Saturday, August 29, 2009


Lots of things happening....

Son 'A' turns 5 soon. Dad is leaving for Jammu, India, his 2.5 moths long visit winding to an end. A's birthday will be celebrated (nothing grand..his friends will come over) almost a week in advance since we want Nanaji to be a part of the celebration.
A is into Solar Systems and 'Mahabharat'(courtesy Nanaji) these days. And since his mom is artistically challenged I thought Solar System as a theme for the Birthday party is much more do-able. I have an exam coming up too. I am at my wits end and a little tierd with the range of emotions I am experiencing. So a break from blogging is becoming necessary.

Also the fact that my studies are not upto the mark and the exam of sorts is just a few more days away is making me unhappy.
I call it exam of sorts because, exams benefit us in some way or the other...Degree/Certification, a better job/opportunity or a higher salary etc etc etc. This exam will do nothing of that nature. But I cherish it more than the countless exams I have given before, because I do this only to gain knowledge. The concept of a Pareeksha is necessary for a mere mortal like me with 2 kids under the age of 5 and no help. I would never be able to finish a decent amount of literature/syllabus (if I can dare call it that) if the spectre of Exam did not loom overhead. Though I love to read, this is not an easy piece of reading. I am dealing with 4 Adhyayas of Geeta, The stories and concept of Dashavatar, 18 stories of great men like Kumaril Bhatt, Adi Shankracharya, Tiru Valluvar, Tulsidas....
The true meaning and significance behind many of our Hindu Festivals and rituals associated with them. And Pandurangashtakam ...written by Adi Shankracharya(meaning and memorizing. I admit ashamedly that I am not even attempting to learn the Sanskrit shlokhas. The rest is going to get my best shot.

Hence I am unable to read many of my favorite blogs and write posts as frequently but I will resurface with vigor post 9/13. See you soon.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Here Comes The Party Pooper

Disclaimer: All the incidents mentioned are true but the opinions expressed are the author's alone with the honest intention of hurting no one, especially Shiv/Ram/Balram Senas, Puja Oraganizers, Parents and Children.

Scene 1: Many years back growing up in Eastern India, I looked forward to Durga Pujo...The Pandals were a delight and the atmosphere positive and lively. Good food to eat, lots of Rabindra Sangeet, Conch Blowing Competitions, Aarti Competitions (they do it in a special way dancing to drums known as Dhaks). Later there would be plays by the local theatre groups.
You can view Dhunuchi Naach at

Scene 2: As years went by the noise increased thanks to loudspeakers blaring bhajans sung to the tune of popular Bollywood numbers.
As I grew older venturing to see the Moortis and the skills of the craftsmen became a an exercise in life/modesty saving skills...Maa's Darshan came with dollops of butt pinching, squeezing, inappropriate touching experiences.

Scene 3: Newly married, we were the coolest couple in the block. I was still a student at TISS (Hubby still looks like he is in college) and many in the area thought we were a pair living in sin. Having cleared our names and our honor we were asked to judge a dance competition during the Ganapati Festival in Mumbai (Andheri). The competition did not earn us brownie points with the mothers whose children did not win. But I still vividly remember sitting in the Pandal ..with the beginnings of a migraine.. thanks to the ear splitting loud music and a growing embarassment on having to witness pre-pubescent children moving vulgarly to the tunes of Bollywood numbers.
Love the Arti though.

Scene 4: I saw yet another clip last night of a dance competition organized for Ganapati and saw 8-9 year olds gyrating to "I am a Desi Girl.." and other such numbers. I thought the Ganapti Idol in the corner looked a little forlorn or maybe even embarrassed as these young girls...children heaved and twisted to these numbers.

Scene 5: I get invited to a friend's house for Ganapti and she says she is asking all the children invited to prepare a little something on Ganapti..Shloka, story, song...This way the children get to perform and learn at the same time. Our own little cultural program as we celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi. Fun redefined. God Bless Her !

