Posted in Food For Soul

Khandhan

It pains my heart to write this.

We are all parents. We know the ways of our kids. I am the ’80s teen. I know even how way back in those days, we girls still cheated on our parents and got away with it. In an era where even short skirts were taboo, i have had among my friends circles girls who ‘crossed the line’ – if i may put it so. Who violated every single unwritten code in the morals and ethics book of their conservative, orthodox Hindu families. Today they are all happily married with grown up kids in twenties. Boys for their share smoked and boozed, as expected of them, behind their parents’ back. I have heard from my husband how boys from his engineering hostel even went to call girls. We are not here all saints from our turbulent teens. Many of us have erred, keeping with times. However that did not stop us from becoming what we are today. Every single one of us including the bold ones has made it, and that’s the most cheering news of all. What would have happened if the guilty had had to be punished.

In today’s world, our children are merely taking the next step in rebellion which is part of growing-up. Or coming of age. One of my regular cabbies told me once how a particularly addictive leafy stuff has spread like wildfire to each and every corner of Chennai, mainly sold in front of school gates and college entrances. Nobody made it to sports these days without a high from the campus. Or even to the examination hall. IT industry precipitated the matter. The acute stress levels chasing deadline after deadline cast the young men and women towards seeking a quick release. Parental and peer pressure nonetheless. My friends too aver how everything is freely available in the city and you don’t have to look far. Practically no locality is free of the net. Any government that is keen on securing the future of our youngsters must know where to look first.

I was discussing exactly this problem that I don’t even want to name with my son’s friends both in America and in India. They think this particular dried leaf one is no big deal and that they’re all canvassing to make it legal in India as it was until the 1970s when it was overnight declared illegal which pushed up its procurement costs and consumption rates. Now some vested interests even cultivate it for exclusive clientele. Some anti-social rackets naturally make a neat sum out of this as they get the younger gen hooked. Said the boys, it is tobacco which is worst but sadly or perhaps very cleverly its consumption is legal. I did not agree with the boys, but the same view is also held by my generation guys who are doing well in IT field.

I went for a single session counselling with a leading psychiatrist. One thing he told me was, the youngsters of today have to know if possible everything on planet. It is age-related. Or what you say in Tamil, ‘vayasu kolaru.’ They will eventually come out of this on their own by the time they hit their thirties. Only a negligible percentage become addicts. So he asked me to ignore if I might discover my son smoking or boozing with friends. He said, it was I who had to change not the kids. My generation has to wake up said the doc with enormous experience in the field who is also running a de-addiction center. I wanted advice on parenting with him. How to deal with a son in his twenties. Of course now my son is a father himself. I don’t have to keep an eye on him. Destiny has made him responsible. Some lessons, life can teach our children and it is better we remain mere observers. Sometimes it is okay to see our kids fail or fall. With a great restraint, we have to hold back ourselves from lending them a helping hand. The only comfort for our children must be that, whatever, we parents would love them unconditionally and accept them for what they are. And that we’d accept their choices wholeheartedly.

It is not easy parenting in this century although I am now finally heaving a sigh of relief. But I have an open mind compared to even my hubby who is a lot more conservative with rigid outlook. I got to mix with my son’s friends and came to know both the girls and boys of the 90s better. Believe me, even our girls seem to love the brown leafy or root powder! The first time I got wind of the youngsters’ habits, like any average Indian parent I was shocked to the core. Or you can say my heart almost stopped. My other thought was like, ‘omg what’s happening to my good old Madras!’ But I roused myself to reality. I think I am better in dealing with crisis when it comes to family than my husband who can solve complex industrial issues but not matters of domesticity. I have had hours of discussion with the boys on delicate subjects. I think our Indian govt also has to be practical. Now why are we updating on every front. Windows 10 to 11. How many Android updates. You check even our Cowin website. How fast they are updating with facts and figures gathered from stats from all around the country. I am asking this simple question: why cannot our government do an analysis on the emerging lifestyle of our youngsters. We simply cannot have all at the same time. If you want more and more money, you have to take more and more stress. And to beat stress you need a potent stress reliever. As simple as that.

I felt a pain when one of the kids told me, how we the parents still could be luckier generation while their grandparents (our parents) could have been the luckiest of Indians in last 2000 years, for they not only lived in a peaceful era sans wars, but also were surrounded by green unpolluted environs; there was no reason to chase money; life was simple and sweet. Many of the boys and girls of 90s still aren’t yet married. And they already say, they do not want biological kids, and that they would like to go for adoption. S*x life of the kids also has hit an abysmal low compared to our generation. Stress is playing a spoilsport in every front. Such a listless generation is what we have in our hands. So disillusioned when I see some kids. Of course, not everyone is in such a deep despair. I hope the Khan kid is not targeted. A wrong is a wrong whoever does it. But then when you have a kid of the same age, you think twice before judging. As a parent, my heart goes out to SRK. This must not happen to any parent. I have caught kids redhanded in compromising circumstances. I ignored them but reported on them to their parents behind their backs. My friends are mature and know how to handle things. They never stir the hornets’ nests. How to untangle situations and get the kids without least damage is the knack of parenting, with not even the kids knowing. This kind of wisdom is god’s gift.

I do not deny that some mischievous elements are flushing toxic substances into India. Neither am I justifying abuse of any kind. I am vociferously against both. But we need to take care that we don’t hurt our children. They are still our kids. I felt bad for SRK and wife Gauri. Stars and billionaires also have families and more than all emotion and heart. We cannot keep bleeding them so cruelly like this. What kind of sadists have we become to rejoice when a celebrity suffers, only because he made it big. Well, let us allow law to do its duty. This social media trial of the starkid is unwarranted and heartless.

The cleanup of Indian Gennext has to start right from the capital Delhi. Let every school and college campus be combed which is a Herculean task I know. Reforming the youngsters must be our priority, not penalizing them. We gain nothing out of turning them into anti-establishment. Engaging the younger lot productively is the greatest challenge of our times as their attention span is shrinking. With more of economic comfort, they lack the drive to excel or prove a point. Boredom is one good reason for kids going astray. This is really nobody’s fault. It has to happen. It is natural for lethargy to set in given that we have cushioned them from rude jolts of life like our parents never did for us. In Tamil again we say, ‘muppadhu varusham vaazhndhavanum kidayadhu, muppadhu varusham thaazhndhavanum kidaiyadhu.’ This is merely a cycle. For my generation and my parents, growth was fueled by desire for better standard of living. None of us even owned a telephone or car. What do our sons and daughters dream of? We tae them on exotic holidays, we shop for the best brands for them. They have had everything in life without working for anything. They lack nothing and that is exactly the problem. The low they feel is perfectly understandable. How many of them are on the verge of bottomless abyss called ‘depression’ – just ask parents like me. There is not much to fight for, we have taken it all making things easy for them. This i am saying after having hearty talks with 90s kids.

