Saturday, July 08, 2006

Pornography! Welcome to India

It’s high time we welcomed pornography into India with open arms. We need Playboy magazine, adult movies, dance bars and legal prostitution.

How long can we hide under the illusion that we are a nation of morals, culture and high values, when everything we do actually shows that we are in fact immoral, barbaric and crass without any sign of rich culture and that we show no accountability, responsibility, and integrity in our daily lives?

Let’s call spade a spade.

The young generation surfeit with consuming hamburgers, Coke, Levis jeans and Rs. 30,000 mobile phones needs to have access to sexual world and sometimes relieving off the sexual tensions is better than bottling it up to get unexpected results. The laborer who had a hard day working at the coal mine needs some entertainment. The rich VP needs to take away his mind from his monotonous number crunching. All of us (adults) need a dose of pornography once in a while in different degree. Why can’t we just have adult movies screened where only the adults get to pay and watch, or rent out DVDs to those who want to watch it in privacy? Why can’t we have pornographic magazines for sale in sealed envelope sold only to adults? In my opinion, this would actually bring down the sleaze that seems to attack young girls and adult women alike. Child rapes, Old women rapes, and all other woman rapes is quite rampant – it is not reported enough, that’s all! Sexual craving is natural and needs to be relieved. If it is pornography that can do that job, why not?

AIDS is rampant in India and we will soon become the country with maximum HIV patients in the world (or did we already?). Do our people know how it spreads? Do we even know anything about it? Are we taught in schools? Why is it all hush-hush in India? Truck drivers move from city to city, visit prostitutes and keep spreading AIDS like wildfire and the local population who visit the same prostitute contract the disease and bring it home. Instead of curbing prostitution calling it immoral, we should recognize and accept it as ‘history’s oldest profession’ and that it is bound to stay even when you, I and all our grand-grand children are gone. Instead of fighting it, which is impossible, why can’t we just accept it and see how we can regulate it so that AIDS can be checked and controlled, so that prostitutes get access to hospitals and good treatment?

What’s with banning Playboy magazine when Internet provides all the access to internet surfing generation? What’s with banning adult movies when every music video seems to beam sleaze and soft pornography into all middle-class homes during primetime? What is moral policing? Who are they? Why do we need them?

What happened to Kama Sutra? Why are our temples adorned with fornicating gods in various positions while we don’t get to paint a nude goddess? Why are our ancient scriptures full of descriptions of lust, sex and eroticism while we don’t get to write any? How come we get to be Victorian when England itself has already renounced it?

I say, ‘Welcome Pornography! Come back to the land of Kama Sutra’ and bring back the Golden Age!!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Vedas and Science

The process of appreciating Vedas has been interesting for me. At one time, I denounced every vague statement and intended connotation in Vedas equating them with mythology, fantasy and poetry. But as I take a second look at them now, they seem to produce an awe and admiration for all those wise men who wrote them. I think- ‘If only we could think the way they have thought’. I have to admit though that this admiration is confined to the wise men who wrote these books, but I definitely do not equate Vedas with any faculty of Science.

The modern physics which took a divergent path from many theological philosophies around 16th Century went on an accelerated path of evolution in the last 400 years and has now started to give room to some philosophical interpretations though not necessarily based on theology. There is a sense of awe for certain innate and as well apparent paradoxes in nature and the crux of this bafflement in modern physics is actually an argument presented in Vedas, that the Universe is continuous and a single entity, including the men and women residing in it, and that whatever we see or perceive of Nature as independent and separate is nothing but an illusion created by the mind of the man (maya?). 

This is what many modern physicists might have felt upon the advent of Quantum Theory, which made even Albert Einstein utter-"God does not play dice with the Universe". Well, to his disappointment, it turns out that matter and force and all other things that we know do not have any ‘real’ existence at the sub-atomic levels. Their existence is governed by probability and characterized by their relationships and interconnection to the others. Vedas that say- ‘It moves, it moves not, it exists, it exist not’, are synonymous to the thoughts of these scientists who were looking at the behaviors of sub-atomic particles of an atom. The ‘real’ matter and forces could very well be just a simple case of a continuous universe and valid only in a narrow frame of observation which the man is used to.

For many Indians and Indophiles, Vedas, in revelation of the above observations of scientists, actually appear to be a compendium of the ultimate results that Modern Science obtained after a rigorous and methodical search spanning thousands of years. It’s as if, to get to the same conclusions, scientists and Indian mystics have taken different paths. If that is the case, the mystics seem to have come to the same conclusion almost two thousand years ahead of the scientists. Wow! This is so nice and convenient. It makes many Indians proud of their own ancestry. Its as if, for all that we missed during scientific and industrial revolutions of Europe and US between 16th and 19th century we already made up thousands of years ago - and it is all well documented in our Vedas. 

