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Astras To Vimanas… (Missiles to Spaceships)

Hindu Puranas were/are full of flying machines. Gods and Goddesses flying in the space. In fact, Ravana is supposed to have abducted Sita when She was in Vanvaas with Rama in a Pushapaka Vimana (a golden flying chariot) only from Dandakaranya, a region in today’s state of Chattisgarh in central India to Sri Lanka, few hundred miles/kms. Missile descriptions are in Mahabharatha – used in the Kurushetra war. All this is recorded in Hindu scriptures dating back by millennia when neither there was any notion of an aircraft nor an inkling on dynamite/missile technology.

‘Astra’ means a missile in Sanskrit. Brahmaastra, for instance, was supposed to have been most powerful.  It could burn out the opponent to ashes. It could hit a flying/moving target. Like air-to-air missile. Which is why India named our air-to-air missile as ‘Brahmos.’ Pioneer in the field but having had lost everything and the link to our glorious past, we are here rediscovering them yet again. Nagaastra was another super missile. Whether it is Ramayan or Mahabharat or any other branch tale of Hindu history (or mythology as some say although most Hindus believe this all existed in another plane of time), you see vivid descriptions of these astras and how battles were fought using/mastering these astras. Unimaginable that Valmiki knew about missiles 2000 years back or Ved Vyas did when they penned the Ramayana and Mahabharath respectively. Sri Lanka went by the same name. Gandhar kingdom of the Kauravs is now Kandhahar in Afghanistan, almost the same name. Geographical accuracy is astonishing. Ram Sethu, the man made bridge between south Indian coast in Tamil Nadu to Sri Lanka has been found to be in tact and it was very much navigable until a few centuries back. NASA has reconfirmed this is no natural geological formation but is oldest man made structure. Lying under the straits today in the ocean waters, Ram Sethu was rechristined as Adam’s bridge by the British (one more attempt to deny Hindu history and authenticity).

Hindus used to be ridiculed for believing in these things for thousands of years, before mankind in modern times even imagined the concept and thought of turning it into reality. The Kailasa temple in Ajantha had clear ‘helicoptor’ landing markings (as if) at an elevated level and the age of the ancient temple complex is yet to be exactly calculated. How do you explain these ‘amaanushya’ sightings.

‘Your Gods fly in sky?’ ‘Your Gods use missiles???’ are some of typical ridiculing questions others always ask Hindus. Barbs regularly used to put down world’s oldest religion (although Hinduism is not a religion. Sanathana Dharma is way of life that was invented by no private individual in his dizziness/dilemma/delirium seconded by a handful of sychophants).

Once upon a time, even I have felt vague about our extraordinary Vimanas and Astras and Gods and Goddesses. Overwhelmed may be. A treasure trove of knowledge based belief passed over generations that is unshakable. A scientific world that seeks more evidence. Caught between the two, an average Hindu cannot supply proofs but at the same time cannot discard the age old belief system ingrained in him/her that is so profound and deep-rooted. Some things in life you just believe in. Unquestioningly.  Like yesterday I was listening to Sadhguru’s lecture on You Tube. As per science, our physical body is reality. Life itself is not realizable. Intangible. So to non believers who question Hindu Dharam, this is what I can say. You can only touch and feel the body and therefore believe the body. But we are the people who can magically feel the life, the soul. A million/billion years of scientific research in more sophisticated tech lab will not let you separate the life from the body other than by way of death when the life will be lost to you. Your evidence stops with the material body. A Hindu sees beyond the body, a Hindu sees the spirit. Science can explain with evidence only the body. How will even science explain the intangible Life.

Which is why intuitively we Hindus believed in what our forefathers told us. We have believed always, we believe in our Pushpaka Vimanas, our Astras and in our Flying Gods with their Animal/Bird vehicles.

When reciting Ramayana (Sundara Kanda), i no more flinch reading about flying mountains that finally are made to drop to their present positions. Ramayana talks about mountains under the sea. Imagine Valmiki writing this 2000 years back. One such a mountain springs up to surface when Hanuman tries to fly over the sea to Lanka (Sri Lanka). By the way, Hanuman Chalisa states the speed of light almost accurately and it has been around long time from before the speed of light was estimated by the western world. As a teenager, I had my doubts and misgivings, not denying that. But over years, as science grows more advanced, the more strongly I believe in my Hindu dharma and in our ancient Hindu history that is too very ancient and ageless to be documented.

Who founded Hinduism. Why do we have no prophets or angels. Why no Vatican/Mecca like center. Why no Bible/Koran like code book. Who is our religious chief (like the pope). Why do we have no set of rules. There can be only one answer. Because we know who we are. We do not have to substantiate our existence or creation. We have come straight from our Creator. Why cannot Hindu origin be traced back to roots.

Most Hindu scriptures like the Vedas and Upanishads were not written down. They were passed over thousands of years by word of mouth only – through learning.

What really kept us Hindus believing in our ancestors was that, how could someone have had such a vivid imagination unless it was true.  How could someone sculpt missiles and ‘vimanas’ (spacecrafts) in stones and write about them in scriptures when the rest of the world was at least two or three millennia away from evening conceiving in their minds in what we believed in from the start of human civilization.

Thank God, there is a lot of rethinking these days and many around the world now come to agree/accept that perhaps in another plane of time, Hindu civilization did exist at a far superior level when Gods flew up the skies in chariots and fought battles with demons (bad elements) with their astras. Each Hindu god had a pet animal/bird vehicle (exactly as in the picture Avatar). Somewhere and somehow a very advanced civilization was lost perhaps due to what we may describe today as ‘apocalypses’ (catastrophes) and the secrets have since remain buried.

Where we go from here we do not know. At least there is now a rethink and  reevaluation of opinion on Hindu dharma and origin of life itself.  No more one dismisses ancient Hindu beliefs as ‘tall claims’ and no more ridicule. Somehow we have come to a starting point to begin with. Debates are on. Which is a big change of scene.

I don’t have to turn to others way of life because I am the follower/descendant of Shiva Himself. Everyone is. Whether European or American or African or Asian. I may say, I have not strayed and have remained His follower for over two millennia (as my family has always been Hindu like most Indians).