Let us forgive our children and move on. Time is the best healer. I have handled personal crisis with my patience. How many secrets a woman’s heart can hold. Right from my teens to now, i have known secret gays to hasty abortions. Sometimes just keeping quiet will do. Things will work out for better by themselves. As for the kids of 20s, they are still our children. If they err, we have to embrace them and let them know, it is ok. We can chastise them politely but convincingly as we have the right. But to bring them about without damaging them must be our mission. I do not believe in harsh punishments. Neither am I for political agendas or selective targeting. ‘Kalavum katru mara’ one more Tamil adage to quote here. This too shall pass. I can only close with the unflinching trust and belief in our kids that they will be over the bend with time. All we need to do is to be there for them when they make it on their own terms.

PS: Hopefully our media covers equally Adani port as well. Again from Tamil, ‘aanai poradhu theriyalai, poona thaan paavam panni maattiyadhu.’

Posted in Food For Soul

Retirement Homes: Boon Or Bane?

This post of mine is from July 15, 2015. I am not editing it to see how my mind worked in 2015 😀

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Who wants to have her Mother-In-Law home today. I would like a break myself perhaps had I not lost my mother in an young age. May be that tempered me into hosting her – which I consider is a privilege. I am human, at times I long for privacy and she does wear me out, but at the end of the day I guess this is one cherished treasure I could be leaving behind for my son… a precious something… I remind myself, my MIL is not my MIL but my husband’s mother. I was thinking whether we parents would be happy if our son might be sending us some greenbacks from wherever he will be working/living in future. Is that what parents seek? In modern world where mostly the elderly are either pensioners or somewhat financially sound, what shall they want from their children?

The first question anyone who comes home asks me is: YOUR MOTHER-IN-LAW IS WITH YOU?!

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A friend’s widowed mother recently got for herself a condominium (retirement home) at a cost of 75 lacs bucks plus annual maintenance charges running into thousands of rupees per year very much to the chagrin and disappointment of her 2 married and well-settled daughters. Whats more, the lady who is a retired govt teacher, kept her family in the dark about her intentions. That really set me thinking.

My views on old age homes are coloured by what I saw in Malaysia. Malaysia was a real learning period in my life in many ways. Upto 60 years or so the chinese there worked hard. Bought themselves a home (as primary investment) and also a condo in highlands (hill-stations) (for a second loan/secondary investment) to settle down on retirement .

One such a posh retirement village comprising some 100 luxurious condos in Camaroon highlands or somewhere got swept under landslides common in these regions. So that is when I came to know what a lifestyle the retired enjoy in peace in the sunset of their lives, in better-off circles. Later I learned this is a universal phenomenon in ‘mature’ societies like we have in the first & second worlds.

Not every elderly settlement is expensive though. There is a range of retirement homes to suit your budget you can comfortably choose from. And you may opt to live in the heart of the city or pack your bags to quiet nests under mother earth’s shadow.

A mature society boasts of a happy contended senior citizen population

The retired folks happily make the condos their home. A lesson for aging parents in India: the retirees do not leave with their children the burden of guilt. Its a wise decision taken in one’s prime years that works fine with everyone The grandparents graciously leave the centerstage and enrich the evening of their lives in the company of peers playing shuttle, going for swimming and long walks, reading in libraries and attending concerts – in harmony with nature. There is 24 hour in-house doctor on call. No wonder Malaysian chinese live upto 100 years.

Many of our chinese friends were scrupulously saving for their second home – a condo. It also helps that Malaysian cost of living is cheaper than Indian and real estate in Malaysia is not as steep as in India either. Homes are affordable – and yes, even a week-end getaway or a luxury condo. Everyone is able to pay off their first housing loans/car loans by 35-36 years, eligible for an add-on or a second loan by their 40th year.

THE GENE FACTOR – FAMILY VALUES

Whereas we Indians are Indians anywhere & everywhere. Malaysian tamils, most of them, have no connection whatsoever with mainland India. Their ancestors migrated over 150-200 years back. Some do fly down to the south (mostly to Tamil Nadu) (or whichever part of India they are from – a small percentage this is, like Punjabis & Mallus for instance) but by and large they see India only in tv and pictures and books and media.

Yet its a surprise our temples and cuisines (although murdered beyond recognition) and traditions and some typically ‘Indian’ ways of life/culture are preserved until this generation in Malaysia.

First and foremost 0ne that was most striking to me about Malaysian Indian families was their joint-family set-up. Even the MIL-SIL issue was there (to my satisfaction hahaha)! Like in India, the joint families were beginning to give up as nuclear families were already happening, yet the joint family remained intact in many homes.

Next, Indians were in the habit of hoarding real estate properties – houses typically. Indians owned maximum houses in KL, Penang, etc because when others like Malays & Chinese stopped buying with their second wanting to enjoy life, our tamil/Indian bros and sisters went on acquiring their 3rd, 4th and 5th homes & even landed estates. Rentals added to Indian homes’ pooled income naturally! (Seeing us I am told even chinese/malays are now buying more homes!) (The same is true of my Indian American friends who continue buying a string of homes in the US). Looks like this property hoarding/acquisition spree & rentals/leasing is in Indian genes  Holiday or Investment: Investment ofcourse!! Why should I blame others, I am preaching onething but practising something else for sure!

Our Indian friends were cutting back on expenses and saving diligently just like we keep doing in India for our children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, etc etc. We never enjoy our lives quite, do we – atleast compared to our western counterparts. Among Indians, north Indians even there seem to spend better than us south Indians. South Indians prefer the charpoy over 4 poster kingsize mattress anyday looks like 

The idea of aged parents being sent to old age homes sounded preposterous (atleast until we were around) in the south east asian country (in Indian community).

But I truly liked the condos concept. Senior citizens in developed countries, unlike our Indian seniors, looked forward to spending their twilight years in peace in condominiums, away from the clutters of routine work/family life. With 24 hour security and doctor on duty, to me the condos seemed the ultimate you cannot miss out on. Sounded fun. Even the government fixed age of retirement in India is 58 years, stretched to 60 in the private sector.

Elderly couples opting for condo was such a cute thing. In 60s, mostly we have our children well-settled. They need us no more. May be we can extend our busy years until ’70 if we are lucky. And then what to do.

A retired life sans commitment…

The happy pictures of grannies & grandpas melted my heart. Because I know, we married people hardly have time to ourselves in our younger years. The kids come along, worklife gets demanding, socializing and partying and holidaying all have a fixed time schedule/limit whereas in retirement couples may find themselves truly relishing each other’s company having fulfilled their joint responsibilities together. It is like back-to-square-1 I thought.

Many of our friends in middle east have done the Bali, the New Zealand, the Kenya, the Eurorail and others. Without kids I mean. Somehow I could never bring myself to do that. May be in future I would in the safe knowledge that my son has better company to go see places with …

Most of my local friends share my sentiment. We have similar views on sending our children to dorms/hostel in UG etc. We are reluctant to let go of our children easily …

Now that all of us girls are in the same boat, we find that our grown-up children are adults who we no longer have to wait on. Neither do our kids need us anymore except for moral/economic support. Our young and eager fledglings are flexing their wings waiting to fly out of the nests someday. To those of us with a single kid, this is like a weight placed upon our hearts. Coming to terms with reality is difficult.

