Sunday, February 13, 2005

What's religion got to do with pujas?

If you look it up in an encyclopedia it will say "Puja is the act of showing reverence to a god, a spirit, or another aspect of the divine through invocations, prayers, songs, and rituals. An essential part of puja for the Hindu devotee is making a spiritual connection with the divine. Most often that contact is facilitated through an object: an element of nature, a sculpture, a vessel, a painting, or a print." Thats the verb puja. The noun is "the event where people show reverence to the divine."

But according to my experiences from last night's Saraswati Puja and the pujas from years before, a puja is "an event where members of the Kolkata elite come to gossip, flaunt the clothes and jewellery they got from their last trip to India, brag about their kid's college acceptances and where young people from the community gather to later go out to the city and get wasted."

Every year, I complain and try to convince my mom why I don't want to go. "But I don't FEEL any spiritual connection there, why do I have to go? Why can't we just pray at home?" Then she will give me a lecture about the "importance of community" and how if I gave it a shot it could be fun. I'll come back with "don't I give it a chance EVERY YEAR?" And then she proceeds to give me a guilt trip. This happens every year. "What's religion got to do with pujas?" I ask her.

Does my mom have alterior motives? Maybe. Maybe she wants me to "meet someone" although she will never admit it because than I won't go. I guess it happens in every religion though. Do people really dress up for church to make God happy? Or are they there to meet a special someone with the same values? What does anything have to do with anything?

When I was in student union in high school, I just assumed that everyone was there because they cared about the budget cut that Philly schools were getting and they wanted to organize and make a change. I was wrong about that too. Meat chasers are not just at bars and parties, they exist everywhere, even places where you think the purpose is pure. I'm not calling meeting people unpure, but I just think you always have to be aware. Oh, so at student union one Saturday afternoon we were talking about recruiting new members so someone said "well, what made YOU want to come to student union meetings?" I was surprised to hear that not one, but SEVERAL people said "I decided to join to meet girls/guys." And did you ever notice how at so many art openings very few people are there to actually look at the art? I mean, half the time the art sucks, but people stick around.

So next time you go to that book club meeting, or Democratic Party gathering, don't be surprised when some old, hairy literary critic from the Inky asks you to get dinner with him afterwards.


At 9:55 AM, Blogger Fly said...

I think this is a trend in every culture and every community. People would prefer to meet other like minded individuals.

My problem with this is that it limits personal growth. Meeting someone who is exactly like you before you have developed your own identity limits your variance of thought. Nonetheless, I do believe that interacting with groups and in functions like this has its purpose, even if its not to meet your special someone.

When I was a bible study leader at my old church, the pastor was constantly trying to hook me up with my co-leader, jen. They didn't mean they wanted me to have sex with her, just that I should consider "courting" her. Hanging out with her in groups, talking to her, praying with her, and the what not. I'm glad I kept an open mind though, becuase it showed me that she wasn't for me and that I didn't want to be with someone whose sole purpose in life was to be religious. I discovered, I didn't want to be religious, but rather spiritual. In fact it showed me that I didn't exactly fit into that particular church all that much. I grew.

Going to Bangladeshi/Muslim events is no different. Although, here there is less one on one interaction, I often find myself talking to people's father's and mother's first and being asked to attend a dinner dowat at their home on a sunday. The only time people invite me to their homes on sunday's is to meet their daughter or neice of what have you. Luckily for me, most of these parents are quickly detered when they realise I drink.

Protests, fundraisers, and political events are no different. As an activist I got so much potential ass, all the time. Girls would do everything short of throw themselves at me, just to get my attention. Its not like I'm a stud or anything, but people go to these things just to find someone, and often times they think off of first impressions that I'm that guy they came to meet. Well I'm not.

Personally I believe that these opportunities are great to meet people, but what you have to keep in mind is that who you are meeting is only the image that these individuals want you to see.

There is much more to me and to everyone else out there than what we do, who we know, and what we read about.

I think you should participate in these systems for their genuine purposes, spirituality, activism, political movements, etc...

However, its important to keep an open mind in talking to anyone. Some of the coolest people I've met are people who I randomly ran into or through some sort of random connection through something I was working on, or some event I attended. In fact, the coolest chick I've ever known, I met at a FOBANA confress ten years ago. So you never know. The potential is out there to meet someone, but not just at these events. They are everywhere. Everyone you meet deserves a chance to at least be known, everything else has to be earned in time. Anyway, Happy Valentines Day.

At 12:58 PM, Blogger chowda said...

i used to get out of alot of pujas cause the Basball playoffs overlap alot. take up baseball.

second, i dont think i get any madder then when i see meat being served at puja's.

third, think about indian parents who dont have that many friends or social circles. for many wives its their only chance to go out and flaunt. i dont like it at all, but i think thats a big reason.

fourth, mun you know guys are always checkin you out- its not just puja.


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