Wit Happens

Wit Happens…more often than the ever popular corollary – Shit Happens!

We live in an age devastated by life’s burdens. Today’s television news is more morbid than Ram Gopal Varma’s remake of Sholay. Disillusionment, corruption, and pollution are part of the package deal of choosing to live in India. Whether you like it or not, it comes free with the insane amount of money you spend on real estate in this so called Utopia. Just like the perks of a Club Mahindra holiday. Just like a Club Mahindra Holiday. <Why unnecessarily ridicule CM?>But we Parsees have a scientific way of dealing with the mess around us and sometimes even within. We pray.

A great deal of logistics is involved in determining the way we worship the big guy in the sky. For domestic harmony we will light a divo in the house. If things are going well, it’s half water and half oil. On the day of the occasional tiff we will skip the water and fill the whole glass with pure oil. If it’s a daily scuffle we will light divos in multiples of three till we reach 21 or whatever might be permissible in the family budget – whichever comes first. For school examinations I used to make a quick dash around the corner at the Rustom Faram Agyari. Barring once, Khodaiji delivered each and every time. For job promotions or interviews the momentum shifts to the Atash Behrams; dividends being directly proportionate to the time taken to get there in Bombay’s traffic. And finally for mammoth gambles like migration to a foreign land or marriage; the only option left is Udwada. 

 

I was there recently for one of the two aforementioned reasons. Udwada is a quaint, ancient town; a pleasant three hour drive from Bombay. That’s only if you leave before sunrise- after that it’s neither pleasant nor does it take 3 hours. Nevertheless you are content to escape the concrete jungle and land yourself in the midst of rustic beauty. We checked into ‘Globe – the hotel.’ We Parsees are truly magnanimous in our thinking. Established in 1926, with just 4 rooms this was still called ‘The Globe’ at that time. Now with 10 A/C and 13 Non-A/C rooms with modern facilities like 24 hours hot/cold running water, no power cuts, homely atmosphere, and much more; it truly is the Globe. The resort once adjacent to it and just as equipped was not surprisingly s     glycalled ‘Paradise’.

I had my second bath of the day and slipped into my whites. I then bought sandal wood from an elderly gentleman with fading vision trusting the change I had rendered because he couldn’t count it. The road outside the robust temple is lined by galactic mansions with high ceilings, sloped roofs, ornamental skirting and double otlas. Their inhabitants are seen selling modest worship-oriented paraphernalia. An occasional village urchin will come running to you with a packet of homemade papads, which one buys only because of the cheerful face of the laboring child selling it.

The temple façade was renovated sometime ago with the tenets of our religion – good thoughts, good words and good deeds inscribed onto its walls. I went there with an intention to pray but simply couldn’t wipe the face off my smile. The fraternity outside the temple was hilarious, but inside it, was where the real wit happened! All the world’s a stage and the community walks onto it in style, even if it has to do so, with a hunch.

Every Parsee has a tale. Every Parsee has a tail. As I tied mine, I saw, eighty-year-old Nadarshah check his iPhone thrice, ensuring that the stock market was soaring whilst securing the holy thread around his waist. Facing east was the old fashioned Dinshawji, who kept his hand-held radio flushed to his hearing aid, tracking the progress of the 2ndODI India-Pakistan cricket match. (India lost that one) Kaswaji prepared himself and 3 others standing behind him for the Kusti as he rinsed his hairy hands, most vigorously. Young couples sauntered in synchronously dressed, fresh from a wedding or an anniversary, hoping that God would dexterously handle the dangers that prevailed.

I climbed up the stairs and walked by the baroque frames of handsome baronets and sethias while elderly ladies dressed in their elegant garas left opaque impressions of their devotion upon them. I paid my respects to the dastoorjis sitting on grand easy chairs dressed in their crisp jama-pichori and watched them perform their daily neck exercises as pretty young things paraded in and out of the main hall.

The prayer hall was sizable, with beautiful Iranian carpets adorning the floor and a noble fire at its centre. The soot of the flame created beautiful patterns on its tall white ceilings. Due to a maintenance problem they now just paint the top dark brown. I spotted Jalamai in a corner, as I entered. White sari, white stockings, and white hair. One golden tooth. Fervently praying on her bent arthritic knee with her head nodding in Parkinsonian motion. Her lips smacked, her fingers snapped and her eyes twitched. She was an encyclopedia on movement disorders. Some like Jalamai were zealous devotees, while others tenderly swayed from one replaced hip to another appearing to croon their rendition of “We are the world.”

 

Every position described in Iyenger’s book on yoga was demonstrated without any prior training. There was a middle aged lady with a floral scarf around her head seated on Persian tapestry with her back against the wall praying as if she were Pavarotti. God helped us face the music even when we didn’t like the tune. She continued her devotion but because of her obesity, the angle her waist made with the wall slowly became more obtuse until she was horizontal. Faith without work is like an automobile without gas and in an attempt to lift herself from the position she was in, she let off some of her own. In God’s home, even sounds could be smelt. I stood there content and happy to be a part of this wonderful race, awaiting my turn to de-contaminate my soul with an ounce of Rakhyia while a few others next to me chose to deodorize themselves with it.

As I sauntered out of the temple I waved to the elderly folk sitting on their large teak swings in Spartan verandahs waiting for time to pass as cool zephyrs from the Arabian Sea blew through their graying hair.

I firmly believe that there is no suffering that a little bit of humour can’t alleviate. When I mention this to my more accomplished brother who practices medicine in the United States; he asks if my cracking a joke would save a dying patient. I retort ‘May be not’, but when I tell them: “If your time has not come, even your doctor can’t kill you,” wit happens!

Happy Navroze everyone!