Monday, September 22, 2014

No Foolaking

During my childhood days, social studies text described family as follows:
  1. Father, the guardian who takes care of your house and earns money for family
  2. Mother, the person who cooks and does household works (mainly cooking)
  3. Son helps father to do shopping and other works
  4. Daughter assists mom in cooking and gardening
But after a decade, life has changed. I don’t think the social studies would recite the same thing for new generation kids. They find both their parents working together at kitchen and going out to office. Today mother and father earn for the family. Even if there are a few families that hold patriarchal system of women at kitchen and men at verandah, many have changed. The social concept of equality is emerging though at a snail’s pace.
There is still a belief that women can be fooled easily. Common sense and tactics to deal with things doesn’t belong to men only. The image of woman depicted in televisions is still that of a ‘good for nothing’ creature

A recent ad by a famous desi mobile network provider shook me badly. In that advertisement, a guy proposes a girl from a cafeteria. She says, “I’m ok. But you must change your status in Facebook as IN A RELATIONSHIP”. And the guy is confused. Now the girl says you can’t fool females anymore as we have that particular network provider to help us with IDEAs.
That commercial became a hit in channels. But if you analyze that ad, you’d find a few points that are extremely annoying:
  • Girls can be easily fooled
  • Females can survive only with assistance
  • Changing Facebook status is the most important thing in life
  • A relationship status is a public thing and not confined between two people
Ads can be creative and funny. But it must have logic. The meanings in between words and scenes convey a lot. Commercials like this would result in decrease of woman’s confidence. We need self-assured woman folks for national empowerment. Let us realize the real sense behind these ads and not think that we need support to react. You are strong enough to judge what is right and wrong. Be yourself!

Monday, July 21, 2014

... and they call it Devotion (Part 2)

  To read part one, click here

Alarms set on mobiles rang at 6. After brushing, we rushed to the old man whom we had made an appointment on previous day. He asked an assistant to guide us to do the rituals in sea. He led us to the seashore. Rameshwaram is famous for sea with no waves. Water is absolutely still.
This seaside is addressed as agnitheertham. Priest made me and my husband to tie our clothes together and we took a dip in the sea. I found it hard to walk through the water since there was too many dresses dumped in sea. It is also a practice.
After bath, we sat around our guide. He helped us to do offerings to our ancestors who had normal or abnormal deaths. Again we went to sea with three balls of rice and a few ingredients and left it in the sea. It is believed that ancestors would come and have their share of rice balls. The guide said he needs Rs 150 per head.
In view of the fact that he is poojari, my family didn’t bargain though I had no support with their view. He didn’t charge me and my hubby as ours was a package. Once the rituals near sea were over, we waited in the queue for taking bath in theerthas inside the temple. There were 22 holy tanks in temple.
We had to take a ticket of Rs.25 per head for the holy bath. They’d tie a paper band on our hand. Masses of people, all soaked and dirty, waited near each well. There were at least two officials near each tank to (actually I must say) give a blow on our face with water.
 Notice boards warned devotees not to give any additional charges to officials near wells. But those words were not taken seriously. We’d see guides taking dozens of people near officials and they had special treatment (which is a whole bucket of water poured smoothly on their head). These guides were paid extra money and in turn they’d give a percent to temple-folks too.
A person standing next to a well demanded Rs 10 to collect a few drops in a bottle and Rs 70 to get individual baths. My uncle, who accompanied us, had an intention to collect theertham (holy water) in bottles and present it to my grandmother. However, the ‘cost’ of theertham made him to pull back his wish. Queue was tiresome. Long hours of waiting before each theertham made us tedious.
Lord Rama was famous for patience. I prayed him to offer me fortitude to stay calm. As soon as the holy baths were over, we got out of the temple and had a quick pray or I must name it an apology to Lord for not visiting his shrine. The inner courtyard of the temple (where the shrine was located) was completely crowded. Again, there are tickets to get inside without waiting. The more you pay, the nearer you’d reach and pray. I opposed that idea of ‘pay and pray’.  My family agreed though they wanted us to reach back to the priest quickly.
We changed our wet clothes and were ready before the head priest. His house sucks! I had sometimes felt that Bhakthi and cleanliness are too extremes. Even if the head priest had all typical decorations of a perfect poojari including rudraksha ornaments and designs on body with sandal pastes, his assistant’s costume was worse than the beggar I’d see in front of my office. I am sure he had not taken bath for past two days. His shirt, without two or three buttons, was torn.
Pooja started. Its name was Uma-Maheshwara Pooja. Before entering the pooja room, priest warned us, “Brahmins there will ask you for dhakshina (tip). You can give it later if you wish, but not now.”  Four North-Indian Brahmins were sitting next to the corners of homa-khundam (platform where fire is lighted to do pooja). During pooja, they are passing comments, actions, checking messages over phone and so on.
After Shiva pooja, it is Parvathi pooja. A lady sat in front of us. We had to chant hymns considering her as Goddess Parvathi. We had to walk around her, pay her dhakshina and in the end she would give as a few flowers as blessing.
Then the priest declared pooja is over. He gave the list of dhakshina (I like to call it tip) for each human being who participated in it. Also, we were asked to pay a small amount for a Brahmin’s meal. All these are supposed to be holy deeds.
We dumped our old clothes in the sea. That second itself, there were people to carry it away. These clothes will be dried to sell in open markets. My family was happy because everything ended well. We had a heavy lunch seeing that we ate nothing since morning. The moment our car started, I slept.
Indeed, it was a great journey. Sincerely speaking, I did not feel any bhakthi neither inside that temple nor during rituals. I did for the contentment of my family.
The only moment I could sense a heavenly bliss was on Pamban Bridge. Powerful wind and panoramic view, the point where oceans met! I stood on top of it, in between two water sources that weaved many civilizations… Godly!

