Friday, June 29, 2007

Bad Parenting- Insensitivity and Indecency

The more I think about it the more I believe that the state of India – and all its ills are due to one single reason- bad parenting. It’s not the population; it’s not the economy; it’s not poverty and its not bad politicians either. I think it is everything to do with bad parenting. Unnecessarily concentrating on wrong values- such as non eating of meat, not smoking, not drinking alcohol, not visiting a prostitute, not watching erotic art, the Indian parents are losing out on the big picture on the essential and universal values- being a good citizen- to be paying taxes honestly, to be decent to others, to be civil and polite and courteous, to be taking responsibility about his environs, to keep his street clean, not to be corrupt, not to be dishonest.

Do you ever wonder why Indians are indecent to each other and why they throw garbage everywhere?

Argumentative Indian by Amartya Sen has given us an unnecessary license to hush up all criticism that points at our lack of introspection. His thesis is used by all and sundry to tell us, ‘Look! We have always been an open society; we have always discussed our issues’. Thereby we believe that we have always pointed out our negatives when needed. Yes, it was a first good step, but what we did after we discussed and debated for hours is a complete mystery. Now, I want to point out two things that we almost never discuss- either during parenting or at a cocktail party or in a serious debate on Indian media- a massive desensitization program that is ongoing; and a program to make indecency a virtue.

Insensitivity

You know how some western countries debate their homegrown desensitization towards violence and how it affects its youth! In India, we never discuss or debate our own homegrown desensitization towards our civic amenities- our garbage filled roads, child-beggar laden streets, handicapped on pavements, trash filled gardens and hill stations, plastic filled fields, streams and lakes. Instead, we blame everything on the politicians. We don’t seem to own up our problem (that we are insensitive). We don’t even want to admit that such a problem exists. Those who point out the problem (like me) are asked to shut up, and to take the next plane abroad. Such critics (like me) are called a traitor or termed an ‘arrogant one with lot of attitude’.

On a daily basis, we are allowing our kids to become desensitized towards all our civic responsibilities. When I wrote an article on how I see ugliness everywhere, people commented that I should try to look for beauty in spite of all that superficial ugliness. When I went to Nandi Hills and commented on garbage filled hills, I was told to look beyond and enjoy the view rather than get affected by the garbage lying around. There is this amazing sense of apathy in action here- which is nothing more than being highly insensitive. We DO NOT teach our kids where trash should go, but instead we do set examples on what to do with it – Dad throwing away the used packet on the street, Mom throwing trash outside the window without even looking, Uncle spitting right there on the street, etc. These examples are good enough for this kid to do the same. With added pride that he gets, compared to his parents because of better schooling, this kid also learns the art of rationalizing these actions. He explains them away:

‘Everybody does it, Live like a Roman in Rome!’
‘Someone will come along to sweep this up! Don’t worry! That’s why we pay our taxes!’
‘Look! This is just a drop in the ocean. First, clean up the ocean, then I will do my part!’
‘Don’t preach! Let’s see what difference your attitude makes’
‘Who are you to teach us? Have you seen the streets of
Brooklyn?’

The new age parents spend lot of money to send their kids to top schools. I heard a radio advertisement where this international school actually sends the kids abroad as part of their education, where they spend time abroad learning. Wow! I thought. I mean which schools on the planet actually include a kid’s junket to a foreign nation? While we continue to spend exorbitantly and unnecessarily on one side, we don’t take time to teach our kids what they need to do with the trash.

I still remember one incident that took place few years ago, when I was living in US. I was at a movie hall waiting for the next movie. A kid aged 2, I guess, walked up slowly to a trash can and put his paper cup and walked back to his Dad. But this paper cup actually fell outside after few seconds. The Dad made the kid go back and put the paper cup back into the trash can. The kid did exactly as instructed. Then the Dad hugged the kid and they left the place.

