GANPATI BAPPA MORYA...
Nothing like spending quality time with your countryfolk. Yesterday was the first day of the Ganesh festival. Last year, I had spent the day completely uneventfully, because I could not get in touch with any Indians from Emory. Well, frankly, there are almost no Indians at Emory, one reason being that it lacks an Engineering School.
But yesterday, I got a surprise visit from one of my friends at Georgia State. GSU has a respectable, reasonably sized Indian Student Association and my friend told me that 'a few' of them were going to get together for Ganpati. I was pleasantly surprised when this group of few actually turned out to be a garrulous gathering of about 20-25 students, most of them Maharashtrians and 'Mumbaikars' at that. The group had put together the whole works, getting a beautiful idol of Ganpati from the International Farmers' Market, and making kilos of the traditional 'prasad'. We had a ball of a time singing the 'Aartees' together, and eating the ton of 'prasad' which everyone had enthusiastically concocted, not to mention cracking typical tongue in cheek Marathi jokes.
Festivals are a fantastic time for connecting with the storehouses of culture and memories in your mind. One important thing I realise is that they can be enjoyed by everyone with the same cultural backgrounds, even remotely so, irrespective of people's religious beliefs and the intensity of those beliefs. I am an agnostic, and hence cannot vouch for a personal, all forgiving or punishing God. The wonderful thing is that whether you believe in such a God or not, you can always enjoy such events because they connect you to your childhood and culture in a unique way. In that respect I think, culture is greater than religion, and subtle and powerful are the ties that bind you to it. These ties are all-accomodating, at least from my perspective, and they don't care whether the participant is a skeptic, downright atheist or a soulful mantra chanter. For me, this fact is a source of delight much greater than any possible religious revelation.