For many vedic scholars, astrologists, believers of great Indian ancestry, this turns out to be a convenient exercise to showcase how these great books reveal many great truths. They push this argument further and try to dig out different interpretations and meanings to these texts and try to find out solutions to all modern day problems. Since we as Indians couldn’t come up with inventions or discoveries in the last thousand years, we take solace in our old Vedas and keep ourselves happy. For everything that Modern Science has invented there seems to be some answer, solution or reference in our Vedas. And at a first glance, it does seem to be true- Vedas do have a collection of many references (which could be equated to the results of Modern Science). 

What is important, though completely ignored by most proponents of Vedas, is the path that was taken to arrive at those conclusions. Modern Science is directly responsible for the progress in technology, medicine, engineering and many other fields that we have seen in the last thousand years, while Vedas are confined to the spiritual and complex minds of few people who seem to have seen the essence in its entirety but are unable to articulate it to understanding of common man. Some claim they understand, but unfortunately their attempts to teach us all their understanding is not understood by others. This is where the lucidity, clarity and rigor of Science differ from arcane, vague and allegorical Vedas. 

Science throws out clear theories (based on commonly agreed axioms) which can be taken up by anyone and reach the same conclusions, while Vedas do not have any such theories; and to get to the same conclusion, one has to rely on leaps of faith, intuition and supposedly some revelations.

How much ever we like to believe, Vedas do not seem to give us the same tools to work with to arrive at the conclusions and deductions written in those books. For all practical purposes, Vedas, with its deductions which are mystical, have to considered as good books of aphorisms and truisms and nothing more. Vedas may contain allegorical and fantastic descriptions of supposed flight, atomic theory and other modern concepts, but we do not know whether they are the conclusions after a thorough research or mere hypothesis or just whimsical conundrums. 

Though they appear to carry these profound truths they cannot be used in a rational and intellectual discussion because they do not support their statements with valid, accepted and rigorous proofs and methods. Some may dismiss this argument saying that eastern way of arriving at a truth is different from western methods, but even this argument is hollow, since no practical path is described on how to arrive at these truths. We can appreciate such truths only when we reach the same conclusion on our own taking up the path of Science. Some would ask us to accept these results out of pure faith but then this would make it more of a religion than science. 

If Vedas do contain reference to Atomic Bomb or Flight or Laser Beam or Wireless Technology, they do not have any close semblance with scientific argument. We can’t take up a book of Vedas and build an Airplane. For all practical purposes, these texts could be as fictitious as Tolkien’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ with descriptions of middle earth and his fire-breathing-dragons. May be, two thousands years from now someone will open this book and believe that we actually had teleporting, immortality and levitation. It may turn out that Vedas are mythological stories just like Greek and Roman mythologies with a dose of philosophy. My sense of awe for Vedas is akin to what I have for other works of fiction, ‘Time Machine’ from HG Wells, or ‘Matrix; from Wachowski Brothers. 

According to me, Vedas for all their mysteriousness can be an interesting and mysterious read but can never substitute or find itself close to any department of Science.

[This is an updated and edited version from an article I wrote in May 1998]


Arunn has an excellent criticism of such pseudo-scientific explanation of one of the Mantras. Its funny that one Dr. Tanmaya talks about the sound of Galaxies and Planets whizzing past in space and compares it with sound generated when a fan rotates.

Update: 7 Sep 2006

Monday, July 03, 2006

Temples and Women

These days I don’t watch news on TV. Not that I am not interested in what’s happening, but because it is so irritating to watch these low-IQ (Intelligent Quotient) and low-EQ (Emotional Quotient) journalists blabbering away in some pseudo-concerned tones and voices, exasperating and panting to report a bomb blast or a scandal, annoying or vexing the interviewee with abrupt interjections, and trying their best to use recently-learnt English words (to keep their jobs), that it started to bother my intelligence and emotions equally.

Anyway, waiting for the next soccer match, I had to while away some time and I surfed onto the news channels once again.

