Monday, December 15, 2014

Religion as I see it......

I think my religion is important to me. Not because I think that the religion I was born into is superior or inferior to any other. But because is very accommodative. I can imagine orthodox Hindus giving me cold stares. The caste system having lost the purpose for which it was created, the Hindus belonging to the group that had the benefit of education and the duty of imparting it to others began to consider themselves superior. But would a truly educated and knowledgeable person consider one human being as being superior or inferior to another? How about the group who were given the duty of cleaning up the mess created by others? Are they not the most superior group in that they are making the world a place fit to live in? Were it not for them could the so called educators, protectors and business people lead a comfortable life?

So let us not go by the dictates of the caste system. Let us understand that our religious texts do not differentiate between human beings on the basis of caste, creed or the color of one's skin. It does glorify a person who is true to himself and the society he belongs to. It applauds a person who stands up for one who is subjected to injustice. In fact most Hindu festivals are celebrated to signify that evil forces cannot last for ever. Justice prevails and the negative forces are vanquished. It also means that one need not despair. Bad times will not last forever. It also does not imply that once evil forces are vanquished they're gone forever. The battle between good and evil forces continues and one has to be ever vigilant. It is a reminder that neither good times nor the evil ones last for ever.

I also believe that my religion does not impose strict rules for worship. As a child we had a set of rules. We could not have solid food unless we bathed. The food prepared for the family had to be offered to God before consumption. We had to wash our hands and feet on our return from school before entering the house. In fact children had to take off their school uniforms, put it away to be washed and change before being given snacks to eat. These were hygienic practices and had nothing to do with religion. Religion was brought in to make people follow them. The rules were also meant to bring discipline in one's life and when food was meant to be offered to God one tended be extra careful while preparing it. I for one would suggest that these practices would be good for all people not just Hindus.

Coming back to rules for worship -

As far as I can remember my mother fasted on specific days like ekadasi or restricted herself to a single meal on certain other days. A day was set apart for the God of health and another for the God of wealth. Fasting for the well being of sons and husbands and setting apart special occasions to celebrate the girl child and worshipping her as Durga the goddess of might and valour was also not uncommon. Sisters pray for the welfare of brothers during festivals like Rakhi, Karthik poornima, Makar Sankaranthi and Bhai dooj. So the message one gets is that in a family set up girls as well as boys are important. Fasting and feasting are both important for good health. Every celebration has a significance.

But while during festivals one was treated to special delicacies it is also believed that God could be pleased by offering pure water or a flower or by prostrating or folding one's hand with reverence before starting the day if possible. Even if that was too much it was enough to be good to fellow human beings and kind to animals. Rivers are considered sacred and trees such as Tulasi and Peepal are worshipped. Raw Turmeric is distributed to women during festivals.  All this talk of conserving the ecosystem and preserving the biodiversity on earth has been practiced for ages by our religion by attributing divinity to animals and plants. The cow is worshipped, the snake is found wrapped around Shiva, Durga rides the lion and Meenakshi has a parrot perched on her shoulder. Goddess Lakshmi sits on a lotus, Karthik rides a peacock. Well the list is endless. The ecological pyramid and the food web were understood much later but my religion accords due importance to producers, consumers and scavengers reminding us that ecological balance was possible only when they co-existed.

It is unfortunate that a few have distorted the Hindu way of living to present it out of context. Let us not be put off by them. More than a religion Hinduism is a way of life. It lets a person choose his method of serving humanity. Meditation is considered a way to worship as much as the fanfare associated with temple worship with the blowing of the conch, beating drums and dancing. You could be part of either or neither. You could simply choose to do your duty without expecting rewards. You could rever your parents and your teacher as Gods in human form. No pressure to follow set rituals and no guilt associated when for some reason one is not able to fulfill or practice them.

Is it any wonder that I am comfortable belonging to such a group.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Trying out Google docs

I am trying out the Google doc for the first time to write a piece for my blog. God knows if I will be able to publish it. If I could then it would be so much easier for me. A senior citizen like me gets excited over these little achievements that my granddaughters consider a child's play. And why not? They are from the 21st century and I am from the Stone Age of computer technology. They've gone to school and here I am sitting like a dumbo not knowing how to switch on the TV. Granddaughter Megha has written it out - Turn on Netflix = P button. And I cannot see any P button in the remote. Did she mean the PLAY button? It doesn't work either. I am going to get her to demonstrate and try to practice in her presence.

In a way it is good. I am at least thinking of writing something. So what if it is a rant against technophobic me? I am not technophobic in the real sense. I can and I do try to learn. Unlike my husband who is the real technophobe of the family. But wait, he can use my i pad to watch his favorite TV shows when we visit America. But he won't check mails. He was never a person to write letters. He wrote a letter or two when my eldest daughter was born but I don't recall an occasion when he wrote to anyone else. And when letters were the only means of communication I haven't been away for long enough to merit a letter from him. My father in law would take care of communicating to his generation of relatives while I took charge of mine. Then the telephone took over. Even then I am the one who calls.

