2013 things my life has taught me

#1. Listen as much as you talk.

#10. Don’t let anyone dictate what you want in life.

#100. It is always just so much easier to please others than it is to please yourself.

#150. This too, shall pass.

#199. What is cute at three is stupid at twenty.

#200.    99.9999 < 100

#1000. Brush your teeth at least twice a day.

#1999. Just ask!

#2000.   Never be afraid to say sorry.

#2001. To err is human. To grr is animal.

#2002. Acknowledge all the little things other people do for you. 

#2003. You can learn things from the unlikeliest of people. There is never a person who isn’t capable of teaching you something.

#2004.   People are always worth another chance.

#2005. There are very few situations in life that licking chocolate sauce off your fingers can’t fix.

#2006. Each one is different. And in that very way we’re all the same.

#2007. Never read the end of a book first

#2008.  Laugh and cry whenever you feel like.

#2009.  Write an anonymous love letter addressed ‘To the one’ and leave it in a place where people can find it. Go on. You could make someone’s day.

#2010. Everybody has that one person that they can’t keep other people’s secrets from.

#2011. You couldn’t find what you’re looking for because it was on the third page of Google Search.

#2012. Never click a picture using the front camera of your phone to check on how you look.

#2013. New Year resolutions hold only as long as the year is new.

#2014. It is not entirely necessary to stick to numbers.

  Hope ya’ll have a very Merry Christmas and a Blessed 2014 ahead!!!!!!

No milk for the baby

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I was waiting for my bus to college.

It was a week ago. It’s a December afternoon. And it’s winter. I have always hated winters in Chennai. It is generally as warm as it is during summers with occasional cool breeze. And that afternoon, it recorded 30 degrees on the Celsius scale.

The Vadapalani temple is 5 minutes north from where I live. And it is 100 meters from the east mada of this temple that I had to board a bus to college. The average teenager would find this place vapid. Nothing glamorous about it. It was on a few days grossly overcrowded. Unsanitary even.

Everything around here is a little backward in time. The place is just a result of the fraudulent cosmopolitan image of the post 90’s India having thrust itself on the ancient tradition refusing to make way.

The road is lined with shops selling pilgrim essentials, flowers, cheap toys, cosmetics and Made in China goods. And near the bus stop where I was standing, the ground is dug out by the electricity workers to re-lay lines. The road is still wet from the showers of the previous night. I know this place like the back of my hand; Apart from the fact I have lived here my entire life, the place has really not changed much. And on the other side of the road are shops selling jewellery, clothing and groceries. I know every shop by its name and position. Very small changes were made in the past decade; what was once ‘Vijaya Stores’ is now ‘Happy Provisions’. On the pavement, are seated the ladies selling fruits and garlic.

On a dry day, one can see the dust ascending from the roads. The dustbins are overflowing and there is a faint smell of rotten fruits in the air. I am really kind of used to the smell by now. 

Five meters from where I was standing, is the first ever restaurant of Hotel Saravana Bhavan chain; The restaurant is closed temporarily for repair works. In their car park, however was parked an Audi A6, which I presumed belonged to the manager of the hotel or the owner’s son.

It’s been ten minutes since I’ve been waiting for my bus to arrive.

Two college guys were standing beside me- one with curly hair and a bag worn so low, a black ‘Absolut Chennai’ T-shirt, skin the colour of coffee. The other guy taller and light-skinned than the first, had long hair tied to a pony. Both of them, I thought- pretentious as fuck. These were the only two ‘things’ that reminded me that the year is 2013. 2014 almost. Oh and A.D., btw.

Fifteen minutes.

Their bus arrived. I told them a silent farewell. I plugged my earphones-first into the left ear and right. ‘Keep talking’ by Pink Floyd playing. I sing along in my head…. 

”I sit in the corner, so no one will bother me…”.

 I was just looking around in total despair. I’d be late to college. Not that I had a problem with that. But I expect things to happen in my pace.

A bus. Not mine.

A crow flew from a tree on the side walk towards a bus. 25G.  The crow hit on the bus’ window. Fell down. I wasn’t sure if it died. A wheel of the bus ran over it. Sure.

There were a sizable number of people waiting for their buses. All very usual-the workers, college girls, kids with their parents.

 My mood switched from meditative to pensive. I was just staring out in to a distance, with unseeing eyes.

