Monday, March 29, 2010

Response to Comments on Previous Post

This is in response to many comments I got(not just the ones who were good enough sports to share their views openly)on my last blog. For the record, I would like to note that so far I have more approvals. This is heartening for I could have wept otherwise.
Firstly, that blog was not a personal attack on anyone. I am too out of touch with all your lives to know or care how you live. So there is no need to get offended . Just like you claim your right to break a few more links in the society to which I also have a right, I have my right to express my opinion and hope a fool's hope to keep people like me from being extinct. I cannot always tone it moderate to appease my readers.
Secondly, I donot care a cent about how you live, I want you to care about how you live. There is a difference, and you need to understand that.
Thirdly, do read and post comments only if you care to go through the whole thing and respond with an open mind. I am not here to preach to anyone, but just to influence atleast 1 reader. If you have already made up your mind, go no further and continue your blissful existence.On the other hand, if you too hope to change my mind, then read on!
This particular post is not a debate between love and arranged marriages, I might like to take that up on some other day, but not here. It is about being in a relationship and being married/ with intentions to get married or being in a relationship and deliberately choosing to be unmarried.
I shall reiterate that if one spends enough time understanding how any culture evolved and degrades, one will have to figure the family system in the equation. Are people disagreeing with me of the opinion that our mothers lead a worthless life. Did they make all those sacrifices for us ,encouraging us to be what we are proud of being today just so we can stand on our "independent" feet and claim that they added no value to the society. So if they too had been selfish and had thought only about themselves, I gather our world would have been a better place to live in. For believe me, maybe the next generation will not see the impact of this shortsightedness, but a few generations down will..that too only if they are lucky enough to realize their loss.
OK, I understand when people say they donot want the hassle of a marriage, the whole big package, the responsibilities and the commitments, and that they are not ready for it. I DONOT have an objection to not getting married. That is indeed one's personal choice. But I have an objection to spreading the epidemic of a mindless and meaningless existence in the same society where I have a part, and my children will too. If one doesnot want to perform their dharma, then one should atleast have a damn good excuse up their sleeve for their time on this Earth. Be it Mother Teresa style or Isaac Newton style or Mirabai style.
I currently reside in a country where this started spreading maybe about two generations back. Not all people I know approve of this, but they already do not even have a choice. Some of their parents and grandparents lived without the concept of a family. One person I know was at his work all day instead of at the funeral when his sister died, because he said he was not close to her. That is all very well, but look at his life and grapple a meaning out of it. He makes loads of money, he does not have any ties that he can be sure will not break, so he tries to lead his life for himself because only that is permanent for him. I pity him and many others like him. I cannot even blame him, for he did not have the choice that our generation is faced with today. What, may I ask is the purpose of this purely materialistic and carnal way of life? We might as well be born animals, if we cannot do something better with our intellect.
No matter which type of lifestyle one chooses, there should be a constant aim to transcend from one mental plane to the other. Random wandering without any bearing of where you are going is futile. I am not talking about this body, but one's soul..for it has a much longer journey , the length of it depending on how much time one aims to waste without any progress in mental level. Acknowledging that is the very first step. Acknowledging a futile existence is better than simply living through it. One needs to look at the bigger picture.
One person actually said that staying married to one single person is no longer a viable option because of globalization and our mobile careers, and claims that this is better than repeatedly obtaining divorces. Any comment I make here on this statement will be inappropriate in my blog.
One person says we are mature enough to not be influenced by others. I am afraid we over estimate our race, and there is a lot of rot involved in the statement (Sorry for the rudeness, but so were you). Because wherever I look in the world, people are influenced by something or someone and there is this mad craving to "fit-in". If history shows anything, it is that people are easily influenced. Why, history itself is written by the most influential piece of write-up.What is easy becomes popular, and what  is popular becomes an accepted norm of life. One's political knowledge is limited by what the media presents to us. Our consumer knowledge is limited to what the advertisements present to us. One cannot buy a simple product or good without reading/ obtaining a 100 other reviews and suggestions. One would not go to a business meeting in summer in cotton T-shirts and shorts just because it makes sense. We do it, because we have to follow the norms at some places. One will not wear a dress if the whole world says it makes them look ugly. If the human race is indeed above such dependence, why is there a furor every time somebody influential makes an inappropriate remark. He/ she is accused of causing discord among people. Why care if Raj Thackrey makes insane remarks, the human race is above all that, isn't it? Why does not someone tell S.Tendulkar that he is wasting his time and efforts in setting an example, for people cannot be influenced. Most of today's adolescent and youth problems ranging from drinking to anorexia are a product of peer influence. If indeed people cannot be influenced, there would not have been a Hitler, a Gandhi or a Karl Marx. The human race thrives on influence.
There is no "right or wrong" in this situation: Wrong period
When one is faced with two options in life, the easier one is most likely the wrong one. One who cannot stay married to one person, will find the option of not mating with anyone harder I suppose.
I cannot force anyone to my views, and I would not grab hold of some one and give a lecture, for I have no wish to preach like I said. Someday, maybe this will be a part of the digital remains, and  someone might atleast realize their loss and what might have been.. This is not aimed at any individual, so please tone down your comments.But I wish I too had the right to live the way I like and bring up my children the way I like but that becomes more and more impossible when we live not in seclusion.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

