Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Of Pulli Raja, Arjun's mom, P=NP? and my marriage...

Please excuse me for overhyping the life of an ordinary guy like me by comparing something in my life with celebrity issues like Pulli Raja, Arjun'oda amma and P=NP, but I couldn't resist it, because it just described the scenario perfectly.
My former room-mate Amit and I were returning the rental car after a whirlwind 1-day trip to the Niagara Falls when we felt that 1 day is enough to see the main attractions there. That's when I quipped (needlessly, in retrospection :P) that though 1 day would suffice just to see the main attractions there, it would, nevertheless, be enjoyable to spend 2-3 days just ambling around with one's girl (after marriage, obviously). I kind of semi-drifted into a romantic setting, imagining (myself or someone else, not sure) the guy walking with the girl, his hand lightly on her shoulders and both just close enough to feel the scent of the other, the guy feeling the girl's hair's fragrance (this makes me positively think I might be the guy {I have always been fascinated by penngalin koondhal, though I have never really had the opportunity to smell anyone's or had the cinematic experience of a girl's menmaiyaana koondhal brushing past my face}, esp. ever since knowing why Nakkeerar was burnt with the Lord's third Eye).
Well of course, I'm a 10% Ram Sena-type and would obviously get just about close with my wife in public, whether the place be Nandanam Signal or Niagara Falls, I especially detest the kaiya-pudichu-squeezing, thol-mela-saanjindu-irukki-pudichukkara type, which Surya so classically kalaaichufies in Mounam Pesiyadhe. So when I told all this to Amit, he looked at me, positively startled and asked - "Kya tujhe ye sab karne ki iccha hai kya?" Meaning, "Oh, so you are interested in doing such things is it?" Though I have a fairly good grasp of Hindi, I didn't get what he asked me for an instant, but recovered and replied that of course, I too was a normal Pulsar and would like to do "such things". He smirked and said, "Bhai, if you have such lofty ambitions, it's time you get started with the hunt pretty soon. Going by who you are and how you are, either you should perform a search as incredible as Google*Bing*Yahoo or radically reduce the imaginations of your (pipe) dreams." Ok, not in those same words, but something to that extent. (Incidentally, though we had gone to the Falls with my parents as well, I told him this when they weren't in the car, so that spared me a few blushes. :P)
That's when I realized how badly I have scared people around me about myself. And going by the way things appear to be going, a peek into the future took me well into the past - for no surprising reason, I think I will, if and when I marry, have the reaction that that bloke from Chinna Thambi has, when he is being taken to marry Prabhu's mom, shouting "Enakku Kalyanam...Enakku Kalyanam." I couldn't help, but laugh at myself. :D

