Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Final Day of Ganesha Chaturthi - Part Two

I don’t know which of the suggestions expressed in Prakash’s list regarding what not to do and how not to act escaped the  ignorance of my family, who, ironically, seemed to live for nothing else but the celebration of Lord Ganesh’s journey home as he took our misfortunes with him across the water, granting a successful year ahead. Prakash gave up a long time ago trying to bring our family’s statue of the god in line with the proper discipline of spirituality. The science of it was always embarrassingly off, ensuring an empty sacrifice. After years of unheeded counsel, he has been reduced to giving it the cursory blessing and smear of red sandalwood paint – an ornamental gesture, but not before giving me some personal words of spiritual encouragement, knowing that in this house of reckless worship, there was at least one person who cared. I couldn’t bear to be in the house two years ago, when my brother-in-law, Ashok, who has always crafted our family’s statue, fashioned the Lord Ganesh as dressed in his favorite football team’s jersey with both hands raised in victory, as if Ganesh would give special consideration to the movements of a 12-inch sphere of latex that accomplished nothing. There were too many evenings wasted in argument about the lack of respect and the danger of improper construction of the idol between Ashok and I. He would inevitably reply: “If you care so much, Razak, you should make it yourself,” knowing that I was gone from home often and had no artistic ability. Ashok was the one who controlled our statue and it reflected whatever whim struck him that year as I labored in a archaeological pit somewhere or was holed up in a laboratory. To my dismay, his team did win the cup that year, giving credence to his devotional artistic liberties and fueling the apathy of my family toward the correct way of channeling harmful yama frequencies.
My small white pick-up truck crept through the massive crowd as I headed toward home. It had been a long thoughtful ride back from the dig.  I had needed to secure the contents of the bags in the back before I left the team. I was the only one who knew the true meaning of their contents and my answers would need to be extracted from the Brahmin. My team was more concerned with the architecture of the temple and the nearby battle-site, giving me exclusive access to the throne room.  At Kanyakumari, we had made a crucial discovery that I had to deliver from the site, even though I knew that everyone at home would resent my missing a majority of Ganesha Chaturthi and that I had the family’s only pick-up truck large enough able to carry the Lord Ganesha to the river side. The size of our statue was, of course, another malpractice, and was typical. Ashok had made the statue far too large out of some sense of false power that was completely contrary to Prakash’s direction to make the Lord Ganesh of a modest size in order for him to be immersed properly, instead of clumsily dropped into the ocean.
I found myself in another mental projection: one half-second after I strike with my pick up truck with maximum velocity a statue perfectly formed and scientifically accurate, small molecules of clay and Plaster of Paris violently taking every possible trajectory away from the moment of impact caused by me in a blaze of destruction, just as the first few micro-seconds after the Big Bang saw the universe on a path through every possibility in the blaze of creation.
Through the streets, worshippers gathered around large white canvas bags full of the traditional coconuts, used in a devotional breaking ritual. They were identical to the ones that were in the back of my truck. The incessant crunch of broken shells under my tires signaled my lateness to the festival, increasing my anxiety as I knew my family would be irritated at having to leave for the ocean so close to evening.
Pulling close to the garage next to our house, I could see the Lord Ganesh on a platform in full display, waiting to be driven to the water’s edge and cast in. Milling around the main house and the garage, there were brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins of all stripes, and relations of questionable association. Cheers accompanied by applause tinged with sarcasm broke out as I drove up to the happy throng. I put the truck into reverse to back under the scaffolding that held the Lord Ganesh.  Ashok stood out amongst the celebrators, coconut in hand. He didn’t wait for the truck to come to a full stop before yelling into the windshield. Of course, Ashok was not concerned about any disregard for the holiness of the day, but my lack of concern for his own personal convenience From inside the house, the television was at full volume showing coverage of celebrations around the country. My family had the odd habit of incorporating the celebrations of strangers on television into their own. I had always felt it crass. Whatever tirade Ashok was shouting through my window had burned itself out by the time I opened the door. He fixed me with a evil look and handed me a coconut. Traditionally, I was supposed to pray to transfer my karma into it, and then smash it on the ground to release the offering, which would allow the Lord Ganesh to take it away to his home across the water, thus ensuring good karma for the rest of the year. I tossed the coconut in through the driver’s side window, where it lay unbroken.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Final Day of Ganesha Chaturthi - Part One

