Koti raised to the power koti nos. of dandavat at your lotus feet Swamiji. Your ever-smiling face with unimaginable grace has destroyed my stress without a trace! I may be catchy with this line, but it automatically flowed through my wireless keyboard. Now this is a bhaktiput naivedya at your feet Swamiji by Sahil (An Ode to Joy) Plz do accept (Kripiya Sweekar karne ka kast karen)
Today’s topic arose from a conversation between me and Sahil. Sahil was watching some movie on you tube and some auto suggestion popped up thanks to the state-of-art AI Algorithm implemented by You Tube. It suggested a movie called Randhir Kapoor starrer “Ponga Pandit”. Then Sahil asked me, “Papa, I know the meaning of Pandit which is nothing but Brahmin. But what does the word ‘Ponga’ mean?” This question really stumped me, because I my self am a Ponga Pandit!
The dictionary meaning of ‘Ponga’ is ‘khokhla’ (empty) / ‘nikamma’ (of no use) / ‘murkh’ (fool). Yes, that is the meaning when a literal translation is done. Now let me clarify why the tag suits me the best! I belong to Odisha and in Odisha ‘Nanda’ surname signifies Brahmin caste. My father and mother spent some hefty amount way back in 1997 for my and my elder brother’s janeyu ceremony (Bratopanayan or thread ceremony). I was very happy that I have become a Brahmin 🙂
One point, I want to make clear that Odia and Bengali Brahmins do eat no-veg and even non-veg is offered as prasad to devi maa. I don’t want to indulge in the debate of whether it is justified or not, but it is a long-standing culture. I boasted that I have become a pandit with janeyu. I used to take a lot of pride for years until the day arrived when I joined my job in Hyderabad.
The Brahmins here are so different. They really follow what it means to be a Brahmin. They do a lot of Puja path, tilak dharan, satvik bhojan etc. My first boss Mr. B Krishna Murthy was a doyen and his subordinate Mr. M Bhaskar Murthy was no less either. One-day someone of our long distant relative passed away. I was informed by my father a plethora of procedures to be followed until the completion of 13 days. But the only thing I observed was not doing Puja for 13 days as I was a lazy bachelor those days. No eating of non-veg advice was just thrown into the air. Mind always finds shortcut and knows how to use a situation to its advantage 😉 what do you say?
On the 13th day I requested Krishna Murthy garu (‘garu’ is a word of respect in Telugu) to change my janeyu which got apavitra due to the death I mentioned previously. He was kind enough to do that. He invited me to his house, did elaborate Puja and it took him nearly one and half hour to change the janeyu. I was thrilled and at the same time surprised also. I realized that it was not easy to be a Pandit.🙄
Then came the D-day, i.e. the marriage reception of one of my friends who happened to be a Reddy. Mind you, Reddys were jamindars (Landlords) at some point of time not too distant in the History. His marriage reception was a gala affair. The decorations were contemporary and were complemented by plethora of food items both veg and non-veg to treat oneself.
Both of my Brahmin bosses were also present. They took vegetarian food while, I, the Odia Pandit, had my plate filled with Appolo fish, shrimp fry, chicken pakoda etc as starter. My bosses were surprised, because being a Pandit how I was taking all the non-veg items. I was treated like a second class Brahmin or may be even less than that. My bosses maintained safe distance from me as if maintaining Social Distance like COVID 19 suspect. I was decategorized / downgraded from the list of Panthulu (meaning Pandit / Brahmin in Telugu) to duplicate Panthulu.😏
The next day in utter disbelief, Krishna Murthy Sir asked me being a Brahmin that to a janeyu dhari, how I could indulge in non-veg eating. I told them since childhood, I have been taking non-veg food. In Odisha, Brahmins do take non-veg. We have a temple called Kalijai (name of a goddess) in the middle of lake Chilka where fish is offered as prasad. Even non-veg prasad is offered to Maa Kali and Maa Durga in Odisha and West Bengal. I don’t know whether they bought my theory or not, but I told the truth.😬
But one thing I realised that, in South India, Brahmins follow all the rituals very strictly till date. In North India also to some extent this is prevelant. But on eastern side, how did we lose this culture / ritual? Anyway, I am not able to leave non-veg, though Swamiji repeatedly tells that those are tamsik food which creates laziness, lethargy as it is not live food. Swamiji continuously emphasizes that non-vegetarian food should be avoided. Par kya karen Swamiji, control hi nahin honda (But what to do, I Can’t control this thing!)
PS: Dear os.me family and beloved Swamiji, please forgive me for my love of non-veg food as I have passed on the same to my son Sahil. May be someday will come when my antaratma (inner voice) will come up with a desire to give up non-veg food. But till date, let me enjoy my Hyderabadi Biriyani, 🐓Kebab, 🐠fish fry, chicken drum sticks etc. (kaise jeev laplapai!!)