Saturday, February 23, 2019

TRADITION, RITUALS- ARE THEY MEANINGLESS?

At the crack of dawn one wakes up to a prayer, rubs his palms and soothes one's eyes - a tradition or a ritual handed down over generations. One can be dismissive about their utility or can glorify it. The question is where does the truth lie? (pun intended).

Even before the official dawn of science all living beings have explored various methods of upliftment. They also pass the learnings from such experiments to the generations later. However, not everything can be explained and understood as some things need to be experienced. It was this realization that made the great teacher in Vishnu Sharma to classify students as one who can grasp by hearing, another who can grasp by reciting, a third who can grasp by writing, a fourth who can grasp by performing and a fifth who will have to be taught through stories. It is for the last two categories that traditions were created as handed down as beliefs.

We use salt extensively. It is a preservative for humans while a destroyer for many other living forms. A bath in sea water was considered to be cleansing and today pranic healers tell us that the easiest health tip is to have a salt water bath. It was said salt should be minimized for consumption while can be taken on the skin level- the logic being to safeguard the good bacteria within while acting as a deterrent to others which seeks to make inroads.

Similarly, an early riser who finished his daily chores early was considered healthy. Performing of daily chores involved physical exertion which was an exercise for which we visit a gym at a cost. Drawing water, chopping wood, tilling the farm, cleaning the house or milking the cows or fetching milk - all involved the exertion physically with an emotional satisfaction.

The spreading of cowdung which is an accepted disinfectant on the floor which also acted as a room freshener and air conditioner was a tradition handed down and after a few generations people lost sight of its values and held on to it as a belief or ritual. It was not the fault of the person who handed it down but the lack of understanding of the person who picked it.

The tropical invite to the early sunshine and the need to keep out the evening heat probably was the reason which designed a east facing residence. The winds blowing north east and south west directions paved way for the natural ventilation. This design may not be universal in acceptance but suited the Indian topography. The lack of appreciation of the experienced wisdom behind this led to it being classified as dubious.

Moving forward to the designs made out of flours around the houses and within ensured the live and let live policy whereby the insects were given enough so as to not aspire for the human share. The vermilion and turmeric in the doorways were in fact insect repellants. Instead of smearing them, some aesthetic persons had innovatively placed designs which formed the basis for another belief.

Prostration, kneeling or touching another's feet was a combination of exercise and the cultivation of a sense of humility in people.

The turbans of the Sikh community was necessitated to keep their flowing hair under control. The need to cover the heads while entering a shrine was to prevent the hairfall in the common area. 

The needs to be distinct as a group also made religions adopt different symbols. In ancient civilizations it was not proper etiquette to question someone on certain status. The symbols indicated them. A bachelor would wear a two line thread and a married man a four line thread. A spinster would not sport a mangalsutra. On the arrival of an elder as a mark of respect the younger one would remove his angavastra and place it as a waistband. This is similar to the act of doffing the hat.

The tradition of fasting which unites all religions is meant to clean the digestive system at a physical level while it teaches one the value of food at a philosophical level. The tradition of having an alumni meet or a fest for a reunion is also replete with its emotional values.

Should one be charitable to the traditional readers of a blog by giving them a respite as charity is also a tradition? Of course, the broad hint taken till a further post on some more tradtions!!!

Saturday, February 16, 2019

WHAT WINS MORE HEARTS

Irony struck India hard. On a day commemorating St Valentine and celebrating love, a set of humans were brainwashed to carry a load of explosives to ram into a convoy to snuff lives of other men along with their own. Panelists mushroomed predictably to seek revenge while tributes were showered on the martyrdom of the lost souls. On the day of celebration of love hatred was preached without realising that media needs to hold emotions as it could sway emotions from one end to the other. The media need not rabblerouse for the Government to act but everyone wished to wear the patriotism on the sleeve as the hysteria whipped to ensure that anyone who did not tow this line was only a traitor.

Does not action speak louder than words? Is it necessary to mouth inanities as a preamble to action? Did the terrorist bellow that he would decimate two scores in one shot? What made the surgical strikes effective?

A single word of promise of retribution followed by an act which was unprecedented sent the message. But can anyone discount the fact that the message of love which was conveyed on an unscheduled stopover to greet the political leadership on a domestic affair or the condolences offered and the aid proferred when terror struck Pakistan made the task that much more difficult for them to combat us 

Was it not the Lahore bus trip which made the Kargil war easier for India? Was it not the Agra summit which exposed the real design of the neighbour? Love undoubtedly is a weapon which sharpens the shrapnels of an assault rifle. 

Let us move down to a more personal level. When does it hurt most? When an enemy strikes you or a friend or lover strikes you? The universal answer makes it clear that flexibility on opinions makes life easier for all.

But....

Adhering to this preaching is an art comparable to meditation. It is neither easy to forget or forgive. It is not easy for one to embrace a person who has hurt you. No wonder the Bushes, Stalins, Hitlers et al are overshadowed by the diminutive figures of Gandhi, Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr.

Can the Frontier Gandhi return to instil a sense of peace in the disturbed minds of the terrorists and the terror stricken? These men lived through more difficult times but could heal physical and emotional wounds. Can we just follow them- a multibillion dollar question of the American defence equipment industry to be answered.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

BY(E) GEORGE

Inspiring a tiny tot of less than four feet high and age in single digits to follow the current affairs is not a mean task. This was the ability of the man who signed as George Fernandes. Etched in memory is the lithe figure running up the stairs to mount a commercial building to address a crowd gathered and on finishing the address gliding away into the safety of the mob. Newspaper reading of the printed matter with gaping blank spaces and darkened sentences became a habit.

The historic strike era of the seventies wherein the siblings struck a chord with the labour forces is legendary as they became the darling of the masses. His brother Michael was famous amongst the PSU workers while the other Lawrence lived out the word of loyalty which is popularly filmed in British era movies. 

It is said the first impression is the best impression. This was probably the reason the later controversies surrounding him did not deter yours truly from admiring this man. As the offspring of a PSU worker the passions of the strikes and the poverty associated with it was experienced first hand but one must give it to these brothers in arms that they delivered what probably no other union leader delivered. The symphony of these brothers ended with the liberalisation era and one had to exclaim " How George morphed!"

Whether it was Samata or Jaya or any other controversy who can forget the galling decision of booting the multinationals out or embracing them in a latter version did not matter to the mind that was impressed at an impressionable age. The Alzheimer's disease or the unionists steering clear of him did not matter. The railwaymen forgetting the man who got them justice or the mute reaction of an administration which benefitted from his vision also was brushed aside as yours truly rose to say "By(e) George"