Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Jai And Veeru Sing Ganesh Vandana

A lot of you have appreciated my previous post on my American Desi guests. Since my creative juices have dried up completely due to too much time spent in the kitchen, I thought I would share with you an incident that involved these guests. I am again being theatrical here and I am again warning readers. People with low tolerance for high drama, may skip the post.

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.


Sumandebray said...

To Start with….the second episode is as good as the first one. Excellent to be precise!
But I cannot totally agree with the concept of slokas in English. Probably that is my mental block otherwise how can I justify not disliking the slokas when uttered in Bengali.
I think Amar Chitra Katha had been a great source of the mythological stories for our generation. I wonder if they are still available!
But knowing the mother tongue is of outmost importance to me…. I have a friend in North America who speaks to their daughter in Sylet Bengali while they believe that all the other languages she will learn in course of time. I intend something similar.

SJ said...

I don't agree with upnayna. Jay doesn't wear one (God knows if his parents even did the ceremony). And how many bramins who actually have the thread do sandyavandane and other things associated with it? Initially I was obsessed with it and worried how I will get my son (future worries u see) to do all that. Now I have realized- whats the point of all that? As long as they grow up not being an axe murderer I am ok!!

Having said that I should comment on the shlokas said in English. BUt it is funny as hell!!! Well, kids in India do go for sanskrit classes/shloka. People here are obsessed with keeping indian tradition alive that they do anything and everything possible. Since kids in India are not missing much they don't go to that extent I think.

Nobody can be 100% sure how Jai and Veeru will turn out when they are 30 yrs! They might abandon all these and marry a white lady.

As usual well written. And I have written a huge katha here instead of a comment- can't help it!

Meira said...

Balvikas classes, they attend? My mom teaches too. And believe me, a lot of children here attend too. That we forget it all, or stash it in some obscure corner of our brains is what is significant :D
And I think most NRIs go overboard because they miss their homeland. Not that their kids, who're born n brought up in foreign would like to know about India!

sujata sengupta said...

This reminded me of the ganesh vandana in hindi sung out to us by two american desi kids recently remember? it was tough controlling the laughter their accents were amazing..took the bhajan to another level completely..rake your brains for that episode,,didnt happent too far away in the past..i think ganesha is popular in the west!!

pradipwritenow said...

Both the episodes are excellent. Upanayana has become a ceremony the meaning is lost with time. upon observing some latent mental qualities upto the age of twelve few boys were selected for studies to Gurukul who were placed later on as Bramhana. That was the Upnayana ceremony. The boys with other mental qualities were trained to follow other trades to serve the society. Later on this became a right by birth. About Ganesh Vandana possibly some one thought to motivate the minds of young kids in a humerous way.

Rajesh said...

Excellent story telling. I liked both the episodes. I pity grandma. Slokas in English is too much to digest for anybody who has been born in India.

Nona said...

The culture is frozen in the minds of most of the people who leave India for a living. This was a remark by one of the eminent diplomats who attended an expatriate get-together. He was in Fiji Islands for a while and attended a ceremony over there. He was surprised to find the customs followed there is no longer prevalent in India currently!

Good your character in the play, Aparna the "thinker", is having second thought about pardesis. :)

sartaj faisal said...


Great post.

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ani_aset said...

Hey aparna..i dont know about the content this time..but great narration :)..possibly your last post has set a certain benchmark :D

Anonymous said...

That was interesting...Does that really happen?..Kids far away learning slokas and bhajans in English? WOW.
Very nicely told! :)

Aparna said...

Thanks Suman. Shlokas chanted in Sankrit are something else altogether. But this bhajan was hilarious. Amar Chitra Kathas still exist. My kids have a huge collection.If you speak in your mother tongue, the kids pick up. But the problem is teaching them to read. I tried to teach both my kids Bengali and so far have not succeeded.

SJ, Upanayanam has lost its significance. All the men who I know had the ceremony, (including my brother) do not wear the thread.And neither do they follow anything associated with it.
Hope Jai and Veeru do not end up marrying the same white woman.

