Archive for April 2010

Celebrating Milestones

Did I mention previously that rituals and sacrements form an integral part of the Tambrahm lifestyle? From birth to death, every milestone is crossed with determination under the eagle eyed guidance of the priest. The rules are strict and immutable. They are also male centric, institutionalising discrimination and exlusion of women.

In the Tambrahm way of life, when a man reaches the age of sixty, he celebrates his 'Sashtiapthapurthi'. When a man reaches seventy, he celebrates 'Bhimaratha Shanthi'. When he reaches eighty, he celebrates 'Sadabhishekam' and when he approaches one hundred years of age, he celebrates 'Kanakabhishekam'. These can be celebrated only if his first born is a son and his first born's first born is also a son. Yes. Its complicated. And where does the woman figure in all this? She just needs to be beside her long living husband when the celebrations take place. If she has not been so disobliging as to have kicked the bucket before the festivities - which are basically a re-enactment of the marriage ceremony by each subsequent generation of male children.

Discrimination, exclusion and isolation are experienced by women everyday in different ways. You could be an illiterate woman surviving on daily wages, or a highly educated woman belonging to a privileged class of society. Regardless of the strata of society they belong to, these are realities women learn to confront, negotiate, accept or propogate, depending on socialisation, experiences and personal mission in life. If you choose to stand up for egalitarianism, then the support and partnership of men can make the difference. And that is the origin of this long winded narration!

My parents are celebrating the golden jubilee of their marriage this year. All his life, my father has looked askance at poojas and rituals that mark the Tambrahm lifestyle. On several occassions he was simply pressurised into going along with them. But in this matter, he refused to budge. My father scorned the 'Shashtis' and 'Bhimas'. 'My wife and I have together built this family. I see no reason to celebrate only MY birthday.' But this year he was rather excited. 'Our marriage will be 50 years old. Lets celebrate!.

So we will Appa. And this post is a daughter's celebration of the wonderful liberal thinking man that you are.

With love.

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Faith, Beliefs And All That

After her last three misadventures, Nishigandha should really have been prepared for this one. As it turned out, this one didn't even progress to a formal meeting of the interested parties!

The first contact was made by Mr. Sharma, father of the hopeful groom. He owned a business in advertising and after handing it over to his eligible son, was now leading a comfortable retired life. He appeared to a liberal minded man. He suggested that Nishi get to know his son, Arun and if they clicked, then the parents could come into the picture. What a nice thought!

With optimism, Nishi sent an introductory mail to Arun. He replied back and their communication was on.

"What do you like to do to unwind and relax?" asked Nishi.

"I like to read. I'm into spirituality and mysticism". said he

"Really? Thats interesting" said Nishi

"Yes. I attend discourses and seminars. Last weekend, I went to see this holy man. He lives in a slum, having renounced the world. I waited three hours outside his hut and when I finally saw him, I wanted to ask him so many things. But I remained silent."

Nishi was taken aback. Not that she thought being interested in spirituality was wrong. But in her experience, her peers and contemporaries rarely showed this level of interest. She was also a little worried. From spirituality, it was just a hop, skip and a jump to ritualism - which she abhorred.

"I should tell you that I take a skeptical view of god men. I believe in God and respect all faiths. In fact, my brother is married to a Christian. We're totally fine with that."

The reply to this mail stopped the progress of this alliance in its tracks!

"I must admit I am not comfortable with your views. I think it is not good to have two different faiths in one family. I have certain beliefs and opinions and don't feel like I have to compromise on them. I will be constantly paranoid about the influence, a member of another faith, will have on my children. I'm sure they will try to convert them into another faith."

Was this man for real?! Seemingly well educated, erudite and liberal minded. Yet he believed in 'holy / god men' having no problem waiting three hours in a slum to meet one. His political views on religion were fundamentalist to say the least. Well he could take his views and just buzz off!

Introspecting on the matter later, Nishi wondered if she was the exception. Did most of her generation think like this Arun character? Was SHE the misfit? And if she was, what next? Marriage, people said, was a compromise. Should she compromise her beliefs and values to attain the state of matrimony? But if she did, she would not remain herself. Nishigandha would become the sort of person that she hated. And self loathing was the worst punishment in the world.

"I think I'll just be me. Wait and watch. There are more fish in the sea!"

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