Monday, July 27, 2009

My Comment in Senthil's Blog Post on Conversion

Here is Senthil's actual post -
Realized that my comment was as good as a post, hence posting it here.
Much as I disagree with Priya Raju's stance on Hinduism/Brahminism, it must be said that she raises *some* valid points.
Also, even though most of her comments/writings seem fiercely (exclusively) anti-Hindu, I would like to think what she is doing is pointing out our recently-evolved-fallacies to those of us who claim the Sainthood and blemishlessness of Hinduism. I think and hope she would do the same to other religions too, irrespective of whether they (I refer primarily to the Abrahamic ones) claim purity/innocence/blemishlessness because it is obvious that of all the major religions, Hinduism (the "religion" that has sadly come to represent the gloriously more meaningful way of life that Sanatana Dharma is) is easily the least anti-other-religions (if it is, at all).
Anyhow, coming to conversions - all the while, a lot of us here have been looking at the evil that conversion is, from the converter's point of view and have been using the "it is evil to convert another for money...if you help the needy, help them unconditionally, without any prerequisites" refrain. Priya seems to have been looking at the other side - from the converted person's point of view, and I don't really see anyone having addressed that concern effectively. If you are in absolute dire need, with no means for survival, what would you do if someone offered a helping hand with a "minor" catch - changing your religion? (I specifically address this wrt to conversion from Hinduism-->Other religions because I am unaware of cases where poor people originally from other religions have been converted to Hinduism for money {Yes, we Hindus are 'poor' people today :D}). Why I say 'minor' is because of how few of us actually understand Hinduism today. Life is much simpler today, you can lead a perfectly comfortable life without associating any aspect of religion to it (it is a different matter that it is highly unlikely that your quest for inner peace will be satisfied by not following/understanding/knowing about Sanatana Dharma or something like it {if there is something else as insightful...}). And the concept of "inner peace" is something people don't really know about, as well, so few care for it.
Another issue is this - since we know this is Kali Yuga, we should know that bad actions have a higher probability of being a sure event, compared to good ones. In today's world, money is the end-all for most. And to acquire money, people are ready to do most things unthinkable in earlier times. Also, we need to realize that in today's world, money is mostly given by the rich to the poor to do 'bad' things, compared to for doing 'good' things. How many people today would give money to someone to be truthful or honest? Who would give money to a drunkard to stop drinking? I had, after seeing many Indian movies based on corruption as a child, (in the hypothetical situation that I become one of "those" rich people :D) often thought of giving money to officials to 'not accept' bribes, then realized, much to my chagrin, that my action would, again, in a sense, be bribing (to prevent bribing :P). Effectively, conversion for money is, as someone already said, quite analogous to prostitution. Yes, there is one difference in that conversion for inner-peace is possible, but I'm not sure if there are people indulging in prostitution for inner peace or seeking "higher" meaning in life. Then again, an informed person in the right circumstances would realize that you don't need to convert to follow meaningful practises (whichever religion it may be).
What I humbly feel is - most of today's Hindus dont really feel much about their religion in an informed sense (they are either Hindus just because they were born as one {easier prey for conversion} or the Ram Sene types, who are crazy about it because they just happen to believe in it {without correctly knowing why} and who want to be proud of their religion because there are others who are proud of theirs). The few truly informed Hindus are either blissfully involved in service to mankind (not Hindus alone) or serve as guiding light to a few genuinely interested seekers, often unfortunately having to share the "Guru"/"Swami" status with more dubious characters. The easy prey that are born Hindus are -
1) Spineless & gutless, and since they obviously dont belong to the informed category of Hindus, they have no reason to stick around when offered a better alternative. Again, it's Kali Yuga, and a majority of mankind (and quite a few Hindus) belong to this category - do anything it takes for money. And if they are not spineless or gutless
2) they sadly fall under the category of "poor". Unless the "poor" happens to be an intellectual Mahatma (meaning Great soul, not MK Gandhi) wrt Hinduism, there is no reason why he/she shouldn't take the money and convert, because it is a question of survival - after all, this is Bhuloka and in Kali Yuga, doesn't life take precedence over Dharma? And we really can't blame the poor for converting under distress with the lure of money.
IMHO, if at all we intend to stop conversion, we need to try doing something like the good work Swami Lakshmanananda did, in uplifting the tribal people in Orissa (I specifically mention good because I don't want to get into any argument with the [pseudo] secular types on any -ve accusations they might have against the Swamiji, like inciting communal violence, etc). Asking the evangelists to stop, I feel, is not going to be of much use because -
a. They are unreasonable people. Period. Their single-minded agenda is conversion, they will not stop at anything else. Asking them to stop is like asking the customers of prostitutes to stop having sexual feelings. It's not going to happen. Or you should have more power/money than them and force them to stop their conversion or convert them. (Joke :P)
b. We won't be addressing the root cause. As true Hindus, it is our duty to uplift the downtrodden and give them a chance in society. Whether the caste system was good or bad, I will not get into that argument now. We know for sure that the system is not going to work now. Besides, there is too much divisiveness & discrimination associated with it (wrongly). The only way to get out is making the "lesser castes" not feel lesser. And if there is financial trouble, help them eke out a living, don't give them money.
Wrt Brahmins being strong-minded enough not to fall prey to conversion, again, IMHO, I think that's sadly not the case. Yes, the %age of Brahmin converts may be less, but that is more due to their smart-ass'ness (courtesy history) than strong-mindedness. The Brahmin of my generation (I am 24) is no more knowledgeable than the "supposedly" less knowledgeable Shudra of ancient times. Most of today's Brahmins are fit for nothing more than being software engineers who code, guzzle down beer and see what's the best price to buy a flat in Malleshwaram/ECR or whether Bay Area is better than New Jersey to settle down. And among all the atheists/agnostics of all religions in the world, it's the Brahmins (Tam-Brahms, esp.) who question and mock at their own practices most. This is another thing I noticed - while atheists of other religions don't restrict their criticism to their former religion alone, most "Hindu" atheists somehow seem to have their scorn, sarcasm and criticism exclusively reserved for Hinduism alone. Beats me why.
To answer another question, though I disagree with a lot of ISKCON's teachings & practices, ISKCON conversions are at least more dignified than Evangelism in that they don't take advantage of someone's suffering. Their "conversion" (for want of a better word) addresses the mind rather than the financial status of a person, which is, IMHO, definitely more honourable.
I have made quite a few generalizations (not sweeping) in what I've written above. There are, as always exceptions, but most of what I've written is from what I've observed around me.
Apologies if I have said anything wrong or offended anyone, absolutely no intentions to do so. Just interested in constructive conversations to correctly understand, preserve and enhance Sanatana Dharma. :)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