Meira, My kids here also attend the class. Infact it is held in my house every Saturday. My younger one loves it, the older one would not admit in public she likes it too.

Sujata, how can I forget lipstick mami and her kids. They were the best part of the wedding.

Pradipda, the Upanayan ceremony has lost its original meaning.People now do it just to show off the Brahminical heritage. They also do not follow all the rituals religiously.

Rajesh, thanks. The grandma is still in shock.

Nona, most people who have left India, still carry with them the old images. They have a hard time reconciling to the fact that India is no longer the same. Aparna the thinker is contemplating on the plight of pardesis these days and her views on them is changing a bit.

Faisal, thanks.

Ani-aset, thanks for diplomatically telling me my last post was better. Even I think so. I also had a lot of material to write on.

Choco, a lot of kids who stay in America attend these Balvihar classes. They learn prayers and shlokas and also learn about Indian history.
The bhajan I wrote is also true.

Sharmila said...

Aparna .. I read your posts and start laughing so much that I have to return later ... read saner ... to write on them. :-)
I don't have kids ... so am not worried too much about the next gen. But this much I know that it all depends on the parents .. else most finish off their prayers with a single line "bidya dao,buddhi dao, shokti dao". :-)
Shloka in english sounds earnest and hilarious ... "large bellied ... I bow to thee ..." LOL

Smita said...

May be there is a guilt feeling in them or may be they think that the country is as they had left it. May be this is the way for them to say that 'they care' but..is this the real way??? Who knows!!!!

But yes translating bhajan's into English in the name of religion and faith is something which is not acceptable to me :-(

Nice post!!! Loved the narrative

Sakshi said...

You know what somehow I think you gave me a future glimpse of myself...na na I don't put rolling r's and l's like Jai Veerus mommy. I am now really worried abt my obsession to make my son learn all things Indian. I must say am rather desperate when I see him answer back in English when I ask him something in Hindi. Mentally I have been making all the plans for what and where he should be going to learn Indian culture, like the shloka class etc. I even suggested lovingly to my husband that we should do his Upnayna to which the husband said when I have not done it why should he do it?? Well to cut the long rant short am worried in all this circus I might end up being the clown :(

PS: SJ has scared me enough by telling that she is sure my son will bring a white girl friend home one day and then I might have to change my entire wardrobe to match her *shudders*

SJ said...

Ok, Aparna ur next post has to be on lipstick mami puleaaasseeeeeeee....

And Sakshi's son will definitely bring home a Paris Hilton "Its baehind the tree. Stoopid. No I wanna sing. Hey Sj can we make cuupcaakes?"

This is how he talks!! And poor sakshi is like gaon amma goes "Saman, nehi! Beto yahan. Yeh mathkaro.Wh math karo.

Achcha bola tum Indian ho ya American?"

"I am Ameerikaan" comes back the reply!!
It is SO funny!

~PakKaramu~ said...

Pak Karamu reading your blog

Neha said...

damn hilarious gal...can't stop laughing...loved the english translation of the shlokas...dame good...keep it up...

but i will be very honest here...i liked ur previous post better...the desi khana one..:)

NR said...

Lol never heard bhajans in english!!

Well i too m from kolkata n people here are very close to their culture n rituals, n if these guys sing like this their guest for sure wont like it!!

Its great to know that Anand wants his son to follow his culture n tradition and is serious about it. Upanayanam is a sacred ceremony and important. Seems they are Brahman as the ceremony is performed on boys who are at least 8 yrs.

Was a nice post as always...great, keep going Aparna:)!!

Childhood Journeys said...

I really dont know about Bhajan in english. But yes kids here in US, do go to sunday school in temple and gurudwara to learn the language, about the religion, bhajans etc.

I liked the fact that you mentioned you were thinking instead ridiculing because most people do the latter. But you have to understand when your kids grow up in a foreign land, you have to work harder to keep them acquainted to your culture and language. I also agree what Suman mentioned, if I want my kids to speak in my mother tongue, I should be the one having the dialogue in bengali instead of english first. Sending them to bengali language class should not be the preferred way.

