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Tribute: Sasiperumal

1 Aug

This is a translation of a blog post from noted Tamil writer Jeyamohan’s blog.

Translation from: http://www.jeyamohan.in/77530#.VbxhtfOqqko

Translated by: Gokul

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While waiting for a bus today morning, I noticed a lungi-clad, middle-aged man enter a mango orchard with a helmet in his hand. Thinking it was a bucket that he held in his hand, I watched him closely. He placed the helmet on the ground and took out two bottles of rum. He squatted on the ground and poured the rum directly into this mouth. He didn’t even add water – and had nothing alongside it as well. Gulp, gulp. Five minutes. After retching once, he plucked a leaf nearby and chewed on it as he came and started his scooter that was parked near me.

A familiar scene. But it kept troubling me. When I visited Ambasamudram last year and went to the villages there, I saw men sitting idle in almost every house. The womenfolk were leaving for work. ‘His eyes wobble after the 10 o’ clock sun, sir, and he faints. That is why he doesn’t go to work’, they said. Liquor. Money for drinking? ‘He earns something. Beyond that, he snatches whatever I have’. The villages were full of these people afflicted by drink, sitting with swollen eyes and sunken cheeks, . The fertile land lay useless without any agriculture. The land which was immediately next to the road waited, transformed into ‘plots’.

The entire politics of this place is run on liquor funds. All free gifts (from the government) are funded by TASMAC. The corruption in TASMAC is the celebration of politics. TASMAC is completely destroying Tamil workers. Chemicals of the worst form are sold by the government as liquor here. The government itself orders and forces its employees and officers to increase the sale of liquor. The total revenues from liquor is published as some sort of achievement by the government. Early in the morning, one can see people sitting at the entrances of TASMAC shops waiting to start drinking. In this land of many more crores of workers, one cannot find a single person to work. One has to bring them from Bihar and Bengal.

Nobody speaks about this extrordinary repression and exploitation here. One group of apologists claim that liquor is part of ancient Tamil culture. Another group writes a few broken lines in the name of poetry and then drinks in celebration. Another group is content to wait for the grand revolution. Be it Tamil nationalism, Dravidianism – TASMAC is the venue for every sort of celebration. Drink has created a situation where women cannot go unaccompanied in any public space in Tamilnadu. In buses, in tourist places – drinkers make merry everywhere breaching all bounds of decency. Those who do not drink are their hostages.

Drink has always been here though. It was kept under check as it was designated a social evil through the influence of Jainism and Buddhism. It was during the British rule that they made it a commercial venture. The establishment of liquor shops enabled the systematic exploitaiton of workers. The British discovered that the auction of liquor shop licenses was an important source of income for the government. One can see the spectre of drink in the villages in the short stories of that era by writers like Pichamoorthy and Pudhumaipitthan. It exploited the deprived classes the most.

sasi

Seeing how drink wrecked havoc with the village economy and the lives of the deprived classes of India, Gandhi placed the struggle against drinking as one of the central activities of the freedom movement. Gandhi’s picketing of toddy shops was the only nation-wide movement against drink since the era of Jainism. It created significant awareness against drinking across India. In independent India, the governments that were formed subsequently found the British method of exploitation advantageous. They targeted the super normal profits from liquor. M. Karunanidhi officially introduced drinking in Tamilnadu, destroyed all social checks against drink and drove an entire generation into it. If he holds a place in Tamil social history, it is this.

Today, any voice against drinking is laughable for both the educated youth and the uneducated masses. But even today the voices from Gandhian age rise against drinking. It emanates as an expression of Gandhian obstinacy, deprived of support from either the people or the media. It is the voice of a conscience that refuses to die out in our society. It serves as proof that however it is quelled, Gandhism shall stay alive.

The news of Sasiperumal’s death reached today. He had collapsed and died during a demonstration against drink at Marthandam nearby here. A death that he would have desired. In a sense, this completes his life. But his voice never could converse with anyone’s conscience. The time was not ripe for that. In the intellectual discourse of this country, it is quite possible that Sasiperumal’s sacrifice will remain unnoticed by the media.

I got the chance to meet Sasiperumal and receive his blessings in an event organized by the Tiruppur Aram Foundation. A simple man who didn’t speak much. He had clearly set out goals for his life. He had realized Gandhi through action. It is infact the best way to realize Gandhi. And through that, to become Gandhi himself. My tributes to Sasiperumal, whom I saw as Gandhi himself.

J

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Hitler and Gandhi

27 Jul

This is a translation of a blog post from noted Tamil writer Jeyamohan’s blog.

Translation from: http://www.jeyamohan.in/2768#.VbYzE_mqqko

Translated by: Gokul

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Dear Jeyamohan,

Do you believe that the Gandhian approach can win over somebody like Hitler? If all the countries hadn’t united and killed Hitler, could we have defeated him? Also, it is acceptable that Gandhi organized the people. But was he the one who brought us freedom? The British government of that time gave up its colonial policy. Was it not the reason?

Regards,

Prabhu
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Dear Prabhu,

There is no doubt about the sort of politics you have read: the worthless history written by our immature Marxists. Please reconsider this. Otherwise, you will soon start considering yourself an elite intellectual. You will start establishing yourself in a grand position, above crores of other people, discarding their wishes, dreams, history and culture. You will consider yourself as an emancipator of ordinary people and someone entrusted with the responsibility of guiding other people. That is the ugliest spot for a thinker to ever reach.

Once you stand on that spot, you gain a fabulous authority. You are not one of the common masses anymore. You are an evolved life form which can be tired of the stupidity of common people – ‘Our people have no sense!’. You can abuse crores of people that they prostitute themselves for money, as nitwits concerned solely about food. Given a chance, you could take people along as you decide, at the point of a gun. For their own sake, you can involve them in any war. You can kill and destroy them for the sake of their own future. Like Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot and Kim Il-sung did.

After that, they remain people only as long as they obey your orders, live as examples of your principles and transform as mice for your experiments. Otherwise, they can be put to death. I am reminded of a poem I read several years ago –

The Solution – Bertolt Brecht(1)

After the uprising of the 17th of June
The Secretary of the Writers’ Union
Had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee
Stating that the people
Had forfeited the confidence of the government
And could win it back only
By redoubled efforts. Would it not be easier
In that case for the government
To dissolve the people
And elect another?


I wrote this to drive home the gigantic flaw in the history that you mentioned. What we call history is comprised of people. Crores and crores of them. Their wishes, desires, strengths and weaknesses put together make history move forward. One who organizes the people and takes them forward, takes history forward. ‘Gandhi organized people, but history happened on its own’ – how can you make this statement?

To understand the Indian freedom struggle, you should understand the Indian social structure atleast a bit. India didn’t have a legacy of common people directly participating in politics. This is because, what existed here was monarchy. In India, the only authority that controlled the kings was tradition. People had an indirect authority over the kings in the sense that they constituted tradition – that was all. The concept of democracy originated in Europe as a result of two hundred years of tumultuous thought.

In the 17th century, the British people came when India didn’t have strong governments and when it was left devastated by invasions. They provided a stable government, law and order and a better administration of justice. Hence, a majority of Indian people accepted British rule. A large segment of the population remained loyal to their kings. Those kings remained loyal to the British. The reason why the British ruled India was because this great nation accepted the British entirely.

In the beginning, only a few realized that the hidden exploitation of the British government was impoverishing the country. Most of the early rebellions against British rule were against their excessive taxation policies. Kattabomman, Pazhasiraja, Veluthambi Thalavaai, Alluri Seetharama Raju… were all subdued.

Later, an educated class came up in India which understood the British exploitation intellectually. The great Bengal Famine and others became obvious evidence of the same. Concepts of freedom and self-governance came up. But they all remained in the midst of a few middle class educated people.

The man who took those concepts to crores and crores of Indians was Gandhi. His movements were aimed at making the hidden exploitation of the British, blatant and obvious. Boycotting foreign cloth, preparing salt and other movements – these exposed the economic extortion underneath the skin-deep justice of the British government. He made crores of people participate in those movements. He made the movements simple for that very same reason. ‘Our ocean, our fire – why cannot I prepare salt?’ a simple question was the basis for the birth of a new society.

Once crores of people had obtained political consciousness, he made them involve in activities for social change. Restructuring the village economy, instilling a sense of hygiene, spreading rural education – there were many steps. It is because of Gandhian movements that our society which once lived in compartments of castes, came out into the public space. Through contradictions and conflicts, it reached an equilibrium there.

Gandhi cannot be understood through nineteenth century Marxism. Our party Marxists attempt exactly that. For that one should know atleast a little bit about Antonio Gramsci. One should be familiar with western Marxist principles. We cannot expect that from Marxist fanatics.

To use Gramsci’s Marxist term, Gandhi created a ‘modern civil society’ in India. That civil society started boycotting the British. The British didn’t possess the ability to withstand this boycott. This was because they had ruled India based on the permission by Indian society.

Any government remains in authority based on the ideological recognition provided by society. i.e. that government has an ideological hold over society. It is this domination which it activates as direct authority. This can be called in Marxist parlance as ‘hegemony’. The British government gradually lost this hegemony.

Similar to the creation of a civil society, Gandhian movement gradually formed a political society. Gandhi was always open to debate in his struggles. Again in Marxian parlance, we can call it ‘static war’. He completely occupied the positions won over through talks. If we look at history, we can see that the British have stepped down from their positions gradually. The reason behind this is that they were afraid of people’s power.

Through this, provincial governments were formed all over India at first. In those governments, the Congress contested and won. It formed governments and passed legislations. At the same time, it fought against central authority. Thus, we got accustomed to democracy. If India is a country where democracy has taken firm roots today (apart from countries outside Europe), it is because of that training in democracy. At a stage, the Gandhian movement shook away even that authority and moved forward for further rights.

The final result of this was our freedom. It was not handed to us in a platter by the British. In several African countries, British domination continued for another thirty years. Why, in South Africa, even till the 1990s. According to your logic, South African freedom too is not a result of Nelson Mandela’s struggle. It was a gift from the British.

It could be said that Mandela was merely holding talks, isn’t it? It can be claimed that he held talks with the British and convinced them to achieve freedom, isn’t it? We can claim that it was not even a struggle, it was a compromise achieved through talks, can we not? But his path was also Gandhian. On one hand, he was forming the South African tribal society into a modern civil society. On the other hand, he dismantled the ideological domination of the British. This made freedom possible.

Finally, the question whether Satyagraha will work with Hitler. This is the result of a stupid understanding of Gandhian struggle as a sort of weak supplication. There is no surprise that Dominique Lapierre and Larry Collins didn’t understand this. Their very minds were mechanical in nature. Also, their sense of English superiority is clearly strong in their book. They establish Mountbatten as a historical figure equal to Gandhi. They attempt to state that the British ‘gave’ freedom to India.

Hitler’s strength did not lie in his weapons. It was in the fact that he had won his society’s approval.  That society stood firm with him. The Germans who supported Hitler were all not cruel animals filled with sin. They didn’t know the things he did or what he went on to do. When they came to know after the war, they hung their heads in shame. They had been led by extremist nationalism and racism.

A great Satyagraha originating from those people could have spoken to their consciences. It could have spoken the truth to them. The conscience that awoke in them after the war could have been woken before the war. Those who could have made this happen were the leftists there. But they had belief in violent struggle. They had trusted Soviet Russia for the support required for this. An extremist nationalistic organisation like Nazism easily sidelined them using this alone as a reason.

