My problem with religion

Recently there was an interesting discussion on my friend’s post on Facebook regarding her (not) teaching her daughter about religion. Said friend may or may not be an atheist but she felt that religion has gotten so distasteful that she’d rather not teach her daughter about it.

A few weeks back, cousin and her husband (both atheists living in the US after they moved from India) told me that they sent their daughter to shloka classes and what not because they wanted her to learn about her culture, where she came from and there were not many or actually none that were non religious avenues.

These two incidents made me think deeply. What is it about religion that scares people here and draws people there to become fed up/tolerant of religion. An interesting theory that I came up with is, any religious congregation in a minority is inherently tolerant & inclusive provided the minority does not despise the majority of the people around them.

Why do we despise people around us? What makes people think that they have to fight for their brethren who belong to the same religion. If there is injustice happening, anywhere, why is religion or nationality the biggest draw?

When G.B. Shaw said that patriotism is the vicest of all virtues,  why did he ignore the religious threats that came along? My argument is, in his time, patriotism was the biggest danger for humanity (As WW1 & WW2 proved)

I had a long and interesting if not unfruitful & flustering debate with my Christian teacher in my Anglo Indian School (who I adored BTW) about how the Pope looked the other way when Hitler & Mussolini went about their slaughter. Why didn’t the Pope get any bad rep ? After all, if the Pope had only said that the Jews and Christians were brethren and any act against the Jews is against Christianity itself, maybe the final solution would not have been that easy to proceed with. There are many articles claiming that Pope Pius XII did all he could and many proclaiming he didn’t do enough. However, I don’t think, in 1939, that the Pope could not get the Christian world united against a barbarian.

I have long wondered how true the oft quoted phrase ‘Religion is the Opiate of the masses’ is. I guess it’s true for many. Religion helps give the masses hope. That is the failure of humanity. That we need something as flawed as religion to give something as beautiful as hope. Religion, in general, has blatantly misused this privilege for eons.

In the Da Vinci Code, at the end, there is a wonderful phrase ‘religion is flawed, because man is flawed’ I love this phrase. Not because it forms a part of an interesting ending but because someone saying ‘Religion is flawed’ did not bring persecution of an author. Of course, The Church banned the book. Why did they not crucify? Not because they didn’t want to, but because the people who followed that religion have become more sensible and therefore The Church could not replicate barbarism of the medieval ages.

This has happened with many many religions. Human sacrifice that was common among most pre-abrahamic religions does not exist because the people who invented the abrahamic religions thought it barbaric. The newer religions (Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism) don’t even talk about procedures of prayer as much as they talk about serving humanity and leading a good life where you help others. Thus proving, religions evolve.

So why do religions with dubious and barbaric pasts still survive? Because, the main aim of religion, is survival and multiplying it’s numbers. Every religion around the world specifically the abrahamic ones are built on the premise that they are on earth to ensure that the rest of the earth is following the same religion. The beauty about that philosophy is that politics approves. So it’s almost like a continuous war fought on planetary scale to conquer the hearts and minds of the world. It will not stop till there exists even 1 person who does not ascribe to their faith.

If one religion is losing numbers, it fights back aggressively to survive. It uses every dirty trick available in it’s book (you’ll go to hell, your children will inherit your sins, your parents will never enter heaven) etc etc to survive. It’ll hit you with the lowest of blows, manipulate and use the innermost of your fears, bribe you, threaten you for survival.

The only thing that is keeping the human world from killing each other are those who recognize the flaws of religion and the most unrecognized human quality ‘basic decency’ that guides us. Also known as conscience. However, religion manipulates this conscience itself to mould it on it’s image. This if done long enough and early enough creates an army of warriors who think a flawed text is perfect and are willing to kill for it. And that is why, religion must die. I don’t think God will object.


Tale of a Fallen Hero

Incredible Stories From Indian History

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Today’s post is not going to be as long as the usual posts

With receding waters, Chennai city and suburbs on Saturday battled hard to pick up pieces of life but occasional heavy rains threatened to revive the ghost of flooding as lakhs of people in the worst-hit areas faced acute short supply of essentials including water, power, milk and food items.

