The Commercial Pilgrimage

A very popular pilgrimage is that to the  four abodes in Himalayas called Chota Char Dham (Chota meaning small):BadrinathKedarnathGangotri and Yamunotri – all of these lie at the foot hills of Himalayas.  It is considered to be a journey that the devout undertake for earning punya … a term I have no English equivalent for – perhaps good deeds?  But then many undertake it in the summers, to escape the heat and placate the Gods at the same time.  Killing two birds with one stone…

Everyone has a personal religious journey to undertake.

There was a time in life when I was overwhelmed with life itself and everyone and everything that was happening to me.  I did what people normally do, when confronted by impossible odds.  I turned to religion.  Since I live life and do everything with passion, when that did not work for me … I went whole hog; I turned to world religions, to occult, to spiritualism and to astrology.  I wanted answers to the question that plagued me, “Why me?”

I did not get the answer to my question, but I got much more.  I got a world view on how human beings made sense of their surroundings, of nature and environment through religion.

In my humble view, all religion stems from one basic fact; it teaches us how to live in harmony with our surroundings, with nature and with each other.  It is a set of rules to live life by.  Rules which, when flouted, have disastrous consequences.

“Stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace!” [John 2:16]

 The Bible says that Jesus cleaned up the House of God by throwing out the merchants, the money traders and people who were plying their wares.

Matthew 21:12 Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves.

The Koran has very strict rules on attire, behavior and conduct when one visits the mosques.

The Hindu religion, like every pagan religion has its root in nature worship.  We have myths woven around banyan trees, peepul trees, tulsi plants.  We consider our mountains holy.  We have huge temples and shrines built on rocks and hill tops.  Kailash Parbat is the abode of Shiva, the Himalayas are given a religious significance.  We, by rights, should be a very eco-friendly country should we not?

How did commerce get into it?

I went to JagannathTemple in Orissa once and was put off by the rampant commercialism.  I came back upset; there was no sense of piety there.  I visited Vaishno Devi twice and then turned away.  I get more happiness chanting and meditating in the confines of my bedroom sitting on my bed than I get when I go to these places.  But then each to his/her own.  My purpose here is not to upset any one else’s religious sentiment.

Religious tourism is a huge commercial force.  And hotels have been built to cater to pilgrims who can afford to be the religious tourist, afford the Char Dham Yatra.  The priests in the temples almost salivate as they take our donations, by hook or by crook.

Everyone is familiar with the images of the buildings being washed away in those awful floods.  Six floors to a building, or more, and built so close to Kedarnath, that one does not have to walk too far.  Pilgrimage in comfort.

Shiva in water

The images scared me and shocked me.  To me, they seem to be a scary version of our belief of washing our sins away by taking a dip in Ganga.

Are the Gods mocking us?

Are the divine forces sending us a warning?

Our ancients built these shrines with a purpose in mind.  The purpose was that spiritualism stands for harmony with nature.  They were situated far away in the lap of nature, where piety and peace would be found.

Nature is a stern taskmaster.  And a powerful one.  It is sending us a message … those who forget history are condemned to repeat it.  As a Devi worshipper I implore to all …

“Stop turning my Mother’s house into a marketplace!”

 

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It’s so hard to love my India these days

When I was a little girl, my school was big on India love, we were taught to love our country and were full of national honour.  Us “girls in green” (our uniform was a peppy green with white polka dots number) were supposed to be chock full of national pride.  You know the spiel every convent school feeds you; Jesus loves girls who love their country …

Independence Day and Republic Day eves were celebrated with pomp and ceremony and we even got candy.