Attachment & Detachment

They say in Thamizh: Petha Manam Pithu, Pillai Manam Kallu.

Better we maintain the distance with our kids right from the start keeping in mind, they are not ours forever. Just like we stopped belonging to our parents long back (and in my case from too very long back). Those of my friends with a second kid are relieved they will have a few more ‘years’ to look forward to.

I know we Indian parents are a lot more sentimental than those from other parts of the world and our emotion is our children’s greatest spoiler. One of my friends is too very attached to her only son/child studying to become a professional and it really makes me think of cautioning her. Too much of attachment, somehow I feel, is not good. Either for the boy or for the mother. All hell may break lose in the heavens with a most trivial thing like the arrival of a daughter-in-law in the scene. I have known or rather learned to keep minimum attachments with those I love most because otherwise it hurts too much.

I liked the way of life in Malaysia/other developed nations where elders gave space to the younger  generation. Personally I wouldn’t want to suffocate anyone with too much of emotion. The affection is there in the heart and it will stay for this lifetime and beyond… I do cry at the drop of a hat but when it comes to my family, I try to steel myself and be prepared.

One of my friends who became a citizen of the USA took her in-laws to live with her. Her FIL passed away quietly in a nursing home in a distant state from her place after remaining a vegetable for over 2 years. Electric cremation to the 80 year old man without a sound who lived most of his life in India. I wonder about the purpose. The imposition on children, the anonymity of dying in a cold place hooked to the machines, everything.

Why not a home for the aged in India. There are many now. In last 20 years, Chennai, Coimbatore, Tanjore everywhere even within Tamil Nad we have excellent care centers and/or retirement homes for seniors. Why couldn’t my friend’s in-laws choose to live in one of them.

On one hand I agree, my friend’s husband was firm about wanting his parents to live with him in their old age. He felt it was his responsibility as a son to take care of his parents till they breathed last which is great. Yet as working professionals, the couple could not attend to the sick old man when his health deteriorated  so he finally had to be admitted to a nursing home for professional care and medical attention.

My friend carries a bit of guilt burden about this when there is indeed nothing bad to feel about. The couple did their duties to the fullest. But I think this thing about our parents stays stubborn in our conscience. Despite all that they could do to the old father, the husband-wife pair blame themselves for having had to send away their papa to the care center. Through this period, my friend had to put up with her sulking angry and unreasonable mother-in-law.

In India, yes, we always have 2 extremes or perhaps more.

Where relationships bondage you…

I have always felt that developed societies treated this retirement/nursing home issue with a refinement that comes with better education and emotional maturity. Relationships are not bondages in their circles. Rather they are relaxed and enjoyable without constricting anyone.

Or may be we Indian parents expect too much from our children because we give our children our lives like none other. Ours is one supreme sacrifice. From the moment a child is born he/she becomes the epicenter of the parents world.  There is no such a thing as twosome in Indian families. Its always 3some or 4some (in case of 2 kids) (rare to see over 2 kids in India except in muslim families where 3 is minimum). Where is the privacy between husband and wife. Children become our life. Children become our obsession. And then finally no wonder it gets all the more difficult for us to share our kids with their life partners. Parents start to look like the villains over a stage. Why cannot Indian parents ever learn to quit the scene quietly. I am also a parent – I am willing to give but expect to receive nothing in return. Where there is no expectation, how can there be any disappointment.

Interestingly I learned this lesson from my own MIL. At 77, she is a grand mother and mother of 5 successful kids. All her male children are working professionals good in their fields and the only daughter is married to a professional as well. All her grand kids are budding professionals as well and show promise of a great future. Yet I see her simplicity and broad mindedness in not taking anything for granted. And something much more none of us can resist: not taking credit for her children’s success. You have to be real generous to do that. Born with silver spoon, she travels by auto (rickshaw) just like me without a murmur, never claims any personal victory and has never boasted to any of us how successful she is in her life. Her sons and daughter have come to respect her and love her not fear her. Sometimes I think this is a reason even for her good health (touchwood).

Not getting too very involved in the children’s life is something only level-headed Indian parents can manage I guess. My MIL has such a maturity – to live with us in a joint family yet retain individuality without trampling on our privacy and independence at the same time. I really appreciate that and wish I could emulate her example in future. Any may be this is why I am having her with me.

Irony is, it is those who do not want their in-laws/parents with them today are the ones who cannot let go off their kids ever. Those who live in joint families on the other hand are mentally better prepared. In my observation.

PRIVACY, What? Excuse me, we are Indians!

But even with my MIL I remember when my FIL was around, they hardly spent any time together. Their lives went around their grandchildren in the second innings of their lives. When my FIL was there, I have asked them why they could not go on all-India tour or pilgrimage or just on a simple holiday as a couple. Not even beach or kutchery (music concerts)? But to my amazement, they lacked that kind of interest to step out anywhere as an elderly pair who had accomplished their domestic responsibilities to satisfaction. It always made me wonder whether aged couple wanting a moment of privacy is indecent or selfish or whatever. Is it unnatural?

Today when I see my MIL watching alone the tv soaps, I urge her to go to temples/kutcheries again but she is very disinterested. She gives me space but still is the queen bee of the family. While I respect it I also have this to say: the COMPLETE detachment I saw in Malaysian elderly is absent in not only my MIL but in all septuagenarians or octogenarians of India. Despite the space they allow us that is. Wanting to stay in-charge, never to be side-lined is a privilege that no Indian Mother-in-law seems to relinquish willingly. Or may be I am hoping for too much!

It is good for us in a way. We want her in a condo neither. We like her with us. But my MIL is lucky to have 4 sons/families staying in the city. (Its never the daughter’s responsibility believe me). How many of us could prove to be fortunate like her?

Old-age home is not a bad or cruel idea at all. For some its a dire necessity like for those whose kids are NRIs. For the destitute, there are homes supported by charity. One such is ‘Vishranthi’ – first of its kind to be founded in Chennai.

There are 2 sides to any coin: abusive in-laws/parents versus cruel daughters-in-law/sons-daughters. This underlying fact could be the governing principle when it comes to many choosing between joint and nuclear families.

What is an Old Age Home like? Atleast one run on charity?

A good friend of mine put in a strange request to me last week.   She lives in a neighbouring state.  Hers is a ‘rags to riches’ story.  She has this habit of calling her high school teacher every Teachers’ Day, i.e., on September 5th.  (My friend joined our school for the higher secondary course after completing high school in a different institution).   Born in a very poor and large family, today she has achieved a remarkable and enviable status in her personal and professional life. Says she, the hope instilled in her by her teacher in high school days  is the reason for what she is today.

My friend had called her teacher as usual this Teachers’ Day but found that the phone line was cut.  The old fashioned teacher hardly used a cell phone or gave her numbers to others.  My distraught friend therefore called me in great anxiety wanting to know what happened to the old teacher who was in her ’80s and lived by herself.