Right there, in front my eyes, I saw a parent teaching his kid what to do with his trash. And to give a counter example, I have witnessed an incident in India, where a kid was reluctant to throw trash out of a moving train, but his mom reprimanded him; after which the kid’s resistance became zero and he just complied. Teachers, parents, uncles and aunts, friends, and everyone around are teaching this Indian kid to get desensitized to the filth and trash surrounding him. In fact, they are teaching him to throw more trash into the same pile of garbage.

I live in Bangalore. I see trash and filth everywhere. I don’t think this is a Garden city, I prefer calling it a Garbage city – some people get offended when I call this Garbage city. For those who fail to notice this garbage, kudos to them. They are utterly desensitized. Many people tell me that since I am living in India now, I should get used to it and be a part of the flow. I tell myself, ‘I am not going to be one of you. I will fight tooth and nail and go down fighting, but I won’t become one of you. And I won’t make my kids one of you’. What use is my education, what use is my intellect, what use is my rationality as a human being, if I can’t put it to right use?

Indecency

You know why Indians are not decent to each other? It’s because decency is synonymous with the meek, the weak, and the helpless. In India, the actions of those who are meek and those who are decent are apparently the same. Let me clarify.

A meek person waits for the traffic to clear up before he enters the main street, only because he is afraid. A decent person waits for the traffic to clear up before he enters the main street, only because he thinks it is a decent and right thing to do.

A meek person stands in line to get his ticket, because he fears someone might scold him or bash him up if he cuts the line. A decent person stands in line to get his ticket, because he thinks it is a decent and right thing to do.

There are many examples, starting from how kids behave at school all the way to college and beyond into adult and corporate life and then into retirement, which suggest that a meek person and a decent person apparently acts almost the same way, though for different underlying reasons.

Therefore, Indians have grown up not differentiating the two, and instead, conveniently clubbed both these into one- 'the meek, the weak, and the helpless'. Nobody wants to be seen as meek, the weak and the helpless. They want to be seen as strong, assertive and aggressive. Therefore, we end up doing those actions which suggest these desired qualities in us.

A person who doesn’t wait at traffic and instead juts in causing lot of inconvenience to others is seen as aggressive and ‘smart’. He is paid handsomely for this aggressive posture because he gets away with it, seen by others as a great example. When you wait at traffic, you are actually told not to wait, and that it is the Indian way to jut through irrespective of how much inconvenient it is to others. You are told that you will end up waiting there forever (which according to them is losing out).

The parents teach the kid (by setting the wrong examples) to become more aggressive, be more dishonest, be more corrupt, to cut the line, to bend the traffic rule, all in the great Indian game of ‘getting ahead’. They rationalize all this as ‘getting ahead in a rat race’. ‘Hey, do you want my kid to stay behind? No way! I am teaching all the skills he needs to win this race’, is their usual response when asked why they prefer their kid to be an aggressive go-getter ‘using all that it takes to get there’ instead of being a decent human who respects others, is more concerned about his environs, and is an honest tax-payer.

We have made this ‘aggressiveness with utter disregard for politeness and courtesy’ a virtue in India. Crossing the traffic light when it is red is a virtue. Bribing your way to get your passport earlier than others is a virtue. Getting the best deal by paying off some corrupt official is a virtue. In this game, the person who knows where the corrupt official is a well-informed person and his advice is sought after. The person who knows an honest official is of no use to anyone. When one homeowner breaks all the norms and rules to build his home such that he occupies more land than he is supposed to, he is seen by others as an accomplished individual. Many come to him to seek his advice and know how they too can flout the rules in the same manner. When IT officials raid a rich man, that rich man becomes highly sought after for business deals or marriage proposals (to his son/daughter).

In India, throwing garbage on the street is a cool thing. It shows that you have a cool attitude. It shows you don’t care. If you are aggressive on a road, and don’t yield, it’s a cool thing. It shows you don’t care a damn. These are all cool things as a growing teen in almost any society on this planet. However, those societies tend to shed that cool attitude and take on a mature and responsible attitude as they grow up, which is quite missing in the Indian context. We never seem to grow up from our adolescence.

