Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Can The Real Hindu, Please Stand Up

My maternal grandfather, a mathematician and scholar was a very orthodox Hindu. In his house, he observed all the rituals and restrictions of a Brahmin although he was caste “boddi”, whatever that means. In his home he had many visitors coming from all walks of life, but there was a simple rule to be followed – guests from other castes, Muslims and Christians would be entertained in the common varandah just outside the drawing room and would be entertained with tea and biscuits or sweetmeat, offered in cups and plates which were meant for only guests of different caste. These crockery had their own place, in a mid-safe, not the same as where the other crockery were placed. They would also be washed outside the house and not brought inside. Apart from this, there were many other staunch restrictions observed in the house, which were very Brahmin-like.

So am I to call him a proud Hindu? Alas! He would have shuddered to hear what I have preferred to call him – a moron! Thankfully, none of his children, of whom my mother was one, followed in his footsteps.

We have gradually let ourselves forget, who a real Hindu is. It is not in the practice, the rituals and the mantras which make a Hindu. It is a way of life, a tolerance and a Philosophy, which makes Hindus what they are.

It is not the saffron colour, the japas and the mantras, the tikka, and the orange lungi, which make for a Hindu. In fact, as often as we like to reinterate this fact, that many times it is truth – the real Hindu, does not need to dress in a certain way, not follow certain rituals to prove that he is one, not carry trishul and a lota , to say he is a sannyasi. Or a householder. He has to just follow a way of life, where he respects all religions and is tolerant of all. In fact, that has been his greatest strength, that no matter how many psunamis he faced in the hands of men of other religions, he himself has not raised the same dagger in retaliation.

But not anymore. The last few years have seen a surge of orange more than the eyes can bear. And daggers and guns have fired from asuras, pretending to be the saviours of the Hindu religion or saving humans from converting to other religions. This is not the way of the Hindu. And while, the country in which we live, has seen the likes of Narendra Modi, Bal Thakeray, RSS, Bajrang Dal, all touting, that what they do, they do for the Hinduism, the fact is that all these are criminals as dangerous as SIMI.

Smita Gupta in “ Some Bombs Get Defused” (Outlook Magazine October 6, 2008 issue) says – “Indeed, police investigations have revealed that members of organisations such as the Bajrang Dal, the militant youth wing of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), don’t just get military training, they are also keen followers of the methods of Islamist terror groups.”

And follows it with the investigation of a bomb explosion in the home of L.G. Rajkondwar, a retired PWD executive engineer and RSS member, in Nanded, Maharashtra, in April 2006. The explosion killed N. Rajkondwar and H. Panse and injured M.K. Wagh, Y. Deshpande, G.J. Tuptewar and R.M. Pande. They were all Bajrang Dal activists.

The FIR recorded the injured activists’ claim that stored firecrackers had gone off inadvertently. But the investigation nailed this lie, revealing that bombs being assembled by the Bajrang Dal activists had exploded accidentally before they could be used to damage mosques. Moreover, the entire operation was being styled in a camouflage so as to resemble a Muslim terror operation. Soon, the police arrested 16 persons. The remand application said the accused had diagrams, maps and material related to the manufacture/storage of bombs. It said they had also identified terror targets across the country.

On May 4, 2006, the case was transferred to the ATS (Anti-terrorist squard). The ATS’s first chargesheet, filed on August 24, 2006, established a Bajrang Dal-Sangh parivar terror network.

It says:
- The Nanded accused were also responsible for blasts at the Mohammadiya Masjid in Parbhani (November 2003), the Quadriya Masjid in Jalna (August 2004) and the Meraj-ul-Uloom Madrassa/Masjid in Purna in Parbhani district (August 2004).
- The target of the bombs which killed the Bajrang Dal activists was actually a mosque in Aurangabad. Both H. Panse and M. Wagh had conducted a recce of the Aurangabad mosque in May 2004.
- Panse and Pande had started a gymnasium to attract Hindu youth and organised seminars. They also gave speeches to create an anti-Muslim atmosphere, alleging acts of injustice by Muslims against Hindus, inciting the latter to do "something for Hinduism." They were also trained in bomb-making near Pune, Goa and at the Bhosla Military School at Nagpur. An RSS camp at the school trained 115 participants in karate, obstacle courses, and shooting. The trainers included two ex-servicemen and an ex-IB operative.
- Police discovered a false beard, moustache and shervani during a search of the house of H.V. Panse; a cellphone intercept revealed that Wagh was to visit Aurangabad on April 5, 2006.

If in 1984 the VHP created the Bajrang Dal to protect the Ram Janaki Yatras, in 1993 it moved out of Uttar Pradesh, became a nationwide organisation and was officially designated the VHP’s youth wing. Over the years, it has shifted focus from mobilising support for the Ram temple to what its current chief Prakash Sharma describes as "problem-solving". The problems include terrorism both in Jammu & Kashmir and elsewhere in the country, the influx of refugees from Bangladesh, referred to as "infiltration’’, and conversions to Christianity. "If government agencies don’t act against those whom the Bajrang Dal has identified as an isi agent (any Muslim) or involved in the slaughter of cows, then we just uproot them from society ourselves," said Rukun Singh Payal, a VHP functionary from Uttar Pradesh.So even as the Kanpur case is being investigated, and Bajrang Dal activists continue their rampage against Christians in Orissa, Karnataka and north Kerala, clearly there is a need to study the stormtroopers of the saffron brotherhood.

