Faith is it?

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Mostly, the main function at Indian weddings is the reception, in which, like I mentioned before, the bride and groom sit on an elevated stage to sit on plush chairs or receive congratulations from people who come up on the stage and get themselves photographed for the wedding albums. The rest of the ground is full people who are even slightly related to the two; engrossed in the food available there. You can see people gobbling up food during the var-maala ceremony, the procession to the stage, and other times too. The family of the bride spends a lot of money on this whole event (sometimes everything they have) to make the wedding a success for a bunch of people who will forget it in the coming week.

I attended a wedding just like the one I described. The bride looked beautiful and the groom handsome. As they sat on the stage to be preened at, their parents attended to the large number of guests they had invited. And I was among those people unashamedly concentrating on the food. And eavesdropping. Yes that is a much disapproved trait, but I consider it helpful. Two ladies, standing near me were talking about the wedding. One of them said, “Govind ji ki kripa hai ki Madan ji ne apni beti itni acchi shaadi kardi.” (It is all because of God’s blessings that Mr. Madan has arranged such an amazing marriage.) Then talking about how great and generous God was, she related an accident she survived with not a scratch on her body. Perhaps she had exaggerated it a bit, because she claimed that a car had hit her very hard as she was coming from a temple. The other woman nodded in complete agreement. Still nodding, she raised her hands in the air and briefly looked up at the sky and with a reverent look in her eyes she agreed that God was certainly quintessential and giving.

And then it hit me. People are so blinded by faith that they credit every bad and every good thing that ever happens to them, to the Almighty. If someone goes broke, or someone’s daughter runs away with her lover they blame it on god. If someone gets a promotion, or they pass a tough examination, they say it was God that made it happen. Whatever happens, it is accredited to God. And I find it amusing. Yes there is an existence of a superpower above us puny humans and animals. It could be nature. Or four basic elements- fire, water, air, earth. How else can you possibly explain tsunami, floods, cyclones, forest fires and other phenomena?  There must be a thing called fate, because one cannot explain why a particular thing happens to someone or somewhere.

But this ‘supreme power above all’ is a bit overrated. I think it is more of a concept that had been introduced into the society by some powerful administrators a very long time back to keep in check the crime rate. And maybe other administrators liked the concept so much, that they decided to make people believe that there was invisible power existent everywhere noticing everyone’s actions.  The thing is, that it works. Mothers admonish children when they misbehave, saying that Santa is looking over him, or bhagvaan will punish him. And that prevents children and even elders from doing objectionable things.

But this belief in God has been diminishing and people have stopped thinking like there really is a power like that. There are uncountable numbers of people cheating each other. Be it money matters, relationships, administration, the world has become full of cheats. Noticed the sudden increase in the most horrid rape cases in India? I blame the decrease in the fear of “God”.

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Feminism or sexism?

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Every person is beautiful in a way. It is not merely her physical appearance that makes her fit for someone’s desire. It is her attitude, her personality, her like and dislikes, her views on things. It is everything. After all, she is an equal, with a say in every aspect of life. But that is more of an imaginary situation.  Take going to a food store. There come millions of customers. Some would prefer cereals, some would prefer chocolates, and some would prefer candies. Some who cannot afford an expensive chocolate would settle for something that doesn’t hurt her pocket, while those who can buy a better one would buy what they want.

I believe the same thing goes for dating or marriage. A person who has better prospects; she looks good, is good to talk to, has an amazing body, earns well, or anything the other person is searching for, she will get whoever she wants. Whereas if a person is not so good-looking, or is fat or does not have enough a good earning, she will have to compromise and settle for what is available for her.

This is certainly a sexist point of view. Looking at a woman or a man as a product, as a consumable thing served to the other half with a specific outlook is certainly a sexist approach. But it is noticed, that all of this implies more to women. They are the ones who are conscious of what they look like, or are made conscious of the requirement to be a certain way. And yes, one can always blame this male dominant society to make it look like a woman is lovable only when someone is a certain type. It is pretty obvious that everything affects everybody. A sexist outlook is omnipresent. This is a male dominant society. I recognize about every person to be a victim of it. It could as well be an irremovable part of our selves. It is so deeply embedded in each one of us, that although some might take themselves to be die-hard feminists, they fail to realize that they are working towards the same view as everybody else, just with more words. Not just that, they succeed to make their friends lean towards the same thoughts as theirs. Everyone one loves playing with a Barbie doll. After all, she has been introduced to children as a play toy for all. But little do people realize that they are also introduced as a certain stereotype for prettiness. In vulnerable young minds that can be molded so easily, an ideal look of beauty is instilled. And that defines how they look at themselves and others.