Arterial Mount Road and several other important roads were opened for traffic on Friday after three days of disruption bringing a slight sense of normalcy as water levels in Adyar and Cooum rivers and other channels came down following reduced discharge of water from Chembarambakkam, Puzhal and Poondi, and Red Hills rivers dotting the city’s outskirts.

Among all this chaos, multiple stories of humanity have emerged.

Stories like a little girl in Pune who donated all her toys to Chennai children, Auto drivers in Mumbai asking their passengers…

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Janaki Atha

The last week was full of fun and celebration in our household. We(me and my wife) had come down to coimbatore to celebrate my dad’s 60th birthday with all his sisters and their families and my cousins. Like any gathering many made it and a few couldn’t. It also didn’t matter much that my dad discovered he was actually born a month later than what he’d known for 60 years. So we celebrated his ‘certificate’ birthday while he is jet setting to europe to celebrate his actual birthday among the gladiators. Two things made me write this post. Diogeneb was the trigger but….

A discussion we had amongst ourselves about her (she passed away a few years back) about how her lives had touched ours. We spoke about how she was not our favorite early on but she became a favorite over the years. We spoke about forgiveness, love, affection, familial bonding etc. I spoke about the stories I heard but I was soon reminded that I should only talk about the stories I lived. I realized how amazing she was for me. She was my dad’s dad’s sister. I called her Atha (meaning aunt) because my dad called her that. And it stuck. She never corrected me. She was cool like that.

Through they years, she came to stay over in our house every summer for the ram navami functions that were held in her sammandhi’s place. Since the festival took place during the March-April period, it invariably fell during my annual exams. As most people from the 90s would remember, Annual exams were a very stressful period for a child. I was hardly 10-11 years old when she started coming home. In those days, we had exams in schools in a 2 1/2 or 3 hour period with a morning shift of exams and an afternoon shift. All the sub high school kids wrote in the morning while 7th std and above wrote exams in the afternoon. Both my parents were working so every day after a stressful exam I would come home to an empty house with janaki atha there. Every day without fail I would have a cold glass of rooh afza waiting for me. I would sip it while she would go to the kitchen and mix the first rice (sambhar) and bring it with some koora (sabzi) and a helping of something crunch like mixture or chips or appalams. This was at 11 – 11:30 AM. I would complain saying this was not my lunch time yet. She pulled a masterstroke by telling me it was ‘brunch’. I felt so privileged to be eating a meal that no one has ever served me in my life till then that I was more than happy to oblige. Now that I think back, it’s amazing a 60 + yr old lady from the villages knew about brunch in the 90s. If the exam had gone well, I’d be chirpy and we’d have a good time eating and talking about what I wrote. I would explain all my answers and we’d calculate together to see how many marks I’m likely to get. This was all top secret of course because for my parents the exams always went ‘well’. This was doubly useful because for annual exams we wont get our answer sheets. Only the final rank if we called the school and the usual ‘pass’ or ‘fail’ result post card by mid April.

My Janaki Atha loved rasam rice. She had a peculiar way of eating it. The rice mixed with hot (heated on the stove) rasam would almost be of soupy consistency but on the plate not a bowl. She’d make a cup using her hand like how we do for taking theertham from temples and scoop the rasam with rice in a beautiful motion and slurp it in her mouth. There would not be a drop of rasam either dripping on her hand nor any from her mouth. In next to no time she would be scooping the next bit. I used to watch her in awe when she did that. I thought rasam was too advanced for me so I first tried that with thick curd rice diluted with a little but of rasam to make it slushy but not liquidy. It took me 2-3 months but I’d perfected the curd rice. Now I took it to the next step for the grand inauguration of that technique in a family function. To put it mildly, my parents said if I don’t stop slurping I won’t be given food. Needless to say, I stopped the slurping. But I never managed to do what my Janaki Atha did. Even though secretly I’ve tried it many times at home far into adulthood (shhh).

Once we were done with lunch, I was allowed 2 hours of *rest* before I had to start studying. Being the ‘kaamchor’ that I was, I’d immediately say I was hungry about 20-30 minutes into my ‘study’ time that was mostly spent talking to an imaginary villain who attacked my home and held my grandmother hostage while I rescued her with the contents of my geometry box. My divider was my secret weapon that could be controlled by my protractor. Knowing that a child’s protests were impossible to deflect, she figured the best way to calm me down was to give me a snack. Grandmothers, unlike mothers, are excellent at making snacks with leftovers. Hence I found my milk bikkies sandwich. A Delightful preparation on two milk biscuits with a sandwich of jam and mixture/karasev. This followed by a cold glass of rose milk and even I couldn’t complain. By the time all this nakra was done, my mom would be back from office and would realize that I had barely started my preparation for the next day’s exams. All hell would break lose, I would be sat down and made to study till I finished my syllabus. The same story would repeat the next day.

