Month: August 2006

Celebrate Gently

Celebrate Gently

Last year, on the sixth day of Ganapati Mahotsav, a truck carrying an idol was proceeding towards immersion. The reveling children and adults were dancing to loud music and throwing gulal (red colour) on passers-by. As this writer overtook the truck in his car, some of the ecstatic celebrators tossed some colour, which landed on his windshield, blocking the view partially. Fortunately, it covered only the passenger side of the windshield. If the colour would’ve landed on the driver’s side, it could’ve led to a disaster on the road, risking the lives of pedestrians and of passengers in other vehicles.

Every year the twin cities of Thane and Mumbai celebrate Lord Ganesha’s birthday with vigour. Millions are spent on extravagant pandals, ornate idols complete with themes and contests marking the ten-day festival. Immersions too are grand affairs with devotees dancing all the way to tunes produced by a combination of large drums, banjo, keyboard and other musical instruments. With so much show of devotion, the Lord of Prosperity would be pleased with Mumbai devotees. So what if in the process of celebrating, the devotees cause irreversible damage to His creation? So what if they disturb the peace of their neighbourhood, cause traffic obstructions and create impediments for ordinary passers-by who are trying to reach home after a hard day’s work? These are trivialities that the Lord will obviously overlook. Or will He?

The world over, and especially in India, people spend a lot of energy in trying to please God by celebrating religious festivals lavishly. To be sure, there’s nothing wrong in celebrating per se, even celebrating lavishly. It is only when these celebrations take on a competitive nature, with everyone vying to please God that the problems begin. It does not require a high level of IQ to understand that you cannot bribe your way through to earn the blessings of the almighty, the Creator, the omnipotent. Bigger idols and brighter colours are often made from substances that pollute the environment and harm Mother Nature, which God created with such love.

Loud music creates noise pollution that has been found to be harmful to humans in the long run. And nothing, not even celebration of the Lord’s birthday, justifies the inconvenience that all this causes to millions of residents, both believers and non-believers.

It strikes one as ironical that devotees create impediments for others in the name of the very God who is known as the "Remover of Impediments." Such is the inconsideration displayed by some of the devotees of the Lord that they need Supreme Court rulings to prevent them from blasting music after 10 pm, so that senior citizens and those suffering from high BP can get sound sleep. Come to think of it, it must have been Lord Ganesha who, in the guise of the Supreme Court judges, gave the 10 pm ruling, in order to protect His other devotees – the ones who express their gratitude silently – while the noisy devotees indulge in reckless extravagance to earn brownie points.

Let’s take a pledge this year to be more considerate towards God’s creations – both Mother Nature and Her people. We can do so by acquiring only idols made of clay, keeping noise pollution in check, by immersing the idols at home in a bucket of water, and by celebrating Lord Ganesha’s birthday in the spirit of love for all humanity. Let’s pray for greater peace in the world and seek His blessings for a better world.

A Unique Bond

A Unique Bond

raksha_bandhan.jpg 

In wake of terrorism’s spread across the globe, love is our only hope. Love is the only antidote to acts of hatred. St Francis, in his famous prayer, entreats God: "Where there is hatred, let me sow love." Last week, over two hundred students from Thane sowed the seeds of love when they celebrated Rakshabandhan in a unique way. Ninety boys and girls in need of special care bonded with more than 150 students from 12 different regular schools including DAV Public School, Holy Cross Convent, Hiranandani Foundation School, Saraswati Secondary High School, St. Lawrence High School, Little Flower High School, St. Carmel High School, and Bharat English High School.

The children were participating in the ninth annual inter-school Integration Programme at Sri Ma Snehadeep School for Mentally and Physically challenged and Visually and Hearing impaired.

There were many highlights of the programme that deserve a mention. The special children had crafted their own rakhis, which they sold to the guests (children). They also welcomed them in the traditional style with haldi, kum kum and flowers.

Later they sang Rakshabandhan songs. The special girls tied rakhis to MLC Sanjay Kelkar, who was the chief guest and Sri Balagopal, director of the Sri Ma Group of Institutions among others.

The most touching moment of the event was when girls from the special school tied rakhis to boys from regular schools and girls from regular schools tied rakhis to boys from the special school. The entire process of tying the rakhis was carried out by following the time-honoured ritual complete with kum kum, haldi, sweetmeat and Akshata (rice smeared with turmeric). Later, special children made friends with regular school children and interacted with them.

When it was turn of adults to speak, Chief Guest Kelkar appeared impressed with the special children. He said, "I like the term ‘special children’. These children are really special and, though challenged to varying degrees, are in no way to be undermined, for they have the abilities to perform and manifest their skills in various spheres of life."

Principal of Sri Ma Snehadeep, Manju Tejwani said, "I am so happy to see that you have made this function successful by attending it in such huge numbers (schools and students) despite the rains. You represent the society and it is for you to carry the message back that special children, if encouraged, can develop their skills very well. They don’t need sympathy; they only require your loving look. At least give them a pat or a smile when you pass by them. Many people don’t even look at them though they live next door. Remember, special children too have a right to respectful living."

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, "Love is our highest word and the synonym of God." In a way, the children showed us a glimpse of God.

Crying is therapeutic

Crying is therapeutic

Crying is therapeutic I am told. And indeed I have experienced its therapeutic properties more than a few hundred times in the past eight months. The therapy lasts only for a short while, but it’s immensely useful. Crying is like a painkiller. It acts only for a while and then the pain returns. Perhaps its purpose is to help us cope while the real healing takes place.

I must admit that I never took crying and its role in my life seriously until December 2005. Until then, crying was just not “happening”. Yet when I faced the worst emotional crisis of my life, crying was the only respite I had from overwhelming feelings of extreme helplessness. During that time I began to understand crying and how it seems to work: Each time crying begins by a feeling of heaviness in the heart… feels like it will overflow. Soon, I feel choked. Then slowly, I find my eyes and eyelashes soaked in salty water (I never thought that my tear glands could produce such a huge volume of tears). Then I cry. Sometimes the crying lasts for a few minutes and provides quick relief to feelings of sadness. But at other times it lasts a few hours. In the latter case, the body is seeped of all energy and I often lose interest in everything that’s around me. My only desire is to cry more, which I can’t, because my throat aches. The word that comes closest to describing the situation is ‘hysteria’. Honestly, on one or two occasions it has felt like madness – nothing makes sense. All I want to do is run away. Die.

By now I am all too familiar with crying in all its glorious forms. And I know that crying is therapeutic at least most of the times.