My Secret Preoccupation with the Shiva Ling

Social Commentary

My Secret Preoccupation with the Shiva Ling

Illustration: Mudit Ganguly


hen I was growing up, a little friend of mine would stop every time we walked past a temple. She would fold her hands in reverence, close her eyes, and start muttering a prayer under her breath, right there on the street. Every walk with her became a series of pious pit stops. Growing up, I observed this devout behaviour in other kids my age. When we’d be given prasad for instance, my friends would pop it into their mouths and then round off the motion by wiping their heads, as though to avoid missing out on any residual blessings.

Sometimes I’d visit friends whose parents had just performed poojas and their little in-house temple would have a ₹500 or a ₹1000 note lying in front of the gods. “What do you do with that money?” I’d ask them. “Nothing,” I’d be told, “it’s auspicious because it’s been used for pooja.” All that cash in front of them and off-limits for Coke or candy. My friends really must have mastered the art of self-denial.