Friday, May 27, 2005

Why I won’t run

The words tumbled fast and passionately – like the staccato cough of a Kalashnikov, (as seen in Hollywood movies - I have never seen this gun in real life, or it being fired - just love the analogy).

“Think of what will happen to you when you die. Who will save you. Who is your savior? You will have no salvation because you don’t believe in the ‘true’ faith. Don’t you fear the searing fire of Hell which will burn you for eternity?”

I clicked back a few of the best laughing smiley I could find on my Yahoo Messenger. And typed “In my religion there is no Hell.”

Another incident. My friend thinks I am seething in wrath because I have started to feel disconcerted by the constant and incessant debasing of Hindu religious rituals and practices by a section of the media. It has almost become a fashion.

So I am not a freethinker. To become a freethinker, what will I have to do? Deny my Gods. The temples. The traditions. ????

Even this justification, is my Karma.

For a few years I lived in Mattancherry at a place called Cherlai. People of the Konkani community called Moopans live here in large number. Next to my house is a temple dedicated to Sindhoora Bhagavathy, popularly called Manjha Bhagavathi temple.

The annual festival at the temple has processions where people commit sacrifice to please the Goddess, by piercing a steel rod through their own tongue and dancing through the streets in a procession.

In the procession are many people with a steel ‘shoolam’ through their tongue (very much like those done at Muragan temples in Tamil Nadu). And many with it going in through their left cheek, through the tongue and out through the right.

Then there are people who stand shoulder to shoulder in a row, 4-5 in a batch, and are strung together through their tongue. Each one of them in excruciating pain or ecstasy, one has to experience it oneself to really know.

Dancing through the streets - people singing songs in praise of the goddess - the rapid beat of the ‘Chetti Kottu’, a unique style of drum play of that community, on a drum which is also unique to them.

Some may call this barbaric. My mother does.

Cut to another scene. Many years before Mattancherry, we used to live at Trichur (now called Thrissur). The festival at Koorkencherry Shiva Temple (near Trichur) is very famous for the “Kaavadi-Attam”. People carry tall, steeples (decorated frames of wood) on their shoulders and twirl round and round to the beat of music by a band of musicians.

No liquor, no drug can give one high like twirling a “Kaavadi” for an hour or so.

My father has done it. He says that they would also pluck ripe juicy mangoes from Mr.Kumarettan’s tree, twirling their Kaavadi while they pass through his courtyard, in his youth.

This has been happening. This is the way things are. I don’t know why. I can’t understand why do people do such things? I really don’t know.

I am a convent-educated gent. Before I ever saw the inside of a temple, I had been to church about a hundred times. I had been to rosaries, christenings, Christmas and New Year celebrations …. Enid Blyton’s England was more familiar to me than native Kerala.

My childhood was spent amongst the Goan community in Bombay (Mumabi). My early readings on religion was books for children on Christian Saints like St.Thomas, St.Francis, St.George…. in the Library at the Christian seminary run by Malayalee Franciscan priests, which was close to our house then.

But then, I have to fear the Matrix. I have to run. I have to choose a pill. A red one. Or a blue one.

If I choose the red one, I am a right wing Hindu fanatic fascist BJP/RSS/Bajrang Dal moron.

If I choose the blue one, I am a freethinker, there on bright green fields with fellow peaceful, saintly, intellectual, sane people with John Lennon’s “Imagine” playing in the background.

Now the problem is, for me there are not just two pills. For me there is a million other pills in a plethora of colours promising a multitude of choices.

“"The Matrix is a parable of the original Judeo-Christian worldview of entrapment in a world gone wrong, with no hope of survival or salvation short of something miraculous.””

My religion already gives me a million choices and ways of exploration. Hinduism is already a search for truth, without having to break from the bondage that Christians or Muslims (or in short people belonging to Semitic religions) face from the dogma of the book and Church/Ummah.

How strange. I was already born a freethinker. And still am.

But I still wonder at the beauty of this world as if from afar. Is it the kind of education, the reading… whatever …. that makes me so un-participatory, so aloof, so questioning.

The Matrix is very typical analogy of a religio-philosophy that shoves the soul of man in to a heaven or hell after he dies. (I really don’t know what is in stake for woman (mostly Hell), or if there is a possibility of God being a woman).

