Our Ganesh Visarjan in the 1970s and 80s was always on third day or fifth day after Ganesh Chaturthi at either Kapaleeshwar temple tank or Chitrakulam temple tank in Mylapore. This is how we bid goodbye to the Elephant god traditionally as we did not have a deep well at home to drop Him in. I remember the rare times we took Him to the marina to immerse Him in the sea. The visarjan was a very private thing or family affair. I don’t think we clubbed the occasion with anyone or anything. No big fuss about it. Mostly my father would carry the Ganesha a bit unceremoniously in a bucket bag to leave Him in the steps of Kapali temple tank or if they permitted, immerse Him with his own hands in the tank water. Locals always favoured the nearest temple tank for the visarjan.
Even after I married, in my in-laws home, we always dropped our Ganesha in our house well that was in the backyard.
This is how for decades we celebrated Vinayak Chaturthi in Chennai or perhaps in entire Tamil Nadu. NO STREET PANDALS. NO TRAFFIC BLOCKS. NO LOUDSPEAKER BLARE. NO MAMMOTH COLOURFUL PLASTER-OF-PARIS GANESHAS, NO PROCESSIONS, NO CROWD, NO POLLUTION, NO DONATIONS but truly in the spirit of the festival the way it must be. Such a homely one in my memory.
Come the festival season, our guys are upto it again. They kick up a storm that the government is preventing Hindus from celebrating Ganesh chaturthi that has always been celebrated with such a fanfare in the state. Excuse me, just who are you kidding??? Not even a single colour coated Ganesh in the city up until at least 1992-93. It is after 1995 or from an year or two before that the Ganesha pandal culture established itself in Tamil Nadu. And now we are going gungho about it as if we were always born and bred in this Ganpati Bappa Moriya milieu. Just what is our problem. Why do we want to invent more crowded gala events as if our calendar is not full as such? Who do we want to bait?
Are the literate in the state even aware of what a pollution the visarjan in the sea of the coloured Ganeshas made of plastic and plaster-of-paris is causing already. The marine life is facing the brunt and the entire fragile marine ecology is on the verge of a collapse as year by year the debris keeps mounting. The natural surroundings in the coastline suffer damage and it is not unusual to spot dead fish litter in the beach for days after the visarjan. The olive riddley turtles approach the coromandel east coast for nesting during their breeding season. What a havoc the visarjan can wreck to their reproduction cycle.
What kind of blind faith is this. What kind of sick ritual is this. It is time we stop this nonsense that is now degenerating into mob hysteria and a law and order problem . Years back our Ganeshas were made of clay and they left no negative impact on our environment. A few Ganeshas nowadays are eco-friendly. Like we have even the seed Ganesha pumped in with specific plant seeds when on immersion in a local water body or soil or just in a house plant pot can help germinate the seeds and sprout young saplings. However this percentage of eco-friendly Ganeshes could be far less than 0.01 percent. The majority that have insolvable components made of toxic material end up in our ocean waters, destroying marine life, polluting the coastal sea shelf, rendering irreparable damage to our ocean resources.
India has a very weak and poor sewerage treatment record as such. We are complicating matters for ourselves, nothing more. We only have to compare the fish size in India with that in foreign port cities. In the navigable waters of India, for instance, the maximum size a Red snapper (Sultan basi in arab and sankara in tamil) can grow into is seven to eight inches. I am seeing dining plate diameter size (twelve inches) red snappers caught from middle east coast line here. It means, India’s fish are getting smaller and smaller in size. Is it dwarfing? Or is it that we are not allowing our fish to live their full lifecycle. Are we netting our fish before they can reproduce. Or is our marine pollution affecting our fish breeding and population.
Every single Hindu has to ask this question to his/her heart. What are we doing to our motherland in the name of Dharma? Separating baby calves from wild elephant herds, their mothers and torturing them in our temples. Polluting in the name of Ganesha our seas and land apart from the noise pollution we generate. Such a plastic glut. Clutter that is not organic. The waste we generate in our festivals, a good majority of it, will not decompose. Neither are they recyclable. So where do they end up? In the bottom of our ocean floors, where else.
Ganesha must be regretting the Vinayaka chaturthi festival. Why can’t we give Him just modak and lots of our love and be at peace. We can still have the earthen Ganeshas and take him to the sea individually at our ease, as and when we can, like we used to until the imported pandal culture made things worse. In all this melee, where is a moment to think of Ganesha.
How many of us were not moved by the Tamil flick ‘Angadi Theru’ that was a candid picturization from the floors of certain departmental stores and showrooms in Chennai that employed high school dropouts from backward districts, in hoards. Paid meagre wages, bunched together in pigeonhole living places and fed substandard rations with no privacy for showering or even a square inch of personal space , the young girls and boys in their teens and twenties had to stand for hours upto twelve or fifteen day after day, for years, with their paychecks directly mailed to their BPL families back home. Tragedy is, there is an endless crowd willing and waiting to slip into their shoes if they quit, even today in the real world. I couldn’t help wondering how the business owners did not slap the producers of the picture with a libel suit. There is a character in the film of a middle aged man with swollen legs due to gangrene owing to years of living on foot working for these multistoried cavernous shopping malls with not even adequate or well placed safety exits in case of an emergency. The critically acclaimed film went on to win quite a few awards for the year. In one of my previous blog posts years back, I have highlighted their never ending trauma. At the end of the day, they retire in their thirties, having paid with their health for short term gains, frustrated and unfit for employment elsewhere.
