Work, Re‑cultured: A Pandit Who Conducts Poojas, Weddings on Zoom
In Work, Re-cultured, The Swaddle brings you a snapshot of what work-from-home culture looks like for Indian professionals across industries. In this installment, a 38-year-old pandit, Shastriji.
Conducting poojas at people’s homes is my main source of income. Pandits don’t have fixed salaries — what we earn depends on how much people want to give us after each ceremony. In the first two months of the lockdown, nobody contacted me to do any pooja. People avoided calling us even for funerals, and went ahead conducting them on their own since they wanted to avoid gathering a crowd. Some people consulted me over the phone for the process to conduct funerals but it would be very awkward for me to ask them for money for teleconsultation. So I didn’t have anything to do except going back to reading religious books, watching spiritual discourses on YouTube and writing bhajans (devotional songs).
Sometimes, we also end up getting a lot of food, grains, fruits, instead of money, from poojas, which takes care of our ration for the month, but no work meant I had to ensure we had enough food to last us a few months.
Since the temple I’m associated with also had no donations, or events, there was no help coming from there too.
Then, I got a call to conduct a wedding on Zoom. The idea seemed so bizarre in the beginning. How would we get people married on video without us being there to bless them, or conducting rituals in person? But I couldn’t afford to let go of any opportunity that was coming my way. So I said yes, learnt the basics of video calling, and I conducted my first-ever wedding ceremony on video. The couple and their closest friends were at home, where the duo got married in their living room. That made me think: why do people spend so much time and money when it takes so little to be together?
I posted this video on my Facebook and as my WhatsApp status and started receiving many requests for weddings, birthday poojas, births, naming ceremonies, and funerals. Since then, I’ve conducted at least 30 ceremonies over video, and I’ve made the same amount of money I’d make in a month otherwise. However, I do not wish for this to be the new normal. I do want to visit people’s homes, talk to them, or go for weddings and funerals. Doing them over a video call feels very unreal.
As told to Anubhuti Matta.