Without winning over the minds of the people who supported Hitler, Europe waged war over the German government. Since they were being attacked, the people stood firmly by the side the government and supported it. This was the reason why World War II continued for that long and great destruction happened on both sides. Today, since Hitler lost, we speak that that was the correct path. Had Hitler won? Anyone who has studied World War closely will see that there was every chance of that possibility. Had he won, the world and Germany would have faced further destruction.

What will Satyagraha do, faced with Hitler or a similar dictator? It will alienate him from the civil society that provides him authority by changing its mind. Maybe, it will take some time to achieve this. But compared to the destruction caused by violence, its losses are fewer; success, almost a given.

We need not exaggerate a war tactic like Satyagraha with our imagination. It is the truth that it will converse with the conscience of those with a sense of morality. More importantly, it will speak with the sense of practicality of crores of people. Ordinary people wish to live. Not to wage war and die. They desire to win their material squalor and move towards a slightly better life.

For example, we know that even the Sinhalas, who are portrayed as war-crazy extremists today, made two leaders who contested elections on the promise that they will end the war and move towards peace – Chandrika Kumaratunga and Ranil Vikramasinghe – win with significant majority. I do not think that they wanted to get rid of the Tamils. The hungry and ostracised people are the same everywhere. What they seek is just the hope that somehow life may be lived…

Gandhism, beyond its principles and policies is a struggle for rights which places ordinary people in the front. It is the path of a wise man who realizes that killing those people for his dreams is not just. The opposition of elitists, who seek to dissolve the people and choose the right set of people, is nothing but the frenzy of evil against good.

J

1. Brecht, Bertolt. (1953). The Solution. Wikipedia. Retrieved July 27, 2015 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Die_L%C3%B6sung

Charlie Hebdo – The Laugh of Anarchism

26 Jan
This is a translation of a blog post from noted Tamil writer Jeyamohan’s blog.Translation from:
http://www.jeyamohan.in/69893Translated by: Gokul
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J sir,
When the attack on Charlie Hebdo happened, Louis was at the Paris airport; He was returning to Kenya after Christmas holidays and was waiting at departures after checking in.
 
The airport had become tense and security had been tightened.
 
Louis works in Kenya for a rose breeding company.  The company has leased a 2500 sq. meter greenhouse from us. He comes once every two weeks to supervise.
 
When he came this time, after conveying regrets, I was conversing with him for a few minutes. Some of the things he said were surprising.
 
When I asked what would be the population of muslims in France, he said the government doesn’t perform census religion-wise.  He said that it is a crime to inquire someone what his religion was and if someone asked it, one can file a case in court against him.
 
I asked him intentionally – ‘Louis, is the Government rethinking this after this incident – that such a census is necessary?  Are people distrustful of Islam?’.
 
He immediately replied – ‘No, there is no connection between these people and Islam the religion.  These are groups with a nut loose in their heads!’  He spoke with pride about the Paris parade.
 
Venkatesh.
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Dear Venkatesh,
 
I am a bit frozen after reading all the stuff written on the Internet about Charlie Hebdo. Hence I haven’t said much.
 
European nations are not like us.  They have spilled blood for centuries to reach modern democracy, secularism and freedom of speech etc. They know the strength and value of these ideals.
 
Two hundred years of serious experiment in democracy can be considered as Europe’s contribution in civilization terms.  Europe’s politics which is focused on commerce, with an objective of ideological domination should not be considered along with this.  Many people commit this mistake.
 
In truth, there are two Europes.  At the same time when we oppose imperial Europe, we have to respect the Europe that was the cradle of modern democracy.  Each one opposes the other.  It is with the thoughts that democratic Europe offers us that we oppose imperial Europe.
 
It is my opinion that democratic Europe is the primary ideal for the modern world.  Even today, the writers and thinkers whom we worship come from there. We may disagree with them. Oppose them. We can confront their prejudices. But they are our pioneers.
 
In the course of such developed democracy, there are several levels.  There are two aspects which we haven’t still grasped.  One – extreme individualism. Two – anarchy.  It may take us even a century to reach there [At the current pace, it seem unlikely].
 
Anarchy can be said to be the height of an outlook of individual freedom.  The first principle is that every individual has the complete freedom to pursue his happiness, to quench his intellect and to fulfill his soul.
 
What stops an individual from completing himself thus are groups which identify him through caste, religion, race, language, culture, morality and government. They should be present adequately. Otherwise, the individual will not be safe.  But if they are not stopped and controlled by equivalent forces, the individual cannot be independent.
 
That is the reason why Anarchist thought is strong there.
 
Anarchism is a very sacred outlook.  It is a state of opposing everything that is established.  It is a state of renouncing everything that is organized.  This is not feasible for everyone.  One can see many who pretend to be anarchists.  But when their beliefs are hurt, their anarchism will fumble.
 
[For example, the devotees of EVR.  They call him an anarchist. And call themselves using the same epithet. They will garland the idol of Ram with slippers. But if a religious fanatic says he is going to hit EVR with a slipper, they will boil over with anger.  These are another sort of religious zealots. They worship another deity, that’s all.
 
A true anarchist lampoons everything.  Please underline the word ‘everything’ three times.  Its language is always mockery.  One who pokes fun at others will permit the same to be done to him.  He will upset everything that is holy. He will shock.  [The reason why we find many Charlie Hebdo cartoons atrocious is because the boundary of shock over there is several feet over our heads]
 
Travesty without any restrictions or boundaries alone can qualify as anarchism.  Because, once we admit restriction or a boundary, there is a necessity for an organization or principle which applies it.  Once it is accepted, anarchism ceases to exist.  Advanced democracies permit such a right and defend it.
 
This is the unavoidable peak of democratic civilization.  We have not been introduced to it yet.  Even our constitution has not permitted it yet.  We haven’t come together as a democracy yet.  Here we have very few ‘individuals’.  We are ruled by mob mentality.  That is the reason why modern anarchism is unfeasible now.
 
Hence we go up to anarchists and preach them to ‘maintain basic courtesy’.  We request censorship. We state that social harmony should not be harmed.  We do not even realize the simple fact that merely doing these will make them non-anarchists.
 
Many artists I respect are anarchists.  Great thinkers have been anarchists too.  Gandhi had a tinge of anarchism always.  That was the reason why many people considered him a madman who talked about impossible things.  Gandhi had direct contact with many anarchist thinkers who were evolving then.
 
I would rate M. Govindan as an anarchist.  That characteristic of his was present in P.K. Balakrishnan as well as Aatroor Ravivarma.  Govindan and Balakrishnan were alienated and were sent to private hells. Aatroor lives within his cave of cynicism.  Only this much is possible in India.
 
But it was possible for Nataraja Guru and Nithya Chiathanya Yati to live with their anarchism within Hindu religion.  The Hindu heart accepted all his jests and lampoons. It also took in his student Vinaya Chaithanya, a complete vagabond and even an international vagabond like Gary Davis.
 
It is because of the philosophical mindset here that has lasted from ‘The whole world is our village and all our brethren’ [a quote from an ancient Tamil text] to ‘We are kin and kith to everyone’.  Its the life of sitthars [ascetics] who live among us.  There exists a world around us whose inhabitants think that even getting an identity card or purchasing a bus ticket is not done.  It is an enlightened state which summarizes Indian civilization.  Our hearts permit this only in the realm of religion.  ‘They are all sitthars’, we say and move on.
 
In my fiction, I have created such completely anarchist characters.  Sudukattu Sitthar in Vishnupuram, Neeli in Kottravai, Ayyar in Kaadu.
 
Charlie Hebdo is an anarchist magazine.  There is nothing that has not been lampooned there. Not only racism, even righteous anger against racism will be lampooned there. Both right-wing and left-wing are ridiculed.  Everyone will brand it as the voice of their opponent.  It ridicules not only France’s secularism and democracy but also its anarchism.
 
Like many in Tamilnadu, I didn’t come to know about this magazine through this incident.  In India, the only state which permits anarchism and its outlook of complete ridicule, at least to an extent is Kerala.  Or it did till the 90’s.  Even though Bengalis have a better intellectual environment than the Malayalees, there is no space for ridicule there – due to left-wing brutality.
 
In the 1980’s there was a magazine in Kerala called Pakkanaar.  Complete satire.  Left, Right, Center, Across, Vertical – none were spared.  I remember a cartoon in which it mixed two important slogans of Kerala at that time.  With a sacred irumudi [Translator’s note: head gear of devotees on pilgrimage] on his head, a pilgrim shouts ‘Inquilab!’.  Behind him, with a red flag another man echoes ‘Saranam Ayyappa!’.  Many of its parodies were below the belt.
 
When the thorn of Pakkanaar stitched them personally, sermons like ‘The best satire is that which doesn’t hurt anyone!’ came up.  At that time, Charlie Hebdo was pointed out.  But Pakkanaar stopped.  But even today, its legacy continues on in television.
 
Even the name Pakkanaar can be stated as an example.  He was one of the twelve sitthars of Kerala.  The heroes of Kerala’s civilisation, they are called the twelve offsprings of a Paraichi [a low caste woman].  He is the second among the twelve.  A malayalam word ‘Thanthonti‘ fits him perfectly  – [he who behaves as he chooses]
 
Two sorts of stories exist about him.  High quality stories with philosophical content. For example, he made four beautiful winnowing fans. The villagers asked him ‘Why four?’.  He said ‘One, for selling and repaying his debts. The second, for selling and purchasing food. The third, for use by his wife and self. The fourth, for throwing away.’  The funny part is that story about winnowing fans is performed as a ritual for Pakkanaar in some Bhagavathi temples.  Out of four winnowing fans, one will be thrown away with a laugh.
Another sort of story revolves around in folklore. Bhagavathi manifested to bless Pakkanaar with three eyes, sixteen hands with a garland of skulls in a dreadful spectre. ‘Hey you devotee, what boon do you desire?’ she asked. ‘I haven’t seen a perfect girl till now. Show yourself with genitals surrounding your entire waist’ said Pakkanaar. Devi ran away in shame. [In folklore, they call this ‘araikkum suttrum pooru‘.  Village fables state that all women have it though only one is visible to the eye – and that for Bhagavathi all are visible. The learned of Kerala refer to this as ‘ACP’.]
 
The magazine that named itself ‘Pakkanaar‘ marked a beginning correctly.  Even Keralite society hadn’t matured that much yet.  But it was possible for an utterly anarchist comedian like V.K.N to arrive in Malayalam literature.  Had there been such a writer like VKN, Tamilians who always exist in an emotional state would have killed him with blows.
 
Charlie Hebdo is a magazine which exists in the far distance which we have to reach yet. France is a magnificent peak which it has reached through great experiments with democracy.  We are evaluating it from within an under-developed democracy, wandering with half-tribal mindsets. We lecture them.
 
The attack on Charlie Hebdo is an attack on the peak of humanity committed by the most backward section of humanity.  Indians like us [Hindus, Muslims, Christians alike] are living in this dark space.
 
Today, those who call themselves orientalists, like Tariq Ali write many things.  An important word which apologists for fundamentalism use is ‘But’.  There is nothing more double-faced than ‘I condemn, but…’
 
‘There are over fifty lakh muslims in France, they get offended’ is one argument.  It is only justice to say that they should realize the history and civilization of the country they live in and reach its heights.  There can be nothing more nonsensical than to expect that France should sacrifice the heights that it has reached shedding blood and tears during its two centuries of experiments with democracy.
 