This whole issue is so obviously present everywhere, and yet it goes unnoticed. One should take care of what they instill in their children. Because what they learn, and observe is what continues in the society. One needs to stop this male-dominant approach in every aspect of life, So that a person develops into a human being with sensitivity, with respect for everyone around (their own sex and others’) and not into an animal with no sense, but the basics.

Happiness in Everything

 

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Here in India, people usually hire architects to build their houses, who in turn hire a developer, who then hire free independent labor. There are many rural areas in India. And people who live there are poorer than the state of the areas. These people, in search of better paying jobs continually travel to cities. They are free workers who stand at certain spots in the city, waiting for people to hire them, or directly going to the work they have been assigned.

There are some families which, as a whole, is employed at a construction site. They temporarily settle themselves at the site itself; live and work there till the task is complete, and then move on to a different location, where they have found new work.

This morning, on my way to college, I saw two children of such laborers working. It was about nine in the morning. Their parents were probably working, or had gone somewhere, because they were nowhere to be seen. Near the construction site, unmindful of the sand they sat in, unaware of everything that was happening around them, and with blocks of stone they built homes, like children play with building blocks. I found it mesmerizing to see those two so mesmerized with mere pieces of stone. Sitting hunched, the boy built a two storied structure, its windows divided by the same blocks. Intermittently, he would hammer a block to get the perfect size; while the girl would build a three storey structure, then would remove the top two floors, and then would again build it. She supported each floor by tiles; unaware of the sunglasses that rested in her matted hair, of the skirt that would slip from her thighs again and again.

There are so many people who have about everything they could ever hope for. They are rich; they can buy everything they could ever hope for. But still, there is dissatisfaction, unhappiness and disappointment in their lives. The point here is that happiness is not attained by materialistic things. It is this inner feeling which makes you feel blissfully happy.

There exists happiness in every mundane and seemingly simple act. Happiness can be as simple as basking in sunlight or listening to your mother hum as she cooks food, or even in watching your lover smile. That is what was beautiful in an act as common as two poor children playing with blocks of stone. So many might frown at the thought of sitting in sand. Although they had unkempt hair, unbathed bodies, worn out clothes, they seemed happy and content.

That is exactly what matters in life- being content with what you have, because if you search for it, happiness exists in the smallest and the most mundane things and acts.

A Political POV

The most covered topic right now in Indian newspapers (after the tejpal news) is the rallies taking place in our country. After all, it is in 2014 that a new government will take power. What is interesting this time is that a dynamic leader has been chosen to stand against the ruling party. It is none other than Narendra Modi, current chief minister of Gujarat, and now a prime ministerial candidate of BJP.
It is his state which has been deemed as an ideal for development in India.  It has a literacy rate of 80.18%, it has played an important role in the economic history of India, and is one of the most industrialized states of India. Also, the per capita GDP is higher than the national average. Having lived there, I can confidently say that women are comfortable there, be it teenagers who can wear shortest of shorts and roam around without being ogled at, or women who can roam around even at 2 am in the morning without feeling odd or unsafe. One can see women dominating the stall market as vendors, which, is very rare in other places (you should notice sometime). It is under his rule of fifteen years that Gujarat is so developed. He has nice oratory skills. And he seems to easily sway people.
Our current prime minister is Manmohan Singh. He is an octogenarian, while Modi is sixty three. And Modi is considered the face of young people in India. When you look at his work in Gujarat, you know that it is he who will make India a better place. But, listening to his speech at rallies is disappointing. He makes fun of the opposite party, the prime minister, the hierarchical system in Congress. What he says is very true, but the way he says it, is crude. Also, India has many types of people; many illiterate, many who are only concerned with sufficient food and jobs. But there exists one more kind, which is concerned with everything and everybody. They are concerned about the increasing prices in the market. They are concerned about the drop in the GDP of India. They are concerned about the decrease of the value of rupee against dollar. They are concerned about the corruption scams that have come up in India. They are aware people, who do not trust a party just because it has promised them sufficient amount of water, food, electricity and bills. They are concerned about the place they live in, and will vote for somebody who makes himself accountable for what he does.
Most of representatives of parties concentrate on making people stand against their rivals. They do so by criticizing them. And that is the sad part. Narendra Modi could lure even more voters than he already has, by trying to answer the questions which are prevalent in every aware citizen of India. He could talk about the plans he has for India, what he would do if he came to power. He needs to address every concern people have. He needs to talk about the solutions of the problems India is facing right now. My suggestions might seem juvenile, because that is what a candidate for class monitor speaks about, but I believe that, to gain trust of the wary ones, he needs to address their concerns.
P.S. please don’t arrest me for writing something politically inclined. The above is just a suggestion.

