Thursday, May 26, 2016


Last week, an accident happened in the neighborhood I live in. It caused the death of a fifth-grade child. There were many things that happened after this. One of those many things was to understand what it meant to die here, in the US. It was not so much the way people grieve differently, or the difference in rituals. It was a startling discovery of the expenses of death, and funeral. It was a shock to know that the burial and funeral services cost a whole lot of money here, more than $5000. As people in my community collected donations to help cover the funeral expenses for the child, my heart grieved inconsolably for the mother who had lost her only son. I penned down these lines to unburden my heart. I have no clue what the mother in mourning is doing to assuage her agony.

वो पेड़ के नीचे पड़े
कुछ गुब्बारे कुछ खिलौने
वो सड़क पे खींची कुछ लकीरें
शोक मनाता मेरा पड़ोस
हादसों की अपनी ज़ुबान बन गयी
मेरा गम खामोश कोने में सिसकता
तुझे ठीक से रुखसत भी ना कर सका


खुद्दारी से जीने की तमन्ना रखते थे
ना मालूम था कि
मरना ही उधार हो जाएगा

Image Source

If you wish to read an article I read about burials in America, click A different way to die: The story of a natural burial

Thursday, May 12, 2016


दरवाज़े पर बैठे भगवान
अंदर कटुता-भरा सामान
दरवाज़े से लौटे भगवान

Sunday, May 1, 2016

A Spectacle called Ritual

 When considered thought is tied together with appearances, that is ritual; and then people can work on with their eyes closed, effortlessly, and not vacillate with their eyes open.”  
                                 - Ritual and Reform by Rabindranath Tagore.

“Way back before you were born, Calla and Persephone and I were messing around with things we probably shouldn't have been messing around with--"


"Rituals. Are you messing around with drugs?"

"No. But maybe rituals"

"Drugs might be better.” 
                                           ― Maggie StiefvaterThe Raven Boys

Rituals and society go hand in hand. Ever since man started living in groups, it is assumed that certain acts, certain practices took the form of rituals. They were repeated, they were attached with symbolic meanings, and they gradually became indispensable to the specific groups that practiced those rituals. 

My knowledge about the history of rituals is limited. But as I perceive them today, I feel that they are acts of communication within social groups that share a common belief. They are also a way of integrating certain social systems. They consolidate and assert social identities in a world that is shifting to global oneness. Rituals help assert one's uniqueness and diversity. In that sense, they remain essential.

Rituals belong not just to Hindu societies. They are part and parcel of every community that functions in the social sphere. 

Are they relevant to our society in the present times? When practices took shape thousands of years ago, critical thinking was developing. Man tried to find meaning to his existence by way of certain acts. He created certain stories that made him feel secure about who created the world, and about his own place in that world. It gave him a certain sense of security. It aided in bringing a sense of  singularity to his little world.

With time, it changed. Diversity popped up. Different beliefs crossed paths. Confusion, doubt, further interrogation set in. He still needed to comfort himself amidst all the uncertainties. So, he persisted. He persisted in the beliefs he had 'learnt' to believe in. He passed it on to his progeny with no questions asked. It was a matter of faith. It became his religion. Power structures of the society he belonged to were happy too, because these rituals helped maintain status quo.  

The highly spectacular nature of rituals today has heightened the social drama. When anthropologists read about us years later, we will make an interesting case study of a society driven to display and extravaganza. We will be read as day-observing, ritual-fastidious, globally-aware, diversity-hugging, ceremony-finicky secular nation. 

By the way, do read Tagore's story Ritual and Reform, from which I quoted in the beginning. The irony of action and thought is beautifully brought out in the narrative.

Written for IndiSpire #115