Do you really enjoy a visit to a temple or pandal anymore? During a big festival, I mean? I’m asking because Ganpati is over and Durga Puja will soon be here. Social media sites are flooded with images of images — of gigantic, benignly smiling Ganpatis in visarjan at the seashore, and of the legendary image-makers at Kumartuli in Kolkata fashioning their lovely, many-armed Durgas.
I also saw the most disturbing video of pandal bouncers roughly hustling devotees, even girls and elders, away from making their offerings to a Ganpati idol. I suppose it was ‘crowd control’ due to the deplorable fact that we as a public tend to be a bit grabby about darshan, and don’t always let others have their turn in a considerate way. So we get pushed around by burly bouncers since there is no guarantee of good behaviour.
The meek and the good do not get the benefit of the doubt but are trodden on and shoved about like sacks of aaloo-pyaaz because of the ‘despos’ who cling to the feet of the idol like Markandeya clung to the Shivling to save him from Yama’s noose. It’s the same way good students and decent, law-abiding professionals don’t get a visa to whichever foreign heaven they aspire to because they come from a ‘bad address’, ‘bad’ because it’s become notorious for the many who do behave badly. This perception repeatedly plays out at temples and religious events, but do we make the connection?
I abstain from comment on the thronging of non-Hindus because that would promptly be assumed to be minority persecution, right? I may miss talking to and about non-Hindus but, like so much else, I’ll get used to it. Since you’ve almost entirely removed yourself from mainstream dialogue, especially on issues like triple talaq, have we anything left to say to each other - unless it’s only good things about you and only bad things about Hindus?
Or, if one critical point is made about a non-Hindu practice, we have to perforce ‘balance’ it by listing ten bad points about Hindu practices. Seventy years down the line, can any really liberal person in our society — of any faith — play that game when the double standards are so obvious? If you’re equal citizens, do have the guts to own your share of responsibility; don’t hide behind ‘the savarnas’ and expediently chorus ‘brahminical, brahminical’ when it’s no secret that each and every community practices caste, tribe and gender discrimination, whether openly or tacitly.
The talented Ginni Mahi’s songs are but more proof of that. Only cross-faith honesty can bring about genuine electoral change, but that’s where they close ranks the deepest across parties and faiths.
That said, I think there’s a massive health hazard in crowding so closely at Hindu religious events — do we want a nasty rash or fever through droplet infection? Is it particularly devout to subject ourselves to ordeal by armpit? Do we go templing as a socio-religious combo pack? What does ‘God’ really think of it all? We cannot know about ‘God’. But we can attempt to know ourselves.
The views expressed are personal