I saw another ugly article. It extolled the muslim security person who was killed in the terrorist attack and that he as a hero died to protect the freedom of speech of Charlie Hebdo even though it offended his faith.  That security person was doing his job and was killed on duty.  He himself may not have realized what was happening. They are denouncing French values by deifying him.
 
Through what sort of deceptions does our mind work!  Maybe we do not achieve many things merely because most of the food we consume goes to provide for such deception.
 
Even now the magnanimity with which they say that census by religion should not be conducted, is an expression of their belief in democracy.  Gandhi himself would have said the same thing.  It may cause temporary complexities. But it can only be called noble. It can never succumb to defeat.
 
European societies which stood with Charlie Hebdo offer a great hope for the world. It is equal to the promise that modern Europe offered in the seventeenth century to the rest of the world.
 
J

New Year’s Resolutions

1 Jan

This is a translation of a blog post from noted Tamil writer Jeyamohan’s blog.

Translation from:

http://www.jeyamohan.in/68944

Translated by: Gokul

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images

I occasionally read New Year’s resolutions, birthday resolutions etc. Most of these usually start with self criticism/mockery about unfulfilled resolutions from previous years. It will be followed by further new resolutions. If the person has crossed a few such resolutions or if he is middle-aged, then the resolutions will smack of improbability.

I was like this during my youth. I used to sigh at the sight of brand new diaries purchased in January, lying unused in December. Nowadays, I do not even remember the first of January. This year, I had to speak about this as a radio station requested me. The question was ‘Were you able to achieve your last year’s resolution?’

I replied ‘I do not take up any New Year’s resolutions.’ The questioner was a young girl from Kerala. ‘The let me rephrase the question. Have you completed what you planned for last year?’ I thought for a while and said ‘In the last 25 years, I have never failed to complete what I set out to do. I have never abandoned something that I started.’

She was quiet for a while. Then she laughed ‘Jeyetta, isn’t this a very tall statement?’ ‘Is it so? I really looked back after your question – whether I have abandoned something midway. No, I haven’t.’

I may have postponed a few things. Because the time was not ripe for it. I may have stopped something after realizing the path chosen to do a task is wrong. I may have expanded on a few tasks. But I have not failed to complete something having planned to complete it within so many days. I have completed even huge projects. I have been with the spirit of activity every single day. I told her that. ‘Given my nature, I cannot be peaceful with a sense of in completeness’. She said she will broadcast that.

In reality, the problem with those who take yearly resolutions is that they are not fired with the zeal of activity throughout the year, they do not plan their activity well or they do not realize their own limits and possibilities. If someone considers a New Year or a birthday as a new beginning, it means that he has not begun anything really. For someone who has begun something, isn’t Life really a flowing continuity of zeal and activity?

There can be only one beginning in life. Once begun, life is merely progress. There is nothing more farcical than beginning life anew every year. That is hesitation at the startline, rocking back and forth on the swimming pool plank, hesitating to jump.

In truth, it is dangerous as well. How are these resolutions adopted? They arise from the self-pity that one hasn’t done anything that one thought of in the last year. Hence grand resolutions are taken up with gusto. They do not see whether the necessary conditions exist for their accomplishment. There are no clear plans to achieve them. One’s own abilities are not taken into account. No effort is made to list one’s shortcomings and attempt made to remove them. Most resolutions are merely ‘Do you know who I am? I will nail that thing easily!’

As a result, these resolutions do not realize. After a few years, they console themselves ‘How many times have I told myself this? Nothing will happen. This is my fate!’. That is the end, then there is no progress. Life ends.

What is called beginning? Finding out what to do in life. And then deciding to accomplish it. Its very basis is to estimate one’s own abilities. We usually over estimate ourselves a little bit. But when we estimate ourselves exceedingly high, usually we are aware of that. We should not make future plans based on such estimates. The first step we take towards it is what I call the beginning. Mine happened in Kasargod in 1986. I have never looked back.

Our dreams may be big. Dreams are themselves big. They should be frothing within our internal selves all the while. Otherwise life doesn’t become sweet. But we should be aware of the distance between one’s dreams and practical goals. Our dreams are an internal river. Our plans for the future should be grabbed as a handful from this river.

In truth, it is not the accomplishment of these goals that is important. It is Life. To fill this period of time that we have received as life, with happiness. Happiness is not in achieving something, not in winning something, but in Being completely. A successful life is that in which we fill our life with activity which gives happiness. Looking back, being able to say – yes, I am content. Goals and plans are for this purpose alone. They are required only to prevent Life being wasted in mundane things and being frittered away.

A life with a goal, which progresses according to plans towards the goal will be filled with zeal and activity. There are few things in life which keep us as content and happy as having the zeal for activity with a positive outlook. That is why activity is important. In reality, nothing of consequence will be lost by our doing or not doing something in life. What we do is for our fulfillment alone.

A positive outlook has to be re-emphasized. Activities done as a retort or against another thing never yield contentment. Mostly they do not last long as well. There are people who start something as a response to something, find themselves in it and reach a positive state of mind through it and move towards contentment. But starting something completely negatively, as a challenge against somebody or something and continuing it for long time and winning it – these are things that cinema teaches us. It cannot happen in real life.

People with a negative mindset will lose interest in it after some time. Because it doesn’t give the pleasure of activity. Everyday it adds to ego and anger. As a result, it will kill ability. It makes one weak and sabotages one’s activity. We really do not pursue things for long if they do not yield happiness to us. It results in a defeatist attitude. We become bitter and angry, prone to abusing and mocking others.

Those with a negative mindset will be observed by others for problems. They will support them in a few instances for a few reasons. But mostly, others will studiously avoid them. The net result will be loneliness. That loneliness will push one towards more bitterness. Hence, one should never mind about enemies or those who are jealous about us. They are much smaller than us. When we contest them, we become small as well.

Anybody possessing zeal for activity will suggest the maxim that any activity should be undertaken only for joy. Any activity can also be converted to a joyful one as well. It only needs to be approached with a positive frame of mind and a sense of enjoyment. Realizing its subtleties will yield the joy of knowledge. Small day to day victories will yield the joy of accomplishment. That alone is enough.

I myself realized that one should not perform any activity for short term gains. With such an objective, anything big or long lasting cannot be achieved. Working towards a small goal merely causes agitation. Even small setbacks cause dejection and make activity a torture. Activities that are undertaken for joy alone can be continued for a long period of time. Only such activities can become successful.

There is something which qualifies me to speak about all this – the fact that I am successful in my field. I am stating merely how I conduct my activity – not what I saw, heard or learnt from others.

Hence we should ask ourselves four questions 1) What activity will make me really happy? 2) What activity do I have the capacity to do? 3) What are my shortcomings in that? 4) What is my plan to do it? Begin. Continue throughout your life. Beginning like this is a sort of birth. It is a birthday resolution. This one is enough.

(End)

The Struggle against ‘Alcoholism’

9 Mar

This is a translation of a blog post from noted Tamil writer Jeyamohan’s blog.

Translation from:

http://www.jeyamohan.in/?p=34880

Translated by: Gokul

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J,

You might have read in the news about a Gandhian named Sasiperumal who fasted till death asking for complete prohibition. I expected you to write about it. Is it right to compel a government by fasting for such a demand? Is it Gandhian? Is it not interfering in the personal rights of another person?

Moreover, can we stop alcohol in today’s situation? Is it practical to have complete prohibition? Fasting like is without considering these aspects is a publicity stunt, isn’t it?

Ganesh Periyasamy.

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Dear Ganesh,

Whenever a social movement happens, I find many people who find a strange happiness by writing something or the other against the movement on the internet. Opinions in the likes of – ‘That movement was wrong’, ‘Had it not been like this and etc., we all would have come to the streets and we would have settled the matter once and for all!’ etc.

When Anna Hazare started his movement against corruption, a majority of people found petty faults in his movement and abused him. They chuckled that he had failed. But none of them even lifted a finger after that against corruption. They couldn’t even gather ten people on the street after that. The Left-or-Right political parties here cannot take even a small step against corruption. Those who sided with them and criticized the people’s movement started by Anna Hazare should be ashamed of themselves if they have a conscience.

Hence there is no point in these sort of hair splitting arguments. These can be news-cum-entertainment shows on television. It might help those who appear in such shows to show themselves as political fighters.

I have written a bit extensively on what is Gandhian struggle. I would repeat it like this: its first stage is to present a righteous demand to the people in strong terms. The next stage is to gather public support on the basis of that demand; to make as much people as possible stand up in support of the demand. Having organized a strong front, to engage in talks with the opposite parties and to accept practical and immediate compromises as a solution is the third stage. Having made sure the success is there to stay, to again organize one’s front and to start the next step of the struggle for more success is the fourth stage.

Hence the first stage is to campaign by placing one’s stance based on righteousness in front of the people. The objective of Anna Hazare and people like Sasiperumal is this campaign alone. It is not stubbornness. It is the way of a wise person expressing his stance strongly. ‘This is my strong conviction. I am even willing to stake my life for this’, he says. It is not merely an opinion. Hunger-strike-till-death is a way to show that he is staking his entire life for this opinion.

If it were to become a people’s movement when people start organizing themselves around this demand, if it were to open up meaningful dialogue with the existing government, this might reach a compromise. This point of compromise will be the midpoint between a group which maintains that drink is necessary and another which says that drink should be abolished completely. This compromise will essentially say that drink has to be controlled in our society. Anybody with even the slightest social awareness will accept that this is very important currently.

That drinking is permitted in India is a half-truth. The truth is that the government has liquor sales as its foremost task. Politicians are involved in the liquor trade undercover and are earning crores of rupees. Government works as a henchman for this. For the sales of liquor, the Government has banned the sales of natural liquor like toddy. It establishes liquor shops extensively across the country and grows them. The government itself campaigns for liquor, which ruins health, family health and the economy of the country.

Our governments’ have the taxes and profits from liquor sales as their foremost source of income. With that money, our politicians and bureaucrats are becoming wealthier by creating fake welfare schemes to indulge in major corruption scams. Our government encourages drinking for this. It sets targets for liquor sales and campaigns for its growth.

The Government sets the highest tax for liquor. It is said that this helps reduce the sale of liquor. Instead it leads to grabbing the majority of the income of the average family man. Today, more than half of the income of an average family is spent on drink alone. Our governments grab several times more money as liquor sales than they give us as welfare schemes.

Yes, drink is not entertainment here. It is not celebration. It is not a habit. Nor is it individual’s right or freedom. All these perspectives are limited. Today, drink is the method through which the government here exploits the wealth of its people effectively. This is the central perspective.

Hence the struggle against drink is not against entertainment, celebration or against individual’s freedom. It is against the government which drinks the blood of its own people. Anybody who understands the current Tamilnadu society even a little bit will say that this is essential. They will consider this as a voice of protest that definitely needs to be raised.

Can we completely prohibit liquor? Even when prohibition was in vogue here, it was not banned completely. Drinking was allowed under the ‘permit’ system. Hence prohibition is in reality a way to control and watch over the drinking habit. Through prohibition, it will never come to pass that liquor is completely unavailable. Instead, it will become difficult to procure. There will be constraints. This will check the development of the drinking habit and its spread. During the sixties, M. Karunanidhi who revoked prohibition and opened liquor shops in every street laid the foundation for turning Tamil society into a crowd of alcoholics.

