The religious rookie

Yet another year of celebrating Diwali alone.
Hearing about the festivities back home I can’t help but feel forlorn.
Remembering the softly glowing lamps and fireworks dotting the night sky.
Feeling very feminine in our traditional clothes, I wonder why.
Boxes of calorie-laden sweets laid along with my favourite savouries.
Rooting for friends trying their luck at card parties.


At dusk we used to gather for the Laxmi Puja as silence fell.
The money on the plate was for us, we could tell.
I’d help my father arrange the offerings of fruits and holy water.
The nip in the air heralding winter as the days got shorter.

Now in my apartment in Hong Kong feeling absurd and solitary.
Banishing all thoughts of being a little phoney.
I decided to venture into this uncharted territory.
Starting with an abridged version of praying to the goddess of wealth.
Not because I don’t need to pray for wealth, god-knows it’s quite the contrary.

I don’t go to temples. I don’t fast.
If there was a competition for devout, pious girls, I’d come last.
Keen on trying, yet, embarrassed of failing.
I told myself it would be smooth sailing.
The only one judging would be the lord himself,
So even if others accuse me of not being very traditional.
His love is thankfully unconditional.


Dressed in my new Salwar Kameez I stood in front of my temple.
Nothing grand but a simple shelf of an IKEA cupboard.
I stood there in silence wondering what’s next?
No chants, verses that can roll off my lips.
I wondered if I should ring my mother for tips.

The self-recrimination! Stop worrying I wanted to shout.
Seeming inadequate and shallow, I urged myself to just pray.
The way I usually do. Have a conversation.
Pour your heart out. All the fears and the doubts.

But then this was no ordinary day, it was Diwali.
I was advised to search Youtube for artis.
That seems fake. It’s not a performance but a prayer.Don’t you agree?
So I lit some incense sticks which filled my apartment with their assuring scents.
Jasmine and Cinnamon, these were money well spent.
Sadly I can’t read Sanskrit and can’t carry a tune if my life depended on it.
I closed my eyes for the task and urged my mind to commit.

Om Jai Jagdish I started feebly, but at least I was trying.
The words flowing, like muscle memory, somewhat shakily I started to sing.
Maybe not in the correct order.
But miraculously one word followed the other.

My hands circling the small idols and some gold jewelry, my only treasure.
I could feel the Gods smiling. I had made the effort even if it was half-measure.
When I finished I could feel a presence and a sense of wonder.
I opened my eyes with a sense of disbelief to what had just transpired.
I felt calm, at peace and inspired.

We don’t need faith that binds us but blinds us.
To an extent that we forget to love, help and heal.
We lay too much importance on traditions and customs.
Instead let’s try to make someone smile and provide a meal.

Majority or minority. Sectarian conflicts. The constant strife.
Rioting over land to build a mosque or a temple.
Don’t all religions teach us to respect and be gentle?
God, in my expatriate experience, can have a space-saving shelf life.

Let’s keep it simple. To right the wrong.
End the evil in us and try something new.
Believe. Be good. Be true .


9 thoughts on “The religious rookie

  1. So inspiring and as always elegantly expressed. Rashmi, you are such a treasure and the words you use so eloquently to express these complex emotions, makes me feel blessed to have a friend like you. Love always.


    • Thank you so much Suranjana. I read about your experience in Dalhousie and knew you’d understand. Being alone in times like these makes the experience and memory, more special and richer. I’m so glad you enjoyed it.


  2. Suranjana has beaten me to it. Just the right comments. Its not everybody who can express thoughts your way. Could be that Ranjan and suRANJANA think alike
    I often wonder whether one really should pray to the goddess of wealth and ask for more. Just a normal sincere prayer is enough for it to flow in. Just enough to be happy.The problem is we don’t seem to be satisfied with what we get, we want more and there s no end to it. Just good health, joy and happiness is worth much more than the wads of notes and tons of gold that most of us consider is wealth.


  3. Hmmm.. Perhaps you wrote this earlier in the evening, cos you are Blessed that your home was full of laughter & music after a solitary moment with God.. OR we weren’t good enough company! ;))

    I know some who were in a much worse state than that. & anyway, you’re the kind of girl that would ensure you, & everyone around you truly enjoys any special occasion, somehow!

    Your writing was so real, anyone who’s ever spent a Diwali/festival alone can easily identify & emphasize! You make even the mundane details seem exciting! Looking forward to many more! xx


    • Heyyy! What a pleasant surprise! Haha yes I did go through it alone around 5.30-6pm before all you wonderful people trooped in. Thank you so much for the lovely words. It’s my personal mission to ensure that you don’t miss your friends and family in Singapore all that much 😉


  4. Religious festivals brings these feelings in all of us… Which are so beautifully expressed by u. Every Sunday I feel the call of duty to go to church as my parents taught me.. But then I think that I should do what I feel comfortable and most at peace with. And that is having a personal conversation with my God, to thank Him and to guide me. And whether I remember the prayers or forget their order, I don’t worry, for as u put it, being a kind, gentle, giving and loving human being is all that God wants us to be.
    Love how U write darling… U put down everything we all feel so heart touchingly well.


    • Thank you Nandu! Yes, I think it’s finding that balance between being freed from customs and yet, somehow, keeping a little bit of it alive. So that Kavya and Antara can celebrate Christmas and Diwali in their own unique but special way 🙂


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