This Is A One Act Play.
Star Cast : Andy (formerly known as Anand in India.)
Lady ( His wife)
D ( Andy's college friend)
Aparna ( D's wife and a 'thinker')
Jai and Veeru (Andy's sons)
Thamma ( D's mother)
A Saturday morning in D and Aparna's house in Mumbai. The guests are replete after a sumptuous breakfast. (Parathas this time.) Everybody is happy and relaxed. Thamma is trying to converse with Jai and Veeru in her broken English.
Thamma : You have many friends?
Jai : Yeah. Some.
Thamma: You play? What?
Jai : Mostly PS2.
Thamma is bewildered and trying to figure out what kind of game that is. Veeru, who has been flipping a book, suddenly seems excited.
Veeru: Hey mom, look at this. I have to do a power point presentation on this guy, remember?
Thamma : ( Appearing extremely pained) Don't call him a cow. He was one of the most elevated souls of India. His name was Swami Vivekananda.
Veeru appears confused and D is suppressing laughter.
Aparna : You have to do a project on Vivekananda for school?
Lady: No, no. They go to a Sunday Shloka Class. He is supposed to do a presentation there. They are learning some prayers and Sanskrit shlokas. They have also learned some bhajans.
Thamma (impressed) : Can you sing a song for us?
Jai and Veeru : Sure.
(They straighten up and start to sing in chorus.)
My friend Ganapati I bow down to thee.
Elephant faced Ganapati I bow down to thee.
Andy and Lady look proud. Thamma is shocked into silence.
Lady : The teacher in their Shloka classes also tell them stories from Panchatantra. The boys also learn about the history of India and her people. I want my boys to know their roots.
Andy : Moreover, with globalisation, who knows where my children would be working . If they ever come back to India, I want them to be comfortable with the culture and people.
Jai and Veeru are mean while continuing with the song;
Large bellied Ganapati I bow down to thee,
With laddoo in my hands, I bow down to thee.
Thamma :(unable to bear the song for much longer) They teach you to sing bhajan in English?
Jai: Yes, because we do not understand the Hindi words. Since the kids all belong to different parts of India, our teacher thought English would be better. She taught us this song and told us the story of Lord Ganesh.
The song continues;
Son of Shiva Parvati I bow down to thee...
Andy : The reason we are here is because we are organising the boys' 'Upanayan' ceremony in Kolkata this time. This is going to be a large affair. All my relatives are coming. Some in fact from as far as Australia and Switzerland. The kids will know their relatives, will get initiated into their heritage and culture. They are extremely excited.
The people in the room are talking about the coming ceremony. Jai and Veeru still singing. And Aparna is thinking....some men, who left their homeland for a foreign country, many, many years ago, in search of a better life, a better education, still are clinging to their roots and heritage. How many Brahmins in urban India have an Upanayan ceremony these days? This archaic and castist practice somehow no longer find many takers and rightfully so. Most of us have stopped eating puris for breakfast, reserving it for special occasions. Most of our kids are growing up without learning Sanskrit shlokas and Panchtantra tales. Our kids rarely do a presentation on Swami Vivekananda. And far, far away in pardesi land, some people are desperately trying to teach their kids about Indian values and culture. May be instead of Aparna's ridicule, they deserve her understanding. After all, this is also about loving one's homeland.
However obscure it may be.
The strains of 'Mouse is your companion I bow down to thee' fades into the background.
The curtain falls.