If not for the beginning and the ending scene this would have been a sad story. But maybe it still is for many who think I am nothing more than a party Pooper who is taking away the fun element from these Puja Celebrations by frowning down upon the commercialization and heavy Bollywood influence.

The celebrations at a community level were introduced as a means to encourage a sense of unity...ekta and sangathan. Lokmanya Tilak popularized Ganapati Celebrations in Maharashtra. There should be entertainment undoubtedly. Festivals besides reiterating some good values are also a way to break the monotony of our lives and add some color. But what kind of entertainment do we seek, is an important question we should ask ourselves. Today sab chalta hai in the name of entertainment. An entertainment which is inappropriate does not add any value and in fact can be extremely damaging should be a matter of concern.

This should not be confused as my aversion to dance altogether. Besides the classical art forms I love to dance to music of any kind. But that is also because I have acquired the ability to filter the nonsense in the lyrics. I also know there is a different time and place for different things.

Personally I am worried. How do I bring up children in an environment like this? I do not want a 12 year old behaving like a 20 year old. I do not want them to accept entertainment and popularity as it is seen today. A very challenging task which is all consuming, especially since I see little help coming from any quarter. I can only do my best, hope to be surrounded by like-minded people and......pray.
I am not worried about disapproval and dissent. Zamana badal gaya hai and Vichaar bhi and I choose and prefer to walk the less travelled road. But yes, the road is long and hard.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Why Should Bikini be a Big Deal?

Why Should Bikini be a Big Deal? Says not I but a current Indian Beauty Queen contesting at an International Beauty Pageant. It got me thinking. I wear westerns and in many settings like a hot summer day, prefer them over traditional Indian wear.
But this particular statement accompanied by a picture of the Beauty Queen in a Bikini did not appeal to my rationality. Because the thought that popped into my head was that its not a big deal but totally unnecessary, definitely. Why should a Pageant which claims to evaluate one's 'inner'and 'outer' beauty within a couple of weeks and a couple or more of a round of questions even attempt to justify bikini clad women strutting in high heels as a test of physical beauty and inner strength.
The thought of a man or a woman trying to prove their over all appeal simply by shedding their clothes in front of millions is pitiable. A voyeuristic society lapping it all up and celebrating it is sad but not surprising.

It is not a sin to wear what one 'likes' wear. But "Prasangochitam Vesham Kuryaat" The clothes we wear should respect the situation we are in.
I went to the temple the other day and there were many women in western outfits, which is not a problem at all. COmfortable and clean should be the Mantra. But as soon as I sat down in a corner to concentrate I was confronted by this awful vision.... a beige underwear clad behind peeping out of a low waist jeans. First I was horrified for myself and more for the person putting on that 'free show'. This was followed by embarrassment, pity and a little anger. As far as concentration goes...for a mere mortal like me it went Kaput!
Prasangochitam Vesham Kuryaat. Your clothes should do justice to the situation you are in.
In such clothes I would not achieve what I have come for, in the temple....hopefully to concentrate and reflect and feel at peace. As someone forced to witness such an exhibition, I would rather not see, if see it at all, in such a setting. Besides the fact that my 2 year old shouting loudly "nangu-nangu" in a Temple is distracting as well as dig-a-hole-and-bury-myself-in kinda embarrassing. Unnecessary, totally unnecessary.

What should one wear is not a struggle I hope to get into with a school going child. The Ashram Vyavstha is a Vedic way of Life and it allows one to concentrate and do full justice to each stage of life. A student who is wasting time and energy thinking about his appearance and its affect on others means a student who will certainly not be performing to his/her potential. The Clothing Industry and the Retail World are happy with Public Schools having no concept of Uniforms (in the US). But when you watch the school goers sauntering into the school you have to remind yourself that they are teenagers (or even younger) who have come to this esteemed institution of Learning for the sole purpose of educating themselves. What and how much are they learning I ask myself, as they discuss the latest fashions, adjust their low waisted jeans and form cliques based on best and worst dressed, all in between the classes?
A 13 year old looks best being a 13 year old. Carefree and above the concerns of outer appearances. His/her only Dharam being that of a Brahmacharya...a Vidyarthi(student) on a quest for knowledge. A 10 year old should not be thinking about nail paints and cell phones and sex. Somethings are natural but that is where we are different from animals. We should know better that there is an age and a way to do things. Modest and clean in terms of behavior and dressing will only aid the environment of learning.

