Tuesday, January 19, 2016

What is it in a Temple Entry?


It really does not matter to a person like me if I’m barred entry to a place of worship. For, petitioning at such places has been a long forgotten or ignored matter. The acknowledgement and acceptance of the futility in frequenting temples or churches with the intent to petition and supplicate has prevailed. Fortunately! Often zealots among friends taunt me for my distaste for such socially and culturally responsible behaviour (as they say). So be it, I conclude.

But should one forfeit ones right to express an opinion in matters relating to such “socially and culturally responsible” matters? I guess not.

A few days ago a video message was circulated on the social messaging sites and it had a pretty looking woman who would pass off as a culturally endowed upper caste Hindu conveying to us the sinister plot behind the public interest litigation that challenged women being barred from the Sabarimala shrine.Her logic and inferences were banal and laughable. The very same bogey and trumped up anguish cultural custodians express when their traditional and debilitating hold over religion and social fabric is threatened.

Firstly this woman slanders the person and the sinister covert hands that she alleges have worked behind him to file a PIL in the Supreme Court against an age old (sic) temple custom. The innuendo which she subtly moulds towards the end of her exhortation is pathetic, coming from a woman. I suppose that she has not been enlightened to the historical fact that it was not that long ago women in Kerala fought against a vile custom that barred them from covering their bosoms. An inverse matter to the obnoxious purdaha and veil Islam dictates to women even to this day! Had those men and women who resisted that reprehensible custom that was enforced for ages in the name of tradition and culture succumbed to the vested interests and their criminally orchestrated pressures, this woman sitting in New Delhi would be speaking to us in a different physical appearance!

Perhaps the Young Lawyers Association whose member, a Muslim filed this particular PIL erred in not getting a Hindu to approach the court with the PIL? That would have voided the innuendo now being circulated about the sinister designs of pariahs out to denigrate and deracinate Hinduism and its age old values and customs. You see these are times of tolerance!

Further the lady in question speaks about the “Naishtika Brahmacharia” of the deity at Sabaraimala shrine and hence women who have attained puberty and have not come off the menstrual cycle are prohibited from visiting the shrine. I had no idea what goddam matter that was, though I have often heard people mention it. I checked a few web sites hosted by Hindu organisations and this is what I got, quite enlightening!

A quote from ancient purana, a discourse of a ‘rishi’ called Durvasavu. “…… . One who lives where there are no women observing celibacy is not the real ‘naishtika brahmachari’. The one who lives amidst women and is not caught in the sway of desire is in reality ‘vairagya brahmachari’ .Krishna who sings and dances with Gopikas without a sense of ownership is ‘parabrhamam’. His love and grace are property for all. He regards all alike, irrespective of gender. He lives without carnal desires in word, mind and deed, although he is the subject of love and attachment of everyone! He is the real “Naishtika Brahmachari”.
This rubbishes her claim as well as the oft repeated claim of custodians that the Sabarimala deity being a celibate, the place is out of bounds for women, (lest they sway the deity’s celibacy vows). Ouch!

What is so much the serious concern here is not the survival of myth, lore or the trumped up tradition and custom of the shrine, but the willingness to accept social transformation from the corroded, moth eaten customs and practices that we clutch to, like limpets- customs that have been used against women, women who were for centuries held servile and not (financially) empowered to resist the masochistic male mindset.

Noushad the president of Young Lawyers Association who filed the PIL was threatened and he even ventured to recall the PIL, which now the Supreme Court declined as it was seized with the matter and smelled foul. Question can be asked if the Supreme Court is an accomplice to the audacity of the young lawyer and his baleful intent. Laughable! The leaders who spearheaded the Vaikoam temple entry agitation in 1930s in Kerala, men like A.K.Gopalan and Kelappan too were hounded by the elite upper caste as renegades. Temple entry was denied for dalits and low caste. The usual exculpation of centuries old custom, Hindu tradition and values were put forth as reasons. AKG and other stalwarts were physically threatened. But the relentless movement of Time that takes with it maggot infested customs and practices, right to temple entry became a reality.