Kailash is too ambitious otherwise I wouldn’t rule it out in future. However, if Lord wants me to set my foot in His abode on earth, He knows when and how to call me.

Petraal Thaan Pillaiyaa..

Today is the 81st birth anniversary of my dear Chithappa,  my uncle. Not my own, he was married to my maternal aunt, my Chithi, my mother’s younger sister.

Almost 50 years, until now in my life, he was there lighting up the way for me. Something my biological parents did not do.

Petraal thaan pillaiyaa. Goes the famed Tamil phrase. You don’t have to breed biological children to become a parent and vice versa. You have to be blessed with a heart by birth to become one. If biology is the natural criteria to define a parent, then why do we have axe murderers in our midst who have birthed children.

Never mourned enough for my parents; they left too early when I did not understand the void they had left behind. Did not even miss them physically because my Chithi and Chithappa were there for me.

My Chithappa whose dhoti i wet i believe as a toddler, my chithappa who came with me for college admission, competitive exams, interviews… My chithappa who took me to my first job and left only after seeing me take my seat…

My chithappa who made me do Angapradhakshan in Tirumala-Tirupathi temple, made me climb up on foot the seven hills to Tirupathi temple, who introduced me to my God and Goddess…

My chithappa who would never miss wishing me on my birthday or wedding day; who  along with my chithi gave me away in Kanyadhaan during me wedding , who sheltered me when I delivered my son … who would never let me leave without getting my son food parcels…

I still had a home to go to … After over 20 years, it was for his death that I stayed overnight in Mylapore, my birth place. My chithi is still unable to come out of grieving for my chithappa. He was a human like none other I have come across in my life.

During my recent visit to Kanchipuram, 70 km from city, I was thinking of him. This town gave me my chithappa. Little would he have known that his life would be dedicated to another family abandoned in Chennai.

Chithappa touched everyone’s life. From the fruit and flower sellers of Mylapore to grocery shop owners to neighbours. He rendered service without a third person knowing of it, given his limited economic capacity. His day started with a Puja at home. Then visiting Valleshwara temple, Kapali temple everyday. Sometimes Perumal temple. A regular every saturday at Devastana Venkateshwara temple in T Nagar. His favourite deity was Perumal.

During the worst crises of my life, I had the courage to go on as I had a pillar called my chithappa to lean on. The trust and faith he put on me and my sis. Antagonizing his own family at times, looking after both sets of parents – my grandparents and his parents in their final stages rendering yeomen physical service apart from financial, support system for both sides families…. he was still such a simple man who subsisted on mere 4 clean white dhotis, 2 towels, 2-3 trousers and 4 shirts. His worldly possessions. Unlike many of his age, he did not hold on to his properties. Distributed everything without a ‘villangam’ or dispute among his kids leaving no ground for future complications. Every single thing about his life was planned – except for his death.

Last year this day I was in US. I called him to wish for his 80th birthday. His voice was inaudible already. I didn’t take it seriously. I believed he would be around for another 5 to 10 years. Very healthy man – no BP or diabetes or cholesterol even if he had had a cardiac bypass. Little did we know that a teetotaler like him could still get liver issues.

Spending last few days with him in hospital in July was a blessing for me. He spoke to me, my son and husband (via online chat).

He left at right age that I don’t regret. My only regret is that, I will see this great human being again only when I leave planet earth myself. And that I will see none other like him in this janam.

My chithi asked me to pray to him. He is our guardian angel. But I don’t. I feel guilty upto my neck for already burdening him with my parents’ responsibilities. I don’t wanna ask him anything more for myself or my family. I only want him to know, just the word ‘chithappa’ can move me to tears. That I miss him soo….. much. He will have no rebirth but if he does, next time I want to be born his biological daughter so that I can legally take care of him, and not be sidelined. I can legally serve him my best without being asked to stay out.

I  only have fondest memories of him in my heart. I cherish everything he has done for me. He was there for me right from my infancy when I was not even an year old. I hope I have made him proud.

Everytime we visited Mylapore, he would take my husband and son by walk to Valleeshwara temple and get them Dosa and coffee in Sangeetha restaurant. Simplest but greatest pleasures of life. Not on one occasion he missed that. Every visit of mine to Mylapore sees me shedding silent tears in car/cab. Every look at Valleeshwara temple, Kapali temple tower, the markets, the streets all invoke memories of him.

Never have I mourned so much for my biological parents this way. I have belatedly when I crossed phases like 30s, 40s, imagining their lives, reconstituting their lives in my memory but that is it. My parents sadly remain strangers to me. Strangers who I could never figure out, for they lived too short in this material world.

In today’s selfish environs, I think of my chithappa and God’s choicest blessings. God still sent me a substitute set of parents, to whom I shall remain eternally grateful. Seven janams may not suffice to repay them for what they have done for me and my sister. They gave us our lives, our self respect, our sense of security and more than all dignity due to which we are what we are today.

To my chithappa in heaven, I miss you terribly Chithappa. Why did you have to leave so early. Who is there to show me your selfless affection, to rush and get an auto for me, to call up and check if I have reached home safe, to withdraw cash for me from ATM and keep when I land midnight, to guide me through every phase of life. To give legal advice, to do documentation, to do errands, to buy me tiffin and coffee and jasmines … even framed pictures of Gods… My chithappa who gifted me my first framed God’s pictures when I started ‘thani kuduthanam’ , pictures of Satyanarayana to do my Pournami puja, bronze Pongal paanai for Pongal…

Every gold and diamond purchase, he had to be there to receive my precious jewelry by hand first. He was our lucky omen. Every new car or bike or whatever, he was shown first. Every new job or place, he gave us the first foreign currency. Malaysian Ringitt, Q riyal, US$ – whatever. He was the first to give us the currency before we earned them.

Whether even my biological father would have been like him, I doubt. Always the wise counsel. Always advice to adjust with elders in my family, to be flexible, to tolerate and love all, to forget the painful past but stay away from mischief, to avoid controversies for our own sake, for peace… to keep the family united…

I will miss my chithappa every single day of the rest of my life. No substitute for my chithappa. I don’t think he will have next janam either. Must have blended with the Jyothi. Must be in Vaikundam. A star shining bright from the heavens.

