Was at a puja on Saturday evening. Now these are not things I’m usually at, but I had no idea there was going to be one. Thought it was going to be a regular get-together with a couple of friends, but it turned out to be a puja for their seven-month-old daughter. As I entered the vestibule I spied a panditji, a havan and scattered garlands in the room ahead, but before I could turn around to leave the door was bolted shut behind me.
So there I was feeling very skittish, wearing an FCUK shirt with a condom reference on it, at a sacred ceremony being held to celebrate the miracle of birth. But as the evening proceeded in its torporific way and I registered the goings-on, I noticed that the panditji was very mod. Apart from throwing in bits of English as footnotes to the sacred chants, which was fine, he interspersed a few phonetic jokes here and there, eg equating the term "hast-bandh" with "husband" to make a point about women being the dominant partners in modern marriages.
At one point, as panditji was chanting (and this is supposed to be an uninterrupted process), his cellphone rang; he took it out of his pocket, accepted the call and – I still can’t work out how exactly he managed this – asked the caller to "call back in a couple of hours, I’m at a puja" even as he kept the chant going. All done in the same cadence and tone. Remarkable.
And later, when a few diyas had to be lit and a matchbox couldn’t be found, he produced a lighter from somewhere and did the job.
What I found interesting was that no one among the family or guests, not even the older people present, seemed to mind any of this; there were indulgent smiles, a few giggles even, and then everyone put their solemn expressions back on and continued nodding their heads from side to side the way you’re supposed to do at pujas. Now those of you who are regulars at these events might have seen this sort of thing before, but it was completely new to me, and quite an eye-opener.
If your pujas are this entertaining, start inviting me to them, people.