 From a distance, I saw a lady walking towards the bus stop with a baby on the side of her hip, held with one hand. Slowly, weakly. She was thin and dark, her hair brown from the heat. It’s certainly been a while since she’d brushed or oiled her hair. Her sari was a faded blue, the blouse-a crimson. The baby was gorgeous and must’ve been around six months old, dressed in a skirt and a blouse too big for her. She came walking towards me. Looked at me, prayerfully. Held out her hands to me, asking for just any money. Persuading passively, she said “I haven’t eaten in three days,”. Silence. 

Her hand which did not hold the baby went up to her tiny breasts, involuntarily “There is no milk for the baby, also.”. I suppressed a laugh. (I know where milk comes from). 

Familiar Silence. Questions flooded my head.

 Why did she choose me of all the people standing there to ask for alms from? Did I look sympathetic? I didn’t like it. Or was it just that I seemed to be looking at her?

Was the baby really hers. Clearly, she did not want a baby. It is, to me, against every logic that she wanted to have a baby. Chances are that a rag picker or an alcoholic impregnated her. Without her consent, perhaps. Maybe it was a rape. Or maybe not. Whatever be the case, she was a mother of a baby that she did not want. 

And the baby was a girl. And she did not have milk to feed the baby.

Or what if the baby was not hers at all! What if she is only carrying her around to gain sympathy. To make her situation look worse than it actually was. This would be a case of human trafficking in its primitive form.

At six months, the baby did not have milk. And at the age of three, the chances that she goes to school are slim. And if she attained puberty, how would she be able to afford sanitation? And there is also this- at this rate how strong is the probability that she attains puberty. Will she live till she is twelve? She may die. Honestly, death didn’t look like a very sad ending here.

Let’s say all goes well. What would she end up being? A sweeper? A house keeper? A Prostitute? 

The baby did not have a choice. And it was not the baby’s fault.

The knowledge that by every chance, I could have been that baby; anyone could have been that baby, stung me. Nobody ever said life is fair.

 Poverty is one thing. Poverty is a reality in a society like India. But it is other things that poverty leads to like- illiteracy, unemployment and which again in turn lead to poverty are problems of a bigger magnitude. (The vicious cycle of poverty that one would learn about in eighth grade Economics came to my mind.). With very few exceptions, poverty leads to a more severe kind of poverty.

Is charity enough?

Isn’t the system flawed entirely. Isn’t the mismanagement of resources to be blamed? 

Nature is abundant. There is enough food for everyone in the world. The hot-dog you threw away because it was cold on the inside? Not food?

Should I call myself blessed and be grateful for the things I have?

 Like what my mother says ,” No matter how hard your life gets, there are thousands that envy the life you have, the opportunities you get. “.

Or should I introspect myself on how much I’ve taken for granted? 

How well have I lived? 

How many days in my life really count? 

Is it possible for me to bring about a change? If yes, how? What kind of a change? How big?

This lady was standing next to me, still looking imploringly. I grew irate. It is not up to me to help everyone out of their difficulties.

I turned away coldly at first and then, moved away from her. My bus arrived. Twenty minutes late. “One college road” I tell the conductor,handing out a ten rupee note.

I didn’t notice the reaction on the lady’s face. Maybe she was disappointed. Disappointment, by this time should be a feeling she’s used to.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Religion and India

The first instance I questioned ‘religion’ was when I was twelve. I was at a temple when I saw a statue of a lizard. Lamps were lit around the place. The main deity of the temple (which is ancient) is Lord Shiva. My aunt insisted that I folded my hands in prayer, which, of course I refused to do. But with the intervention of my mother- I had to. “I came here to worship Shivan”, I thought. “I didn’t sign up for this. I hate lizards.”.

I felt rather stupid.

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Any religion is a result of the socio-economic dynamics of a society. Hinduism is the “religion” that majority of the people in India followed and still do. The reason I’ve used quotes on the word religion here is because I don’t consider Hinduism a religion. Before proceeding into the post, it is fair that I attempt a definition of the word ‘religion’. Religion in my opinion is a way of living. Every religion has its own scriptures and deity. However, it is easy to see that all religious texts follow a blue print. Every religion has its own set of ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’. And all religions detail on the result of doing the dos and don’ts. (Karma, Hell, Heaven, Judgment day etc.).

The content however is characteristic to the time and region of origin of the religion. Let us consider the example of Hinduism, Hinduism is ancient. And Hinduism has its roots in India. It has a vast number of deities both male and female. Owing to to its vastness and ancientness, it can only be spoken in a “more or less” manner. Hindus worship everything from Human-beings (male, female, and transgender), cows, goats, snakes and almost every indigenous species of plant and animal. In Hinduism,’ worship’ does not have to mean gratitude or bargain. Worshipping means respecting and respect can be viewed as ‘tolerance’. Hinduism speaks subtly of ‘conservation of biodiversity’. And ‘Karma’ which literally translates as ‘deed’ is a concept whose relatively modern equivalent would be ‘as you sow, so you reap.’ Karma necessitates the doing of good.