A Purple Haze

Haritha first introduced me to this phrase in her comment on one of my posts. Ever since, I've been quite taken in by the word. I didn't know what the word meant when I read her comment, but I could sort of figure out what she meant. Oddly, I did not google (or should we say Bing?) the phrase or ask her for explanation. It seemed self-explanatory. Till date, I really don't know the exact meaning of the same. But the phrase is interesting. Not in the sense that it sounds wacky or is fundoo or that it's got a bright colour associated with it, but just what it conveys. Of late, a lot of things I see around me remind me of this phrase.
A few incidents which reminded me of "Purple Haze" -
>> A dog on a walk with its master meets another dog on its walk with its master and both immediately start bonding/coochie-cooing like they've been friends/'items' for years.
>> A discussion on inter-caste marriage with a friend of mine.
>> My mom saying I was difficult.
>> A look at the plain bluish white sky above.
>> A news item about an African American guy shooting a 10 year-old child.

To me, the word conveys the unimaginable and difficult menagerie that the world has become, today.
In a sense, I am reminded of one particular scene in "Independence Day", when one of Halle Berry's friends goes to the roof of her building and, seeing the giant space ship above, thinks it is something exciting and good (well, not bad at least) and screams and waves, while, in reality, the space ship was an agent of human destruction.
Only, in our case, a purple haze stands for something which, unlike the space ship, can be good, bad, ugly, dangerous, sad, nothing and we are just excited, with or without happiness, sorrow, anger, disappointment or contentment, because of what it appears, and because of what we have all become.
What we see is bright and exciting, but unclear what it may be. It can be anything (it is, eventually, nothing). Everyone sees it and feels something (or nothing).
Whether I have got the purple haze right or not, the phrase has given me an additional perspective to life.
And until I am able to see clearly through the colour into what it actually is, I will remain unclear about the nuclear agreement which Singhji signed.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

If I were you...

Another nagging-for-some-time-now issue at the back of my mind is this usage of "If I were you, I'd do/not do this/that" for a simple suggestion/advice you ask someone. I started noticing this only with some American colleagues but then realized most of us Indians here have adopted that too.
Why can't people just say do this or do that if we ask them something. I mean, if you are so wary about being blamed for directly telling the asker to do something he/she might later blame you for, you have a perfectly valid reason for saying whatever you said, because it was the asker who asked you what he/she should do, which is why you told him/her whatever you did.
It is quite possible that I am being this ultra-sensitive, touchy kind of character but, frankly, when someone tells me - "If I were you, I'd buy this", it gives me this slippery kind of feeling - as if the person is trying to be a diplomatic smart-ass and trying to nazhuvify from what they said. Ok, I have no right to complain or grumble when an American speaks to me this way - it's how he (since there is no she) has been speaking all his life. If I were to complain about this, then I would start complaining about his accent, etc. Not happening. Not fair, since I don't know if our way is the correct way to say it. But when fellow Indians, that too, really close friends from home speak to me in the same way, I am forced to resort to blogging. [:D]
Please don't blame me for being this nitpicky maamiyaarish eternally-kutham-kandupudichufying character. Yes, I do find it irritating when Desis here use "Sounds good" for any (absolutely ANY) kind of plan/idea/agreement, etc. if it's ok or "I'm not sure if that's going to work out" for anything not ok, "Preeshiyate it" for any help done (Who is Preeshi? What did she eat?). Yes, I understand it's a decent polite way of saying yes/no but to me, this decency seems artificial, that too, within friends. But then, I'm not blogging about that, am I? [;)]
  • First of all, the statement is logically flawed. Whenever someone says "If I were you..." the remainder of the statement ceases to hold any significance. Why - because you are not me, you just are NOT me. Then why in the world would either you or me be bothered about what you would be doing if you were me?
  • CBM - A straightforward statement like "Machi, do this da" or "I think this would be a better option for you" sounds so much more reassuring than an "I would if I were you" statement. I agree that the part "If I were you" gives us the impression that the other person was trying to put himself in our shoes, but when we realize next second that the other person is not us, it sounds much less confident. I understand that "If I were you" is synonymous with "If I were in your situation", which is more realistic, nevertheless, it still is not as confidence-building as "This is the better option."
  • More logical flaw - Ok, you are not me. But, even if we could somehow imagine you being me, how and when can you define that you are actually me? Do circumstances (the oft-quoted sandarbha-soozhnelaigal from Tamil Cinema) define a person or is it his opinions or is it his appearance? Or is it his name?
Consider the following conversation -