Through our bad parenting, which sets wrong examples, we have institutionalized insensitivity and indecency and made them virtues. Please don’t blame the politicians. They are just the symptom, not the cause.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Sethusamudram Project

Sethusamudram Project involves dredging a ship channel between India and Sri Lanka across Palk Straits. This involves dredging through Adam’s Bridge – a coral group of islands between India and Sri Lanka). This is supposedly going to reduce the maritime distance and also allow local sea ports to proliferate.

I don’t have a stand on this project. I don’t know much about it. I don’t know if the economic benefits from this project are going to exceed the marine and ecological losses that we are going to incur. Even if they do, I am not sure if we should go ahead and proceed with this. However, the discussion is no longer the fight between liberals & left (who usually oppose projects that harm nature and environs) and the authority, but between the right wing enthusiasts and the supposed minority-government which is headed by non-Hindus. (Both Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi are non-Hindu).

Leftwing and Rightwing join hands

Only in India will you see right wing and left wing joining hands to a fight an issue. Here in India, feminists, the left and the right wing have similar stance- either it is protest against Miss Universe pageant, or an effort to teach villagers on sanitary health practices, or in this protest against Sethusamudram project. We are not assured which of these groups will eventually lead the fight on a particular issue. A protest against water shortage in a small town can spiral into a right wing and left wing action against globalization (protest against Coca Cola bottling plant because they were using lot of water). An ordinary kiss by Richard Gere planted on seductive and sultry actress Shilpa Shetty can plummet the whole nation into a debate as to what is Bharat Sanskruti. Both left wing and right wing have joined hands to protest this infamous kiss. Left wing and feminists, because they cannot tolerate a Westerner taking such liberty with woman of the East, and right wing, because they think it is against the Indian value system. In the same way, this project, irrespective of whether it will affect marine life or whether it will give enough economic benefit, has spiraled into a religious movement. How, one may ask!

Why rightwing opposes this project?

The religious Hindus are opposed to this. Not because they think it affects the marine biology or because it is expensive but because they think that this Adam’s Bridge is nothing but a construction by Lord Rama (of Ramayana) used by Rama to invade Lanka According to mythology (as foretold in Ramayana), Rama constructed a bridge with the help of army of monkeys to invade Lanka. So, these experts suggest that this Adam’s bridge between India and Sri Lanka is indeed the same bridge that Rama constructed. Some of them, in an attempt to gleefully satisfy this theory have even suggested that Rama and his cohorts existed more than 1.7 million years ago to coincide with the time this formation happened.

Ridiculous arguments

The problem with these educated-but-religious people is that they start using scientific, political and other sociological reasons to object to this religious belief. One of them posits the following argument:

As per Hindu scriptures, we have four Yugas comprising 4.32 million years. 40% of this time is Satyuga, 30% Treta, 20% Dwapar and 10% Kalyuga. Lord Rama was born in Treta Yuga. This Vikram Samwat 2064 corresponds to Kaliyuga era 5109. Add 832000 years of Dwapar and around half of Treta and total becomes around 1669000 years. And this is approximately 1.7 millions year ago- which coincides with certain archeological estimates of 1.7 million years, thereby proving that indeed this bridge was built by Rama.

First, there is no evidence whatsoever in human history that there was any human population in the Indian subcontinent 1.7 million years ago. Second, these dates for Ramayana are ludicrous. Indus Valley Civilization which predates Ganges settlement (that spawned Vedic civilization) is less than 6000 years old. So, if Rama ever existed he should have existed not earlier than 4000 BC. Today’s article on Rig Veda dates it between 1800BC and 1500BC.