It is the ultimate fear psychosis-expression of materialist, fascist, religious world-view that has to fight out neo Jehads and Crusades. The Jehadis and the Born Again Christians. Someone fervently wants me to add “Hindu Facists” to that list. (Why I won’t is another Blog yet to be written).

One does not have to jump buildings and duck bullets in slow motion to find the truth. On just needs to look within. Each person has the answer. It has always been there.

I know you know. I know you know I know.

I am not going to run. To escape from the minions of the Matrix.

I am going to sit


Very still


And watch

A dry leaf waft

Down down down

It falls on the pond

The ripples

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Oh those Hindus!

How crude, with their antiquated practices and illogical traditions!
A constant refrain of the left-leaning jurnos and the obvious secularists / modernists of today.

When incidences occur that looks like an affront to progressive, modern thinking one thing is prominent by its absence. The “other” viewpoint.

While it is OK to wear a banian with pictures of Lord Ganesha or Shiva, it is an outrage when MF Hussain paints Saraswathi or Durga.

But why so? No one really got their view. Or perhaps the trishul wielding folks are not sophisticated enough to articulate their stance with clarity.

One reason could perhaps be - they “perceived” such incidences as “deliberate and calculated attempt” at denigration.

Why do they do so? Politics is one reason, historical baggage is another. Both cannot be wished away overnight. That’s the plain vanilla.

And now, Tina Turner CAN act as Durga.
But WHY Tina Turner?
Answer – why can’t she?

She can’t - because of the image she projects by her persona.

As far as the incident of the innocent leak by Anilkumar’s son at the Vadakkumnatha Shiva temple in Thrissur is concerned, is as unfortunate as it is silly.

Now let us understand that even if a person was to visit a friends’ home and the child happens to take a leak, involuntarily, it does cause some degree of embarrassment. Quite natural. Accept it.

First, every place of worship has its own set of rules. And a Hindu temple, all the more.

A Temple cannot be compared to the Church or Mosque (but it is done habitually). The Temple is not a place for mass congregation and a communal gathering. Thought many temples do witness heavy rush, the communion was always, and still is, very exclusive.

Second, the Hindu religion does not enjoin its observers to make it there every Sunday or Friday.

So if you cant comply with the rules set out by the temple, don’t go. No commandment forces you to. You can attain moksha even without setting foot inside any temple.

Third, a temple is really a very special place. And the Vadakkumnatha Shiva Temple, particularly so!
A temple is not some structure that could be rigged at any place of convenience. (Not that impromptu temples don’t keep popping up at all sort of places).

Ancient temples were built on principles of Vastu. They are set on hallowed place where the salubrious forces of nature intermingle.

Every temple has its set of rules on how poojas and rituals should be observed. This is done to enhance the positive energy field of the temple.

So if there are in place a set of rules followed from time immemorial, there is reason. Even if the reason is not know / understood / seems antiquated, today.

While the real issue here is the insolent and uncouth behaviour of the temple authorities towards Anilkumar and family, the underlying truth is the pitiable condition of Hindu temples in Kerala, financially speaking.

Why were the temple authorities at the temple so very pesky in trying to force out some money from the family?

Clearly they saw the incident as an opportunity for making some additional money. Perhaps not for personal gain.

On Anilkumar’s outrage, the manager even admitted this. He even denoted that some of the money was being tweaked - for buying the groceries which go into making the prasadam offered to worshippers.

Oh the ignominy of it all.

After the complaint made by Anil, the Government is obliged to take some “action”.

While rightfully, the action should be sanctioning of additional and adequate funds for the upkeep of the temple, it is pretty certain that the utmost that will be done will be the transfer of some “Devaswom Board” officials as punishment.

Perhaps a separate fund should be allotted so that if such an incident repeats, the necessary pooja-karmas can be done without financially taxing the offenders.

And then, the secularists / modernists shouldn’t be pooh-poohing traditions but the process and procedure by which it is being enforced. If you can’t really understand, don’t moralize.

After all, if the Hindu pundits were not so ‘backward’ in their behaviour at regular intervals, the jurnos would have been short of some loose change jangling in their jubba pockets right now.