Monday, March 20, 2017

Encroaching Gods


Years ago many of us thought science, education and development would pose a serious threat to religion. We saw empty churches and priests begging for food, but it was not to be. The religion in turn has proved a serious threat to humanism and civilization.
Today we see an erosion of humanism and rationalism from our thought process. Instead various religious dogmas creep into every space of our lives. We have various religious speakers blaring through in our living rooms, palatial places of worship filled to the brim, huge religious festivals which ensures a few people are sent to heaven in stampede. The satire is not to be lost when we realize that the increased religious fervor has not made the world a better place at all.
 
An even disturbing trend is seen when the governance and state machinery is encroached by religion. Not so long ago the chief minister of a state made a huge donation to the tune of crores to one of the richest temples in the country. Now here, we didn't see much protests or intellectual discussions. How illogical it is to think of wasting tax payers' money for some non existent mythical beings? And to consider this happening in a part of the country where the marginalized are presented with noose of a rope rather than a few thousands of rupees to repay their debt.
 
Religion and castes are important agenda for the political parties today. Today we have children growing up in India with a  narrow mindset and view towards different faith and characters. If you don't believe me check the Facebook friends of your kids and make a rough calculation on number of friends who doesn't belong to his 'class'. Or 'belief'.
 
A few weeks ago, my friend insisted on witnessing a a religious procession. The belief is witnessing the procession grant your wishes. I agreed to witness the spectacle. People were lined up on the sides of the road. Police were deployed for the smooth flow. As the procession approached I was stunned to see throngs of small children accompanying ahead. They were very small and not used to walking long distances. I wondered if the parents would have allowed these children for a peaceful march concerning issues on society.
 
More recently I have been to a pilgrimage centre, happening to be a small church in Kerala. There a holy image is displayed once a year when throngs of people risk stampede to witness the spectacle. I saw people rummaging wastes to collect containers to carry back holy oil.
 
Nonetheless , very recently the capital city celebrated its annual festival of Pongala .Even basic amenities were closed as women lined up in the streets under hot sun to offer Pongala. In a city faced with draught, tonnes of litres of water was wasted. Small and tired children were happily dehydrated to earn the pleasure of the Goddess. The state machinery itself spent crores of rupees for the spectacle.
 
I happen to hear a Panditji speaking the glory of the Goddess. Strangely irrespective of religion the basic  idea of benevolent God is same today. Still, the Pongala Goddess is angered over only one thing- CRITICISM.
 
I am cutting this boring, stupid post short. I want the few of you, who read this to analyse how much of your thought process and decisions you make are based on religion.

Monday, March 6, 2017

JUDGED-2

I asked a good friend about an opinion on my last post, with a vain feeling of impressing her with my intellect. She dashed my hopes with a single word- “pointless”. But then why do we take pain to draw a clear picture out of random points. In other sense, in a pointless world drawing a conclusion out of every issue can cause loss of finer elements.

Issues on sex and  different aspects of sexuality has been a topic of discussion in the Malayali diaspora. We have had very crude form of sexual oppression, some matriarchial societies, rigid attitude to sex, liberal view on sex, better opportunities in various walks of life irrespective of sex and even sexual hypocrisies. The various conflicting views and opinions have earned our society a better self realization and in my opinion a good place for the women compared to other parts of the country.

I was in a argumentative mood when I posted a food for thought in my Facebook account. Although I didn't elaborate the issue in detail, the seed germinated from a documentary video, narrated by a girl on the sexual relationship with her father while she was in high school. Although the narrator stopped short of expressing any anger or extreme emotion about the incident, she  briefly enacts the trauma through student silence, lighting a cigarette and wiping off the tears.  Interestingly the protagonist goes on to use terms like 'getting wet', 'orgasmic' and doing it repeatedly until she entered into a new relationship.

Now in my post, I wondered aloud if it's right to brand the adult, if the girl in question had entered into a consensual act. The wider narrative is teens are mature enough to make their own. Most of the parents doesn't question their food, ideas, relationships or clothing. I knew a person who had a daughter watching porn in her early teens. The act was diplomatically termed as 'curiosity'.

I am not trying to justify any sort of perverted sexual act on children. But indeed, we stand at a crossroad where some unpleasant questions have to be answered. I did face some harsh reactions to my post. A good friend went on to issue a barrage of heated words and went ahead to block me. This reactive attitudes stem from insecure beliefs.

We are in eternal conflict with ourselves. We have to pacify our own beliefs against the raging perversities that has gained a social approval right from our arts, food, religion, clothing and relations. 