We can see that when any drug is easily available and when social sanctions against it are removed, it leads to its uninhibited growth. The campaign for the spread of any drug can only lead society to grave disaster. Tamilnadu and Kerala are being destroyed by liquor barons. People need to be saved from them. For this, liquor has to be controlled. These movements seek just that.

People who speak about individual freedom do not usually realize that nowhere in the world was any drug allowed without any check whatsoever. Even in America where drink is a commonly accepted cultural aspect, there is a ban on under-age drinking. That too, a real ban which is maintained scrupulously in practice. Here there is no ban. My teacher-friend spoke of seventh-standard boys coming to class after drinking in TASMAC. They argue that this is about individual freedom. In the matter of drink alone, I think we will end up teaching democracy back to Europe!

In our society where a majority of the people are poor, where the entire family depends upon the earnings of the man of the house, when the government is ditching all sorts of welfare schemes in every department including medicine and education, drink is only leading to social disaster.

Drink has to be controlled. What controls are to be placed can be found out step by step. As a first step, liquor shops can be closed during the day time by an order. Next, it can be laid out that people who drink have to get themselves registered and need to have a permit. The government can attempt to treat alcoholics who drink enough to spoil their health. There are several ways of going about this.

Today, south India is in danger of being destroyed by liquor. We need large scale people’s movements to stop this. We are not up against democratic governments. Today’s governments are conducted by politicians who are in the business of selling liquor. Hence only intense struggles can yield at least a little success.

In the midst of people who do nothing, the protests of people like Sasiperumal is worthy of praise. But it is more likely that in our current scenario where idiots who rant about everything are seated as intellectuals in important positions, his sacrifice too will be trampled upon and fade away as some contemporary comedy.

Gandhi and Rape

5 Jan

This is a translation of a blog post from noted Tamil writer Jeyamohan’s blog.

Translation from: http://www.jeyamohan.in/?p=33454

Translated by: Gokul

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Reading Gandhi, I felt he was again and again speaking about freedom of movement for women . Almost everyone knows his famous quote ‘the day a woman can walk freely at midnight on the roads, that day we can say that India achieved independence.’

One can easily make Gandhi look foolish by asking the orthodox question – ‘Why should a woman want to walk around at midnight?’. It is even possible to argue that Gandhi merely spoke for law and order and considers this as a metric. But Gandhi proposes this again and again as a measure. He estimates all other countries using the same metric.

One can understand this if one can closely observe the entirety of Gandhi’s writings and the socio-political movement which were its background (which he created). It can even be said that there was no other leader among his contemporaries who stood for gender equality like Gandhi did. Even in world history, those who spoke empty nothings on stage with nobody to follow Gandhi – I don’t consider them. I speak only of those who actually did something. In Gandhi’s ‘Ramrajya’ there was no distinction between male and female subjects.

Hence Gandhi says women should stand equal to man in three platforms – one is education, another is trade and the third is public service.

Gandhian education is not something that speaks of primary education for women, it speaks of complete education for a woman. In India, even before Gandhi, efforts for the education of women had started at the highest levels. But it was his movement named ‘National Education’ which went to the grassroots and brought women to education.

Secondly, trade. It is surprising to see what Gandhi has spoken on this subject. In Gandhi’s view, a human life should have learnt a handicraft to survive without another’s help. If this is not the case, it is not complete. Hence he keeps insisting that women should learn handicrafts. He emphasises Khadar and village industries on that basis alone. Whenever he walks into any organization, he asks ‘Do all the women here learn any handicraft?’ without fail.

Gandhi, while insisting on handicrafts for women also insists that women should reduce their house work including cooking from the same point of view. The means he suggests to achieve these are possible only to him. Maybe it is not so feasible today to reduce the amount of cooked food in one’s diet and to try communal cooking. But we can only understand his statement that women should come out of the kitchens like this only.

Today, Gandhi’s village development program’s most important outcomes is that it was the first Indian movement that created financial independence for women. What we see in the words of Sarvodaya followers like Kovai Ayyamuthu is that 70% of the Khadar we see is manufactured by women. It lead to direct income accrued to the women who made them. The change it created in society then is beyond imagination.

Thirdly, Gandhi speaks of the particiation of women in public life. He was the first leader in Indian politics to speak of women’s public life. More than speaking about it, he brought it to reality and achieved great success in it. For him, politics was about service. He says so actually. But the nature of service is to eventually be rewarded with social authority. Hence he speaks about women sharing this authority through political participation.

Wherever he goes, Gandhi speaks of women entering politics. To each of his volunteers, he asks ‘Why didn’t you bring your wife along?’. He orders all the women who come to meet him to enter politics. More than anything, he brings his wife and his daughters-in-law to agitational politics and makes this an example. The Dharasana Salt Agitation was one agitation in Indian Independence movement which face the most direct form of violence. In it, he made his elderly wife Kasturiba lead an almost suicidal force of volunteers. These instances went a long way in creating role models.

Gandhian movement was the one which brought most women to politics. If we compare the other political movements which happened around the world at that time, we can see that none of them had any significant participation by women. Be it the famous Russian Revolution, the political uprising by Sun-Yat Sen in China or the European political movements, none of these featured women.

None of the movements in India after Gandhi had any significant contribution by women. Leftist movements, Dravidian movements, Hindutva movements – all of these were primarily by men. Congress too was comprised of men. However, there was a person who was omni-potent in it whom women trusted and became Congress workers – Gandhi. Many women who accepted Gandhi as their leader have mentioned that they felt him as their mother – not as a father.

We can see this among the Gandhian-era political leaders who survive today. They all would have participated in agitations along with their wives; and gone to jail. In their entire village, in their caste – his wife would have been the first woman to have come out of the house. Even today, this is completely mind-boggling. I had thought that the enormous image of Gandhi and the identity it had of an ascetic was the reason behind this change. However, a Tyagi (freedom fighter, a renouncer) said to me once – his wife was called a ‘prostitute’ by everyone in his caste for the sole reason that she went to jail for the freedom movement. 

I think that Gandhi would have reached the need for freedom of movement for women simply as a practical necessity for women for whom he envisaged the basics of Education-Trade-and-Public service. It was only after 1923 that women started entering politics in India in large numbers. Women had to go from village to village doing public service just like any other Congress worker. They had to take part in processions, agitations and satyagrahas. More than anything else, they had to go to jail. For all of these to happen, it was necessary that women had the freedom to move freely.

Any obstacle to the freedom of movement of women would simply be an obstacle for women in education, trade and in public participation. Those who wish to subjugate women in these fields first attack a woman’s right to move freely. A woman who doesn’t have full freedom for education, for trade and for public participation would be a slave in her family too. Her personality cannot flower fully without freedom. Hence she cannot be complete in her spiritual life too.

It is on this basis that we should approach the underlying basis of the outbursts in the wake of news of rapes in India. A rape which happens in the open is more significant that a rape which happens at home. When it happens in an unavoidable bus journey at 9.30 at night, it becomes even more significant. When it happens in the seat of political power in Delhi, in the midst of barricades set by the police, it is a very significant symbol.

In reality, it is not a rape. It is an announcement ‘Don’t come out of the house!’. We should understand it as the voice of the insensitive political power which says this to the Indian woman who was brought out of the house by Gandhi. This protest movement is against that statement. It is a basic question whether this government and this society guarantees the freedom of movement.

Instead of this, those who provide statements like ‘Women should be cautious’, ‘When a leaf falls on a thorn, it is the leaf which will get damaged’, ‘Why should a woman go out at night?’, ‘They are fighting for their freedom to go to clubs’ – these people live in a time before Gandhi.

Among the concepts that Gandhi propounded for women’s rights, an important one is about the sexual identity of women. When one observes his writings keenly, one wonders ‘What is this? Does this old man want women to leave their sexual identities and desires completely?’

But we can see that Gandhi suggested sacrificing sexuality for men too. According to Gandhi, youth is a rare stage when one moves towards great ideals. Sexuality is an obstacle towards that goal. Winning it over is the foremost way to move towards one’s ideals. Hence Gandhi emphasizes this. [For those who shake their head when Gandhi says this – it is pertinent to note that most revolutionaries in the world have also said the same thing]

More importantly, Gandhi believes that the sexual identity is a burden for a woman. He also feels that for a woman who comes out of her home to participate in politics and other fields, it will be an opposing force. Hence he says that women should dress modestly and should not decorate themselves. They should be identified only through their intelligence and their service, he says.

Gandhi didn’t accept widow remarriage at first. When lakhs of women in India were unmarried, he felt that widow remarriage was unnecessary. When Dr. Sivaram Karanth speaks of widows’ remarriage to Gandhi, he rejects it.

But Gandhi didn’t say that widows should live without marriage and stay with their families. He says that they should come forward for political and social work. Actually, he says that they should work for the nation by walking the streets. To him, it signifies that they have broken free from the shackles of family. In his later days, Gandhi supports the remarriage of widows – if the couple were to engage in social work afterward.

An important occasion when Gandhi legitimizes violence in his own words is when he speaks of sexual violence. He says that the woman who is being raped should kill that man with her teeth and nails. He argues that whatever the woman does is just under the circumstances.

But Gandhi doesn’t consider it as ‘loss of virginity’. Because he says that a woman subject to such sexual violence has in reality lost nothing. He says that such women should be accepted by society as normal. Accepting Gandhi’s stance, people like Mridula Sarabhai worked hard for the remarriages of women subjected to sexual violence during the Indian Partition.

If so, then why did Gandhi consider sexual violence as something which deserved the death sentence? Because it sends the woman from her public place back to the darkness of a kitchen. Because it snatches everything that she has regained in the twentieth century.

Sexual violence is not just rape. Starting rumors about women, insulting them with sexual abuses, teasing them in public – all of these are sexual violence. The basis of all of the above is the hatred and fear of women being in public places. A male mind will invent a thousand reasons to do so. It will justify it in several thousand ways. All of them mean the same: உள்ள போடி’[‘Get inside, woman’] – this is what his innermost mind says.

Gandhi who asked them to come out has also described the ways to do so. According to him, freedom is a necessary condition in one’s path towards Truth and completeness. Hence all life has a right to freedom. Hence, to attain it, it also has a responsibility to face losses, patiently strive without compromise and to move forward.

‘Youth’

18 Jul

This is a translation of a blog post from noted Tamil writer Jeyamohan’s blog.

Translation from: http://www.jeyamohan.in/?p=29055

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Dear J, 

Read your essay about monsoon travel. A beautiful experience.

I think it is great to go to places of such natural beauty. I am not sure if it is okay to write about them.

Our youth have a different mindset. They will go to such places with beer bottles, drink and ruin the place with broken bottles.  I am reminded of the ‘Elephant Doctor’.

Till we get a generation with atleast a little bit of civic sense and sense of beauty, it is good for these places to remain hidden.

Saravanan

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Dear Saravanan,

True. We saw it in Parunthuparai. There was a group of youth. They didn’t know what to do in such a place. They yelled, ran around here and there. They drank with the car stereos blaring film songs in the background. They removed their shirts and danced.

All over the valley, broken beer bottles thrown by people like them lay in heaps of shards extending till the forest below. The next day, Saturday, we saw policemen on the way using breathalysers to catch drunk drivers. This menace has grown to such an extent.

We were speaking about it. The youth really didn’t know the beauty and importance of that place. They didn’t understand how to be happy in that place. They were not used to such things. That is the problem.