We should not lose our ability to rationally view what helps us and others be their best at every age and situation. Freedom within rational boundaries is beneficial and beautiful. Unharnessed,it has the power to be damaging.

Prasangochitam Vesham Kuryaat

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Social Revolution and Shree Krishna

Happy Janamashtami to All.

Shree Krishna, the Avatar/Re-incarnation is a subject I am incapable of touching upon. I will just take some instances of his life to show what a great Social Reformer, Brilliant Politician, and a Teacher of Spirituality he was. [His life and its meaning are things I have learnt and am still learning].

There was a time when every body's motto was Eat, Drink and Be Merry. The Brahmins were not independent and were patrons of the ruling elite. The subjects taught did not include Life Lessons...did not explain ways to truly develop one's life. The Ruling Class was egoistic and running after sensual pleasures and material wealth. The same behaviour was mirrored by the society at large. Though the people were materially wealthy they lacked in character, integrity and were floundering through life. Clueless as to why professional and material success and fame did not bring peace.

During such a time was born Shree Krishna to show us the power of Social Cohesion and stress upon the act that power and money are not what are needed for a Sangathan/Collective Strength and Social Revolution. He came to protect the Righteous (Saadhu) and punish the wrong doers. To set things right.

He stopped the Indra Puja which was a way to worship Vaibhav/Material wealth. He advocated and started Govardhan Puja....Go meaning Upanishad and those who protected and spread the ideas of Upanishads...a spread of Naitik Mulya/ Moral Values.

He endeared the women and stirred up a women's movement by spending time with the Gopis and making them into Brahmins...a people who spread the thoughts of God and Godly behaviour. The famous Raas Lila is just that ...Lila...a romanticized version of a 7 year old Krishna's interaction with much, much older women. He knew that a woman is instrumental in bringing about change in her home, extended family and society.
"Grihe Grihe Gopvadhukadamba"...the revolutionary ideas were taken from door to door by these Gopis as they sold milk.

He accepted the title of "MaakhanChor" to bring about a change...starting from the children of Gokul. There was no dearth of milk and butter in Gokul but all of it was sold to Mathura. The children of Gokul were deprived of essential nutrients. Krishna who was not lacking in any way stole milk and butter and distributed it amongst his friends. Another perspective is that Maakhan symbolized Sad Vichaar or good thoughts. He took the good from each family in Gokul and passed it on to the children. He sent the message that both a healthy body and mind are needed to make these children able citizens of tomorrow. These very Gopal's along with Krishna changed the society.

And finally ShreemadBhagvad Geeta...not a religious text but Shree Krishna's gift to Humanity. It answers all possible questions one can have about life. All doubts will be cleared and dilemmas settled. But secular education does not allow for a study of spiritual texts. Shreemad Bhagvat Geeta: God's song which enables me to learn the true purpose of my life. How do I find my inner peace which stands so shallow today. We are a generation which is stumbling through a fog. Happiness does not last. We are full of angst and so full of ourselves. We are living in a false truth.
I fear for my child who will surely learn how to make a living but will grapple with the fundamental issues which will determine his course and his happiness.

The cycle of good and bad is eternal. The society 5000 years back was no different from the society of today. The Land where Krishna was born is dipping down to new depths. And the behaviour is being cloaked behind the Right and need to earn money and fame, the Right to practice proudly the Philosophy of I, Me, Myself....the new mantra of emancipation for all. The Right to Cowardly hide behind...'Kaliyug hai...kya kiya ja sakta hai'.
It is necessary to excel in University (definitely not a Center of 'Higher Learning' but a Center of 'Higher Earning') but not imperative to be a man/woman of character.