Saturday, June 7, 2014

...and they call it Devotion (Part 1)

Rameshwaram, a divine place, from where Lord Rama found his way to get back his lady love Sita. This was my only knowledge about the island, that too from my grand ma’s tales. I was greatly excited to visit the place. I wanted to see Rameshwaram and check if it is according to my imagination. Thoughts are always colorful though the reality is never the same.

For me, belief in God is not bonded to rituals. My faith with Him is pure without much show offs. Only place I frequently stopover is Guruvayur. Apart from the poojas and customs, I find a relaxed mood there. The idol of Lord Krishna is a favorite of mine. He is a flexible character who has done all naughty and serious things like humans. Also, I could pick a few colorful fancy ornaments from nearby shops at a cheaper rate. In fact, it is really a good thing to collect lots of earrings in just one visit and try it out for next few months. Similarly, it is the place where my college is situated. I used to meet my college mates whenever I go.

Rarely, temples inspire me to pray. All I do is look around the construction and sculptural works. Preachers say God is everywhere and so I pray from my room, bus or even bathroom. Coming back to my journey to Rameshwaram, I and my family started at around 7.30 am. We had breaks in between for refreshments.

From the wild greenery of Kerala, we moved to Tamil Nadu. Today, land of Tamilians is greener than my homeland. Only difference is that it is all manmade vegetation. Sights of tiny and huge temples, women with jasmine garlands, little girls with pots to collect water, countless mopeds, hoardings and name boards written in Tamil, cattle wandering in agricultural fields and acres of paddy fields welcomed us.

We reached Pamban Bridge. Entrance fee is Rs. 100. All I knew about this bridge was a tagline from an old ad of Shanker Cement. I must tell you, once in a lifetime you must travel through this bridge. Awesome view and experience! There are two bridges with the same name- one for railway and other roadway.

Both these bridges connect island of Rameshwaram with the mainland of India. The bridges are built across sea. It is also the meeting point of Bay of Bengal and Indian Ocean. We could recognize two seas. Indian Ocean has dark blue water while Bay of Bengal is pale blue. Our driver stopped the cab in the middle of the bridge for us to get out and watch around. He warned, “Be careful!”
Take my word, if you have a zero size body shape, you’d certainly fly up. The wind there is heavy. We were there at noon and even then it was severe. Driver said it will be worse at night. But the view is truly breathtaking. Sea….! My words are not enough to explain its beauty. The sight of railway track will make you either scared or keyed up. It is just a few centimeters away from the deep seawater.

Bhakti made my family to get into the car without ‘wasting much time’ staring at sea. It seems there were some poojas to be held for me and my hubby to lead a happy life. We went straight to hotel rooms and kept our bags there. I don’t know why they made me to hurry up to meet an old man. He was supposed to do our pooja. He was a family friend of APJ Abdul Kalam, former President of India and a great visionary. There was a picture of him and Kalam hanged on his wall.

When we went in, he was busy watching a Tamil serial. His assistant informed him about us and he came out. He had all costumes of a spiritual leader except long hair. First thing he asked us was “Are you from Pattambi?”  It was my husband’s homeland. When we nodded, he smiled. I guess his expressed so because the one who had send us may have a tie up with this person and must have informed him earlier to buy commission. He says there are three kinds of pooja ranging from 5,000 Rs to 7,000 Rs. He said the benefit will be the same for all these three. When my dad and husband was confused about choosing, I strongly said I’d go for the lowest. Finally he told us to meet him after a holy dip in the sea and rituals in the morning.

It was already 6pm. So we had a bath and moved to the temple. I felt as if I had entered a huge fancy shop with shopkeepers inviting us to buy ornaments. Rameshwaram is famous for things made of corals. I bought a few earrings for my cousin sisters, bags for mom and in-law, bracelets and bangles for me. Then we entered the temple. It had a stink with no air circulated rooms. Also, the horrible smell of people with wet clothes welcomed us to pray. Now you tell me, how I can worship in such an environment!

Even the people at counter of prasadam were loudly banging on their table to attract devotees to buy prasadams like laddu. Once we completed the visit, we went back to our rooms. As the journey had made us tired, we had a good sleep.

To be continued...