I went out to buy some milk this evening, taking the shortcut down the alley past the Hindu Temple. A pandit (priest wearing the Nehru jacket) was chanting prayers while he anointed a couple’s new scooter with sandalwood paste. Using his index finger, he painted a swastika design below the headlamp, putting a dot in each of the four quadrants. Actually, he missed one out until the man with the goatee beard drew his attention to the omission.
All the time, the bike was running in neutral, balanced on its stand, with the back wheel slowly revolving and the headlight on. The pandit wrapped a garland of marigolds around the wing mirrors. I have often wondered why I see motorbikes with dead flowers attached to their handlebars. Now I know.
The ceremony ended when the couple gave the pandit a box of sweets (special laddoo from Bikanerwala). He removed a pinch from the golf ball-sized sweet and applied it to the centre of the swastika. Maybe it will make the scooter run sweetly.
What do you do with the rest of a laddoo after using part of it to anoint a Honda? You give it to the foreigner who has been watching the proceedings, of course. And it was very good. I put milk jug between my knees and put my hands together in Namaste. Then I added a little prayer, “I hope the scooter will never break down, never have an accident and retain its second hand value.” I thanked them for the sweet.
If an Indian ever gives you something and you say how beautiful or tasty it was, they will immediately press you to take another. I didn’t want to spoil my appetite for supper, so I declined a second sweet, but the pandit gave me a tilak of my own between the eyebrows. That will activate my third eye.