Tuesday, September 13, 2005

On Hinduism

Hinduism is a fluid religion. There is no one person/ prophet/ messiah who can be credited with 'founding' it; and there is no point of time which can be said to be the start point.

Hinduism is a way of life. As a result, it has in-built allowances for geographical, economic and climatic realities. So, a Hindu living in prosperity in Punjab will follow certain aspects of the religion and another middle-class Hindu living in Thiruchirapally will follow some other aspects.

The basic tenets of Hinduism are the following: (and like with everything else, these will vary from person to person; these are what I perceive).

1. Inclusion: While later religions like Christianity and Islam are built on exclusivity, mine is an inclusive religion. It does not have one God/ one Master and it does not treat non-believers as infidels. It sees the divine in that One Supreme Soul (paramatma), Great Souls (mahatma.. many of them) and the ordinary soul (atma). There are Hindus who pray to that One Supreme Formless Divine; others who pray to the various Gods we have in different shapes, forms and sizes; still others who do not pray to anyone. So, there are shades of theism, monotheism, polytheism and atheism all at once.

2. Rituals: Our religion is practised through rituals, some of which are pagan by nature and some are abstract, metaphysical experiments. Since this religion developed amid a growing civilisation, it incorporated nature-worship, animal-worship and people-worship. From the time one is conceived in the mother's womb to the time one is consigned to flames, every event has an associated set of rituals. We have rituals for sowing, rituals for reaping; rituals for invoking rains, rituals to contain floods.. and so on. This is what fascinates and intrigues the average foreigner who comes to India.

3. Self-development: The key to being a good Hindu is an ongoing quest for finding the divine within. Yoga, which has become such a fad in the West, is the obvious manifestation of this quest. Yoga means sum and it stands for the coming together of the body, mind and soul. Different forms of yoga address the three different aspects individually and collectively.

4. Tolerance: Perhaps it comes from the point of inclusion above, or from the concept of karma which essentially says "your destiny is driven by what you have done in this birth and in births past, and no one but you can help you change it". Hindus are very tolerant of diverse views, other religions, other people and situations in general. This sometimes is labelled as "lack of killer instinct" and leads to us accepting mediocrity.

In all, my religion does not call me to follow dogmas, nor does it ask me to hate another.

In recent times, there have been negative developments in my religion but that is material of another post.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

India: What to expect?

Most visitors don't know what to expect when they come to India for the first time. As a result they are confused when they see something like this...

This is a scene from Elgin Road, a prominent street in Kolkata (Calcutta) but it could be anywhere in urban India.

What you see in the background is an old mansion, maybe a 100 years old. The billboard is advertising Coke and the lady holding the bottle is an ex-Miss World, Aishwarya Rai, still one of the prettiest women on the planet. The posters are of a new Hindi movie, an egalitarian passtime for most Indians. And then there are the men going on with their business, oblivious to my camera's intrusion into their private lives.

Unlike most developed countries, different social strata overlap here. There is ample space for all points of view and you will see such juxtaposition of what you call modern and medieval all over the place. We, as a nation, are living in various ages all at once.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Return: Thanks to Roberta!

We Indians close our eyes to so many things... One of them is how foreigners perceive us and our country.

After a long hard day, on a recent flight from Calcutta to Delhi, I was fast asleep in no time. A not-so-gentle nudge woke me up. It was the pretty european girl next to me who I had not said hi to.

She asked what the gooey white stuff was that Indian Airlines had served her. I said it was dahi and our conversation tentatively began. Her name was Roberta, she was from Italy, worked as an interpreter in Switzerland, and had come to volunteer for the Missionaries of Charity in Kolkata.

“Why do all Indians ask us europeans for money”, she asked.

“Excuse me, what was that again?”, I responded.

“Yes, every Indian I have met till now has asked me for money. For clothes, for food, for children's school fees, and for getting their daughters married”.

I was taken aback. “Where have you been meeting these Indians?”

“In Calcutta. At the Missionaries of Charity. And at Kalighat. And at Kidderpore”.

I told her all these places were where India's poorest of the poor live and no wonder they ask everyone for money. Especially white-skinned folks who generously dole out cash. Its like ghettos everywhere in the world.

The 2 hour conversation I had with Roberta made it clear to me that we in India have not done much to clear the misgivings of the average foreigner. They still think we are a nation of naked deprived people; cannot figure out why we have arranged marriages; are surprised when some of us speak better English than them; are puzzled when they see the fast cars, multiplexes and other obvious signs of prosperity; and are disappointed that the snake charmers are not around on every Indian street.

Roberta, this blog is for you and others like you. I will try to show you various aspects of my country and hopefully answer some of the questions you have.

Thursday, October 21, 2004


Today is Navami (the ninth day).
Posted by Hello

Navami begins with sandhi puja which is done in the last 24 minutes of Ashtami and the first 24 minutes of Navami. The day has lots of puja which end with Maha aarti. Rest of the day is spent in festivities, taking one last round of all the pandals and in generally having fun.

You can also feel a tinge of sadness in everyone's gait, words and eyes for the Devi will return to her abode in the heavens soon for another year.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Maha Ashtami

Today is Maha-Ashtami (the eighth day of Durga Puja).
Posted by Hello

This is the most important day of the Puja as it celebrates the victory of the Goddess over Mahishasura (the buffalo-demon), as shown in the photo I took this morning.

The goddess is bathed (symbolically) and dressed for the final battle. This happens just after dawn. During the day, she is supposed to have killed the demon. In old days, a buffalo was offered as sacrifice to the Goddess. These days bananas, pumpkins and cucumbers stand in for the animal.

If you get to read this in time, and there happens to be a Puja in your city, do visit a pandal today. You will see the anger in the eyes of the Goddess.