I still remember my Janaki Atha like this. I’ve decided that this is the only way I am going to remember her. Love you Janaki Atha. Thank you.


The perfectly imperfect after school snacks of the 90s

I am going home to coimbatore this weekend. It’s a momentous occasion because my dad’s retiring and with that event we may move out of the home I grew up in. While I was thinking about this all the good and bad times came flooding into my mind. Nothing more than how dad used to pick me up from school and we picked up a few evening snacks on our way home.

My evening snacks were an adventure for me. Everyday I would wait to see if my favorite snacks were available. Three of them specifically come to mind.

1) Chutney Sandwich

2) 25 paisa onion samosas

3) Kalaan (roadside mushroom)

Each of these three snacks have a particular set of circumstances under which their availability would be assured. This post is going to talk about how each of those three snacks was special in their own way.

Chutney Sandwich : The sandwich itself was nothing spectacular. It was two slices of white bread with butter on one side & a mint coriander & green chilli chutney on the other. There are two reasons this is special. I realized I hated sandwiches only because of the crust of the bread being left off (these guys removed the edges). The second reason is my mother. She would come home tired from office at 5:30. I’d wait patiently & hungrily from 4 till she came home so that she could work her magic on that sandwich. Within 15 minutes that sandwich would become something yummy. mostly, veggies that were leftover from my tiffin box or raw vegetables that I hated eating. In fact, it’s thanks to this sandwich that I even had any raw vegetables at all. I still hated carrot so all that would be added was cucumber, onion, tomatoes and if my mom had time/mood, boiled potatoes. On those occasions when potato roast was on  the lunch menu, that would get added to the sandwich too. Those were my favorite sandwiches ever. I loved them so much, I sometimes used to run early from class to get those sandwiches (shop was close to my school) so that I could get them before they were sold out. I’ve had sandwiches that were more expensive, better crafted etc, but those sandwiches that first introduced me to the world of sandwiches remain by far my favorite. It’s a taste I still search for wherever I go.

25 Paisa Onion Samosas : In our school canteen, they had two types of samosas. One was the ‘regular’ samosa which sold for Rs. 1.50 & second was the ‘Bombay Samosa’ which sold for Rs.2.50 both of which were princely sums in my childhood. However, I didn’t like either because the 1.50 samosa had kabuli channa that was usually too hard for my liking and the bombay samosa was frankly too costly to be had daily. One day when I was coming back with my dad, he stopped to buy something from a kirana shop. I saw another shop nearby in that ‘complex’ which had a wonderful fried onion aroma coming out. It was a strange shop. It was not a bakery, nor was it a eating joint. In fact, I’ve racked my brain to picture it but I cannot think beyond the cashier on his desk and maybe two items that I’d eaten there. That was the first place I realized that samosas could be bought for 25 paisa!! I could get 6 samosas for the price of 1 in my canteen. My dad didn’t like them too much but I loved them. I used to buy 1 dozen samosas for 3 rupees!!! and I used to eat about 8-10 of them in the evening. they were bite sized samosas but they were AWESOME!! I still drool thinking about them. The samosas would have an oily but tasty coating with crisp skin at the corners and soft skin in the center of the triangle on the outside. The masala on the inside would just be spicy sauted onions that would be sweet from the onions and spicy from the green chilli. The combination was delectable (which explains why I’d have 8-10 of them as a teenager). Apart from their awesome taste, the reason these held such a special place in my heart is, the days my dad was late and I couldn’t get my favorite sandwiches, this samosa saved the day. Gradually, I began preferring them to the sandwiches 😛 sometimes ending up making ‘samosa sandwich’ myself and presenting it to my bemused mother when she came back. She hated oily food and usually made a face but she’d take a bite and give me the rest which I was more than happy to gobble up 😀 This samosa was probably my first comfort food/craving as well now that I think about it. I’ve never found them as good anywhere else. I still miss those damn samosas.