Modern societies, such as kingdoms, cities, etc, did not appear before advent of agriculture. And that happened less than 15,000 years ago after the last Ice Age. Prior to that there were NO settlements- no cities or towns, NOT even our beloved Ayodhya. Before that humans were hunters and gatherers. Hunter-gatherer societies do not exceed 100-200 people as a group. If they exceed, they usually break up and form new ones. Without massive resources such as labor, one cannot make such constructions. Labor came about only after advent of agriculture- because now, one man could produce more than for his own family, and hence artisans, labor, musicians, kings, soldiers, can now be accommodated as part of the society.

All pseudo-sciences base their whole existence on what they call as 'gaps' in the explanation of science. This includes creationism, astrology, vaastu, etc.

Yes, genuine archeologists and scientists do make mistakes. Their readings and dating methods are not accurate. That does not mean they are ridiculously off their mark. Usually the debate surrounding Indian settlements such as Indus or Vedic civilizations is debated to off the mark by around 1000 years or so. That does not mean this inaccuracy holds good even if one were to push it off by a millions (1000,000) years.

Lot of bullshit going around

There are many people who are visited by Aliens everyday and there are some who travel to different planets on UFOs every year. Should one go and disprove all those alien visits or should one just ignore them? When these people who believe the above story actually happen to be elite NRI crowd, what to make of it? The reports of this bridge and its connection was actually started out by NRI websites and got the necessary impetus from some ex-heads of department of archeology in India. NRI community happens to be extremely rightwing. While their counterparts in India could be discarded as illiterate and bigoted mob, this group consists of elite people and therefore their approval seems to go well with most Indians as an educated opinion.

There are too many reports circulating, some coming from archeology departments of the nations of this subcontinent which unnecessarily and ridiculously claim ancient cities in India- so ancient that we were practically living with dinosaurs themselves. To contest this has become a necessity lest this argument falls in the hands of educated but idiotic Indians who get swayed by use of scientific terminology.

Even deemed institutions like Archeological Department of Sri Lanka mixes myth with science NOT knowing what it is talking about. Indian Subcontinent seems to creating its own sciences - mixing myth, mysticism, superstition, blind belief with words and languages of science to posit it as their alternative science. Modern Science is result of empiricism, not peripatetic investigation nor a byproduct of folklore. Indian subcontinent, in an effort to make up for their nonperformance, is coming with its own versions.

It’s unfortunate and retrograde. But since it is making millions happy, I guess, it is bound to stay- just like soap opera, astrology, vaastu and numerology.

Why do Indians get excited by such false stories?

Archeology in the post-colonial world has become more of a propaganda machine than real science. The post-colonial world, waking up after missing the Scientific and Industrial Revolution, has started to posit their own versions of science and technology. It gives them a satisfaction to know that their ancestors were really great- greater than these western scientists who came later in time. It gives them a sense of pride to know that their ancestors build a massive bridge when the West was not even populated. There are many out there who want to believe that Indians flew planes, and that we could make nuclear bombs, and that we had already invented telepathy. And according to them this is all written in their Vedas in some cryptic conundrums.

These reports and articles are ego-boosters to aggrandize our non-existing achievements, and nothing more! And such reports will always catch attention of many nonperforming societies.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

President Drama in India

We are poised to get a new President. UPA (led by Congress Party) has proposed Pratibha Patil, NDA (led by BJP) has proposed Bhairon Singh Shekawat, while the rest (comprising many regional parties, which formed a new front called UNPA) proposed Kalam once again.

The newspapers and media are having a field day, the blogs and forums are filled with many opinions. What is my take on this?

First, I don't think we need a President. We have had so many presidents. Of what use were they to us? Other than the fact that we remember their names for the sake of answering exam questions and quiz tests, we don’t really associate them with anything remarkable. What did KR Narayanan do? Can we name a single worthwhile act? What did illustrious Kalam do?

The worst punishment you can give to a very dynamic and effective individual in India is to make him/her a President. Once he or she becomes a President all action stops. That is the worst thing that can happen to someone who believes in action. He becomes a rubber stamp, a ‘face’, a mannequin in a window of a big shop. He smiles, shakes hands and throws some clich├ęs in speeches. Whatever Kalam did, he did before he became the President of India. Once he became the President, his actions stopped. These five years were such a waste of time for him.

