Digital Saraswati Puja

RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE

Image by Anke Sundermeier from Pixabay

For some inexplicable reasons, elders used to insist one should not read on Saraswati Puja day. The textbooks or notes were to be given a miss. Happily, this is one of the few rare injunctions the young ones welcomed gleefully and obeyed ungrudgingly. Nevertheless, even if they wanted to, which was unlikely, they could not, since the study materials would be piled up in the puja room for worship, along with the family Bhagavad Gita, dog-eared prayer books, shruti box, harmonium, violin, guitar (if budding musicians were in the family), cookery books, geometry boxes, pens, pencils, and income-expenditure memoranda. Not to be outdone, one starry-eyed toddler would bring a colouring book, crayons, the slate and the chalk.

Those were the times when one learnt the alphabets by writing with the index finger on mud spread on the floor, the tip of the tongue jutting out of the corner of the mouth due to focused effort. Palm leaves and stylus replaced them before ink wells or fountain pens took over. Understandably, they all (except the mud) became the objects of worship.

There is no end to the process of learning. No finish. The more one learns, the more one will realise his deplorable ignorance of the subject he just learnt. Even goddess Saraswati, heading the learning portfolio among the gods in the Hindu pantheon, is portrayed with a bunch of palm leaves in her left palm, denoting even she, without exception, is in the continuous, unending process of learning.

When the concept of family planning was in its infancy, families seamlessly joined had a number of youngsters, big enough to form a cricket team, with a twelfth man and reserves. They vied with each other in handing over their books and notebooks to be included in the pile. Such a collection would look like a molehill.

However, the backpacks of the students seem to have reached the zenith and are happily tapering off to a downward trend. Before long, there may not be stout textbooks, bulky five-subjects notebooks and such; the gamut racing towards a paperless mode, that would make the trees breathe happily. In consequence, the wooden plank in the puja room on Saraswati puja day would have kindle, tablet, I-pad, pen drive, Android, and Alexa — the gadget that obeys your verbal commands, to name a few.

Nevertheless, a bit of Indianness will always be clinging as hoary convention, like breaking a coconut when launching a satellite, or a submarine. And the traditional offering during Navaratri celebrations culminating in Saraswati Puja may be humorously called e-sundal!

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