Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Here Comes The Party Pooper

Disclaimer: All the incidents mentioned are true but the opinions expressed are the author's alone with the honest intention of hurting no one, especially Shiv/Ram/Balram Senas, Puja Oraganizers, Parents and Children.

Scene 1: Many years back growing up in Eastern India, I looked forward to Durga Pujo...The Pandals were a delight and the atmosphere positive and lively. Good food to eat, lots of Rabindra Sangeet, Conch Blowing Competitions, Aarti Competitions (they do it in a special way dancing to drums known as Dhaks). Later there would be plays by the local theatre groups.
You can view Dhunuchi Naach at


Scene 2: As years went by the noise increased thanks to loudspeakers blaring bhajans sung to the tune of popular Bollywood numbers.
As I grew older venturing to see the Moortis and the skills of the craftsmen became a an exercise in life/modesty saving skills...Maa's Darshan came with dollops of butt pinching, squeezing, inappropriate touching experiences.

Scene 3: Newly married, we were the coolest couple in the block. I was still a student at TISS (Hubby still looks like he is in college) and many in the area thought we were a pair living in sin. Having cleared our names and our honor we were asked to judge a dance competition during the Ganapati Festival in Mumbai (Andheri). The competition did not earn us brownie points with the mothers whose children did not win. But I still vividly remember sitting in the Pandal ..with the beginnings of a migraine.. thanks to the ear splitting loud music and a growing embarassment on having to witness pre-pubescent children moving vulgarly to the tunes of Bollywood numbers.
Love the Arti though.

Scene 4: I saw yet another clip last night of a dance competition organized for Ganapati and saw 8-9 year olds gyrating to "I am a Desi Girl.." and other such numbers. I thought the Ganapti Idol in the corner looked a little forlorn or maybe even embarrassed as these young girls...children heaved and twisted to these numbers.

Scene 5: I get invited to a friend's house for Ganapti and she says she is asking all the children invited to prepare a little something on Ganapti..Shloka, story, song...This way the children get to perform and learn at the same time. Our own little cultural program as we celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi. Fun redefined. God Bless Her !

If not for the beginning and the ending scene this would have been a sad story. But maybe it still is for many who think I am nothing more than a party Pooper who is taking away the fun element from these Puja Celebrations by frowning down upon the commercialization and heavy Bollywood influence.

The celebrations at a community level were introduced as a means to encourage a sense of unity...ekta and sangathan. Lokmanya Tilak popularized Ganapati Celebrations in Maharashtra. There should be entertainment undoubtedly. Festivals besides reiterating some good values are also a way to break the monotony of our lives and add some color. But what kind of entertainment do we seek, is an important question we should ask ourselves. Today sab chalta hai in the name of entertainment. An entertainment which is inappropriate does not add any value and in fact can be extremely damaging should be a matter of concern.

This should not be confused as my aversion to dance altogether. Besides the classical art forms I love to dance to music of any kind. But that is also because I have acquired the ability to filter the nonsense in the lyrics. I also know there is a different time and place for different things.

Personally I am worried. How do I bring up children in an environment like this? I do not want a 12 year old behaving like a 20 year old. I do not want them to accept entertainment and popularity as it is seen today. A very challenging task which is all consuming, especially since I see little help coming from any quarter. I can only do my best, hope to be surrounded by like-minded people and......pray.
I am not worried about disapproval and dissent. Zamana badal gaya hai and Vichaar bhi and I choose and prefer to walk the less travelled road. But yes, the road is long and hard.


Kislay said...

When I was in school, every year, the non-students of my neighbourhood used to organize Saraswati Puja . They used to play Vengaboys and other demented songs, with the occasional Bhajan thrown in between, as a concession to the Goddess of Learning . I distinctly remember wathcing them dance to the tune some very lewd bhojpuri song, with beer bottles on their head. Yes. Beer and Saraswati Puja . And this happened every year. And the music was so awefully loud.

And the parody bhajans . Every year , around Shivaratri , the Shiv temple near my home used to play these Bhajans as loudly as possible . Will the Universal Destroyer be pleased by this act of their bhakt jan's trying to destroy people's ear drums ?

And if you do point this out, you are a party pooper. If you protest , or if you speak against it , you would be construed as an adharmi .

Connector said...