Why do we need this figurehead anyway? It’s such a waste of time and resources, time and money. I believe strongly that we don't need a President of India. Instead, the Prime Minister post can be combined with this post, and he/she could be elected directly by the people (instead of intermediaries who seem to hijack the will of the people).

Merit and President of India

On one of the forums that I was discussing, one commenter suggested that the contest between Kalam and Pratibha Patil will be a contest of merit and quota politics.

Now if Kalam accepts, then this will be a contest between merit and quota politics.

I don't know what is so meritorious about Kalam? Is being an engineer and heading a missile program a necessary qualification to become a President of India? Or being a bachelor or Muslim a qualification to become a President of India? What is merit got to do with becoming President?

If ever there is any qualification, I would assume that it would be some experience in politics of India- its administration, its elections, being accountable to a democratic institution- which Kalam fails on all counts. On the other hand, this lady - Pratibha Patil - is actually 'meritorious' compared to Kalam on all counts. She was a lawyer, an administrator, a politician, an elected people's representative, and a governor (acting as caretaker of constitution).

Indians grow up NOT knowing what merit is all about. They want to associate it with everything including elected leaders of India. Since they are used to writing exams, getting ranks, they think that Indian leaders should also go through the same process. The yuppie urban Indians who get educated in protected environs would rather select their MPs/MLAs through an entrance test. That way they can attend some tutorial schools, mug up for the exam to become the legislators of this country.

Come to think of it, Indians CANNOT have Bill Gates or Steve Jobs EVER because we will always measure a person by his degree, which school he went to in kindergarten, which college he attended, how many certifications he passed, what was his rank in IAS, etc.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Trying to find beauty in India

How easy (or hard) is it to see something beautiful in this country? I cannot imagine the plight of tourists who visit India. What must be going on in their heads? Can one find beauty in India?

Today, in the morning, I was trying to locate few beautiful things. First, I get confounded with idiotic Indians in the traffic. They are everywhere. I keep looking for one act of courtesy, one act of decency. It’s hard to come by. If you yield for a pedestrian, they walk off nonchalantly without even nodding an approval towards you. If you stop at the crossroads to yield to traffic on the main road, you get yelled at, you get passed by cars and motorcycles from both sides. Nothing beautiful to find as yet! I get to my office, and walk a little distance, and I see various shops keeping their front yard clean. How do they do it? They clean up the mess and pile the trash right there on the road in a heap. Eventually the traffic and the wind will disperse that trash over the entire place. I haven’t found something beautiful as yet. Then I spot a very nice and beautiful girl, listening to music on her iPod, walking seductively. Every move of her is quite entrancing. And she has this nice smile on her pretty face. Ah! At last I have found something beautiful in otherwise ugly India. Then it happens. The ugliest scene I could ever witness. That girl takes a chocolate out from her handbag, and throws the wrapper to the wind right there on the middle of the road, coolly, with the same grace and seductiveness that she was walking all this while. How hard it is to find something beautiful here- the places are ugly and so are the people.

Traveling to India by airplane is usually inclusive of a small rehearsal of facing this ugliness of India. The Indian passengers on the plane from US behave differently in two legs of the voyage. The journey to an intermediary city (such as London, Amsterdam, Paris, etc) is usually quite decent. The Indians, consisting of a PhD from MIT and senior manager at IBM behave quite ‘decently’. They wait till the lights show that you can now remove your seatbelt. They all get up in a ‘decent’ way. They remove the baggage and if it falls on someone, they throw some minimum decent apologies. This decent behavior is either of genuine decency or out of sheer meekness (which we will soon find out). But once the plane takes off towards the final destination in India, the atmosphere completely changes. When it lands in India, all the passengers get up before the lights go on that indicate ‘seat belt can now be removed’. Unruliness and indecency is the norm of the moment. Every one is shoving the other person to get their luggage out. The same PhD from MIT and senior manager from IBM have removed their cloak of decency to bare their ugliness. That shard of courtesy which they donned in a foreign nation is now completely absent. The older people who were quite meek at the transit city are now quite aggressive in their postures and movements. They brazenly lunge their bodies and luggage into others without apologizing. The lady on the plane speaks over the intercom- ‘Welcome to India! Hope you have a great stay’ and I prefer to read it as ‘Welcome to Land of Idiots! Ugliness starts right here’.

