City Faith – Reading Ram, Ghaziabad
Life with the epic.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Pushpa Singh’s drawing room in a Ghaziabad apartment has been temporarily turned into a makeshift temple. She and her husband are hosting a Ramayan Paath, the continuous reading of the sacred Ramcharitmanas. Living in a gated complex, the 60-something bridge player sent WhatsApp invites to friends, neighbours and also to the security guards of her apartment society. A “panditji” was invited to preside over the opening prayers — he was welcomed with the token gift of a starched white dhoti-kurta set and ₹101.
The Ramayan Paath is an important event in Ms Singh’s calendar. The reading lasts for 24 hours. “This is a matter of my devotion,” she said.
She prepared for the ceremony by waking up on the appointed day at 4 am. Assisted by a troupe of relatives, she supervised the cleaning of the entire house. The drawing room sofas were moved into the study. The 50-year-old record player was shoved into the guestroom cupboard. The marble floor was carpeted with mattresses, some of which were borrowed from neighbours. The bronze statues of Bhagwan Ram and his consort, Sita Mayya, were dressed in silk. A Christmas tree was placed beside them. “You need some decorations around the gods,” explained Ms Singh. The statues were decked up with plantain leaves, marigold flowers, rice grains, and a tulsi plant. Fifteen copies of the epic, too, were taken out of a cupboard.
The ‘temple’ remained moderately crowded. “Mrs Garg came; so did Negi Saheb and Tyagji,” says Ms Singh. “Shuklaji’s wife sat only for a little while, and Sunita had come with children, her husband was away in Ambala.”
During these 24 hours, the hostess slept for only two. “I had to make sure that the guests were frequently served with adrak ki chai, and I also read from time to time.”
After the Paath ended, and the house was emptied of guests, the exhausted Ms Singh didn’t take long to retire to the bed. She even decided to miss her prime-time TV serials that night. “I watched the repeat telecast the next afternoon.”
24 hours with Ram