There was this Sagarika Ghosh on CNN-IBN, who is irritating most of the time, talking about some temple in India (Sabarimala housing Ayyappa Temple) which bans women from entering its premises. They invited one Muslim representative to show how some Mosques do not allow women, a grandson/son of Ayyappa Temple, and another equally obnoxious social activist or writer who was making faces as if she couldn’t believe any of the words these two guys spoke. Now, what is my problem with the whole proceedings? It’s nothing to do with religion actually. I am through-and-through an extreme atheist. I find all the religions, the practices and its nuances very funny. But growing up in religious societies, having met some ardent and fanatic religious people (Hindus, Muslims and Christians), and reading religious books and history, has led me to believe that religion has its own good and need not be discarded. It is one of those quirky human traits that we may have to live with. Since human is any way a funny animal, he has devised some funny methods to keep himself saner; and religion seems to be one of those funny methods that withstood time. Of course, humans started to take these funny things pretty serious in the course of time; because of which millions died defending one funny faith against another. All in all, what these religious people do doesn’t bother me as long as they do not trample on my living. If they all want to get naked and involve in promiscuous activity to keep their god happy, or if they want to parade in semi nudity and beat themselves to death, it’s up to them. As long as they don’t tell me how I should I live, I let them live the way they want to.

One funny thing about religion is that they have introduced a word called ‘sanctity’. In my life I have not abhorred a word more than this word- ‘sanctity’ (more about that later). There are certain places in temple where it is sacred, there are idols which are sacred, and there are few rituals and practices which are sacred. Any violation of these sacred things is a direct contravention of the religion which will displease the God. That’s how each religion and sect has collected its own set of sacred things.

Now, for whatever reason, Sabrimala and its god Ayyappa and its followers think that no women between certain ages (where they believe a woman menstruates and can attract men sexually ) should enter its premises. I am quite OK with it. It’s not like all temples in India have banned women from its premises. If a woman wants to go and pray in a temple, there are millions of them that they can choose from. I don’t see why some of these inane actresses like to go these particular temples where there is a ban, other than creating some publicity stunt or to be a rebel just for the sake of being a rebel (because they are utterly bored). I mean it’s not like women don’t have access to a god or a temple elsewhere. And why this fascination with this god who is sworn to celibacy himself? God only knows!

I learnt to respect many idiosyncrasies of religions and live with them. I don’t go to many temples because I have no job there. I do go to certain old and historical temples because I like Indian Architecture and I take lot of pictures. Now, when I enter these temples I respect their sentiments. If they ask me to take off my chappals/shoes though the scorching heat has made the stone tiles to cause blisters, I put up with it. Why do I do that? Look, nobody forced me to enter these temples. I am free to go wherever I want in this country. But here’s a place that some people think is sacred and they have set certain rules. However funny these rules might sound to be, if I want to go in there to get a glimpse of this historic architecture I will have to obey the rules they set out. Therefore, I take off my chappals/shoes and walk in the scorching heat, enduring the pain, take my pictures, and run back. If ever they have a rule that I have to shave my head to enter, and if I am in no mood for shaving my head, I just turn back and do not enter. I have a choice to enter or not enter. It’s not like I am being discriminated against. It’s not like I am being targeted. It’s nothing to do with equal rights and it’s definitely nothing to do ‘marginalizing sacred feminine’ as Sagarika Ghosh would like us to believe.

Sagarika Ghosh, demeaningly and condescendingly asks this son/grandson of Ayyappa Temple priest, if he had heard about Dan Brown and his book ‘Da Vinci Code’ (as if it is some historical and true representation of human history) and asks if our religion too was ‘marginalizing sacred feminine’. Give me a break! I am not sure what is sacred about feminine. A woman and man are two different sexes which mate, reproduce and make babies to continue our species. And while they are not doing this activity, they indulge in other activities too, like inventing, composing music, and creating civilizations. I am not sure if any one of them (man or woman) is sacred (unless of course you bring in the argument that many women and men pray to ‘lingam’, the sexual organ of Lord Shiva, a man).

And she (Sagarika Ghosh) continues to ask if this ban is against the rights of a modern woman and questions why some temples ban women. My response is simple. First, the concept of religion itself is a ridiculous concept and its rules are even more ludicrous. Second, if those rules do affect you as a woman, if they encroach upon your rights and if they discriminate you systematically, please fight it out and I will join your fight. But when almost all temples in India allow women, why this unnecessary and stupid provocation against some odd cases? These men who go to Ayyappa believe in certain things and want to be merry all by themselves without having the presence of women. Consider this an extended boy’s night out and let them be. Why do you want to ruin their party?

There is a temple in Orissa which organizes Rath Yatra pulled exclusively by women. It’s a tradition. The origins of most of these traditions are equally bizarre. Knowing these origins only quenches intellectual curiosity but doesn’t help you in dealing with it. May be, the men should fight for their right to pull this Rath and argue for ‘sacred masculine’. I am not sure where it would lead us. May be, back to cave man?