Kaalan (roadside mushroom) : In Tamil Nadu, specifically in coimbatore, the 90s saw a veritable boom of roadside ‘chat shops’  basically they would make one concoction of chole masala. one concoction of pani. some basic boiled yellow toor dal. However, the best thing in their shop (that I liked the most) was the gobi & mushroom :D. I discovered mushrooms very late in my youth, maybe when I was 15-16. I had this habit of watching all cookery shows with my mom. In those days in star plus every morning at 8 AM (I think) we used to get this cookery show with international chefs. I have no idea who they are now but I remember each of them specialized in a cuisine. One day I distinctly remember, the chef said he was making food with ‘milky white mushrooms’ I scoured every grocery store (since I’d accompany my dad for the provisions) and asked every vegetable vendor for mushrooms (because the dish had a green dot). I used to specifically say ‘milky white mushrooms’ but to no avail. Most didn’t even understand what I was trying to buy. One day my dad bought these packets with holes that contained little beautiful mushrooms with these little black dots on them. I was immediately reminded of Tintin and the shooting star with those red dotted things and realized my dad had bought mushrooms 😀 I was overjoyed to say the least. My mom without any internet or cook books randomly made some amazing curry with mushrooms that only moms can and since then it’s been my favorite ‘vegetable’. So back to me at the counter of this pani puri fellow and he said he had ‘kalaan’ I had no idea what that was but it smelt divine!! I went home and asked my dad what kalaan was and he told me it was mushrooms 😀 Yayyy!!! since then my evening snack became two packets/portions of that kalaan whenever I could. I had this specific way I wanted it to be cooked. I liked it to be cooked till it was dry so it shouldn’t have liquid but will be slightly wet. It should have a little crunch in the middle so not too much of the ‘juice’ they used for cooking the mushrooms. No ajinomoto because mom said it was bad for me. Extra raw onions on the top because I love raw onions. No lemon because it overpowered the taste. This was my love affair between my 10th and 12th board exams. If I was hungry, kalaan. Bored, kalaan. Going for a scooty drive, kaalan picked up. I loved it so much I even ate it for dinner if my mom made a vegetable I didn’t like (I was a brat then). The funny part is, I think the reason I loved it was for the masala. Frankly I don’t think there was too much mushroom in there. But the taste was DIVINE!!!

Anyway, ladies and gents, these were my favorite after school snacks growing up. I wish they were still available but the chutney sandwich place closed down. The onion samosas guy disappeared when I hit 10th standard. The kalaan guy made shit loads of money & is gone now from my neighbourhood. I still wish I could go and eat them sometimes. I search for them every time I make a visit home in hope that my memories can come flooding back and I have that moment of pure joy that always comes when you have your favorite after school snack after a long day of being lectured. Do you have any favorite after school evening snack that you still crave for? I’d like to know.


monotony

Freed from the plight of life un led,

crawling towards the light of infamy.
what have we done to the present day’s bread
thrown with the glutton for littany.

to move from the column of lead
without yourself becoming dead?
to write or wrong from time un fed
do you stop the moments instead?

routinely moving from bed to bed
not a difference in how you feel
looking outside but closing when there
for fear of ruining the monotony.


monotony

Freed from the plight of life un led,

crawling towards the light of infamy.
what have we done to the present day’s bread
thrown with the glutton for littany.

to move from the column of lead
without yourself becoming dead?
to write or wrong from time un fed
do you stop the moments instead?

routinely moving from bed to bed
not a difference in how you feel
looking outside but closing when there
for fear of ruining the monotony.