The greed to hoard is overwhelming. Enough is never enough. Hence the collapsing buildings, train derailments, loot, rape and murder. Live Life King size means 'Upbhog'(consumption) of the highest order. Retail therapy is fast replacing Spiritual therapy. Upgrade whenever boredom sets in. And how easily bored we are today.

A spineless government and a spineless and an even weaker society.

In such times the lessons given by Krishna hold good. Time has not stolen his lustre.
Knowledge and Devotion must be combined with Action. There are too many Bakasurs(Bak meaning False Pride), Aghasurs (Agh meaning Sin). Asurs are not the ugly monstrous,fictional, Indianized versions of Vampires but real immoral,corrupt,bloodsucking Rakshassucking away at the society and the Right Way of Life/Dharm.
He showed us the Middle Path between Consumption and Renunciation. He asked us to keep our personal obligations/promises and loyalties aside for the greater good.
He showed us that we can fill our lives with laughter and play and yet tackle the evil within and outside.

Janamashtami is not just about fasting and feasting but renewing our pledge to carry forward Shree Krishna's work and blaze the trail for a Social Revolution. Rise and Shine!

Yada Tada Yatha Tatha Tathaiv Krishnsatkatha...
Krishnam Vande Jagadgurum!!!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Ritual of Marriage and Misunderstandings

Hindu weddings have been glorified and romanticized by movies and tele-serials.
In smaller towns they are still an almost 10 day affair and loads of fun.
Some marriage rituals are hated and deemed abusive by the feminists and the Un/Mis-informed Hindus.
Kanyadaan being one.
It is also considered by the Ritualistic Hindu as a means to wash off one's sins.

I don't want to talk about the Ritualistic Hindu...who anyways could not care less about the meaning of any ritual he/she follows and only worsens by attaching superstition and 'sky-will-fall-down-upon-you-if-you-don't' consequences to it.
I want to talk about the Un/Mis-informed Hindus...the ones who don't really know. They are not completely responsible for not knowing because it was never taught anywhere. The things they have learnt from family is unfortunately all rituals and no substance. They have grown up hating what they have heard and not surprisingly so.

We are Hindus. We are 'secular' by nature. We do not favor Hindu versions of Madarsas or Sunday Bible Schools. Hindus attending any such Center of Learning face the risk of being labelled as Communal.
So where does the Uninformed Hindu go to check his facts on Hinduism? Probably the book - "Hinduism for Dummies". The book sadly has also been written by dummies. So after reading even one such book...the righteous and any self-respecting Un-informed Hindu especially woman will go red in the face screaming to the world at large that the rituals are demeaning and she would rather go to hell than practice the 'shameful' ritual. I was once that Mis-informed/Un-informed someone said I am now the Rediscovering Hindu :).

What surprises me is we take so much care before choosing our doctor, our child's school, our home, car etc etc etc And pick up any over the counter book on Hinduism and start to judge. The hand me down tit bits about the we care to double check the facts? Have we taken pains to find the truth behind the muck that has collected over the years by malpractice? I did not until very recently.
Re-education and Reform are vital.

Anyways coming back to the point.

Kanyadaan. Kanyadaan or Panigrahan or Hast-milaap is not derogatory to anyone least to the girl and her family. It is a common factor in all Hindu marriages irrespective of the region. Terminology and ritual might differ slightly.
The word Daan has to be understood in the Shastriya terms. Daan is not a sign of weakness but the greatest strength. It does not mean 'donation' which brings in a sense of unequal relationship between the giver and receiver. That is wherein lies the problem of language. You cannot replace the word Daan with Donation. If you do so, you misinterpret. I also wonder if the Christian practice of the Father of the Bride "Giving Away" his daughter has similar connotations. Have not heard many questions on that though. Our Rishis consider a husband and wife equals. There is no 'better half' because they are considered One. "Tdetat Ardh Dwidalam Bhavati"
Lets look at some of the marriage rituals:

When the institution of marriage was being set up by Rishi Manu the question arose who will go to whose house? The girl graciously offered to move to the boys house BUT only when the boy comes to get her.On his knees, on a horse, in car, a Moped, a Bullet....any means of transport of his the Baraat/the Grooms side goes to girl's house. Dancing themselves silly and high on alcohol is, I stress not mentioned in the Shastras.