Yet another weak and erroneous argument in favour of this egregious custom is that women were barred entry to the shrine since ages- meaning hundreds of years. The fact is that   Sabarimala came into prominence after 1950s and in the 1970’s. History tells that the hill shrine was a detritus relic of Buddhist shrine later brought about as the abode of Hindu God after Buddhism waned and was routed from the peninsula. Age old practices are not inviolable or sacrosanct, often they are vile. Remember even Adi Shankaracharya could not escape the age old customs of his tribe.

As for the purity of mind and body that is required as a sine qua non for entry into Sabarimala, the fact of the matter will be monumental stories of hypocrisy, which will make us feel ashamed and abhor our human self.

Finally besides meaningful and symbolic end to a discriminatory male dictated practice shrouded in the name of Hindu faith and custom what can the right to enter Sbarimala shrine fetch women?  A few thousand women may venture there each season, a tiny fraction of the throng of devotees (sic) male who are there at any given time during the season. I do not have to be more explicit here as to what plight women would be put to amidst those vowed celibates.

Sabarimala is one of the most desecrated places in Nature. I have been there once and have no intention to journey there again and let me be plowed down by the apathy of devotees (sic) to what sustain us – Nature. I’m sure Gods must have long vanished from that hill abode faithful would want them in. It will be just and appropriate that the Lawyers Association also file  PIL against the rape of Nature in the Sabarimala Hills and also against the wretched “talaq and purdha” – yet other  symbols of Man’s depravation.


Most of all because the person who points out the bad in a community, faith , political or religious system is from an alien  belief , that doesn’t absolve or negate the evil of the system in question. Will it?

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Childhood Musings- "The Seven Tiles"



All that it takes to know what one missed in life is to pause and look back into one’s childhood. The bareness or near loneliness of child hood, without friends, being free to make friends, bring them home go to their homes, fly kites, play football and 7-tiles, cycle along together through narrow alleys, but could only watch from the sidelines with envy, what they  little fellows did. All that you always wanted to do as a child! Later, when one could gather the courage and temerity to venture out in the sly, enjoy and be delighted in the fun filled moments, you do that often not forgetting the severe reprimand and punishment that awaits you back home. Oh, those were miserable times from which those occasional rendezvous, clandestine ventures and rapture of those experiences can be savoured even today.

In childhood days the norm at home, a sort of joint family and which unfortunately was ruled by regressive despots who were often at loggerheads except in the matter that unified them and that was the dictum that ‘friends are dangerous and a child’s duty is to study and mind his lessons not play with friends’. So you can imagine the miserable state of mind and body of a child amongst such dystopic mindset.

Father and maternal grandfather were like the Old Major in the ‘Animal Farm’. There were also women heads that were quite capable of rivaling them in terms of regressive, domineering and annoying mindset. The standing decree that was to be zealously and unquestionably followed was that friends are peril and children shall not make friends, go out to play with any or to their homes, unless otherwise vouched and vetted by the elders. This monstrous state continued till late into my late teens when rebellion was the only recourse. The oft quoted role model was my maternal uncle who was the youngest of my mother’s siblings. This bloke my uncle, while he was kid and even later, in his youth would never let any of his school mates or neighbourhood boys into the perimeter of the house. When some school mates came looking for him, he met them outside the gate to the house and disposed them off there. He made no friends! He would not go out to play. After school, he would bother with his homework and lessons. What estimable quality! My mother and grandmother used to sing paeans of this guy. His story was often mentioned as example of good of good behaviour and grooming; what a child should do. The epilogue is that he is in his late seventies and hasn’t changed much.


