Monthly Archives: September 2009

>Fasting, feasting and all things in-between

>If I told you I fast all nine days during the Navratra, would you think I’m very religious? Or would you think I’m ritualistic?

No one has ever asked me to fast. I do it of my own volition and I do it the way I want to. I do not read the Durga Saptashati and I do not eat ‘fast’ food. I do it because I believe in the female form of the supernatural powers that be and I do it because it’s a good way to detox. I do not think that if I fast, God will be kinder to me and I do not think that if I do not fast, God will be unkind to me. I do it because it helps me exercise some of my will power on my errant ways. Ideally, the fast should not just be about abstinence from food, it should be about abstinence from all vices. However, that’s not a stage of evolution I have yet reached and therefore I abstain only from gluttony.

Why am I telling you this? I’m telling you this because a lot is said of the Hindu religion and the rituals that come with it. And though I’m not a theologian, I think it’s not the religion that stipulates the rituals, often it’s the people who make them up. A lot is also said about rituals without differentiating them from traditions while for me, there’s a great difference between the two. I love the elaborate Dusshera and Diwali pujas not because I’m ritualistic but because they are part of a tradition that reminds me of my carefree days as a child, the happy memories associated with the festive time. It’s a tradition I would like my children to partake in because any parent would want their child to experience the same happiness that they have felt.

Perhaps, I was able to enjoy the various pujas because they were not imposed on me and we participated in them because it was a time for family bonding. Perhaps, I was able to enjoy the pujas because it was a time for us to reaffirm our faith in God and not to reinforce superstitions. I realise this because I see a lot of people around me performing a lot of rituals without the teeniest bit of faith because it is not what their faith is about. And that’s why they feel it as a burden.

However, if we do not suspect our religion so much of perpetuating meaningless rituals, we may be able to understand that rituals are often symbolic. And if we do not agree with what they stand for, we have the choice to reject them. What is the point of education and life in a civilised society if we cannot make informed choices? My parents do not feed a pandit on the shraddha of their deceased parents anymore simply because they do not see the rationale behind it. Instead, they send some food to an orphanage. If the purpose of pitr paksha is to remember and offer respect to the dearly departed, feeding the needy should serve the purpose just as well. And surely, it’s better than feeding overfed pandits. I know a lot of women who do not keep a nirjal fast on Karva Chauth and that does not mean they love their husbands any less than those who do not have water. Personally, Karva Chauth has no significance for me except as a tradition that I observe only because I do not want to offend the elders in the family. And frankly, abstaining from food on a single day comes easy to me. Perhaps, at a later stage in life, I may stop observing this fast. And I’m sure my husband will still have a long life.

But what makes rituals binding on us? I don’t think it’s so much the religion as the society. If your mother-in-law wants you to perform a certain puja, why blame religion for it? Did Hanumanji really tell his devotees to abstain from non-vegetarian food on Tuesdays? I seriously doubt. Yet, his devotees abstain from non-veg and also alcohol because for some people, abstinence from your favourite foods is a way of offering respect to your favourite deity. In that case, it’s an act of faith. But some people do it without giving so much as a thought to why they do it and regret that they have to do it. Then it’s just a meaningless ritual.

You may totally disagree with what I’ve said here and that will not make me right and you wrong or vice versa. Because no one’s faith can be wrong. And you can’t disagree with that (?)


>Dead or alive?

>I have been in love for 12 years now and there are days when I feel totally out-of-love. Those are days when I wonder why him and why me? They are the same days when I wonder why I live with this man. But most days are better. Most days I tell him I love him and that he’s the best. I tell him I can’t live without him. And he nods his agreement.

But being in love for twelve years isn’t easy. It’s bloody difficult, if I tell you the truth. How do you love a man (or a woman) if you know all the flaws in his mental, emotional and even physical make-up? (No, I’m not blinded by my love.) How do you want someone when you can have them every waking minute? How do you not get bored of living with the same person all these years? Where do you get new things everyday to talk and share with each other?

Falling in love is so much easier than staying in love. While the former is easy, the latter is not. And there’s a school of thought that asks if you have to work on being in love, what that could be worth. But there’s another school of thought that says love isn’t something that can sustain you; you have to sustain it.