Some of the rituals(may vary in degrees from state to state):

VarPooja/Dwaar Pooja: Is a ceremony where the groom is welcomed and considered Vishnu swaroop. This was a psychological move. To reduce the anxiety of the brides parents (they were naturally worried if the boy was good enough for their daughter). We can control somethings and not all. Hence the parents were to place trust in God and assume that the boy at their door seeking their daughters hand in marriage was Narayan. All the things used to welcome him are also symbolic and signify something.

VarMala: Symolizes the concept of Samarpan (surrender) and Union (Ekya)

Hastmilaap/Panigrahan/Kanyadaan: Is when the Father of the bride places the bride's hand in the groom's hand and he takes it saying "Dharme ch arthe ch kame ch aham natichrami"Meaning he promises that in dharm (in my way of life), kam(in my desires for worldly pleasures) and arth (financially) I will never harm you. Not only does he accept the girl as his wife but also becomes responsible for her happiness and well being.
The Father of the bride touches the Groom's knee/shoulder/whatever which is also known as Madhurpak puja is not a way of saying Please allow me to 'donate' my daughter to you (sick!) but he is sending the message that you are now Shreshta -the best (of course nothing but the Best for one's daughter) and if you are not you better become now :) The practice of holding a piece of cloth..Antarpat signifies the Groom's Last says if you are not capable of taking on this responsibility you better leave before its too late. In some states this is when you hear the cry of Saavdhaan Saavdhaan!!(your last chance to run if you are an incapable insecure chauvinistic fool) The blunt honesty blows me away:) I love my Dharm :)

SaptPadi or SaatPhere: Is the heart of the Hindu marriage. There is an exchange of 7 fundamental priniciples of an ideal marriage. The groom (the Pandit/Priest does the honors of course) tells her 7 principles and expects the wife to follow and vice-versa.

Mangalsutra/Sindoor: Is symbolic and reminds the woman of her husband's presence and his love. It is considered a sign of Saubhagya or Good Luck. Of course I feel unashamedly happy and lucky that I am married to man who loves me. At times though I also feel it is not me who needs the reminding so much as the brainless men who say "Will you be friends with me " (Creep!)
If the husband is not worthy...well then who needs reminding? Do away with the husband and the symbols, I guess.

Now, to be honest even I did not like the idea of leaving my parents house when getting married. The fact that we have not been living with either set of parents since our marriage is technical but a vital detail. It is understood that our parents will stay with us whenever they want or feel the need.It applies equally to both sets of parents.
Now coming to the heated debate and the billion dollar question which in today's age is merely symbolic, is : why should the girl go the grooms house?

Well for me now as I see it I amongst the two of us (husband and I) was better capable of going into another family, treating them like my own(most of the times:)) and loving them back with the same intensity. I was also more capable (something which is intrinsic to me as a woman not a learned behavior...may not apply to all for a variety of reasons)of aligning the two families and creating an unbreakable bond between them. I again had the emotional intelligence and practical as well to not let one family suffer at the cost of another. I could flit and fit in both households with ease. My husband barely manages to remember his own birthday or the important festivals. I don't even expect him to remember the names of second and third cousins wife and children's names on either side of the family. So I the "Samarpan ki Devi and Mamta ki Moorat" took pity on him and went to his house. :)

This is my strength. I now see it as a gift. A power!!!

P.S If one thinks the Husband is the better gifted one in this department...surely the order of things must be reversed :)