In Ooty, one can see young lovers from villages act like couples in movies and get ‘romantic’. It would be funny. In our culture it is nearly impossible to see a man and a woman speak, get used to each other and court. Hence young couples do not know what to do. The only thing that teaches are movies. Hence they do that.

This gang is similar to that. They too do not know what to do in this place. what they know is Tamil cinema. They do what people do in such movies. They think that they are ‘having fun’. 

An important reason for this is the way our youth have been brought up. Appreciation, sense of beauty, civic sense, intellectual outlook – these things should come from the two institutions of family and educational institutions.

In how many of our families do we teach children to appreciate any art form? Do we teach the basics of an intellectual outlook? Or atleast teach them to behave with grace in public places?

Our families are mostly places to cook, eat and sleep in groups. Even relationships contain selfishness and violence. Our families only create the impetus to earn wealth in their children. Education is considered a path to earn this wealth.

Our parents continually speak to their children for the creation of this impetus. They do not teach anything else. Only if the child learns something on its own. That is very rare.

When I visit some families, a certain fear will creep into my heart. One cannot see a single trace of anything we consider culture. A few pictures of deities, textbooks, a TV – that is all. They do not have any cultural education at all.

All the cultural aspects we possessed as traditions have been discarded as useless for ‘development in life’. We worship Europe and America. But neither do we learn any cultural practice that a European or an American has.

There is nothing to say about educational institutions. They are like factories. They can only create machines that can work and earn money. There is no room for culture and art in them.

I have noticed an average American receives basic lessons in music and drawing in his family background itself. His educational setup trains him to read books and discuss them.

Think about it. Does our average youth have any contact with any medium? He has no familiarity with music, paintings or any such art. He cannot even read a book and understand it. He cannot even read a good open page article in a newspaper. He cannot even concentrate beyond a few paragraphs. If he observes any art form for even ten minutes, he will lose patience. He will conclude that it is ‘boring’.

He cannot go beyond textbook recitation. If he completes that phase, he will do his tasks properly. He will learn by rote whatever is required for that. All else has to remain within his small boundaries. Simple and ordinary.

Otherwise, he will attempt to simply reject or ridicule it. Since his friends and acquaintances are all similar to him, he feels that it is the ‘normal’ world. Everything else appears to him as unnessarily complex, crazy and dull things to him.

From his childhood, the only medium he has known is Tamil commercial cinema and TV that dips into the same to cook up its programs. His cultural education consists of seeing ‘Kadhal Pissaase Paruvayillai‘ on TV and dancing to it rotating his hips at the age of two. Even this movie business is only till the eighth standard. After that, a tough ‘tuition’-life. At twenty five when he completes all this and raises his head as a social being, his cultural standard will be the same as it was in his eighth standard. How can we blame him?

Here, ‘youth’ means not to have a lasting interest in anything, to lack a basic training in anything – in short, a shallow person. ‘To have fun’ means to be foolish, insensitive and lack public sense. If four or five ‘youth’ congregate in a public place it is almost like a monkey brigade.

These ‘youth’ remain like this even when they go to America or Europe. They do not learn any culture or public sense there. One can even say that they dont even live there. They create a small ‘youth’ society there and live within in. There too they know only cinema gossip and beer bottles.

Anybody who tours America or Europe once can notice youth enjoying nature subtly. They undertake various adventure trips. They trek to peaks. They cross rivers. They go to forests to stay without any conveniences. They cross long distances alone. Those methods of appreciation are very vast and beautiful.

I have not seen our youth do any of these. They are oblivious to such things. They think American culture means dancing to film songs with beer bottles in hand. 

Our youth do not learn anything from any medium including the Internet. Once when I was in K.P. Vinod’s home, I went into Facebook and Twitter through his account to see what our people speak about in them. The same cinema, the same politics, petty gossip. There too a ‘youth-circle’ has come up. They cannot take up anything else.

I have noticed the average American or European youth is diametrically opposite to this. They possess basic taste, reading and debating skills. Also, there will be a great interest in a particular field. I have see many who were listless. I even know youth who can be described as ‘hippies’. But I am yet to meet an American or European youngster without basic culture. It is not clear from which cultural background our ‘youth’ has sprung out of.

A few months ago, I had gone to a Chinese restaurant in Chennai called Mainland China. In that restaurant, around fifteen youth were giving a party to some among them. I was noticing what they were conversing. Unbearable foolery. Petty jokes. Petty cinema titbits. Loud laughter. Their body language mimicked America. The quality of conversations what one would encounter under a village bridge.

Atleast they could have spoken in Tamil. But unfortunately this was a techie crowd. Hence English. The person with me was a European young man. He was a film animation technician. I saw he was also listening. ‘I cannot bear these Indian youth. I dont wish to speak to any of them beyond a hello’, he said.

I was hurt. ‘These are humbugs who never learnt beyond their means to earn. But there are othe types of youth here too’, I said. With the extreme graciousness of the West, he said ‘I wish to meet them’.

I angrily said ‘We have started only now. These are youngsters brought up in the midst of fears about the future in an entirely materialist manner. They do not possess their families’ cultural background. Nor do they have their educational background. But the upcoming generation wont be like this’.

Its my belief. What else to say?

J

Anna Hazare, Talibanism?

1 Dec

This is a translation of a blog post from noted Tamil writer Jeyamohan’s blog.

Translation from: http://www.jeyamohan.in/?p=22663

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Respected Sir,

Greetings. Sorry for disturbing you. Again a question about Anna Hazare. You might have answered these questions before.  I didn’t notice. Now to my question. From the article that appeared in Tamil media… Is it true that there is no alcohol, movies, television (Cable TV), movie songs and Panchayat elections in Ralegaon Siddhi and if somebody uses them, Anna himself would tie them up and lash them with his belt?

With respectful regards,
Kannan
Trichy

 ——————————

Dear Jeyamohan,

The statements of Anna Hazare after the slapping incident involving Pawar have shaken the trust in someone who was believed to be a Gandhian.  Even as a quick retort or even in jest, he shouldn’t have spoken like that.  It’s comic that after that, he tried to make amends by claiming that he only sought information.  Had Gandhi spoken like that, he would have fasted in regret.  He would have also admitted the truth.

Should we still believe that he is a Gandhian? I am asking this question in the belief that your answer will provide clarity.

http://www.dinamalar.com/News_Detail.asp?Id=355293

With regards,

Nayagi

 ——————————

Dear Friends,

These days, I receive many letters of this sort.  I see a commonality between them. Those who raised questions over Anna Hazare and opposed him at the height of his movement, are writing now that they have lost faith in him.

I had foreseen and written that the media and the Government will launch defamatory and personal attacks on Team Anna.  Because that is in our history.  The ‘medicine’ given to Vinobha, Ram Manohar Lohia and Jayaprakash Narayanan in the past will be given to him as well.

People like Anna Hazare cannot be trapped in corruption and wrong-doing. But allegations can be stacked up against him.  Slowly, an image of him will be created by the continuous allegations appearing against him in the media.  Our media conducted a continuous attack like this on even Jayaprakash Narayanan, who lived and died without enough money for his day to day needs.

A more effective weapon is ridicule. People like Jayaprakash Narayanan and Anna Hazare are not skilled strategists.   Nor are they politicians.  Skilled strategists will measure every word they say.  Politicians will always stick to hackneyed clichés. The media cannot fox such people easily.

But true public servants arise from among the common people.  They would speak the common man’s language and reflect his emotions.  Their words would be spontaneous.  Our media can easily twist them, show contradictions in them; can depict them as nonsensical.

In the past, there are many such who have fallen to this trick and erased from history. The most important victim was Jayaprakash Narayanan. One can be enraged by reading the English media from the 1970’s in which Jayaprakash Narayanan’s concept of total revolution was ridiculed, derided and portrayed as a sort of madness.

Now I am reading the Lohia-J.P. Kriplani time period serially.  These are the people who realized in the 1950’s itself the massive failure to be of the economic model given by Jawaharlal Nehru to India.  They had realized that the triad of Five year plans-Green Revolution-Urbanization can only end in destruction of the village economy.

Jayaprakash Narayanan has mentioned farmers’ suicides in his speeches on several occasions in the 1960s itself.  Lohia said that the entire economic plan should be rebuilt with focus on the villages.  Jayaprakash Narayanan seconded this.  It is this total change that Jayaprakash Narayanan called as ‘total revolution’.  He also succeeded in making this into a grand people’s movement. The media supported this on the face of it in the beginning, since popular opinion was favorable towards it.

Basically, Jayaprakash Narayanan’s movement was against the large capitalists ofIndia.  Hence they slowly started making the movement an object of ridicule.  Every single one of his speeches was twisted.  He was portrayed as a old man given to contradictory blabber.  His speeches were quoted one random statement at a time to create a negative image of him.  Surprisingly, within five years Jayaprakash Narayanan, who called for total revolution and galvanized the entire of north India, was established as a sort of clown in the minds of the people.  That image of him continues till today.

Jayaprakash Narayanan was a man of emotion.  He was capable of speaking from his heart.  A Gandhian himself, his statements in colloquial Hindi like ‘thrash them’, ‘drive them out’ were again and again made headlines by the media to make him out as a man of violence.  The media showed that he was destroying Indian integrity, kindling anarchy and dragging youngsters into violence. The media, by provoking the distrust of the Indian middle class, completely decimated the grand effort of Jayaprakash Narayanan to draw the Indian Government’s attention to village economics.

There is a close synonymy between Jayaprakash Narayanan’s and Anna Hazare’s movements.  Anna Hazare’s movement too is against the triad of Large Industry-Urbanization-Corruption.  It emerges from the contemporary reality that farmers have been given up on and are facing death.  Like Jayaprakash Narayanan, Anna Hazare too is not a politician.  He is a public servant who was created and shaped from the masses.  Hence his language is not one of a politician or a skilled strategist.  His language naturally reflects the emotions of the people.  The media is very easily making it an object of ridicule.

 

It would be good if the people who now state that Anna Hazare is not entirely on the Gandhian path, accept that the Gandhian path is okay, that Anna Hazare is following most of it and that he has failed in just this issue.  But they are using this deception simply to destroy the current enemy in front of them.  They do not follow any honesty in this debate.

Just like they did to Jayaprakash Narayanan, our media is making serial statements out of random utterances of Anna Hazare and his team and subjecting them to ridicule and debate by a section of our middle class, which itself is steeped in corruption.  They too are gossiping now why Anna Hazare said this, why he didn’t say that and whether what he said is Gandhian etc.

Do you know why Gandhi was not awarded the Nobel Prize?  He stated that if the Pakistan Army didn’t provide protection to those refugees who wanted to come to India, then war might break out between the two countries.  The British media started a propaganda that this was meant as a threat to Pakistanand hence Gandhi was against world peace.  The Nobel Committee believed this. For over five years, this charge against Gandhi remained.  When an explanation was sought from Gandhi, he refused. He said he was not interested in giving explanations.

Gandhi was not moderately educated like Anna Hazare.  He was not from a simple background nor did he work among commoners. He was a leading barrister; a great strategist. He had enormous control over his words.  Even he faced a situation like this. Several times his words have been twisted. He has been portrayed by the English media on several occasions as a man of violence, racist and a religious fundamentalist. There is no surprise that Anna Hazare is being hounded thus.