Tring Tring Tring Tring...

Obama - Hello Yaar Pesardhu?
Osama - Nee dhaan da pesare.
Obama - Ada...'S'aanavane...Wassup dude?
Osama - (Smirking) I see old habits die hard...oru 'B'ya vechu enna aattam aattare?
Obama - Don't say that. You are trying to suppress and oppress and
depress the view of the American.
Osama - Hayyo Hayyo. Anyways, I've been hiding for some time now.
Bored. Want to come out with a bang. Any idea where I can start?
Obama - Dude, we're already screwed. If I were you, I'd go for China.
Osama - Hey B, good one. There's something brewing in Uighur too. Let
me check that out. Sounds good. Preeshiyet it.
Obama - Chao then. Take care buddy. Catch you later.

You see? Obama isn't Osama and even if he was Osama, he needn't necessarily do what Osama would want to do, nor what is good for Osama.
That's what I'm trying to say. Catch my point?
PS: Sorry Anand, you started it. [:D]

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Pseudo Brahmin Syndrome - Comments...

A comment in response to my post "The Pseudo Brahmin Syndrome". I thought this comment addressed a lot of concerns people might have, and it raises a lot of relevant points, hence, posting the comment as another post despite it being longer than my actual post. :D
Arvind's Comment -

Machi.. i thot of posting this in your comments section, but then my comment(s) is bigger than you article. So, if its OK with you, you post it or jus read it and delete it.


sssss... u have too much time on ur hands.. :D

I fit almost all the descriptions of your vetti observations. Yes, I do not do the Sandhyavandhanam. And i did not do it when I was in India too. Vakkanaya veshti is also another category i belong to. For the above two, i do not have any excuses.

Yes, I support BJP and bash up RSS. Here is my observation about the RSS. I have no idea about its origins. I don’t know what their ideals are. But i hate them because of their vigilante actions. They have no right to bully/beat up/physically harm people who celebrate Valentine’s Day. We live in a free world. I'd like to do whatever i want (whatever translates to "whatever reasonable thing") that is allowed by the law of the land. I don’t like someone harassed by these idiots because they were holding hands or because their store was selling heart shaped balloons.

Yea, Eggs. I don’t eat it as such, but i eat egg products. Again, guilty as charged. But then, remember (this is as far as I know.. from what my grandma told me), if someone is a "true brahmin" he/she is not supposed to eat onions/murungakkai/kathrikkai etc etc.. apparently, these are all "madi kurachal". And if you really think about it, you cannot eat anything that has been processed. Not the chips (They might have used the same oil to fry non-veg stuff before/after frying the chips), not the cookies (baked and most probably contains eggs), not in saravana bhavan (the uyar thara seiva unavagam.. cause of the madi korachal items) nor anywhere else because you don’t know where the karandi’s and plates came from/ where they were used before, or who cleaned them or if they cleaned them at all..

