Sunday, December 20, 2009

City Faith – Ramayan Paath, Sahibabad

The Delhi walla's pretension in writing makes me want to lodge a bullet in his balls - Blogger Nimpipi, the woodchuck chucks
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City Faith – Ramayan Paath, Sahibabad

Finding peace in the Hindu epic.

[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]

Mrs Pushpa Singh’s living room in Vasundhara Valley Apartment Society has been turned into a makeshift temple. She and her husband, Kshetra Pal, are hosting Ramayan Paath, a continuous reading session of Ramcharitmanas, a Hindu epic on Lord Ram. Written in Avdhi, a Hindi-language dialect, it was composed by the 16th century saint-poet Tulsi Das.

Living in a gated residential complex in Sahibabad, a Delhi suburb, the 63-year-old bridge player sent telephone invites to friends, neighbours and also to the security guards of her ‘apartment society’. A priest was hired for a new pair of dhoti, kurta and Rs 101.

The Ramayan Paath is an important event in the Singhs’ social calendar. Mrs Singh’s daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter came the day before. Her niece arrived from Aligarh. The reading lasts for 24 hours. On the first day, Mrs Singh woke up at 4am and supervised the cleaning of the entire house. The sofas and the coffee table in the living room were moved into Mr Singh’s study. The satellite radio was shoved into the guestroom cupboard. The widescreen LCD television was shifted to the bedroom. The marble floor was carpeted with mattresses. The bronze statues of Lord Ram and Sita, his wife, were dressed in silk and installed where the love seat was. A Christmas tree, decorated with Chinese lamps, was placed beside the idols.

“Christmas tree is for the show,” says Mrs Singh. “You need some decorations around the Gods.” The statues were also decked up with banana leaves, rice grains, tulsi plant, marigold flowers and other holy knick-knacks. Assembling them together is no easy task but Mrs Singh is an old hand. It has been 30 years since she started annually hosting the Ramayan Paath. “This is a matter of my feelings,” she says. “I feel satisfaction.”

Since she had 15 copies of the epic, Mrs Singh did not arrange for more books. Except during the night, the ‘temple’ remained moderately crowded. “Mrs Garg came; so did Negi Saheb and Tyagji,” says Mrs Singh, “Shuklaji’s wife too marked her presence and Sunita had come with children.”

During these 24 hours, Mrs Singh slept for only two hours. “I had to make sure that the guests were served tea,” she says, “And I also had to read.”

In the Paath, the legend of Ram - an obedient son, a faithful husband, a kind king and a nemesis to enemies - is recited in a sing-song tune. “Besides its social message,” says Mrs Singh’s husband, “Ramayan Path gives you peace.”

During the reading, Tribuhavn, Mrs Singh’s son-in-law, provided a break by singing a devotional number that had references both to the Hindu and Muslim God:

Ek tu hi bharosa, ek tu hi sahaara,
Is tere jahan mein nahin koi hamaara,
Eeshwar ya Allah, yeh pukaar sun le.

[You are our only trust, you are our only support,
We have no one in your world,
O Eeshwar, or Allah, hear our call.]

Everyone clapped, including Mrs Singh’s 10-year-old grand-daughter, Paridhi. “But I can’t understand when they read from the book,” she says. “Ramayana Paath is boring.”

Reading Ram

City Faith – Ramayan Paath, Sahibabad

The makeshift temple

City Faith – Ramayan Paath, Sahibabad

The books

City Faith – Ramayan Paath, Sahibabad

Mrs Singh's guests

City Faith – Ramayan Paath, Sahibabad

Mrs Singh with her son-in-law

City Faith – Ramayan Paath, Sahibabad

Ram, Sita, the X-mas tree...

City Faith – Ramayan Paath, Sahibabad

... And the priest

City Faith – Ramayan Paath, Sahibabad

Reading in progress

City Faith – Ramayan Paath, Sahibabad

Garg Saheb singing a devotional song

City Faith – Ramayan Paath, Sahibabad

Padma didi and family

City Faith – Ramayan Paath, Sahibabad

Holy knick-knacks

City Faith – Ramayan Paath, Sahibabad

Mrs Singh with grand-daughter Paridhi

City Faith – Ramayan Paath, Sahibabad

Taking in the message

City Faith – Ramayan Paath, Sahibabad

The big view

City Faith – Ramayan Paath, Sahibabad

It's about Mrs Singh's feelings

City Faith – Ramayan Paath, Sahibabad


Anonymous said...

At last something different from the usual posts about old Delhi mosques and bastis. Nice post

ajay said...

You could not help it, what a low shot -

“But I can’t understand when they read from the book,” she says. “Ramayana Paath is boring.”

Anonymous said...

Very nice.

Anonymous said...

The Delhi Walla is turning secular...nice post..but still luv the post abt old Delhi and the beautiful bastis...:-)

Ramit said...

Brings back a lot of old memories, it does. Thanks for sharing this Mayank.

I so wish I could do the Ramayana paath too again. :(

Rajiv said...

waaaaaaaalaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh,niceeeee 111.ramayaan path ho ya masjid ki azaan ,ya church.her jagaaah per upper wale ke naam se sakoon milta hai.but jyada ho to boring lagta hi hai yaar :D

waise upper wala to dil mein sab se jyada rehta hai

Abdusalaam al-Hindi said...

Interesting post.

I would so love to be invited to such a personal Hindu ritual.

Sometimes I think it is so ironic that, I, being an Indian in a predominantly Hindu country, still find such Hindu rituals so exotic.

I know it should not be; but the sad matter of the fact is, that it does seem so foreign and alien.

Insha'allah in the near future it won't be.

( )

Ehsan Ali Jahan said...

Despite being a Muslim, I must say MAS that this article is a refreshing change from your usual reflection of life in the metropolis Dilli, which in my opinion dwells too much on the life and times of the predominantly Muslim neighbourhoods and Purani Dilli.

Delhi is a vibrant city, both new and old, inhabited by numerous faith communities. So this article was refreshing.

Delhi's multicultural history and reality need to be celebrated MAS.

It is what makes Dilli what it is, a vibrant and open city, a city where women in saffron sarees with big bright red bindis walk past women clad in all black burqas or kabuli fizas on the streets!!!Truly a reflection of India; much unlike the culturally suffocating monotony of Pakistani cities!

Dhruv said...

Good to See a something different..i enjoys MAS blogs,,,However,MAS usually cover's Delhi from Muslim point of view and this post is no different.
It will be great if you try to cover Delhi, from the point of view of normal delhi person.
for example,,,Doesnt matter if someone is Hindu, Muslim, Sikh or any other relegion.
If they are from Delhi and if they can read English, they know what Ramanyan is or Who Ram is.
Their is no need for introduction or explanation for what they are.
You just need to be more common man than just one point of view writer.