Thank God for living my life during his time, being under his protective wings. For being showered with him unconditional love and affection. Who knows there is a real God or not. No dead person has come back to tell us if there is a God really. But when I think of my chithappa, I know God comes to us in human forms like him.

 

Vasudeiva Kudumbakam – the World Is My Family

Watching a series of You Tube videos of dusky Hindu girls marrying white American boys. Chanced upon them accidentally. Since Google watches your every footstep, I guess these are recommended for me in You Tube just because I watched one mixed wedding video last week. Now I have a queue waiting !!!

Beautiful, is all I can say. No doubt the marriages will survive their lifetimes because, divorce normally never happens from the Hindu side. I have been told as such. I have seen Chinese girls marry duskiest Malaysian Indian men during our days in the south east Asian country. One chinese girl confided, marrying a Hindu Indian automatically begot you stability and security. They (the Indian men) are not bad. They are dependable and would not abandon families. In today’s times when rape incidents from India are making headlines in BBC, this is something I would like to remind myself always. Sometimes I think like fellow Indians, this is some agenda by the west. Tarnishing the image of the Hindu society systematically in the eyes of the world. Rape is a crime that happens around the world, not denying how heinous it is. Why focus and cover the rape crimes in India around the clock with such a precision?

Many Hindu men also marrying foreign girls. There are two mixed marriages in my extended family already. A distant boy cousin married a French girl. An other distant niece married a white American guy. Coming from a background where most of our marriages are arranged, I really have a tough time believing this… but it’s happening. Happening more and more … I saw the wedding video of my very conservative Hindu ex-male colleague’s son marrying a white American girl. The parents were crestfallen in India. Very orthodox vegetarian family. But still how they welcomed the bride into their bosom is awesome. Forgetting the differences for the only reason that the girl is their son’s love, the extremely religious parents of the boy changed their heart in a minute which I know could be impossible for most Hindus. Language/race/religious barriers all swamped in one go!

About the weddings being solemnized as per Hindu traditions, I bow my head in respects to these foreign families who may be having equal reservations about their boys/girls marrying Indians (especially those born and raised in India). The thousands of years old Hindu culture and civilization has its ups and pluses. I don’t think any American parent would similarly tolerate/celebrate, should his/her son/daughter be marrying a muslim bride/groom. The Hindu goodwill is something that cannot be damaged how much ever Pakistan and/or China and/or our own liberals/Congress party/media/BBC try!

I found that nobody stared at you if you walked in America with a kumkum dot in your forehead, in fact they said a ‘hi’ ! A Sari is an accepted costume. In these trouble times, I really feel this is some phenomenal achievement for us the followers of the Dharma. We never disturb others/anyone. Hopefully the message is reached.

In the wedding videos, the grooms donning the white dhoti and sporting the vermilion tilak in their foreheads, the brides wearing the saris, and their entire families dressed up in Indian costumes is amazing! I’ve imagined nothing like this in the past!

A friend’s daughter recently married a Chinese guy. Of course in Hindu ceremony. As more Indian men/women travel abroad, more mixed marriages are happening than ever before.

As a parent I do not know if I am for or against this trend hahaha ! Because we say in Tamil, ‘a marriage is a 1000 year crop (to be harvested over generations)’ … good or bad, marriage has to hold good for us Hindus. Divorces are happening now here and there, still extremely rare. Remarriages do not happen easily still even in these modern times. Hindu couples live like the albatrosses – together for life even in this 21st century. And more importantly, most of our boys not just girls remain chaste until their marriages !!! Which makes an eligible Hindu bachelor/girl very unique. Plus if they are well qualified academically and well settled, … I don’t have to say what a hot catch they must be. My only wish is that, whichever westerner marries a Hindu boy/girl keeps that in mind. They are not marrying an average man/woman of the world. They are not even marrying a muslim in whose society ‘talak’ (divorce) can happen at the drop of a hat and women marry many times if they are up to it. Hindu society is exclusive. Unless someone is prepared to make our kind of lifelong commitment, they should not play with Hindu sensitivity. Our culture is too different.

But kudos to those guys who are still marrying the Hindu girls in spite of our complexities! And the girls who are marrying the Hindu boys! Wish you couples blissful married life! What a respect they hold for Hindu beliefs and how respectful and loving their families are!

Most Hindus also believe, we beget the same spouses for seven janams (births). Every Hindu woman prays for such an after-life and rebirth even if she could be married to a wife beater. Wife fasting for husband’s ‘ayush’ (longevity) happens only in Hindustan.

In India we say, when a boy and a girl marry it is not the individuals who are marrying. It is families that marry each other. That is the kind of relationships we nurture. We are nosy. We gossip. We backbite. We are conservative. We follow a strange culture. But we are solid like bedrock, we are dependable and trustworthy. Boring may be, but non-aggressive and hardworking and intelligent and spiritual. Whoever is fine with that, welcome!

Beautiful Indian bride with the Sindhoor in her forehead, loaded with antique precious gold and diamond jewelry, draped in finest of silks, given away by her parents… what a dream wedding… Hindu parents performing the ‘Padha puja’ (rinsing the foot of the groom as he is marrying their girl)… in Tamil we say, ‘kankolla kaatchi’  – the sight that even our eyes cannot behold! Hindu weddings are fun and frolic! Bride and groom have games to play, Oonjal (to be sat in swing to swing as couple!) etc! Marriages are minimum 2 day affair! Big fat Hindu weddings can run up to 5 days !!!

Finally, its the conscious choice and will of two consenting adults. The rest of us have no say in the matter. But as someone who has lived in different parts of the world for a brief while, as someone who has traveled even if for a wee bit only, I guess I can air my opinion here on mixed marriages. Going by the look of love in the eyes of the marrying couples, there is no doubt these marriages are made in the heaven!

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Reverse the scene to India: Suppose a Hindu girl falls in love with an Indian Christian/Muslim boy. No marriage without the conversion of the Hindu girl to Christianity/Islam. Brainwashed thoroughly, the girl is one big loss to the family. On contrary, it is unbelievable watching the American/Australian/European groom marrying a Hindu girl in a wedding solemnized as per Hindu customs and traditions – on chanting of the Vedic Mantras, with the holy fire as the witness.