But long before the movie happened, I understood from teachers on supervision posted for board examinations about the hardship they faced, even if for a very brief duration such as the length of the exam hours. Three hours on foot without a seating for the lady teachers in their forties and fifties was no easy task. While they were supervising candidates sitting for examination, they were overseen by an official on rounds checking whether the teachers rested their backs on the one single table provided in the exam hall! Personally I had experienced this difficulty when I opted to supervise a batch of exams in my early twenties for a correspondence course graduate degree exam. There were plenty of electives and therefore I had a fifteen day serving duty. Even in such an young and fit age, walking the hall without a single moment of respite was difficult for me. I could understand the board exam supervising teachers’ predicament. Like general election duties (or juror duties), in India, no teacher serving a state/central board school can refuse supervision duties for board exams (or even paper evaluation duties) that are mandatory (although on rotation basis picked by management/government). It is the middle aged women teachers who are hit most by the rule. There has to be a concession to their age. Oral advice can be given to supervisors to remain on foot as much as possible. However, I am not certain about the current scene.
Finally we have an ordinance that is coming to the rescue of these hapless showroom workers who have to be on their feet for more than twelve hours a day, six days a week. What a boon this is to women workers especially. These young girls are in their most fertile age. I always wondered how the girls would manage their cycles standing whole day long without a minute to sit down. Imagine the harm they could be doing to themselves, their internal organs like kidneys and uterus. I am not sure whether the gangrene character in Angadi Theru was based on a real life victim. But I am somehow inclined to believe him.
Providing seating to your serving staff is such a basic requirement. Work ethic. Employers are obligated to extend such a provision for their workers who mint profit for them, at least on humanitarian grounds. Denial of these rudimentary comforts are in gross violation of human rights. Finally such a sensitive issue has found a solution with the Tamil Nadu government introducing a bill that bestows the right to sit on store employees. There would be no necessity for enforcing such a law, if only the showroom owners had had an ounce of basic decency. What kind of ruthless money making machines do we have in our midst. Profiteering at any cost, with not a bother for staff welfare. Grotesque capitalism for you here.
I don’t expect our desi news channels to report the news just as they never reported the introduction of OBC Archakas and female Oduvar in our Agama temples. Good Gandhi and EVR Periyar did not have to face these hypocritic brigades as well to fight for equality among fellow humans.
My awareness of Lawrence Anthony’s work was purely incidental. I would be looking out for elephant news and he was always there in You tube in a time when we still did not have whatsapp or google. I am sure i have watched the video of elephants mourning his demise. What a blessed life. He could have lived longer, but the stress of running the reserve must have told upon his health. This we understand as we turn page after page of his book ‘the elephant whisperer.’
As Anthony makes it clear at the outset, the elephant whisperer is not him but the elephant in question that spoke to him. This book has been on my reading list now for years. Finally got my hands on it (kindle version). Comes second to Tanya James’ ‘the tusk that did the damage’ on the elephant scene in India that centers around the menacing poaching issue we have in the country for the precious tusks of the elephants. (Same is true of Indian single horned rhinos as well in the state of Assam, similar to the precarious situation of the double horned rhinos of Africa that are nearly hunted down to extinction already. Anthony’s ‘the last rhino’ is on the rhinos). Until this book happened I believed, the Indian wild elephant escaped poaching even if unhealthily domesticated at an alarming rate.
My introduction to the Zulus and Bantus, the native tribes of South Africa happened in my ninth standard I guess, when I read for the first time a James Hadley Chase novel ‘the vulture is a patient bird.’ It is because of the content i remember the title and the tribes. I can say this may have been a chief reason for my interests in Africa including its wildlife. Later on of course, there was Wilbur Smith. Literally every single trilogy or whatever of his I read with, mainly for the wildlife info even if it was all fiction. ‘The elephant song’ of his was special. The matriarch comes through in Smith’s works. I would like to skip his latest works that I wouldn’t attribute to him, probably penned under his name by someone else (like in the case of Sidney Sheldon). They don’t carry the same Smith stamp. If you have been reading Wilbur Smith, you must be familiar with entire Africa from Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia to Congo, South Africa, Zaire and Zambia (both of erstwhile Rhodesia) and more. You learn of the languages such as Swahili. You discover the native tribes, the shortest men, the yellow men, the spear throwers, the trackers etc. You develop a deep respect for the dark continent that has been mindlessly exploited and now made a complete mess. I agree with Anthony on the violence aspect about Africa which has to keep with its wild nature. Apartheid is long since over. Afrikaners and the other remaining whites are doing a wonderful service to the conservation causes in Africa in the present, even if it was their ancestors who nearly brought the native wildlife to the brink of extinction in the first place. Still the current conservation efforts must not be underestimated or disrespected. This is very much the need of the hour.
