Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Feeding the crows

As a custom it is mandatory for us to feed the crows on the day of the rituals that are held for the departed soul. How such a practice came about is not known but it is being followed. Since I am not very clear about why something like this is done, I wouldn’t want to comment on the reasons.

Over the last few months we’ve had to feed the crows. Whatever is made for lunch that day, a little bit of all the items are laid out on a leaf & kept on the terrace for the crows to eat. People are supposed to eat only after feeding the crows. Since it is believed that feeding the crows is equivalent to feeding the ancestors or the departed souls, it is a ritual that is taken very seriously & done with due respect. However the superstitions attached to these things can sometimes get very annoying. And since it is part of the ritual that is being held for a departed soul, no questions are encouraged. If it is done, it is considered as no respect shown to the departed soul.

Once no crow turned up to eat the food offered. All the relatives had gathered around and looked up at the sky anxiously. Every moment was a nerve racking as no crow coming to eat the food is interpreted as the ancestors being angry. Someone shouted at the youngsters to start calling the crows. Next moment the ‘kaw’, ‘kaw’, ‘kaw’ were reverberating all around. Still no crow was in sight. Much later a crow came by & picked up a little food & flew away. Shortly thereafter an uncle revealed that the crow finally came by only because an aunt (his wife) apologized to the crows & begged for forgiveness. What for? No answers were provided. It was left to the people to either accept it or reject it. Nobody was willing to accept that the food was offered at a time when the sun was high up in the sky & very hot and it is very possible that the birds stay under the shade of the trees at such hour.

In another instance, we kept the food on the terrace & waited for a long time. Once again there was no crow in sight. After much effort & thought & persuasion we concluded to proceed with eating. (remember we are not supposed to eat until the crows eat). After we had just begun to eat, somebody announced that a crow had come by & picked up some food. The honorable elders revealed that may be the crow didn’t like the idea of us starving & wanted us to eat first before it could eat. Trust our elders to give befitting replies to all such things.

Even small things sometimes are made big. Like if there are too many people & too close to the food, then there is someone commenting that it is because of that that the crows are not stopping by. What about those times then, when one can see many crows feasting on the roadside, when there is heavy traffic & a lot of people passing by? How is it that they can comfortably eat then?

Something to think about is what people do when there are absolutely no crows around. Like in many countries outside India that is the state. Or for all you know what will happen if the crows disappear like the way sparrows have.

Good questions you said, but we are not supposed to ask questions.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Marrying people off – A national past time it seems

“So what kind of a girl are you looking for?” asked my aunt. “Go on, go on tell me it’s OK, you need not feel shy”. Feeling shy I definitely was not, but feeling angry I definite was. But she is my aunt, so you know how I am expected to react. I just smiled. “You should get yourself a homely girl who will stay at home & take care of the house. Somebody has to be at home always you know, its good”. So there you go the answer was given by her even before I got a chance to think about it.

A few days back a pandit was at home to conduct some rituals. While all the necessary items required for it was being arranged around him he looked at me & asked in chaste Kannada, “What is your Nakshatra?” I looked at him & gaped & then I looked around to check if anybody could help me with that. Luckily my sister answered that for him. He then asked me my date of birth & I immediately knew where this was headed. Obviously I couldn’t do anything else but tell him my date of birth. He removed a big bag, put on his glasses & started looking for something. I quietly got up & moved away from there. For all I knew, if I continued sitting there he would have shown me a photograph of a girl & asked me if I liked her.

I suppose most of us have already been through this situation or will shortly undergo something like this. I suppose it is a pretty obvious topic at some point of time in one’s life but it is quite unbelievable how people you just know somehow, somewhere wanting to play the role of a match maker without any initiative from your side. Just about everybody wants to know what kind of a girl you want and invariably end up giving their own opinion on what kind will suit the concerned person & why & so on. I don’t understand why people don’t value the fact that someone’s marriage is a very personal thing for the person getting married & that way the responsibility of his immediate family. No, that is not so simple at all. They are all our well wishers, so everybody will want to play a part.

But I find this experience also funny because I wonder isn’t there anything else that some people can think of while having a conversation. A few days back when mom & I were at a supermarket a lady who mom knew was right behind us at the billing counter. So after all the initial talk, she looked at me & asked mom “Is this your son?” Mom nodded & guess what the lady’s next question was - “Is he married?” Mom answered “No” & for that the lady’s reaction was “When are you planning to get him married”

At some point I think it also starts getting to the parents as well. For how long can one possibly go on giving answers like this? They would obviously like to simply answer “Yes he is married” or “He is getting married” & be done with it. So that pressure starts percolating down to the boy or the girl who are left with no choice but drop all other plans & take the plunge.

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