I made some enquiries in her old dwelling place and learned that the senior teacher had moved to an old age home run by the school she served for over 30 years zealously.  She had been taken ill and therefore decided to take up the offer by the institution.

Blessed with well-to-do brothers & sisters and happy families, the lady had refused offer of shelter from everyone of her kith & kin to make her old school old age home for women her final residence. The school is unique in that it supports destitute women in a wing from a charity trust.

For my friend’s sake I stepped into the home for the aged for the first time in my life. It smelled of antiseptic right from the reception giving me a sick feeling. I met the grand old teacher in a first floor compact suite with a small built-in kitchenette she hardly used. Bathrooms were shared or attached in bigger rooms. A small tv plugged into the wall was running noiseless pictures.

The lady told me she felt comfortable in the home that she had been living in for over 6 months. She opted for common kitchen food served in the dining. Or sometimes she ordered food to her room. Almost all residents were 75 plus she said and a majority were retired teachers like her without family support.  Some among them were infirm. The teacher herself had been a child bride in those days widowed in her teens without issue. She got her education on her widowhood and was allowed to work as a teacher by her family. She taught high school kids.

Talking to her for over 1 hour I was disarmed by her sense of peace and acceptance of her last days (she is fine now). She said she wanted to pass away in her school grounds – in familiar surroundings – that gave a meaning to her otherwise barren life. Her relatives came to see her on fortnightly visits.

She ate sparsely, she spent her time reading scriptures rather than watching tv but said her eyes were beginning to get weak. I told her about my mom and my aunt and the connection was instantaneous. Here was one woman who had also devoted her life to teaching.

I had gotten her some wholewheat crackers that she accepted. I called my friend from her room and both had a hearty talk. My friend was delighted and grateful that I tracked down her ageing miss. For me it was an utmost satisfying day. The visit to the old age home, the meeting with a senior citizen- a retired teacher who devoted her life to selfless service, seemed to subdue me with a kind of strange emotions. I felt I was at rare peace with myself. At that moment I knew I did good having my MIL. Today my deep anxiety is about what shall happen to her if I have to move with my husband in his workplace?

Finally saying good bye and walking through the school grounds, I looked back at the home for the aged, tucked behind the trees, almost invisible from the rest of the buildings. There wasn’t a clue there were about 2 dozen aged and sick awaiting their turn in those gray blocks. Some got visitors but not all.

Retirement/Old Age Home –  A conscious choice?

I never thought visiting an aged home would depress me that much. It did. I wondered whether all my previous ‘learned’ thinking on retirement homes/condos was like a mirage – unrealistic. Cold. Heartless. Could a home for the aged be so much lonely, miserable and bleak. But I got the distinct feeling with the teacher’s although she never admitted to me she found it depressing.

Or may be it is a figment of my imagination. One more reason I thought could be that, the home was managed by a charitable trust with limited funds. May be the wealthier ones like my friend’s mother got herself were better?

They were for a fact so far as I knew. Because once in OMR, the IT highway, we were looking for some real estate. We chanced upon a property that was already developed into a retirement home. It wasn’t quite the luxurious condo but adapted to Indian lifestyle conditions. There was a temple inside, bhajan halls, tennis court, walking tracks, gardens, dining halls and individual apartments & security and a medical clinic. Guess it was some 15 years back. Now the place is sold out and the brand name has earned a high respect among senior citizens.

I thought the cluster of retirement homes was far better than the gated-community/enclave. In old age, the homes gave privacy not seclusion to its occupants. Safety and medical help were at arm’s reach.

Now I come to learn there are over a dozen in and around the city serving the grand old at various budgets. You may choose the facilities and opt for one as per your finance status.

Age with Dignity

One gracious deed of the MMS/Congress govt was facilitating REVERSE MORTGAGE for senior citizens of the nation that helps preserve their sense of independence.

http://profit.ndtv.com/news/your-money/article-how-senior-citizens-can-benefit-from-reverse-mortgage-373027

This is a good reason for the elderly not to nurture misgivings about imposing on their ‘reluctant’ children and/or for their adult-children in the event of weighing supporting their ageing parents (under trying financial conditions). I wonder what makes some of us think we are doing our parents/in-laws any favour. Rather are we not duty-bound the way they were when they raised us. The retirees can make a choice as to how to live the rest of their days in dignity. The fate of economically unsound/dependent retired lot is awfully miserable to imagine.

Despite my reasoning & logic, I would still like to dispense my responsibilities to the elderly within the comforts of our own home (thankless as they could be) – which alone can save me from a terrible guilty conscience.  May be its a personal decision for each & every one of us. I discovered I did not care whether the ageing Indian parents preferred spending rest of their lives in condos or not. Unless the circumstances are compelling, I hope no senior citizen in this country feels neglected or ignored and thereby needs to exercise the option – even if that could amount to taking our elderly for granted. Retirement/Old Age home is conceptually good, undeniable. Still let us allow our grandchildren the luxury of basking in grandparental love & spoiling pampering which is something we can never hope to substitute with.

Finally son(s), a mother is not after your cheque. A mother wants to see your face first.

Posted in Food For Soul

Retail Therapy

Must have returned from the US emptyhanded (without shopping that is) but the kids drove me the last moment to a mall making sure I shopped at least a little that they thought was necessary to make our trip complete.

Otherwise the last time i shopped for clothes was in Coimbatore in mid April. A good six months back almost, a record for me. A token sweater from Mango sale here in Doha as winter approaches is the only exception apart from personal care products from Body Shop. I missed the pre-US tour shopping deliberately and did not go for a facial in a salon that I normally do before a foreign trip. Was about to complete the tour without a serious buy but then ended up spending up around 100$ – not bad still. Even then the urge to shop was absent. A severe aversion has set in, but then the kids prevailed. More than them my hubby wanted to ensure that I got something otherwise he said I would be taunting him for a 100 years that he did not allow me to shop in the US!

The point is, the first time I went to the US (in 2017-18), every other day we went shopping. I got myself lots of clothes and bags i hardly needed. From 2015 I guess i have been on a splurge – a spending spree, literally a freefall. That was when my only son left for abroad for higher studies. As I alternated between India and Doha, my guess is that psychologically I was filling a vacuum with more clothes, bags, shoes and jewelry : material possessions as substitutes for physical presence of my beloved that I presumed could make me happy.

I opted for a designer for my clothes, went for branded bags like i never did in the past. I do go for brands now for personal care products. For clothes too these days I have come to look for brands. All this development has been there only since 2015. With despair I thought I was getting into a pattern I normally detested. My shopping sprees meanwhile were also going online at the same time.