             All eyes were drawn towards twenty-three black speaker cabinets of various shapes and sizes, stacked to form an uneasy monolith at the north end of  the intersection. It boomed with one of the radio’s top songs, that despite its ubiquitous presence and universal appeal, had no relationship to the nature of that day - one of the holiest of days in the worship of our gods.
 Casting a long vibrating shadow across a dancing mob that gathered at its feet, the stack was a god in its own way, having a hundred vinyl mouths singing in cheerful disregard of the holiday. The matte blackness of the wall of woofers, horns, and tweeters was adorned, draped, and bound with coarse rope that united the collection into a awkward mass of audio technology. Nuance was only an obstacle to this one-dimensional wall of noise, designed to bring music to the crowd in its bluntest form. Dancers in yellow trimmed with purple and drummers of every order ignored the uncomplicated shape of the music they were adding to with their singing and their drumming as they were caught in the rapture of the day to the point that, even though one could see the fifteen-foot tall edifice sway with the slightest breeze, the crowd was entirely too propelled in its own ecstasy to show fear toward their unpredictable master.
In a white mud-encrusted pickup truck, I came in from a street that was identical to the seven other streets that fed the intersection that would be the last turn before I reached home
 Every year prior to this one, this stack had always bothered me - an incredible amount of work and attention for something so inadequate. The sloppy creation appeared annually on this day, always in a slightly different form, distracting everyone from the instructions of the Brahmins on how to celebrate our sacred festival. I had always taken these sacred warnings to heart. But, a year ago from this day was the last time I cared about the tower of sound that sat at the end of my street. It was now as real a god as any.
A dancing man dressed in a collarless white shirt and black linen pants jumped ahead of my truck, hands together above his head, fingers pointing to the sky, swaying in time to the music as he walked towards my truck. He was my neighbor and a friend of the family. He came to my window and talked as I crept through the crowd.
“Razak, I do not envy you today. I’ve heard your brother-in-law shouting your name in anger all week. He has been asking all around to borrow another truck in case you did not return.”
“I know, I know. I’m rushing to get home. I had too much business to take care of. I am ashamed to be so late.”
“Hmmm. Business before worship? So, unlike you, Razak. You have spent all of your minutes this holiday.” He nodded his head in goodbye and wove away, disappearing back into the throbbing mob.
I  missed almost all of the ten-day holiday of Ganesha Chaturthi. My work as an archaeologist took me deeper into the jungles of the rarely-explored Kanyakumari, which was where we had uncovered an especially ancient temple – one older than any I had ever seen or heard of.  I had to make it back home for a least this last day, which was called Ananti - a day that Prakash Pritani, the Brahmin, had always taught was supposed to be a day of moderate respectful worship, not one of manic pleasure seeking. The Lord Ganesh required that we follow the science of our faith in our actions and in the way we construct our objects - a science that requires deeply controlled concentration and observation -an attitude I could appreciate, for it was identical to the procedures we had instituted at the laboratory in our tests. Distractions lead to a false outcome both in the lab and on Ananti, if the conditions are not set up perfectly.
I knew that I would encounter the Brahmin tonight. He would find me and give me the spiritual guidance that my mother and father would consistently fail to provide as they poured so much effort into their religious celebrations. They were devout people in their own way, but they couldn’t answer most questions regarding our faith and they never really bothered to ask them either. As I turned the corner, the white bags that were the payload of my small pickup truck shifted. I envisioned the moment that I would upend their contents in front of the Brahmin. My face automatically adopted the accusatory expression in resonance to the mental projection of myself as I demanded answers to the questions that fueled our worship and that the Brahmin presumed to answer. 

Thursday, October 14, 2010

I Can Drink as Many Glasses of Water as You Can Bring.

A Hiatus has come down the pike for Man is Men due to a new term of school starting and the preparation for the presentation of an original piece of fiction from Man is Men at a conference for school, which shall be posted here in the coming weeks.

I will say that school is very fine for learning but I must agree with Sarah from the very creative blog The Wolf of Insignificance, when she comments on The Hand is Divided into Fingers

"I prefer the salon model - an evening with friends, drinks, and just a dash of drama."

There is something strong about the salon model that goes back through the history of creativity. One particular example that comes to mind is the Vienna cafe movement. The Viennese cafes were a phenomenon that are at the root of that, which we we would off-handedly call a coffeeshop. However, the Viennese cafes were the centers of creative action that served as a vortex of musicians, artists, writers, and intellectuals. For many like-minded thinkers, the interchange between those who sought to progress in their particular art served as its own education. Up-to-date, relevant, and without a preset program of instruction, one could learn things at a Viennese cafe that could never be learned at a school. 

The attitude of the proprietors is key here as well as there was no expectation of purchase if one wanted to just sit and read the newspaper in the morning or plumb the depths into the night. A glass of water would cheerfully be topped off into infinity if that was your wish.

Unfortunately, the  movement was largely Jewish and came to an abrupt end, when Nazi Germany decided that it would like to have Austria in 1938, leaving Hitler to drink by himself at the Cafe Sperl, probably not arguing with anybody.

(An Aside.)

Through many burns and false paths, I have built the hypnagogic mind machine. However, the microchip PIC16LF628A is eluding me. It apparently comes in many forms and the form I have will not marry to the socket I have provided for it. So, there will be a further delay until the right chip is found.