Can these be ever called Hindus? Or can we say they are doing any good to our society? Are they not terrorists who need to meet the same end as all criminals must – the firing squad? Or the guillotine? What is our home ministry doing? Just changing clothes? Or is it time, for UPA government to own up to the fact, that the violence we see today is a State and Centre sponsored terrorism.

: “ Some Bombs Get Defused” (Outlook Magazine October 6, 2008 issue)http://outlookindia.com/full.asp?fodname=20081006&fname=Cover+Story&sid=4&pn=1
Also read: Few Blind Men In Hindostan
Must read Hot debate on this subject: http://xebecbooks.sulekha.com/blog/post/2008/09/can-the-real-hindu-please-stand-up/comments.htm

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Fearless At Fifty!

First Birthday

The body – naked, embalmed, clothed or buried – has been the object of art, literature, physiology and politics”, writes Shefalee Vasudev in Marie Claire August 2008 editorial. “More than the human body in general, it is the woman’s body that engages our attention…”

Yes, don’t we know that? The female body has also been the kurukshetra over which blood has been shed and battles fought. It has also been the dreaded existence for which men and women in unison, in some cultures have snuffed it out of existence, even before it could see the light of day. It has been raped, ravaged upon, mutilated and denied its right to pleasure, physical and emotional, like all males do. It has been the grounds, which have been trampled upon for centuries. Not even where feminist theories had at one time taken birth, has there been a scene of change – women and their bodies still are looked upon as only second to men.

In the light of the above, making it to fifty is a great relief.

Men will no more look at me as a diet for the night. My body is undergoing change. My girth has no promise laid in them. I am not their image of fertility – 36-24-36 – and thank God for that. I will now hopefully receive some respect in the public transport systems where they will quickly stand for me to sit down I hope. And their compulsive desire to pinch my bottoms or nudge my breasts, whenever, I am in a hurry or absent minded, will meet with flat disapproval from their end.

I no more have to watch the backside of my dress, sari or salwar to protect myself from their evil eye, looking to see if I am still fertile, able to bear a child, because I have stained my dress from the back. I no more have to worry about being the body to fill their lust and allow them to deposit their expulsions inside my womb. Hopefully, even if I stand naked before them, they will only show disgust. Thankfully, I was born in a culture where, I do not have to perform sexually to prove that I am desirable. Nor wear lipstick to cover the fading colour of my lips. Nor wear rouge and powder my nose before I go to bed, so that in the morning when I rise, he does not see my wrinkled skin or I myself refuse to accept my growing years. Thankfully, I will resign to the fact that although my mind is racing still, my body is not so fast and I must tarry before I take on another job, just to catch my breath. Thankfully, when I see my hair turn silver, I will not try to recapture its youthful black of yester-years by applying shades of black that challenges the colour of black itself. Thankfully for all the gifts of true freedom from the body, I am fearless at fifty. Half a century passed. For the night to fall, it may not take another half. Hence, it is best to rise to a new dawn, when still I can cross my legs and sit on the floor for an hour each time and devote myself to Higher Thoughts and practices, for if not now, then perhaps, it will be too late. And this time, not men, but I myself will be obsessed with my body, now sick, now aching, now unmoving. The roles will change and from being an observer of the ever changing, decaying and dying body, I will become only the body and mind. I fear not fifty therefore. It holds the promise of true freedom from the body and mind. Soul-ly!

Psssst! I hear the older they get, the worse they become

Casually, most recently with Bengali writer, poetess, Nabaneeta Deb Sen

Monday, September 15, 2008

Memory Of Loss

Gladys Staines in happer times with her entire family in Orissa

Aditi Raja talks to Gladys Staines, in PEOPLE magazine, September 26, 2008
"When a brutal act of violence took her family from her, Gladys Staines decided to forgive her malefactors. How does one ever get over loss of beloved ones? On Jan 22, 1999, a crowd burnt to death her husband, Australian missionary Graham Stuart Staines, and their two minor sons, Timothy and Phillip, while they slept in a station wagon at Manoharpur village, Keonjhar dustrict, Orissa. Today, a nurse in a hospital in Queensland, Australia, where she moved in 2004, Gladys puts a stoic face on the past, believing in the power of prayers to heal. The recent violence in Orissa is something she is praying will stop. “ India has been known for tolerance, we must live in harmony, respecting each other.” She says.

After spending over 20 years in India – raising her family in Orissa, India remains an unshakable memory in Gladys’s life. “I miss my Indian friends the most, but I also miss Indian food, the aromas or smells associated with life in India”. On accasions when she gives talks in India, she wears a sari and often cooks Indian food with her 22-year-old daughter, Esther.