Caught in the maelstorm

I always have wondered how our actions affect our loved ones. Today’s expose about Sreesanth and gang indulging in spot fixing has highlighted a different angle which I’ve never even thought about. How does one handle humiliation in media glare? How will, for example, Sreesanth’s parents be ever able to face neighbours who used to stream in and congratulate when their son was doing so well? It is not as if he has done something that is just illegal, he has done something that is immoral as well. Parents who have forever thought of their children as hardworking sportsmen will now have a taint upon their lives forever. This being particularly true in a highly media friendly & publicity intensive sport like cricket. Sreesanth’s parents are at another unique situation where their son is all the more publicity craving, unpopular and considered a downright menace. It was hard enough for them to defend their son’s antics on and off the field, now the added burden of their son being a cheat who brought disrepute to the game and not to mention in all probability and reason going to be banned for life from. How do you defend the undefendable? Sure you can always come out and say ‘hey he didn’t kill people’ but, he did destroy the escape hatch for millions. Cricket in India is almost an escape causeway from the dreary dirty world of day to day existence. Unlike movies, which people believe to be larger than life. Cricketers were always demi-gods. Very rarely do you get generational cricketers who’ve grown up with the silver spoon in their mouth. This is unlike the worlds of either Cinema or Politics which are the only ones apart from cricket that can call upon a following of indefatigable fans. Cricket has always been the game where what you do on the field mattered more than what you did off it. That is what Sreesanth destroyed again. I saw harshac boghle’s tweet that said ‘India forgave too easily after 1999-2000’ the truth is, India didn’t. I know most of my relatives who were 18+ in 1999 just gave up on the game. And every interesting match after that year was always tainted with the slogan ‘it was fixed machan’ either over drinks or filter kaapi match fixing had become the soutan of the cricket lover. ever present, uncomfortably and unwanted but who we are stuck with because of a moment of indiscretion. Anyway, I hoped for ‘Say it ain’t so Joe’ but its too late for that now. This moment right now, is my Hansie Cronje moment. I am however glad that the cricketer concerned wasn’t anywhere close to the pedigree or class of Hansie Cronje. That I guess will be the ironic relief that us cricket lovers must learn to live with. At least it wasn’t Sachin. Once again.


Sorry

What a terrible last couple of weeks. Women who were seething anyway mostly consoling themselves that nothing can be done about the groping, letching and ‘brushing’ which they experienced on day to day basis have been shocked by what happened to a yet to be of voting age girl (not a woman, just a girl) manhandled…scratch that molested? Nope. Not strong enough. Violated by 50+ men for over half an hour!!!! HALF A FUCKING HOUR!!! That’s the amount of time an episode of  MasterChef Australia comes on TV in HD, the amount of time an episode of How I Met Your Mother lasts. It’s not a few seconds where you don’t realize what’s happening and are in shock. No siree. It’s the amount of time where you’re in shock followed by fear followed by anger followed by helplessness and finally ending in resignation. This girl…all of 17…went through it. There are worse things that happen to girls that age in this country of course. Rape. Marriage. Marriage and then rape. Rape and then Marriage. Funny how most of these things have one thing in common, an overpowering man.

I have for a very long time tried to understand which part of the animal/mammal left in man is responsible for rape. However, the time I’ve spent watching the discovery channel or Nat Geo even Eminem videos, men or the male species of every animal first fights among itself for the right to mate then woos the female and only on her consent does it even approach the female. The FEMALE of every fucking species chooses the man it wants to mate with. So animal kingdom can be left out of the equation.

Let’s take insects then. The most organized or highly developed societal insects are the ants & the bees. The bees/ants have 1 QUEEN and a million workers and a few drones who mate with the queen only when called to action (so to speak) so it’s not from insects either. So who could’ve given it to us men?

The elusive ‘God’ (not the particle version. That is real). Let us just examine the metamorphosis of religion into a one stop authorization mechanism used by men (scrupulous and otherwise) to justify acts. Child Marriage, sati (still prevalent in Rajasthan some people say), sharing women after marriage (without consent), polygamy (in the garb of obsolete tradition), not allowed to participate in religious functions during periods, not allowing women into officialdom of religion (because god meant it that way). Through all these acts, men have it hardwired into them that women are of second class. In fact most men have to unlearn this to even accept that women and men are equal. On self-introspection, I am disgusted to learn that I actually think I am better because I think men and women are equal. Not NORMAL but BETTER. This might be a unique case of me alone or it could be more prevalent even among liberal men. Which again brings me to another question, what does being liberal/conservative have to do anything with treating women as equals. Why do we need to ‘treat’ women in the first place? Do we ‘treat’ other men?

