Monthly Archives: February 2017

Women O women

Women O women

My Dad used to be, still is, very ambitious for all his children. He goaded us into picking up subjects which offered bright career prospects (only Maths or Science!). Becoming a ‘mere’ housewife was a forbidden thought not to be entertained ever. According to him, the days of women sitting at home; tending to children, cooking for husband; ended with their generation. Times had become such, that with a single income the family would perennially survive in a state of ‘hand to mouth’. If one aspired for a better life, some comfort and luxury (with pious earning, legal methods); it could be possible only if both the partners worked.  This ideology was drilled into us and this is the verity I see today.

Most probably, every middle – class government employee those days thought alike. That is the only plausible reason I can think of as to how most of our generation women are working women today. Our parents, in search of greener pastures, migrated from their villages and settled in the cities. Today, we encourage our progeny to seek their fortunes abroad.  But, that’s digressing from my main topic. This article is about the Gen Y, women of today.  

 Vishaka Hari, the prominent music vocalist and established exponent of Harikatha, said in one of her talks, “Without fever if you take a paracetamol, it will only cause side effects; when everything is going on smooth. Only if you have a problem, you need a solution. In the West, women were not treated on par with men. They were brutally abused and until very recent years they did not even have voting rights…..Millions of women were burnt, they were treated like dogs. They were used as objects, as amusement articles and therefore there was a need for upsurge of women liberation associations. But in India, right from our Gods, Bramha has Saraswati on His tongue, Narayan has Lakshmi in His bosom, and Shiva, I told you, has Shakti as His other half!  Where is the need for the Women’s Liberation association; if we can follow the Ancient Vedic Indian culture? Only if we want to follow and adopt the western ideals, we always take the worst from all the nations; that’s India’s best. We always want to take, every nation has its own good and bad, we always have that beautiful idea, that concept of taking the worst from all the nations and present the worst of ourselves. When we have everything in ourselves we don’t know how to glorify ourselves, that is the weakness of Indians. We have so much in us, we have so much of treasure in us. We Nava Yuga Stree, present generation women. Gen Y, what we would prefer to be called; we just have our husbands name after our names like vishaka Hari, or Vanita Siddharth or whatever it is. But you know, our Lords had their names after their wife’s name! Gouri Shankar, Lakshmi Narayan, Sita Ram, Janaki Vallabh, just …(she laughs) That is the truth. Uma Maheshwar, you name it; Radha Krishna; you name any God, they went a step further, they had so much of reverence for women, and we are trying to bring it down more and more. So, the problem is not only with the other gender, it is with the women also. So, it calls for a synthesis of both the gender to behave well so that they would respect us well. Real beauty lies in dignity and decorum not in ridicule and derision. It is the present generation society which is treating women as just entertainment parts. you see any ads,…television serials, …journals, any woman would be just featured as an amusement article. And that is not beauty, you think it is beauty? Real beauty does not come from that, it comes from dignity, rights versus reverence. You always lock up Gold in your almirah, you don’t do that to stainless steel. That’s why generally when women ask that they have not been given the equal rights vis-a’-vis men, I tell them; you are Gold, they are stainless steel; that is why you have less rights and they have more. Or whatever you respect more, you lock it up, you carefully preserve it. So, that is not a question of being ill- treated at all. The more you revere a person, the more you respect a person, the right comes down. That’s what happens to you. And that’s why we have taken up a few inspirational stories of women who have brought about positive change throughout the world by their wisdom by their will by their courage by their noble qualities and their nobility has crossed all gender, all caste all creed and all nation.”

Everything is verbatim; considering the length, I did delete a few words and phrases. The sentiment is the same; maybe stronger even. To augment and fan my ill-feeling further, movies like ‘Ki-Ka’ or ‘PINK’ receive acclaim. It makes me wonder if we Indian women are not going a bit over board with our equal rights for women, freedom for women et’ al. Don’t get me wrong, please. I am all for women, women’s lib, our rights and equal share of glory and sunshine. But, when I see the present generation, urban born and brought up women; they seem to have totally lost the plot! On one hand, they are in a mindless, competitive race amongst themselves and on the other hand they are pushing it to extremes to surpass men. Worse is, in this competition they expect special consideration for being a woman (why are they competing with men then?). They want to be judged leniently, treated with kid gloves; take umbrage playing the fairer sex card with impunity.  