An Indian Christian/Muslim gets paid for marrying (or trapping) a Hindu girl – we are told. We call it ‘Love Jehad’ in India where Hindu girls are targeted by muslim youth, pursued and married after conversion. Pricey catches. Curtains down with the girls donning the burka. The bond with the Hindu girls’ parents/family is forever broken.

Hindu girls are shouldering the responsibility of carrying forward the 10,000 year old native culture that has no founder, no Bible, no Vatican, no Pope. So every time a Hindu girls marries outside the community, it is our concern as we are a dying race already.

Be One Person Less Harming Mother Nature

Its not the question of whether Hindus are victimized in India or not. Its not the question of Supreme court interfering in Hindu affairs, not a question of what is legal and what is illegal. Its not the question of whether this is Christian agenda or Islamic agenda. It is not the question of whether this is a political vendetta. It is just that I want to be one person less harming Mother Nature.

We have all grown up lighting fireworks for Diwali. It is not that I am totally unaware of the pollution caused by vehicular exhausts or air-conditioners or factory effluents. It is still this small bit I want to do for Mother Nature – by lighting less number of oil lamps, by staying away maximum from fire works, by forsaking chemical Holi colours, by refusing to bring home a Coloured Ganesha.

There are more ways I show my love and respect to Mother Nature, Mother India: by swearing to keep off Kumbh Mela, by swearing not to bathe in rivers. My reverence for nature has no bearing to Christian conversion spree in India or Islamic terrorism.

I believe I am no less Hindu, following what my heart tells me in the matter.

I don’t believe either I have to be defensive about my stand. In the name of Hindu God, i wouldn’t want to do more harm to Mother Nature than has already been done.

An occasional sparkler is fine. After all, from 500 walas to 5000 walas, i have not left anything undone in last 50 years’ Diwalis in my life. As I grow older, I want to show love more explicitly to Mother India, Mother Nature that has got nothing to do with Singapore or Malaysia or America or London or Middle East. I want to be that one person less harming Mother India – Mother Nature.

Why Late Reaction From 80s Teens?

India now has changed a lot, lot since the turn of the millennium. The working atmosphere for women has seen a drastic change. Of course, women who graduated in 2000s cannot be just as naive as we girls were, growing up as teens in the 80s. If a woman does not speak up in present age, there are grounds for her to be questioned on.

Not in our conservative times. Suppose in 1980s you tell your father that a boy is daily waiting outside your typewriting institute (roadside romeos in those days were a torture) or following you to school/college, the next minute your extra classes or even education could get terminated. Worse, you stood the risk of being married off the next day!

Now, parents need not have to get into picture at all. Today’s girls are bold enough to take on nuisance cases by themselves.

I can’t believe our fathers used to walk us to friends’ homes in those days ! I used to go for group studies with friends whose houses were only a few streets away. If it ever got late (late means after 6 pm dusk), friends’ father or brother would walk me home!

Strictly no staying out of home after 6 pm without adult company.  No sleep-overs. Absolutely no socializing with boys/men, strictly no male friendship. Not even boy’s shadow was allowed to fall on us!!! We lived in an entirely girls’ hemisphere where men existed only in Mills & Boon romances!

Once we girls came off age, even public appearance in relatives weddings and other celebrations used to be restricted !!! Not a century back. I am talking of the 80s.

When I joined work for the first time, my uncle came with me (we took a bus) to check out if my workplace was safe for me.

After I got married, my father-in-law brushed aside my protests and came with me to my office, up to my desk in fourth floor! My male colleagues went aghast that the old man actually was there to see if his new daughter-in-law was in safe and secure company!!!

This is how my generation of girls/women grew up. Over-protected. So is this male chauvinism. Certainly not. Only if you have grown up feeling safe and secure under the wings of your father or brother will you know the difference between chauvinism and protective affection.

Therefore talking out anything in public was difficult for us. Believe me or not, either we were ‘shy’ or we were ‘scared.’

I have remained for months without conversing with the men who worked with me. The reason was, I kept hearing them discussing women and labeling any woman who was chatty and jolly as ‘easy.’ I preferred to be called ‘the snob.’

A friend reminded me how in my all-girls school, teachers started ‘screening’ us girls for busty figure right from standard 7 (12 years). School teachers were like our own mothers – that is how we saw them. A few rounded girls in my class were singled out and asked to cover themselves up ‘proper’ ! Their parents were summoned to school! We actually lived through such a phase !

Today in the same city, same country, how are teenagers. When my son was in Chennai, his school/college girls used to come home in briefest shorts and shoulderless tank tops ! Driving cars or scooters in that condition ! Mostly the girls would drop him if I would ask him not to take out car in late night – because girls’ parents were more liberal than me !!! Most times in sofas they would lean against each other in front of us elders, slapping pinching touching each other … we parents tolerated ! Not a word of reprimand ! Of course my mother-in-law would mutter under her breath ‘pethavala seruppala adikkanum’ (meaning the girls’ mothers) ! But even she knew that times were changed.

Yet when I step out of my home in Chennai even today,, I have my mother-in-law asking me to cover up with dupatta if I ever don a kurta without a shawl. It angers me, but I obey because after her I know I won’t have anyone in my life to chastise me like this. Of course if she is not around, I dress as I please !

Even now it is good to have my imposing mother-in-law with me when my aircon is getting serviced. The way her eyes would never leave the servicemen would make them flinch ! I can’t believe my MIL rears up like a mother hen to protect me in this age! It only brings a smile to my face although sometimes it is irritating.

My temple gurukkal (priest) was home last time to give me ‘prasad.’ A bachelor in his early 30s, when he was chatting me up for a few minutes, my MIL who was not in the scene showed up without announcement. In fact I had left my front door ajar as the man was in. I was wondering how to ask him to leave soon. My MIL brusquely told the man, ‘you have given her what you came to give her, why linger???’ The embarrassed man made a hasty retreat and I am not sure whether I will see him again anywhere near my residence! This has also happened to my christian neighbour once that he started running the next moment whenever he saw me after ‘treatment from my MIL’ for daring to come up to my door to exchange a few words! Such a blunt and heads-on approach! However it has its counter effect, silencing women like me at the same time.