The Beauty of Hinduism - If there is any

Being an atheist, writing about beauty of a religion sounds ridiculous and quite hypocritical. Having known its deficiencies and flaws, I am ready, for once, to appreciate its beauty. This is only to get these extremely annoying drones off my back that keep telling me why I am not a true Hindu. And this is to slam my front doors on those supposed upholders of faith who keep entering my home to tell me how I need to live, how I need to 'understand Hinduism correctly' and how 'glorious' it can be only if I were to attain the same knowledge they have attained through their rigorous study, dhyana, meditation, and after deciphering complex algebra.

I think I am quite OK being a Hindu only for one reason - that it allows atheism. And the second best reason is that I am born into it. For me being Hindu is another association, another label, like I am a Telugu, that I am of certain caste, that I am an Indian, that I am a man, that I am human, etc. Some of these labels I am proud of, and some don't matter - like caste. Being Hindu is one of those labels. I don't see a need to shed any of these labels - as long as those labels do not bother my lifestyle and me. I am proud of my roots - but that doesn't mean I consider my labels to be the best while some others are not. I don't go preaching how great it is to be Telugu or to be an Indian. I don't know if a Telugu is superior to Kannadiga or not. I do not deal with such questions and I don't need to answer them. While I am a proud Telugu, I will not die fighting for such a stupid cause as proving 'Telugu is superior to Kannadiga'. Such fights are for fools. I am no fool. When I say I like being a Telugu, it does not necessarily mean I hate Kannadiga. In the same way, being Hindu doesn't mean that I hate other religions.

I see beauty in Hinduism for various reasons. [In my attempt to eulogize a religion I am going to be very generous in giving these accolades. Remember, that for everything that is true for Hinduism, you will find exactly opposite somewhere else within Hinduism.]

These are some of the reasons:

1. There was no such a thing as 'true Hindu'. There are no sets of rules to be followed to prove that you are a true Hindu (till recently). As far as I am concerned, I could be an atheist and still be a Hindu. And someone out there could be praying to Ravana and still be a Hindu.

2. It did not have any single holy text (till recently). There are so many of them- you could pick and choose. It's like Starbucks - many varieties of coffee (and tea) are served.

3. It was not monotheistic (till recently), and that also meant, it was polytheistic. Any one living in this land could come up with their definition for a god and pray to it. No questions asked. They could pray to a widow, or a tree, a snake or a stone. One could even pray to an alien or a film actress (and I think both are the same).

4. It was evolutionary - it changed its form and shape and evolved with time (till recently). Different gods were popular at different times. It is like popularity ratings - sometimes it is David Letterman, and then sometimes it is Jay Leno. The TV shows keep changing. Brahma is now completely faded away. Ganesha is now more popular than his father. Few others, like Indra are completely not welcome back on the show.

5. It allowed for many interpretations of its mythologies. While Ram was good in one version, Ravan was good in another one. Good and bad were treated as something possible in a single human being. Bad does not mean Satan. And being evil does not mean a direct ticket to Hell. Even good people had to struggle hard to get into Heaven. Even the concept of Hell and Heaven change from one book to another!

6. It allowed for atheism. While there could be many gods, it was also possible not to have any god.

And what do I find these days? The very reasons why I like Hinduism are being discarded away by few posers who seem to champion the cause of Hinduism. Without taking my permission they want to represent Hinduism to me, telling me how wrong I am in my interpretations, and why I need to correct it. I say, 'Who the hell are you to tell me how I should live my life?'