Unlike fellow Indians, I am totally against domestication of our Indian wild elephants for Hindu temple service and for gala events like Navaratri-Dusshera celebrations in Mysore palace grounds in the name of culture, heritage and traditions. I have been vociferous over this capturing and taming of wild Indian elephants from the jungles, earning quite a few adversaries in the process. But here end my feeble protests. NGOs for wildlife and elephant lovers have to take the mantle from well-wishers and whistleblowers (!) like me at this stage.
I wish India has someone like Lawrence Anthony to save our wild elephants from poachers, regain the lost elephant corridors and conserve the population from going to extinction inevitably in a century or two.
The book is a treat to elephant lovers and naturalists and conservationists. It is enjoyable and good learning guide for anyone for that matter. Those of us who are keen on safaris must know what it takes to run a show.
Lawrence Anthony confirmed what I had read about the pachyderms over years: that the elephants communicate very intelligently in a unique way both physical and metaphysical, with their stomach rumblings in a very low frequency inaudible to human ears that therefore fail to pick up the jumbo communication. So that way, quite like the whales, the elephant community too may be much more evolved than us homo sapiens when it comes to tele communication. It is not without a reason that these giant mammals have survived and roamed planet earth many millions of years. The other way the elephants communicate is by tactile contact in the bush. The infrared waves of elephant whispers probably serve as transmission conduits to reach over herds spread across entire landmass of Africa which is stunning! Science may prove theories in labs but here was this dauntless conservationist living the experience to relate his story to the world. To me his well lived life and real time observation suffice as authentic proof to elephant telepathy we talk about including the long elephantine memory. The tuskers’ moving vigil for two days on Lawrence’s demise is the testimonial ultimate for what Lawrence recorded in his book: “The most important lesson i learned is that there are no walls between humans and the elephants except those we put up ourselves.“
Anthony also in the course of his writing introduces us to the lush and rich spectrum of his natural reserve Thula Thula:
mongoose, warthog, tawny eagle, martial eagle, impala, zebra, wildebeest, kudu, nyala, baboon, black mumba, black python, bark spider, leguaan (african monitor lizard), duiker, southern white rhino, honey badgers, crocs, barbel (fish), cape buffalo … and of course elephants
(noctural creatures): bush pigs, giant eagle owl, vondos, bush rats, nightjars, bats, bushbabies, hyenas, leopard, lynx, serval
reptilians: Black mumba, puff adder, mozambican cobra
trees native to Africa: Acacia robusta, marula, boerbeen, fig, umbrella thorn tree
the winged nesters: plum coloured starlings, european rollers, bush shrike, narina trojans, gwala gwala, vultures
What a spectacular life Anthony lived! Added bonus was his elephants whispering to him accepting him as one among them. Nana and Frankie, the matriarchs in particular shared a wavelength with Anthony, able to reach him. Here i have to mention Anthony’s intention of keeping the wildlife feral and so his deliberate breaking up of connection with the tuskers so that the herd moves deeper into the bush far from human contact for their own sake. This was also necessary as Anthony felt that this way, the elephants will stay wary of poachers (or any humans for that matter).
When I was reading about the way Anthony was spending long and perilous nights in the bush to safekeep the elephants in the boma when they were traumatized, rowdy and tyrant, i couldn’t stop myself from admiring the man for not only his courage but also for his big heart that did not hesitate to sacrifice creature comforts to settle down the disturbed gang in his reserve. The herd mistrusted human beings having been subject to witnessing massacre of their family members. The move by truck and darting (with tranquilizers) had dazed them and made them more violent and edgy. Anthony however focused only on rehabilitation of the elephants on their new home winning their confidence and trust gradually. In the process he did not lose his patience or hope even for a minute. He believed sincerely, the elephants deserved a chance. It was a painstakingly done work worth its rich dividends. You have to be gifted for sharing such a compassion for wildlife to be going this extra mile. As Anthony himself says, one has to probably grow up in the bush with the right mindset to be able to work or live in this kind of nature’s setting. It is a tough but rewarding life for those with a passion for conversation. Only that, your physical fitness must match the demanding conditions of the life in the veldt. And African tribes like the Zulus of warrior blood naturally fit in their roles as armed rangers of the reserve. Having to share their living space with Africa’s rich wildlife and having a history, they are the natural choice for the maintenance and running of the Zululand sanctuary in the heartland of South Africa.
Living rough in the wilderness is a salve for the soul. Ancient instincts awaken; forgotten skills are relearned, consciousness is sharpened and life thrums at a rich tempo.
No matter how heart-wrenching the situation, we never interfered with nature. Brutal as the food chain is, that’s the balance of life in the wild.
Interesting observation on fright-flight distance, innovative game keeping methods, round the clock alertness and an equally enthusiastic team of rangers, merit a mention. Bush piloting and crane lifting on darting are familiar with us in India where latter methods are employed when it comes to dealing with the tuskers.
What I consider firsthand research material about Anthony’s work may be the elephant communication information and Askari (male elephants led by an ageing patriarch) observations in particular apart from breeding habits of different fauna. Valuable input for future wildlife studies and conservationists. Kudos to his diplomacy with the native tribes. In today’s highly jingoistic egoistic material world, we need this kind of trendsetter. In another part of the book, Anthony says, it is the elephant who is the tone setter for the relationship shared between him and the herd. He goes on to narrate how each and every member of the family enriched his life and added dimensions to his perspective on the African elephant.