My generation therefore is the last one that still hesitates to speak up. We are caught in between two different ages. We think of the relationships, the family friendships that will get ruined if we expose some bad apples in our lives. We ponder over the ramifications and long term repercussions. We are concerned about family reputations and the offenders’ family’s as well. There is so much at stake. Just like that, it is impossible to point out fingers for us and take on someone.

Years back I guess I blogged about the shoe guy. I don’t want to go into it again.

Another glimpse into early 90s: I got used to working with men for months that when I married, I went and sat next to my father-in-law in the sofa at home quite comfortably! I am the fourth and last daughter-in-law in the family. Eyebrows raised, I belatedly understood that it was not expected of me to take the seat so close to my FIL who was bemused. He was a great man to whom I was like his own daughter. But others did not approve of it. Immediately I was tagged ‘bold’ by my family.

Since 2000s, we teenage girls of the 80s have sort of become old school. But our patience and tolerance have only stood us in good stead over time. I am kind of indecisive and vague about the ‘Me too’ India. In current times, you have to speak up or you have to let it pass for good, I guess. We did in our times, as we had reasons.

A couple of years back in Middle-east when I and my friend were shopping, the salesmen who were Sri Lankans were singing lewd Tamil songs at us and discussing us like mango/apple sizes. Penalties are heavy in this part of the world. The men risked their jobs and visas. But we kept quiet and did not report, as we thought of the boys’ families back home who were expecting their pay checks. Now again our generation maintains a stoic silence, because we are more mature than ever before and we look beyond at times and events unfolding long into future unlike these petty men can ever. Boys half your age. You don’t feel angry at them. All you have for them is pity.

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PS: ‘Me Too’ may be funny and trivial to some sarcastic insensitive men, especially (who knows) (b*******) suspected predators themselves.  As some say, it does bring a sense of closure to women who come out in the open breaking silence of years/decades at last. Baring their heart and mind of the junk may make a psychological, emotional difference. I started blogging for this reason chiefly. It’s a release that is all.

In the thick of women’s universe…

You have to be born in a female dominated household and grow up surrounded by sisters and aunts and nieces, to wholly understand women.

In my life mostly I have seen that those men who grow up in patriarchal families with male domination never understand women.

And it just does not end there. Having spinsters / widows or divorcees who have/have not remarried in our close friends/family circles may also go a long way when it comes to understanding the fairer sex. Only when we have these women who do not conform to normal ‘married sumangali’ status in our circles can we ever empathize with the oddities in the female world.

Since the ‘Me too’ started, i put my mind back by over two decades to revise the chain of events that unfolded in my own life (harmless physically).

One of the things I could bring out from the back burners was that, how when I joined work, there was a Debonair issue quietly slipped into the stack of magazines I was to take home for reading. I am speaking about the time before the computer era when reading habit was widely prevalent in our midst. We in our workplace contributed as minimal as 5 bucks per month each to buy and circulate both Tamil and English weeklies and monthlies among ourselves.

No sooner than I joined service, I also became a member of the circulation library. My male colleagues would give me 5 magazines to read every alternate day that I had to return before taking fresh ones. Within a month of my joining, flipping the magazines deposited in my desk for taking home, I found the Debonair tucked as the third one behind a Film Fare or something. Even retrieving and returning it to the in-charge was tough for me because the cover photo itself (that I can’t recall exactly now) was a semi-nude woman.

More than once it happened and every time, without a word I returned the mag without a second look to the table where it originated from.

Recalling years later, I wondered if this was some ‘test’ to gauge me out.

I would never know.

Whether it was done in innocence or with mischief, I would not know. If this is to happen today, my life experiences have given me maturity to look at it with open mind. I no more find nudity or Debonair the way I found then when I was in my twenties. Life changes, life perceptions change.

But knowing Indian men, I do always wonder whether any man would appreciate a similar treatment to his mother/sister/wife/daughter/niece/aunt. No. Which means, it couldn’t have been not an innocent act in the first place. So this is how I build my theories. By sheer reasoning.

So much water has flown under the bridge. I am not the type to claim ‘Me too’ …

Just remembering it now without emotion. No anger, no discomfort after all these years. All that vaporized with time. Time is the best healer. To heal, again, nothing was damaged in me. Acute discomfiture that’s all.

As for Sabarimala or other issues, I can say your opinion may depend on what kind of family is yours. Madurai or Chidambaram? Meenakshi or Natraj ??? My family was dominated by my mother hugely until she was around. She left a big void in her wake. My grandmother also was a great presence in my life. I was mostly raised by women – my grandma, my mother, my aunt… A few more influential aunties were there in the horizon plus neighbourhood aunties… Men were another planet to me altogether. My intuitive defence to men was then hostility. Skepticism. Deep mistrust. Not because I was a victim ever. Only because theirs’ was a strange new world to me.  I think I have blogged about it once.

Women from various walks of life have affected my way of thinking and psyche.

From my in-laws side, we have had a great grand ma, aunt to my mother-in-law who was married off by 10 and widowed by 12 even before she could bloom into a woman. She was never allowed to remarry. But as the family was progressive, she was taught at home and she lived to the ripe old age of 85.  I used to think of her long and vacuum years that rolled serving others … One last photo of her was taken in bridals before she was imposed with signs and symbols of widowhood for the rest of her life. The picture had her back to mirror, with her ‘jadai – kunjalam ‘ (golden braids) captured in reflection in the faded black and white photo which was her cherished possession always – along with a sepia tinted framed picture of her husband with whom she never shared the nuptial bed for a single day of her life. He was 16 or 17 when he passed away.

One of my aunt’s friends from Mylapore was a teacher by profession. Coming from an affluent family, she was married off only to be scorned by her newly wed husband on their first night when he spotted a miniscule patch of leukoderma in her abdomen. The poor lady returned home. Neither was she divorced as per Hindu customs of 1970s (unlike improved times of the present). Her husband went on to remarry and raise a family. The lady continued her teaching service and is now retired. Going by his name until now, having not lived a single day of life with him. The man is now a grandfather without a guilt. Sadly, the teacher never had the melanin deficient patch anywhere else in her body.

When you meet in your everyday life women like these, you can never make hard and fast rules about women. Modern times have seen the average Indian Nari emerge from shadows. When I was growing up in 80s in Mylapore, every household literally had at least a single ‘motta paatti’ – the head shaven widow in white/saffron robes banished from auspicious family occasions and celebrations.