Change is the only constant in this world. What we see and feel paranoid about our children is the same our parents went through when they saw us exposed to word of televisions, movies and bollywood invasion of local festivals.Children do see and absorb what they see in external environment but they do form their beliefs and opinions only on what they hear and see on a daily basis within the enviorns of their home. Thats why constant communication with them on what they understand is extremely critical. What happens in the world outside is fine for some and might not be fine for your sensibilities. However inculcating values we practise happens only at home. Also its impossible for a child to imbibe values which as a parent we dont practise. As an e.g you might give a lecture on eating vegetables and not drinking soft drinks to your child but they dont see yourself as practising it, they might not do it because you are saying its wrong but they will never believe in it and over a period of time, we might think it to be of driven by external influence.

BK Chowla said...

These festivals are the days to enjoy.So long as the children are within the limits,ignore few acts.As for noise is concerned,it is festival time.

Anonymous said...

A post after my own heart!

First of all - your recounting of Durga Puja, brought back so many many memories. I have almost identical memories! Not so much of harrassment though - thankfully.

The loud noise problem - I can't understand how one's religios feeling can increase with the sound levels! If anything it just breaks your concentration. And I have heard bhajans in the tune of popular bollywood songs blaring waay!

And I am totally with you on the commercialization of Pujas and heavy Bollywood influence. There is a time and place for everything - and for me, children gyrating to lewd numbers is just not done. I have seen parents proudly posting pictures of their 3,4 yr olds posing in 'Bollywood fashion'. I just don't understand it. Children performing these in a Puja environment is - I can't even express my disgust. Even otherwise - why can't we let children be children?

'I do not want them to accept entertainment and popularity as it is seen today.' - I totally agree. And feel so helpless sometimes when I am the only one who thinks that something like this is improper.

Chrysalis said...

Kislay: Vengaboys, beer and lewd dancing...how crazier can it get? I am thinking of running away and seeking refuge in Kailash Parvat or some such place.....far far away from the madding crowd...

Connector: Totally agree with you. Communication and practicing what you preach are key.
Change is inevitable but why not for the better?
And so true I do not drink Cola..and only serve fruit juice/panna/thandai etc even for the adults who come visiting.
And have not seen any movies in the theatre since parenthood...because am in the US have noone to leave them at home with....and I refuse to take them to a regular Bollywood Movie.
Tough very tough to practice!

Chowla ji: Fun redefined is what I am hoping for. The traditional Dhaks/drums are loud but wonderfully so. The Bhajan parodys are just noisy.
Fun surely but how? Ignoring has brought us to this stage... where we are sending our children to heave and pant to music even before their bosoms fill out and they understand the emotions they depict. And then we seem to be surprised and shocked when they understand these very emotions way before the right time and age and ACT out.

Smitha: "Why cant we let children be children" Exactly!....My toes curl when I see children dance in such a fashion...I feel angry, sad and scared for them. Doing it in an environment where fun should be integrated with learning makes it only worse.

Vinod_Sharma said...

Although I can appreciate your anguish, I tend to agree with Mr. Chowla that these are days to enjoy. In Gujarat, for example, during Navratras, dandiya raas goes on late into the nights with boys and girls dancing away, like Krishna and the gopis used to.

Our religious festivals are fun festivals. Half a century back, there was really no other source of entertainment and social bonding. I agree that now things have got over commercialized and at times vulgar too. That is where as a concerned parent we have to gently guide our children up to a certain age.

Christmas has become fun too.

I think it is Muslim religious festivals that are still serious in nature. And that is because Mullahs wield enormous powers, and mixing of girls and boys is frowned upon.

Chrysalis said...

Vinod Ji: I am not against the festivity and dancing...but children dancing to some Bollywood numbers look nothing but vulgar....I love the Dhak playing and Dhunuchi Dance...In my state too we have special drum and flute playing and dancing...but 10 year olds dancing to "chadhtee jawani meri chaal mastani" is just too difficult to watch.

Anonymous said...

When I went to Mumbai during the time when they drown the Ganpati statue in the sea, I was surprised to see so many groups (either families or apartments) coming together to chant slokas and songs all along the way and on the beach. It is a good show of community bonding and rarely happens in the South, at least in the bigger cities. Nuclear and smallest families are in fashion now. There is a joke going on these days: One man says that he lives with his wife and another asks: 'oh you live in joint family??" :-)

In Bangalore too, elders dance to all such hopeless movie songs during such festivals!!

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