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Other religions that found their roots in India during the B.C. s are- Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism. All these, take their scriptures from Hinduism and modified to suit the period and of course have a single deity. In fact, some of the Hindus believe Buddha is one of the ten avatars of Lord Vishnu. And staunch Buddhists refuse to accept this as true.

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With the Advent of the Mughals to India, when A.D. was new, came the second major religion in India-Islam. Islam of course, has its roots in the Middle-East. Later came- Christianity, which was carried by the British to India. And with the scenario changing in the politics of the country, the complexness of texts in Hinduism and the unfair hierarchical system, Hindus started taking to the other religions.

That’s pretty much the history required here.

India is certainly a country with a wide range of beliefs and religions. And it is easy to say that people of various beliefs coexist rather peaceably but for the occasional disturbances caused by a few political groups. The religious system of course is rather mature. And except in a matrimonial context, the nation is secular. To state the obvious, the religions in India (in order of majority) are-Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Jainism, Sikhism and Buddhism. There are traces of Zoroastrianism and Judaism (though I’ve personally not been acquainted with an Indian Jew).
The object of the post is, however not transfer of statistical information as in the rise and fall of certain religions. Nor do I consider it necessary to give facts on religious distribution region to region. I’ve been noticing recently that the religions have changed in their structure and dynamics to suit the ‘today’ and this change is very evident in the urban areas of India. It is this ‘transition’ of belief that I plan to discuss here.

The people still do believe in God. But definition of God has changed. It is a universally acknowledged truth that any life-changing event alters a person’s spirituality. When something changes the life for the better, the faith in God intensifies. And a bad phase causes people to either blame God or stop believing in anything. But what could qualify as ‘life-changing’ is unique and is different from person to person. However, I’m going to try and talk about this generically.

I divide our society into three economical classes, broadly.

1. ‘Educated’ middle class and above: (The term educated is quite literal. By educated, I mean someone who has had a college education and is into a reliable vocation.) This is the class of the society which is unharmed by economical fluctuations. A financial loss is somewhat manageable, usually. A ‘difficulty’ to this section could mean a failure of relationship/marriage or death of a loved one. This is a class that takes to religion for emotional needs or just to identify oneself or find perspective. And this is also that section that has not much time for religion. Agnosticism trends high within this section of people. Some shift to more exotic religions like Taoism.

2. The poor: The definition here is again, literal. Poor here means “Money-Poor” or going for a more euphemistic term- economically-backward. I again divide this section into two: One is a group that follows a religion. Another is a group that doesn’t really have a religion. (Quite honestly, this is a section that does not follow a religion because they don’t have to.). Proselytizing is common among the poor. And proselytizing is generally from Hinduism to Christianity. This group is the target of missionaries that promise food and shelter if they’re willing to sign up for the Church and read Bible every day.

3. Middle class: Middle class here just means someone that is able to afford the basic needs without much trouble, despite not having a college degree. This section has undergone a huge change in their beliefs in the past decade. Almost every middle class Indian follows a religion. Exceptions are cases which belong to certain nihilistic movements. Definitely, finances play a major role in the mechanics of a middle-class life. And prayers are generally, aimed at having ‘enough’ or ‘ample’. This class is not stationary. There is this uncertainty associated with everything. The believers in this class stick to the scripture dutifully in the hope of improving the standing. The belief of the people under this category is also transient as a result of the lack of sureness in a situation. The middle class reacts to a failure in a few possible ways like some end up being more ‘rational’ with their beliefs, while some take to another religion that ‘calls’ them, while few stop believing. In God.

Converting is also a nuptial necessity.

Apart from personal experiences, the fact that the past decade has seen quite a large number of religious scams, have made people indifferent to religion. And also is the obvious disconnect between the metaphysics of religion and the material world is felt more intensely since the beginning new millennium.Almost everything has changed in definition. The small has reduced in size and the huge has grown bigger.The ‘new breed’ of ‘professionals’ have become discerning in sense religion in their quest for peace. And when they fail to attain a tranquil state of mind, they feel letdown.

Even as I started writing this post, I knew I could only talk about it in rather sketchy terms(‘in my opinion’ ‘of what I see etc). And to talk about something so vague somewhat precisely in brief is not really plausible. I don’t go further so I don’t hurt anybody’s sentiment also.

Concluding,

Belief hasn’t died or disappeared it has only been metamorphosing and relocating itself.