I made it a point therefore to invite two widows (who did not remarry) (rare ones do even these days) to my Navratri thamboolam last year even if they were hesitant. Navratri is about inclusion. A woman could be single – spinster/widow/divorcee or married with/without children or even a bisexual or lesbian – she is still a Nari Shakthi as far as I am concerned. Navratri is celebration of womanhood thus in various forms.

My maid comes from rural background. She was working in their own family farm until she married by 18 years and moved to city. She was denied education and fed the worst food being born with 3 brothers. Besides agricultural work, she also had to lend a helping hand in the kitchen to her mother. The hardships she encountered since her third year were inhumanely and horrible. Coming from poorest family, neither did she have money to buy even a packet of sanitary napkins. She used cut pieces of worn clothes I believe that she washed diligently everyday by hand. Now she makes it a point to get her own school going daughter sanitary pads, and swears she would never allow her daughter to go through what she had to. She is determined to see her daughter through university and wants the girl to be economically independent before she marries.

Yet another of my mother’s friends also married around the same time she married. In mid 60s that is. She was also my mother’s school mate and neighbour and a teacher. The two grew up together and were even very remotely related. Her sad story I remember hearing from my granny and my mother herself. In late 1960s was this film ‘Paalum Pazhamum’ released in Tamil cinemas. Starring Shivaji Ganesan for hero. Also there was the super duper hit of the decade ‘Anbe Va’ with MGR as the lead (who later went on to become our state CM). My mother’s friend and her husband went to see the pictures. The husband was a smoking guy! Looks like after the couple returned from pictures, the man used to burn the wife in intimate parts with glowing cigarette butts asking her, ‘did you like MGR that much, did you like Shivaji that much that you were so engrossed in the film?’

A picture like that of K Balachander ‘Nappathezhu Naatkal’  (47 days) was released in 1970s i guess. It’s almost entirely this woman’s story, I garnered, of course with variations thrown in to good measure.

The woman finally left him, issueless. Not divorced. Her next door neighbour, a bachelor in the same 60s, fell in love with her and the two eloped to start a new life in another city. Of course with tacit blessings of the parents of the woman. The parents however could never face the society/community. They sold off the house and disappeared from scene. Years after my mother passed away, the friend returned to visit my granny hearing about my mother.

I still remember how my granny never had anything bad to say about my mother’s friend. After she left, my granny told me her story that I had heard many times before, with total compassion for the woman. Her own grief for her the death of her daughter, the first born, was momentarily forgotten.

I guess, this has a lot to do with the way our mind shapes up. My granny only had empathy for the lady and praise for her bold decision to take on life in her own terms. Not a single negative word or character assassination. Rather my granny told me, my mother’s friend was a brilliant lady, very smart but unfortunate, with fate having dealt her a cruel hand. For someone like my grandmother (in their generation) to talk about this friend of my mother in such a mature and compassionate way must have been a complete rarity in those days. Also, having lost her beloved eldest daughter, my granny must have been conditioned to accept ANY daughter, under any circumstance, by fate. Now she wanted a daughter, that’s all – it didn’t matter to her what her daughter was. I sometimes think, the quantum of loss my grandma suffered with my mother’s untimely demise, mellowed her in ways nothing else could have.

Abuse is abuse, no mistaking about it. Freedom is not wrong. I think my grandma was also able to make the difference because, she had had two daughters. Through them she also had had already three young grand daughters . Five women had entered the world through my grandmother. No wonder, she embraced her daughter’s friend that day with all understanding, fed her well and parted with her in tears.

My life is punctuated by stories like these. My paternal aunt herself was a life time virgin who was married off to a gay man (knowledge on these issues was poor in those days). Belatedly the family discovered, but it was too late to amend. Once married, you stay married to the same man life long as per Hindu customs (at least until recently). My aunt married at a very young age, not even 15, in 1950s, much before my father. Her whole life was one big tragedy and lie. She was an unpaid cook cum servant to her in-laws home even if she was married off with great pomp.

Women went through endless suffering in those days. All these women, I happened to meet in my life in very young years. What they went through left an indelible mark in my mind.

The progressive outlook of my granny also always overwhelms me. She was the ‘Hindu’ reading woman of the street! Very smart and intelligent. No schooling or may be 5th class maximum, that’s all. But she was a phenomenon. Very politically aware. A small bank ! A great cook ! Well read. She once told me about reading the Kennedy assassination book !!! A distant relative borrowed it from her and never returned !

Nobody was berated in my family – not even strangers. If something was wanting at home, my granny would say ‘rice is overflowing, wheat is overflowing, milk is overflowing’ – it meant rice was almost over, wheat was almost over, milk was finished and had to be supplemented. No negative word ever. Until this day the word ‘illai’ (not there or over or no) hardly makes it to my vocabulary.

Unlucky women won most sympathies from my family women. Gossips, for the first time I was exposed to only at my in-laws (!) place !

I had a mom who could never bear her school hostel girls not celebrating Diwali with their families. Hearing and speech impaired, until my mother was around, at least a half dozen of these girls were our house Diwali guests with the consent of the school administration. After my mother left, many of my Diwalis were dark and those lonely moments were what that threw me light on what kind of a woman my biological mother was. Basic compassion for fellow women: this is what my grandma, my mother and my aunt were full of.

Years later when I would bring the saas-bahu arguments to my Chithi (aunty), she would only counsel me to ‘be flexible, tolerate, hold patience.’ Absolutely no pampering. That ‘things would fall into place over time’. ‘Show love to those who cannot love, be generous with those who have not discovered the pleasure of giving.’

The kind of understanding we women have growing up in a predominantly female household, we cannot expect men who grow up in patriarchal families to nurture. How so easily they judge is shocking.

Lastly I want to close this post with the story of a very remarkable woman, my friend’s mother.

Mother of two daughters, this retired school teacher in her 70s now is still taking care of her younger Down’s syndrome daughter who is 40+ . Her elder daughter is happily married and the teacher also is proud of her two super intelligent grandsons. But most of the woman’s time is spent with her other daughter and the duo even make foreign trips together. They have become inseparable over years, with the daughter besotted with her ageing mother like a 3 year old. The mother has successfully taught the childlike stunted daughter how to take care of herself, how to take care of personal hygiene mercifully. The daughter still needs a helping hand, but she is manageable.

