After Ganesh Chaturthi, a pujari said to me, “Festivals follow, tumbling one after the other. The Gods don’t give you space to breathe.” He shook his head in mock exasperation.
The last quarter of the year is full of festivals of all the religions: Durga Puja and Diwali, Id, the Jewish New Year and Christmas. It is a time of eating, gifting, dressing, and yes, praying. Wishes and thanksgiving twine up to the Gods in liturgies in different tongues.
And, of course, it is a time for partying and match-making. Some insist that commercial aspects increasingly overtake the religious and even the sacred import of festivals - and this is possibly true. However, festival times have always been a great opportunity to catch up on relatives, friends and business contacts, to jog one’s memories and enhance relationships that are tentative and underline those that are close.
Cards, calls, text messages and gift hampers doing the rounds act as reminders of one’s social status and as signs of reciprocal bonding. Yet, beyond social networking, almost like a cloud wafting over an ocean gathering warm vapuors, we gather news of what has been happening to the rest of the tribe.
Who has got married, which couples have babies, who is settled abroad, which elderly relative who has been ailing for a while has passed away, who has landed a plum job.. It’s almost as if the parade of life goes past one’s eyes; a parade that one is also a part of.
Without our consciously acknowledging it, such celebrations become markers of stages in our lives, of where we are vis-à-vis the others. I mean this not in a narrow or competitive way, but as a moment of contemplation and stocktaking.
For festivals return us to that most important element we all possess: time as it passes through us, stains us, sometimes richly, sometimes somberly, sometimes with gratitude, in its passage.
(The writer’s website is www.priyawriting.com )