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A collaboration over too much coffee.
coffee and pen

26 April, 2007

Temple Day

Today is Monday:
Temple going day.
Queue is long with
hundreds of folks
waiting to see God
and praying:
to escape from sins,
for getting easy money,
resolve doubts
or feel strong.

Priest is doing rituals,
chanting fierce mantras
in dense Sanskrit,
adorning idol with flowers
and sandal-paste,
and burning
powerful incense.
Devotees are awed
'Siva Siva' they are chanting.

Outside one shop is there
selling things for God:
Flowers and coconut
to bribe the God
inside the temple.
It is asking one rupee
for keeping chappals
safe for pilgrims.
Prasadam also it is selling.

It is also selling
tacky little idols
of brass or copper,
little brocade dresses for
the goddess lined with jari
and little steel cradles
for baby God to sleep in.
There are cushions for
the cold metal idols
to rest when tired,
pretty little crowns
and lots of other things.

All for pious believers
to dress up their Gods
as if they are dolls.
Is God like a doll,
to be adored and played with
and not awed or worshipped?
Or is he a dangerous king
who will be angry
if looked upon
with love, not awe?

Doll-god? God-doll?
Mere idolatry
or the feelings
of innocent faith?

I am thinking
God is living
not in the big temple
but in that doll shop.


02 April, 2007

Shakti Bhatt

Shocked and deeply saddened to hear about Shakti Bhatt's passing away. I can't claim to have known her well; but I know many people who knew her, and had heard of her often, all nice things.

I met her just once, at the Kitab Festival in February, where I got to thank her for releasing our book at the Jaipur Literature Festival in January, and for a workshop she, Jeet Thayil, her husband, and Nilanjana Roy, conducted for Caferati Delhi. At Kitab, we shared a light at the Prithvi Cafe, and talked of this and that, and the impression I filed away was of a hugely intelligent, vibrant, cheeerful person. Later, at the dinner, I joined her, Jeet, and a couple of other friends and chatted a bit. I have been an admirer of Jeet's writing from the days that he was a columnist for a Bombay paper, so it was a pleasure to meet him; Shakti said charming, encouraging things about the things we - Caferati - were doing. Meeting them was pretty much the best thing about Kitab for me, and I was looking forward to strengthening the acquaintance when I next visited Delhi..

My thoughts are with Jeet, and the family.

Update: You can leave your memories of Shakti here, and read remembrances by others here.