What has education done to us? The adage ‘Vidya dadhati vinayam’ is vice-versa with Gen -Y. Women’s vidya seems to have obliterated their vinayam! Resonating Vishaka Hari, we are aping the West for all the wrong reasons. This mindless mimicry is costing us our integrity and innate beauty.  Our strengths have become our weakness and we no longer seem to be sure what this Liberation and equal rights is all about. We have long crossed the bridge of equality, we are racing to the finish line with a killer instinct of winning; with zero consideration for what is being left behind.

Ever wonder why in our Hindu weddings the man and woman always walk one behind the other? Also, in the Saptapadi, why the woman walks behind the man for the first four ‘pheras’ and then leads the husband for the remaining three vows?  We (the couple) can support the floundering partner only if we are one behind the other, not if we are neck to neck and trying to compete.  As for the wife leading the husband; the fifth ‘phera’ is for progeny and their well- being, the sixth signifies control over mind body and soul, to bring longevity to the couple’s relationship and the seventh step, vow, is to remain loyal and true companions for life. Our real duty (Vedic) was always to complement the man, steer him in the right direction so that he never goes astray, stop him from falling by being behind him, willingly. Wonder when this complementing become competing, and at what cost?

Long gone are the days when we used to hear, ‘Behind every successful man there is a woman’! Today the most successful man is the one who is alone or has escaped the clutches of woman.

Probably, it would be the apt time to take a pause; just that, pause awhile; not stop completely, but simply pause, and re-evaluate. Which way are we headed and why? 

PS: Dear Readers, blaming it on Vishaka Hari and her eloquence; Her talk was all this article could accommodate, leaving me with lots more to regurgitate!! With an awful lot still churning inside me; please expect another article on ‘GEN Y’ very soon…

FASTING

FASTING

Amongst all the rituals I have practiced, my longest association as a practitioner and an observer has been with fasting! For as long as I can remember my mother fasted on Friday; ‘Santoshi Ma vrat’. This weekly ritual continues; because of her health and growing years, she has given herself some latitude. Presently, she does not eat anything sour; tomatoes, lime and the like are banned on Fridays, and she has her dinner before sunset. Luckily, for devout Hindus, dieting is a piece of cake.  We have a God assigned for every single day of the week and to appease them we fast on their day. Call it hilarious or illogical or just the whim of a staunch devout (an impressionable child who believed in the power of prayer);  I started fasting when I barely 16years old. Since I did not have a specific favourite God, I fasted on Saturday (the day I am born). This day is said to be ruled by Saturn. So, to appease the devil Himself to keep me out of harm’s way; I opted for this day. I very judiciously continued this ritual till I got married. Apart for the fervent hope that I was guarded from the evil influences of Saturn, fasting helped me stay slim. I was diligent, judicious and had absolute faith in what I was doing. Every Saturday, I woke up earlier than usual, went to the temple to offer my prayers before beginning my day. When in college hostel, my friends very concernedly had something nice and warm waiting for me when it was time to break my fast. Call it fate or that my years of fasting had rendered Saturn effectively powerless; I entered a family where food plays the most pivotal role. Thus, ceased my days of fasting.

