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Shree Ganesh

February 8, 2010

Deep in the sepia-tinted recesses of my mind I preserve, among other things, my family’s brave attempts to Sanskrit(i)-ise my childhood self. Reaching back there I can remember being taught that us “good Hindus” must observe every fresh beginning, every new start with a “Shree Ganesh” incantation, inviting that jolly and lovable god (not God) to shower his blessings on it and us.  I also remember meeting this harmless request with an insolent- “Why?”- as was my wont in those simpler times. Filled to the brim with the ‘spirit of inquiry’ and emboldened by the completely-reconcilable thought of Newton, Pasteur and Einstein (always a trimurti thank you very much) smiling down approvingly at me from heaven, I would fight off the demons of dogma and religious superstition. Imagining myself as a modern day Raja Rammohan Roy I’d patronisingly frown upon the smallest religious custom- “You want me to touch your feet? Again?”- and intentionally trespass upon as many superstitions as I could pack into each day.

All in all I was a pretty infuriating kid; the kind you’d only wish upon nasty liberals who always ask you to spare the rod, ‘communicate’ with your children and then blame you if it doesn’t work.

Still, at 24 – almost 25 – I can’t honestly say that I’d have done it much differently if I had to do it all over again. I’m evil like that.

But, if you pour water on a rock long enough…

Today the mention of “shree ganesh” brings a smile to my lips, recalling not only all those forced “culture lessons” of my childhood but also the countless times I’ve unconsciously used the phrase myself since. I see now that it is no more religious slavery to say a “shree ganesh” on occasion than it was a political statement to oppose it every time. Now it is merely one among a billion shared cultural markers in this country and is no more or less “sacred” than any of them. And that’s exactly how I like it.

Because that excuses my many uses of the phrase, like– Iss Blue Label ka shree ganesh kab karoge? – that would otherwise have been high blasphemy

And because that rationalises why I begin this blog with a conscious “Shree Ganesh”