Or perhaps, love is not the right word for it. It’s chemistry. Or spark. Or that special something that keeps two people going. Perhaps, love can exist without much effort, but the spark can fizzle out so easily. And all you couples out there reading this, testify for the rest that that spark is ever so important!

The Guy and I used to have a lot of it – the spark, that is – in the five years that we dated each other before we got married. Don’t ask me how I know it, but I do. And somehow, one fine day – the day after our wedding day, to be precise – that spark disappeared. It vanished without a warning! And two very-much-in-love people were left clueless about what to do with all the love that was stored within their hearts for each other. Without the spark, how do we ignite the passion? Of course, we learnt later that we weren’t alone. There were many like us among our friends who had been excited by the chase and fallen into complacency at having got the prize. And that’s when we learnt that the spark wasn’t self-sustaining; it needed to be kept alive, it needed to be worked on, needed to be stoked to create a warm fire that will sizzle and crackle once in a while! I guess there is some chemistry involved there – how to mix the right ingredients to produce the right results.

Don’t ask me what I do to keep the flame burning because honestly it doesn’t burn as brightly all the time as I would want it to after reading enough Mills & Boons. But I also know that Mills & Boons is no realistic benchmark! But tell me if you agree that there is no eternal spark that can light up a relationship. Tell me also if you agree that love is no different and that both need to be kept alive. And if it’s not too much to ask for, share with me how you do it…

>Quote unquote

>I’ve just put down Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert and loved the book. Not just because I like the book so much for what it is but because I found one of my favourite quotes in there:

“I was never not coming here. This was never not going to happen.”

It’s a quote that sums up by my philosophy of life in no more than two lines and so much more beautifully that I ever could have.

And then I got thinking about all those lines that have stayed with me during so many years of reading. I first read Wuthering Heights in standard XII and the whole class of girls fell in love with the idea of the dark and broody Heathcliff. But there were these lines in particular that Catherine says of her love for Heathcliff that we ooh-ed and aah-ed over:

“If all else perished and he remained I should still continue to be; and if all else remained, and he were annihilated the universe would turn to a mighty stranger: I should not seem a part of it… I am Heathcliff.

Doctor Faustus is also one of my favourite reads because Christopher Marlowe seems to have written some two hundred years ago what all mankind can feel even now:

“Why this is hell, nor am I out of it.

Thinks’t thou that I who saw the face of God

And tasted the eternal joys of Heaven,

Am not tormented with ten thousand hells,

In being deprived of everlasting bliss?”

And there’s the simplicity if these lines in Alice Walker’s very complex book Color Purple that appeals to me:

I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.

Take the time to smell the flowers, to stop and see the beauty around you. Simple, ain’t it?

My fifth most favourite quote is from a famous play by Samuel Beckett called Waiting for Godot:

“Nothing to be done.”

You won’t know how much that line means if you don’t believe a little in existentialism – how we all exist for the sake of existing though there’s nothing really to be done in this life.

Those are a few of my favourite quotes. What are yours? I’d love to hear.

>Where am I?

>I’m in limbo. I seem to be moving on but haven’t left the past entirely. I seem to be at the crossroad of things, not choosing a turn but letting the road wind itself onto a new path. I feel I’m on the brink of change but I don’t know for sure. I don’t even know if the change will be for better or for worse, but this does feel like a lull before the storm.

I’m in the thick of things. I work and I pretend to work and then I look for more work. I get worked up. I write – for myself, for friends, for a newspaper, for money, for free. I click. I party. I entertain. I worry. I laugh. I cry. And it seems to me like I do nothing at all.

I do nothing at all. I wake up late, I sleep late. I google, I Facebook, I tweet, I blog. And it fills up my days and parts of the night. And I know it all amounts to nothing at all.

I’m aimless. I’m clueless. I have no idea where I’m heading. I don’t even know if I’m moving forward at all. Time might just as well have stopped. And yet it’s September already!

I’m at a place where I create new opportunities for myself every day: possibilities that don’t become reality. I plan, I imagine, I dream. And I try to set the ball rolling. It doesn’t seem to budge but in my head, I’ve set it rolling. And it makes me happy.

I’m at a juncture where I feel happy yet discontented. How can that be, you ask. I feel happy for what I have, where I am and discontented for where I could be, what I should have. I fill my life with good things and wait for the best to happen.

The fortune cookie says, “Some pursue happiness; you create it.” And I believe it.