Thursday, 29 November 2012

Sad situation of Indians who borrowed money in order to study abroad

Here is a typical letter that I have received.

"Hello Sir, ... I have a request. I studied Masters in Urban and Regional Planning(specialized infrastructure management and sustainable development) from .... I tried very much for the job here but it’s very hard here as companies are not ready to hire foreign nationals plus language is also a major issue as I don’t speak ... very well, I just know some basics as I was studying in English here. Sir, I supported my masters with loan and thought of having a good job since I was studying in a prestigious institution. Now, since I don’t have a job, I have become financially weak. Sir, I tried for a job in (another country) also, but till now there is no reply from there also. Sir, I would like to request is it possible to get a job there in Switzerland or any other place. Sir, I am very hardworking and have got very good management skills. Sir, any normal job will be very ok for me as I want to make myself stable. Sir, I will be very grateful if any possible help can be done. Sir, I will wait for your response as I have very limited time in ... . Sincerely, ..."

This poor person's visa runs out soon. How many Indians who studied abroad are in this predicament? Who cares? Who knows? I wish I could do something about it. But what? Is this not something for the government or for NGOs to take up?

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

The process by which we invent new Hindu festivals

One striking thing about Hindu practices today, in contrast to my younger years, is how many new practices we have invented. For example, there was no Ganga worship in Varanasi (only in Hardwar). So how are such practices invented? One such festival's genesis, in 1985, is beautifully documented by Kauai's Hindu Monastery (which publishes Hinduism Today): "Since most Hindus do not celebrate Christmas, they often find it difficult to relate in a meaningful way to those who do. Their children are not infrequently embarrassed when asked why they don't receive gifts like their friends. Adults feel the need to give gifts and mail greeting cards as well as accept them from relatives, neighbors, friends and business associates. In 1985, Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami conceived of and introduced Pancha Ganapati. With five days of gift giving at the time of year when Christmas is widely celebrated, it offers Hindu families, especially in the West, a meaningful way to participate in the holiday season without compromising their Hindu values. Their children receive and give gifts just as do their non-Hindu friends. Adults can fulfill the season's social custom of exchanging gifts and greeting cards with relatives, neighbors, friends and business associates. "While the festival occurs at Christmas time, Hindus celebrate Pancha Ganapati in a distinctly Hindu way, without Christmas trees, Santa Claus or symbols of other religions. Greeting cards are Indian in design and content, conveying Hindu wisdom from scripture. Hindu music and bhajans take the place of Christmas carols. "Pancha Ganapati includes outings, picnics, feasts and exchange of cards and gifts with relatives, friends and business associates. A shrine is created in the main living room of the home and decorated in the spirit of this festive occasion. At the center is placed a large wooden or bronze statue of Lord Panchamukha ("five-faced") Ganapati, a form of Ganesha. Any large picture or statue of Ganesha will also do. Each morning the children decorate and dress Him in the color of that day, representing one of His five rays of energy, or shaktis. Detailed instructions are available here:, and a nice video presentation is at "Worldwide Reception "We always expected the Pancha Ganapati festival to catch on. And it has, not only in the West, but in countries such as Malaysia. Kaladevi Ambalawan of Penang sent this report: "We have been celebrating Pancha Ganapati Festival for the past five years. Always at the end of the last puja on December 25, we observe a few minutes of silence and my father asks us to reflect on the past year, apologize for any wrongdoings and pray for His guidance and blessings. We always look forward to the festival, as it has brought our family very close together." ... "Pancha Ganapati is showing up in popular culture, earning mentions on the "Oprah Winfrey Show" and "The Office." It was celebrated in 2011 at the National Children's Museum in Maryland: "The festival focuses on love, harmony and the importance of a new beginning. Kids can make traditional greeting cards decorated with Hindu art and verses, as well as participate in activities focusing on the holiday's values.". " I wonder if, in days when internet did not exist, we invented other such festivals simply because there was some need that was felt such a festival or practice could address? Then, within two or three generations, the origins of the festival would be lost, and some people would start imagining that the festival had "always existed" and is "part of our tradition". The advantage, as well as the disadvantage, of lacking historical records is that anything and everything we like can be accorded the respect of tradition and antiquity, whether or not such accolades are deserved. That makes it difficult to distinguish between what is genuinely traditional, genuinely historical, and what is relatively recent and "make-believe" traditional. So should we somehow stop, or at least discourage, the creation of new myths, new practices, new traditions? Or should we continue, and even encourage people in producing them, convinced that public popularity and the market are reliable guides to truth, to history, and to the values by which we should live?

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

What do Hindus feel about the execution of Kasab?

I guess there are as many views as there are Hindus. Some will no doubt be delighted - simply because they have blood lust (there is a certain proportion of such people in every group of humans). Some will feel that though they do not, in general, like this sort of thing, execution is justified in this particular case because of the heinous nature of the crime committed. Others feel that the death penalty is justified in all cases where it is a question of deliberate murder, specially in cases where there is repetition of the offence. As one reads these various articles and opinions, it is amusing how people make up their own version of "Hinduism" to justify their position. For example, asserts that Hinduism forbids executions such as of Kasab. Though, in the above case, the author, quotes Gandhiji in order to justify his position, the quote is misapplied. In any case, Gandhiji may have been a mahatma but he can hardly be considered an authority on "Hinduism". And none of the other articles that I have read quotes any authority at all in order to justify their assertions. So I guess, as we Hindus have no central authority, every one of us is free to sanctify and dignify our own subjective opinions as those of "Hinduism"!

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Nasty responses to Diwali greetings

I used to phrase my Diwali greetings blithely, either something simple like "Happy Diwali", or something more elaborate.

Then, a couple of years ago, I got my first shock:  someone on my list of friends wrote me a rude reply.  Of course, I immediately rang him to find out what the matter was.  He explained that he had stopped pretending that he wasn't ex-untouchable, and that he was now taking on the fight against upper-caste people like me who had oppressed his people through the centuries.

Well, he knows the history of my family, knows that I am anti-caste.  So why the vitriol for me?  "Because Diwali is a festival that celebrates the oppression of my people.  If you are anti-caste, you should not be celebrating Diwali or sending greetings and best wishes on this day".

When I mentioned this to friends, there was a kind of unbelief that this should be so. However much we may protest that we don't believe in caste, I guess that unbelief indicates how few of us have friends from the OBC and Dalit communities.

Anyway, since then, I have become very careful how I phrase my greetings on Diwali.  This year, my greetings said:

"Happy Diwali! 

I hope that you are not one of those Indians who are against this festival!                                                                                                  

I was brought up on the philosophy that every excuse is good enough for a celebration and for not only wishing but also encouraging us all to fight against casteism, and work for peace, prosperity and happiness.

May I wish you and yours a wonderful year ahead


However, no matter how carefully you phrase your greetings, some people still want to send you tart responses.

Here is one and, even though it is not particularly literate, it is all the more powerful for that:

"bad diwali !!!!
how pollution produced ?
how sound pollution?
how many death ?
how many time waste ?
why celebrate ?
who was ram which year come to his house?
what ram has work for all people.
why the kill sambuk beacuse of sudra taking education.
fullish dewali."