A Right to Live, Not Live-In

The Supreme Court has done away with the need to use the term “illicit relationship”, and to satisfy whom this time? I cannot believe that a purely immoral and illogical behavior can now be justified as a fundamental right. I am not afraid of social censure here to suit “modernists”.
Our whole society and culture has been built over 1000’s of years with certain basic building blocks. There is no doubt that the concept of morality has been waning exponentially, but that is no reason to make a wrong-doing legal in order to artificially free people’s mind of any guilt, or to encourage it as acceptable.
Indian culture and society has been built on the family-system as the foundation and to take that away ensures the demise of our only stronghold in this world. One needs to reflect on his/ her life and acknowledge that the strongest impacts on their character and way of living come from the ones closest in blood. It is the way our parents have lived that sets an unattainable example to us. It is the attempt to ape an elder sibling’s virtues that salvages a younger one, and the elder’s knowledge of this fact and hence the need to remain an example that provides a balance to this tightrope act in life. Of course in later years, friends play a large impact, but for most of us, the ability to distinguish right from wrong has already been deeply ingrained. But, even the spirit of independent thought never really came independently.
Making live-in relationships a right is just modernistic trash and perhaps the most short-sighted constitutional right ever. The repercussions of this are enormous and I mean it in a bad way. If two people are in love, what is to stop them from getting married? It is the fear of commitment, and responsibilities. With any kind of sustainable happiness, comes along a certain amount of responsibility. One cannot turn their backs on their duty towards their families and the society. It sounds alright to say that people have a right to live their lives the way they want to. I cannot but disagree. If one’s actions bear an impact on people around, they need to be conscious of the right way of life. Every society is a dynamic, intricately complicated and inter-linked mechanism. People learn their virtues and tolerance for virtues by accepted norms among others in their line of sight. Perhaps, in today’s generation, there are still a lot of people who can relate to what I am saying. But the moment we are forced to turn a blind eye towards this sort of rampant immorality, we endanger the coming generations. Love, trust and responsibilities can give society a foundation, not lust. A hundred years from today, we will have nothing original in our country to boast of, no identity. A few hundred years later, we shall have nothing more than digital remains to show for ourselves.
No doubt, one has a right to live his life, but only to live it responsibly.

Please read next blog for possible rebuttals to your arguments. Thanks!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The 39 Steps and the Imagination of One Man