Serious poaching threats from armed gangs and sharpshooters fitted to their teeth, the uneasy relationship Anthony shared with Nkosi Biyela and the Indunas in general whose ancient zululand is the reserve, the epidemics waiting to devastate wildlife if unchecked, the brutal forest fires, the rogue beasts on prowl (like the male elephant Mnumzane in musth that had to be put down) endangering not only safaris but also other wildlife (with Mnumzane shearing white female rhino to death with his tusk), natural disasters such as river flooding and breaking banks, the maintenance of full length electric fence with low voltage just to stun the wildlife from crossing over but not kill, the challenge of balancing the wildlife population that ensures the survival of the fittest in accordance with the food chain, nerve wracking dealings with the superstitious African tribes not antagonizing the sons of the oil, the law and order issues to be taken up with law enforcement, the follow up with KNZ of whatever, the wildlife departments and reserve sanctuaries of South Africa, … and much much more need to be addressed on day-to-day basis running a wildlife reserve as vast and teeming with diverse wildlife as Thula Thula.. And if the reserve is to boast of a safari lodge like Thula Thula, the challenge is many more time magnified, keeping in view the safety of the tourists. The days start well before dawn for a safari and end with the last of the tourists hitting the sack as Anthony explains. Lawrence’s wife Francoise now in charge of Thula Thula seems to have lent a French touch to the holiday resort with her exotic cuisine, a big draw with the visitors naturally. Game sighting is adventure like nothing else. Only those who have sampled this heady brew of thrill will know why nature and wildlife can be such a humbling and invigorating experience at the same time, making one even spiritual. You connect with your basal instincts when you confront all forms of life from the millipede, centipede and scorpions and spiders to the crocodiles and rhinos and bucks and antelopes and the giant elephants under trees as ancient as you can imagine, with their gnarled roots and spread branches sporting myriad coloured winged nesters. A profusion of life in the natural element. Nightlife in the wild is another symphony. What a welcome break from the cacophony of our urban materialistic life.
Hopefully land acquisition for expansion of Thula Thula is now done with, which can provide the wildlife in the reserve more of room to amble about. Anthony also gainfully employed the local manpower which is mutually beneficial. Let’s see. I have always dreamt about a Kenya or Tanzania or even an Uganda or Zimbabwe safari, but never South African. My interest in South Africa got piqued with the Netflix serial ‘the penguin town.’ Now I have ‘Thula Thula’ too in my bucketlist! Hopefully i can make it with my entire family there in a couple of years, along with my grandchildren in tow! How i would luv to show my grandkids Nana and Frankie!
Anthony not a serious contender for Noble prize in lit still his south African lingo is something! Good sense of humour there. That supersized vacuum cleaner of an elephant trunk! Menopausal rhino!
Rounding up with Lawrence Anthony quote: THE BEST CAGE IS NO CAGE. Om Shanthi!
Just finished watching this heartwarming flick based on true life story of an Orca conservationist from South America and couldn’t wait to post the review. Filmed in breathtaking locales of Patagonia in Argentina, the beachside shack where the orca park ranger Beto is posted is far cry from civilization with not a telephone in vicinity or cell phone tower leave alone a decent flushable toilet. Yet the man pursues his passion, relating to the magnificent and mesmerizing sea creatures that roam the oceans in this part of the world, the Pacific. How this reserve officer, lover of wildlife, draws out the autistic Spanish boy who flew in with his mother from Spain watching him in tv show is the story. Strongly recommended. What a landscape. Tough but peaceful life. Why should everyone walk by the beaten path. Offbeat is good! I really want to see South America, as i am also concurrently watching the Magical Andes. This massive continent from southern hemisphere hardly receives its fair share of attention except when it comes to soccer. How different lifestyle is in every single part of the world. Sometimes it is irritating to listen to cultural rhetoric of fellow Indians. We need to go see the world, see it for what it is, and see how too very insignificant we petty ourselves are in this vast universe. Conservation of nature to me is the hallmark of most civilized and cultured societies that have truly evolved. Heritage is not always showcased in ancient architecture like we view in India or in masterpieces hanging in Rome or Paris or in the operas of the west. Orcas seem to be darlings of the sea and they seem to relate to Beto is a special way, just like Lawrence Anthony, the elephant whisperer of south Africa could communicate with wild elephants Wow, what a gift, like none else. As is mentioned in the flick, may be the autistic kids can pick up some very feeble vibrations from the orcas that emit low frequency communication waves just like the their terrestrial counterpart the pachyderms roaming the forests of Africa and Asia. It did seem to have helped Tristan, the boy in the picture at least..
If an orca is to approach the marina in Chennai, our guys would be drooling over orca biriyani omg! What kind of people are we. I liked the gentle hero the orca man, the survivor mom Lola who is so courageous to risk it for her special kid in a godforsaken barren place half way around the world. But that is what mothers are… aren’t we. I am familiar with autism. No, I don’t pity the autistic children, rather i guess they are merely different. As Beto says, these kids see the world through better glasses than ours. However, easier said than done. Not at all a fairytale. Patience stretched for parents and even marriages suffer. But the naivety of the autistic kids can melt your heart. With orcas they can be deadly combo! Lovable, lovable, adorable! Feelgood factor for me. World needs to hear more of this kind of stories.
