaposed the spoon with the ganga jal and the instrument jangling in his front pocket. I smiled because I had mine on silent, even though I knew the kids at the back could be texting with their eyes shut.

Punditji forgot to put his phone on silent, because it began yelling at him again, he looked sorry as he hit the cancel button one more time. This time, he too, did it with his eyes shut.

So the puja went well and after the aarti, we were distributing parshad when I heard one of the kids tell punditji that soon, he could do the puja via videoconferencing. That way, he could do many simultaneously! Another smart aleck says, “Punditji, you could even do it on the mobile, like sitting here and they can see and hear you. After all, God wants our intent to be right, you could be in the temple and we could be at home,“ the children smiled while taking the parshad, chatting away. When we walked out, I noticed a stray dog had come in and was fast asleep through the puja. I asked the peon to shoo him away.

Punditji said, “Nahin yeh bhi puja mein beta tha. Meina dekha,soone do“. He left some parshad near the dog as we all filed out. Then as we were leaving the office I noticed him standing near a motorbike, texting. I smiled, what a real man he was, within the everyday dimensions of today's life.

Maybe punditji could be on Facebook or Twitter ­ we are at a strange crossroads here in India. The new fuses with the traditional, in splendid ways. Diwali is a day Ganeshji and Lakshmiji shine their light on us. I am sure they smile as they see us find different ways to reach them. God knows we need their attention to stock up on the next calendar year with good fortune. Happy Diwali!

(The writer is a theatre director and novelist)


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