A Happy You

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Youth is the future of the world. Everything depends on them. Economy, politics, environment as well! They are expected to set goals for themselves, and achieve them. That is certainly a very nice way of setting your child on a path of success. It helps one concentrate and streamlines the path of one’s thoughts. It makes them determined and inculcates in them, many admirable qualities and shape them into a better person.

There exists an enormous population of about 2 billion people in India. There is a dearth of human resource available here. So many multi-national companies have been set up here, luring young and able people to apply for their companies with great money packages. The number of people employed has steadily risen up and now there are loads of people flocking to them. But that is the good part. The major demand had been for engineers, and well, India has been one of the major suppliers of just that kind. With more job availability in this sector, there has been a considerable shift towards opting for subjects like science and maths rather than literature or art. Every second person I talk to, either opts for science or will do that in future. It is not just about the level of employ-ability, but it has become a type of status symbol.
I still remember my aunt asking me what i was going to opt for. Although I was mostly unaware of what I liked, I said nothing. But then she made this weird face and said, ”Do anything you want to, just do not opt for arts”. Well, that is mainly what made me opt for science. And to be honest, I failed miserably. Perhaps if I had worked harder and decided to stick to what I had opted for, I would have been someplace better. But looking at the whole thing with a different perspective, I come to the conclusion that it is mostly the social pressure that decides what we decide.

The sad part is the loss of people with real knowledge and neglect to other streams of study. India is a beautiful country with innumerable historical stories, awe-inspiring structures and landscapes, mouthwatering cuisines, interesting wears and many other things which I fail to acknowledge, mainly because of my ignorance. All of these, mere tourist attractions, have people ignorant of the intensive studies that can be undertaken here. There is so much potential undiscovered in India. The lack of initiatives undertaken towards promoting anything other than production of mindless workers is disappointing. Because of a low number of people doing what they want, they fail to venture into their subjects. There is ignorance, restlessness and frustration. Certain sectors pay you more. Sure. But that is not what keeps you happy. That is not what makes you feel satisfied. To be blissfully happy, one needs to do exactly what they want, no matter which stage of life it is.

So ask yourself. Realize what is right for you. And that nagging feeling that keeps you frustrated, agitated and restless will vanish like it was never there.

Youth and Beauty

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So I just read some bizarre things about some celebrities. Turns out that Demi Moore’s detox therapy consists of blood-sucking leeches, while Gwyneth Paltrow uses a snake venom cream to keep her skin smooth ,  Madonna gets oxygen facials to keep her face glowing even at the age of fifty-five, and Tom Cruise uses face masks composed of nightingale droppings and rice and water. I was appalled.

There are so many things that are temporary in life. Youth and beauty are two of them. A person is born, she grows into a young woman with vitality, vigor, and so much spirit and hope. That is when she is at the peak of her life. She slowly starts to age, cells start to degenerate and gracefully, she leaves this world. Blame the fame or just too much consciousness, but sometimes…well most of the times, people find ageing depressing. They frown when they look into the mirror to find a wrinkling face or a balding head, they whine about how  they never really wanted it to happen. Or sometimes when people in this perpetual state of believing that they are as young as they were in, say 1995, and they try to fit in with the sixteen year old children of 2013, they are deemed as nothing but odd. Yes, having a clear, taut skin is something everybody desires, because it reminds them of the time when they were appealing, agile and (they think) were agreeable.  But it is just a phase! Nobody, who truly loves you, ever stays with you because of a beautiful body, they are there for you because of who you are!

