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taj1

Indians abroad face very silly and annoying questions about India! Next time you get asked an annoying question on India, answer it like this…read on, it’s funny!

Q. What does that red dot on women’s forehead mean?
A. Well, in ancient times, Indian men used to practice archery skills by target practicing by aiming at their wife’s red dot. In fact, that is one of the reasons why they had many wives. You see, once they mastered the art of archery and hit the target….

A2: In the olden days there were no traffic signals in India. So vehicles were supposed to stop the minute they saw a married women cross the road.

(And again the bindi is considered the prerogative of Hindu women. When I sport a Bindi, people keep on asking me if I have converted to Hinduism. “If Hinduism is ok with atheism, I wouldn’t mind,” I reply. Actually I think Hinduism is not too concerned about atheism…can’t catch hold of the exact quote…but its supposed to be only a “way of life” not organized religion)

Q. You’re from India, aren’t you? I have read so much about the country. All the wonderful places, the forests, the snake charmers, the elephants. Do you still use elephants for transportation?
A. Absolutely. In fact we used to have our own elephant in our house. But later, we started elephant-pooling with our neighbors, to save the air. You see elephants have an “emissions” problem…..

Q. Does India have cars?
A. No. We ride elephants to work. The government is trying to encourage ride-sharing schemes.

(This question is now replaced by “Do you always travel by hand-drawn rickshaws?” My answer: “Definitely not! Hand-drawn rickshaws were banned in Tamil Nadu as early as the 1970s. Its only in states like West Bengal, which constantly keeps harping on human rights and Left politics, can you find hand-drawn rickshaws or govt-approved prostitution in Sonagatchi.”  Ok, Before everyone hailing from WB is up in arms, I am not anti-WB or anything. Just teasing!)

Q. Does India have TV?
A. No. We only have cable.

Q. Are all Indians vegetarian?
A. Yes. Even tigers are vegetarian in India.

(They might really believe this one as the only Indian authors they can recognise are R K Narayanan and Salman Rushdie. It might prove dangerous if they really believed everything that A Tiger in Malgudi has to say about a tiger’s food habits)

Q. How come you speak English so well?
A. You see when the British were ruling India, they employed Indians as servants. It took too long for the Indians to learn English. So the British isolated an “English-language” gene and infused their servants’ babies with it and since then all babies born are born speaking English.

A variation to the above is a compliment —
“You speak very good English.”   Response: Thanks. So do you.

Q. Are you a Hindi?
A. Yes. I am spoken everyday in Northern India.

My variation on this question is: “Are you a Madrasi?” Answer: “Are you a Golti/Mallu/Firangi or whichever place the questioner is from?” I’d be the last person to fan sectarinism, but the Madrasi question has been asked too many times for it to fail to irritate. And another thing I don’t get is why people from Karnataka, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh also have to be clubbed as Madrasis. Must be a hangover from the pre-Madras Presidency and pre-Chennai name change era.

taj21Q. Do you speak Hindu?
A. Yes, I also speak Jewish, Islam and Christianity.

Q. Is it true that everyone there is very corrupt?
A. Yes, in fact, I had to bribe my parents so that they would let me go to school.

Q. India is very hot, isn’t it?
A. It is so hot there that all the water boils spontaneously. That is why tea is such a popular drink in India.

Q. Are there any business companies in India?
A. No. All Indians live on the Gandhian prinicples of self-sufficiency. We all make our own clothes and grow our own food. That is why you see all these thin skinny Indians – it is a lot of hard work.

Q. Indians cannot eat beef, huh?
A. Cows provide milk which is a very essential part of Indian diet. So eating cows is forbidden. However in order to decrease the population of the country, the government is trying to encourage everyone to eat human meat.

Q. India is such a religious place. Do you meditate regularly?
A. Yes, sometimes I meditate for weeks without food and drink. But it is difficult to keep my job, because I have to miss work when I meditate like that. But the bosses there do the same thing. That is why things are so inefficient there.

Q. I saw on TV that people there walk on burning coals. Why do they do that?
A. We don’t have shoes. So we burn the bottom of our feet to make it hard so that we can walk.

Q. Why do you sometimes wear Indian clothes to work?
A. I prefer it to coming naked.

Someone once asked my friend, “Are women in India allowed to go to school?”

She replied: “No! They had to get a special dispensation for Indira Gandhi, so she could take over after Nehru died.”

