By Roozbeh Gazdar September 2004 Rinventing celebration is a spiritual tool to help open our eyes to the wonder that is life, a way to say thank you” to god Celebration. The word conjures up propitious images. Of crisp new clothes worn with splashes of cologne. Scrumptious dishes, sweets and chocolates. Of flowers and gifts and heartfelt kisses. And fun and frolic drenched in the invigorating fountain of festivity. Of course, celebration comes in various hues, and there is no denying the craze for the ‘bigger’ and ‘better’ that has crept into it. A bigger bash with invites to even bigger names, more noise and greater hype are, sadly, national indexes of celebration today, whether private or public. And celebration these days is also inextricably tied up with the other two big Cs—Commerce and Consumerism. Festive sales, special cards and gifts don’t just help you commemorate ‘special days’ dedicated to either parent, spouse, teacher and everything else under the sun, they also connote a sharp business strategy. And self-styled culture minders claim their moments of fame, defending national culture against the imagined incursions of Valentine’s Day and birthday cake. Yes sir, the more’s the merrier and every one has a stake in the pie of celebration. But that’s digressing. At a more elemental level, however, is it possible that we are perhaps becoming so mechanical in our celebration that we have lost out on spontaneity and spirit. Entropied by the same boring dinners, discos and bashes, has our sense of fun become empty – fancy gift-wrapping, but with nothing inside? Here’s looking at some fresher approaches to celebration and how rejoicing can be made more meaningful. Artist Sujata Kapoor feels celebration is a basic human need. While at the Kapoor household birthdays and anniversaries along with Christmas and Diwali are hugely celebrated, there is often a big difference. “Earlier, when the kids were younger, we used to have their birthdays in an orphanage. They would cut the cake, share and enjoy a party with the children there,” she remembers, adding that now that they are older they want it more conventionally. Always serious about her fun, she recalls a very ‘flighty thing’ she once did. “It was when the kids were young and we did not often have time to ourselves. Once we just took a plane to Delhi to lunch at the Orient Express restaurant, which had then just opened. We had a lovely time and flew back in the evening,” she laughs. A wife and mother who frequently finds herself putting family wishes before her own, she reveals how she made up by treating herself on her birthday. “This once, I decided to celebrate for myself. I called up a florist and arranged for my home to be converted into a ‘Garden of Eden’. It was so wonderful and I just slept in bed surrounded by all the flowers!” Says management training consultant Indu Kohli, “I am basically a celebrator who believes in making every occasion memorable and unique and I think of creative ways of doing this. If I am invited anywhere, I participate in full mood. I should feel excited that I am celebrating; there’s no point going and sitting in a corner.” She elaborates, “If I am buying a gift, I don’t do so just for its sake. It may not be special, just flowers or balloons, but I like to select them with care. I try to find out the person’s tastes, and maybe plan a surprise. You see, one should feel the celebration from within or there is no purpose to it. Of course, it has to be meaningful to the other person, but that happens only if you yourself are up to it also,” she explains. While there are significant events, such as her daughter’s postgraduation, Indu also believes in celebrating the everyday joys of life. “If friends are just coming over, it’s still a special occasion isn’t it? So, I believe in making the very best of it by planning a drive or a good walk.” “There are many joyous things in life and every moment is worth celebrating. Anything could happen to us at any time, and yet we are hale and hearty… that itself is a reason for celebration!” Indu adds. A sentiment author Ashok Banker would agree with. “Far too much is being made of celebration. I feel people, not being very happy, seek certain days to celebrate. As for us, we treat very moment as happy and so each day is just as special,” he says. While not much into socialising or partying, he and his wife prefer to share special moments with their children. “We don’t feel the need to go out for dinner just because it is Valentine’s Day or a birthday – we go anyway, whenever we feel like it. What I am saying is that we don’t care much for typical dates. Journalist Shahin Ashraf Ali, who is also a Tarot and Runes reader and teacher, explains how her own concept of celebration evolved over the years, to become spiritually significant. “Celebration is honouring happy events with rites, rituals and rejoicing. While rites and rituals may remain the same, the context changes. And rejoicing means very different to me today than what it meant when I was younger. Celebration is subjective and today I enjoy being with myself, with nature, with my animals,” she says. “I celebrate the power of prayer,” she says. “Prayer puts one in the presence of the infinite. Acknowledging the positive power of the Universe and seeking blessings, I do believe that Existence responds.” Prayer along with some charity is her way of acknowledging cherished family occasions such as birthdays, anniversaries. “For these days I have my special prayers, besides which I also believe in a random act of kindness. Donating my time or talent to a social charitable cause is my way of celebrating these days. It gives me special joy to gift-wrap and distribute presents to underprivileged children.” But more often, she revels in “personal moments when I celebrate the ordinary.” She explains, “Having breakfast every morning with my husband or driving down with him is celebration for me. The fact that he is there for me makes me feel blessed and that calls for celebration. The recovery of one of my dogs who has been sick is a moment for rejoicing. I celebrate the enjoyment of nature around, watching rice grow in the fields and being in quiet solitude. To me it is very spiritual, more about growing, caring, sharing and gratitude.” Celebration of life in its entirety, the high, low and all of it in between, underlies an attitude of deep appreciation and gratitude for the preciousness of life. It is no wonder then that Osho Rajneesh asked this of his disciples instead of renunciation. As the master explained, “Celebration is the foundation of my sanyas – not renunciation but rejoicing; rejoicing in all the beauties, all the joys, all that life offers, because this whole life is a gift of God.”
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