Thanni.. I don’t really know where (in brahminism) they said consuming alcohol is against the principles.. But again, I cant fathom why one would want to drink too.. so, no comments there. And if you really are worried about alcohol, you shouldn’t be using mouthwash/aftershave etc etc.. Man, I’m damn sure, I wanna use both of them!

Smoking.. this is kinda interesting.. this might be my view and Im pretty sure my view is totally wrong. But I have this to say. The nicotine/tobacco is bad. But how come all my old mamas/thathas chew veththalai? And most of them with the panneer pogayelai.. Its even worse.. OK.. not just the mamas/thathas, but the paatis/athais/mamis too..

Yes, the vadhiyar mamas are supposed to educate us, the lesser Brahmins. However, we, the lesser Brahmins are also supposed to provide them with enough food/dakshinai’s etc etc for their subsistence, which I’m pretty sure will not happen unless we are forced. When that happens, the quality of the Vadhiyar mamas go down and they are forced to fleece the people thay can find. Man, we bought this upon ourselves.

Coming to the part of you considering yourself as a ”Quasi Brahmin”. I’m really sorry to say this and for being so blunt, you are not a Pseudo Brahmin, not a Quasi-Brahmin. I’d say you are not a Brahmin. That’s is. You left the punya bhoomi of India a couple of years ago and that is something that is Condemned by the shastras.

I know you do the sandhyavandhanam everyday. I have one question about the sankalpam part. How do you do it? I mean, the “bharata varshe bharatah kande meror dakshine parsve sakabde” etc part doesn’t apply at all. I’ve seen some vadhiyars here in the US say “America Varshe” etc.., but that doesn’t seem right.. or does it? Also, I thought the reason why our forefathers did the sandhyavandhanam early in the day, outside the house was because: to maximize the available working time (this made them get up early, getting ready early for the day by taking the snanam as soon as day light broke) and to get fresh air while they did the sandhyavandhanam and clear out their heads which would make them energetic. But then, if I were to do it here, neither would the slokas be relevant to this land, nor would I be able to do it outside because of the frigid weather. So, the primary purpose is not being served. Is it? Also, the Brahmins are supposed to be more leaning towards the path of learning the Vedas & stuff and not to make money. That is not happening either these days, is it? So, its either the everyone is is “Quasi-Brahmin” or not a Brahmin at all and the “pure-brahmin” died centuries ago!!

PS: I have one advice for you mom & dad. Assuming that they are thinking about finding you a girl and marrying you off after 4 years, I’d ask them to start right now. And even then, 4 years won’t be enough to find a girl with the right “Quasi-Brahmin” status! :D
My Response
No offence taken (and none intended, needless to say), every single point you raised is valid. I don't know if you went through the comments, but I'd said pretty much what you say below, albeit very indirectly and to a much lesser extent. There's a guy called Ramana (Escape...Great Escape) who raised quite similar points.
Again, the whole point of my blog was directed mainly against those people who go around flaunting themselves as Brahmins. I may not know you well, but from what I know you - Yes, you accept to being a Brahmin, but you don't practise it enough (again, this is my opinion, that's all), consciously or otherwise. But I have not seen you going around with this attitude of being a Brahmin, someone *supposedly* superior intellectually/whatever crap. Neither have I seen you trying to justify your actions with some totally random, amazingly misguided, nonsensical illogical logic. (I don't know what kind of person I come across to you as, but though I have always had strongly Brahministic feelings [sans superiority or needless/unimportant discriminative/divisive tendencies] and believe in it a lot, I never intentionally flaunted it or carried this I-am-an-uruppadi-mayiru demeanour. Apologies if I did or came across that way. This is just fyi so you know me better, as a good friend.)
I know my post is quite long, and reading it once is a feat in itself. I don't want to peethify or put vetti scene, but if you read it again, you will probably understand it a bit better. Quite like my previous post on Arranged Marriage. There is an undercurrent of satire in the whole blog post which gives away my state of confusion, though I still stand by what I say, if you understand it the way I said it.
I mean, wrt this post, why, at all do we need to be a Brahmin? We need to be good human beings, first and foremost.
I didn't want to explicitly say this, but here goes - one doesn't have to be a good Brahmin to be a good human being. But one will have to be a good human being to be a good Brahmin. And what else does it require to be a good enough (since good isn't enough) Brahmin? No idea. I said I'm a quasi Brahmin, though I think I'm a quasi-pseudo-Brahmin. You said I'm not even a Brahmin. All opinions. Who is right? No idea. We are all right. Again, what is right? :D Ok, enough...but back to focus. Why, at all, do we need to be a Brahmin? Just because we were born to Brahmin parents? I hope you agree with me, at least when I say that we need to be good human beings, upholding some quintessential virtues and be righteous. Why? I have no answer. Why do we need to be good? Why does good need to win over evil? I don't know if you do, but since most of us agree on this, and it hasn't caused any harm, we think it is right that we ought to be right (as in correct, honest, truthful...) (though very few nowadays practise it completely, despite accepting it).