On one occasion I landed at around midnight and saw that he had not come to receive me. He was confused about the dates and thought that I was arriving the following day. I called him from a local booth (mobiles were not so popular back then) and gave him a piece of my mind since it was him that had bought the ticket. But I need not have bothered because my ravings did not affect him a bit. The saint that he was, all he did was to give me a beatific smile and said " now that I am here shall we go home?"

I don't blame him. He is one who does not wish to be a slave to modern gadgets.

According to him-

They are to be used when required and should be under our control. They should not control our lives.

I suppose it is okay if they control the wife's life.

She can -

Book tickets.
Carry out Internet banking because it is her job.
Order books online for the husband to read.
Operate a smart phone, Debit/credit cards, respond to mails and instant messages and yet not be a slave to technology.

I would say that I'd like to see the day when I am not around and he is able to manage without technology.

The day has come. I am in America and he is in India. He is managing fine. No wife, no technology and he is missing neither!


I can only say "poor me"..................

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Back to business!!

Hurray!!!!

My research project is over and the final report has been drafted, approved and sent off to be bound. A little bit of writing work - like what was achieved by this work and how it would benefit society etc - remains. But the strain of poring into the microscope and identifying microorganisms is over. 

Did I enjoy my work? Of course I did. Do I want to take up another project? No, thanks. The next generation can continue from where we left. My house and family need my undivided attention. Husband has been sulking for too long and towards the end he even threatened to throw my laptop into the very river that was the subject of our investigation. I don't blame him. As I have said earlier, I am the only friend he has and it has been 14 years since he retired from service. He has his own opinion on political and social issues and cannot wait for me to get home to listen to his point of view. And apart from the time I served him his meals I would sit down with my laptop either  identifying the specimen that were micro-photographed, feeding data into tables or preparing graphs and charts. Sundays and holidays would be utilized for field work or visits to my Principal Investigator's or Ph. D guide's home for discussion. Summer vacation just came and went. I either went to college or worked at home engrossed in my work as usual. Husband was patient enough but became irritable towards the end.

I now come to my question on the issue.

I am passionate about whatever I do and do go overboard at times. But if our roles were reversed and it was my husband who was busy with some project taken up by him would I feel lonely and left out? I think not. 

Instead of sulking and pouting I would have occupied myself with umpteen chores that now remain unattended in the house. For instance I would have cleared the store room and disposed of the old  news papers and magazines. I would have seen to it that the house was tidied up and looked neat when he returned. And I would certainly not expect him to make tea and snacks for me within ten minutes of entering the house. Lastly, I would find some socially productive work to keep myself busy.

I do not know if I am being uncharitable but if our men folk show lack of understanding ( after all my project work would not continue for the next ten years) it is the woman/women who pamper them who has to accept blame. For my part, I agree that I played a role in making my husband an enabler.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

The international breast feeding week is on and the Home Science Department of our college held a program to emphasise the importance of breast feeding and the benefits it confers to both mother and child. The program brought back memories of the time when I was a young mother. 

Apart from the health benefits the time one gets to spend while breast feeding one's child is very special. It is a very special time ensuring 'one on one' interaction that helps the child bond with the mother. It makes the baby feel secure and wanted. It makes the mother feel like an achiever because this is one area where a dad cannot pitch in and take over.

I do not mean to undermine a dad's role in this area. Lactation is a physiological process and it is the brain that signals it's onset. It is a husband's duty to see to it that his wife gets adequate time with her baby and is in a relaxed state of mind. While it is important to pay attention to the diet of a nursing mother it is equally important to make her feel special.

So, my advise to young mothers and mothers to be is to enjoy the special role that nature has given you. Internet offers tips - good ones at that - but each child is different and nothing can be generalised. Listen to good advise whether it is from your doctor or grandmother but decide on the requirement for your child yourself. The little one is your responsibility - an extension of you and your husband - and deserves the very best.

Happy parenting!









Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Nostalgia.......

Feeling nostalgic today. Had the opportunity to relax and listen to old Tamil movie songs of the 60 and 70s. Songs that I would listen to on my transistor while finishing my record work while Vividh Bharati, Radio Ceylon and listeners' choice from AIR, Tiruchy played my favourite songs. These were songs we would be treated to for an hour after dinner before the Silence Hour in our hostel. How much we would nag the seniors in charge of selecting records to play our favourite numbers!

How I wish that I had never grown up and continued to lead that carefree life for ever.

How I wish I never had to learn the bitter truth and harsh realities that are part of life.


