Religion and its Aftermath

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When I was at school, probably in the 7th standard, applying for public examination hall tickets was a big deal! Applicants’ information had to be precise….’cuz if we screwed it up…the repercussions were endless visits to the board of secondary school offices. Most of my teachers always made sure that I got my name right, every year a new teacher… weird isn’t it? Now, why would I get my name wrong? But my teachers were a little skeptical basically because I had a Hindu first name and a Muslim surname…since my mother is a Hindu and my father a Muslim. Most teachers did not even know if such a name existed…what it meant.  But, never before in my life did I feel like I was different to others…like I was not normal…probably a little ashamed as well…especially when it came to filling the section which asked which religion I belonged to…do I tick Hinduism or Islam? I used to hate that part and still do. My friends never had any such problems and I did not want to ask my teachers for advise or suggestions since it meant telling them my life story which in turn gave me unduly attention.

My parents never brought me up a ‘certain way’. They are not religious people and I grew up speaking Telugu (my mother tongue), applied bindi and went to Temples occasionally with friends. My mother remained a Hindu; she wore her Mangalsutra and bindis too. So my brother and I basically were ‘non-religious’. My father rarely goes to the mosque and most people get a shock of their lives when they come to know he is a Muslim. He is a Hyderabadi but speaks fluent Telugu and that confuses people a lot.

If once I was a little embarrassed that I did not have a sense of belonging towards any religion, I have grown up to be a person proud of my heritage. My aversion with religion started with the demolition of Babri Masjid and the riots that followed. We were living in Hyderabad then and I cannot forget the sense of fear in me. Scared to go out and buy food, wondering if anyone would come home and hurt my family…wondering if my mom could be hurt if Muslims came home or if my dad could get hurt if Hindus came home. There was curfew in the city and the tension was high. A local cable TV network continuously broadcasted images of the demolition of the masjid along with Shri Ram’s Devotional songs. The tension was high. My father rushed to the cable TV network’s office and asked him not to show scenes that could easily instigate people. But the operator was adamant and continued to show the pictures. My father did not have any other option but to confiscate his equipment and bring it home. That night remains one of my scariest nights’ till date. I was sure that some religious fanatics would come home and definitely hurt my dad….but it went without any incident. My father’s relatives who live in the ‘Old City’ of Hyderabad had some horrific tales of violence to share with us…which only scared me even more.

The riots ended gradually and life came back to normal. Since then, I never found it important to associate myself with any religion.  But for some it is very important and I never really understood why. Why would someone want to associate themselves to something that is so violent, something that is only used to kill and increase distance between people.

I believe that my parents symbolize what India is all about. We are ‘supposed’ to be a secular country so when there are inter-religious marriages, it is an institution to look up to and not to be sneered at.

Some tell me that religion is a way of life, a discipline….but these words do not have any value for me now. I have only seen people fighting, killing in the name of religion. Religion has only been used to hurt others and not unite people in love and peace. Probably, once upon a time, religion meant discipline, obedience but now it’s been diluted and used when and where possible to satisfy humans selfish needs. It is used only to divide and destroy people’s lives. I believe in God, but I am not ready to believe that different religions have different Gods and that if I pray to one God, the other God(s) will get angry. My God is Universal and I pray for peace everyday.

Why I am ANGRY!

Over the last 48 hours, I have been glued to my television set. I have never watched so much news before. When you are living abroad, everything is much more painful.

When I first heard of the news of indiscriminate firing at the Taj, I did not bother to keep track of the sequence of events since I though it could be a crazy gunman. I only realised how serious the issue was once S was home and checked the news again. What started off as random firing soon turned out to be a full-fledged terrorist attack on the city of Mumbai.

After the blasts in Delhi and Assam a few months ago, I knew such news could not affect me anymore. I think Indians are tragically used to listening such news and have unfortunately made them part of their everyday lives. But what unwrapped in Mumbai was phenomenal. You saw terrorists who were not scared to show their faces, who came well prepared, who had the ammunition and food to survive for days and the most scariest part was how old the terrorists looked…they seemed so young but yet so fearless…hell-bent on bringing terror to the city.

I was deeply saddened when I learnt that the top cops of Mumbai, Mr. Hemanth Karkare, Mr Salaskar and Mr Kamte had tragically succumbed to terrorist bullets. It is such a loss! The BJP and it’s allies like who stated that Mr. Karkare was anti-national for his revelations on the Malegaon blasts paid the ultimate price trying to save people like you and me.

There were some heroic tales of hotel staff both at the Taj and the Trident and also of the Army Men, Commandos, RAF and the Police who tried to help the guests whilst stuck at the hotel. Some of them sadly lost their lives and I hope their sacrifice won’t go in vain.