>> Opposing RSS...
Sad what's happening nowadays. Though the RSS' intentions are right, the way they are apparently doing it is wrong. Anyway, I never said that we should support the RSS as well, if we support the BJP. What I intended was for people to actually know about the origins of RSS and their nationalistic activities before supporting/opposing them. Period.

>> Eggs...
Refer Again, difference in degree of practise...which is, again, subjective. What I intended to convey was that most of what I mentioned can be practised, if someone wants to be a decent-enough doing Sandhi, not eating egg-containing items, etc...not practising which has obvious un-Brahminical features. That is why I did not talk about the current-day Brahmin's pursuit of money and material happiness, which is a much more difficult and impractical thing to attempt to follow. I feel, given the number of options we have available today, we can definitely practise pure vegetarianism (as long it doesn't have "obvious" Egg/NV stuff...). It isn't quite as practical to not eat vengaayam, etc. Again, this is *my opinion*. For you, it might not be practical to not eat cakes. It is, hence, again, perception. My humility in not being afraid of being proven wrong made me express my egoistic thought that my perception is probably correct.

>> Thanni...
Manu Smriti - Canto 9, Chapter 15, Stanza 44. How I wish I could've quoted something like it! Unfortunately, I can't, at least immediately. But don't we all know the ill-effects of booze? How it can cause deterioration of thought/mind/body for man? This is something which is applicable to mankind, as a whole, and not only to Brahmins.

>> Smoking...
Fair. Totally agree.

>> Vadhiyaar mamas...
"Kodutha kaasukku ozhunga koovanum" - this is my qualm. I don't see it happening, I've seen a lot of it. My poonal ceremony, for example. Plus a few more. As for what you're saying, I don't think anyone really ill-treated them or anything, at any point of time, the way you are saying, as if we ill-treated them financially. However, "mariyaadhai kodukkaraa maadhiri nadandhunda thaana mariyaadhai kadaikkum", is all I can say.

>> Punya bhoomi...
"If anyone thinks they can be a proper correct Brahmin living anywhere but India, then they are kidding themselves as much as they would be, if they thought Pakistan is not a Banana Republic" - is another statement I wanted to add to the blog, but refrained from doing due to space & time constraints (considering my reader's plight :D). Again, if you are considering that a person can be disqualified from being a Brahmin solely because of this, it's again opinion (right or wrong, you and I don't know). It is there in writing in one of the texts, Sure, but the same texts also forbid us from eating vengaayam and the same text says a Brahmin should not earn money, his food should be earned by begging, etc. So it's just a degree of interpretation.

>> Sandhi...Sankalpam...
To clarify, I don't do the Sandhyavandanam everyday. I chant the Gayatri Japam in the morning and evening. Though I want to do it more regularly, I end up doing the full Sandhyavandanam only occasionally ==> Me a quasi-pseudo-Brahmin.
"but that doesn’t seem right" - I love you for saying this, it reverberates with truth. Totally. Plus, refer to the previous paragraph. Reiterated.

