An atheist's guide to the festive season

The season from September to the end of the year is "festive" season in India. It's a time of celebrations, meeting relations, holidays from work and so much more. For this year (and the past couple of years), due to the timing of Ramzan, the festive season is very secular, incorporating three of the major religions in India.

That last line was very important. Indian festivities are inextricably tied up with religion, and there is no escaping it. So what do atheists like me, who are "out", do during this time? Do we stand apart from the crowd, sulking and refusing to join in the fun? Or do we pretend for a few months every year, so that we can be part of the flock? Well, I don't think it is neccessary to do either. Although most of the festivals in India are liked to religion, religious activities per se are not such a big part of the whole celebration. There are aspects like food, music and dance, attire and socialising which are more prominent. So this is a post that looks at all the things we can get involved in during the season.

Dussehra/Durga Puja/Navratri: This ten-day long fest has everything you can ask for. Start with shopping for clothes! You must have at least one outfit, properly accessorised, for the dandiya. Get decked up in your most resplendent silks and blend in at the local Pujo Pandal. At both these places, go with a big group of friends. These are good places to check out cute singles of either gender, who are dressed to the nines. Teach the shy friends how to whirl around with a pair of sticks in hand, and introduce the uninitiated to the delights of bhog and the various food stalls at any Pujo Pandal (think Kolkatta rolls, mutton chop, kosha mangsho....) On and after Dusshera/Dashami, make your elder relatives smile by calling them up to offer "Bijoya Pronam" or whatever is the flavor in your corner of the country. If they are in the same town, do this in person, and get rewarded with the choicest of sweets and delicacies.

Diwali/Kali Puja: This is when you get the annual dry fruit boxes from your employer. Again, clothes are important, there are sales galore all around, offering great discounts. Look for special offers on cars and jewellery for the occasion of Dhan Teras. If you enjoy fireworks, go to one of the huge firework markets around the city and pick up a selection. Light up your house with diyas, candles or fairy lights, in any combination. Drive around town to look at how everyone has decorated their homes. Hog on Diwali sweets when you go visiting relatives, friends and colleagues. Host a party at home, with firecrackers, food, friends and fun. Enjoy the rangolis and decorations all aroud town and in your workplace.

Ramzan/Id: One word: Haleem. All through this month, feast on this delicacy. Visit friends on Id, and wrangle invites to their feasts. If you are into heavily embroidered ethic wear, look out for good picks in clothes, specially in the old city.

Christmas: Bake a fruitcake, loaded with fruit, nuts and brandy and take it to work to impress your friends. Get home a tree (plastic, no chopping down real trees) and decorate it. Have kids over to look at the tree and to have cake and chocolates. Cook up a Christmas lunch, or go to one of the restaurants that serve one. Again, host a party, either around Christmas or for new year's eve. Enjoy the decorations at malls and in the office. Oh, and don't forget to leave up the fairy lights you had put up for Diwali all through till the new year.

So there you have it. An atheist's guide to the holiday season. Please note that a lot of it is relevant to Hyderabad (haleem, embroidered clothes). This list may seem to lean a little more toward the food aspect, but you are welcome to add any of your own suggestions to it! Have fun and wish you all a very happy festive season!!!

14 comments:

Maven's Atelier said...

paradoxical isnt it ?? an atheist being the first to write about the cutltural festivities :),probably has got to do with an outsider's perspective

Mithun Kumar said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mithun Kumar said...

Wow, nice guide...
All I can see are Food and Cloths in all the possible flavours written in bold all around here ;) very typical of girls of-course ;) (No brick-bats pls)

But ofcourse, 'enjoying' any festival has no religion attached to it...
Doesn't matter which religion (or no religion) u subscribe to, socialising and having fun has no boundaries..

s.k. said...

Good one. And the Ganesh fesival which just whisked off is becoming more and more Hyderabadi. Mumbai, beware!
Also, about the 'secular' part, 'ganesha' idols are being immersed in 'hussain' sagar surrounding 'mr.buddha'.. and lo! we have a christian YSR as CM! secularism in full swing!!
:o)
[and a mallu commenting on a bong's blog on telugu land! india shining!!]

Anshuman Ghosh said...

its a (s/r)eason to enjoy nevertheless ...

Sidhusaaheb said...

I had a good laugh after reading maven's comment... :D

Nevertherless, this is an excellent effort. Keep it up!

Anonymous said...

i think festivals are reasons why people get together more often, children pack there bags to go meet there parents from hostels, cities, and foreign lands, for me i start to think about diwali, the most colourful festival for me.

Tanushree said...

@Maven: Yeah, "insiders" are often notorious for missing the forest for the trees. It takes an outsider to realise how much fun can be had all around!

@Mithun: Of course, it is written by a girl, so the focus is of course on shopping and clothes. And yes, you and I think alike, because of a certain characteristic we both share. Now I wonder what that could be, hmm?

@s.k.: There are a lot of such instances, but I hope it doesn't come to the notice of the powers that be, or else they will start a name-change drive soon or something.

@Anshuman: Nevertheless? Enjoyment is what this post is about...

@sidhusaaheb: Thanks, and I'll try not to disappoint :)

@Anonymous: That's right. I had missed out the part about holidays and being able to club a few days with the weekends to make a nice long extended trip home.
----------------------------

Two of the festivals mentioned in the post start next week. So get out those dandias and line up for the bhog and haleem!

M (tread softly upon) said...

happy Pujo to you!

deepbluenpurple said...

Liked your take on cultural festivities. Visited your post while googling for "Bijoya wishes" since could not think of a proper way to convey the wishes to a finicky professor.So I gues this is also an issue during festivals for people who are not in the "IN Crowd" of festivities.
And some amusement : http://www.chrisbeach.co.uk/viewQuotes.php

Amit Kulkarni said...

Hey th

megz said...

I agree, u do not have to be religious to enjoy festivals! I guess, thats how they started. To socialize and enjoy thru these occasions. Take a break from the usual routine and celebrate. Religion to these occasions is a like adding rules to your life. Without rules, life is chaotic! FOr instance, if there was no rule like male and female toilets have to be separate.....imagine the mess it wud create!! :p

Hindu Atheist said...

Nice post!

avagdro said...

Thanks man.Great job accomplished indeed.Wish you all in advance a joyful Diwali ahead.

Cheers!!
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