How interesting would you imagine a play with a cast of four to be, if you have never seen one? How tiring would you imagine it to be if you knew that 3 of the four actors were going to play the other 30 characters the script demands? From my experience, watching movies with even great actors in more than 4/5 roles gets a little too tiring, even if I can acknowledge the great display of screen talent. If your imagination is also shaping like mine, I can understand why the reviewers of the play skip these details in their report, and give the director a chance.
I read the book – 39 Steps by John Buchan last week leaving out the last 30 pages to retain the suspense. After all, what good is watching a murder mystery and thriller if you know how it is going to end? But, the book did me no good at all. While it was an interesting read, my qualm about how it would look on stage was put to rest by a genius. Alfred Hitchcock was revealed in a whole new light to me, for it needed an imagination of a genius to do what he did.
The plot of the Tony award winning play revolves around a man Richard Hannay who is chased out of London and all around Scotland by the Scotland Yard who believe him to be a murderer (A beautiful woman was murdered in his apartment) and a group of spies who believe that he is privy to their elaborate plan to betray the country and could consequently sabotage their mission (the beautiful woman gave the secret away before she was murdered). Ok, so does it sound like a regular run of the mill thriller? Well, think again and let your imagination run astray. This was as much a suspense thriller as an out and out comedy, however the comedy had nothing to do with the plot..just the way the plot was enacted. Alfred Hitchcock beautifully adapted the book when he introduced his own characters and new twists in the story when he made his 1935 classic. Patrick Barlow brilliantly adapted the film in to a stage play.
While it is very interesting to note the different accents, costumes and demeanor of early 20th century men and women in Scotland belonging to a wide range of social classes, (a milkman, a newspaper man, a theater artist, a policeman, a farmer, a politician, a professor, a thug, an aristocrat, a cheap hotelier, the list goes on…) what is really noteworthy is the performances of the three actors who were not Richard Hannay. While he played his role to perfection, he only had to live one character. The woman, and the two thugs/ policemen/ secret keepers were simply mind-blowing! They left nothing to be desired in their portrayal of any character. It was almost as if they had Multiple Personality Disorders. How they switched back and forth in to the souls of such varied dispositions with amazing fluidity! If I wore a hat, I would take it off! The audience gave them their due…we laughed and applauded at all the right places and marked the extent of our appreciation by giving them twice the standing ovation.
Absolutely everything was funny…the beautiful woman with a knife sticking out her back, the hero being chased inside a train, on it’s roof, his capture in a car and his escapade on a motorbike and over streams and waterfalls, the way the play began and ended inside a theater... To bring this kind of imagery on a stage without the illusions of a graphic program, and all with the use of the simplest of props consisting of two trunks, one door, one window frame and one sofa is a wholly different art. I, for one, am glad that this art has not yet died albeit the grossly high numbers of people who do not particularly enjoy sitting 25 feet from an actor and watch him actually bring cellulose to life.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

In India..In God's Own Land

It’s now been a month back since I came back from my vacation in India, although it already feels like a year. Everything seems just so distant and surreal...the morning namaaz from the nearby mosque, the newspaper man, the milkman, the growing buzz of traffic, the national anthem from a nearby school, the steady hum of the mid-day calm and the evening rush of activity…
I was going home after over two years, and I donot ever remember having so many musings. For the first time in two years, I witnessed an act of racism, in Hyderabad airport. The customs officer called a “White” man standing behind me to the front of the queue with obvious preference to color. The next thing that struck me was the number of “non- white” faces around me. I did not even realize how much I missed that until then. Then came our car driver who was honking almost non-stop at a near empty road at 2 in the night! I was finally on the other side of the world.
Two days after I landed, I was off on a trip to attend my cousin’s wedding. I was excited about the wedding as it was my first trip to god’s own land. We were a group of 35 people traveling in the train from Chennai to Trivandrum; needless to say the journey was littered with the latest gossips and re-runs of bygone seasons. I do not sleep well in trains, and was eagerly looking forward to a new day. I was not disappointed. I was up before dawn, and the first hint of sunrise unveiled the glistening Kerala backwaters, surrounded by countless coconut trees (a site I never tired of for the next 4 days). I somehow knew that I was going to have many first experiences. How right I was.
The first and constant and most noticeable thing that one cannot miss is the water served with meals, be it in someone's house or in a restaurant. A typical Keralite serves lukewarm water that is pink in color. The pink comes from the herb pathimukham which has numerous medicinal properties according to the Ayurvedic literature. And of course, it was easier finding Ayurvedic stores in the smaller towns of Kerala than a regular pharmacy.
Trivandrum itself was not very impressive, I was a little let down by the city...to me it neither held the old town charm nor the new city thrills. It was lost in transition. This Kerala trip was however planned as a pilgrimage by my parents, and on that count I was not disappointed.
My first visit was to the 300 year old Anantha Padmanabha Swamy temple in Trivandrum. It was unique for the Lord’s eternal sleeping posture, it’s impressive mythological history, and (forgive me) the Dravidian architecture. I was also told that this temple architecture was unique in Kerala. It looked like any other old South Indian temple to me from the outside, but I understood what it meant as I visited more famous temples deeper and farther inside this land.