The shopping peaked surprisingly in the pandemic time for me as a friend mocked that I was the only one shopping left and right even in critical times. I laughed it off but realized that it was very easy for me to take the bait if someone interested me in shopping for clothes. I fell without resistance over half a dozen times spending too much than the occasion warranted. A celebration at home and festive season gave me more reasons to shop than necessary. Afterwards, I would be plagued by the familiar guilty feeling ending up hating myself for succumbing to temptations and spending lavishly the hardearned money of my hubby that I did not earn for myself. Of course I was still spending within limits, but I was shopping nonstop for more and more clothes and accessories that my wardrobes seemed to be splitting at seams. I had to in fact make new ones to store more clothes and bags for this reason last year. I seemed to want every new blockprint on the forefront of fashion, i wanted the matching bag. I wanted the right jean and I wanted the perfect jewelry. What was I trying to prove to the world?

All this changed with a simple little bundle of joy that arrived in our family in June. With the arrival of my granddaughter, I have totally lost my interest for shopping anything for myself as a feeling of completeness swells within me that I cannot put into words. Precisely about this time, I started reading on decluttering and minimalism. Although I was initially angered by the preaching, I decided that I needed the daily dose of reminder. I don’t think anyone needs sermons on anything in life, but reading repeatedly on the importance of decluttering and minimalism is having a gradual effect in my psyche. I can’t say that i am immune to these articles anymore that over a period can have a life changing effect in us. The combined effect of the sense of fulfillment in life along with well timed reading on decluttering and minimalism may be reason for the way I am changing, probably for the better.

The few months my son and my daughter-in-law spent in Chennai along with me also could be a reason for my changed heart. They lived in a leased apartment where they used my saved crockeries, cutleries etc., breaking some (!) that gave me an indescribable satisfaction that things were finally used and not merely were stashed for guests. That utility value of things somehow had a catalytic effect on me as I realized, things rusting without usage are of no use collecting or saving (for a future date).

Now I am more into using the things I have accumulated over years. Even in Doha, the clothes in my supposed secondary wardrobe (primary being the one in Chennai) can last me easily over five years to say the least. My fridge too is overflowing. I still ended up going for three tee shirts and a bag in the US but it is ok. Nobody in my family seems to be happy if I don’t get anything for myself. So got them mostly to make my folks happy. They can’t believe the new me 😀

Meanwhile, I shall keep using the clothes and things i have saved here (the list of what I have given up both in Doha and Chennai itself can be very impressive) (periodically also gave up so, many, many clothes and accessories to charities in good condition only). I think i don’t need all this stuff now: just my darling granddaughter will do. She has replaced everything else in my life i thought was valuable and worth collecting. How such a little life thousands of miles away from me across the oceans can have this effect on me is surprising.

For the family i got coffee-mates as we are great coffee lovers, and I thought we could do with nondairy creamer that is not good quality in dairy-fixated India. For friends some fridge magnets. For colleagues, my hubby got chocolates. Surprisingly even my hubby didn’t shop, I think he is going through the same emotions as me. He is very brand conscious. Last visit, he bet me or probably matched me in shopping! This year he has not shopped at all for himself but did for his darling granddaughter. Now getting that rattles and baby clothes seem more precious and important to both of us. Gone is the craze for branded stuff. We both were basically like this, but the intermittent years somehow changed us from our natural ways.

I now have this to say about Retail Therapy: most of us seek this as kind of fulfillment for something that we may be lacking. The temporary spike in our adrenaline, serotonin and dopamine thanks to shopping enthuses us that we feel revitalized and a sense of purpose. I can’t see any other reason for normal men and women to shop (within limits) more than necessary. Any excesses over limits must have a far damaging reason psychological mostly that may have to be clinically treated.

Finally over the peak, that is how I see myself. At the same time, i would not want to deny myself anything good. Abstinence by itself can sometimes trigger a craving. In future I will shop but my shopping shall be entirely need-based. I would not want to forego best things in life. I will first utilize optimally whatever I own already. Such a usage is self-satisfying seeing that you are putting to good use the money you invested in something.

I guess we all will have to reach this point of satiation by ourselves. There is no particular defining moment. Each much peak as per his/her own sense of fulfillment. Retail Therapy can be harmless if we are bound by limits. But I have known how addictive this can get and how guilty we can feel after every shopping bout.

With pleasure I have to record here that all my clothes that I used in my tour recently are old and used already, nothing being new. Feeling complete in every way. Not grooming specially for the trip is another new for me that I intend to follow up with.

How I managed this six month period of de-addiction from shopping:

  • i unfollowed business pages mostly especially those of clothing, jewelry, bag etc. their updates and posts are most tempting
  • hardly one or two art/business pages i follow these days online that do not require me to shop for anything
  • online shopping thus finally almost came to an end for me. there were years when i would book stuff online from Qatar and get them delivered to my sister’s place in India for collection later!
  • i do have a credit card here in Doha but i hardly use it.
  • i don’t save anymore my clothes for occasions. here for even grocery shopping in Doha nowadays, i go in my best. i decided to live it up.
  • i am also now not in company of friends who will worsen my condition 😀 some of my friends happen to be worst shopping addicts than me and that used to compound my shopping problem 😀 we spoilt each other lol
  • i have a friend now who continuously discourages me from shopping, like she says when i try to pick up a tee shirt, ‘no dear, it looks lousy on you!!!’ and that’s all i need to hear! i love going out with this friend now because she is like a party pooper, neither will she shop nor will she let me spend!!!
  • i guess i have the responsibility to set an example to the kids. by restraining, i can show them that it is important to live with what we have and find satisfaction from that.
  • my husband and I constantly discourage each other from shopping these days. i can say, now frugal spending is one of our couple-goals!
  • its not about saving pennies really. its more about living with a principle.
  • the joy of giving is not unknown to me. basically i derive more happiness from giving. even through my spending sprees i haven’t forgotten that.
  • i took cue from a few friends who are doing great but who tend to live it down, not leading flashy lives. their hugely successful yet down-to-earth stories opened my eyes as to what is really important in life. i can still hire an auto and live in a small two or three bedroom flat and that will just NOT define me in any way. take me the way i am or leave it.

Posted in Food For Soul

Ageing With Dignity

Often it is possible to mistakenly assess dignity with one’s clothes. Or limit the definition of dignity to mere superficiality that is skin deep. Can there be a more dignified picture than that of our Bapu in his loin clothes walking his way to a meeting with Churchill.

Dignity must have lot more to do with than the mere external sheathe we climb out of when within four walls? Dignity has got to do with what we are when we can go invisible. In a way, our original self has a knack of manifesting itself in the image we present to the outer world, even if we try not to give up much. Dignity lies in how we conduct ourselves with every group, in all stages and phases. How about dignity that is derived out of solid character. Dignity from having built an unmistakable reputation. Dignity from spinning something worthwhile out of our life. In Thamizh we have a proverb that goes as ‘கெட்டாலும் மேன்மக்கள் மேன்மக்களே, சங்கு சுட்டாலும் வெண்மை தரும்’. To me, that sums up dignity in entirety. So dignity is how malleable you are under duress, under pressing stress. How flexible you are. How catalytic you are under trying circumstances. How much you can facilitate a smooth maneuver in rough tidings.

In other words, dignity is embracing your life for what it throws at you. When life gives you lemon, how many choose to make a lemonade.

