Friday, May 16, 2014

The 'Modi'fication of India

 Election Results Day, and the country seems engulfed in an orange haze. Change, they say is good, and Indians seem to have taken this very much to heart.

Like someone commented on FB, there was no Modi wave, rather, there seems to have been a Modi tsunami! All I can hope for now is that this tsunami spills well being and progress among the citizens, instead of destruction.

I had not been a Modi supporter. I did not vote for BJP, only because I didn't want BJP at the helm of the country. This was NOT because I wanted namby pamby Rahul Gandhi,(what a sad excuse for ANYTHING he is, unless it be a good Mama's boy!) or because I wanted Kejriwal either. Like I was commenting to a friend who was aghast that I hadn't voted for BJP, it was just that I was not comfortable with the fact that there were people in secular, tolerant India, who were AFRAID of Modi getting into the PM 's seat.  They may not have wanted a Congress or an AAP. But they certainly had no FEARS regarding either of them coming into power. Whereas there were strong fears over what would be the state of the nation with Modi coming to power. These fears to the best of my understanding were over secularism and the status of women.

But now that he has come to power ( And how!!), I hope that he is blessed  by God with powers to make our dear country powerful- economically, militarily, culturally, socially. That his tenure remains stable and that it can be remembered as a golden period for Indians. ( Like how in our history lessons, we learnt about the Golden Period of various emperors, I hope the next 5 years are his. For he has been projected as nothing short of an emperor these last 2 months. With men bowing to his lightest whim.)

1. I hope in his tenure, women across each and every state feel proud to be women. And are empowered to be equal citizens, walking shoulder to shoulder with men ,  in every sphere.

2. I hope that temples, mosques, churches, synagogues, gurudwaras, dargahs, all thrive in harmony. I hope religious fanatic cronies are kept on the periphery of matters, and not given undue powers or importance.

I do not profess to be very knowledgeable on the  economic and military strength of our country, but-
3. I hope that economically and militarily, we grow into a nation to be reckoned with. That Modi is able to let us blossom into a country that is prosperous, and self reliant. That we will be able to look any potential detractors in the eye, and make it very clear that aggression in any form, will not be tolerated, or taken lying down. No more Devyani Khobragades, please.

4. That we learn to be proud of our heritage. That as much as we take pride in our past, we go on to create newer landmarks, spiritually and materially.

5. I hope we hear less of corruption and scams, and more of meritocracy and efficiencies across all departments. That we have less of the super rich and super poor. That the gaps are lessened significantly between the haves and the have-nots.

6. I hope that every Indian, irrespective of caste, creed or sex,  gets water, food, electricity, and last, but not least, right to freedom of expression. Unshackled in any way.

Its a tall task, and there will be people waiting for you to take a step wrong ( as will always be the case when there are others vying for the same position).  
Here's to a good rule over the country, Mr. Modi! May you have good, capable advisors, and less of sycophants around you.  May you show your naysayers  ( I was one of them) that their fears were unfounded, and may you take our country to heights of prosperity.  God bless!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Of Gods and Goddesses

Today had a visit from our landlord, a good man, who in the course of other conversation, asked who our family deity was. And I told him that we worshipped all deities. Indeed he could see for himself that my puja room held a Vishnu and a Krishna and a Shiva and a Devi and . . . . lots more. But he was not satisfied. He insisted- you must have an ishtadevathai (favourite God)- all of us have one. . . I could see that he wanted ONE answer from me,  so I told him Shiva. He nodded in appreciation and told me that his was Lakshmi- Narasimha.

And then he told me, See, when you dig for water in a well, if you dig in the same place, even if you have to dig longer, you will ultimately get water. This saves you the bigger effort of digging in 3-4 different places. Same is the things with Gods. If you pray consistently to one God, you get more results.
I smiled, and agreed with the well-digging logic wholeheartedly. But after he left, I mulled upon that logic.

My principle is to not put all my eggs into one basket, I guess. When I pray, I pray to ALL my Gods. Starting from when I was a kid, to now when I'm the mother of a kid, from the mundane to the profound,  . I have changed allegiances, made joint petitions, I have prayed to Gods of a different religion as well, with as much faith as I did to my Hindu Gods. . . .  but never have I been consistently faithful to only one God. Some prayers were granted easily, some not, and some after a long wait, but ultimately, He/She has answered most of  my prayers. And if there has been a delay, I believe that He/She has a bigger plan for me.

The God of my childhood prayers used to be the Sundareswara in the local temple. The temple used to be the one I went most often to, and He was my fave deity, all through school and college, but even then, during exams, Saraswati used to occupy prominence.. .
When I went to University, Sundareswaran  changed avatar to Sreekantwesara, the deity at the temple in Calicut that I most often went to. And then there was Kadampuzha Bhagavathy, how can I forget Her?

Calicut University was in Malappuram district, and this temple used to be an hour's bus journey away. But the deity was a powerful one. . . The story I grew up on goes back to the days when Shiva and Parvathy were wandering as Kiratas ( tribals/hunters) . In the course of their wanderings, Parvathy developed a thirst, and wanted water. They searched some way, but couldn't find a water source. Parvathy was thirsty beyond words by now and  looked appealingly at Shiva. Shiva told her to wait there, and went hither and thither, but could still not find a river or lake or brook or spring anywhere nearby. He came back and reported to Parvathy that there was not a drop of water to be found anywhere near. A disconsolate Parvathy sank down to the ground and said she couldn't take another step till she had some water. She looked beseechingly at her husband. At this, Shiva the kaadan (forester) strung his bow and aimed his ambu (arrow)  into the ground. Lo and behold a puzha (mountain stream) gushed out. . he cupped the delicious water and gave it to Parvathy, who quenched her thirst happily. Belief has it that this place is where the Kadampuzha ( kaadan+ambu+puzha) temple is located.  The deity is Parvathy as Vanadurga. And the lore goes that here - since this is where Shiva overcame the impossible and got water for his beloved at her asking- if you ask the goddess for your heart's desire, she will prevail upon Shiva to grant it. . . The main offering here is breaking of coconuts- muttarakkal. The deity is a small idol on the ground and there is a wedge'opening in the floor in front of Her. The priest breaks the coconut and lets the water flow into the earth below,  symbolically quenching the Goddess' thirst all over again, and pleasing her. Hundreds of coconuts are broken here every day, but all that water miraculously disappears into the earth. The priests also have their way of reading the coconuts. At times, the nut does not break into 2 halves or is a nut gone bad, in which case it means that there is an obstacle to your request. To get the Goddess to overcome this obstacle, you are directed to go and get another coconut  and break it again. .  People come there in droves, to break coconuts for multiple reasons- marks, job, marriage, house, kid, overseas posting, tackling enmities. .. you can break a coconut for a non -Hindu friend too, ( you have to give the name and reason for the offering)  tho' they are not allowed into the temple.
Needless to say, along with the rest of my classmates, this was a Goddess that was visited very frequently during the 3 odd years I spend there, doing first my Masters in English Literature, and then my Masters in Business Administration.
There is another legend also, around another main offering- poomoodal- of the Kadampuzha  temple. Since Arjuna got the Pashupatastra from Shiva and Parvathy here, with which ultimately he prevailed over his enemies , the Kauravas, this legend is the reason why so many people come there for resolution of their shatrudosham ( harm from enemies). Booking for this offering however, are closed temporarily, since this has been booked for some years in advance.
Last year, during one of our trips to Calicut, when we'd been there, the temple was being renovated and we could not enter inside, nor could we break coconuts.  The Goddess has her moods, and only if she wishes it, do you get to meet her and offer her coconut water to appease her thirst. . .