I don't know if you are aware of this serial called "Enge Brahmanan" by Cho. I tried to watch it, but didn't have enough time. Parents watched it fully. The conclusion was that there is no Brahmin on earth today. :(

Ultimately, the same question haunts me again. Why do we need to be a Brahmin? I mean, I can see a lot of sense in most of the practises, sure, but beyond that, I seriously don't know. If it is good to be a Brahmin if you are born as one, then why is Brahminism dying such a slow painful death? Let it be quick and painless...a total annihilation. If, as the Sastras say, everything goes wrong in Kali this one of those things? Then what about that single Brahmnan during the Maha Pralayam?
Questions, questions more questions...
Some confusion. No, lot of confusion. Great to think all this, but disturbing that there are no answers, or that the answers are so very inconclusive.
SO wondering out aloud. I know my writings have a high degree of not being rightly understood. Whatever. At least I can rest in the happiness that I managed to confuse a couple of others...
What say?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Pseudo-Brahmin Syndrome

It struck me as a rather sad irony that most of those crying hoarse at the Congress for being pseudo-seculars ("sickulars") I happened to know were no less pseudo themselves...pseudo-Brahmins.
If asserting one's religious identity for its inherent positive "meaning" and a plethora of wonderfully meaningful practices & rituals, without succumbing to divisive tendencies and needless, harmful discrimination...and if using the knowledge imparted by my (ancient, not more recent) forefathers who practised the system to see(k) meaning in life and learn more about the Self is being casteist, then I confess I am a jaadhi-veri pudichavan and a casteist of the first order.
I am not here to claim the superiority of Brahmins (that we are definitely NOT, especially Brahmins of today), neither the superiority of the (non-divisive) practices of Brahminism. I am not here to even try to explain them (ala "Enge Brahmnan"). I don't think I would be misguided/horrendously wrong if I say that a lot of the habits/rituals/customs that Brahmins are supposed to practice, do have a lot of meaning contained in them. I'm talking about habits like - eating, performance of the Sandhyavandanam, meditation and these are, in turn, supposed to lead to a thought process of helping others, intellectual exploration, improving the life & living of the lesser privileged, contributing to nation-building, etc.
However, I am intrigued by those who call themselves Brahmins, today. The Brahmin of today no longer is remotely similar to the Brahmin of yore. However, the ideals that Brahmins strived to attain in the earlier days are very relevant even today, as they will be, eternally, like the tenets of Sanatana Dharma. Again, I don't want to go on and rant about those practices.
And I don't even have the authority to explicitly mention how a Brahmin should be today, and how best he can assimmilate his old habits for contemporary existence. But some traits are so distinctly hypocritical and obvious that they have pseudo-ness written all over them. These are not people who have renounced Brahminism totally. I would really respect such people, but this category sends shivers down my spine. These are the people who claim to be Brahmins but live far away from Brahminism, and try to defend their actions as being "in-synch" with the times. Here are a few of my jobless observations -
  • Ver'oda Pudungifying the Kadavul - These are the kind of people who frequent the Bay Area Livermore, Chicago Aurora and West Mambalam Satyanarayana temples and do big-big puja's like the Sudarshana Homam, Ganapathi Homam, etc. but don't care to do a simple 10-minute Sandhyavandanam everyday.
  • Purappaadu/Ezhala Sevai, etc. - Vakkanaiya veshti kattindu these folks will somandhufy Utsavar on their shoulders and chant the Divya Prabhandam while being part of the Purappaadu. Fast forward 10 hours, and they will also say - "Dei b***u....", "O***i" and other sacred chants.
  • Defending Hindutva - There's a large number of this group - staunch supporters of Hindutva who cry hoarse at the Congis for being pseudo-seculars, but hardly practice the art of sacrifice, helping others and nation-building. They don't know what the origins of the RSS are, yet staunchly support the BJP while bashing the RSS for being "communal".
  • Inter-Caste Marriages - An interesting sub-group this. Note that I am not supporting or opposing inter-caste marriages here. But such folks have been "Brahmins" all their life and supposedly (claim to) like the culture and tradition and what not......and end up marrying some God-forsaken soul totally not on the lines of Brahminism (It's another story that most Brahmins today themselves are on the other side :P).
