The Auto Ride

(Picture: Not mine. I kicked myself for not carrying my camera with me today but it was not a situation where I could pull it out and start clicking snaps. Found this picture online that is almost identical to the sight I saw today)

Did a fun thing on my way back from work today. Took an auto home as I left office a little early and got stuck in a jam near Kawadiguda. There were a group of some 50-60 people walking in a procession. There were men dressed as women carrying pots with cooked rice in them dancing to drum beats. This is a regular ritualistic procession in the region and we see these very regularly here. As the auto got closer and moved painfully slowly from in between the crowd, I got to see the people closely. The ones carrying the pot had fresh piercings -- the scary looking ones, and were dancing as if they were in trace. I have always been irresistibly drawn towards rituals and this one was just too close to the auto to ignore.

After thinking for 5 seconds, I paid the auto guy his fare and joined the procession. I wished I wore Indian clothes instead of jeans today--I stood out in the crowd when I wanted to blend. Though I got some lewd comments from some men, mostly everyone was nice to me. I stuck a conversation with a few ladies and they had an interesting story to tell. But before they got to it, they smeared all of my forehead with turmeric paste and a big red vermilion dot--that was sweet, but a little embarrassing. I was with them for about 1/2 an hour and before I started home, I had to buy two bottles of water to wash the color off so I don't freak my family out.

It seems the family deity came in the dream of one of the guys who was dancing, and ordered him to take a procession. She also ordered a sacrifice of a goat to drive away the evil that was plaguing the family. She threatened to take human lives if this was not done. Today being an auspicious day, they decided to conduct this ritual. The men dressed in saris were in deep trance probably induced by alcohol and hallucinogens. The drum beat was mesmerizing and must have added to the effect for them. All through, I could not help but notice the beauty of innocence of these people, I wondered who must be behind making these people do all this, and for what?

These kind of experiences always leave me confused. On one hand I feel rituals are the strongest link to the culture that is passed from one generation to the other and it gives me great joy to see these being preserved, practiced and passed on. On the other hand, I wish these people were educated, not be superstitious and not be so vulnerable to manipulation in the name of religion.

On a very selfish level, I got to experience the beautiful ritual, interact with some amazing people and store it all away as a rich colorful memory in my mind. Glad I took the auto today!

End note: Don't try this if you are a girl and are alone. It's not very safe. Though I throughly enjoyed my impulsive madness, I was quite uneasy at times. Will surely not do it again. Oh and don't let your family know, I am not telling mine. My parents and Ranjit gave up on me but my mother-in-law still believes that I am repairable.