Externalizing God

(Disclaimer: I am a Muslim only in name, so please don’t read too much into this as Hindu bashing. These are just my own opinions)

It’s been 2nd year in a row that I have spent the months of Sept-October in Hyderabad, India. I am very impressed as to how India is advancing in Science and Technology. But I also think we are taking a step behind in some other areas. One such area is Religion and it’s gaudy display.

India is a country where Vedas, Upanishads originated. These were the rules God seekers followed. It is being said that not one person wrote the Vedas, it’s been collected over a period of long time and passed down through word of mouth. Just imagine, the kind of concentration, commitment and love these people must have hold to be able to have Vedas on their tongues and an urge to pass it on to the next generation. Vedas is all about how to seek God about going with in. They don’t emphasize on rituals and rites. Just the invocation of Vedas itself is holy as the words are arranged in such a way that they bring up the holy feelings in the people who just listen to them even if they don’t understand the meaning (as they are in Sanskrit).

So, with that background context I find that the contemporary Indians are moving in an opposite direction. Like I mentioned earlier, during the months of Sept-Oct there are like gazillion festivals in India. First there is Ganesh Chaturthi – the puja (prayer) of Ganesh for about 10+ days and then his immersion. These 10 days are filled with noise and pomp in all the neighborhoods. People pray to Ganesha as he is the remover of obstacles, but honestly those 10 days are obstacles for everything in a common man’s life. There is a loud music played all those 10 days till late into the night. And there is a show off as to whose Ganesha is bigger than whose. As if the size of the idol signifies the sincerity of faith.

Next comes Navrathri. Nav – means 9 & Rathri -means night. So, this goes on for 9 nights. In the past there was not much pomp & show on this festivals. But recently people in Hyderabad have started a new tradition of erecting idols of Devi. Again, those 9 days are fllled with loud music being played and breaking all possible traffic rules.

Then to end this noisy phase comes – Deepawali. The festival of lights and firecrackers. Unlike other western countries we don’t have a specified place and people to take care of fireworks for us. We handle our own fireworks right from our own apartments and houses. So, this night Godess Lakshmi is prayed as welcoming the wealth into homes. But people blow up their hard earned money in the form of fireworks. Again, the same measure applies here too – the more the noise you can make the more the rich you are treated in the society.

I was having a chat with my friend who is a very big supporter of all these things. This is what I learned from him. In the old days, people used to go around houses and collect money for these idols and music arrangements. Now a days its been sponsored by very few rich people or corporates. So, a common man does not even has that satisfying feeling of his contribution, but he/she feels ok for his daily life to be disturbed for 10 days in a row.

I totally understand people’s sentiments about God and religion. But this is not going to take us anywhere in the field of Godliness. I also understand that these idols are the symbols that ignite the Godliness within us, but spending so much money, energy and not to mention disturbing so many people’s lives – it isn’t fair and it doesn’t match up. This externilizing of God is the new fashion in some Indian people. I am not sure why? May be because all this westernization of India is scaring some people who really can’t participate in it because they lack resources or can’t speak English. But it sure is driving them towards religious extravaganza. This gaudy display of one’s faith in such external objects which totally loose respect once that 10 days period is over is scary and sickening. I for one vote down for the externalization of God like this.

God is within us, we have reached a stage where we don’t need these external crutches to stand on. We can experience God without disturbing other people’s lives. Think about it.

Knowledge is Power

I think that I get a lot of ideas to blog about when I am in India. It’s been frantic one week I have been here, now that I have internet connection I can get back to blogging. When I am in US, a lot of stuff that comes out of me is very personal which I usually journal. In India though it’s different. My mind is filled with ideas for blogging here. So, here is something I have come across recently.

Who ever said that “Knowledge is Power” wasn’t joking. It’s true and I think there is a flippant side to that quote too. In India, you will come across a lot of elder people who use their ‘Knowledge’ to yield ‘Power’. India is a smorgasbord of forgotten traditions and new consuming habits. In this variety of feelings – the person who ‘claims’ to know the answer is the king. You see, you don’t necessarily have to be right because you could use your ‘elderness’ to make it right.

Recently my sister had a baby. My nephew shares his birthday with me now. And I was excited to see him. But it was not going to be that easy. There was this Aunt. Let’s call her – Aunt Kia(Know It All). Aunt Kia used her knowledge and put forward a rule. She said, I can’t see my nephew without hearing him cry. And after I see him, I need to give him some money as a gift. So, when I entered my the room, I literally closed my eyes and they made the baby cry – which I think is CRAZY. Once I heard him cry, I saw him and gave him a gift of Rs.500.

Now, I don’t mind following this weird tradition because all the elders were happy I did that (they expected me not to respect any traditions after living in US and marrying a Hindu). But what boggles my mind is that there is no logical explanation to this. And ‘Aunt Kia’ wields her power only because she can blurt out these kinds of things in everything we do. I have seen her in action in the past too – she has a age old tradition for everything, from taking a shower to raising a baby. But, no one questions her. Because then it would be chaos as you would be pitting your heads against the tradition. In all this craziness, ‘Aunt Kia’ happily paddles her way by throwing around commands. I am pretty sure every Indian family has one such ‘Aunt Kia’.

I think this is one aspect of Indian family where this ‘hidden knowledge’ of tradition gives immense power to the elders. I am not sure when does tradition stops and manipulation starts. It’s kinda easy to trespass that line.

On the other hand, I see another kind of power being yielded by the young people. A lot of young people know a lot about technology in this country. SMS, Email etc are so easy for these young people, but very difficult to comprehend for the elders in the household. So, in this case the youth uses it’s knowledge to wield power. But, at least it’s not based on some superstitions.

The real clash of ages happen when the traditions’ superstitions clash with new ages’ arrogance. I am not sure who will win eventually but I do know that it’s going to be a long battle. In the mean time keep gathering that knowledge.