Once we were cut loose after the wedding, my parents, a cousin and I made our way to the famous Guruvayur. By the time we reached the temple town, it was 130 am. We were all enthusiastic to witness the “Nirmalya Darshan” of the baby Krishna at 4 in the morning. The lord is woken up, given some butter, bathed and dressed up before being paraded around the temple on his elephant at 6 am everyday. I was very pleased with the pre-dawn darshan and the Sri-Veli (Elephant ride), but what spoilt it for me was our decision to brave the now large queue to have one more peek at the idol. Unlike other famous temples in the south, lord Guruvayur has no preference for people willing to spare a few crisp notes, and only makes an exception to the old and disabled. Alas! If only there was an organized queue! There were tens of thousands of people fighting their way to the front…pushing and squeezing so much that it is hard for the ordinary man to keep his mind on the God for many hours in this ill-behaved throng. My own horrors were too many to pen. In the end, I was glad for a gasp of fresh air and the feel of only my own skin.
Anyway, if you examine this photograph and compare it with the previous one, you will see what I was talking about. The Guruvayur temple looks like a typical Kerala temple. I have never seen this kind of a dome on any Hindu temple in any other part of the country. This was a first for me…
Image copyright with www.mapmytemple.com
We then visited Aanakotai, the place where they housed all the 64 elephants belonging to the temple. It was not a big place and they were chained on atleast 3 legs (some obviously violent ones were chained on all four). They were visibly bored and threw heaps of dirt and hay all over themselves for pleasure. Apart from this, they seemed to be well cared for but I would not be surprised at any protests from animal activists.

Our next pit-stop was the Mammiyoor Shiva temple. A visit here is a must for all Guruvayoor visitors. It is a pleasant small temple, surprisingly not very crowded and has more than enough power to negate the memories of the crowd in Guruvayur temple.

Loaded with information from local people, and having found a good deal on a rental car, we made our way to Thiruprayaar, an abode of Lord Rama. This is famous for it’s divine powers and is unique unlike other Ram- mandirs. The deity is that of only Ram without the customary presence of Sita, Lakshmana and Hanuman. This is unheard of and may sound quite ridiculous to some devotees. However, the local men told me that (Malayalam bears resemblance to Tamil, and hence my survival and enlightenment) there are 5 other separate temples to honor not only Sita, Lakshmana and Hanuman, but also temples for Bharat and Shatrughna within a 50 km radius all in different directions! Well, that was a revelation. 

Thiruprayaar was beautiful and it was an experience I can never forget in spirit. It is on a low lonely hilltop, adjacent to a huge clear lake surrounded by trees. The temple is majestic, with vast open spaces and scarcely populated. Feeding the fish in the lake is believed to be equivalent to feeding the Matsya-avatar of lord Vishnu. On one part of the grounds, people can burst fireworks by paying a nominal amount. of money .The first time was a shock that literally shook every nerve in my body. The sound of fireworks in the otherwise unearthly calm place was unnerving. A fellow worshiper explained that this was done in order to relieve people of their innermost built up stresses. One never knows when the fireworks are going to sound, and yet I shook less every time and was feeling more at peace with the world. Another memorable aspect of the temple is the deity itself. Rama’s stand- alone deity is somehow cleverly made to emit a burning flame from within it’s forehead. The priest explained the divine illusion. The idol has a small gold leaf ingrained in the forehead and the oil lamps around it are arranged at angles such that they reflect off of his forehead resulting in a mind-numbing effect. I felt like I was in the very heart of God’s land…

We were now on our way to visit the mighty Kodungallur devi. The goddess is as beautiful as she is renowned. The most unique feature of this temple is the  sanctum with idols of the ten devis . They are Brahmani, Narayani, Maheshwari, Indrani, Chamundi, etc. who, according to mythology sprang from each of the gods to help kill the demon Mahishasura, hence acquiring the name of Mahishasura Mardini.
We did manage a few more beautiful temples on our way back to the Trichoor railway station to make our way home. The most interesting among these was was the Koodal-Manikyam temple. It was as big as the Padmanabha temple, it had a bigger tank and it had an elephant...and it had only one sanctum with one deity..that of the great Bharat, whose devotion to his brother has not been given enough praise in our mythological books. I left Kerala in a state of musing and awe, overwhelmed with my lack of knowledge.

The rest of my trip passed in a blur. I attended two more weddings and have no noteworthy experiences. I wait for a new journey…a new experience and another wonderful sense of overwhelm.