Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Idle Worship, Or The Non-Resident's Role Play

A recent opinion piece by Ramachandra Guha in Outlook magazine about NRI's makes for very interesting reading. I certainly agree with him on many counts. Titled "Idle Worship, Or The Non-Resident's Role Play," he says "Come winter, and Indians will genuflect before the visiting hordes of NRIs"

Here is how the piece begins --

"A new festival has been added to the Indian ritual calendar. Like Dussehra and Diwali, it is a winter festival, but unlike them the gods it honours are living beings, who appear before us in flesh and blood instead of being frozen into stone. This relatively new addition to our lives is called NRI puja. It takes place in December, a time when thousands of Non-Resident Indians briefly become Resident Non-Indians.

As a middle-class, English-speaking South Indian, I am always part of these festivities myself. For half my family serve as deities; the other half as worshippers.

Among visiting gods, Salman the creator, Amartya the preserver and Sir Vidia the destroyer are most prominent.
Whether I like it or not, I am placed by default in the second class. Fortunately, whatever personal apprehensions I have about participating in this annual puja are overcome by the force of professional obligation. As an Indian who chose to live in India, I might affect scorn for the migrants, but as a social scientist I must take cognisance of a phenonemon whose social significance grows with every passing year.

The first thing to note about this puja is that it has space only for a certain kind of NRI. Those who live with Arabs in the Gulf or with Fijians in the South Pacific do not qualify; still less those who have made their home with humans of African descent in the Caribbean. To be worthy of worship, an NRI must live with people whose skin pigmentation is, in the Tamil phrase, paal maadri, literally, the colour of milk."

Read the full article at --

No comments: