Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Lie

Over the past few days, in what appears to be a dire attempt at grabbing media attention, two so called ‘powerful’ people have been dragging poor Lord Ram into the dirty world of politics. As if the political moves he was subjected to in his lifetime by his step mother Kaikeyi were not enough! Remember how Kaikeyi quoted an age old promise made unto her by her husband in an attempt to have her own son crowned king instead of Rama?! But now, we have people questioning his very existence, his character, him, as a person.

Someone goes on to say that the Ram Setu, was not built by Lord Ram, although the bridge for some weird reason appears to bear his name! And why was it not built by the said God? Because according to that person, Lord Ram was a figment of a person’s imagination. Wonder how Kamba, and Valmiki imagined the same characters at the same time! Poor Kavya Vishwanathan, a few years ago, innocently ‘internalized’ a few lines from Megan McAfferty’s book, only to face approbation and disapproval from the entire world! And here, a plagiarized character is worshipped!

So Rama does not exist. All that my grandma and all grandmas before her said are all lies, untruths. The very religion is a hoax! The Himalayas are just another range of mountains, not the abode of Lord Shiva. The Ganga is just another river and not the sin purifier that she is perceived to be. In spite of that, millions of dumb people undertake strenuous pilgrimages to Mt. Kailash, Manasarovar, Badri-Kedar, Hrishikesh and Varanasi. I am not saying this, but these are some implied pearls of ‘wisdom’ from some specific prominent people. Apparently one mocking statement goes thus. ‘Who gave Rama a degree in civil engineering that empowered him to build a bridge?’ Well, who gave architecture degrees to Shah Jahan? To the Egyptians who built pyramids?

Hinduism is by nature, a very tolerant religion. Hindus by nature tolerate a lot of injustice done to them without retaliating at the outset. Tolerance is one of the principles taught by the religion itself. But this should not be misconstrued as cowardice or meekness. If the time demands it, we can also come up with an Ashoka or a Chandragupta Maurya! Or maybe they are fictitious too! I don’t know, maybe our non-believer friend can comment on the very frivolity of history itself. Try walking into Mecca and saying Allah is a hoax. Try going to the Vatican and screaming that Jesus is a lie. Why try telling followers of the Republican party of India that Buddha never existed. If you come back alive, it is an achievement. But Hindus will tolerate anything. Questioning the language while living in the birthplace of the religion itself.

Our non-believer friend does not believe in God. His horoscope is under the influence of Jupiter now. So the yellow shawl. But he does not believe in God. Everyday he drives his car a few steps towards a Krishna temple near his house before leaving for work. But he does not believe in God. Tomorrow if something were to happen to him, his family will run to the closest temple. But they do not believe in God. His dearest daughter said that anything that comes in the way of development needs to be questioned, like say the caste system. Now, even a child knows that the caste system was a man-made set of rules unlike…. God. She thought she made a profound statement when she said that no non-believer created a hue and cry if his non-belief was questioned! What exactly did that mean? Guess the abstractness of their so-called modern day literature was creeping into their everyday conversations as well!

If Rama was a lie, then all Gods are lies. Then why is all of Maharashtra and more so Mumbai celebrating Ganeshotsav with such fervor? Why do we celebrate Dashera which is the day our fiction hero killed his enemy Ravan? Now did Ravan exist? I don’t know. Why do we celebrate Diwali which is supposed to mark the homecoming of our fiction hero? If the Mahabharata is also just a story book, poor Ganesha broke a tusk jotting it down from Vedavyasa. On hindsight, poor Ganesha must be regretting it.

I am not trying to preach the presence of God. If you are an atheist, so be it. Just like how believers keep idols and pictures at home to pray, you can keep your non-belief at home as well. India is proud of its cultural heritage. We are a secular country allowing followers to practice Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, all the way up to Kabbalah. You be what you are and let others be what they are. Politics is a dirty place. People and their beliefs are better off staying aloof.

Saturday, May 05, 2007


The other day, I happened to hear Jagjit Singh’s ‘Who Kaagaz Ki Kashti’, a beautiful ghazal whose essence is a reminiscence of one’s childhood. The first few lines of the song go thus

Ye Daulat Bhi Le Lo,
Ye Shohrat Bhi Le Lo
Bhale Cheen Lo Mujhse Meri Jawaani
Magar Mujhko Lauta Do Bachchpan Ka Saawan
Wo Kaagaz Ki Kashti Wo Baarish Ka Paani

And I was transported back in time to the good old days where the only worry in life was to figure out how to get the first turn on the swing in the evening at the park! Memories of childhood are made for those rainy days where you sit by the window and watch the water cascade down the panes. And far off in the distance you hear the squeals of laughter as kids of various shapes, sizes and colors, run outside in the pouring rain, and get wet, unmindful of their mothers who literally scream themselves hoarse trying to get their kids back to shelter. That sweet aroma of wet mud, the fun in jumping in those puddles and splashing water on the kids nearby… those good old days…. The monsoon then had a totally different meaning. Every morning we’d wake up and look at the sky. If it looked grey and cloudy, we’d all be happy and cheerful. If mom would tell us that it had been raining all night, all the better. We’d go to school, clean and neat, and get back home in an hour all soiled and murky. School’s closed, let the party begin!!!!

The song goes on to describe an old lady in the area, a grand motherly person for all the kids.

Mohalle Ki Sabse Nishaani Purani
Wo Budhiya Jise Bachche Kehte The Naani
Wo Naani Kee Baaton Mein Pariyon Ka Dera
Wo Chehre Ke Jhuriyon Mein Sadiyon Ka Phera
Bhulaaye Nahin Bhool Saqta Hai Koi
Wo Choti See Raaten Wo Lambi Kahaani

Well, we had our own ‘Ba’ too. She was a grumpy old lady who lived on the ground floor of our apartment building. She never liked kids, since they made too much noise and always broke her windows. And somehow, as kids, we followed Gandhian laws, Gandhigiri, much before Munnabhai could teach us how it’s done. We believed in ‘Love thy enemy’. And somehow, Ba and we had an unending love affair! She’d hate us peeking into her house, and we would ensure that we do just that. Once when she got so angry and walked up to the window in a huff, we very meekly pointed to the clock and said, “Time dekh rahe they auntie. Homework karne jaana hai na” and scampered off laughing. But mind you, this was not a one sided hate game. She had totally destroyed our effort of making our building premises environmentally rich! She had heartlessly pulled out the seed of the plant that we had tried to grow. It is a different thing that we had planted a mango seed in her pot, without her knowledge, and poured too much water in it. So when she saw two heads bobbing up and down outside her house and came to investigate, we were busy throwing away the excess water. Now who had expected her to stand in the path of the water’s projectile motion???!!!????

And just as these memories were streaming through my head; I remembered the morbid pictures of the Virginia shootout, the news piece about a certain twelve year old ‘terrorist’ beheading a captive! At 12 years of age, I didn’t even know who a terrorist was! That won’t hold true in today’s world anyway, since today every toddler, never mind whether he knows how to say ‘mamma’ certainly knows how to say Osama and Al Qaeda! Kids are killing other kids, other people. Such violence, hatred, qualities so uncharacteristic of children!

All of us would have seen the commercial on television that showed a poor child peeping through the fence as two kids fought for a ‘scholarship-bearing’ soiled cloth. What most of us didn’t see is the fact that those longing eyes find a place on practically every child at the traffic signal. Every child that is made to carry its smaller sibling and beg for money using the infant as an object of pity. What most of us fail to notice are the dreams of the children who work as hired help in houses, tea stalls, and small restaurants.

Most of us at least get a smile on our faces as we think of the time years ago when we were kids. By the time these children can begin to think of playing in the rainwater, they have been robbed of their worriless innocent existence. Many of them reconcile to the fact that their life will always remain on this side of the fence, while some others pick up a weapon, as a means to vent out their anguish. There is a very thin line that separates the oppressed from the violent. The sapping point is seldom, if ever noticed by anyone. And more often than not, it takes a Bastille for people to stand up and take notice…..