When I heard that my new work laptop had finally arrived at the office I was like a kid in a candy store, super excited to start using it. While awaiting its arrival I’ve been working off of a desktop PC for a few months now and it has been killing me. I haven’t felt so limited since back in the 90s when I worked off my last desktop computer because since 1999 I’ve pretty much only worked for high-tech start-ups and travelled quite a lot for work so I’ve always used the tiniest, most lightweight laptops possible. So…hooray, my new laptop was in and I wanted it now, now, now!
I headed downstairs to pick it up and when I did I was a bit shocked. I really thought that I was going to receive a shiny, new laptop but that’s not what I was given at all. The guys handed me a laptop with huge smudge marks all across the lid and the thing looked like it had been run through the mill. I made a comment like, “I’d be happy to wait a bit longer for a new one” and the guys just looked at me with a quizzical expression and replied that it was indeed new.
I pointed out all the smudges and marks and they smiled and told me that my laptop had been puja’d. I’m sorry, come again?? Yep, my laptop had a religious experience before it was given to me and it took part in a Hindu puja ritual. Aside from the standard migration and configuration setup that the systems guys needed to perform, my new laptop had also been blessed before they gave it to me. The puja ceremony was presided over by a priest from Bangalore who reached out to a deity or two with an offering of flowers, food, incense or other gift and asked that this work tool (the laptop) be blessed and that the work performed on it bring good fortune and prosperity to the company. During the ceremony the priest marked my laptop with special ointments, coloured white and red in this case, to symbolise that it was now blessed.
In the U.S. and Spain, religion never played a role in anything we did at work. In fact, in the U.S., I remember the year when even sending Christmas cards became politically incorrect in California given that there is more than one religion and companies didn’t want to offend anyone by excluding their religion – or forcing a religion that wasn’t theirs upon them. From that year on, Christmas cards became “holiday” or New Year’s greeting cards to avoid any issues.
But like most things I encounter in Bangalore, traditions here are night and day different to anything I’ve ever known. This is India and religion plays a positive and active role in life, even at the office. We have posters around the office that my team just recently designed that have inspirational messages that reference God. We hold weekly puja rituals on Friday at our Bangalore HQ that take place in a quiet room with a small shrine, which contains a picture and statue symbolizing a God (I try to go up if I’m at the office on Fridays and take part as it calms me somehow and I really enjoy it). And we hold company-wide celebrations a couple of times a year that include a very ceremonious in-office puja with a priest to bless the company that is attended by everyone from our Chairman on down.
Once I understood, I was pretty jazzed about having a blessed laptop with those visual markings on it but alas that’s not what I was given in the end. I mean, come on! How many Californians will ever have a blessed laptop? Oh, don’t get me wrong, I still have the exact same laptop and I’m very happy with it. However, after my initial reaction to the “smudge marks” the systems guys thought they’d be sweet and wipe it clean for me…not knowing that I would have loved to carry my puja’d Indian laptop with pride until the markings wore off. Ahh…bless them for it though!
© 2012 Angela Carson