There are so many things I’d like to mention in this post…I feel like pouring my heart out…but it is just so difficult…hard to find the words. Mr. Krishna Kumar, VC of Taj group of hotels told us of how the GM of Taj Palace hotel helped rescue the guests only to find out later that his wife and two sons who were situated in one of the suites of the Taj were burnt alive. How can anyone come to terms with such loss. His grief is unimaginable. This is just one of the horrific tales that has come out of the crisis..there are many more.

I do not trust our politicians to resolve the crisis. Infact, I’ve never trusted them in anything. It is only the will power of the common man of India that has brought us to where we are economically but it is he/she that suffers the most.

But how do we move forward from here? What can we do as the citizens of India. There is alot of anger. There could be anger towards a certain community or towards our neighbour. Personally, the only way I could see a better future for India is by introducing out-reach programmes for certain communities who feel alienated. There are few questions our politicos and Intelligence bureau need to answer. How did so many terrorists enter India? Why are our borders so porous? How did the terrorists know where to attack? How did they know every inch of the Taj Palace Hotel? If 9 terrorists have so far been killed and one has been held alive….where are the remaining? Are they still freely going around the city?

There are so many questions…but no answers from the authorities. Obviously, the ‘Mumbaiker’ (and also the ‘Indian’) is tired of listening to cliched terms like ‘the spirit of mumbai’ and the ‘resilience of the city’. Please don’t take us for granted. We don’t deserve this.

And if the MNS chief Mr. Raj Thackeray does happen to read my blog…Can I just clarify, that I am not a Mumbaiker…I am a Hyderabadi…but I feel the pain of the city…and pray for the affected. So please do not try to regionalise us. Mother India is already bleeding…Mother India deserves respect. If you can contribute positively…please do…otherwise keep out!

What Life Throws at You

I just couldn’t get myself to write the last few days. I was disturbed, angry, sad and most of all helpless. One bad day and it spoils remaning six days. Even if you try really hard to block ‘it’ from your head…you cannot. You want to help people by making them understand how things work…but you can’t. You are scared that it could spoil the health of people you love, but do not know how you could explain this to them. Your mind is muddled-up. You feel it’s going to burst if you think about ‘it’ anymore. Everything good that happens to people around you suddenly makes you jealous. You wonder why good things aren’t happening to you anymore.

People who care about you try and console you…but you still can’t stop thinking about ‘it’. You wonder why life cannot be simple…where you have problems but can be solved easily, where your prayers are answered. Then, after a few days of sulking, thinking, you make up your mind to be strong. You know that the only way to be happy is to be satisfied with what you have and not what you don’t have. You pray to God and put all the burden on His/Her shoulders…reminding him that he/she is the one who is supposed to take care things.

And then you start to relax…but life is a Biatch…and it throws s*** at you again and again…and gradually you get used to it. You learn to tackle it…you learn to work out your life with the problems involved in it…you no more think of God solving your problems. You suddenly realise that it is YOU who will have to take care of things. You realise that you will always have problems….everyone does…but if you have the support of loved ones…you can face anything and most of the time you will come out of it successfully. You’d then just pray to God asking him to take of the ones you love.

I don’t know if it is my harmones talking…’cuz I know most of it sounds like some random ramble. I don’t expect anyone to get the gist of what I have just written…but if anyone did…leave a comment..encouraging ones 😀 because if you don’t…I am ready with a broomstick in my hand 😀

Pic Courtesy: http://www.motivationalplus.com

Death and Destruction. God Help Us!

Pic Courtesy: www.watton.org

  1. The first thing I saw on tele yesterday morning was NEWS of the Earthquake in China. Atleast 15,000 people are believed to be dead and thousands missing. Most of the vicitims were children who were caught unaware when their school building collapsed in a matter of seconds. Since China implements ‘one-child’ policy, a generation of children have been lost in some of the worst hit provinces.
  2. Day before, I also learnt of the serial blasts in Jaipur, where alteast 60 people are believed to be dead and atleast 150+ injured. The bombs were placed bicylcles parked in busy market areas. One of the bombs placed at Hanuman Temple was defused by the bomb defusal squad. As far as I remember, it was first Bangalore, then Delhi, then Hyderabad, then Ajmer Dargah and now Jaipur. The Intelligence Bureau (IB) should be re-named ‘The World’s Most Unintelligent Bureau (TWMUB)’. My reaction was that of shock when it happened in Delhi and Hyd. Now, I have somehow got used to the NEWS. They are bound to happen in our country…if not today..then tomorrow. I am sure most of us feel this way…since we live in a country where the security system is in shambles and IB seems to be doing nothing about it! It agitates me!
  3. Atleast 32,000 people are believed to be dead and scores unaccounted for due to Cyclone Nargis in Burma but the Burmese Military Junta is not accepting help from foreign authorities for food and aid…inspite of it’s people dying of starvation and illness. God, please give them some sense. First they force their power on the Burmese and now they don’t care inspite of so much suffering. If you want to help, please donate here. I read somewhere…IT IS ONLY THE POOREST THAT ARE HIT THE HARDEST BY NATURAL CALAMITIES.