The beauty that I see in Hinduism is not found in the holy books, scriptures, or its mythology. It is not found in Vedic Sciences or Vedic Mathematics, its purported achievements of having built nuclear bombs or an airplane. I do not see beauty in its purported complexity of stanzas, slokas, hierarchies of castes, and detailed description of rituals such as ablution.

I think it is found in its simplicity and diversity. It could be taken up by anyone at any time (of course, some of the Hindus were kept out of temples forever). It could be anything to anyone living anywhere. What was true in Hinduism was also false in Hinduism. For some Amavasya (New Moon) is not auspicious while it is auspicious to some others, and they are all Hindus. For some cow is sacred and therefore it is not eaten and for few others it a source of protein for many centuries, and they are all Hindus.

And I don't think Hinduism is so fragile that it needs protection from goons such as Bajrang Dal, fanatics such as VHP, or sympathizers and protectors such as those seen on many elite forums. It has withstood onslaught of many monotheistic, authoritarian and dogmatic religions and has remained vibrant - continuously swelling in its ranks. It has retained its fabric and has continued to be a strong religion. Why should it need soldiers to defend it? And from whom?

What good is it if it can be understood by only those very few elite individuals who can unravel and solve the arcane and obscure conundrums and puzzles? If it can be understood by only few, then how come it is such a mainstream religion?

Hinduism belonged to the people of this land. It will evolve, and it better evolve. It will mean differently to different people. We don't need your Vedas to be Hindus nor do we need to pray to your prescribed gods to be Hindus. I am a Hindu in spite of every rule you impose; and that identity you cannot take it away from me. That's what I like about Hinduism!

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Why bash up Hinduism?

I am deemed guilty of a heinous crime- I end up bashing Hinduism- left and right, top and bottom. I am merciless in my attack on Hinduism. And therefore people see me as a Hindu-hater. I am seen as proponent of Islam, a defender of Marxism, a communist, a traitor, etc. Am I a Hindu hater? Do I suffer from inferiority complex that allows me to berate my own religion? Here I answer some of those questions.

Why bash up Hinduism?

Because I think Hinduism needs to be bashed up a little bit!

Sanctity has reigned for far too long. The attitude of 'Don't criticize, don't question, don't ask, don't insult, don't denigrate' has reigned for far too long. Hinduism has remained on the sacred pedestal for thousands of years and it needs to be brought down from that position to be questioned with reason and rationale. It has been peevish for far too long, getting hurt by every small infraction, and therefore it needs a dose of maturity to handle criticisms.

Some of us (like me) bash up Hinduism because we happen to born as Hindus. It's akin to criticizing our government and our leaders. If such institutions are revered for far too long, they become authoritarian which in turn will result in suppression of our freedoms. When a religion is not questioned for too long, it turns dogmatic which in turn will curb creativity and individual expression. We don't want that to happen.

Why do I publish something that hurts the sensibilities of people?

I ask, why not?

It's for each of you out there to read what I write or choose not to read it. I am not mailing this into your cozy castles (called homes) or telecasting it on prime time television. Frankly, I don’t want to convert Hinduism into a dogmatic, authoritarian and peevish religion where sensibilities are hurt by every little criticism and question.

I am told that I fail to understand the ‘greatness’ of Hinduism. According to these 'upholders of the faith', this greatness can be realized only if I read certain books in a certain way, certain slokas in a certain way, often interpreted by certain elite gurus. I am told that a common man fails to understand this 'elite and profound' religion and therefore tends to criticize it.

On the other hand, I am of the opinion that I belong to a different breed of proud Hindus who believe (very much) that we need to criticize this religion to ensure it is not hijacked by fundamentalists and peevish devotees. We don’t consider the so called ‘experts’ to be experts at all. We discard their elite version of Hinduism which requires a degree in theology followed by a six-year course in Upanishads, followed by meditative course under a Banyan tree in some remote village in Bihar to understand it or follow it.

