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Sacred date

GINGERLY YOURS || The transformation of Mother’s Day still seems stunning, because it is transformation of the profane into the sacred. This is not an everyday thing

Chandrima S. Bhattacharya Published 24.05.24, 06:10 AM
Representational image.

Representational image. File Photo

Namah Mother’s Day namah. It is now an ‘auspicious’ day in the Bengali Hindu calendar.

This Mother’s Day, a Beng­ali woman, who was then in Delhi, was heartbroken that she was not able to be present at the head-shaving ceremony of her granddaughter. The ceremony was taking place at a temple in Digha, the po­pu­lar seaside town in East Midnapore, and by late morning the family was on its way there from Kanthi, where it lived, on a day it had been advised would be most auspicious, as it was the day for mothers.


We still do not know what is more important on Mother’s Day — mothers or the buying and the receiving of gifts. But we do know that together they form an idea powerful enough to have travelled across continents, cultures and communities. And now, it has been indigenised as a sacred ritual in a small coastal town that is barely known outside Bengal.

At this point, the cliché about the path of globalisation and consumerism becomes inevitable. They come, as we know, holding hands, mostly from the English-speaking world, on a one-way ticket, and enter the most intimate spaces in our lives, as vocabulary, practice and product. This has been going on for so long now, but their contemporary manifestations have not only entered our lives but also our intestines, not only as bread-based delicacies. How can I not accept the fact that Bengalis now have ‘rice’, ‘chicken’, ‘breakfast’, ‘lunch’ and ‘dinner’, only in English, every day, even as I mourn the passing of shojne danta into moringa and calculate the differential between their prices?

But the transformation of Mother’s Day still seems stunning, because it is transformation of the profane into the sacred. This is not an everyday thing. “Man becomes aware of the sacred because it manifests itself, shows itself, as something wholly different [from] the profane,” says Mircea Eliade, the Romanian philosopher, who had studied in Calcutta for a few years and wrote on the notions of the sacred and the profane. The sacred is a power that has a transformative effect on the life of the human subject. It is separate from the profane, the common, as it keeps us in touch with the idea of a higher reality, fulfilling our deepest hopes and desires.

The profane transforms into the sacred when it enters the core of our being. That is exactly what happened on Mother’s Day, when the family went to Digha. The idea of the day has assumed such a universality in the land of mother goddesses, thanks to its global reach, that to unsuspecting minds here it has manifested itself with all its force as sacred. The sacred can inspire trust, as well as terror. The little girl, dressed in a dancing frock, was made to sacrifice her hair on that day. She looked joyous.

The sacred can be turned into the profane, too, and demolished. For example, the idea of a nation, its Constitution, a place of worship, an entire country. Blown to smithereens. You can do anything. It all depends on whether the forces of globalisation and commerce are backing you. But this is an unpleasant matter and entirely irrelevant.

I remain greatly inspired by the apotheosis of Mother’s Day. I understand it as a new dimension of the religion I was born into and propose the following, subject to the approval of the family priest:

On International Father’s Day, I shall perform the grihapravesh of my 14th-floor apartment.

On International Brother’s Day, I shall book my new three-door refrigerator.

On International Nephew’s Day, I shall book myself a spa.

On International Falafel Day, I shall go vegetarian.

On International Handwash Day, I shall get nail extensions.

I am waiting to see what happens on Halloween.

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