Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Are you superstitious or religious?

A man from the Hindu Tantric sect holds skulls as he performs black magic inside a makeshift tent in..

Religion and superstition, how do we draw the distinction? If start thinking about it then if you have ‘faith’ then would it not be hypocritical to look at your faith as more  ‘rational’ than someone else’s faith just because they do not appeal to your sensibilities. There are many similarities than we should actually be ready to accept (Religion vs. Superstition  ). I was writing about this particular case study on superstition that I came across during a visit to a village in Maharashtra. It set me thinking on the ‘difference’ between religious beliefs and superstitions.

Walking around the fringe of a village, we chanced upon a boy with really long and thick hair. I was fascinated by his hair and asked whether he is from a particular religion. The lady with me explained to me that he has been pledged to the Goddess Laxmi! I asked what does that mean. Then she said lets go and talk to the grandmother of the boy who would explain better.

We went to the house of the boy where we the grandmother of the boy who explained that the boy and her sister were born to the her son outside the wedlock from a Muslim woman who ran away leaving her son and children. The son was now with his first wife and had also abandoned his children. So the grandmother had to take care of them along with her paralysed husband. The family was surviving solely on the wage earned by the old lady as a farm labourer. The father of the children rarely visited them and did not provide for their education or anything.

The grandmother explained to us that before the boy was born, Goddess Laxmi had come to her in her dreams and asked for the boy. The Goddess told her that there were going to be complications in birth and a boy would be born through her ‘blessings’ and thus the boy had to be pledged to her. And so the unborn child’s destiny was decided for him before his birth.

Now what are the exact terms of this arrangement we were not able to completely understand. He could be educated and take up a job, but he is not supposed to cut his hair. And in case he has to marry then a pregnant goat has to be sacrificed! The ritual was also described to us. The pregnant goat has to be sacrificed and the head of the semi formed kid would have to be severed and decorated and used to light a diya for ten days. This has to be followed by arranging a feast for few people. Only after all of this can the boy be freed of the pledge that his grandmother made.

The imagery of this ‘ritual’ itself grossed me out. The lady with me started telling the old lady that all this is just superstition and she should not spoil the life of this boy and ensure that he continued his education. I later asked the lady whether she fasted on the designated days for the good of her family and whether that would be superstition that starving oneself would lead to blessing of the God and fulfill our desires. She could not answer my question.

Few days earlier I was reading an article on ‘witch-hunting’ in another district of Maharashtra. Women, usually the ones who are more vocal or active in a village, can be branded by anyone  and be killed by the villagers for bringing bad luck, allegedly causing death of somebody or any other reason.

In the guise of witch hunting, the proactive or ‘rebellious’ women of the community can be conveniently disposed of, same as used to happen in some western countries with the blessings of the Church. More so, even personal vendetta could be settled in this manner. Religion, superstition all seem to be murky ponds where there is immense scope to simply use the ‘power’ over the other in the interest of oneself.

We tend to always look down upon the ‘other’. Their ‘otherness’ is mostly due to the fact that their reality does not appeal to our sensibilities or may be we do not know anything about them. This breeds fear, biases and disgust even. But what is our own, we do not question that. The so called ‘rationality’ never seems to come into our homes, our beliefs but is the lens used to question the ‘other’.

Is belief in God the supreme form of superstition? I do not have a comment for that. I myself am not clear about the existence of this God. What I will however question is the various practices, rituals that different religions perpetuate in the name of this God’s teachings. How do we know whether these practices are superstitious or are they religious?

Why does such superstition persist? Which superstition is better than the other? Mine, yours or theirs? Can we claim to be above superstitions?

This post is the updated version of the one posted on 

Friday, May 9, 2014

The 'I am Me' Rant...

This may offend you, make you angry or sad... I don't know. But I do not believe that society will ever treat two human beings equally; something or the other will be found that will be used to discriminate, control and discourage. Gender, race, caste, money are just tools used for these. If these diffrentiations cease to exist, new ones will be found. I write this as a woman...albeit privileged and fortunate enough to be born in a particular kind of a family...

I am me
The whole me
Each part of me is mine
Mine alone to dine, wine
and bed
No God, no devil
I am just me

I am me
The fat on my belly is me
The scar on my nose is me
That bald head of a year back is me
The tears in my eye, the loud laugh is me
I change as you do change,
With time, But I will not be the bird in a cage

I don't care if they care for me
But control you can't me
I don't care if 'they' are 'bad'
But I will do what is 'bad'
Oh! the dress I wear is to low or short or tight
But for that right, I will put up a fight

I am me
Each part of me is mine
Mine alone to dine, wine
and bed
No God, no devil
I am just me

I don't care what 'they' say
Come what the hell may
I will be me
I will be me

This post has also been published at Mission Sharing Knowledge

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Travelling Alone...

How open are you to a job that would involve travel?

If someone would have asked me this question about a year back I would jump and say "I would love a job that has a lot of travelling!!" Well if someone asks me that now, I would take a moment, lean back and ask, "Now what kind of travelling are we talking about?"How, how often and where?"

In a month, 15-20 days are spent travelling on an average in my current job. And mind you, this is not the flight hopping, AC taxis kind of travel. This is the very down to earth, state transport bus, shared overloaded taxi/auto  kind of travel. The nearest railway station is more than 50 kms away from the village where I work, thus it is easier and more convenient to hope on to a bus directly to my destination. The whimsical, ever changing schedules of the Maharashtra State Transport buses are now routine to me. Sometimes an equal or even more amount of time is spent waiting for the the bus, than it takes to actually reach from point A to B. The travel kit is always ready; a bottle of water, Britannia Marie biscuits and toothbrush (in case I need to stay the night!). Thus you can say it has become a way of life, you may say.

While travelling in these areas, one of the main issues faced is the availability of toilets. Sure, every major bus stand a 'toilet' but beware of the condition that it might be in. And that is a really sad truth. Even in major cities like Pune, one can only lament at the condition of the public toilet in the bus stand. A safe,clean and functional public toilet in these areas is still a luxury that very few places offer. It is hardly a wonder where the officially the coverage of toilets is about 40-60% and we all know how authentic these figures are! Thus when the journey is about 4-5 hours long and you know there are no toilets, the only thing you can do is restrict intake of fluids or water. But this is also not possible during hot summer days...

Well that seems to be a question that does not have a solution that I can offer.. another issue is that of safety. Due to the whimsical timing of the State transport buses, it becomes important to plan my visits to the villages and the travel in such a way that I am back home or at the place am staying before its late night. When I had to travel after nine thirty due to lack of buses earlier, I found myself to be almost alone in a bus full of men. If am lucky, there would be a woman or two, but that would be rare exception. It is not that any untoward incident happened to me during these occasions but it goes without saying how vulnerable I felt during the whole journey, with lewd stares from some men, some questioning stares and more. A single woman traveling at that hour is not acceptable in these areas.

But then work is work and I have to do it. Thus the travels continue....

This post has been published at also....

Friday, January 3, 2014

The Lost Thoughts

They are not lost
At most,
Ignored and set aside
To be explored
They await, inside
The depths of my minds

The most faithful of companions
I have suppressed them
For I thought, they are minions
Causing chaos within
But they are me

They are my voices
Guiding me and my need
Not to ignore and set aside
To understand and heed
To realize that inside, within
Me is my God

These lost thoughts I collect
Hold dear to me
Sometime share with those I
Hold dear to me