Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Religion-my two bit

I was born a Hindu, a unique one at that. I am a beef eating, non-Diwali/holi/any important Hindu festival celebrating, “other backward caste Hindu”. Other backward caste (OBC)… caste was so insignificantly backward that it got slotted in "others". Don't you hate it when something that you feel is important gets slotted in the after-thought of "others"? For instance, when you file an online resume, you might get options for the institutes that you have studied in. You scroll through the list of IIMS, XLRI and many others, and at the end of it you find “others”. Well, I digress.

I value Hinduism for its nonchalant attitude. You can pick any god you desire for worship, you can worship him any time or day you want, you are not compelled to visit the temple at regular intervals, you can eat anything you want (atleast an OBC malayali can). The mythologies are colorful and vibrant, each with an underlying moral of the triumph of good over evil. The Gods have human shortcomings too, Indra’s pride, Krishna’s slyness, Ram’s suspicion and weakness. You can easily relate to them, but blindly worship them? Not really.

I have always envisaged religion as a projection of a higher way of life. It should be something or someone who you look up to for guidance on how to fabricate your life. In the chaos of life we forget the essence of what religion is and focus only on the propagators; the Gods. I believe that God wants us to worship him not through sacrifices and poojas but by following the message that he has conveyed to us. Living our lives in accordance to the standards and system which defines the religion is the best way to worship God. I personally find pilgrimages to be a fruitless endeavor. Visiting shrines to capture a glimpse of a small idol among throngs of people never appeals to my vision of serenity and it is rare to find a temple in India which isn’t crowded.

I have read the Bhagavad Gita and some parts of the Vedas, the profoundness of which overwhelms me. It also made realize that humans as a species are dumbing down as each generation passes. The intellect of people who wrote these scriptures must have been extraordinary.

As I grew older, I found myself getting more detached from Hinduism and God in general. The angst of my youth made me question the benevolence of God after witnessing the pain the world is going through. It is somewhere during this period of distrust, that I chanced upon the saying in Buddhism “life is suffering”. Well, now here is a religion who admits that life is not a cake walk. I had always admired the quiet confidence that radiates from Buddha’s smile. In my view, Mona Lisa’s smile was a poor effort to capturing the mystical all-knowing element of Buddha’s smile. How Davinci chanced upon Buddha’s image beats me, maybe Richard Gere might have the answer to that.

The deeper I got into Buddhism, the better the realization that it is not only for monks in far off monasteries in the Himalayan valleys. The simplicity of the religion, the quiet detachment from materialism, the unconditional love, the purposeful self awareness, these appealed to me.

I guess everyone has a set of values that they are comfortable with and I found mine in Buddhism. Being a Buddhist doesn’t automatically make me a Buddha, just as being a Christian doesn’t make one Christ. So go slow on the assumption that Buddhists are monks who have thrown away all worldly attachments and have found Nirvana. I still make mistakes, some really dumb ones at that. But now I have something to look up to and judge myself against. This forms the essence of my religion.

I can empathize with the anger that people feel on being marginalized based on their religions. The stereotypes- Muslims have beards and turbans, Jews have long noses, Buddhists are bald- will always be there. But the more dangerous ones, like Jews are cunning, Muslims are terrorists etc. bother me. The holy war of the past, the Christian crusades by the church was one of the ugliest periods of humanity. Wars based on religion might never cease. The irony of it would be when a set of aliens would land on earth and see people fighting against each other. The aliens would accost a human from the midst.

Alien: What are you humans fighting for?

Man: Religion.

Alien: What is religion?

Man: (after a lot of thought) it is something where people believe in and worship an unknown, invisible power called God.

Alien: You mean you have never met God?

Man: ummm, that is right.

Alien: And you are massacring each other in the name of someone you have never seen in your life?

Man: it is not as simple as that…..

Alien(looks back at the alien standing next to him): When did these guys take control of earth? The last time we were here, didn’t women rule the planet?

Monday, March 9, 2009

Why do they cry?

It is the finale of the Indian Idol contest. Three contestants remain. The judge looks at one of the contestants(one who looks like she has just come out of a Oprah make-over session), ‘I am sorry’; the judge says, ‘your Indian idol journey ends here’. The camera pans over to the section where the contestants who have previously been eliminated are sitting, the camera zooms in on a pretty girl who on cue burst into a flood of tears. Cut.

Why do they cry? This apparently is not a singular incident. I switch channels to an extremely bitchy reality “on the road” contest, and again, tears and more of it. When I was a kid (darn, that sentence makes me feel so old) I used to watch plenty of TV shows/contest. The reality tag wasn’t invented then, but the whole process was more or less the same; a pool of contestants, elimination rounds and a winner at the end of it. Rarely will you find anyone crying, especially for someone else! None of the contestants nowadays cry for themselves. The dams always break when others get ousted.