Since she left India, Gladys has put her efforts into regaining her nursing registration and conducting lecture tours about the leprosy work being done in Orissa. She visits India often, the plan being to expand the Graham Staines Memorial Hospital in Baripada in Orissa.

Memories of her own tragedy remain fresh, she says. “ I am human with feeling and emotions. There are times when I feel low but not to the point of despairing or giving up”. She decided to forgive the killers immediately, which helped the healing process. There are moments that return, such as a poem Graham liked: “ Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow, day after day it is gone…..till youth like a vision is gone…..then until death says NOW”. “ I miss his companionship, love and when there are decisions to make”, she says her grief palpable……”

Loss of a beloved, to death, or to another person, or in any way, is a living pain one continues to live with, forever carrying it in the recesses of the mind. If the death is one, which has been brutal, then, no answers can be found. There is shock, disbelief and anger, which are natural in these circumstances. And in spite of it all, there and then, if one is able to forgive the killers of ones husband and two sons, let me tell you it takes a lot of courage and belief to get to that stage. Recently, we had Priyanka Gandhi Vadhera who took the time off to finally go and meet her father’s, the late Rajiv Gandhi’s killer, in the jail. Why did she do that? Because, until one forgives, there is no closure to the pain one goes through and when one forgives the other, one is able to move on. A Psychological fact that there is a shift in the way we think about ourselves and those who have harmed us. The bitterness is no more and we can really put the past behind us, and move on with our lives.

That is exactly what happened with Gladys. Only thing is that she was able to move on faster and look what she is doing – talking on India, visiting India frequently to work on the Hospital for lepers in the memory of her late husband, Australian missionary Graham Stuart Staines. That is something, we can all learn from and use it as an example of a blessed Christian life.
~~~ ~ With hope for a new dawn ~~~~

Other posts by me on the Shameless Hate Tirade against our brothers and sister of Christian faith by fascist Hindu goodas - In Bad Faith

The ugly face of Hindutva movement and Bajrang dal fascists and its extreme intolerance to Christians, Shame! Woe To You, you who destroy the basic tenets of Hinduism – tolerance of all religions.


Thursday, September 11, 2008

Hey Fatty!

Many kids suffer from being called fatty, by their friends in school, because their body weight makes them a point of distressing mockery. But, now, the word fatty must aptly describe a nation.

According to Rachna Chhachhi, in Outlook Business Magazine, September 20, 2008 issue, over 60% of America suffers from Obelix syndrome, being grossly overweight. Americans spent about $6 billion on fast food in 1970; they spent more than $10 billion in 2001. Studies show that they are now spending more on fast food than on new cars, computer software or even higher education. Fast food sales are higher than videos, books, movies, magazines and recorded music sales combined.

An average American consumes 3,747 kilocalories, whereas the recommended allowance is 2,000 – 2,500 for sedentary to moderate – activity people. A third of the calorie intake is from junk food. And that’s not all; the serving sizes have gone up too. A typical hamburger in 1957 weighed 1 ounce (28 gms) and contained 210 calories. A typical hamburger today weighs 6 ounces (170 gms) and contains 618 carolies. There are even steakhouse restaurants that offer a free meal if you can eat their 96 ounce (2.7 kg) steak in a certain amount of time sic!

When the writer, who heads business development in a financial services company, ordered for a quick bite at a restaurant in Releigh, North Carolina, a plate of salad arrived which could have fed the entire neighbourhood in India. However, the lady sitting at the table next to hers was a typical example of an American mother, grossly overweight, sitting with a thin daughter, who was being tutored in the art of matching her mother in size. A family size pizza dripping with cheese had been ordered but as the little girl could not finish her pizza, it was packed and taken home to be force-fed to her.

Really, the average American, like his or her serving size, is expending.

The author of the piece laments – “For the life of me, I cannot understand how a country that has progressed so much, so fast cannot see the health bomb it’s sitting on…..its brings to mind something from Chetan Bhagat’s book, One Night @ The Call Centre, apparently, call-centre trainees are taught that the brain and IQ of an average 35-year old American equals that of a 10-year old Indian kid!” She insists that we read the book if we do not trust her. She goes on to say, and I join in with her, there, that the surest proof of the dismal IQ level, reflects on who they chose as third 43rd President, who was then re-elected again to prove the point beyond doubt.

So, despite food prices rising 4.8% in 2007, the average American family of four still spent 13% of its disposable income on food. A 2003 study conducted by the University of Tennessee showed that a child’s eating habit is strongly influenced by the mother. Another survey found that of the top 24 disliked foods in America, 17 were vegetables.

So today at long last, American mothers are being exhorted to work harder at eating more fruits and vegetables into the family diet, while cutting down on sodas. Duh!

Joke: George Bush and his wife were at a restaurant. When the waiter came to take the order, Mrs Bush placed an order for an exotic protein and fat rich meal topped with a succulent creamy dessert.

“And what about the vegetable, M’am?” The waiter enquired.

“Ah,” said Mrs Bush, looking at Bushy, “He will have the same!”

Reference: Outlook Business Magazine, September 20, 2008 issue