We were told stories of little boys and girls who had done patriotic deeds, not for India but for their own countries – from all around the world.  Dutch, French, British, American, Eskimo, whatever.  And I think our convent had a few movies in their stores that were aired at every such occasion.  We were shown those movies time and again.  If we were lucky, we got to see “Sounds of Music” for the 100th time, or a movie called Boot Polish.  But mostly it was Jagriti.  Sister Lydia, our chief tormentor was a patriotic Indian and she loved it and we were forced to overdose on it.  I think we, her captive audience, saw it 10 times a year, for at least ten years.  Yes, I still remember the song “Hum Laye Hain Toofan Se …” and “Aaj hai do October ka din”

Yeah yeah, Jesus loves little girls who love their country …

We had leaders to look up to, Mr. Nehru and his cabinet genuinely wanted to do things for the country.  In hindsight we may think that his policy of socialism was flawed – but he tried.  He was patriotic and wanted to do things for India

The shadow of Mr. M. K. Gandhi still loomed heavy on the national consciousness.  And that frail old man cast a huge shadow.  Papa told us that he was killed not by a villain but by another deeply patriotic person from another school of thought.  Papa loved to play devil’s advocate.  It was his thing, you know, to confuse us totally.  So he told us to remember when we heard propaganda trying to demonize his killer, Nathuram Godse, that Godse himself was not a traitor, just another lover of India who was from a different school of thought.

Dharamsankat … he would tell us.

These days we do not have Dharam – and that is the sankat!

Scams happen – it is matter of course.  We even rationalize corruption by calling it dhanda or oopar ki kamai, when it is not earning, it is downright thieving.

Little girls get raped and politicians blame this party or that, instead of hauling up our police for not doing their job, and the judiciary for not letting justice be delayed.

There is a leadership vacuum.

 

No one is responsible for anything …

 

Citizens take to the streets to protest, Police beats them up

Police protects leaders, not the taxpayers who pay its salary

Our soldiers get beheaded or mutilated – we beat our breasts

China comes in – Foreign Affairs Minister calls it “acne”

Sajjan Kumar scott free – Shrug and say – Law takes its own course.

Sarabjeet killed – Put on a sad face and say “Unfortunate.”

Anything more ?

 

Rape and its aftermath

Mark of Shame

I do not think any person in the country is not following the recent rape and its aftermath.

I often write about women, and how strong they are. I admire the spirit of women who live, laugh, love and nurture. But the recent events have shaken me. The thing is – bloggers like me are fortunate. We were born to educated people, nurtured in – maybe not gender equal atmosphere, but were given some opportunities, and since our families loved us, we were not suppressed – not much at least. (Here I am talking about my generation.)

And we were lucky. We did not climb into a wrong bus and got raped.

But we got groped. We encountered sleazy teachers, certain cretins who visited our homes and touched us inappropriately. We went out to buy vegetables and got whistled at, we also had fellow students who tried to – as is euphemistically termed “acted fresh”.

And we were told by our mothers that our brothers and fathers would set the person right – if the act was dastardly. If not, we were told to ignore and move on. Just don’t provoke men. They are “like this only”.

The list of provocative behavior is endless

(AT HOME)

1. Do not laugh loud

2. Do not talk sweetly … but do not be rude and cold

3. Do not react angrily

4. Do not sing … the servant may be listening.

5. Do not sit outside and read

6. Do not comb your hair in the verandah

7. Do not hang out your underclothes to dry in full view of public

8. Lock your room door before you enter the bathroom, on the chance that the servant may be in your room when you emerge

9. When you talk to your school friends on the phone, do not talk loudly. Your voice should be low.

10. Do not mingle with your brother’s friends.

OUTSIDE

1. Do not go out alone

2. All the above rules 1-10 have to be observed with suitable modifications.

3. Do not be over familiar with any boy and with girls who have brothers of the same age as you

4. If you have to visit your school friend’s home, your brother will go with you.

Mind you this was the sixties and the seventies. I obeyed. There wasnt much choice.

But did that stop anything? Boys would follow and whistle. There would be cat calls. Me being what I am, I would turn my cycle and charge at them. I would throw stones and shout gaalis. It encouraged them. That was not a deterrent at all.

So behavior as per the above listed rules did not work. Reacting angrily did not work.

What did I want?

Just to live my life …

Forty years have passed. Has anything changed? No.

Sure we are more educated, our girls have been “granted” more freedom. But has the country changed? Have the men who walk the streets changed? No and they won’t. Because they do not think they are responsible.

It is the woman’s fault. She is the instigator, she asks for it.

What did the girl who got raped want? What was she asking for?

She bought a ticket on a bus and wanted to go home. That is all she was asking for…. She was not asking for rape.

She was wearing decent clothes. She was accompanied by a male friend.