Many years later, my colleagues were fasting for ‘Karwa chauth‘; and my reconnect happened. On an impulse, even I fasted that karwa chauth. This is a fast women keep for the longevity of their spouse. I was transported to my childhood days; my mother fasting, sitting in front of our temple singing bhajans, cooking prasad and humming a bhajan to herself, she used to be smiling and engrossed. Despite the empty stomach and extra work her countenance glowed; devoid of stress and zero sign of weakness. She read the ‘katha’, explained the significance to us; she had knowledge of the why of every small ritual. It was a very learning experience for us; and I probably wanted to relive all that, after so many years. But, throughout the day our discussion revolved around how hungry we were, what gift we would receive from our spouse, would our spouse return home early from work, was the spouse also keeping a fast for his wife, whether the moon would rise early (to be able to offer prayers and break the fast) or it would be a long arduous wait. So many discussions, yet none revealed the reason why this fast was so important. It threw no light on the essence nor the significance of this fast. It was about new clothes, jewellery, mehendi, the torture of fasting… To make it even more hilariously meaningless, my dear husband (totally distraught that I had kept a fast for his long life!) bought me a beautiful gold necklace set but could not make it home till past midnight! So, I ‘broke the fast’ sans ‘pati-dev’, happily ate dinner with the kids and was fast asleep by the time he could get away from work. Such was my reunion with fasting.

The next day, my guilt ridden better half made many snide jokes about this ritual, saying it was a big sham, fasting itself is a big sham, as per him. Even though he sounded disrespectful and was very rudely questioning the veracity of a very sacred ritual; his statements were undeniably true. He was voicing what I had experienced yesterday. Where was the faith; the simple honesty with which we practiced such rituals?  None of us seem to dwell on the reason anymore. We superficially follow ‘old traditions’ and grumble about the inconvenience such rituals cause to our daily life.

This lack of knowledge has made a mockery of these rituals. We keep fasts today for krawa chauth, vat savitri, bhai dooj, chhatt… but we all look drained and weary; our heart is not in it. The glow and radiance my mother had on her face; I have not seen it in a long time. Thus, began my journey of trying to figure out the true reason for fasting; the etymology of fasting; if I can call it that.

Fasting is the willing abstinence or reduction from food, food and drink too (absolute abstinence) for a period of time. Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Jainism or Hinduism, every religion has one common denominator for advocating fasting. Fasting is a way of purifying oneself. Abstinence from food, drink and physical proximity is a way cleansing the body, mind and soul.

Eastern Orthodox Christianity says, ‘The purpose of fasting is not to suffer, but according to sacred tradition to guard against gluttony and impure thoughts, deeds and words. Fasting must always be accompanied by increased prayer and almsgiving. To engage in fasting without them is considered useless or even spiritually harmful. To repent for one’s sins and to reach out in love to others is part and parcel of true fasting’.

Islam believes, ‘By fasting, whether during Ramadan or other times, a Muslim draws closer to God by abandoning bodily pleasures, such as food and drink. This makes the sincerity of their faith and their devotion to God (Arabic: Allah) all the more evident.

Jainism states that, Self-starvation by fasting is supposed to help shed karma. Santhara (Self- starvation leading to death), the individual gets ample time to reflect on his or her life. The goal of Santhara is to purify the body and, with this, the individual strives to abandon desire.

Buddhism advocates the Middle Path, asking the followers to avoid extremes of indulgence and self- mortification too.

Sikhism is the rare path which does not promote fasting. ’Human mind requires the wisdom, which can be achieved by contemplating on words and evaluating it, torturing body is of no use’.  If you keep fast, then do it in a way so that you adopt compassion, wellbeing and ask for the good will of everyone: ‘Let your mind be content, and be kind to all beings. In this way, your fast will be successful. (Guru Granth Sahib Ji, Ang 905; 299)

One religion realized how farcical this sacred ritual would become and decided to stay away from it altogether. We stopped contemplating long ago; torturing our body without understanding the wisdom; fasting has become a mere charade.

Sources: wikipedia

Love Divine

Love Divine

When I had newly joined meditation my preceptor (trainer) would always emphasise on knowing the reason; ‘why’ I had joined meditation. This Spiritual path gives exactly that which one seeks, nothing more, nothing less. So, she would always caution me, ‘Be careful what you ask for, and know exactly how and who you aspire to be.’  She would at times pose this query too, ‘Who is your spiritual Master to you?’ Rather, who do you see your Guru as; mother, father, friend, distant relative, God..?’