Often we have armchair intellectuals who have not stepped out of their comfort zones delivering sermons from their high pedestals on abstract human qualities that can be explained only in relative terms. Unless we are on all our fours at least at any one point of time in life, at the mercy of third parties, with our dignity at stake, with doors closing on us from every side, there is no way we can come to decipher what dignity is all about.

A pole dancer can live her life with dignity. Is dignity only about understated elegance bought off at an astronomical price.

Perceptions differ. I wonder when those in their supposed high moral grounds would stop judging.

Ageing with dignity can have totally a different perspective having nothing to do with our attire bordering on nostalgy. How about mellowing with experience, exposure, travel, scars, tolerance, forbearance, forgiving and broadmindedness greying us a shade darker. Or is it silver. A life lived well collecting memories is far more dignified than a life collecting material possessions. How can a sedan or designer jewelry come to define someone? Let us not allow a hairdye undermine the life we lived out. Our attitude towards life, how we carry ourselves past extraordinary circumstances define our dignity. A life battled for and won over has a lot more dignity than a smooth sailing not far from safe harbour.

Posted in Food For Soul

Spirituality is Empathy, Religiosity without empathy is an Empty shell.

Friendships and relationships can survive only if the parties are on equal footing. By equality, I am not referring to material well being. The sense of equality and justice has to be in the mind. The wrong sense of entitlement some nurture harms friendships how much ever back by years that may go. The gods must be equal, the rights and birth privileges must be equal, the trust has to be mutual and matched. Simply nobody is born with a silver spoon. May be some unjustly have had a headstart but the remorse or repentance in the bargain in current times can go a long way in correcting the imbalance in holistic ways. The historical injustice first has to be acknowledged for if social justice has any hope at all. I can’t think of spirituality without the embedded element of empathy in it. Any thing removed from it can be mere religiosity that can have nothing to do with enlightenment. Fellow Hindus seem to have reduced everything to jargons like Advaita, Vaishnavism, Mantra, Tantra, Yantra etc. The raw and basic truth is that, a Vettiyan or a cremation ground worker needs none of this or has no use to any of these for his afterlife. As simple as that. I wonder how and when some numbskulls will get it into their heads. Plus if you chestbeat that you have access to Veda and Upanishad by privilege of your birth, you have to factor in that this was achieved by suppressing sections of humanity from progress by your forefathers. This genetic advantage garnered over centuries did not come free. It cost millions of Hindus their DIGNITY. Never can I dismiss the thought from my mind that prevents me from embracing all that these so-called wise-asses seem to lecture on Dharma. I am far removed from the philosophical ways of these smart-asses who ‘know all’ seemingly. Well, I don’t have to know anything at all. Over the rituals, I am a seeker, becoming more of a seeker, who wouldn’t even have to become a monk or saint for self realization. I can just nurture my sense of empathy, lend a sympathetic ear, identify with others pains, acknowledge others disadvantages because some stood to gain at every front, understand their anguish and rage at the injustice. I find my peace in hugging their sense of loss bred over generations as they watched others march past them. Any talk on Hindu renaissance has to aim at stemming the rot from within. The cancer is in the mind when you pit yourself above a section of humanity and self congratulate yourself for what you stood to gain. No Hindu group or study is willing to give a consideration to the question of equality and social justice in the first place. I would request anyone to place themselves as a vettiyan’s son confined to a hut with mud walls within the cremation ground tending to burning bodies not for an year or a century but for a continuous two millennium. Well, it is for instance at the cost of the man’s dignity that you are where you are. Stop lecturing if you cannot empathize with fellow humans especially if you are from the creamy section who have contributed to the miseries of mankind directly. In no other part of the world or in no other religion is a burial grounds person in his profession by birth like we have in Hinduism. Where is mention of service in Hindu Dharma. We have had to wait for the Christians to teach us what humanity is and how through service we can seek spirituality. Which Hindu seer impressed upon anyone to serve humanity. Where in the Vedas is stress laid on service to humanity. We have our flaws and we need the correction. Not even reservations can give back the dignity these people were denied. Who knows whether there is a nether world. Making the world we live in today a happy place for everyone is all divinity about. If you cannot do it, don’t resort to damaging humanity even further. My heart goes out to all of human race who have been vanquished, suppressed, downtrodden and stripped of their sense of dignity, denied their equal social justice. My heart goes out to the wild life of the world and even domesticated pets some of which had to be genetically mutated for vanity to pander to man’s whims. The kind of world and the kind of faith I envision can never match up most of my friends. To me their hollowness of rituality is disappointing. I think we all pursue our own paths after a point. Mine is not the same as most Hindus I know or i am friends with or related to.

Posted in Food For Soul

Palmistry Of Social Media Busybees.

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.

Posted in Food For Soul

Why it may be time for us to leave the Agama temples behind.

I think i have outgrown the Agama temples, a natural corollary of Varnaashrama.

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 Agamic Varnaashramaa 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 Agamic-Varnaashramaa 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 Vidhi. Seeing the God within you is not as easy. It shall take time. Nevertheless I will go for it with all my heart.

Posted in Food For Soul

OBCs must forsake Agama temples.

The beauty about Sanathana Dharma is that you can be an Agama follower or a non-ritualistic, a Shaivite or a Vaishnavite, a vegetarian or a non-vegetarian, you can follow any of the six schools of worship, or you can even be an atheist. You can attain Nirvana by any means. The ritualistic Agama worship is the most layman form of worship although it is very popular. It can be our kinder garten at best, but most of us refuse to progress from here.

I think this is watershed moment for those like me to come to a decision. It will be very difficult to forsake the Agama temples but i am contemplating completely giving up Agama temples for the bastion of caste prejudice they have come to symbolize. They are filled with so much hatred and bias where the torch bearers are unwilling to help others grow spiritually . They seem to have reduced everything to Abhishekam and Alankaram. Decorating deities with gold and diamonds is what is their level of piety or religiosity. We are aware of Kshama Prarthana for the rituals still skipped. Everything is convenient to correct, should those in charge make a mistake. The kind of hypocrisy i am witnessing in our temples and the spewing of so much of venom belittling others is horrible. I am not saying the usurping of temple admin is right either. There is a gentle way of introducing the new appointees where those in service of god can receive them with understanding, willing to teach them and grow with them. The initial state of denial and shock are unavoidable. We must be giving them time to settle down. Neither should the serving ones be financially deprived with their services cut short. For all this to happen, a society must be very mature and literate. However, this is not the case.

I would like that every non-brahmin gives up Agama worship totally and seeks meditation and other means of Dharma to attain Mukthi. Even the new OBC archakas can withdraw and leave the hollow granite structures to the heartless cruel people who can go to hell. My heart goes out to the poorest of poor called names, insulted by their caste card. I would ask every vettiyan to refuse to burn an FC body. That is how bad i feel. It looks like forever, these lower caste people must be confined to their fates, denied an equal social status.

I would definitely try to withdraw from my temple routine. I would though go to the non Agamic temples that are not bound by prejudiced practices.