Near where we lived, lived a family that had three boys of which two were my age and a little yonder a few more of fellows of my age. I suppose they were economically not in the same class as perhaps we were and ipso facto socially too, perhaps. Moreover these chaps were all going to the local government school of notoriety. It was also true that none of them were excelling in studies and were below average. I could not recall something more that could be added up against befriending those boys or spending some time with them playing innocuous games children play. Most evenings, after school I climbed and perched precariously on the wall to watch their revelry and banter. On few occasions I was attracted to venture out to where the kids were and join them that provoked severe rebuke and censuring at home. I can recall one evening that registered in my mind as ‘the evening of infamy’. I rebelled and was playing cricket with the boys. One of us hit the cricket ball pretty hard and it flew foolishly towards my house and landed on the terrace after bouncing of the terracotta tiles. It was my grandmother and aunt who secured the ball and refused to give it back and ordered that I go back home. Foremost, I was recalcitrant and the cricket ball was a hard nut - stone like and  the game with such nasty thing was dangerous to play. How I wished that the ground beneath my feet caved in and took me within, else would the earth split and took in both my aunt and the old grandma fore ever? It was piquant situation and I was shamed in front of those boys and their folks who were witness to the priggish and gauche of my folks.

There was an exception to the rule. There was a fellow in the neighbourhood with whom I was allowed to befriend; he could come home and I could go to his. But his folks were more churlish and annoying than my folks. They wouldn’t send him nowhere or befriend kids. Once we were given permission to visit the library and unbeknownst to us they send one of his elder cousins to shadow us and report if we were at the library or we took a detour or went elsewhere. I may have been about ten then and that incident still ranks as nonsensical attitude of grown-ups.

Later, in the teens ostensibly going to the British Council Library which was a kilometer away was a ploy to also spend time at the stadium near there and watch folks play. There were times when I would join some chaps to play cricket. However getting back home disheveled and soiled would blow the cover off the library alibi.

The fascination for cricket was rebuked as much as footballs, as both games were seen dangerous. The reason for sentencing football as a grievous sport was amusing and idiotic. One of my maternal uncles who were poles apart from the prudish younger fellow I mentioned before was once hit by a football on the chest while he was watching guys play the game. He ailed from asthma since then for quite some time, it was told. Remember he did not play but was a mere onlooker! Doesn’t that go to show how unsafe the sport is?

I was fourteen or fifteen and I managed about five Rupees stealthily from home and bought a pair of sneakers to attend the cricket coaching every evening at the stadium. An apparently convincing tale of late evening classes in school was the handout alibi. However the lid was blown off somehow, the cricket coaching ended abruptly and the sneakers confiscated.
Going to the movies was severely frowned upon and cinema was considered as of a medium that can debase children. But what I could not gather was what fucking moral corruption can happen if kids indulge in games and spend childhood as children naturally are inclined to- a vital aspect of healthy growing up?

Teens brought with it temerity. Summer vacations were spent in the uninhibited surroundings of Ambalapuzha. Swathes of green paddy fields, rivulets, brooks, backwater, and ponds added fascination to the milieu there, besides the ubiquitous groves with folklore surrounding each and huge mango trees that beckoned kids with their elixir filled succulence. Elder cousins were entrusted with life guard duties of taking care of kids from cities who were not trained to be buoyant in water. Not knowing to swim was often undermining one’s vanity. Local fellows took to water as fishes do while we were confined to the fringes and edges of the water and always under the watchful eyes of the elder cousins who were natives.


I guess I was thirteen or fourteen when the idea dawned upon me, well take swimming lessons and what better way than sneak out to the swimming pool in the city! A few hours in water there cost 50 paisa. Some friends were in cahoots and we used to slip away from school to take to the water. And swim we did, soon to be able to show jump and dive off the spring-board and the raised floors into the water.

Finally when it was time to make the summer trip to the country side, it was uncontrolled excitement , eagerness and joy abound that plowed me down; eagerness to see the faces of those folks there- the cousins gape in wonder about how this city lad swims in water. They just could not believe how I acquired the ability to swim and I dared not tell any.

(Pictures from Google)