Friday, August 28, 2009

For God's Sake

I stood there- in the sanctum sanctorum of gilded gold, surrounded by a throng of people feverish with piety and fervour. A gentle breeze wafts through the temple and the curtain flutters. A collective gasp- was it going to reveal its secret?

13 hours ago, I had reluctantly willed myself into a car to go to what is commonly considered one of the greatest pilgrimage sites in India. A place where they said dreams came true. A temple whose presiding deity is generous to a fault to his devotees.

Uh- slight problem- the religious thing really ain't my cup of tea.

It wasn't always like this. As a kid, one invariably follows one's family in matters of faith- in fact I seem to remember (rather wistfully, I must admit) days when I had a set of some 12 Sanskrit prayers I'd religiously recite every day. Days when I even put flowers on the idols.

Even a highly embarrasing moment at my munji- the sacred thread ceremony- where my panche fell off in front of a whole lot of people didn't really deter me from assuming that somewhere in the skies lurked a god with four hands with a conch, a lotus, a discus and one hand raised in blessing.

Come to think of it- there isn't really a moment when I stopped believing. It was the idea of the thread that put me off. This ornament that supposedly set me apart from others felt too foreign- too unfair to my dreams of normalcy.

Yes, I wanted to be like everyone else- I didn't want to be unique..

Ah-the innocent stupidity of childhood!

The breeze dies down. 250 people exhale. Then it begins. A low clang- growing steadily louder. At its zenith, the drums produce a deafening sound. Sanskrit chants accompany the drum beat- the whole sound blends into a symphony of sounds that cannot be separated from one another.

Make no mistake, the idea of 'God' was hard to accept to begin with. All juvenile arguements laid aside, it just didn't seem possible. Miracles, I put down to coincidence. Good marks I put down to hard work. Those who survived in hospital I put down to great doctors.

Never to Him.

But in times of need- somehow one has an automatic tendency to ask God for help. And that's wrong said everyone- don't pray to God for help. Pray because you believe. And then ask him for what you want.

Fair enough.

But if He's omniscient, surely He already knows what I want? And because I've never offered propitiating sacrifices, never whole heartedly lit the lamps, never really prayed- I don't mean recite shlokas- but actually prayed because I believed, admired the architecture in his temples more than him- He's not going to give a crap about me anyway!

And strangely- that gives one a quiet satisfaction. If people believe that praying to Him everyday will keep him happy- so that when you really want something, He'll grant it- well then they're really praying out of fear, not piety.

And so I never felt right asking him for favours. Not in the most dire of situations. I had no buisness doing so.

The drums go on. The people around start chanting. A security guard grins sheepishly and scratches his unmentionables- this is all probably too blase for him. The whole atmosphere- loud drums, the perfectly pitched Sanskrit chants, the bells, the breeze, the devotees swaying in unison- different people united for perhaps the only time in their lives- unknowingly stirs memories- why, (if I may say so) only God knows..

Someone whispers- The time is close....

And then in a flash, the green curtains are drawn.

And out of nowhere- from some primeval recess of the mind, knowing it is wrong to do so, one asks Him for something...

If only I could have her back.
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Thursday, August 6, 2009

What Women Want

Musicals are for women.

I believed that until I saw Sweeney Todd (the movie).

Absolutely bloody fucking brilliant.

From the writing to the music to Tim Burton's realization of the play- incredible.

And the fact that Helena was in it didn't hurt.

That got me thinking. Would the Indian ideal of a woman do the same? Would she lie and connive to keep the man she loved? Would she sleep with him all the time knowing he didn't love her? Would she aid him in murder? Would she love his child from another wife?

You know what- maybe she would.

For as the demon barber of Fleet Street sings-

Pretty Women..
At their mirrors-
In their gardens,
Letter writing,
Flower picking,
Weather watching-
How they make a man sing!
Proof of heaven, as you're living...

Someone tell me, WHERE ARE THESE WOMEN? We need them.

And the terrible part is, that we might have had them if we were born long long ago.

Take Draupadi- an enigma in the Mahabharata. Now of course, any mention of polyandry and you'll have the purists touching their ears and warding you away, lest your sussurations pollute their homes. Now she was, to my mind the first feminist. A woman of blazing beauty, (by all accounts) what continues to fascinate is the way she used her loins- for both good and ill. Oh yes, who are we kidding? Why did she go to the fateful game of dice in a 'single garment stained with blood'? She should have taken some Meftal Spaz and stayed at home. I propose that she had an inkling that her state would come in handy if the need arose. It did. And ultimately, the whole bloody (pun intended) war was fought because of one woman. And she knew it- perhaps even planned it. Ruthlessly planned it for power- under the garb of restoring her honour. It took 13 years, hundreds of deaths and the loss of her own sons, but she got there in the end.

And lets not even start about her relationship with Krishna- which, deny all you like, has always been more than a little ambiguous. That she worshipped him from afar seems obvious, but there is a fine line between worship and love (maybe even lust).

Yet, inspite of having five husbands and still trusting someone else more than any of them, Draupadi has always been considered a virtuous woman. Never as a politically savvy schemer. I'd even call her reformist.

And what makes it even more interesting is, that even if you look at the Mahabharata (as I do) as a great fictional epic and not gospel truth, the fact that a writer in those times- a man in all probability- could concieve of such a character and not turn her into a whore is really far sighted. That free thinking was so prevalent in ancient India makes one boil with wrath at the current state of affairs.

From those lofty times, are today's women worse off? It's hard to tell. Yes, inspite of those crazy fire spitting feminists (Good day Ms Roy) who quite frankly I think need a good romp in the sack with anybody, inspite of some men with inflated egos who, when their fiancee breaks it off say, 'You should marry me because I'm good at studies and you're an average student..'

Yet for all these people, there is a Sonia Gandhi- who, whether you agree with her politics or not, is an interesting case study. An Italian woman, meets the heir to the throne (rolls eyes in disgust), marries him and soon after his death becomes the most powerful politician in the world's biggest democracy. That's a real story. Or a certain Ms. Mayawati who uses all her evil genius and rules with impunity. Or even Sushmita Sen, who gets around and doesn't care what anybody thinks.

The position Indian women are in today- is strangely dichotomous. One the one hand you have some who can head a Biocon, and on the other you have those who equate a date with marriage instantly. The only reason we ask them out has got to be marriage. If you say you just want to get to know them better they reply, why not as friends?

It's this disparity between professional and social freedom that baffles.

And this is probably because the idea of marriage has been drilled into everyone's heads as the sole reason a girl exists. Even among educated society. Wanna date me? Marry me first.

The evolution of the Indian woman has been a little strange- from an emancipated personal life in ancient times, to wonderful professional opportunities nowadays. Long ago she could still sleep with the Sun God no less, have a child, remain a virgin, ditch the child, have no regrets or guilt, and then years later, blithely ask the same child not to kill her 'real' sons with absolutely no qualms whatsoever. She didn't get to rule, but she was the power behind the throne. Paradoxically, in modern times, our women are given a lot of freedom to pursue careers (more or less). But personal morality is of paramount importance. She has to be 'pure'. She shouldn't wear short skirts even to play tennis. She shouldn't hang out in pubs. She should be 'perfect' and should be married by 25, otherwise she's deemed 'too old'. It's different for us menfolk, we can fuck who we want and get away with it but somehow an Indian woman's virginity is of paramount importance. As to why, that's beyond me. Is it objectification of women? Maybe. I mean YES! It's just crass and low.

That being said, I think I'm gonna dump my girl tonight- her forehead's too wide, one nostril is wider than the other and I didn't like the location of her tattoo.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]