It won’t be easy not stepping into Kapali temple or Valleeshwara temple. Both were originally maintained for decades by my community. Now i am ashamed that we even exercised such a privilege. But i will try to personally stay away from Agama temples as much as possible. I would stress upon every single OBC community to withdraw their support and allegiance with Agama temples. Just grow out, wean yourself okay? Move on to the next level. Climb to the next step in your spiritual ladder.

My Devi, My Goddess resides within me. I don’t have to seek Her outside anywhere. A temple is only after your Puja at home. On that I am clear. I have made some promises to visit some shrines with family in future. I shall have to keep up those promises. But for that, i will be slowly easing out of the Agama ritualistic temples. May be enlightenment will follow this way who knows.

I shall press every single OBC who i come across and who i can influence to give up Agama temples and concentrate on meditation and Puja at home or in non-Agama temples. No more this can be our collective responsibility either. If after serving in the sanctum for centuries these people still cannot understand God’s will or can’t embrace the masses and take them into their bosoms and show them the God, it is not worth it.

Hinduism is such a vast ocean. There are offensive scriptures still that we can give up. There are unfair practices that we need not have to heed to. Let us follow what we are comfortable with. The more ritualistic we become, the more distant we move away from self-realization. It is one thing to usurp the temple admin, but it another thing not to share knowledge but lead an otherwise materialistic adharmic life in every other way.

Dear Hindus, it is time to forsake the Agama temples. Just grow up. Shiva and Shakthi and Lord Balaji and Rama and Hanuman live in your hearts first. You don’t need these vedics or the purohits and pundits. But forever they will need you especially even after their death. Let them always stay indebted to you. I change my mind. Forsake the Agama, but burn their bodies. Sweep clean their ugliness. May you always be one step above them in every aspect – by virtue of birth. Your ways and means may be crude, but your end aspiration is merited. God be with you!

Posted in Food For Soul

the helpless plea that echoes in my mind…

I have a devoted househelp at my service for over 15 years now. She has a rural background. When she came to work for me, the first day on taking the broom in her hands she said, ‘Akka please don’t allot separate plate and tumbler for me! Otherwise i don’t want to work for you!’ I wasn’t planning to do that. Those words rooted me to my spot. I felt ashamed of myself to be instilling such a fear on this village girl. She is like my younger sister ever since. After sometime she noticed that I was using the same coffee mug, my son used his etc., and that we did not mix towels or soaps or any personal thing even within the family. It is after a month she told me to give her her own glass and plate because in my family, everyone had our own plate, glass that we wouldn’t interchange. Even pillows and blankets. Still i did not tell my girl firsthand what was our house practice. I let the girl find out. In my case, there was never a discrimination. One thing my help keeps telling me is, after coming to me all those years back she for the first time was shocked by receiving equal, humane treatment. Nobody gave her that respect that was due to her all these years. My help has access to all my house, all my things and my trust in her is one hundred percent. That very trust of mine in her endeared me to her. When I am down, it is she who cooks for me. One day I surprised my friends with her cooking – yes, my orthodox school friends. They couldn’t believe she was such a fine cook. They were at loss of words. Respect also means that we share our food with our househelp when it is still piping hot and can be savoured heartfully – not as leftover always. This is what I do. If i make something special or even my daily food, I first share with my help. I give her her share as she finishes my morning chore. That simple gesture would touch her immensely. When my husband would be around, she would say, ‘akka, let anna eat around first. let me take my share in the evening.’ Even my help’s friend is like my sister. Whenever my girl takes leave, this girl comes to run some errands for me and do the chores. First time the girl came to my house, she had a similar plea for me: ‘akka please don’t differentiate and allot me a lota separately. i feel very hurt.’ These words still reverberate in my ears. The second girl worked for someone else. She would tell me how her employer would not allow her to move freely giving her only the leftovers and old clothes. The girls like me for the only reason that I treat them as fellow human beings, nothing special. I got both the girls silk saris for a family function this year. They had tears in their eyes when I asked them to pick that had never happened to them before. That i got them very same saris like for my friends was what touched them most. For my part, i never did anything extraordinary. I realized just treating someone human can also move them so much…

My friends and even my family say I lavish on the girls which is untrue. The truth is that I treat them as an equal. Treat them like they are my friends and own sisters. This is what has won me their loyalty and love and affection. Today the son of my regular househelp has graduated and daughter is on the verge of graduating. First time LITERATES by the way in their entire joint family. I won’t deny i have played a role in pushing them to this purpose and asking them to improve their living standards in every way. I can help only those closest to me, being a woman in this society with limited connections. Even if i improve the lives of 2-3 girls in this lifetime of mine, i count it as a blessing.

I am asking this society only one question: if someone should beg us not to give them separate glasses and plates, what kind of monsters are we supposed to be. How much more can we stamp on others’ dignity and self-respect. How much have we psychologically damaged them, destroyed them. How have we broken their hearts to a thousand pieces. We are worse than the Taliban really. They kill physically. We wound fellow humans emotionally dashing and killing their hopes. This passive aggression is what I view as most heinous because it goes unnoticed. It is not viewed as an act of violence at all. The hypocrisy thrives, flourishes dividing societies.

How did the discrepancies creep up in the first place and get entrenched so deeply in our midst. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that traditionally (meaning for many centuries) some occupying the seats of honour while others slugging it out at the bottom has been the way the society functioned. The vast majority of population probably remained complacent or their protests were quietened in no time. The status quo prevailed until realization set in. It means a reshuffle is the way forward.

I think it is time we plug all loopholes that may lead to tear from our social fabric. There just cannot be any justification on the basis of birth for this senseless discrimination we still practice in our homes.

At the same time, the girls’ determination also revealed to me, how they will not allow themselves to be treated in future. Which ideology did influence them? Both cannot read a letter. It is useless blaming political leadership when the awareness is happening. Kudos to the girls for their sense of dignity and respect. In my case, they needn’t have feared. But it is a lesson for all of us: if we deny respect and equal space for anyone from any sphere, then they will be obliged to claim it from us forcefully. In Tamil Nadu temple case, this is what is happening today.

Posted in Food For Soul

do the graveyard shift.

I see so much of venom spewed ever since the OBC archakas tookover their assigned jobs in Agama temples. Remember, these too graduated from Vedic schools and are not without a background. I can imagine how worse it could have been for EVR all those years back and for Gandhiji to break the caste barricades and bring Hindus together as never before in over a two thousand year written history of India. Only solace is that, the media was absent then, especially social media. Crass characters like Subrahmanyam Swamy today are discussing the Tamil Nadu situation whereas he is yet to explain to the public here his role in Jayalalitha’s case and demise. If he had had any strength of character, no central govt would have rejected him. It doesn’t matter if you are Harvard returned, when you are found to be unreliable like this other one Shashi Tharoor, you will not find a good position anywhere because you are just that: not trustworthy and characterless.

