Ask the right questions

Dasara Greetings to all!

We celebrated Ayudha pooja and Vijaya Dasami during the past two days. Celebrating Ayudha Pooja has always reminded me that some traditions are good to be kept as they reiterate some very important values in human life. Of course, like any other festival this too has mythical references – Goddess Shakthi executing Mahisasura and Ayudha pooja was the day when her weapons were laid for worship. Many many version to the stories exist.  Myths apart,  our festivals have a purpose.

Ayudha pooja – means worship of tools. Tools that help our profession, books that enrich our knowledge are kept at par with God and worshiped on this auspicious day. They are cleaned, decorated and worshiped. Even vehicles are washed and decorated with flowers.

Traditions such as these have reminded us to love and respect the things that help us grow. We attach divine values to non-living tools. Such values can take a man higher.

Every festival in India, immaterial of which religion it represents holds hidden values in stories told or ceremonies performed. Some have explicit social values. Like, how much ever far we go into change and modernity, on festive occasions we wear clothes of our region, chant mantras and eat food that belongs to our soil. We identify ourselves with history and ancestry. Also, all festivals bring together the family. They open the gates to quality time and relaxation from the fast-paced daily routine.

At the same time, I have personally taken to condemn certain traditions, such as the ceremonies done to a girl who has just attained puberty. Who can see sense in announcing a girl’s coming of age to the public. I have felt that I shall never allow such traditions to pass on in my family.

Sometimes, if we study with care, we can notice that some tradition existed for many other reasons and they are definitely not the reasons we perceive them to happen for.  We do not know to ask the right questions, but we often know to infer wrong answers!

I must cite Anita Desai here! She has given a beautiful introduction write-up to Attia Hosain’s ‘Sunlight on a broken Column’ novel.  She says that in India the past lingers on and never disappears. One form of it is traditions and customs that are followed without a question. We don’t know why we do it, but we do it.

Killing the tradition is no nobility. Living with customs that kill rational reasoning is no virtue. Let’s learn to question. Let’s learn to infer the answers right!

Introduction to Attia Hosain’s ‘Sunlight on a broken Column’ novel by ANITA DESAI… First few lines ..

In India, the past never disappears. It does not even become transformed into a ghost. Concrete, physical, palpable – it is present everywhere. Ruins, monuments, litter the streets, hold up the traffic, create strange islands in the modernity of the cities. No one fears or avoids them – goats and cows graze around them, the poor string up ropes and rags and turn them into dwellings, election campaigners and cinema distributors plaster them with pamphlets – and so they remain a part of the here and now, of today.

In other ways, too, the past clings. As sticky as glue, or syrup. Traditions. Customs. “Why do you paint a tika on your baby’s forehead?” “Why do you fall at your father’s feet and touch your forehead to the ground?” “Why does a woman fast on this particular day?” “Why bathe in the river during an eclipse?” “Why does the bridegroom arrive on a horse, bearing a sword?” It is the custom, the tradition. No further explanation is required than this – it has always been so, it must continue to be so.

If there is a break in that tradition, then – “what will happen?” Things too terrible to be named. The downfall of the family, the society, of religion, of the motherland, India herself.

So a woman will paint a tika on her baby’s forehead, a young man touch an elder’s feet, a marriage need to be approved not only by parents but an astrologer as well… and so life is lived according to its rules, rules prescribed by time, centuries of time.

Of course time moves in other directions as well – TV and radio sets invade homes, the sari is given up for jeans, the old astrologer laughed at and the priest avoided, the past scorned. But it remains. Like the colour of one’s skin, and eyes, it remains. It does not leave.

Attia Hosain’s novel and collection of short stories are monuments to that past: the history of north India, before Partition. …..

These shots are just some random clicks that I took yesterday at my house pooja room.

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Scenes from Pooja at home!

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Offering to God on Ayudhapooja

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Anna Lakshmi sits on rice with Komaadha (Cow god) behind – Scenes from Pooja hall

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Lakshmi from a Kerala traditional brass lamp

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Baby Lord Krishna

I will never call it suicide…

Name of the book: Don’t call it suicide
Author: Nissim Ezekiel
Type: A play, Drama
Set up: India, Indian family home

Don’t call it suicide, is a play by Nissim Ezekiel. It will bind you to change your opinion about suicide. Not all are strong and competent. When you deprive someone of the love and support they need, you help them find their place in this world that houses all kinds of people.

People who give in on their life are often considered weak. ‘Don’t call it suicide’ sees the other side of the coin. It says, may be, the people around them were insensitive or too sensitive about them.

It knocks sense into our understanding of love and support. Do we accept people for who they are ? In the name of love, what is it that we offer our loved ones? Many questions rise and fall like the incessant waves on the sea after reading this small play by Mr. Ezekiel.

He dives deep into the conscience of the characters. It is a single family and they are all so different from one another. He makes them talk to the audience and they all have their justification to their character.

A typical mother who despite her grief of losing a son, tries to move on for the best of her family. She does not understand why he took his own life. So she refuses to acknowledge it as a suicide. She often asks her husband to call it death and not suicide. She does not care to understand the reason behind her son’s sudden suicide.

However, the father wants to know. He cannot move on because he has to know. When he sees that the suicide is a collective mistake of the family and the society’s insensitive behavior. He knows he cannot call it suicide. In a way, it’s a murder.

Such depth in the portrayal of characters is incredible in the play. The playwright has so beautifully introduced them to us with their words and expressions , with no necessity of much description. He has addressed feminism through the widow wife of her dead son. The real victim of the situation being her who is trapped forever in a life that lacks empathy.

A few lines from – Act 2 Scene 2

Nanda: How can anyone be not responsible for his own failure?

Sathe: Well, he may be temperamentally incapable of meeting society’s standards of success. If those standards were more flexible, if they provided more space, you understand for different temperaments, the so-called failure would feel free to live his own life according to his own preferences.

Nanda: What do you mean by more space?…………..

Sathe: ………. I mean tolerance, freedom, understanding. Not insistence on our terms for accepting people but acceptance of their temperament.

 

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Nissim Ezekiel