Finally, many people these days move to a foreign land, but they belong to their roots and cultivate their culture as much as people staying in India. And I think that is how it should be, right ?

के सी said...

अपर्णा जी
आपका स्किट मैंने पढ़ा था और बहुत आनंद इसलिए नहीं उठा पाया कि ज़िन्दगी कई बार अवांछित और असामयिक हादसों से सामना करवा देती है, अभी उसको फिर से देखा बड़ा मजा आया आपका ये उर्वर लेखन कभी नहीं मुरझायेगा. इस बार का काम भी कहीं से कम नहीं है सामाजिक रिवाजों कि भी गहरी पैठ है, मजा आ रहा है लिखते रहिये

Shankar.Nash said...

Tats true Aparna... there are many NRIs (personally known) who still follow all these rituals rigorously .. where as it is we people in India, who discard them. Probably, they got to know their values only on reaching the foreign land.

Anyway, i have started to like that family who is torn apart between the Western and native culture. At the beginning of the first post, i got an impression that this family is going to be yet another 'HI-FI', finicky family.. but, on completing this second post.. i could feel a sense of friendlyness towards them...

well laid out post.. still expecting for more

Swatantra said...

Nice post!! Why we need to send out for learning our own culture!!

I liked your thinking mind.. very well written!!

Sandhya said...

Nice one, Aparna. Your narration of a small incident is interesting.

My family is settled down in Chennai but my sister lived in Shimoga, Chikmagalur etc. Wherever she went she was closer with Tamil friends than the locals. When she came back to Chennai, she did not come closer to any friend! When we leave our own people and culture, unknowingly, we start craving for them. When it is in front of our eyes, it does not seem important.

Some of my relative's children also sing Sanskrit and translated english shlokas. Sanskrit with a HEAVY accent!

I agree with you, totally, Aparna...you definitely, are, a 'thinker'! I am not kidding!

JD said...

Kids saying their prayers in english is a novel concept but why not??!!

In india we did start hindi prayers instead of sanskrit for better understanding. As long as culture is made to flow in the veins of the next generation, it's fine.

Supriya Dutta said...

uiiiiiii...i'm late...yes drama mode is good..but ... first/last was more interesting!!! :P :)

Aparna said...

Sharmila, believe me the bhajan was too funny. and that American accent was a killer. And I was wondering, whatever happened to Rupam dehi, gunam dehi...stuff.

Smita, they seriously want their kids to grow up with indian values, but i am not sure whether this is the right way. The english bhajan was so hilarious that I did not feel any bhakti at all. Maybe the parents thought it was better than not knowing any bhajan.

Sakshi, leave the kid alone. Just do your own stuff and he will learn watching you. A child growing up in America will learn to be like one, you can not do anything. The more the parents try the more confused they become. I am waiting to see your son's white girlfriend.

SJ, lipstick mami's tales can not be described in words. You had to see her to believe her. She came to the wedding from, where else but the swargalok and had all of us in splits. She kept her lipstick tucked inside her blouse and every 15 minutes or so would take it out to re-apply. And her son sang ' su-raj hua mad-ham chand (rhyming with and) dal-ney lag-aa' in an american accent.

Apanatva said...

very good post.Thanks for visiting my blog.

Aparna said...

Thanks Neha, I know the previous post was better. I also had a lot more to write on. This time also I tried to add more stuff but the post was becoming too long. I appreciate your candid remark.

Thanks Nazish. I just hope Anand succeeds in teaching his children the right values...Indian or America.

A Childhood Journey, I appreciate your candid and honest comments. Believe me, theres nothing wrong in promoting Indian culture,but most of the kids end up being confused, a bit like na ghar ka na ghaat ka. That is what people ridicule. I have many cousins and friends in USA. I sincerely feel that Indian parents should teach the children to be grounded human beings, with good values. Many a times they go overboard trying to instill in them the love for anything that is Indian.That creates a lot of confusion in their mind. Because what they see outside and what their parents teach are 2 totally different things. Language is a different issue. After all aren't our kids growing up learning English?