The life of the senior matron moves me, inspires me as to what life is all about. Her sacrifice is monumental. Her world is centered around her special daughter, coaxing the childish woman, coaching her, consoling her, encouraging her, chastising her as if she is a KG kid… The endless patience… with never a word begrudging destiny… Never asking ‘why me’ … What a selfless mother. Only a mother can be this to her daughter. Now the quintessential question surfaces: what after the mother’s time. Hopefully, my friend would slip into her mother’s shoes which however would be too huge for her to fill. Let’s see. Time for that.

My friend’s mother therefore oozes with compassion. You cannot hear her backbiting or gossiping or berating or abusing of judging other women. The years have done wonders to her persona. To her now, all women are daughters, with whatever the imperfections.

Every man in India must be blessed with daughters. Daughters who have to cycle to schools. Daughters taking overcrowded buses to university. Daughters working alongside men, on equal footing.  Daughters who drive, fly, lead from the forefront. That is enough to show these men what womanhood is all about.

Some of my friends’ fathers even used to buy them their sanitary napkins (as I recall from school days). They saw goddesses in their daughters. You only need a daughter in your life to forget a man’s ego and rush to the grocery to get her a sanitary pad. What a man would not do for his mother, for his wife, for his sister – he will definitely do for his daughter.

 

More Pressing Matters Over Me Too …!

Convenient distractions for Indian public are Sabarimala and presently the ‘Me too’ India!

That there is no outrage for rising fuel costs, falling Indian Rupee against US$, crashing stock markets seems to be both shocking and surprising. Closely on the heels of Sabarimala verdict by the Supreme court, Kerala High court also ruled that it is not a crime to support the ideology of the world’s most dreaded terror organization. No Kerala Hindu or even other Hindus from other parts of the country seem to have registered protests or raised slogans against the ruling.

‘Me too’ shaming is deemed more important. Conveniently forgotten is Chinmaye’s Suchitra video tapes. Overnight Chinamayi is the abused even if Vairamuthu seems to have graced her wedding reception with his sunny smile and presence.

I am neutral on Vairamuthu. Without being on the spot, one cannot take sides in the absence of concrete evidence. Allegations against him seem to be verbal and after a considerable lapse of time. In the context of the poet’s Andal episode, one cannot rule out vendetta politics to frame him.

However all national and security issues are now non issues to our media and to Indian public. ‘Me too’ is sensational and perhaps works like an anesthesia in helping maintain our selective amnesia. There sure is comfort in deliberate ignorance and negligence of priorities.

 

Me Too ???

Close on the heels of Sabarimala and Section 497 (or 597?) comes the ‘Me Too India.’

Hopefully Twitter will also see some actual ‘casting couch’ successfuls in ‘Me too’ campaign.

While genuine cases merit sympathy, the lapse of considerable time and lack of evidence may still make the stories sound incredible.

For one thing, I will never trust a word coming from Chinmaye (our Chennai bit).

Me too – every Indian girl/woman could have something to say on that. From school age till every single strand in her hair turns grey.

Sometimes, it could be casual flirting with our unspoken approval.

Sometimes, it could be going overboard with the men.

Sometimes, it could be psychological harassment. In India I guess, mostly we had this emotional torture. Before rape started scoring big time.

Every bus ride to school/college came with ‘brushes’ and ‘touches’ and ‘squeezes’ and ‘pinches.’ Women cannot travel in public transport in the country without this basic ‘Me too’ conditioning by our men. Then, road side romeos. Cycle chase to typing institutes. One even used to dash his cycle with mine in school days – accidentally of course! Friends’ fathers’ fatherly pats! Friends’ brothers love letters ! But every little Indian girl/teenager develops an intuition somehow to stay off predators. As a motherless girl, I have had this acute sense of intuition/instinct that was my best defence.

Then there are those that leave a mark in our memories that may be worth the #metoo …

My ‘Me too’ moments happened at work (serious stuff to me then, for record’s sake ). I was posted in an all-male department as a 22 year old. Surrounded by 31 men. Guys reading ‘Debonair’ in front of me with pages and central spreads (of nudes) wide open was the worst harassment I faced in younger age. Happened for more than an year, 2-3 years actually. I told my friends about it but not my family. Told my husband after marriage but he laughed it off saying ‘boys will be boys!!’ Never found that offensive! To my shock, whenever he would drop/pick me up in his bike, my male colleagues chatted him up!!! I did ask my husband whether he would dare reading ‘Debonair’ in front of women. He said ‘no’ thankfully! So I can’t figure out men!

Unforgettable one is, when I asked for ‘white fluid’ innocently – to correct my typo when in probation. Manual typewriter was still around in those days. Only in 1993 did i get an electronic one. The whole department burst out in guffaws. Cannot forget, will never forget in my life. Can’t believe I cried my heart out in private for that. If it happens now, i would tear the bastards to pieces. Adult jokes from 10-5 routine. Never reported to manager. Not out of fear but out of embarrassment. Without a doubt, i have felt extremely disturbed in those long months, years but at the same time, I also never felt unsafe or insecure among the same men.

Six bachelors to whom I never spoke a word before I got married, fearing the others teasing. Respect showed when every single one of them turned out for my wedding reception and stayed on for 3 hours almost. Some came for muhurat also.

Scene changed with my marriage. And of course motherhood. No more their adult jokes hurt me – I learned to ignore. They did not change. I changed my outlook.

Motherhood revealed to me the other side of men: frequent trips to restroom in pregnancy; soaking kurta and even dupatta when i joined work 4 months after delivery (until my son turned 1) … For the first time I found the same men looking away, averting their eyes from me.  Those were scooter days. I had starting issues sometimes. The same guys kick started my two-wheeler in evenings and parked it for me in the mornings. Now I was confused.

It is not a bad idea or sin to be a spinster. But Indian men atleast, learnt better about women through mothers i guess. They are not comfortable around unmarried girls. However, this is only my personal assumption and conclusion that can’t be generalized.

Despite the jokes and Debonair, i finally found that my department guys were pretty decent in real life, they had happy families, they respected women in their own way. Some of them had working women for wives. I also understood that I had disturbed the equilibrium of a department that had been all-male for 2-3 years.