I have been reading blogs of women opening up about abuses stored in the darkest parts of their memories. Painful, violating memories. The kind of things that we lock up and throw away the keys. Things like cheating on a partner, killing someone, stealing. Things that prick our conscience. But here’s the TERRIBLE part. All the things that we lock and throw away the key to are OUR mistakes. These women had to do it for something which they could do nothing about. These were not THEIR mistakes but still the scars are similar to the cases I pointed out earlier. Why? Again, it’s because of our so called ‘culture’. If a man rapes, the woman tempted him (just take a look at the moral stories we were fed, Vishwamitra is one that comes to mind. Even Jesus, the woman was the sinner, not the men who slept with her. Lop sided logic? Please give your comments about such lop-sided moral stories you can think of). Btw, I’m not trying to pin the blame on religion. All I’m saying is, we need to start teaching kids stories about respecting women. Nothing is as powerful as a story.

And to all the women who’ve been groped, brushed, violated by men, All I can say is sorry that the ones who didn’t and wouldn’t failed you by keeping quiet. I for one, won’t (have never seen a case either).


Beauty of knowing you’re screwed

Over the last 1 and half months, I’ve been working almost 16-18 hrs a day, Getting bitten and chewed by every tom dick and harry (they are pseudonyms for thamizhvaanan, dhinakar and harichandran) in my office. Life was filled with showstoppers and I was left wondering where was the show before I realized I was the show.

In all this irony of being the star attraction in a show which I was basically flogged while everyone evaluated the depth of the flog marks and the decibel level of my screams, I realized a beautiful truth. I wasn’t alone. Everyone was getting flogged and evaluated by someone. Being an atheist, I also didn’t have to worry about who was evaluating God. Life was one big ugly 360 degree appraisal where everyone was screwed by someone (well almost).

After this great truth which came when I was getting piss drunk on the last day of the EPL season when it seemed Arsenal were collectively more drunk, sloshed and had more luck than Ireland (not the Stephen kind, poor bastard) the whole world began to make sense for a nanosecond between arsenal taking yet another corner and koschielney scoring a goal which seemed too amateurish to be true. All the world’s a stage was a very stupid statement. All the world was a prison with prison rules. All of us belong to gangs. There are essentially 4 types of people in general. Let me try to give those 4 types which I thought of randomly.

1) The Silver Spooners :

This is the guy/girl whose biggest problems in life is not whether the money will run out but what will you do with it. They are either extremely conscious of their wealth or flaunt it. Their entire existence depends on them being in the good books of their parents. Hence rape is ok but missing puja is not. These people tend to wander till 30 after which they join daddy’s business and make more millions before dying surrounded by friends and family.

2) The ladder climbers :

This group has been drilled from birth that they are not the silver spoons and they have minor amounts of sothu to fall back on. They have had a sip of most luxuries but can’t afford more than that. They HAVE to work their arses off to stay ahead of other ladder climbers. This group has also been told that there are only 3 ladders available to them BE+MBA/MS, MBBS+MD+FRC, BCom+CA/IAS. This group will dream of doing things which the silver spooners do. They save money for 6 months and then feel too chicken to spend it doing what they want so they’ll put it in a PPF account. This group dreams that their kids will atleast belong to the silver spooners group. Most people in this group ignore health to save up till 40 and spend extra from 40 treating Diabetes, BP & Heart disease. Most survive till old age but feel miserable even then.

3) The first timers :

These people have a terrible childhood which they realize only after they enter the ladder climbers group and then they realize how miserable they were. They wish they could go back to  being first timers without tension but with money. These people think they can jump to become silver spooners. They detest ladder climbers more than anything else.

4) The We’re screweders :

This group is just trying to stay alive and die with enough money to pay for their funerals. They are a sad lot for whom life has dealt the worst hand. They have a determination to survive and come apocalypse, they’ll get their chance. They are also the most humane of all groups. They’re eco friendly and don’t throw stones or abandon their pets. They would spend their last penny for ones they love. They don’t bother faking emotions or have dual personalities. They truly enjoy the small moments in life.

So, in the end, I realized I belonged to the ladder climbers. Diabetes, BP,Heart attack, here I come.


above sorrow

Sitting down on a plastic boat,

floating on four legs on the floor,

leaning back rolling the years

seemingly reliving my eternal fears,

looking up to see athe golden twirl

of the rotor or motor doing the twirl

bits of gold and brown combine

like a pretty picture of grime in a gold mine

the shiny brass fooling all below

dangling like a grape above sorrow

then came the woosh of wind bringing alive

the feeling of melancholy that had engulfed the room.