Kishoreji, bahut, bahut dhanyavad.

Thanks Shankar, it is only for you I wrote this one. I had planned to do only one otherwise.Glad you liked it.

Swatantra, thanks a lot. People out there have no option but to send their kids to temples or other places of worship to teach their kids about Indian values.

Sandhya, it is only when we are abroad we start craving for our homeland...it is very natural. Thanks for your appreciation.

JD, yes it is true...as long as we know the story, how does it matter in which language we heard it? But the english bhajan was too funny though.

Priya, I know, I know, the previous one was much better. Everybody's been telling me that. Ki korbo, aar kichu maathate ashchilo na.

Apnatva, thanks a lot.

Shankar.Nash said...

Tnx for taking up my request...

eye-in-sty-in said...

lol.... nice play. but i have low tolerance for high drama. am here to tell u, you have an award @ my blog

Parita said...

my goodness i never knew they teach bhajans in english...was hilarious :)
You are a too good narrator..

Anonymous said...

Its great to know that Indians are still trying to hold on to their culture wherever they are.Cause whatever you do, however you change your accent and however you mingle with the international crowd, you are what you are. If you have noticed, even outsiders respect Indians who maintain their culture rather than imitate someone elses.

Great Post as usual...

Sucharita Sarkar said...

Great post.

And tranlated culture is still better than no culture at all. I also have seen my friends abroad celebrating Indianness with more fervour and enthusiasm tham we do here.

Kavita Saharia said...

Aparna...i enjoyed both the parts a lot...all i want to say is that Desi Indian or Pardesi Indian..both love our country,culture and values a lot...only that because they are directly exposed to western culture they tend be more conscious of parent culture....kyonki DIL HAI HINDUSTANI.
Great writing ...

Insignia said...

This was again a nice read. Though the literal translation of bhajans in English is humorous, I felt that it was any time better than nothing at all. :-)

I have been to a couple of community centers in USA that also doubles up as temples. Indians there take special interest to preserve and learn Indian culture and tradition - even though they have tweaked it to suit them

ZB said...

very rightly said. Interesting post. :)

pradipwritenow said...

You may see Episode 4 and 5 of A trek to unknown in our blogs. Your comments are valuable andinspiring to us.

Anonymous said...

u never fail to bring a smile onto my face...

aMus said...

Thia post and teh previous one was really funny. enjoyed the narration...

i do know that many who live abroad do their bst to keep their culture alive in some form which is commendable. but sometimes i wonder how the kids who are born and brought up abroad would relate to something which exists in their parents' memories.

Mamma mia! Me a mamma? said...

Having been brough up in America for a large part of my childhood years, I get where the parents are coming from. My parents were pretty similar. My mom tried to introduce us to all things Bengali even after our move to India, because we were based in the South. She thought it would help us stay connected to our roots.

The fact that I am parochially proud may be intrinsic, because the bro has gone back to the States. But, at least the two of us know who Swami Vivekananda is, The bro may not wear his poithey any more, but at least he still remembers the shlokas that he had learnt at the time of the ceremony almost 15 years ago.

Now here I am in Kolkata, surrounded by boys and girls who don't know who Swamiji is, who can't recite two lines of Tagore, who haven't experienced the innocent love of an Uttam-Suchitra movie or been wowed by a Satyajit Ray oeuvre. Who's losing out, I wonder?

SG said...

Nice post. I live in
California for a long time. I can very easily tell which Indian origin youngster was born in USA and which one is a recent import from India. When you go to an Indian temple, a girl/lady wearing a salwar kameez/saree is US born Indian origin. The one wearing a shorts and a sleeveless T shirt is recently imported from India. Same goes for guys also.

stringOfPearls said...

Very nice post. Yeah people do try to hang on.
I personally think it is nice. The kids also grow up to do what they want but i see lots of very well adjusted kids here.