All that we have to think about is this: There is a big diffence between Anna Hazare and his critics. Anna is not merely a commentator. He is not a media expert. He has not shown himself as a man of sharp words or rare insight. He is a public servant. After demonstrating his devotion, honesty and effectiveness on that front, he has entered public life.  There appeared before him a historic moment to speak as the voice of the people. He then spoke the words of the people naturally.

Why do the educated middle-classes like us fail to believe in Anna Hazare’s past, his achievements, why do we trust all the sundry half-baked columnists in the English media? What sort of brain washing is this?  In truth, we should be considering this question alone.

One argument is arising in all the debates on Anna Hazare.  Specifically five-star-hotel-writers who pen articles in the English media repeatedly state this.  Most of these journalists are in reality power brokers for capitalists – like Barkha Dutt, Rajdeep Sardesai etc. Many are brokers for other interests as well.  They mention in all their articles that Anna Hazare is uneducated, that he cannot speak in English and that he is a simpleton.

The truth is that our thought processes and social interactions have been destroyed and frozen by the English, half-baked principles and translated philosophies that these educated intelligentsia have learnt in their institutions.  These people are unable to understand the crores of common people in this country. Our ‘educated’ intelligentsia continues to speak as the voice of the well-to-do classes who believe they have a right to exploit commoners.

Anna Hazare emerged from the commoners. He is one of them. We can call Anna as the response of the Indian commoners to Gandhi. He did not come to work for the people having learnt all the principles of Gandhism.  He started questioning the degradation around him and thereby arrived at Gandhi through his activities. He discovered Gandhi through his reconstruction programmes.

One can understand what Anna Hazare says only from this perspective. When he went to Ralegaon Siddhi, it was famous for illicit hooch. He attempted a change in the village through his moral strength alone.  He brought back the centuries-old village panchayat system. But he rid it of the casteist ascendancy present in it.  He created equal platforms and opportunities for every caste in it. He made them realize that without everyone participating, one cannot make reconstruction programmes work and then made them successful.  I have seen this personally in Ralegaon Siddhi. It is probably the only village in North India where dalits have a direct share of political authority in village administration.

Anna Hazare is only telling us how the clout of illicit liquor was defeated by the village panchayat system.  He didn’t get skilled in Gandhian techniques and then descend there to try them out by serving them. He went there as one among them and served them.  It is natural that he shares their beliefs.  Any balanced individual will admit that it is alcohol which is ruining village economy.  He might have tried through the village panchayat system to create a social isolation and punishment against this social evil.

The media systematically creates an image.  Anna Hazare is not the dictator of Ralegaon Siddhi.  He is not an omnipotent landlord like one sees in Tamil films.  He is a public servant who lives in the local village temple.  He has the moral authority that his simplicity brings. What he speaks about is not his authority, but the authority of the village panchayat.

There are village specific reasons for why Anna Hazare thought why there need not be political party based elections there.  He thought that if there was a split within the village due to party based elections, then the large scale development programmes might suffer.  He didn’t stop party based politics with his personal authority.  It is the village panchayat which decided that party based politics is not required.  Instead, the traditional method of discussing and arriving at a choice for the head position was followed.

One can decide whether this is correct or wrong only taking the situation into consideration.   It created very good results there.  Here our villages which have panchayats constituted through party politics are caught up in corruption and are rotting.  It is the practical truth that politics has split up people so much so that it is impossible for them to demand responsibility from somebody.  The media creates the image that he kept the political parties banned for selfish reasons.  Pushing aside his achievements and the dedication that went into it, they try to show him as a village landlord (pannaiyar) who is shown grinning ‘Ahhaaa…’, belt in hand.

Anna Hazare was performing his service in the 1980s. At that time, he didn’t have any vision or motives outside of his village.  He was known outside only after Gandhian organizations and environmental organizations took his achievements outside.  I visited Ralegaon Siddhi in 1987.  Even at that time, it appeared that he didn’t have any goals outside the village.  As an honest social activist, he stood up to the corruption and government persecution in Ralegaon Siddhi. That is how he arrived at the Maharashtrian and national political scene.

I do not believe anyone tried to portray Anna Hazare as a blemishless Gandhian.  He is a social activist who moved towards Gandhism through practical work.  Gandhism does not possess an integrity and purity like religion.  It has two aspects, a vision and a practical guidance towards the vision.  Every Gandhian moves towards that vision through this practical guidance each according to his ability.

What should one do to be completely faithful to the Gandhian ‘principles’?  One should merely keep speaking about it without doing anything.  Someone who seeks to achieve results on the ground can only operate by arriving at explanations to them, sometimes by staying away from them and rarely, by refuting some of them.  We call Anna Hazare a Gandhian since the economic reconstruction programme in his village as well as the anti-corruption movement at the national level are both based entirely on the Gandhian vision.

It is heartening to note that our middle class intellectuals have unwavering clarity on what is non-violence and righteousness.  The Gita calls these sort of people as ‘rooted-in –their-consciousness’ (Stitha Prajna).  Even Arjuna who heard the Gita till the end didn’t reach that state.  Gandhi too.  Till the end, Gandhi has doubts as to what was non-violence.  During the First World War, he called out to all Indians to join the army and fight for the British.  At the global level, he thought of the British as a just power and that they should not be defeated.  He thought that after Britain wins, they would give more democratic rights to the Indians and that India would gain practice as a modern democratic society.

But several of Gandhi’s own students felt that it was diametrically opposite to the non violence that Gandhi spoke about.  He couldn’t convince them by speaking to them.  He stopped by saying that he felt within himself that it was right.   When he went to the villages for drafting men for the war and started propaganda, the common people were shocked and confused. He requested them to believe in him.  It is the trust that most Indians had on his honesty and personality that made them follow him, not clarity of principles.

He had this doubts on right and wrong till the end.  He read the Gita again and again for this.  He requested that the army should take strong action and bring control in regions where poor people were getting killed in religious riots.  He didn’t think that it was against non-violence.  But he said that those affected by violence should abstain from hitting back.  He taught people to forgive enemies.  He explained it as the path of non-violence.  Intellectuals of his time as well as today have not understood that his non-violence means giving space to both idealism and practicality at the same time.

Gandhism doesn’t contain an absolute ideology or principle.  Laurie Baker who insisted on a liquor shop in his Gandhian village is also a Gandhian.  Lech Valesa, a complete alcoholic was called a Gandhian by his supporters.

Gandhism can be understood at several levels.

Firstly: The social vision of Gandhism. It can be delineated as having characteristics of distributed authority, decentralization, attempting to reach self sufficiency in smaller units and non-consumerism.

Secondly: Gandhian politics.  Seeking the way of unity instead of division.  Attempting to move forward through reconciliation.  Moving towards one’s rights through non violent struggle.

Thirdly:  Personal discipline of right and wrong. It is based on personal honesty, simplicity and abstinence.

Several of those who are called Gandhians today have tried to follow atleast one of these and succeeded.  M. F. Schumacher is a Gandhian.  He followed the first set of principles alone.  Martin Luther King was a Gandhian. But he adopted merely the second way in Gandhi.  Vinobha took only the third aspect from Gandhi.

Hence, it would be absurd to discard Martin Luther King based on his personal discipline.  Even Gandhi reached Gandhism only very late, almost towards the end.  In the beginning, Gandhi has supported wars.  To expect one to start from the heights reached by Gandhi and to travel forth from there is nothing but stupidity.

Anna Hazare has within the limits of his personality, believed in Gandhian economics and has achieved success.  As a believer in the principles of personal discipline of Gandhi, he has been unblemished in his personal life.  He has been active in taking up Gandhian politics.

It is not as if he is a Gandhian only if he completely accepts all the statements by Gandhi and lives entirely as Gandhi.  There might be places where Anna differs from Gandhi.  He might believe that in social setup, there is room for a certain level of violence. He might have learnt it from practical life.  Gandhi was also a practical man.

Viewing from a Gandhian perspective, we might argue that Anna Hazare’s belief in that is faulty.  We might discard him from that perspective.  But it is blatant defamation to call him a fascist, a clown and a fool and against Gandhi himself because of that.   The English media in India has always been indulging in character assassinations.  They gave the same poison to even Gandhi himself.

I have written extensively about Gram Swaraj that Gandhi proposed.  I have deep misgivings about it.  I have recorded them too.  I believe that against the shift in global economics, it is impossible to create in a village or in a province Gram Swaraj organizations. It cannot last.  It might last for a generation at best.  That village will have to continue struggling against the entire world.  It has to guard all its doors.  It can continue only through village restraints, isolation and similar punishments.  It is a short dream.  I had mentioned this in the article in Malayalam which I wrote after coming back from Ralegaon Siddhi.

Gandhi’s gram panchayat system and gram swaraj model of economics have to be adapted to contemporary situations and modernized.  Its my belief that this can best happen through the methods of J.C. Kumarappa and E. F. Schumacher.

We have only two kinds of people among us.  One, those who fear Anna Hazare.  Even a single reason is sufficient for them to discard Anna Hazare.  Instantly, they will start abuses and defamatory remarks against him.  But they will justify the monumental faults of leaders whom they believe in with hundreds and hundreds of words.

Secondly, the believers.  They need a prophet.  A blemishless complete man.  They are constantly seeking blemishes.  A relief when they finally spot one.  Ah- he too is like us, and a sneer.  Even if Gandhi arrives today, only blemishes will be spotted in him, no?  What newer allegations can come up against Anna that Gandhi hasn’t seen?

The one that is amongst us now is an activist who tries to implement Gandhism within his abilities, within his limitations, and in his practical situations.  Hence he is a Gandhian.  He is not a bigger Gandhi than Gandhi himself, nor is he a prophet.  His integrity has remained untarnished after being hunted by so many people seeking to defame him till date.  That is what is surprising to me. If we merely analyze for half an hour those who accuse Anna Hazare, or follow them for a week, we can see the rotten sleaze of their private lives.

Today from among the people, one of them has arisen as their voice.  He has a great contribution to make.  He emphasizes the probity of public life.  He advocates the common discipline of right and wrong which we have compromised long back.  No political party has the moral authority to do this today.   Everyone has compromised one way or the other.  One cannot face electoral politics here without such a compromise. Only somebody like Anna who stands apart from this can do this.

The hegemony of our capitalist system is steeped in the corruption of electoral politics.  It is through this hegemony that our media houses are conducted.  Most of those journalists are merely power brokers.  They are trying to get rid of Anna Hazare simply because he is a force against them.  They employ all the tricks of the media trade for it.

I have been shocked by a truth when I was at the height of a political movement once.  Several industrialists in Tamilnadu will offer funds to Naxalite-like groups to run their trade unions. This is because their real enemies are left-right communist parties’ trade unions. These extremist leftists will come in handy to defame and weaken those trade unions. Since these will never gain in strength, there is no fear from them.

This is the same thing that Indian capitalism is doing now.  The true threat is from activists who have people’s support like Anna Hazare.  It is possible to get rid of them by getting ‘ultra’- activists to defame them, who have not been able to gather people’s support. These paper tigers will never be able to gather people’s support.  It is the voices of these ultras that we keep hearing now.

Another front, hides within itself blatant religious fanaticism, anti-humanitarian attitudes while speaking a thousand legalities out in public.  Our media makes use of them as well.

Anna Hazare is a great opportunity for India.  One of the questions that will decide its future is whether India should win this opportunity or lose it like it lost Jayaprakash Narayanan.  We can answer this question only if we are capable of conversing with our conscience within.