Thursday, February 23, 2017

JUDGED - 1

It was a peaceful Sunday and my siesta was rudely interrupted by a phone call. An old friend, who went way back to school, had lost his father. He was with me right from school to college and the news was a little emotional. I rushed off to his home, which was a agraharam  right in front of the temple. Crowds were gathered already. The space was already small and everyone was nearly standing on the toes  of the other. Priests with bare torsos  and the traditional strings moved around nonchalantly. Soon the mantras started and we moved outside where there was a little fresh air.
I joined my old college mates. We started chatting about the life we ended up living and soon  the conversation veered off to the latest trend topic- the young actress who was molested recently in her own vehicle by her former driver. The incident had happened two days ago. Although the news did not catch much traction initially, it picked up steam soon with the media and stars expressing their ‘huge shock’. And here we were, in the middle of a cremation, talking about the molestation. There were wild guesses and suggestions of the people behind the incident. People made suggestions about the contents of the video and how soon it is going to be released. Probably the actress would have never experienced such a huge hype even over any of her movies. I went back home, lost in thought over how a melodramatic scene shifted to much racy topic.

The discussion was heard all the way to tea-stalls, bookshops and beer parlours. Most of the male population seemed to be eagerly waiting for the ‘video clip’. The next day at the office, the friendly sweeper lady remarked innocently about the film star on whom shadows of doubt had fallen, ‘He is already married twice. Why did he have to do this’.

The common man who didn’t enjoy the privilege of any personal protection or support from the film stars & who had to risk daily travelling late hours among unknown people started making their own inferences.

To have a driver is a luxury in itself. To appoint a person with criminal credentials is a luxury as well as arrogance. The actress  who represent the arrogant girl of new generation crossed her line in roaming around with a criminal. Bhavana who came into movie as the innocent sister for the big star, who get ditched for lack of good looks suddenly transformed herself into the torch bearer of new generation. The cool image although had its share of success, didn’t go down well with our Sanskari clan. Well it’s still okay for guys to drink and smoke, but it’s totally forbidden for women. They have greater responsibilities like child bearing and child rearing.

Now this, at the outset, sounds as an issue which we can sit back and make judgements upon. But looking at it again don’t our women face the same issues in a different intensity everyday. To some extent, yes a woman can collectively counter the offense by a unknown attacker at a public space. But can the same narrative be used in a  workplace, where her promotions, relations and outfits are out to constant scrutiny and judgement.

Sexual shaming is a powerful tool. It is actually easy to counter every allegation except the ones involving sexuality. It is not confined to women alone and many institutions have used the weapon to confront unruly elements. Now you may recall during every student agitation the first allegation to come out would be the sexual anarchy. The public digests it happily and without reasoning.
Sexual depravation is another factor. The effects of liberalization has moved from economy to social life. If you look at the recent works in mainstream movies, which are used as a benchmark for culture, the common theme loudly proclaimed is if you have enough money, you can enjoy women, drinks and drugs sans any moral limitation. And if you can’t afford  a woman, you have every right to stalk her and assault her. The spurt in recent killings of women, who refused the advances of men, is a grim pointer.

I am winding this up here for now…more to follow


Saturday, December 24, 2016

DeMonetized

I was on my holiday to Chennai, when I ran upto a old friend at the bus station. I was meeting him after some years and there was not much change in him except for a thicker beard and a wife by his side. He started talking about a new 'nano-chip' embedded 2000 rupee note. I took that as a figment of imagination from a crazy guy and went off to sleep, switching off my mobile.
I woke up the next morning to a flurry of messages and panic calls. Our dear Prime Minister, in all his divine wisdom, had banned every single 500 and 1000 rupee notes. Here I was caught in a unknown city with nothing except a few hundred rupees.

Now that was not the end of all surprises. After a few minutes of dazed silence, I caught a shared taxi to our hotel. The guys sitting next to me started talking about East Coast and West Coast. Now what would be so important than finding a bunch your currencies worthless? I took out my mobile again to find out that Donald Trump had beat all expectations and analysis to emerge as the President of the United States of America and thus becoming the most powerful man in the world (universe might be a little exaggerated).

One by one the world democracies have plunged to autocratic rulers with right leaning ideology. The common man is of the view that debates, discussions and arguments breed inefficiency & would prefer leaders who makes things happen.

USA, with its hugely diverse population with largely liberal outlook to life chose a leader with very regressive mindset. This ought to be classified as a modern day miracle. Most of the mainstream media, pundits and corporate houses were batting for the lady who seemed to let their money wheel turn around seamlessly. They failed to see or chose  to ignore the sign masses in Britain gave through the opinion polls, popularly termed as Brexit. The little guy on the street felt isolated from the 'economic recovery' from the global economic crises. The figures and indices of economic growth remain far off him. The success of capitalism is to evoke the feeling of participation in wealth creation. If the feeling fails, the system fails. 

