It is that time of the year when we symbolically burn the old to ring in the new. Celebrated across Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, Bhogi which precedes Makara Sankranti, Pongal, Magh Bihu, Sakraat, Poush Sankranti, Uttarayan and Lohri by different communities across the country is an opportunityto change for a better, happier tomorrow.
In the Telugu states, Bhogi mantalu , the traditional bonfire lit at the dawn of the festive Bhogi day is a metaphor to look within and burn the negativity in us. A colleague from Assam shares the custom in their community, “We too light a bonfire, and put the iron kadhais used in our kitchen. The kadhais come out clean and serve as a reminder of the possibilities of what we can be without those impure thoughts and unpleasant things.”
The practice might be slightly different, but the significance remains more or less the same: discard anger and negativity and emerge refreshed. Let this essence of Bhogi prevail among us.
More awareness on healthy food
Three things I hope will transform society. More awareness on the food we consume. Our diseases are predominantly because of the unhealthy food we eat. More people should take up vegetable gardening and at least grow leafy vegetables at home. I have spoken earlier about taking up farming and I want to be implement it this year. I plan to take up sustainable agriculture at my farm in Chevella. We should realise that we can do anything in our lives and jobs only if we are healthy. We need to talk more about it.
I would also like to see a change in our time spent on social media. We need to be creators, not imitators. Social media is like a mango pickle; it can be an accompaniment to the food but not always the main dish. Social media is just a part of life and should not become the whole life. We need to focus on having real relationships. Manishi ni manishi tone kalavaali, mobile to kaadu . Only then, we can experience real emotions.
Finally, I would want people to have an appreciative mindset. Instead of constantly criticising and complaining about our own lives and others’, let’s learn to be grateful and appreciate. If I had spent my time only criticising others, I wouldn’t have been in a position that I am today.
TV and film actor
Bring changes in women’s lives
I am reminded of Sankranti celebrations in my hometown in Godavarikhani. We used to draw big muggulu, keep gobbemmalu on them and have a muggula poti . Sankranti, the harvest festival is for the farmer. If the farmer is happy only then we can be happy. The one change I hope for is in women’s lives. On one hand, we worship women as goddesses and on the other, commit atrocities against them. Since decades the situation has not changed. I hope to see a day when we women can walk independently without any fear or any pepper spray or knife in the bags. We are in 2020, yet women cannot go out on their own after 10 pm and need a brother/husband/father as escort.
It is impossible and foolish to think there will be a big transformation in society. I hope people make small changes in their own families. These small changes will bring in a positive impact.
Refine the self
We spend Sankranti in Venkat’s (husband Venkat Siddareddy’s) village. The atmosphere is of joy and everyone comes together to celebrate the harvest. I learned to make kites and milk a cow from my mother-in-law. At the crack of dawn , we assemble to build a huge Bhogi fire of waste that is mostly made of dried Thaati tree fronds, dry twigs and leaves. It is a reminder to look within and discard what is negative and embrace with open arms, that which is positive. It is a time to celebrate and look within to clear up junk. We do a systematic cleansing of our homes, periodically discard what is excess in our phones. So why not ourselves, too ?
Festivals are reminders in the iconography that they carry. Bhogi is one such. I am flawed, but the intent to refine the self is earnest. Bhogi and other festivals help bring about that change and are a pitstop to pause, collect, discard , reset and find better versions of our self. To quote Kabir Bura jo dekhan main chalaa buro na miliya koi Jo dil dekha aapna mujhse bura na koi. It insists on looking within to find what is negative and discard that. One can refine the self by reading and ruminating on the words of great saints who have left us messages in their songs. Thyagaraja ( Manasu nilpa shakti leka pote ) Bharatiyar ( Manadirkku kattalai siddar paadalgal and Tiruppugazh ). Their words reinforce in us a quality of being centred. I often pore over these texts. In music too, one can apply this thought at every note level. All these things are so easy to say but difficult to follow. The refinement of the self is multi-fold. To look inward and cleanse is a big step and takes constant re-evaluation. Bhogi helps us set this tone in place. The outwardly acts like cleaning the home are akin to the process that goes on within. The sync is unmissable!
Create your own identity
Weekends are the time to have fun, but I see some youngsters in a weekend mode even in the middle of the week! One can have fun but also focus on hard work. One cannot rely completely on parents and grandparents. Instead of becoming lazy and only counting on what is already there, one should aim to do something on their own. It is not just about earning money, work helps to create our own identity. One should be hungry to know and work. Instead of taking wealth from parents, how about bringing name and fame to them through our endeavours?
I also want to see a change in our attitude towards tradition. We can be modern in outlook but respect and be aware of our traditions.
Let’s fire the ‘Ignorance of Art’
We should place the ‘ignorance' of art’ on fire. In contemporary society, we are not able to embrace the creative arts, especially visual arts. If an appreciation for creative art prevails, art will be in good hands and with art lovers who cherish it. I wish to see that art is not ignored, rather it needs to be appreciated, embraced and given importance right from one’s primary education.
This Bhogi, let us welcome a sensible society which encourages, enjoys and appreciates arts. Art is not as much appreciated as automobiles and electronics in contemporary Indian society. On the contrary, the West and East (China) have brought many museums into existence to create arts awareness so that they preserve, appreciate and make art available for future generations.
artist and project manager at a Tech company