Thursday, May 15, 2014

Spread the language of love


Spreading the language of love

Four years back we had the the pleasure of celebrating our granddaughters’ birthdays at Jamshedpur. Megha was turning six and Annika two. We combined their birthday celebrations and arranged for a small party for sixty people including 12 to 15 children. The kids had a blast and my granddaughters must have taken back pleasant memories of their two months stay in India Then came the task of sorting out gifts. There were a number of Cadbury's chocolate gift packs, stuffed toys, dolls and other items. I put away the chocolates telling them that they could have them over the next couple of weeks. My six year old granddaughter then surprised me with her words  -
“Amma” she said, “I want to give away the chocolates to children who do not get to eat them. We keep getting chocolates all the time and do not need more of them”.
Enjoying a game at Bridge School
I felt proud of my little girl and took the two of them to a bridge school run by Anjalidi and they not only shared chocolates and snacks with the 35 girls in the school but spent the whole evening playing with them. On their return to America Megha continued to remember them and once asked me to distribute cold drinks and snacks to her Bridge School friends on her behalf. I gladly obliged. My co sister Geeta heard about the bridge school and gave them a trunk load of utensils and household items that belonged to her mother to be used by them.
Yummy snacks??
   
A similar sentiment is expressed in the “Share the Language of Love” campaign jointly hosted by Johnson’s Baby in collaboration with Goonj – an NGO that echoes similar sentiments. The objective of the campaign is to motivate parents to donate their children’s utilized articles with children from underprivileged families so that they too may experience the joys of childhood. This in turn would help children to appreciate the privileges that they enjoy and also realize that children that are not as privileged as them also deserve to enjoy the experience of owning items that that their parents cannot get for them.

The idea of sharing and caring not only does wonders to the donor as well as the receiver – I say it from experience – but also sends positive vibes to society in general. The organizers of the campaign have collection centers where the items may be deposited. Those who are interested may just give a missed call to 1800 267 6767/1800 267 2222 and they will be guided to the nearest collection center where they can give away stuff that were purchased with great care for their own children who have now grown up and/or have no use for them. If a small gesture like this can bring a smile on a child’s face why not we join hands and support the campaign.

I am no very much into blogging these days with a research project demanding my time and attention. But the idea behind the campaign was appealing and I could not help remembering that Megha echoed the very same sentiments four years back! I hope she remains so always.

     




Sunday, May 11, 2014

Happy Mother's Day

This mother’s day I wish to pay my heartfelt tribute to all those women including my mother who have shaped my life.  I have already written about my mother in earlier posts but whatever I write seems inadequate. She has had a very strong and positive role in my life and I have no hesitation in tracing every little success that came my way and each one leads me to her. From the time she taught me to read and write till occasions that left me depressed her presence alone instilled a confidence that was difficult to explain. Never verbose or vocal, she led by example and one could never compromise on morals and ethics – neither when she was alive nor after her death. She taught me to accept the ups and downs in my life with equanimity and under her guiding influence I learnt valuable lessons – the most important one being that good and bad times are a part of life and neither last forever.

My mother’s sisters also mothered me in their own way. Following my father’s death they would invite us children for vacations and treat us to movies and exhibitions the way my dad would have. Her older sister had no children of her own but how can I forget the kindness and concern she showed when she came to assist me when my son was born. I was in hospital following my delivery and in a foul mood because my husband was taking a long time to come. He was to come straight from his office so I did not expect my aunt to turn up. But she did. She did not know the route and could manage just a few words of Hindi. A flask of coffee in one hand and idlis in the other she took the town bus, got down at the blood bank as per my father in law’s direction, followed the crowd that was proceeding to the hospital, asked for the maternity ward and was by my bed even before my husband. All because she knew that I would be hungry and that she did not want me to eat the hotel food that my husband may get since he was coming straight from his workplace.

Kamakshi mami, my maternal aunt by marriage about whom I have written in this post was also a second mother to me. She taught me the virtue of being selfless again leading by example. Her own children were around the same age as my brothers. I cannot recall a single incident where she subjected us to indifference or showed any preferential treatment for her own children. It was her influence that helped me overcome minor irritants and hiccups as a young bride in Jamshedpur.

My mother in law also made me feel at home in my acquired family and would tell me so much about her people that I learnt to love them even before I had met them. She also did not differentiate between daughter and daughter in law and thanks to her, today I can proudly claim that I equally love both my sister and sister in law.
   
Finally, my mother in law’s friend Thailam mami, who was a pillar of strength when my mother in law was sick and I was at a loss not knowing how to deal with her mood swings and hunger pangs. I could walk into her house at six in the morning and return with a bowl of rasam or sambhar for my mother in law who was normally a picky eater but screamed for food like a six month old on account of her diabetic condition. Thailam mami not only assured me that I could feel free to approach her anytime and would come over during her free time and reassure my mother in law that she would be well very soon. But for her support and guidance l could not have coped with my responsibilities well enough.           
       

  Motherhood is not about raising children it is more about teaching them valuable lessons of sharing and caring. This is done, not by preaching from a pedestal but by showering love and affection on those around us.

A very happy mother’s day to all mothers!