When I was a kid, village festivals and annual household rituals were great sources of excitement for me and other children of my age. We would dress up in our possible best whenever there is community Tsechus. We would go early in the morning and returned late at night. We loved to watch Atsara teasing village damsels with wooden phallus while girls giggled and played coy. I often wished I was that clown so that I could crack vulgar jokes with those beautiful damsels. In the same way, boys of my age never missed annual household Lhasel or household deity propitiation which usually started in the evening. Boys of our age especially teenagers would be coerced to shout vulgar cants and do vulgar acts as required by those village priests according to their religious texts. We would happily shout vulgar things like, ‘the hostess has deep holed female part and head priest has long male part.’ We would also cover ourselves with blankets or cloths and perform dances and do coitus play as village priests cited religious scriptures often with by clashing of cymbals by choirmaster, beatings of small drum and clanking of hand bells by head priest, beating of drum by drummer, singing of oboe and blowing of trumpets by other priests as dictated by choirmaster’s cymbals. Our favorite part was, however, watching an old man, usually played by extrovert elder, scolding and torturing grandmother Torma( ritual cake built as grandmother) for failing to be faithful and take care of grandfather. We would laugh as old man made witty comment defaming his so-called wife. Then we would help grandfather in taking ritualistic cake out of house with all required rations like wine, food and edibles. As I remember, we rushed to help grandpa mainly to eat those foods once outside the threshold of door as food used to be at least partly rice while our daily staple food was kharang or grinded maize at that time. When grandfather re-entered house, he would bring huge phallus back as his orphaned son. If he couldn’t find one, long rounded pestle (symbolizing male private part) used for powdering chili would serve the purposes. Then he would ask for names starting from head priest followed by other priests and then from guests depending time break taken by priests before starting fresh ritualistic performances. Priest would usually give names like Phallus PemaLingpa, DrukpaKinley’s bastard, Fuck Helper etc. along with token charity to orphan phallus. All names would be associated with erotic symbols. These were done to ward of evils from household for a year. Till annual ritual came to an end, unabashed shout like ‘oh hostess, give me sex. If you can’t give, at least give us good wine’ used to reverberate the house.Apart from close family, even distant cousins of hosts were expected to make some loud vulgar shouts. At the end of the ritual, village damsels would lead others to dance. Such merrymaking would last till cock crow or dawn depending on availability of singers or audience. At the dances end, priests would award some money as prize and chant some good luck mantra. The final song would be always song invoking good fortune for the hostess. Today, all these seemed to me like a dream so surreal and childish.
Now I am somewhat educated and am living in town with my family. The sound of rimdro or household tshecu really irritates me especially when it performed in neighborhood after nightfall. It disturbed my child’s bedtime schedule. It disturbed my sleep as I have wake up early for next day’s work. Sometimes, I want to kick the door of those neighbors or household that disturbed my night. I want to shout all obscenities and allegations for disturbing me and my child with their nonsensical belief. When I say this, I don’t mean I am not Buddhist. I am still a Buddhist. I chant six-syllable prayer sometimes. I go to propitiate my child’s birth deity. I got to sacred temples on sacred days or before I do important works. I receive blessings from important lams and re-incarnated monks. I refrain from killing insects as much as I can and I feed house pigeons often.
But somehow, the noisy religious practice outside temples or monasteries really irritates me. I also get angry whenever people boast of initiating religious activities. Perhaps, seventeen years of education changed me. Perhaps, I have lost my connection with roots and Buddhistic values i was brought up in. Perhaps, fast-paced city has killed my happiness and sense of contentment in values I cherished as a child. Perhaps, idiot box has replaced my sense of entertainment and relaxation. Perhaps, modern education and materialistic environment has erased those values from my system. Today, I feel that those ritualistic puja is waste of time and resources. The oil and money offered to religious activities seem to be making big dent in family’s small income. The time spend on those religious activities seem to be eating up my entitled leave duration and free weekend. Sometimes, I even feel that talking to my next door neighbor over a cup of tea is waste of my precious time.
Then, as I remember those fond memories of village where time traveled so slowly, I felt like I was luckiest guy on the planet despite shares of its problems. That was the time where unnecessary worry had not touched my mind. That was the time where community cared for me and I cared for community. That was time where I felt whispering of winds. That was the place where I saw dancing of trees. That was the memory which I can really call happiness. But then, I have crossed many miles away from such idyllic situation into world of cutthroat competition and materialism. Today, my religion is selfishness. Today, my value is survival for fittest. And I am afraid if I ever turn back, I will not survive in either of the world.