J

‘Am I a Hindu?’ (Part II)

20 Oct

This is a translation of a blog post from noted Tamil writer Jeyamohan’s blog.

Translation from: http://www.jeyamohan.in/?p=21656

(Part 1)

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(Contd.)

Please examine this question from this background. ‘Am I a Hindu?’. Saivaites, Vaishnavites and Saktars could ask this question too, isn’t it?  Saivite and Vaishnavite forms of worship are different, aren’t they?  Then, who is a Hindu? One is ‘Hindu’ only if everyone stays together.  If they stand alone, they are merely Saivite, Vaishnavite or Saktar.

You have pointed out in your question a duality that is present in Hinduism.  It is the contradiction between theological religion and folk religion.  It is a sociological method developed by the British to study the forms of worship here.  But one cannot understand Hinduism using this.  The great godheads here were folk deities till a few years ago.  A folk deity of today will combine with an existing godhead and become one as well.

Shiva was a folk deity like your Karuppaswamy once.  Today Sudalaimadaswamy is turning into the the Graceful Lord Sivasudalaimadaswamy.  This evolution is constantly happening.  You can worship yesteraday’s Karuppaswamy or tomorrow’s Shiva.  You cannot add a chapter to the Bible about Karuppaswamy and make him a godhead. There is no place for him in the Bible and the Koran.  It’s possible in the Gita.  It is this nature which creates aggregate religions.

Now, the information which you share.  They mostly reveal your ignorance about your own heritage. You mostly do not know anything about your village, deities and forms of worship.  You would have grown up without interest in any of these like most other youth and would have come to the cities for work.  After this, you have imagined a village from what you have read or learnt here and there and are asking this question.

What do you know of Karuppaswamy or Sudalaimadan?  Have you attempted to learn something? I know local deities very well; the local deities and communal deities of Nellai and Kanyakumari districts in particular.  I am in touch with folklore researcher A. K. Perumal and have been discussing with him for over a decade. Only a few communal deities belong to your village alone. Karuppaswamy, Madaswamy, Kanniyamman, Maduraiveeran and Muthupattan are present all over the southern region.

Written histories are available for more than three hundred years for all these deities. In oral folklore, there are stories about these deities from even before this period.  The Sudalaimadaswamy folk song belongs to the 15th century. The Karuppaswamy villukathai (story narrated with a villu musical instrument) belongs to the 16th century. You can try reading them. Almost all of the southern folk deities belong to the Saivite tradition.  Shiva would have been mentioned as the god of these deities. Or they would have become deities having after receiving a boon from Shiva.  These stories are still being sung in the villu songs and kaniyan mudiyetru of these deities.

In our culture, gods continue to be created.  There are three ways through which a folk deity can be created.  One, symbolic deity.  That is, a small deity worshipped to cure a disease or to increase the harvest.  Worship of trees, rocks and rivers fall under this category.  Secondly, worshipping the deceased.  Making deities out of those who faced a violent death, killed in war, or childbirth for the sake of honoring their memory. Thirdly, worshipping elders – deifying one’s ancestors. Templesrise in places where saints are laid to rest.

In the beginning, deities created in this manner stay within the groups that created them.  When this community forms relationships with other communities, they mix with other gods and transform into larger godheads.  All the godheads that you see today were created in this manner.  Deities for a particular family alone continue to exist as their communal deities.

This process of relating would have started several generations ago.  To tell the truth, a local deity starts relating to the Shaivite tradition as soon as it is created.  For example, the temple of ‘Serman’ Arunachala Swamy.  It is in Eral. Arunachala Nadar was born on October 2nd 1880 at Melapudhukudi near Thiruchendur to Ramaswamy and Sivananaindha Ammai.  He took over as the Chairman of Eral Panchayat on 5th September, 1906. He undertook several good measures for the people.  He passed away on Adi Amavasya of 1908.  People established him as a deity and started worshipping him.

Slowly, the worship of ‘Serman’ Swamy started interacting with Saivism. ‘Serman Swamy’ turned into an incarnation of Siva.  Today Arunachala Swamy temple is an important spot of Saivite worship.  This is how Hindu religion takes birth and continues growing.  Any form of worship here starts a dialogue with Hinduism and over a period of a time merges with it.  Only by merging this like, Hinduism moves forward.  Like all streams of water in a particular region somehow going and merging with a large river in that region.

Hence your deities do not hang out of thin air without any relation whatsoever with the Hindu tradition like you think.  And you are not silent in the dialogue with the common structure of Hindu religion.  You are merely unaware of it.  Even communal deities will merge into the Hindu common traditional worship when the community expands and spreads a bit more.  All other deities will have a historical narrative which fits with the Hindu tradition.  Enquire this when you go visit next time.

As far as our smaller deities go, only a few in the village will have knowledge about them.   The others do not care. The reason is the cultural setback caused in the 19th century due to the great famines. Most of our families would have migrated during that time. The root of the community would be somewhere else. As a result, communal deities were given up and forgotten.  Traditional forms of worship were lost.  Traditional stories and wisdom was lost.  Only simple rituals survived in the places where ended up living.  Our fathers and grandfathers would have existed in a cultural vacuum and slowly gained roots in the new towns and villages. They would have known nothing.

Why this doubt as to what your religion is?  Which other religion does the word ‘Kaliraj’ belong to?  I believe that you atleast know that Kali is a Hindu god.  You mentioned Thiruchendur temple.  You can learn this easily.  Please see if your community has any right to any ritual like mandagappadi in the Thiruchendur festival.  If so, you are a member of a grand, temple based Hindu (Saivite) religious organization which has existed since the tenth century.   If your father or grandfather did not perform the communal worship meant for their community, it is their personal issue alone.

I too have communal deities.  Ittagaveli Neeli and Melaangodu Yatchi.  It is them that my ancestors worshipped.  At the same time, they were also a small part of a grand setup of the Thiruvattaru Adhikesavan temple.  All communities would have this dual religious belief.  Small deities would be their own unique deities.  They would have been attached to temples for larger godheads.

The Vedas were considered merely as books for rituals.  Hence only those who conducted rituals alone read them.  The Gita and the Vedanta were not spoken of as meant for everyone.  It was meant for those who crossed devotion and worship and searched for true knowledge. In all the communities, those who knew these were a miniscule number.

The puranas and epics belonged to all people of India in their respective forms.  For every community, there were different forms of the same stories from the puranas.  That lower class people had no introduction to the puranas and that they had no relation to it is simply a fraud perpetrated by the Folklore Center Palayamkottai and theMaduraiDivinityCollege.

Have you ever known that the puranas and the epics are the sole basis for all the folk arts of Tamilnadu?  There are around two hundred folk arts in the Nellai region like the Therukoothu, Tholpaavaikoothu, Pulluvan Paatu, Villupaatu etc.  All of them still narrate stories form the puranas and the epics.  Even today, over a hundred of them continue to be staged without facing extinction.  All the local deity festivals for the past two centuries have been conducting them only.  The people who act in them playing parts and those who watch them are all from the lower classes only.

When special dramas arrived, they staged dramas from the puranas.  When silent movies came, they were movies on the puranas as well.  Your village or your family is very surprising.  If they really do not know a little bit about all these things, they certainly live in an interesting illusory world.  Their special state should be separately studied.   One cannot examine Hindu religion or Tamil society on that basis.

You say that you and the Hindu form of worship do not have any relationship.  This is a statement made without any knowledge merely by believing in hearsay.  There are four ways of approaching divinity in the Hindu religion.  One, padayal (offerings) and sacrifice. Secondly, poojas  and prayers. Third are the Vedic rituals. Fourth, dhyana (meditation) and yoga. Any folk deity would be within the first two forms of worship only.

Do your offer prayers to your Karuppaswamy? Or a joint prayer session?  You would light a lamp or a torch.  You would deck it with flowers, offer food and worship it, wouldn’t you? And you would share the food as sacred prasadam. What is this but Hindu worship?  This what Hindus do in the Fiji Islands, South Africa and in Nepal.  This is what is done to Thiruchendur Murugan as well.  Its sacred ash (thiruneeru) that is smeared on Karuppaswamy and Sudalai.  You would know this if you went to a Karuppaswamy temple.

There would be life sacrifice and food from meat in a Karuppaswamy temple.  In a temple for a larger deity, vegetarian food would be offered.  There would be a few differences in the materials and in the words used, that is all.  This is because a few centuries ago, Thiruchendur Murugan became a god for a larger set of people.  Hence he moved towards a form of worship common to all the people.  Life sacrifice existed till around a hundred years ago in several of the great Hindu temples for major godheads.

Any small deity would continue to exist somewhere in the Hindu common tradition.  It will definitely not be completely outside of it; even the deities of the dalits and tribal people.  How far within it depends on how big the worshipping community is, how wealthy, how educated and how much social status it possesses.   The deity of a community gains as much importance within a larger tradition (and merges with it) as the extent to which the community gains stature in society.

That’s why Hindu religion is not thrust down your throat.  Who is there is to do so?  Does someone come door to door for religious conversion?  Do they distribute pamphlets or do they campaign with loudspeakers?  There are no evangelists for Hinduism.  Counter campaigns happen from all quarters with the utmost rigor.

It’s you who force yourself into the Hindu religion.  This is the history of the past five or six thousand years.  Every community jostles for social power.  It searches for its own place in society.  Once it reaches there, it establishes itself there.  Soon their deities gain prominence.  Convincing proof for this is the great prominence gained by Badrakaliamman temples of the Nadars and the importance being gained by Mariamman temples of the Vanniyars.

Watch the roadside when you go.  You will notice brand new Ammans and Karuppaswamys standing up out of the concrete.  A few people from the community that worships those deities would have earned money inDubai.  As they move up the social ladder and slowly gather authority, their deity will move towards the current core of Hindu religion.  If it has to move towards the centre, it should have a dialogue with the centre.  It should transform itself.  It should size the centre. That is what is continually happening.

This is what is happening in your village as well.  When smaller deities turn into larger godheads, their appearance and rituals get transformed.  When Karuppaswamy which seeks life sacrifice is worshipped as a the All Pervading ruler of the universe, it has to become a god which has compassion for all living beings.  After that, it is not possible to offer life sacrifice to it anymore.  It transforms into the Graceful Lord Karuppaswamy.

 There is no question as to whether this is right or wrong.  This has been the way culture has functioned in the Indian subcontinent for the past five thousand years.  This is how Hinduism was formed.  This society has grown and has progressed forward.  Our intellectuals who scream that this is cultural colonialism shamelessly dance to the tunes of proselytizing forces that uproot and destroy entirely the worship of local deities.

 Hence, if you ask if you are a Hindu, I would say that yes, you are a Hindu.   Hindu religion is not an ear-marked region.  It is an expanse in which several fronts continue to be in dialogue.  You and your deities are already a part of this vast Hindu expanse.  From what you have said, it appears that you continue to move towards the general way of life.  You are one among the group of people who are gaining ground within the Hindu religion and are making themselves the new core.

J

‘Am I a Hindu?’ (Part 1)

16 Oct

This is a translation of a blog post from noted Tamil writer Jeyamohan’s blog.