This, as per Shiela Dixit and Delhi Police is appropriate behavior, and falls within the norms of safe practice.

But the rape happened.

CLOTHES DO NOT GET A PERSON RAPED, BEING OUT AT NIGHT DOES NOT GET A PERSON RAPED.
A MAN FORCING HIMSELF ON A WOMAN GETS THE WOMAN RAPED.
A MAN FORCING HIMSELF ON A CHILD GETS THE CHILD RAPED.

Men who do it are the rapists. They are the violators. Men rape women and children. That is a fact.

Free speech in today’s India

First of all, let me clarify my stance : I am only writing this post because I am not in Mumbai, specifically Thane. No one likes to go to jail, just for exercising one’s right to free speech. Police these days seems more eager to arrest people on Facebook statuses and tweets. The rapists, murderers and other hardened criminals can ply their trade with impunity. No one’s out to get them. Free speech in today’s India is a risky thing.

Apart from one brave soul, Justice Katju, no one in the higher echelons of power came out to support that poor girl. This is what she wrote on Facebook, as a “free” citizen of our democracy :

“With all due respect, every day thousands of people die but still the World moves on. Just due to one politician died a natural death, everyone goes bonkers. They should know we are resilient by force, not by choice. When was the last time, did anyone showed some respect or even a two-minute silence for Shaheed Bhagat Singh, Azad, Sukhdev or any of the people because of whom we are free-living Indians? Respect is earned, given, and definitely not forced. Today, Mumbai shuts down due to fear, not due to respect.”

I do not find anything seditious in her comment. The same girl now is scared to talk to anyone and is apologizing to all and sundry : a few hours in jail can do that to anyone. So much for exercising free speech.

What further appalls me is some people I know who put things up as their status message :

Two girls legally punished for making joke of Bala Saheb’s death and commenting against ‘Mumbai bandh’ on Facebook.

Best news I read today. Such idiots who do not respect a great man like Bala Saheb and make joke on his death should be treated the same. Well done…

Really? Well done???

Thackeray was divisive, he encouraged vandalism and rioting. If you do not believe it, please visit this link. As a north Indian, I was often shocked and disgusted by the way he ran Mumbai like his personal fiefdom, and encouraged his sainiks to vandalize property and businesses belonging to non-Mumbaikars. The truth is that he would not have been able to, if the administration and police were honest and had the moral authority.

What I admired in the man was his bluntness, his intelligence and his charisma. He did what he thought was right. He definitely exercised free speech beyond what his Sainiks think is permissible for lesser mortals.

But why, as his legacy, are we allowing his party to clamp down on free thinkers?

I am raising my voice because I remember this famous quote :

When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.
When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.
When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.
When they came for the Jews,
I remained silent;
I wasn’t a Jew.
When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.

We don’t need your education

Dear S. Chand and others of your ilk

I had utmost respect for the high quality of your books and thought you were a great force in the field of education in this country, but not any more.

I have just now stumbled upon an article at NDTV about your Class 6 text book

The book titled ‘New Healthway – Health, Hygiene, Physiology, Safety, Sex Education, Games and Exercises’ blames many ills of society on non-vegetarians.

For example, it says: “They easily cheat, tell lies, they forget promises, they are dishonest and tell bad words, steal, fight and turn to violence and commit sex crimes.” That’s not all – on the same page 56, the book goes on to credit the tastiness of meat by saying that “it is the waste products which largely produce the flavour of meat.”

Are you sure the writer was educated? Did he know about nutrition? Or Science? Or was he just expelling gas from his nether regions, which I hesitate to attribute to eating cabbage and living off grass – because I do know a little bit about nutrition and science. I also fail to make a connection between your sweeping generalizations about cheating, lying, breaking promises, dishonesty and a non vegetarian diet. Please explain. As a company that publishes text books, you should be careful about facts when dealing with education.

Japanese diet is predominantly sea food. Your writer, (did he have any education at all?) apparently did not even know that.

The Khaps blamed chowmein for poor character and various social ills. Them I can forgive, they are not educators. You I can not.

Perhaps you want to propagate the Brahman spiel which abounds in the society right now. Seriously, people seem to be more concerned with the meat their fellow humans eat than the social ills. Allow me to educate you on our rich Hindu culture ..