The small guy who had been enjoying the fruits of globalisation and neo-liberal economic policies has been eft out in the cold for the past decade. The small guy who spends almost the entire day of his life struggling to pay his bills, mortgage and his kids' college forms a significant part of the electorate. Over a period of time the bitterness of the small guys precipitated into a single aim. To eliminate the enemies who eat into his wealth. It could be the rich corporates who destroys all his savings with a single, reckless swipe, the muslim terrorists who is out there to wreck his equilbrium, the immigrants who wants to steal his livelihood, He saw his answers in loud-mouthed, chest thumping leaders who talked little sense. He believes his leader will wipe off the enemies with his magic wand.

Now when Modiji ranted and raved against the corrupt, black money hoarders and the evil terrorists across the border, the small guy was willing to take it all and stand in his queue hoping for a better tomorrow.

Days have gone by. Today it’s more than a month since demonetization was declared. The small guy still stands in front of the ATM. Many of the small and mid level vendors have closed shop or scaled down their business. Till date no big name has declared bankruptcy with wads of useless money. When the ordinary people find it difficult to marry off their children, the super rich splash around cash and IT dept doesn’t even bother to ask questions.

The clever people at the government has slightly shifted the goal post, now gunning for a ‘cashless’  society. Another financial term, sweet in the ears of insulated section of our population. Our PM went on to star in the advertisements of private e-payment players too, to emphasize a cashless utopian society. The carrot in the story is no wastage of paper, no fake money, no scope to hoard etc. Pictures of small scale vendors with small, cute Paytm boards appeared in media, highlighting success of the whole saga.

The irony caught me on my visit to Bangalore. The private company hired part time sales boys who went around registering merchants for free and giving them free Paytm boards. I observed for some time at the busy market place and failed to see even one person making e-wallet payment. Now where is the gap? The messiahs of e-wallets conveniently remains muted on high merchant discount rates. The security is not audited and there many unresolved disputes in the country around many service providers.

As the days progress by, the small guy realizes the dangers of authoritarian decision making.







Thursday, February 18, 2016

Miracles and Rationale

Just the last night a friend shared a facebook post on a miraculous siting somewhere up in northern Kerala. I read the article with some reservation, as it appeared to be from someone faithful. I stopped myself from putting anything negative on the post. Why incur the wrath of Gods!

  At different points in our lives, questions will be asked on our belief system. Be it in people or in God. And it is not so easy to come out strong through that
Years ago when I was too naïve and innocent about the world, we had a miraculous happening in our town. At an English school run by an Anglo Indian couple, some Muslim kids spotted Jesus in their classroom during the lunch breaks, while the Christian students were out for their daily prayers. This led to some huge spiritual chaos as the news spread like wildfire. My chest was puffed with pride as one essential question of ‘ Whose God is real’ seemed to have been answered. I went around, with a puffed chest, telling my Muslim friends about the spiritual encounter of their counterparts with MY God  

The school organized a two-week vacation Bible school and miracle crusade. The Bible classes for kids were in the mornings and the miracle crusade in the evenings. The classes were led by a handsome American guy who taught us Gospel songs in foreign accent and the miracle crusades by the miracle worker from Tamil Nadu   I started enjoying the whole programme- the accented Gospel songs and the crusade.

I never had an opportunity to watch a miracle crusade from close quarters before. This was an opportunity for me to witness the action from front row. Since this was a programme mainly meant for the kids, there was no much scope for any terminal illness. The illness, at its worst, would be a fever. But then there were may wearing spectacles. ( Back then we watched a lot of video games and ended up wearing specs). To my utter surprise there arose, many whom I knew, claiming they could see without their specs. The preacher called them to the front and asked them to read their Bible without their glasses. There arouse a collective gasp. I had pretty thick glasses too, which I wanted to get rid off. I shut my eyes tight and prayed hard. And then I opened to see the world was blurred still. I consoled myself saying, maybe my faith wasn’t strong enough.

  But then I witnessed a curious thing. The same guys were wearing the glasses the next day. That was my first ‘shake of faith’. I struggled to comprehend the events just seen. It went for a even violent shake up the next day.

I happened to be sitting next to a guy during the session. He had the tattoo of a cross on his hand. I don’t know why I noticed the tattoo at that point of time. Towards the end of the session this guy gets up and goes to the podium, claiming that the cross mysteriously appeared in his hand while praying I was surprised and shaken.

