We went to a Pooja yesterday. I’d been invited by the guy who hooked me up with my driver’s license to attend the pooja for opening his new custodial brokerage. His name is Guru. For those of you wondering what a pooja is – and I also wondered what exactly the pooja part of pooja room meant; it is a Hindu prayer. Our driver and his family were also in attendance as Guru had invited many of his colleagues.
We had a bit of stress as the pooja was supposed to be between 10AM and 12PM and we were 15 minutes late. Never fear, we were among the first there and the first Brahman priest was still setting up. He was a portly middle aged fellow with three gigantic white streaks across his forehead. I’m not sure whether each streak is called a tika or whether the ensemble is a tika. Anyway, his tika was enormous. Later, he was joined by a companion, a well built young man who appeared to be in his early twenties.
As they were preparing, Guru’s sister was instructed by the Brahman with the tika to place a bhindi dot at each corner of the company’s new sign (which was riddled with misspellings). I asked Guru what that was for.
We Indian people do that Sir
Since he did not know and we were reluctant to bother the Brahman priests, I was resigned to not understanding what was going on. People watching would be plenty interesting however.
There are a few things I learned about poojas:
- Even if you don’t know what is going on, people watching at one can be fascinating.
- These two Brahmans have probably gone through this same ritual with the opening of every shop in the neighborhood. They oozed boredom. At one point during the ceremony, the younger one was reciting a (Sanskrit?) chant from a set of hand written notes on sheets of dog eared notebook paper. His mobile phone beeped. Without missing a beat in his chant, he fished it out of his bag, read the SMS and put it back. It took to calling them tikaman and handyman (after the german slang term for mobile phone, “handy”)
- It was not just the bored Brahmans who were distracted. People kept stepping in and sitting down to observe the ceremony, stepping out for fresh air and a chat, stepping back in, etc.
- The only people who seemed to be really earnest were Guru and his wife.
- At one point during the ceremony, somebody’s uncle’s autorickshaw, which was parked out front, became an impromptu playground for all of the smaller children.
- People continued to filter in for the entire duration of the ceremony. Guru’s wife, one of the central participants, showed up about halfway through. Others, cousins, siblings and accompanying family, showed up only at the very end as the ribbon was cut and the priest with the tika was giving out sugar laden banana stew for everyone to eat as part of the ceremony. Yuk!
It was a lot of fun. Next time we’ll pester the bored Brahmans to explain what they are doing.
And in addition to the Hindu idols being put up in the shop, Wrenzo brought a portrait of Jesus for Guru to put up as well. Looks like he has all of his bases covered.