My destiny was set when I was six months old.
At my annaprashan ceremony, I sat on my father’s lap and reached out for the one object that would define me today. A pen. Later, when I was trying my hand at filmmaking, my father reminded me that I was wasting my talent and my future was already fixed. How I embraced it, and where I went from there, was my choice.
The annaprashan ceremony or `mukhe bhaat’ that we Bengalis call it, is the first time a child is fed rice. The six month old sits on an elder’s lap, is first blessed and then fed solid food like kheer. It’s followed by a game where the child has to touch one of the symbolic objects placed on a silver plate. The plate has books – symbolizing he’s going to be a philosopher or a very learned man, jewels or coins representing he’ll be a businessman, a pen – signifying wisdom through writing, and grass or soil indicating he’ll be one with the people or a politician. The plate is held up for the child. And his profession is determined by what he touches.
I didn’t know it at six months, but what kept me sane throughout my life was a diary I penned every night for twenty years. I wrote poems and articles in spiral bound notebooks, my pen being my precious possession. But, I was too inhibited to publish anything. When I finally embraced my destiny, I wrote my debut novel Losing My Virginity And Other Dumb Ideas. The opening chapter I wrote with a pen, sitting in a café and understanding that this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
There are some Indian traditions that need to be passed from one generation to another. I’m glad my daughter touched the book at her annaprashan ceremony. I’ll remind her to be wise later!