Is it the outcome of a huge surge in the emotional quotient of the current generation? Extremely doubtful, especially after seeing the manner in which these ladies go at each other’s throats or as seen in the last episode of Roadies, each other's cloths. Empathy is the last quality that you might associate with any of them. It remains a great modern mystery. But what isn’t a mystery is the positioning of Sony’s new Vaio P Laptop on a woman’s derriere. An advertisement which shows in its entire duration, a woman’s posterior as it charges ahead is a strong visual statement for the demographic section of men in the age group of… well, all men. Sony has apparently made it acceptable to stare at a woman’s behind as long as you want, if one of their products is hanging out her back pocket. I wonder whether this is also applicable to their mobile phone products, since the chances of seeing a woman, an attractive one at that, with a laptop in her pants is extremely bleak as of now.

Sunday, March 8, 2009


I dread opening the business section of my newspaper these days. As consistent as a sunrise in the horizon, the paper reports with gleeful gloom the thousands of jobs that have been lost in the last few months and then predicts the thousands of jobs that are going to be lost in the next few months, including the rate of jobs lost/minute(for our convenience perhaps). This is grim news especially for me, for I am unemployed. The fact that might tickle your funny bone is the fact that I voluntarily decided to get unemployed. It was in the month of august of 2008 that I decided to quit my job of three years in the quest of money and fame in the glorious middle-east. I have been planning to descend upon the land of Dubai with the positivism of a pure breed Malayali. So the month following my resignation from the company, I decided to take it easy, living life as a procrastinating bum, after all what is the hurry, the money in Dubai isn’t going to dry up in a month, is it?

Pop! the bubble busted. The cracks began to show in the US of A. Slowly it spread through the world and with a dreaded certainty, the world economy crashed into recession. As if that wasn’t disheartening enough, Dubai, the land of my future dreams was selected for a greater fall, the real estate bubble which accelerated Dubai’s growth and reputation in the previous few years is no more. The wondrous man-made constructions like the Burj, Palm islands, ski Dubai which had stood testimony to the great new arrival of Dubai as a super star, trembled suddenly as reality struck.

So here I stand, jobless like many around this globe, staring at the paper and wishing that it was April 1st and this is all an elaborate joke by an editor with a wicked sense of humor. I was in denial, but hey! I am in good company. UAE, sensitive to the needs of people like me is considering legislation against publishing reports in the media which are detrimental to the country’s economic reputation. I completely support them and my motives are selfish, I admit. The last thing I want when I open the paper is further bad news. You may call it escapism; I dare to call it optimism. We all realize how bad the situation is! What I would rather find out is whether there are any ways out of it.

“Yes, we can!” exhorts the new president of USA. He has been left the shambles of a great country, in the worst economic recession since the Great Depression, a dirty and draining war in Iraq, and hatred towards his country from almost every person outside the US and quite a few within too. And what does the man say?.... Yes! we can! Now, this is the man I'd rather see as the editor of the newspaper I currently subscribe to. I can imagine the contents of the articles he write; positive, professional and pragmatic. The 3 P’s.

Have you noticed that there are significant elements of socialism ingrained in most of his plans. I wonder whether the commie-phobic majority of Americans realize that. His plan to levy heavier taxes on the richer segment of the populace, the restrictions on outsourcing of jobs, a focus on infrastructure and healthcare in order to maximize job creation, control over the major banks, they all have a great deal of socialism infused within. Some might criticize his restrictions on the free trade process, but for me, as long as he can revitalize the economy by any means possible, so be it. Hell, they started the downfall of the global economy; let them clean up the mess.

I guess he has realized that the Indian government is too spineless to oppose his sanctions against companies outsourcing American jobs. The handling of the Mumbai terror incident made it quite apparent that the tolerance level of the Indian government is comparable to zen masters. We had invented the word “Om” as Mr. Resul Kutty reminded us at the Oscars, so infinite patience is a cursed gift, I presume. If Obama has to succeed, he needs to choose his enemies carefully. The initial signs are encouraging. The manner in which he is working towards strengthening bonds with the Muslim world is heartening. My only peeve is the manner in which he isolated the Muslims by putting them in a different “world”. His speech identified them as the “Muslim world”, an instant creation of “us and them”.

Obama realizes and so do I, the fact that unconventional means are needed to get out of depression and recession. A World War might have been nice to restart the industrial machine. But in lieu of that unlikely event, a back to basics policy would be the key to revitalization. As I learned in economics some years back, the demand and supply equation forms the base of any market. If either element increases or decreases by a great margin, then chaos arrives. Just before the recession began in the US, the “wants” of the people were enormous, funded by borrowed money. You don’t have to be a genius to guess what will happen when you reach the peak of the demand curve. You fall with a resounding thud. What Obama is trying now is to admonish his subjects into tightening their belts, reduce the “wants” pile down to the level of the “supply” pile which he is simultaneously stimulating to grow with the trillion dollar budget proposal. There you go; a practical illustration of a lesson in economics. My economics lecturer will be proud of me.

Obama hasn’t put in a wrong foot wrong till now. However, it would be unrealistic to believe that he never will. As long as his intentions and plans remain as positive and noble as it is now, I wouldn’t mind the occasionally stumble and I would still look up to him for hope, await his moments of audacity when he says the three simple words, “ yes! We can!”