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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Puja Hangovers

Indian people pray A LOT. At least, that's what I grew up thinking since that's what I saw around me every day, most weekends and most holidays as kid. From the daily pujas that my parents each did at home, to the pujas at family and friends houses that we had on the weekends. These religious ceremonies, which are done for any significant or (with my family), NOT so significant occasions served as the landscape for much of my childhood.

Lost your job? Have a Puja.
Got a new job? Have a Puja.
Got a new house? Have a Puja.
Got a new car? Have a Puja.
Want your kids to get married? Have a Puja.
Want your kids to get married to a Doctor? Have a LONGER Puja. And throw in some fasting to boot.

Given the size of my family and extended family, you can see how all the occasions for prayer add up. This doesn't account for all the special days associated with Hindu gods. It would be one thing if we had one god, but Hindus pray to A LOT OF DIFFERENT GODS. Between Krishna, Durga, Kali, Vishnu, Lakshmi (I haven't even started yet), the list extends for a while. So, when all is said and done, you really don't have much leeway to NOT pray during the calendar year.

And boy do we like ceremony and rituals. While I know a lot of them have a strong history and are ingrained in the culture, Indian people like to make up new opportunities for ceremonies. How else did we come up with the car puja? You can't buy a gold Honda Accord anymore (a prime choice for many of my peeps) without your parents wanting to rush to do a car puja in the driveway. And if you don't want to do it at home, you can bring the cars to the nearby Hindu temple, where there are often parking spots reserved for the "Car Puja Only" guests so they can have a priest properly bless their car.

I am surprised there isn't a Blackberry or iPhone puja. (That's next). I don't live near my family anymore, but I am exhausted just hearing about their grueling puja schedule. Every weekend, there is at least one day dedicated to going to someone else's house to pray with them. These events are more social then anything, but the added benefit of getting some more praying time is a definite bonus for my family.

Because as you can see, you can never pray enough.

Most Monday morning conversations with my mother go something like this:

Me: Hey Ma, how was your weekend?
Ma: Acha tha. (It was good). We had a Kirtan (a singing prayer) on Friday night. On Saturday, we had Dr. Das's puja and then yesterday we just rested after we came back from the temple. Nothing much.
Me: You sound tired. Are you feeling alright?
Ma: Ha, Beti (Yes, Daughter). I just fasted yesterday so you know how it is.

I really have no idea how it is because I would be gnawing off my arm if someone told me I couldn't eat for a day.

Me: Well get some rest, Ma.
Ma: Oh I will - right after I shower and do my puja.

See what I mean? My mother has a puja hangover and she doesn't even know it. Her "hair of the dog" is just more praying.

My parents like to boast that in high school, I was a pretty good kid. (Forget about college - all bets were off). But for those four years, I didn't party, didn't drink or have much interaction with the opposite sex. It really had nothing to do with choice - I just HAD NO TIME. I was too busy PRAYING.

So there you have it. I'm a bad Hindu. I can't keep up with the religious calendar, I like McDonald's too much, I'm too undisciplined to fast and I conveniently live five hours away from my family so nobody bothers inviting me to their pujas.

I'm going to have to ask my mother to pray for me. Oh - I forgot - she already is.


Nick said...


I started reading your blog a few weeks ago once I saw it being posted on Facebook. I have to say, you've made me laugh alot. I especially liked all the bacon stories. I'm sure I'm learning some things about a culture I don't know anything about as well, which is a plus. Keep writing. You're really good at it!

-Nick L

Anonymous said...

Hi sweetheart,
ILMAO again and again! You are too funny. The stories (blogs) are great and I am learning more about my daughter in law everytime I read one. Keep up the good work. I am even learning some Hindi words.Ha, beti!!! It is close to what you are...another daughter.
Love, Mom


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