Ayodhya Khandam, Verses 20, 26 and 94

Rama is packed off to the jungles. He tells his mother that he would miss his tasty meat dishes.

Krishna actually started the propaganda of Cow being a holy animal. The problem he faced was that cows were being slaughtered for beef and his kingdom was facing a shortage of milk and milk products.

They were both non vegetarian. Are you then accusing them of cheating, lying, breaking promises, dishonesty, profanity, violence and such like things? Do you dare?

Scientifically speaking, herbivores do not have canines but they have highly developed molars.

Carnivores have canines

We have both and hence we are omnivores.

By the way, I have heard that Hitler was a vegetarian and Mother Theresa was non vegetarian.

I think you are non-vegetarian, since you have done all that you accuse non-vegetarian people of doing.

Sincerely

A blogger who is tired of the bullshit being propagated in the name of education and religion

Role of women as per the Vedas

These are not my views but the statements I have taken from this website which belongs to an Iskon follower

1.…Concerning the woman’s duty, if she gets married, that does not necessarily mean that she must give up any of her service in the temple or on sankirtana, but she must also see to it that her household duties are not neglected.

 

2….Man’s business is to earn money, go to the market, the necessities. Woman’s business is take care of household affairs, children, and they have got engagement. And in the presence of father or elder brother or husband, a woman has to earn livelihood—that’s a great insult.

 

3….A woman’s real business is to look after household affairs…

 

4.”To render service to the husband, to be always favorably disposed toward the husband, to be equally well disposed toward the husband’s relatives and friends, and to follow the vows of the husband—these are the four principles to be followed by women described as chaste.

 

5.”A chaste woman must dress nicely and decorate herself with golden ornaments for the pleasure of her husband. Always wearing clean and attractive garments, she should sweep and clean the household with water and other liquids so that the entire house is always pure and clean. She should collect the household paraphernalia and keep the house always aromatic with incense and flowers and must be ready to execute the desires of her husband. Being modest and truthful, controlling her senses, and speaking in sweet words, a chaste woman should engage in the service of her husband with love, according to time and circumstances.”

 

6.”A chaste woman should not be greedy, but satisfied in all circumstances. She must be very expert in handling household affairs and should be fully conversant with religious principles. She should speak pleasingly and truthfully and should be very careful and always clean and pure. Thus a chaste woman should engage with affection in the service of a husband who is not fallen.”

 

7.A husband is the supreme demigod for a woman. The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Vasudeva, the husband of the goddess of fortune, is situated in everyone’s heart and is worshiped through the various names and forms of the demigods by fruitive workers. Similarly, a husband represents the Lord as the object of worship for a woman.

 

No wonder women are treated so badly in our country, we are maid-cum-baby-making-machine.  Nowhere is it written that we are human beings.  If we are even seen as women, we are seen through blinkers that come from a time when women were supposed to be smiling, self sacrificing mute workhorses tethered to home and kitchen.

No wonder crime is committed against women with impunity like that poor girl in Calcutta had to face.

I was once chastised by an acquaintance … he was a relative of a friend of mine.  He walked into a restaurant we were dining in, and actually had the nerve to tell me “Sharm nahin aati, aurat aur Ma hokar non-veg khate ho.  Kya sanskaar doge apne bacchon ko?”

Translation : “Arent you ashamed that you eat non-veg food being a woman and mother.  What morals and values will you impart your sons?”

I normally use humor to get out of such situations, but that was one time I reacted badly.  I told him that what I did or did not do was none of his fucking business, and what moral training I imparted to my sons was not his problem.

But there it is … the attitude that women have to be suppressed, choices have to be made for them.  And if they do not comply to those choices, then they should be raped, molested and even beaten so as to break them, all for better control.

Mentality of this society and its police has not changed.  It is not progressive, it dates back to the vedas.

Edited to add : Apparently this teaching is from Srimad Bhagvadam and associated texts which are later interpretations. Thanks @Bhavana Upadhyay for the information.  Men were the literate people, empowered and able to read and write.  So they interpreted texts in ways that suited them.  The poor women never got a chance to bat for their side, and hence got suppressed.  Those interested in knowing what Bhavana says, check the comment section