Thursday, October 14, 2010

Puja Chronicles contd. : A film and a poem blend with the deity

How can I explain the rhapsody of thoughts generated by El ángel exterminador (The Exterminating Angel) by Luis Buñuel that I watched yesterday night? Logically, the discussion and/or my thoughts on the film should be filed under a less frequented blog that I had ceremoniously created especially for some of my other passions : But, I feel, this film has a strong connection to my present condition.
No, I have not achieved angelhood and I do not face extermination or act as a similar agency :) It is simply the fact that I am, like hundreds and thousands of other Bengalis, missing the fervour of the Durga Puja back in my hometown.
I felt miserable till the Mahalaya (the last day of the fortnight preceding the Debipokkho). Ever since that day, I have chosen to be pro-active in managing my missing-the-puja-blues (the why and the how of this radical shift is another story altogether). To come back to the film, and the idea behind the idea to have a scribble about it here, I realised today (I had a faint feeling yesterday of this upcoming realisation) that the film profoundly is about the necessity to be pro-active in life. And, that realisation crystallised in the mind as I was reading Yasmeen's beautifully powerful poem - Take a stand  (click on the link to read). Her words kept throwing me back to different scenes in the movie :
you can't change what happened
but you can choose what you see
so step out to your balcony
breathe...and hurl the skipping record
into cheering rush hour (I will be there)
close the past, open the loop
create the space     
life has no meaning
but what we assign
made real in time and space
And, it is then that I realised what I heard the film say to me.

The celebration of the warrior form of the mother goddess shows her annihilating a demon. Her eyes are simultaneously fierce and calm and they look straight into you (if the deity is sculpted in the traditional form):

Photo copyright: Abhiks in Flicker

(If however, the deity is sculpted in the artistic style, you will see her eyes angled variously.) This reminds me of the concluding section of Michael Ondaatje's Anil's Ghost where the master painter is painting the eyes of the Buddha. He feels a strange penetrating glance...
Maybe it is all in the mind...
Actually, it is.

The mind has the power to create and to annihilate. Whether we choose to crib over spilled milk or take a mop to rub it and go on with normal activities, it always has to do with us, and no one else. It is easy to point fingers at others/ other things and find an explanation of the same. It is easy to completely abandon will power of the self to the will of the unexplainable deities and things. I do not intend to argue for or against the existence of the divine being here, but, is it not a saying that god helps them who help themselves? 
We are social beings and each of us have a unique set of beliefs. But the primary belief and faith that we need to have is on the possibilities that lie deep in us. The prayer to the mother goddess, uttered during the course of the festival of Durga Puja, is, in reality, an invocation to that self in us which hides in the guise of obligations, necessities, social customs and other such authoritative needs. The demons will always be there- within and without- but we have to be pro-active in slaying them. That is possibly the path of advancement. That is possibly the path to divinity. Slay ignorance with wisdom. Slay slavish dependence on others with self-empowerment. Slay fear with the courage to walk through it. In the eve of Mahasaptami (the seventh day in the Debipokkho), Buñuel, Yasmeen and Durga seamlessly weave this realisation in me.    

Postscript: This is a foreword to my thoughts on the film El ángel exterminador (The Exterminating Angel) by Luis Buñuel. More discussions and/or thoughts about the film in particular will be posted here tomorrow.
Copyright of the poem quoted is owned by Yasmeen Najmi. 


Yasmeen said...

Hi Sush,

I hope this finds you well and rediscovering the Puja festivities through words, memories and perhaps food! Your blog reminded me of some things I was recently taught through a program on Feminine Power. It is not feminist in the way we understand popular definitions of feminism. In fact, feminism as we know it and what equality gains have been made by women have required us to source much of our power from the masculine. This has served particularly Western women, but many of the serious problems we face globally can be traced back to ignoring relationship/relatedness, and lack of communication, compassion, family and community centeredness - qualities that are sourced in the feminine. Durga reminds me of the feminine strength we require to create our world. Like her, we must acknowledge our fear and act in spite of it to live powerfully and realize our deepest desires. Faith is absolutely essential - the knowing that the universe and all life loves and stands with us. We must remember and return to this truth when we allow our internal chatter and messaging to get in our way. God (or other spiritual/religious guides) is not a parent figure but a partner in the creation of our lives. When we embrace this, we empower ourselves. Bhalo theko, bondhu!

Yasmeen said...

Oh and it was exciting to see my name in the same sentence with Luis Bunuel and Devi Durga!

Susmita said...

thank you for sharing your recent experience Yasmeen :) and you said beautifully ... "God (or other spiritual/religious guides) is not a parent figure but a partner in the creation of our lives."

by the way ... the pleasure is all mine :)

Yasmeen said...

The nice thing to me about the symbology of Hindu Gods and Goddesses is their bridge and balance between the feminine and masculine. I have very limited understanding of how this works within the religion but bringing back feminine power and balancing the masculine is essential.

sup said...

Congratulation on your proactive stance on life :) And as a left brain person, I am always amazed by how creative minds finds connection between disparate ideas - like u have found here - Buñuel's film, Yasmeen's poem and Durga's invocation.

Susmita said...

thank you thank you :)

Somdatta Bhattacharya said...


Susmita said...