Translation from: http://www.jeyamohan.in/?p=21656

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Question:

Let me tell you at the face of it:  I do not believe in an external power named God. This is not due to reading Dravidian Movement literature. Its entirely through my own confusion and the resulting introspection. The feeling that there is no external power named God gained strength after reading the thoughts of Ramakrishna, Vivekananda and Ramana. The reason I am saying this is to show that I am not merely a vacuous atheist. Though I do not understand Bharathi’s concept of ‘All that I see is Self’, Einstein’s ‘The World is a Cycle’, Ramakrishna’s ‘Nirchalanam’ I am incapable of refuting their contents. I am incapable of accepting theme either maybe since I do not understand them or haven’t experienced them. All I can do now is value them.

I have a desire to read the Vedas and the Upanishads. But not now.

I think this letter is the first step in my effort towards that. Though my question is not direct, I know that the answer will be a journey towards that. I will come to the question. Why am I a Hindu? Is it my mother religion or is it an alien religion? Please do not say like all the others that this is the power of Hinduism (I feel this is absurd. If I create a chapter on Karuppaswamy in the Bible, will I become a Christian? These sort of questions arise within me).

I do not agree with the reason that it is impossible to pin point what defines a Hindu or that under the Constitution, those who are not Buddhists, Christians or Muslims are Hindus.

What’s common between me and my fellow Hindus? Not religion, not even cuisine. Not habits (not even in worship). Why, not even common Gods. Isn’t this true? In my grandfather’s generation, I have never seen any other worship than worship of our communal deity (nor have I heard them speak of it). Its only in my generation that for the people of my village it has occurred that someone living in Thirupathi or Sabarimalai could be a God. Even Murugan worship at Thiruchendur was not very prominent till a generation ago.

Till now my village has worshipped as far as i now only village deities like Karuppaswamy, Sudalaimadan, Kanniamman. These people (including me) knew of the Ramayanam as merely an epic (that too through Kambar, or patti mandrams, I don’t know).  There is no Siva temple or a Rama temple in the vicinity of our village or an easily accessible distance (there was none in the past too). As far as I know, there is none in my ancestors who have read the Gita or the Vedas or have even thought of doing so.

I believe you would have understood my question now. With all these, why am I still a Hindu? Or is the Hindu religion something that was thrust on me like the other religions?

From where did this religion come towards me? Is distance the only differentiating factor between Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism? If it came in the recent past, did my ancestors have no religion before that? Did they have no form of worship? At the beginning of human history, there would have been no religion. I believe that all religions arose after that.

My question is – did my village not have any form of worship as its own? Or will this become a reality soon? The most significant change I notice in my generation is the food that is presented in temples. The educated (so-called) classes are keen to show themselves as abhorring the custom of eating meat in temples. For them, only the larger temples appear to be beautiful, potent and possessing divinity. My argument that we present to our deity what our deity likes fails to impress there. (I support vegetarianism solely on the basis of health. But this is different. They eat meat at home. But at the temple, they will do so with a guilty heart or will refuse.)

Similarly, I do not remember my grandfather or my grandmother performing offerings for the dead. What I learnt from that is that after the tenth day of rites, thats it. Now, this habit is also on the rise.

My question is not whether these are for good or for bad. My question is whether the Gita and Vedas are to me what the Bible and Koran is? Or whether there is a connection between me and them.

Am not sure if I have put my question properly. But I have hopes that you would have understood me.

Regards,

Kaliraj.

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Dear Kaliraj,

This confusion exists among a large section of educated youth in Tamilnadu who come from a humble background. This confusion has been fanned by Dravidian organisations and the Left over the past several years. Powers with financial and organisational might which operate with the objectives of proselytisation stand behind them. They seek to convert this confusion to a firm concept.

To give an example, its only in the 1990s that intellectuals of the Dravidian movement and the Leftists who espoused rationality started emphasising that the worship of local deities in Tamilnadu is not connected to Hinduism and that it is even against Hinduism. Before that, they used to entirely brand it as superstition.

The reason for this happening is the ten day conference named ‘Gods of the common people’ (‘Sanangalin Saamigal’) conducted at the behest of Father Jeyapathy of the Department of Folklore at the St. Xavier’s college in Palayamkottai. At the conference a segregation was easily fed to our intellectuals that all the local deities were subjugated and that Hinduism is a religion of subjugating gods. Around 50 lakhs was spent for this.

Look at what our Left intellectual S. Tamilselvan has to say about it: ‘In those days when the Department of Folklore at the St. Xavier College in Palayamkottai functioned actively, a ten day conference ‘Sanangalin Saamigal’ was conducted. Those ten days were a turning point in my life. It gave a new perspective about gods and deities. Observe http://satamilselvan.blogspot.com/2009/04/blog-post_04.html
See who has to come and present these intellectuals with the history of their own society and their own deities.

These intellectuals failed to ask just one thing to the organisers of this conference. Does the religion of the organisers permit the worship of local deities? did it allow those who converted before that to continue their worship of their communal deity? What happened to the communal deities of those who converted before this? Hence which is truly the subjugating religion that  suppresses smaller deities? Only one student stood up and asked this, and he was removed from the room.

This question that you ask has been planted in you without your knowledge and has been grown with continued propaganda. I am pointing out that those behind it are proselytising forces. An educated person like you may have this doubt and misgivings, your illiterate father would not have had. He would never have doubted whether he was a Hindu or not. I had to tell this since I could not have answered your question without explaining this background.

The basis for your question lies in your definition of religion. You consider that a religion consists of firm principles of divinity, a definite organisation structure and well defined practices and rituals. Most of the religions that we see today are like this. But this is not applicable to all religions. Only if we understand religion from a broader and less rigid definition will we be able to understand not only Indian history, but also Asian and African histories.

Two kinds of religions have a firm center with surrounding structures. One is religions based on race like Judaism. Jews are a race. The faith of the Jews is Judaism. Outsiders cannot convert to it. Several African minor religions are like this. These religions have clear boundaries. The boundary of race based religions is the racial identity. For them, those outside this boundary are others or aliens. Race based religions do not proselytize.

The other kind are the religions of Prophets. The Prophet who founded the religion would have clearly defined the religions center and its boundaries. In the Abrahamic religions, the Prophet would have said that ‘I am the true Prophet, all else are false’, or it would be written that he said so. Christianity, Islam, Manichaen, Bahai, Ahamedia – these religions can be listed in this category. These kind of religions keep appearing even today.

These religions would demand complete faith from its followers on its founder prophet and its book. All those who do not accept this would have been defined as aliens or others. It will insist that these others have to entirely give up their own beliefs and customs and join them. These religions will do all that is necessary to this end. This duty would have been preached to all of its faithful. It’s on this basis that they grow.

Other than these two kinds of religions, there are another two. One – religions based on philosophy. Examples, Buddhism and Jainism. They were founded by prophet too. But they do not preach faith, they advocate their philosophy. Even the God that they preach is a philosophical construct. Their description of the universe is not based on faith, but on philosophy. They do not say that this philosophy has to be entirely believed and accepted. Instead they call for debate with that philosophy. Even Confucianism and Taoism belong to this category.

There are basic differences between how the two religions spread – the religions of the Prophets and the religions based on philosophy. The religions of the prophets ask the others to come to them casting off entirely their older beliefs and customs. They command that what they say be accepted with complete faith. If you become a Christian or a Muslim, you cannot retain any aspect of your old religion, communal deity or customs. You cannot doubt Christian or Muslim beliefs even a little.

But religions based on philosophy do not say so. They only teach that the philosophy be imbibed in your thoughts and your lifestyle. By only accepting the five customs of a Jain, and the basic principle of the Universal cycle, one can become a Jain. Standing within that boundary, one can worship his own community’s deity and practise his customs. In other words, they do not propagate their religion, but their philosophy.

If we consider Buddhism, this is why Sri Lankan Buddhism and Tibetan Buddhism are different in customs and beliefs. A follower of Taoism can also be a Buddhist. The Japanese are able to use Shintoism for material life and Buddhism for spirituality. But its the Buddhist philosophy that remains as the essence. What Buddhism does is not proselytisation, but transmission of philosophy.

Another category of religions can be called aggregate religions in general. Hinduism is the best example of this in the world. Shintoism is a smaller example of the same. They do not have a central vision of divinity or a central philosophy. These emerge at a particular juncture in history and continue to grow.

We usually compare these religions to Abrahamic religions, religions of the Prophets. Hence we start asking what is the central vision? what is its holy book? and who are the ‘others’? We ourselves decide that these are the central points and boundaries of this religion. Soon we are confused who else is within this boundary along with us. The same confusion exists in your question.

What is the difference between aggregate religions and the other religions mentioned before ? religions based on race, religions of the Prophets and philosophy based religions. It is that the other three originate at a point and start expanding outwards. Religions based on race have a self identity based on race as their core. Prophet’s religions have the philosophy of their prophets as their core . Religions based on philosophy have their perspective of that philosophy as the basis.

They make this core interact with several other beliefs and thoughts. Prophetic religions defeat these other beliefs and thoughts and establish themselves over them after destroying them. Religions based on philosophy penetrate the other beliefs and thoughts at the level of philosophy, modify their core and carry them along. In other words, in both these categories, a core that already existed in the religion starts moving towards the fringes.

For example, when Jainism came to South India, it spread among the Nagars who worshipped Nagas.  It made them accept the Jain philosophy. Nagar’s worship of the Naga became a part of Jainism. The five headed serpent over the head of Parsavnath is the god of the Nagars. The Nagaraja temple at Nagarkoil is their temple.

But aggregate religions do not have a pre-defined central principle or core. Since they are ancient, it is not easy to point out their source or where they originated. It can be said that aggregate religions are formed when the ancestral customs and beliefs of a set of people living in a landmass combine over a period of time.

Tribes living over a vast expanse of land develop individual forms of worship out of their lives. It cannot be called religion. When those people start relating with another group of people over a long period of time, there is a dialogue between their belief systems. They grow by give and take. A common ground is discovered between the two. In other words, by conjoining the cores, a new one is created. When it merges with a third form of worship, a new common point is discovered.

Like this, over hundreds of years, hundreds of forms of worship come together to form an aggregate religion. Most of these aggregate religions still continue to be in this process of aggregation. Hence their central core continues to change and grow. This core moves towards whichever group of people within that population that has the largest intellectual influence or authority.

The structure that we call Hinduism today has been in this aggregate form since the beginning. Even the most ancient book of Hinduism, the Rig Veda is an example of this aggregate nature. It does not preach a particular faith, custom or a philosophy. In it, there are several forms of worship, beliefs and philosophies. We can see them in dialogue with each other and joining with each other in the Rig Veda.

In the ending part of the Rig Veda, there is this approximate central core that arose out of this aggregation. It can be called ‘Brahmam’. That is to say, the essence of this universe or power is envisaged as unfathomable and realizing the universe as its expression. As soon a core like this is created, dialogue begins between this and the other cores. This we can see in the period of the Upanishads.

This dialogue continues till today. A few Leftists explained that this structure called Hinduism pulls in smaller components towards itself. Several people keep saying the same thing. Any form of worship which they claim was sucked into Hinduism has not lost its self-identity. Even philosophies and beliefs which came in like this two thousand years ago continue to remain so. It’s the new  comers that have modified what the Leftists called as the core. Hence it is not swallowing in. It’s dialogue and reconciliation alone. 

If we see history, we can notice that the central course of Hinduism has changed entirely once in every two or three hundred years. If a new population arrives or a new thought comes in, it changes itself after reconciling with them. Almost like a river. Our Ganges is not a river, it is an aggregation of rivers. Its course and shape are all determined by the rivers that merge into it. Every group within Hinduism may claim that they are the core; but the core is always all-containing.

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(to be contd.)