Met them after years recently, they can’t believe I have a son in his twenties now! He was born when I worked with them! I am sure they remain(ed) blissfully unaware how much they used to distress me when I was single and amidst them .. i bet they have/had no clue! Male psychology? They move on, but things just bury themselves in women’s psyche and don’t simply budge.

May be that’s why ‘Me too’ India is seeing late-reportings a lot. The men may have long forgotten! Women won’t !. Without a doubt, the men wouldn’t have felt guilty then, would not admit offence if I am to confront them in the present.

Over 27 years later yeah if you ask me now, I am not sure whether it was harassment then I faced. Did I over-react? Time dulls things… I guess i may have faced harassment but the other face of the same men makes me think twice today when it comes to judging them. Corporate atmosphere in India has undergone a sea change ever since. As I left , my workplace got cent percent computerized even before 1997… things have never been the same again….

 

Kundalini Awakening On Sabarimala Verdict By Supreme Court

One line on present protests as a result of ‘indignity’ suffered by Hindus for the supreme court verdict on Sabarimala.

“Going to Sabarimala (or for that matter any Hindu temple) during menstruation is far healthier and safer for women than working for corporates/software industry 15 hours a day, 7 days a week, 30 days a month, 365 days an year – and India will have no more Autistic children or Divorces but healthy and happy INDIAN FAMILIES OF 1950s, 60s, 70s and 80s once again. #Kundalini “

Lessons From Cricketing Style.

PAK GIVEN THOROUGH SERUPPADI BY INDIA

Ever wondered why India is so… pro-batting with a strong batting line up? Our bowling attack has never been par excellence (since perhaps Kapil Dev’s days). Focus is always to make ourselves stronger and formidable over demolishing the enemy with bowling.

I am married to university cricket player myself who loves fast bowlers that India cannot produce successfully. I tell him, to cover up our short comings, we focus on our strengths. My husband’s longing is that, India never produced a fast bowler of Imran Khan/Wasim Akram/Waqar Yunus caliber. Reason could be that, our pitches vary as does our geography. We have shorter winters and tropical climate in India that can produce more and better spinners than pacers. Pakistan with a slightly chillier climate is ideal for shaping seamers as we also see with the case of England for instance. If you attempt a run up like Imran Khan before bowling a ball, you will end up with high BP and heart attack in Chennai weather. The fact is, we never get as hot as Pakistan gets, we hardly cross 40C in summers but our humidity will get you over the heat and dust. So conserving energy is most important for Indian bowlers to last a full match.

Another factor is the diet of the players to which I shall come shortly.

Our enemy nation and the world’s No.1 terrorist country Pakistan is the opposite of India in most ways – including when it comes to the game of Cricket. To my memory, they have been acing bowling since the Imran Khan days (naturally). (Or may be from before, but my memory dates back to maximum 1979-80 only). No great batsmen since the Zaheer Abbas times. Demolishing the opponents rather than build themselves into a formidable and respectable team is their mission. I have always wondered why the case must be so.

Hindus by nature are passive. Do not disturb others and are never aggressive by gene. Our eating habits have a role to play in the sporting field. We are no beef eaters. So genetically we are blessed with poorest stamina. Our strength and power therefore lies in our mind. So we focus on a strong will. What we cannot achieve in the sports arena with brute physical strength, we try to master by sheer practice, training and mental strength and will power, combined with a plausible strategy.  It is not a coincidence that Vishwanathan Anand was crowned 4 times, the world Chess champion. In one of the interviews of Krish Shrikkanth from my school days, if I remember right, he said, before and after a cricket match he ate curd rice. Mahendra Singh Dhoni prided himself with his 12 liter milk consumption everyday that gave him the energy. No doubt this is the reason, the Indian batsmen are cool and are not overburdened and bloating with all the oozy fat from beef steaks. Despite our worst metabolism, Indians are still winning more medals in Olympics, Common Wealth, Asiad etc., in recent times. Intense training is the chief reason over diet. Diet may be supplemented these days by international coaches, still cannot match the meat component of the foreign athletes/sportsmen’s platter.

What is it about cricket about Pakistan can also be generalized for their entire nation. Pakistanis feed on terror and bleeding other nations, in bringing down India by proxy cross-border wars. This is why Pakistan today is almost a failed nation – now thrown a life line by China (which will one day become the noose to snuff out their life). The aggression and lies about Kargil not over 20 years ago was their last misadventure. India could have blown them up long time back, but as a mature democracy, India can exercise restraint and caution. India is hesitating because India is the land of the Hindus, who prize wisdom over brazen terrorism which is trademark of Pakistan.

Cricket is nothing more than a game and must not be seen as anything over that. But the degeneration of Pakistan side is shocking. Their captain Sarfaraz was not even able to mumble up coherent speech (i have immense respect for small town boys who grew up tough – our own ex cool captain Dhoni and those like Har Bhajan Singh and today’s Bumrah etc., are from small towns). Rameez Raja in this age with his transplanted dyed hair and tummy tuck (?) looked far better.

Ever since (the murder of?) Bob Woolmer in West Indies during a World cup series, I think they are downhill. Political correctness apart, this is what team captains like Inzamam Ul Haq can do to a playing side and also to a nation’s psyche. If what we Indians believe is true, Pakistan is beyond redemption. Will Imran Khan clarify on that. Pakistanis have convinced themselves that their hands are not bloodied, but the world knows and believes otherwise. This is the same with how terrorism is also treated by their population and media, especially the big and loud mouthed MEDIA !

India should not even be playing the Asia cup and this is not our best team either.

Yesterday’s match was one sided affair but I just wanted to see the boys batting. Many a time, India’s batting order too crumbles without a clue  but it is all in the game. It is just that, what are we consistently that matters. What are we generally. What are we to sum up.

I am glad India is considered a good batting side, not relying on demolishing the opponent for a win as is the case with Pakistanis. Fortifying oursleves must be our best bet and best foot forward. This is not just our strategy, this is our psychology. Constructive over destructive. Positive over negative. Derailing Pakistan or China is not our agenda. We are for building India and we attack only when provoked. But Pakistan, just as their bowlers, would rather down the adversary than make it good for themselves.