Loved this Netflix serial probably meant for kids with the kind of narration in the background, yet equally enjoyable for adults. Some of us may have prior knowledge of south African penguins, still this was the first time, I could glean so much info about them. Otherwise, when you think of penguins, you picture only the Antarctic.
The Penguin town as the Simon town is nicknamed after the takeover of the seaside place for over 6 months an year by the invading penguin colonies numbering in million, for their breeding season, is a bustling spot for both man and bird who do not only coexist but also tolerate each other to a great degree. Here is something for everyone of us take back: that shared space and peace. In India, such a scenario may spring up Penguin biriyani business (not a joke)! This was what was flashing frankly in my mind, as i relished watching each and every single episode on the adorable tall boy bird, the south african penguin. Picturesque beachfront and laidback villas from another age add charm to the setting. No wonder the bougainvillea family, the culvert family, the courtyard family all breed happily and look forward to coming back to their holiday homes (!) the next year. The travails of the penguins are very much humanlike! At least the struggle to secure a good comfy home is! Real estate hotcakes! Respects to the bougainvillea widowed father penguin for the way he is out in the sun day long to secure food for the family. The culvert family falling apart also is not unlike something that does not happen in human society. For the wild nature, the penguins have natural adversaries such as fellow gangster baddies, the lynx cats, the kites etc. Once the fledglings take to the water, of course there are the sea predators. The fragile ecosystem is balancing it out tactically against all odds. Yet, how well the town people have accommodated the penguins as part of their lives without counting them as nuisance deserves an applause. Their attitude matters.
Until now I was under the impression that the penguin fledglings take to water immediately on hatching. This is news to me that they need so much grooming and energy, and have to grow their waterproof oily feathers/skin to enter water. Great conservation work by the townspeople rehabilitating wounded/abandoned/orphaned penguin hatchlings before making them sea-fit for survival. You need education, awareness and maturity to be doing this job, hats off.
A must for kids and wildlife/nature lovers. Easy on our mind. Feelgood factor. The way wildlife care for their young ones is a reminder to us as to how everyone, every single life on planet Earth counts.
Reading a book on African elephants and learning that the jumbos with their underbelly rumblings communicate on a very low frequency like the whales of the seven seas, that which waves may be inaudible to human ears, and that these aural vibrations transmit via conduits in atmosphere through the herds, and even across neighbouring herds to envelope the entire African continent supposedly, i have this doubt about the temple elephants in India. Do these unfortunate creatures languishing in the abodes of our gods, captured as calves from the jungles get a chance to learn the elephantine telepathy language. Do they voice their sufferings to fellow pachyderms in the same temple premises or those in the area and/or to those across the geographical territory (such as the states of Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu for instance). Can the temple elephants communicate with wild elephants in Munnar or Kabini or Mudumalai or Ranthambore or any other forest reserve in India. If so, what is the expected range. Indian elephant corridors run across the Deccan coasts east and west, cut through central India and up to the Himalayan foothills and Bengal. Do the wild tuskers roaming our sanctuaries hear the feeble cries of our long suffering captive temple elephants. As I wonder, do our temple elephants separated as calves from their herds even pick up some elemental elephantine communication skills. Not only physically mighty and imposing, even endowed with a very keen intelligence and sharp memory power and with a very advanced metaphysical communication sense far superior to human communication evolution history, it is unbelievable that we are chaining these gentle giants breaking their spirit and ‘conditioning’ them. That breaking of the elephant brought in from the wild: it is heartwrenching. So much so that the towering mammoth feels after all, a simple iron chain can control it. How brutally must this wild beast be broken to come to believe in such an illogic. There are media news on temple elephants going on rampage when pushed to ‘work’ in musth conditions. I am yet to finish the book but this I am thinking about the the temple elephants keeping their communication channels open with their wild brethren. Are Indian/Asian elephants as keen and smart as the African wild elephant. We have an issue here. Ours are domesticated, the ones with temples especially. Which means they are in constant contact with homosapiens. Would that dull the senses of our temple elephants rendering them incapable of establishing or staying in touch with their longlost brothers and sisters in the wild? Just a thought.
I have nothing much to add on this except for few lines.
Moguls some groups gloat about were none but Afghans in whose terror reign of a couple of centuries in India, thousands of Hindu temples were razed, Hindu women taken into harems by hoards, and India ravaged and ransacked. The bloody massacres continued for generations. Today the places of worship they raised stand on desecrated Hindu temple ruins only. Imagine the rivers of blood that had sullied our Bharat.
Indian bhais may think on that. If you have come to fall in love with our invaders because you had no choice as your way of life resembled theirs, the least you can still do is stay loyal to India.
World has dozens and dozens of Christian countries. How many Islamic nations in the world, tell me? How many Hindu countries in the world? ZERO. Nepal used to be constitutionally Hindu, but no more. India, the birth place of Dharmic religions Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism, still is a secular democratic nation, NOT SADLY A HINDU RASHTRA. What is happening to the Hindus of Af-Pak-Bangladesh we know. Decimated even as we speak of. Force-converted with daughters abducted and raped.
