Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Our New Car Pooja - (i.e. Krishna helps me make Holy Water!)

Bishop Blessing with Holy Water and Hyssop

In an hour of nearly-perfect "Religious Cooperation", our caretaker Radha Krishna and I blessed our new car this afternoon.  Or, more properly stated, Krishna did a puja and I performed "The Blessing of a Carriage or Automobile" directly out of the Priest's Handbook.

How this transpired:  It all started this afternoon, when Krishna's wife Jyothi needed to get in to clean our upstairs bedroom.  The problem is, even as small as she is, Jyothi is still afraid of little Beloved the Lhasa Apso!  So, I had to take The Bee out for a quick walk, and then put her (temporarily) into the downstairs guest bedroom.  (Yes, we have TWO guest bedrooms, in case any of you would like to "drop in" on us any time during the next two years!).  When I was done getting Beloved all situated in the bedroom, Krishna came up and asked me something.  You have to know that Krishna will be our driver now that we have our Skoda Laura.  And you also must grasp the fact that Krishna's English skills are not what our old driver Naseer's were.  But, bless his heart, Krishna really tries... and I am helping him learn as much useful English as I can.  So far I have taught him the phrase "Golden State", the words to the "Scooby Doo Theme Song", the concept of the "Road Trip" - and what a "Switchblade" is.  (Don't ask!  I know I'm headed for a longer time in Purgatory as it is!!)

So...Krishna comes to me to "ask permission" to do something.  He does this a lot.  It's not a part of American culture to have a "servant" - but - that is his job, so - I play along.  Yesterday he asked my permission to go to the market...but that time he sent me a text.  I thought he was asking me... if he went to the store - should he get some "Parmesan".  No...he was actually asking me for "permission".  Hey...his English is 200% better than my or Amy's Telugu, so we give him a lot of slack!!

He asks me - that since the car is brand new - if it was O.K. if he "made puja".  I am pretty knowledgeable about Hindu practices, so I know what he meant...we needed to bless the car.  His two kids were off from school today, so he sent them upstairs to his and Jyothi's apartment, to get the red powder used for making tilak (it's usually made from sandalwood paste and kumkum, a powder made from red tumeric - or sometimes vermilion, if the desired color is more yellow.)  The powder is used create a small red dot on your forehead.  That mark is sometimes put on various other parts of the body as well, but is most noticeable on the forehead, and it is actually called tilak or tilaka...this shows that you are blessed by God!

In the case of the little "car puja" we were going to perform, Krishna wanted to make sure our car was "blessed by God."  So, when the children returned with the red sandalwood powder, Krishna began the puja.  Some puja can be quite long and involved... both ritualistically and ceremonially.  Incense and offerings are used in the worship.  You know...kind of like any Sunday of the year at the Solemn High Mass at St. Mary of the Angels!!  The Hindus believe that the Puja tray (or, sometimes spelled Pooja - which is just another name for "worship") can be a very useful thing for carrying or storing those implements to be used for daily worship. These are the things that are traditionally placed on the pooja tray... along with their traditional meanings - and my "Christian" interpretation:

Incense sticks - For a sweet smell in air (like the air in Sanctuary at Mass!)
Food - To thank God for blessings (Like Offertory - bringing forward Bread and Wine!)
Flowers - A sign of love for God (Like on our altars!)
Bell - To show that it is time to pray (like the Angelus!)
Sandalwood paste - To create tilak (like in our incense boat!)
Water - To make clean in mind and body (like our Holy Water!)
Light/candle - Gets rid of darkness/evil (As with our altar lights!)

Now Krishna did his version of puja - one that was simplicity itself.  He chanted some words of praise and worship in what was probably Sanskrit (kind of like using the original Greek or Latin for Catholic Christians!) - and he and the kids walked around our new Skoda Laura...marking the center of each of the chrome wheels with three red tilak dots - using his little finger...and then... opening the drivers side door, he placed another three tilak dots each on the dashboard and the steering wheel.  (Afterwards when we were sitting and chatting, I asked him, "Krishna?  Why THREE dots?"  He made the same answer that I might have made if I would have been asked something similar.  He said "Indian tradition."  Again I asked: "Yes, I understand "tradition".  But, Krishna: WHY three??"  I think his answer was pretty close to what I expected: "One for Brahma, one for Vishnu amd one for Shiva" - somwhat like we would say "In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost."  I went on to try to explain the Trinity to him...then I just shook my head...and shook Krishna's hand.

Back to the puja, (still in progress).  After the car was duly marked with red...with the very tip of his finger, he put a smaller tilak mark on his son and one on his daughter, to bless them as well.  And then he did the same to himself.  I would have had him put the mark on me, as well - - but - I waved Krishna off - I was sweating so much because today it was so hot and humid out, my tilak would have "melted" and simply run down in red streaks onto my nose and cheeks, making me look like I had just taken a .22 caliber bullet to the forehead!!

It looked like we were finished, but the auto puja was not complete.  Krishna gave me the key and told me it was my job as the owner to drive it first...so - he told me to pull up about 2-feet...and then right back again.  I did...first time I've ever been on the driver's side on the wrong side!!  It feels funny, I'll tell you!  Puja was now complete!

A Pooja to Ganesha

Now it was MY turn.  I told Krishna to keep the kids busy...and I'd be right back.  I ran up the stairs and grabbed my Hospital Communion kit and my copy of the Priest's Handbook.  Coming into the kitchen, I donned my stole and told Krishna and the kids we were now going to do "Christian puja"!  I had him fill a glass with water, and the kids went upstairs to get some salt.  I spread my little square of linen on the kitchen counter and placed my empty plastic Holy Water bottle, the glass of water and the salt.  Krishna really got it!!  Without me asking...he got a small spoon out of the drawer and put it in the salt cup....I looked at him and smiled...and he grinned right back!  He's already a good Acolyte on day-one!!

I proceeded to bless Holy Water (the bottles in my kit has leaked during the air-shipment!) while I had Krishna read the proper responses.  His little boy held the book for me!  The scene was just perfect...I wish I had photos.  It was also sort of surreal.  Krishna took his role quite seriously.  We finished with the prayers and - filled the little plastic bottle with newly-blessed Holy Water.

Leaving my stole on...I rounded everybody up and we headed out to the driveway.  Krishna held my Handbook and we began the "Blessing of an Automobile" ritual.  I read:

"Our help is in the Name of the Lord"
Krishna read and repeated: "Who hath made Heaven and Earth"

I walked around the new car and splashed Holy Water on all four tires, like Krishna had done with the tilakaI then made the Sign of the Cross on the hood with my moistened thumb....and, finally, MY "puja" was complete as well!

I am pretty sure now that our little family is safe when we drive around Hyderabad.  A family that now includes Amy, Beloved, Radha Krishna, Jyothi and the two children.  God is truly working here in India!


  1. Hi Scott,

    I feel good when I know for sure , that you are going to enjoy your stay in India.

    Your approach to newness ( this word is coined by me )is amazing.

    Regards & God bless.

  2. Thank you, Rajan...you helped us get off to a good start! We really are loving it. This city has quite a soul!


    Scott & Suzanne

  3. I love it how you've only been in India for like two months and yet already you've got an "old" driver and a "new" driver.

    The closest thing I've ever had to a "driver" was a hobo that tried to break into my car once.