Monday, March 8, 2010


Those slightly thick  brass disks hung in village pathshalas (schools)  and sounded with the help of thick wooden sticks or even crude iron rods i suppose was called school ki ghanti (school bell ).These were sounded at the start of the school day , at the end and of course during the day to notify the end of the particular period. Tung ! tung ! tung ! tung ! tung ! tung! tung ! Tong !. The rhythm and the sound of this very typical to be a school sound. Well the same kind is used in many temples called thakurwadi ( home of the Gods) in my native Bihar where these are sounded in a rhythmic mannner tung tung tuung ! tung tung tuung !. So all those present  would be hypnotised by the sound and would immerse themselves in the Aarti  ( Chorus song sung to seek the blessings of the Almighty )  and to those  believers who were unable to attend, the sound would reach out . These also were the blessed ones who could pay their obeisance from where ever they were,  finding comfort and refuge  in the sound heralding the beginning of a new day with blessings of the Lord . Tung tung tuung ! tung tung tuung ! and this was not called ghanti but ghanta (gong).  i wonder then how this word has come to be a slang in hindi meaning NOTHING.

My Tulsi Vandana ( prayer for Holy Basil ) is  halted in middle as it is interrupted by the  familiar sound  interspersed with the sounds of crackers being burst randomly and very irritatingly maybe to the signal of the Om sound of the conch.  This sound is flat and has no rhythm and just goes insipidly tung, tung, tung ,tung . i quickly get back to my prayer to finish the shloka ( prayer in sanskrit ) and the rest and turn to take into account the spectacle offered by this orchestra. i see it and now i offer another prayer.

Along with the lead man who is the ghanta man there is a procession of sorts. Those busy with the crackers moving ahead leaving a  protected and comfortable gap for the rest to follow. The ghanta man is followed by two others on either side of the celebrity,  mercilessly plucking flowers from thick garlands and throwing them onto the street  which the celebrity is passing. Then there are others who dance in mimicry to their popular cine heroes at that sound of the painfully slow tung tung tung tung. No dearth of talent here who can find the beat for dance to this dirge offered by the tung tung. Next comes the celebrity of the occasion all bedecked and completely covered from head to foot with a confusing assortment of fragrant flowers- tuber roses, red roses, ( these are a cross between magenta and red in colour and for want of a proper name i call them red ) jasmine and marigold. Lots of garlands too. The celebrity can't be seen only flowers outlining the body can be seen and finally there are others who walk behind the celebrity talking to themselves about mundane matters. None least bothered about the celebrity instead feeling important themselves for halting the traffic on such a busy road . The road in between the cracker gang and these mundane talkers is covered too now with rose, marigold, tuber roses and some green leaves too probably betel.  A chaotic fragrance of mixture in the air as the smells of flowers and incense and death intermingle. This funeral procession with the hearse was definitely not the reason for my last prayer. The poor soul bedecked in flowers triggered that-"hey Bhagwaan ! Inki Atman ko shanti mile" ( oh God may the soul of the person rest in peace ). Here too the ghanta had to convey a lot to a lot many people those near and those far, including me.

More than this sound i hear something else . Something more disturbing, more irritating and utterly digusting . Is it the same thing what Sudhodhana heard? Maybe yes and maybe not. He heard more than the sound of Ghanta and that made him Bhagwan Buddha. i am getting a cacaphonic sound of celebration of passing over. This definitely is not the sound of Mukti (freedom).  i  feel  so helpless . So devoid of anything but pity for my own self and the rest.

What deludes me is the second series of questioning , a sudden sense of insecurity and a fear of losing my dearest ones as death is inevitable along with a deep sense of remorse for not having done anything for those i lost. Dada ji, Ma... Emotions are getting the better of me now as i say to myself- "Do we give the passed overs their due when they are alive? Do we give them this adulation, this respect when they are flesh and blood between us?" It goes without saying then that apart from taking them for granted, many a times we do even worse.
This jubiliation, this revelry for the one when one has breathed the last, is it any worth? To me now all this looks vulgar and obscene reeking of decadence.
Now i am saying this Ghanta ! passing over  ritual !! huh!!


  1. Very well written. Did put me through some touchy moments especially the last part. Frankly speaking, many of us do not give due respect for the living, some of whom are probably our next of kin. Later on in life regrets do seep in but its pretty late. A very good post Shivani.
    Keep it up!!

  2. You do have a way to put the ‘ghanta’ in perspective in this well written post. Good one Shivani.

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  4. very well written & thought provoking! Nalini

  5. @Hello World first things first...Thanx for reading and sharing the same.It actually helps when u know someone out there feels the same and that someone also is trying to " forgive and forget".But hey better late than never! what do u say?

    @Tandarin... first,thanks for encouraging me but really i get quizzed at these twisted connotations and can't tell you how pained i was to stop a kid from using the word 'Gay' in his essay when my co-ordinator (at school) asked me to replace that word from his essay when i submitted this one from my class for the school mag.

  6. @Nalini...thanks deary for considering it to be a read and feeling happy that u second my feelings on the issue.