I am not sure how much of physical violence was used to manhandle archakas in employment in which case it is totally wrong. But the archakas also can embrace the new appointees with more broadmind as their apprentices and train them in their order. What Ramanuja did centuries back, why should it be impossible to do in the 21st century.

What is bhakthi without an element of empathy. It is those in the service of God who must have more compassion and understanding. It n’t it strange that those who want to get into service of god are called the adharmic and those who are going adharmic are claiming to be dharmic.

Which shastra sampradhaya and dharmika have the caste hindus already not violated? At the cost of repeating myself I would like to record here that. the day a hindu (read brahmin) woman decided to wear double mangalsutra from two men and carry the child in her womb fathered by an unknown donor and the day a brahmana decided to take the work of a kasappukadaikaran butchering meat and going further on sampling liquor for making a living, the dharmic equations got altered. Ilai marai kaai maraivaa nadandhuthaan ellam. But when legal sanction was accorded to these transgressions redefining a pre-existant dharma, nobody can have the moral or ethical right any more to bar anyone from anywhere quoting scriptures or traditions. The truth is, not many non-brahmins can bring themselves to cross these undrawn limiting lines as easily as these folks do. I am not asking anyone not to remarry or have a child from anyone they please. And i have nothing to do with their eating habits. In fact i am for reforms that can make life better for our women. It is only when some parties flout what suits them and want others to abide by the unwritten code, there is a problem.

Whether we want it or not, at some point in history, this is going to happen. This holding back of knowledge, art is deeply disturbing and can be damaging to even our economy. I have noted that as expected, none of the national news channels covered the pathbreaking historical move made by Tamil Nadu govt in the matter.

To bring about awareness, our govt can consider this:

The brahmin population of the state is stated to be around 2%. I am not sure about Mudaliar or Nadar or Chetty or Pillai or Nair or Naidu or Jain population. On pro-rata basis, every caste must be allotted their graveyard shift in the various crematoria spread across the state, manual or mechanized. These groups can be given the rights to assemble their own team from their own caste members. The 2% brahmin population may still have to work for about 7 days out of the yearly 365 at the crematoria burning bodies. A similar shift can be considered for the scavenging work. Road kuppaya allanum, koottanum. I am not singling out one community. Let everyone share the duty as per their percentage population in the national census. And I am including even the christians and muslims in this list of scavenging job. I am leaving them out of the crematoria work quota because they have their own where things are not done on caste basis.

This can be an eye opener to the self certified puritanical groups and help them realize whose sweat and blood and dignity their ancestors sucked to put them above the rest of the lot. First of all, the much waned dignity of labour will be restored to full vigor in Indian society.

Reservation is for this purpose: when you cannot find a housemaid or street hawker or a crematorium worker or a sweeper in your community or relative circle, it means you are socially emancipated even if not materially very rich. In which case, you are expected to pull others out of their deprived situation with helping hands. This is what humanity is all about.

When did the castes/varnas come into vogue. They find no mention in the Vedas. They are the later additions. Shastra and Sampradayas to my knowledge can be dismantled or suspended or rewritten or altered.

What is this Agama vidhi, May be this is something that makes stops you from climbing out of the ritualistic quagmire? I remember the men in my family frowning against the Devasham rituals running for days. They would say, the said group divided themselves into two. One went to temples and took over the powerful societal position of serving the gods. Those who could not fit into temples that were not big employers, invented purohit work to keep themselves busy and earn a living! Personally I believe, it is more important to respect and treat a human with kindness when he or she is around. I do not believe in endless rituals year after year after the concerned person is gone. Once you leave agama schools, you find that there is no need to stick to caste-prescribed boundaries. You realize the entire set up has been put into place to maintain the same hierarchy for centuries. This i am not saying to disrespect anyone. But i have always awowed how cleverly some communities took care of themselves and kept themselves out of the harms way with ingeniously designed self-preservation techniques. No need to fight the kings battles. No need to sweat under a sweltering sun. Finest settlements in the agrahara with water wells. Safe life while the others slogged it out.

Many have been telling me to slowly come out of the ritualistic worship. May be I am now ready to go to the next step. I am already feeling a strong desire never to tow this line again. Rituals do help me focus better. I am able to give a shape to my spiritual goals. But many hindus are already leaving behind the ritualistic religion and taking a step forward. May be this is the way we can bring to an end the caste hypocrisy when whatever these guys say won’t matter to us.

We are having Tamizh weddings in our families already for past many years where we have dispensed with services of purohits. Instead we recite Tamil mantras. I have for friends who have had ‘seerthirutha tamizh kalyanams.’ Their children are now like trophies, not in anyway wanting.

Passive aggression is one of the most cruel forms of violence because it allows you to belittle fellow humans as if they are sub-humans while placing yourselves in a far better and superior position only by virtue of birth. This is most abominable mind-set. Knowledge to me is for sharing. Inclusive growth is important for national development. Caste is one reason India is backward. Caste is also the main reason for conversion post 1947 (and even prior to 1947).

I used to be sick of the curd rice stories. Then I turned against my friends and asked them, still why did the curd rice prevent them from becoming geniuses like the jews or japanese or even the koreans. What new inventions and discoveries in last 2000 years after Aryabhatta and Bhaskara. It is you who claim they were yours. In truth in Bharatha, whether scientist or mathematician or spiritual guru or even a nayanmar or alwar, anyone making a mark was absorbed by the brahminical fold after their lifetimes as theirs. Like we posthumously award Ashok chakra today to war heroes.

After the puritanical mind set in (I can peg this about the time of Shankaracharya) dividing the population on communal lines, you cannot observe any significant scientific temper in Hindu history. Once the hypocritical mind takes over, the genius vanishes. This is the truth.

Transported back to 1947 when a struggle of another kind was taking place in the south especially to usher in social reforms. I can imagine why EVR Periyar is so much villainified now. He did the unthinkable. 75 years later can we imagine otherwise?

The south has always been the trendsetter which is why we prosper better than the north. The north is steeped in casteist hypocrisy. You cannot have someone like Yogi boldly enact reforms as they are done in the south in another 1000 years. It needs courage and commitment to a cause.

Finally as a believer and a practising Hindu, I repeat, without Mother Goddess wanting it this way, this just cannot happen. Women may step into Lord Aiyappa’s abode in Sabarimala legally today because perhaps, Aiyappa thinks the time is ripe for that. Raam got his Ayodhya back, not you or me. If you are indeed a true Hindu, you will surrender without a question as I do. You will understand the scheme of things the way I do.

You think Shiva bothers whether you enter a temple after downing a peg of whiskey or in lungi. Or having your periods! Omg is this what you have reduced Dharma to. My kind of faith is entirely on another range. Man made decorum is fine. But upto a certain degree. Over that, all that matters is only the matter of the heart. With so much of bias at heart thinking lowly of others, I do not know how anyone can hope to get closer to ‘realization.’

Or guys be ready to flash your iyer or iyengar card at Kailasha or Vaikuntha when you get there. This is the kind of God you believe in.

Some Hindus are parasitic. They wouldn’t stop from feeding on those below them in ranks. This is why Dharma is dying.