The recent world developments show what it takes to remain a decent population. What it is to have humanity. If all is perfect, then why should one seek REFUGE at all anywhere. Migration is difficult. Seeking asylum is not the same as migrating for other reasons.
If we do not want to sing the national anthem, if we want to applaud our adversaries winning a cricket match, if we have more sympathy for the displaced in the Middle east over the poorest of India, then we must think of emigrating from India for good. Now many Middle east nations are offering citizenships to our Indian bhais. I wonder why they are not exercising that right.
If your ancestors embraced the ways of our invaders, you will have to still face the fact that until then your forefathers were Hindu ONLY. It is by quirk of fate that you are what you are. You will have to come to terms with reality, grow some gratitude when you breathe the Indian air and drink the Indian water and eat the Indian grain and rest your body on the Indian soil. Even the god to who you claim your loyalty may want you to do this.
Typically i have devised that the following are checks or indicators of the cleanliness standards of our home as well as our personal hygiene. You may think i am too fussy, but not at all. It’s pretty regular standards, but there are those who think this is big deal.
Kitchen cleanliness. Especially the sink area and the oil cans. Mixer jars and the blender. Hob (cooking stove top) and chimney. Indian kitchens hold more gadgets than western ones: with our wetgrinders (for idli batter), blender, traditional coffee filter of coffee maker, OTG/Microoven, at least mini stone chakkis for pouding, fruit/vegetable juicer, sandwich maker, toaster, chappathi maker, etc. Our kitchen is also essentially a wet kitchen as we grind wet, blend wet, deepfry in oil, toast in shallow pan etc., at highest temperatures. We use hundreds of spices literally and our cooking methods are elaborate. Yet, it is imperative for us to maintain kitchen cleanliness at any cost. Wiping with wet cloth on cleaning with soap every few hours is a must.
Bathroom cleanliness: the water closets of course, the wash stand, the bathtub (if you have), the tooth brushes and the drain holes especially. Even the regular Indian bathrooms (in)famous for their water usage can afford to remain dry most of the day once we are done with our bathroom chores. There is no reason for the bathroom floor to remain wet. Pails and mugs and faucets also need a regular clean-up.
Comb in your dresser is a dead give away. If that is accumulating grime, it means personal hygiene is lacking. The clean comb ensures a cleaner bedroom. Organizers in wardrobes optional. W
Towels and undies. They can be old and very many times washed, but they have to be clean one hundred percent. Dry.
Foot of course! It is the general indicator of one’s hygiene perception in my opinion. If someone cares for foot, it means she is doing well in all other fronts.
Not all of us live in swanky marbled homes, some of us live in very compact apartments almost like hole in the wall, yet I think it is well within our means to be able to maintain the minimum general standards of cleanliness and hygiene which is basic decency.
I decided to embark on such short crisp lifestyle posts inspired by a page on Minimalism.
I flip through the album of happy faces in the Alps and the Eurostar, at the Eiffel tower and at the Vatican. Big big smiles there! I browse the freezes of Bharatnatyam mudras of beautiful dancers. I am horrified by the tiktok videos which at the same time entertain me. I cannot bear to hear out one full smule song posted online by a friend. I unfollowed another one for too many personal posts packed with embarrassing private info that i thought i could do without. There is this yatri who alerts everyone every time he sets his foot inside some temple precincts. There are friends who post before boarding a flight, on landing at the destination, checking into this hotel or that resort, walking, running, gymming, yogaing, shopping…. all with an ear to ear grin whose happiness is always infectious…
So is social media really that bad, i ask myself. I am seeing beaming faces everywhere. I am seeing friends in parks, beaches, singing, dancing, playing, tattooing (!), even praying. The kids are out of the world! The clubs are regaling. The wildlife is well cared for, at least online. The recipes are interesting. The causes are heeded to and helped. There is awareness on current happenings. There are playful rebukes and rebuffs. There is satire and sarcasm and the memes are blasphemous! There also is this occasional dampener – one or two, by way of sharing-posting negativity and hatred, but that which we can consign to the dustbin of our mind…. so otherwise? … otherwise i find the social media guys oozing with josh and party perfect! We may sometimes need this energy tonic to lift up our sagging spirit…
If someone is in social media sharing his/her enthusiasm and happiness for the world to see, i think they have nothing to hide. Contrary to popular belief that some seek social media approval, nowadays i believe, if someone is photobombing facebook, instagram etc., with their exciting escapades, then in all probability things are working out for them nicely, that they are genuinely happy. Not to assume that those who do not advertise are not doing great. But in the first case, in all probability, the guys have a reason to celebrate and they don’t shy sharing a slice of their happy life with everyone.
Rather than being irritated by them like in the past, nowadays i am looking at them with new eyes. Earlier they appeared narcissists to me. Now they appear happy, contented people to me having a blast on their birthdays, wedding days, any holiday for that matter.
After making this observation i was thinking of those who shy away from sharing with buddies their familial happiness or even the good moments they savour with friends. Somehow now they don’t strike me as those with a heightened sense of privacy. May be sometimes you don’t want others to see you? You don’t want to go on record? You don’t have anything happy and worthwhile to share? As i said, those with low profile need not necessarily be having a listless life. Yet, there is a good possibility that their lives may not be as interesting or as happy.