I say, if this religion is not for a common man, then please pack it up and go to some resort to make it an elite cult. Don't let it stand as a mainstream religion for a common man!

Why do I support people’s right to convert?

Many Hindus feel really horrified when they get to know that certain churches and clergy men from foreign lands come to India with big monies to convert their innocent brethren Hindus into Christians.

My take on this is very simple. We have discriminated, punished, ostracized, and excommunicated certain Hindus for thousands of years, and when these wretched lot finally get a chance to go to a place of worship, send their kids to schools, and avail medical facilities, we actually protest the methods that give them this dignity?

If people want to convert, they have their right to convert. I don’t fear conversions, and I don’t fear the increase in populations of Christians and Muslims. And why should Hindus even fear? Their own ranks are being swelled by massive pouring of babies from BIMARU state Hindus to compensate for any loss elsewhere. The percentage of population of Hindus remains unchanged for many decades now.

Each of us has right to chose our religion. Any law or enactment that prohibits or stops an adult from choosing his/her religion is directly in contravention of our constitution and its principles. No logic or rationale can explain why such conversion should be stopped or controlled.

Why don’t we have laws that punish people who denigrate our religion just like some Islamic nations?

I would rather have NO punishment for criticizing or hurting any religion. Instead of applying that 'no punishment rule' to Islam and Islamic nations, some peevish Hindus want to include Hinduism into those retrograde laws. What I am fighting for is this- Don't make Hinduism dogmatic and authoritarian that suppresses individual expression (even when that expression includes downright criticism, ridicule and insult).

Some suggest that we should stop discussing religions on public forums. They do not understand that respect does not diminish with discussing, criticizing, ridiculing, and insulting the religion. On the other hand, such discussions, criticism, ridicules and insults allow people to vent their anger, express their feeling and allow the religion to accept diversified views. I would rather berate and bash up my religion to make sure it doesn't turn dogmatic.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Back to ‘Land of Idiots’

I went on a small trip to North America and I am back in India now. I should have waited for a while to sink in the irrationality of Indian driving before I took my car out. Instead of waiting, I just started driving on the left side of the road making a mental map that I shouldn’t be driving on the right side. I reached a crossing where there is no traffic light or a cop to handle the traffic. And what a chaos it was! Nobody was letting the other go, and soon all the four sides poured their battalions into the center. There was no letup by any party. For more than five minutes the traffic stood standstill, and even when it cleared, it did only in trickles, one motorcyclist escaping here and there. I remember the announcement yesterday on the airplane, ‘Welcome to India!’ Rather it should have said, ‘Welcome to Land of Idiots!’

I stood there amazed at the sheer idiocy of our people at this traffic junction. Common sense suggests that if you let one side go, you will eventually get your chance, so that all can reach our destinations soon enough. However, in an effort to fight that one second, we tend to lose out five minutes. The profoundness of the situation cannot be missed. This attitude- to fight the battle tooth and nail but to lose the war- is seen in almost every sphere of Indian life. Either it is construction of our new house, or a new road, or a new product, we try to make gains in the near term and lose out on the long term. The spectacle that was unfolding before my eyes was just beautiful. It was a presentation on India in a ten-minute snapshot. One could see India, here at this traffic junction. Bereft of common sense, we just tend to fight it out not knowing what we are gaining. The bullies are happy to know that they have beaten the other guy buy a feet of encroachment. The wimps just tag along, are pushed into a corner, and just add up more volume to the mess. Those behind you, who are not right in the center, yell at you to move forward though they can see with their own two eyes that there is no way anyone can move forward. The taxi drivers trudge forward as if they are going to hit you next. The bus driver contributes by blaring his big horn incessantly. This is the same in Indian Parliament, in every Indian office, more bickering and blaring and less of intelligent debate.

There is no escape. The sheer idiocy hits you in your face To even suggest that this country can produce an iota of intelligence or a scintilla of logic and rationality is downright blasphemy.