After more than thirty years of celebrating festivals in India I moved to the US this year. I cribbed and sulked because I missed the blitz-krieg of four months of gluttony and decadence of festivals, which India offers. Growing up in Mumbai we celebrated all the festivals with great gusto. It kicks of with the modaks of Ganesh Chathurthi, followed by ostentatious display of backless cholis and Dandiya at Navratri, we get completely overwhelmed by the rich ghee and noise of Diwali, and not to fall short of the west, finish the year with Christmas and New Year. While there are festivals all year round, the months from September to December really whiz by.
I was watching the movie 'Groundhog Day' and it really got me thinking. Groundhog Day is a 1993 film starring Bill Murray who finds himself stuck in a time loop repeating the same day again and again.
Have we conditioned our lives much the same way that we find ourselves repeating the same flow of events year after year? The music both traditional and Bollywood consists of the same blend of up-tempo, pseudo devotional remixes, the sweets are the same-drugging us with enough sugar for a quasi LSD experience. The clothes also look the similar with the typical zari, gota, lace and glitter. The articles in the glossy magazines and tabloids will recycle the same tips on first how to make great sweets and then how to lose the weight in time to fit in your New Year outfit. Uppity ones, in an attempt to be different will rehash a fusion of Indo western cuisines and haute couture ideas but once you scratch the surface, it will be the same zari stapled on a Versace gown. We'll be inundated with forwarded messages, gifts hampers and annoying questions about New year plans. The shops will succor us with the same sales and extravaganzas and we'll all beguile ourselves year after year with bargain deals. It may be a day where one celebrates a government holiday by waking up late and living vicariously through Bollywood and high-octane soaps. Pujas and prayers also are ritualistic and done without really understanding their significance.
Although I may sound so cynical of all these events I must confess that I have been celebrating them with much enthusiasm year after year. I sorely missed them this year in the US.
In terms of festivals, the US comes alive only in the last month celebrating Thanksgiving and Christmas. Suddenly the malls are all filled with same lulling, tra-la-la kind of music. You can't help yourself but spend and delude yourself that it's all in the holiday spirit. You have to be happy dammit -- It's the holidays!!!
Charity also is something that is expected, especially this time of year. While that is one positive aspect of this whole charade, we must ask ourselves isn't giving charity an ego fulfilling practice? I often wonder if I'm giving purely in the interest of the benefactor or am I trying to barter some brownie points with the guy above.
While we will slink back to predictability of broken resolutions and still await another year of similar events maybe its time to examine this rut we have all got stuck in. Maybe the purpose of these festivities is not to repeat activities like a circus monkey. Maybe it is to break free from the cyclical rhythm of mundane motions of everyday life and look within.
By getting used to circadian patterns of life are we limiting ourselves from exploring the real purpose of life? We seek comfort in familiarity and solace in predictability. Perhaps acknowledging these tendencies is the first step towards liberation.