  • Egg-eatarian - People, please understand. You can live a totally bindass life in the US or India without eating egg or egg-containing products. You have more than your supply of protein in "pure" vegetarian food, if you are willing to take the minute effort that is required. The US has never been more vegetarian-friendly in all its history (though there is some more way to go). The normal intolerable trash is that of not having enough protein intake. Punch those buggers in their face, will you?
  • Eating outside - *US alert* There aren't enough vegetarian restaurants yet, agreed. But even a little imagination and thinking should be enough to show how much the vegetarian food that we eat outside is, actually vegetarian. It might be my personal opinion, but eating a piece of bread coated with beef/bacon/sausage is the same as eating proper non-vegetarian food. It's like the difference between spitting at Manmohan Singh and bashing him up with a club and a cricket bat. Ok...bad analogy, but get the point? Again, I am not saying you should not eat at Subway. But after eating there knowing how high the chance of mixing knives/spoons with non-vegetarian food is...don't call yourself a pure vegetarian. Especially when you go on that once-in-two-years trip to India, meet your onnu-vitta-periyamma and tell her, "Cha...naan US'ukku poiyum adhe chamathu payyana dhan irukken...non-veg pakkame poga maatten.\n"
  • Thanni - It helps us mingle better machan...just social drinking. Puke in their glasses.
  • Smoking - Cinema'la kaatra maadhiri Vaayila Deepavali Atom Bomb vechudanum.
  • Vaadhiyaar Mama's - These guys are to Brahmins what Paper Masala Rava Dosai is to Dosai. They are supposed to mean the shlokas they chant and educate us (the lesser Brahmins), and they don't even know the meaning. Yes, this is the kind that blows the 'oodhubathi' with his mouth to turn off the fire. This is the mama who will commit the Sanskrit equivalent of singing "Jalasita ranga" for "Jaladhi taranga" (in case you don't know, in the Jana Gana Mana that is the Indian national anthem). Not to forget their amazing financial abilities.
For some reason, I feel how much ever the world changes and our practices change, wrt Brahminism, these things (at least) must not change -
  • Eating
  • Smoking/Drinking
  • Practising the Sandhyavandanam/Chanting the Gayatri Japam
  • Marrying within non-pseudo-Brahmins
Oh yes, I agree these are totally superficial features and a lot more is important, wrt exploring the self and trying to realize the Supreme. I may be missing the bigger picture by concentrating on the smaller parts. Fair...valid. But how many people do you see - who eat non veg and/or smoke/drink and/or don't chant any of the sacred mantras with sincerity and/or don't do their "Nitya Karma" and/or marry inter-caste/religion - who are actually even partially enlightened souls, actually? (In case you didn't know, Yes, there are a lot of fakes masquerading out there as having outgrown Brahminism and on the fast-track to self-realization. They kind of give you the impression that they are beyond all this, something like Advaita).
Will practising any/all of these habits then help then on the path of righteousness and goodness? Or self-realization or realization of the Supreme. Again, sadly, I cannot reply in the affirmative. But trust me, it goes a long way in improving your mental make-up and thought process. Really.
Sadly, I don't really know many of the duties that female Brahmins are supposed to perform, otherwise I would have happily bashed them too, as much as I did, my brethren. :(
So then, since I have talked like an uruppadi m****u myself, am I this proper Brahmin? No. In fact, I have no idea how a proper Brahmin of today should be. But I know enough to know when someone is nowhere close to being even a partial Brahmin. And that is what prompted me to write this post.
I know I'm going to be fried by you folks anyway -
  • I claim not to be a pseudo, then I am this egoistic, self-opinionated, arrogant, pompous prat who thinks what he says (and follows) is true.
  • I am a filthy bloody hypocrite.
Thankfully, I can partially escape both. How - I think I can safely call myself a quasi-Brahmin, as opposed to a pseudo-Brahmin. I will not elaborate it here, just now. Mail me for details. :P
However, I just hope the characteristics of a Brahmin don't change much more. Like, say, for eg., egg-eaters will slowly come to be accepted as the norm for Brahmins. As mentioned earlier, I hope at least these practices remain strictly (thus, indirectly hoping for the more important identity to remain). Else, I really hope Brahminism is totally wiped out from the earth. No pseudo, no quasi, no proper. Nobody should know that anything called Brahminism existed. Apparently, this won't happen too, I am told. One pseudo-Brahmin once told me that when the world is about to end, i.e., just before the Maha-Pralayam, there will be exactly one Sad-Brahmanan (Sad as in Sanskrit, meaning Good) in the World who will do something, I don't know what.
Thankfully, I am not Him. I cannot imagine being Him. I just wont be able to bear it. I am also a Sad-Brahmanan, albeit of the English kind.

Update: A detailed comment on this topic is posted here.