Durga Puja

One of the most prominent Indian festivals is Durga Puja.

Goddess Durga is the embodiment of shakti and, in the form of Parvati, the consort of Lord Shiva.

In most Indian cities, specifically in Bengal, Bihar and Assam, one will come across idols such as these.
Posted by Hello

Durga is the ten-armed one in the centre, astride her vahana (vehicle), the Lion. She is slaying the demon Mahishasura. Flanking her are her children: (from left) Lord Ganesha, Goddess Lakshmi, Goddess Saraswati and Lord Kartikeya.

Today is saptami (the seventh day). This is the day the Puja actually starts with Bodhan or Bodhon or Pran-pratishtha (infusion of life into the idols).

This is an amazing Hindu concept. We believe that God lives in us and in nature. While we can and do respect each other and nature in its many manifestations, we also need some other tangible symbols to pray to. So, we make idols or find stones and do a Pran-pratishtha in them. The idols or statues are fit for worship only till there is prana in them. Before we immerse the idols, we do the reverse of Pran-pratishtha.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

These Commies will screw our country

Read this today and, forgive the bad pun, I went red with anger. Posted by Hello

The cost of guaranteed 100 days of work for everyone in the country is Rs. 32000 crores (USD 8 billion). This kind of money does not grow on trees. The way out is investment, both domestic and foreign.

The leftists are opposed to any kind of foreign investments in key sectors like telecom, infrastructure and education. On top of it, with their demands for caste-based reservations in the private sector, they have scared the hell out of indigenous investors. Now, they are recommending a "cess on the rich"!!

Manmohan Singh is a good man. But he has failed to rein in these commie jokers who have all mouth and no accountability. If they had to do guarantee jobs for all, why did they not implement this in Kerala and West Bengal where they have ruled for ages?

Sadly, no politician has the balls to stand up to such mindless propaganda.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

To you, Chipsmonster..

My post today is prompted by the comment of Chipsmonster who, as an Indian muslim, does not identify with my previous post.

This is something I wrote some months back on my earlier blog.

When I was growing up in a small town in India, we have had Muslim friends and neighbours, and I have some warm memories of that time. The succulent mutton that used to come from Salim's house during Id, the great joy one used to feel when his Boodhi Nani (grandma) used to come down...the smell of onion always emanating from their kitchen....

Strangely though, I hardly got to study with any Muslim classmates. In school, engineering college or even at my IIM, Muslims made for just about 1% of the class. This is odd because India is supposed to have over 20% people of this community. If you look around, in the army, the police, and the corporate world or in the academia, the representation from Muslims is hardly noticeable. I don’t think its because of any discrimination....the most probable reason is that most Muslims (except the high or middle class urbanites) finish their schooling in some madrassa, which while providing them with good practical or spiritual knwoledge, make them unfit to join the mainstream.

Does India hate Muslims? Unlikely. Most of our most respected musicians (Bismillah Khan, Bharat Ratna, Vilayat Khan, Amjad Ali Khan, Fahimuddin Dagar, Zakir Hussain et al), movie stars (Amir Khan, Shahrukh Khan) and many beloved sportsmen (Azhar, Zahir, Kaif, Aslam Sher Khan, Nawab Pataudi, Shahid) belong to this community......and more Hindus than Muslims stood against the carnage in Gujarat, which incidentally was a one-off tragedy in the history of India.

The only beneficiaries of the backwardness of Muslims are the Mullahs, Imams and sundry politicians who then can herd the faithful to their own ends. Sadly, the Islamic intellectuals who want to reform their community are beaten down by their own brethren who call them anti-Muslims. Rafiq Zakaria, Mushirul Hassan and Maulana Wali Mohammed come to mind. Some of the greatest minds in the world are Muslims, and most of them are tolerant, cultured and secular. Most Muslims do not marry four times, and in today's world, most of them do not just say talaq talaq talaq before throwing their wives out. They do not cheer for Pakistan in a match with India, and definitely do not nurse an ambition to go to Lahore some day. These are stereotypes created by the black sheep from the other religions, of course with help from their ilk from the folds of Islam.

No amount of political bickering will ever change the fate of Muslims in India. Their young men will have to take charge of their futures. They will need to get the very best of education, then compete for the very best of positions and then assert their voice in every domain they enter. They will need to educate their womenfolk and not restrict their passage through life. There is no dearth of talent within them....all they need to do is shed their inferiority complex.....I would love to see many more Salims (as well as beautiful Salmas!!) walking shoulder to shoulder with me!

Not all Muslims are jihadis or extremists. The problem is, while most Hindus or Sikhs will criticise fanatics among their own community, the sensible Muslims keep their trap shut. The opposition and condemnation of Gujarat came from more Hindus than Muslims. But do you see even one prominent Muslim standing up and saying that the Kashmiri jihadis or Afghan Taliban are regressive and/ or wrong?

Monday, September 06, 2004

The Islamic Growth: Updated

There is this small piece on rediff that talks about India's population growth in the last decade.

While the Hindu population grew by 20.3% (down 5.1%), the Muslims grew by 36% (up 1.1%). I suspect this is a conscious effort on the part of Muslim clerics who denounce birth control publicly and exhort their followers to multiply like rabbits.

I dread the day when India will become an Islamic state.

Updated on September 7 0900 IST

Today's papers have carried a longer version tucked in somewhere on page 13, hidden between stories about some flyover that's taking too long to complete and a domestic help immunisation program.

The thing to note is that the population growth rates of Buddhists, Sikhs and Hindus have gone down and those of Muslims and Christians have gone up significantly. Anything to do with missionary zeal?

Or, are we (Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists) not getting enough sex?

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Jihad Posted by Hello

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