The tonsuring & ear piercing ceremony

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Sometime back I had traveled 5000 kilometers and spent Rs 20,000 for a 24-hour visit to Madurai.

Before you start thinking that I have arrived in life (for not every Tom, Beep & Harry can afford to spend Rs 20,000 for 24 hours) let me remind you that I am still not the Shah Rukh Khan of Anjam. For those of you who have forgotten this 1994 movie, let me remind you…in the Hindi movie Anjam SRK chases Madhuri Dixit, an air hostess, and in the process buys airline tickets whenever he feels like. In my case there was no air hostess but the occasion demanded that I be in Madurai. The occasion was my daughter`s tonsure and ear piercing ceremony for which I had applied for leave and got two days. Yes, two days – it had taken me longer to write the leave application!

For all those Americans, Germans, French and Japanese who read this blog, tonsure and ear-piercing ceremonies are a religious crime practiced by every family on every BABY in the family. On the level of criminal-ness, it comes second only to the act of naming a baby when he/she is sleeping. One such victim is yours sincerely, named Jamshed Velayuda Rajan.

If you are a new parent you should wait till your kid is at least five years, consult with him or her and then come up with a name. For your information, I was named ‘Jamshed Velayuda Rajan Will Singh` when I was two months old and sleeping…25 years later I would cut down the ‘Singh` part because of the way people pronounced my name. Well, I hate that Hyderabadi colleague who announced my name and asked me to come on stage …post which I took the mike and said: “Well, I can`t really sing(h)…but if you want me to…I can give it a shot. I am now going to sing(h) a song called ‘Papa Kehte Hain` from Qyamat Se Qyamat Tak.”

For those of us who are slow, here is a hint: Remember, I was christened ‘Jamshed Velayuda Rajan Will Singh.`

Oh…shucks! Weren`t we on the subject of my daughter`s tonsure (also known as mundan ceremony) and ear piercing? Getting back to it, when I reached home by the Air Deccan flight (no, my house doesn`t have an air strip yet!) a maroon colored Qualis was waiting for me at the airport. The Qualis van had some relatives who wanted to save the bus fare to the venue, some who wouldn`t have come if there was no pick up and drop and some who didn`t care but liked a break from the daily routine.

The van carrying 20 of my close relatives reached Alagar Kovil, Madurai (a hill temple full of monkeys) at 10.00 a.m.. Relatives who could afford bus fares of up to Rs 8 came to the venue by themselves, which was a good sight. I say ‘good sight` because most of my relatives take bath when they have to get out of the house.

I don`t know if it happens when your family gets together …but when mine does, there are at least 2 murders and 10 attempts to murder. After 1 hour of discussion, 1 murder and 6 attempts to murder, it was decided to have the tonsure ceremony first and then the ear piercing.

For those who don`t know, tonsure is the act of sacrificing the hair on a new born baby`s head (babies don`t have hair anywhere else), to the Gods. Hair has been sacrificed since ages because it has always grown back again. I am still looking for a man or woman who sacrificed his or her left arm or right thumb to God.

Like every religious act, I am sure this one too grew out of the need to be hygienic. Babies float around in their mother`s amniotic fluid for nine months (unless they are test tube babies, in which case they float around in the piss of angry lab assistants) and thus are exposed to all kinds of dirt. The docs of yesteryears resorted to “Sacrifice for Gods” as an excuse to goad people to be hygienic. And it is said that the a baby should be tonsured only after 7 months or so – my understanding is that`s how long it took the babies of yesteryears to be strong enough to face the crude hair removing tools.

While on the subject of hair removal, let me tell you that the waxing of legs amongst women became popular in the early 20th century because of two reasons –

Reason 1:
The razor companies wanting to double their sales, started tapping a virgin market – women – and asked them to start shaving their legs. Thus they doubled their sales.
Reason 2:
Thanks to the World Wars (esp the first) most of the Nylon being manufactured was used in making parachutes. Thus the women`s clothes got shorter and more legs got exposed…thus crying for shaving (which has today evolved into the fine art called Waxing).

Again…next time…please tell me if I go off topic.

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As I was saying, ear Piercing, is another criminal act which all parents and their new born have to undergo (predominantly in South India) within one year of the child birth. Once the ‘Asari` (a goldsmith) finishes the monster`s job of piercing a baby`s ear…the maternal uncle gifts her earrings.

I just have two questions – why pierce ears at such an early age? Is it because then maternal uncle only has to buy a small earring (approx 1 gram)? Or is it because the girls could reject the earnings for lack of style, if they were older?

Note: After what she went thro` on 21st November, I don`t think I would really
mind if on the day my daughter turns 21, she gets drunk, tattoos herself, gets her navel pierced and comes home.