This i believe is true of those who never share family photos or vacation pictures or party clicks. You don’t have to consistently post, but there must be something to celebrate about. What makes someone completely hide their front. I don’t know this is now my social media psychology report.
The more seen one is, the more loud one is in social media, yes in all probability they are having a whale of a good time! These social media stars make no bones about wearing their happiness on their sleeves for the whole world to see. For the first time in my life, I am respecting them for diffusing positivity and cheer in the air thick with envy and hatred.
The reckoning moment came when 24 OBC Archakas and a woman Odhuvar were inducted into the service of Hindu temple devastanams by the ruling state government in Tamil Nadu this independence day, 15th of August. The move acceptedly brash, was met not suprisingly with stiff resistance. This has given rise to endless debates on social media as a backlash pitting friends against friends. The sore point is when you learn, your friends will remain your friends as long as you tow their line. Friends and even childhood friends remain lifelong friends when we remain confined within undrawn lines. One step any of us must take forward, then all hell can break loose. What an uneasy truce we have in Hindu society. How unreal this all is.
This has sparked many questions in my mind in last couple of days. Not that this may not have crossed any activist’s or freethinker’s mind. I have been an avid temple goer all my life and the massive and impressive Dravidian architecture south Indian hindu temples are my life’s mission. Heart’s favourite. I have visited/toured dozens and dozens in last five decades of my life and i have a list made up for future programs. Even so, something deep down nagged me. As someone who listens to my instinct always, I decided to record my reaction here in my blog post of how i felt about my friends responses and the media reactions in the matter.
Because there is not even entertainment of the idea of a conversation here. The topic is not open for debate or discussion. Chapter closed. Dead end. This is precisely what is the frustrating stumbling block when it comes to creating an equivalent and inclusive Hindu society. The brazen stubbornness of the Agama structure beyond criticism in this 21st century is one of the grandest failures of humanity and the so-called chest thumping democracy we purportedly have in India. As expected, the national mass media like our tv new channels in english language gave the Temple reform a deliberate miss. This one single point to me proved the historic significance of the move and assured me that we the Tamils were on right track. The south has always been a trendsetter.
I am kind of touched by the timing factor here. Today is Tiruvonam. Onam is observed in Kerala in remembrance of Mahabali, the Dravidian king and our forefather. The festivities keep alive the belief that Mahabali will return to claim his reign which is south India. Believe me this is just a coincidence.
The discussions on Agama temples raised the following questions in me:
Are the Agama temples the first and foremost bastions of caste prejudice from where springs an air of superiority about some at the top of the pyramind of the Hindu race. Do Agama temples thus sanction discrimination right from their sanctums? Yes, they do.
Once you disallow someone, discredit someone from something they are eligible to legally, it is the Agama model that can be held illegal. Yes, it is illegal to stop anyone from learning Vedas or working in Agama temples. Or do we have written laws to prove the contrary?
The Agama temple doors were thrown open to the Panchamas only in 1947 with legal intervention. Which means, without legal help Hindus will not act on own accord. To remove injustice, the hand of law in Hindu temples is a must. This is why Hindu temples are under government administration. To provide justice to all Hindus, Hindu temples need government control. Which does not mean that the revenues earned by the Hindu temples may be spent on non Hindus. This is a separate topic for discussion. I will just stop with noting down that the Hindu funds may be used for the welfare and betterment of Hindu population alone.
When the Agama temples put some on the top of the table, they naturally relegated others down the pyramid and some at the grounds level. The lowest could be the cremation or burial ground workers and manual scavengers with no hope to climb up the social ladder, stigmatized for generations.
Can you even imagine the all Indian scenario of cremation and burial ground workers refusing to burn the bodies of FCs. I wish they strike work someday soon all at the same time. Let our governments appoint cremation grounds workers from all communities in future. Let every caste cremate their own including the brahmins and the banias. This single step can ensure dignity of labour and bring about a changed mindset in Hindu society.
What happens when we venerate the Agama kind of worship and propagate it on a grander, national level with the approval and stamp of the regime. Self-aggrandizement of the creamiest becomes the natural output and stamping on the downtrodden becomes routine. We have the vicious circle where there is no escape from some dingy quarters deep down the social ladder.
The Agama temple worship of Hindu dharma is deeply entrenched all across India, in every single state of ours and union territory, that you cannot even dream of uprooting this structure for creating a just and equitable society.
The Agama worship is easily understood by the masses, accepted by the masses. Its reach is phenomenal. Its appeal is unbelievable.
The Agama breeds a subculture within its precincts that includes music and dance and art forms. Together An Agama temple is like a museum of artefacts, fascinating and inviting and enthralling at the same time. It is a unique experience only a practising Hindu can identify with. No wonder, even the obcs and the panchamas play down the flipside of the Agama worship smitten by the lure of the Agama.
The Agama subculture may span the vedic rites performed at homes, at festivities, at even funerals making the pundits and purohits inevitable parts of a hindu life whose services cannot be dispensed with
In short, the Agama takes care of the highest in the hierarchy within its own structure. There is no place for outsiders here.
The Agama network is really impressive, massive, nurtured over centuries. It is now a psychological phenomenon. Not even obcs and panchamas dare to touch it neither would any dravidian state government for that matter. It is colossal like the gigantic banyan tree. If it is be down, it can bring down the nation with it which can be of some concern.