My prayers are for the families who have lost their loved ones….to give them strength to cope with their irreplaceable loss. It is difficult…very difficult. But if our thoughts are with the vicitims and their families when we pray…it will be easier.

When such things happen, my faith in God is questioned. Why can’t God stop all this from happening?

Weekend Dhamaka and Disappointment!!

I have been feeling so jealous lately!! While browsing through some of the blogs on my blogroll, I happened to ‘bump into’ some very wonderful blogs written by women…just the regular stuff really…about life, love, food, books etc etc. That was what I wanted to do…that was the intention for me to start this blog and  either my adopter gets screwed on a timely basis or I am too lazy to switch on the computer and write.

Well anyways, coming to the events of the last weekend….it was ROCKING!!! I was off the Shef for the weekend and it was also the weekend when the cultural evening of the Uni of Shef was being held. I studied for my undergraduate course there and I simply love university life. Shef Students Union is one of the best (if not the best) unions’ in UK with students from various walks of life, cultures and religions. It has a very strong student community. The last time I went to the cultural evening was back in 2004 with S before we were married. Four years later, I was back there to get a taste of Uni life…as in the late night partying n stuff 😉

All dressed up, we girls left our place in the cold. I am sure it was freezing temp outside. One of our frnds’ was in the fashion show and the other was dancing for the Indian Society. The job myself and this other frnd was to shout and support the indian society when ever they came on stage; the duty which I gladly obliged :D. The Indian society went onto with the second prize that night for the best performance which I think was totally not worth it! There were other societies like the Srilankan, Tibetan Chinese Society, The Chinese Society, Afro-Carribean Society and the Japanese society who performed exceptionally well. Over the years, I have always watched the Indian Society and the Hindu Students Forum dance for bollywood songs. Apparently, that is what they consider Indian culture to be.

When my parents studied abroad many many years ago, they tell me that Indian students would play traditional instruments like the tabla, veena etc and perform our traditional dances like the Bharatanaytam, Kathakali etc to showcase our culture. Now, showcasing our (Indian) culture means dancing on a couple fo bollywood songs…and that too the likes of Aaja Nachlay and Jhoom Barabar Jhoom. As a devout Indian…I will support the society by yelling and jumping in my seat whenever then come on stage…but deep inside my heart, I know I am disappointed about the narrow view of ‘India’ they are showing to the people around them who wouldn’t have been to India atall. The only opinion they will make of India is what what they see in the songs…probably the bright colour of the clothes, the jumps and twists and the bhangra!

After the night came to an end, I told my friends what I thought and they simply said…’this is what sells today…this is what people want to see…and that is what we gave them’. I asked them why the Indian society cannot do more to showcase what comes from the south aswell…like Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi or Kathakali. Why does it always have to start and end with Bhangra or the jhatak mataks of a Bollywood song? Why is not the culture of the south shown to the world as much as of the north and they did not have an answer. I am sure some of them thought I was crazy to think of all this after a night of fun and dance. I am sure they wondered why I was thinking about this so seriously…I was just supposed to watch, clap, yell, jump, dance and then leave. But the thoughts still linger with me. Some of our foreign friends who came upto us and to chat said ‘oh…..your bollywood society did really well and we had to tell them that it was actually Indian and not Bollywood’.

I am scared when I think that in 20 years time the only culture India will end up with is the ‘Bollywood Culture’. We have so much more to offer. What will happen to our traditional musicians and classical dancers if we don’t learn to appreciate what they do? Most of them are arleady living in poverty…not having enough food to eat. The youth of India these days has the money to buy a cd of Eminem or Rhianna when they do not even give a second look for a M S Subbalakshmi, Balamurali Krishna or a Zakir Hussain cd. Remember, the names mentioned above were lucky to be recognised by the public and the government alike…but there are many classical musicians, dancers who have equally good talent but are given a ‘blind eye’ by our society.

I don’t blame globalisation for all this. Being a young Indian woman, if I can appreciate what my country has…why cant others?? Where are we going wrong?

Happy Ugadi

Here’s Wishing all my readers a Very Happy Ugadi 🙂

For those who are wondering what I am on about….here’s further information on Ugadi. Let’s pray for Love and Happiness to all 🙂

I visited the Venkateshwara Temple in Birmingham yesterday and how beautiful it was. I first visited the temple when it was no more than a couple of concrete buildings. It now looks like a proper temple, as if it were in India. I’d suggest everyone to visit it … even if you are not a religious person… simply because it’s peaceful and beautiful. The place makes you forget all wordly matters and lets you unwind.

Here’s just some shots I took yesterday

The Main Temple