That point in my life turned out to be defining in itself. As the years passed I started viewing things more rationally and I read more liberal literature  

The last day my folks were talking about a Catholic Charismatic building coming up. Probably, people wouldn’t have to travel far away for the spiritual encounter. The whole infrastructure and money associated with such a unit is huge and we will have to appreciate the people working behind this I have known a few people who had this spiritual encounter resulting in a physical healing and there so many people who haven’t had the privilege to. There are many people who had to go through a relapse after some brief ray of hope.  

I am not being judgmental about the whole thing. But it would do no harm, if we use a more liberal approach on our views about our own religion or religion of others.
The last day I visited a church known in the name of a martyr from 1st century. I walked around the church and there were no hint about life and times of the saint, but offertory boxes all around

Thursday, February 4, 2016

The 24x7 economy

We, the idiot electorate, should have realized by now the splendor of the Ache Din that have dawned on us. It hit me with all the vigour when I read the recent news about amending the laws to legalize 24x7 working hours for more industries.

  Well, we are not talking about any conventional  life saving industry here- but shopping malls and banks. Can you even imagine hitting a mall right at midnight to buy some shirt or jeans? Or even apply for a car loan because his car broke down in the middle of the night.

Now, please don’t think that the measure was to boost the employment or wages. Nothing of that sort is mentioned in the bill. But the measure is boost our industry.   Here is a government that is so much into boosting the ‘industry’ that it’s passing archaic laws, which does no good for the economy, but  a selected few  

Speaking of the situation in bottom of the pyramid, we have a new trend of outsourcing “labour”. While in the earlier days you had a servant who comes in to clean your house and cook, a plumber, a carpenter etc who had their own livelihood, today they all have been collectivized under outsourcing agencies. These agencies ( contractors) do nothing much but rent out the labour services The good part for the ‘economy’ is we don’t have to beg/ cajole the plumber or carpenter. We need not even bargain or feign shock on hearing the wages. These agencies have every aspect fixed. Now for the people who were self employed, they can no longer fare out against the market forces or organized sector. And they opt for bare wages. One of my cleaner boys was telling how he was forced to do extra shifts without any additional allowance. He barely earns 7k a month and there are nothing like paid leaves or other benefits.

  I can never walk into a mall without a feeling of guilt. We have all these women in odd uniform and liberal make up standing for more than 12 hours a day to earn a pittance. Are they compensated enough? Do they get their basic amenities? And are we going to push them clock another 12 hours a day.

  Now just look at the other half of the population walking aimlessly, callous to the surroundings and only bothered about the discounts.

As long as we keep our eyes closed, everything will just turn out to be fine

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The woes of Pongala

Sree wouldn't have imagined such strong repercussion when he posted his thoughts on Pongala and the innumerable difficulties it brings to the citizens. This snowballed into a barrage of abuses with him being termed as anti-national, anti-hindu, sickular etc. Sree did the wise thing by simply removing the post.

It isn't uncommon these days for the people getting more and more hyper-sensitive about religion. The people have becoe aware and identify with their religios and cultural beliefs which inturn helps them to identify with their nation and fellow citizens. In a way it may be good to prevent a slippage into anarchy, while it becomes more and more difficult to identify yourselves with a neighbour of different ideas and beliefs.

India has always been a religin f spirituality, religion and Gods. Men of power realized that the easiest way to rule is to divide. Back then, in an agrarian society where mutual co-habitation was necessary for survival certain differences were tolerated for survival. Even then the society was not free of racial tension rifling ino riots.
Today in a scenario where individuals become independent in terms of his survival, he can coin his own thoughts irrespective of neighbour. But in an urban setup where physical spaces are less and information sharing takes place in a crazy speed throughout the breadth and width of the society, impact of religion and race could be catastrophic.

A decade ago Pongala was a local festival of the city where women spread out to few kilometeres to cook in the open air. In the eveining it was a prety thing to see the women crowding on public buses to rerach home. Even before that Pogala was a festival the rich household sent their servants to celebrate
Thanks to some marketing gimmicks of the temple and adoption by  the media to develope this festival as some sort of cultural wonder plus world record fete, it got hold of public imagination. The film stars flocked into cook pongala in frnt of five star hotels. Various associations started even bigger cooking fetes  of breakfast and lunch for the poor darlings. Then the sad truth that Devi would show her displeasure if you don't cook rice for her has made this a huge exhibition of vulgarity. People has  to tolerate this show for the sake of national integration and secularism. All the shops and hotels close down. In the evenings over enthusiastic youths thrust cheap sodas into the faces of tired fat aunties. And all the garbage is cleaned out of the city by burning it all up.

Secularism is not tolerating bullshit

About Me

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Shakespeare,Da Vinci, Benjamin Franklin and Lincoln never saw a movie,heard a radio or looked at TV. They had loneliness and knew what to do with it. Thay were not afraid of being lonely because they knew that was when the creative mood in them would work.