If the Agama structure is to be shaken, it is therefore possible that the entire structure of Sanatana Dharma may come loose. This will be clearly the next level in Hindu evolution. Another plane totally. However this is an acid test that Hindus WILL have to take someday or other. If not today, then tomorrow. But such a day will definitely dawn in Indian history when self-questioning will begin. Yes, we can only postpose this date cannot avoid it. But by then, it may be too late to make amends. I expect a good majority of India to have converted by such a time. It kind of makes me sad. But it is not that those higher up the ladder do not foresee this condition at a later date. I would think that the current regime could be leaving it to the future generation to work out a plausible solution.
The Agama temples were probably built after Shankaracharya’s time the 7th century CE. It is after his times that castes came to be more pronounced in India with clear demarcating lines. All the more a reason to shun the Shankara mutts.
A quiet and efficient hierarchy of things was established and the Agama network is astounding. Even the question of dismantling such a structure can portray one as anti-Hindu even if it meant anti-caste aspirations.
Blatant crass commercialization of Agama temples is there for all to see.
Not even Gandhi and EVR touched or questioned the Agama. Their first target was inclusivity at basic level.
With Agama temples, Hinduism got reduced to Abhisegams and Alankarams of dieties decorated with precious gold and diamond jewelry. Pilgrimage became a corner stone. Gone was the Inner Shanthi, aspiration for Inner Peace or Self-REalization. Bhakthi came to mean noise and pompous shows.
Agama temples are thus extremely ritualistic and so are Hindu lives. Steeped in ritualism, with spirituality and purpose disappearing from the scene. Now Hindu spirituality has become that very synonymous with rituality that we cannot think Hindu without the ritualistic paraphernalia.
Passive aggression is the worst kind of violence because it damages someone psychologically and feeds, gloats like parasite on their self-esteem. This is the typical characteristic of Agama Vidhi.
Is there a way we can get out of the mess created by the AGama temple system. Yes. Kudos to the Tamil Nadu state government for even giving a thought in this direction. This is not exactly moving out of Agama but the current move can be the next best thing we can think of. The great equalizer. This is how history is scripted. Galileo did not get guillotined for nothing. He went against the top brass. He antagonized friends. He rebelled. He risked death. Yet he spoke the truth as he knew it. As it was. Time proved him right.
I am myself a deeply ritualistic, religious person, so you can imagine how much it can hurt me to write this down. In fact i am feeling extremely depressed and disturbed by the developments. I don’t approve of usurping of temple administrations by force. But what knifed my heart was that my friends felt and believed and averred that some are born with silver spoon and by virtue of birth belonged in the sanctum sanctorum whereas others did not measure up. I don’t have to take this personal, i can remain neutral, but i don’t want to. At least i want to put in on record that India will be doomed with this kind of mentality. This is sick! Sickening! On basis of birth one claiming superiority and brushing down brutally others under the carpet – this callousness is shocking! I don’t think at this rate Hinduism will progress or survive. And if we don’t, we don’t have anyone to lay blame on. The mental sickness, the hypocrisy of the caste Hindus will do the HIndu dharma in. We don’t need the Abrahamics.
Today if we voice our honest opinion on religion, we are viewed as anti-national, anti-Hindu. Tamil Nadu and Kerala are two of the bravest states of India. They may be corrupt but one can even survive corruption but not hypocrisy which is the deadliest cancer. It gives me utmost satisfaction to note that the two states have not budged an inch. Not in next 1000 years will they ELECT HONESTLY a BJP government. And I underscore the honest word. All my life i voted for these guys. Yet the defiance of my state always makes me proud. I am proud of my ex chief minister Jayalalitha Jayaram who refused to oblige anyone on their terms and laid down her life holding her head high.
I cannot change my own friends, i accept defeat. I cannot change my nation. But I can scale down my pre-occupation with Agamic temples. I will start doing that right away. And I will try to convince fellow hindus on one to one basis to STOP going to Agama temples and focus on meditation. I will discourage other hindus to stop following acharyas and mutts and fake sadhgurus. This i can do in my individual capacity. My religious perspective is changing right now. It will be a long drawn process i know. Much more difficult for me because I have viewed myself deeply spiritual and at the same time ritualistic. I guess it is my Mother Goddess who even planted this seed of thought in my mind. I guess at best i will be HER instrument. Ever since the idea germinated, I have a feeling that i am getting propelled on to next stage of spirituality. I never had the urge until now. I though do want to take it slow.
High time Hindu Dharma evolves. Our Dravidian architecture granite temples are an engineering marvel. Ancient and historic. But i wish we leave them at that. Hopefully we hindus evolve. I wonder why some factions are not letting us do that. Why are the flocks not allowed to graze further down the spiritual path? Simple. It means, there is the risk of the power equations changing. Everyone becomes one and the same. None can have the hegemony of remaining insulated and self-righteous. You cannot bend and break the back of fellow humans like the crematorium worker or manual scavenger like you have been doing for over a thousand year.
Phasing out Agama. Will i be able to do it? Only time can tell. I will remain a devout Hindu with or without Agama. Seeing the God within you is not as easy. It shall take time. Nevertheless I will go for it with all my heart.