By Anurag Chaudhary:
There is this giant courtyard in my village where many families have lived for more than 200 years, together, in their separate rooms. My paternal lineage also started in one of those tiny, congested rooms.
The courtyard was beaming with beauty that afternoon. The ground was mopped with fresh cow muck and marigold garlands were nicely wrapped over the bamboo pillars of the mandap (pavilion) which was standing right in the centre of the courtyard. Inside the mandap, five of my distant young cousins (whom I had perhaps never seen before) were being indoctrinated by their father and a group of pundits. It was their ‘Upanayan Sanskar’- the thread ceremony. It is a very sacred ritual here, which many Hindu boys must go through. The father or the guardian confers the sacraments of his family and the society onto his boy child. (I could never understand why a girl never went through a thread ceremony.)
A thread ceremony is considered to be the ‘second birth’ for a Brahmin child and he is called a ‘Dwija’ (born twice) after this day; he is not only born in flesh and bone but also in intellect from now on. Anyways, so inside the courtyard, this beautiful, sacred, age old ritual was taking place. Other than the father of the children who were being threaded and the pundits, only ladies were allowed there. My grandmother told me to go out as well, with the ‘men’.
So there I was, sitting beneath the giant tarpaulin on the outer verandah. Around 100 plastic chairs were set up and all the men, from the age of 5 to 85 had gathered there.
Generally, orchestras are organized for the entertainment of the guests as these ceremonies are kind of monotonous and long. Women are never bored though (sarcasm alert). As half an hour passed, the singers of the holy hymns disappeared and a girl clad in a skimpy outfit came on the stage. She gyrated for a while on a cheap Bhojpuri song and looking around, I could see grandpas with no teeth relishing the show as much as toddlers whose milk teeth were yet to come out. Everyone else was there too. After one entertainer, came another, in even skimpier attire and whistles were heard. The orchestra master screamed her name on the microphone and ran into the crowd to collect tips for her.
I felt disgusted and bored after a while and went inside the courtyard where the women were busy with the thread ceremony. It was a different sight altogether.
I went in and showed my disgust to my relatives. One of my aunts looked at me in shock. She then giggled and told me to go out and enjoy as that is what “real men” do. Then she told an anecdote about how her father-in-law would keep one dancer on his thigh and made the other one dance for him. While I was coming back, I heard her asking my mom, “What is wrong with your son?”
Soon, the thread ceremony was over, the five boys, now bald and semi nude in their dhotis, were sent out “to feast” (to eat food, I guess).
Last I remember of them was when I saw them sitting around their fathers on one of those plastic red chairs in the veranda as the orchestra master announced, “Here comes another gem, talented, sexy, the heartthrob! Vaisaaaaaaaaaaaali!” Everyone around me roared to her name.
Later I saw the Punditjee (priest) who had orchestrated the entire ceremony, coming to occupy one of those red chairs, beside the baruas (ceremonial kids).
The “sacred sacraments” were passed fruitfully by their father onto them. These kids would go on to become “the future of this country”, the “men”, men who would “respect” women and protect the legacy of their great country.
And we wonder what is wrong with our country? *sigh*