Why I had joined meditation was a very easy answer for me. But, who the Guru was, that proved to be a very dynamic and tricky query.

Over the last few years I have seen the answer to both the questions change many times.

Initially, my applications or the chits in my begging bowl were seeking redemption, reprieve from my self-constructed hurdles and walls, like anger, irritability, compare and compete attitude, the list goes on. A year or so later I noticed that the nature of my applications had altered. I had begun to seek less for myself and more for others, immediate family and friends. I felt a bit hesitant asking for myself. The mindset was different and my aspiration from myself had also morphed. Moreover, another observation was that I had to be extremely cautious (like my preceptor had warned) about what I was seeking. I did get exactly what I asked for! The more the years of meditation in me, the more discerning and aware I was forced to become. Frivolous pleas and ephemeral demands would be answered even before I could properly articulate the request; more so if that plea was for me.  My earnest please made for others also came to fruition. It was as if every time I put up an application a counter challenge was dangled in front of me; asking, ‘Is this all you can come up with? Is this what you set out to attain on this Path?’

What I was asking and what I should have asked or whether this ‘asking’ was worth it or not seemed to clash perpetually. I was forced to weigh each application and assess its true worth. For every application, I was contemplating to put in the begging bowl, I started asking these two decider questions, ‘will this be the last of its kind?’  The answer was always, ‘No’. The next question that came was, ‘So, can this be resolved without placing it in the begging bowl?’ The answer to this was always in the affirmative! Undoubtedly, it would take time and effort, but no issue seemed extreme or worthy enough to be placed in that bowl. My faith told me that He would give it all without asking, if it was so ordained. Likewise, He would assuredly take away all the pain too, without my having to place anything in the begging bowl. If challenges still cross my path, or anyone’s path, then self – effort to overcome or forbearance to endure them was imperative. Secondly, the faith to surrender the result to Him was also necessary. For any worldly problem, I had no business picking up the begging bowl at all.  This was not why I had joined this path for. Thus, the bowl departed. I am learning and attempting to balance my life between optimum self -effort and absolute surrender.

Coming to the trickier query now.

The day I joined meditation I dutifully placed the photo of my Guru in my temple, alongside my many Gods. After a few months, on this journey of self-realisation, God and Guru on the outside seemed to distance me from my Self. Secondly, Guru as God seemed totally out of bounds, unreachable for me. How could I ever become God! ? I sought a closer connect, a more achievable and palpable one.

 Consider your Guru to be your mother, this is advised in our scriptures. The relationship between a mother and her child is said to be the most unconditional and selflessly giving relationship. This was a bit of problem for me though; I am a mother, and I don’t think I am capable of being selfless or unconditional ( much to my misery). I try to be, but expectations creep in and spoil it all. So, Guru as God and then as mother for a very short period and then it gradually shifted to Guru as my mentor cum friend. Friend cum Mentor was akin to Arjuna and Krishna’s relationship with each other, and I was happy.  Further introspection led me to the next question; was this bond just friendship or much more?  When Arjuna cried out, O lord, help me! Krishna appears and rescues Arjuna. And, when Arjuna wailed, O Friend, guide me!’ Again, Krishna only appears, to show the way. So, whichever role Arjuna sought his Lord in, Krishna adjusted Himself to fit that role. He could be a friend, brother, mother, any person/ object too, who Arjuna identified with.

Then it dawned on me; I was limiting the potential of the limitless with my own limitedness!! (Does it make sense?) He can be everything and everyone to me. His role was dependent on me and my thinking.

The Master’s Presence is an expression of his total love for us. What he gives us, totally, without any reservation, without anything being asked for in return, is Himself.  Lover means, one who loves. And a divine lover is one who loves divinely; that means without reservation, without limitation, without anything to restrict it. ( P.Rajagopalachari)

It has taken me many years to finally come to one final answer to the second question; who is my Master to me? He is… And the one unchanging relationship I aspire to establish with the Divine, is that of Divine Love.