But it is this image that is projected in people’s minds of the only beautiful age to live in is that of the twenties and thirties. Who projects this image? Well, none other than money-hungry people whose main interest is in extracting money from common people. They hire these beautiful women, with perfect bodies, taut skins and glossed looks to make people believe that beauty comes only from what you look, that your husband pays attention to you only when you look like you were twenty-one, that to get back your love you need to look young. There is a range of beauty products in the market that are made of god-knows-what. But in this desperation to LOOK a certain way, people allow the onslaught of chemicals on their bodies and although, they do succeed in achieving pseudo-youth for a while, the way it affects your body later is horrifying.

According to me, a better way to be youthful and alive and beautiful  is to work on your mind rather than your body. Sure, being fit and healthy IS important, but trying to stop time from taking away what can never really be stopped, is an unwise decision. More importantly, there is nothing more attractive and alluring that a beautiful mind. So rather than fussing about how many creases time has made on your face, or hair it has whitened or taken, you can be the wisest person around with so many people loving your soul and not your body.

An evolving culture

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What was usual before, before the 1990 India, was that girls spent this beautiful peaceful life with their parents, until they were old enough to be married. Their parents would then search for a better family than their own, where their daughter would have a better life than they could give her. She would be compiling and would accept whatever her parents thought was right for her.

A very huge Indian population, be it poor or rich, watches Bollywood movies. The main theme of most movies in the Indian cinema has been this romantic idea of two people falling in love, spending time together and finally getting married. And there are so many affected by these Indian movies, they want to live a life like that. It might be unconscious, but it is still there. So girls see their friends getting in relationships before marriage. And its…natural for all they know, because that is the trend, that is what their favorite actors have done. They go through sweet times of being in love, there are break ups, they fall in love again, and it all goes on. But then comes the age. That age when parents, usually unaware of all that has been going on in their children’s life, start searching for prospects. They look for handsome boys, boys who have a good income source etc. And their children don’t stop them from doing that. After all, there is so much pressure. She cannot break up with her boyfriend, because she loves him, and she can’t refuse to marry, because she loves her parents too much. If her parents do find out about it, they act like it is a taboo (which in the initial years i.e. coming up of this trend of a relationship before marriage, it was). They try to stop their daughter from going ahead with it. Who wants to be deemed as an outcast in the society? Who likes being looked down at? So what happens in the end is, that the girl goes through turmoil, which is no less than a cyclone in her mind, she sheds so many tears. Still talking to the man she loves until the last-minute, but in the end marrying the man her parents have chosen for her. She compiles with the situation, accepts it as her fate, and although she had initially spent buckets of tears on some random guy, she is now happy. If that is not the case and the girl decides to remain with her decision of not leaving her boyfriend, she is either cast away, or the family of the girl or the boy, try to kill the couple (honor killing). It might come out as surprising, but it still exists in some rural parts of India, where people are too rigid to change. It is, in a way, a relief that parents understand that falling in love before marriage has become common now. There exists this mother-daughter, and sometimes a father-daughter talk, where parents try to understand what has been happening in their children’s life. They try to guide them through. There are so many cases where parents know the person their child likes and they are okay with it. They support their children in every way they can.

And that is what happens when there is a fusion of two extremely opposite cultures. The influence is so intense on the native culture, that it is deemed fashionable to live like the others do. The effect is so prominent in the Indian movies that most stories develop on the western culture. It is almost like we have adopted the same culture as everyone else. I suppose that is what happens when two cultures meet there is so much infusion of characteristics of each culture, that there comes a stage where there is uniformity. And that is what is happening right now. I spy one factor (the Indian cinema) responsible for changing one aspect (marriage), but I am pretty sure that there are so many factors changing about every aspect of our culture. I can confidently and a bit disappointingly say that we are also reaching that stage where there would be not much difference in the Indian and the western culture.