Thursday, March 08, 2012

Celebrating Myself

Women’s web has given me an opportunity to pat my own back by recounting an achievement that I consider worth celebrating. I admit to feeling a little hesitant because years of mental tuning have made me think that it may not be politically correct to do so. After all, what could I have done on my own? My husband and children too need to be given due credit. So I leave it to my readers to decide how much of the credit part actually belongs to me.

Let me start with the time when I started looking for a job. I had applied for the post of a Science teacher in a local school and the Principal shot a question on me regarding the balancing of a chemical equation.

“Potassium di chromate” he bellowed sensing my insecurity. “How would you write the formula for Potassium di chromate, eh?”

“KCrO4” I mumbled, glad to remember that K stood for potassium and Cr for chromium.

It was 10 years since I had graduated from college and very much out of touch with my books. I needed the job very much and hoped that the principal would understand.

“KCrO4?“ The sadist of a Principal asked. “I’ll call a student from class VII and he would be able to tell you that it is K2Cr2O7.”

“Sir, I am not very much in touch but given a chance I’ll pick up soon.” I hated myself for having had to say so. I had been a good student all along and it was humiliating to fumble for answers.

“Do some revision before aspiring to teach in our school”. The interview was over.

I cried myself to sleep that night. Time would make me realize that this failure was indeed a stepping stone for success. I applied for my present job soon afterwards and was placed first on the merit list. A few months after I joined college as Lab assistant I asked my Head of the department how and why she chose me when several fresh graduates had also applied. She explained that my academic qualifications and high percentage had convinced the panelists that I would pick up from where I had left although they had sensed that I was out of touch. And this is how I proved that their trust in me was not misplaced.

Fifteen years after I finished graduation I was accepted for a post graduate program in a local college. In the interim period the syllabus had changed and areas that were only touched upon in my undergrad course had assumed importance. I had three young children and an aged father in law and schizophrenic brother in law to look after. To add to my misery I was not eligible for study leave which meant that I would have to attend two colleges as well as my family. The two years that followed were the best in my life. My children rose to the occasion. I would leave home at seven in the morning after having prepared food for the family. I would be eight in the evening before I returned. I would study at a friend’s place after college because I knew that I would not be able to study at home. Daughters would get ready for school, pack lunch for my husband and themselves and help my son with his home work. They learnt to serve food, clear up the kitchen, fold clothes and even to prepare dosas if the batter was ready. My son who was just seven years old would happily adjust and by the time I returned home he’d have gone to sleep after dinner. And to top it, their school performance did not suffer.

What did I gain by all this you may ask? Well, I managed to top my batch and break a twenty one year old record and I hear that my record remains unbroken till date. It is now 23 years since my results were announced. My children have settled down in life. And above other things, my daughters say that they were motivated to rise to the occasion and learnt house keeping skills as an additional incentive.

As for my husband, he knew more Botany than me because I would discuss expected questions with him and he would rattle off the names of authors and books to the extent of making his friends ask whether he was also planning to answer an exam along with me. I realized that I had taken things too far when my son who was in grade II drew the chemical structure of Gibberellins (a growth hormone) on the living room floor.

I cannot think of any other achievement than this that is worth a celebration. I celebrate it because

  • It brought us close to each other as a family.
  • It made me realize that success is achieved by collective effort and cooperation. An individual’s input has to be supplemented by family support.
  • Age is not a limiting factor when it comes to learning.
  • Husband can drive me nuts but I still think he is the best I can hope to have!

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Anthropomorphism and religion

In the course of looking up for material for my presentation in the seminar I came across the term anti anthropomorphism among tribals of Nilgiri districts and a preference for a cosmic religion. Anthropomorphism pertains to attributing human traits to gods as we see in the commonly accepted and practiced form of Hinduism. Yes, we do have saguna and nirguna forms of meditation and the explanation given is that it is easier to concentrate on a deity with a form in the initial stages and one could graduate to worshipping the formless cosmic energy (call it God) later. I do agree. As children we did look for illustrations in our lessons and only when we reached higher classes could we understand lessons on a conceptual basis.

Attributing a form to our gods makes us recognize gods by certain traits. Lord Rama is visualized as bearing a bow and arrow, Lord Krishna with a flute and Lord Ganesh with an elephant face. Worshippers of nature and the elements like the tribals of Jharkhand worship the Sal tree during Sarhul and Karam tree during Karma Puja. I remember being confused when my Christian friends would question our wisdom in worshipping the sun and the sacred basil saying that they were creations of god and need not be worshipped. I could not defend myself then nor do I want to now because religion to me is a way of life and god is not a formidable task master waiting to punish his children for their mistakes. Nature worship needs to be seen as man’s way of conserving biodiversity. Heaven and hell do not await us after death. We experience hell when we suffer and heaven when we get the fruit of our labor in this very life.

Coming to anthropomorphism, I have just one problem with it. When we give our gods a human form don’t we also imagine that they have human qualities? Don’t we ask for wish fulfillment and offer to break coconuts or feed the poor in lieu of the boon that is granted? Don’t we think that god’s need to be pleased with offerings for favors? Don’t we fear the worst if for some reason one is not able to fulfill a promise he/she made to god. To my mind God understands everything including our unjust demands and if a particular incident that is not acceptable does happen, with the passage of time we do realize that whatever happened was for good. I have seen this happen umpteen times in my own life.

Feeding the poor, distributing blankets in winter, donating for a good cause need to be done spontaneously with an inner desire to give back to society a little of what society gave to us. The God factor is good as long as it helps us lead a purposeful, honest life with concern for the world around us. If one’s faith in God enables a balanced approach to life, enabling one to treat success and failure as part of our learning purpose, it hardly matters if our God has a form or not. But when I see God being used to flaunt one’s power, to cover up one’s mistakes to look down upon fellow men I cannot help wondering if such people are truly God fearing? Aren’t those among us who are true to their conscience better advocates of the God factor?