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labelledameMarion Zimmer Bradley retells the Arthurian legends from the point of view of the women – the much maligned Morgaine, Viviane, Igraine, Gwenhwyfar and Morguase. A feminist perspective which gives the classic characters new depth and dimension. It’s a fantastic and pleasant read, whose flaws don’t make it any less interesting.

The Mists of Avalon politics and intrigue take place at a time when Christianity is taking over the pagan worshipping island-nation of Britain – it shows the legendary rise and fall of Camelot. God vs Goddess, Christianity vs Paganism, Patriarchy vs Matriarchy, Love vs lust are some of the dominant themes of the book.

Though Bradley explores interesting ideas in ‘Avalon,’ her writing is disorganized to the extreme. In her efforts to cover everything – King Arthur’s Round Table, Pellinore’s dragon, the Holy Grail, – the book become an enormous tome of almost 900 pages with

Too much mush and too much Christianity is bad and Paganism is good. When we actually see the hard lives Morgaine and Viviane have to lead because of their faith, the harsh decisions that they take – one would prefer the less-taxing Christian God who doesn’t seem to mind having dumb priests in his service.

Gwynhwyfar and Lancelot have to be the most irritating characters ever created. From a vapid, frightened, stupidly-prejudiced girl, Gwynhwyfar grows into a hypocritical, adulterous and seemingly pious, over-religious female.

Gwenhwyfar is shown to deeply fear and hate the Goddess yet she had no compunctions in asking Morgaine for a charm to cure her bareness. And again her constant bullying of King Arthur to turn the country Christian is nothing short of tyrannical. She uses her knowledge of theladyofshallot2 incestuous (accidental) relationship he has with his sister as a Damocles sword over his head to emotionally blackmail him and get what she wants. Also her own inability to carry a child, she blames on Druid Kevin when she miscarries. Gwenhwyfar is so whiney and whimpey that one wishes Arthur had just shut her up (as he was advised by many of his councilors).

Lancelot is another irrriating character. He is never happy with what he has, but is always lusting after something or the other. There is a also a hint by Bradley that he might be a homosexual, because of his attraction to Arthur and the threesome they once have during the Beltane fires.

The fight between Christianity and paganism is delightful to watch; in particular the arguments and counter-arguments placed. For me these thoughts resemble my own struggle to relate Christianity and the dominant religion of my country-Hinduism.

Believers of each religion seek to influence both Arthur and Uther – but ultimately Christianity ascends the throne.

The Isle of Avalon is painted in bright, seraphic, rose-tinted colours. The Isle is the centre for druids and priestess, inititated into the worship of the Goddess and one of the last abodes in Britain still untouched by Roman occupation or Christianity. The island surrounds itself in a mystical era – the mists and fogs protect this haven from the once-borns or those lacking in physic powers.

An interesting and pleasant read, for everyone except the history buff!

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spiritual-abuseI didn’t even know that a word called spiritual abuse existed till I read Cindy Kunsman’s UnderMuchGrace blog (My friends will of course be quick to remind me there are lot of things I don’t know 😉

Defining spiritual abuse

Spiritual abuse describes the process by which a spiritual authority misuses their power and the trust of their flock in order to meet their own needs or the needs of an organization or ideology. Many churches with sound and solid Biblical doctrine can be considered “cultic” when they practice techniques of manipulation and thought reform.

How many stories we have heard of false prophets, fake gurus and cult leaders? Lots, I guess across religions and denominations.

One great resource that one of my friends forwarded me was Ex-pentecostals forum . I was also sent this link to a book, titled The South Indian Pentecostal Movement in the Twentieth Century by Michael at google books.

I found excerpts from the book fascinating. Though I come from an orthodox Pentecostal background, I wasn’t too clued in on the history of the movement. That way this book brings fascinating glimpses into one of the most charismatic church movements in South India. He also dwells on the change from CPM to TPM; and the why and where of it.

I am going to be posting a lot more on spiritual abuse in the coming days. Not to decry religion, but more out of concern and a desire that people would practise freedom Christianity than legalistic, patriarchal Christianity.

I also want to post on emotional incest – a topic of great relevance in Indian society where enmeshed families are common.

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While reading UnderMuchGrace, I came upon the reason behind the graphic Fight the Mental Burqa on White Washed Feminists. Since I really liked what they said, I’m posting the pledge here.

fight_mental_burqa02

Fight the Mental Burqa!

A woman is imprisoned by a Mental, Burqa if her entire formation, or her present indoctrination by those claiming to speak in God’s name, does not inform or enable her to choose the other good means that God allows her in the pursuit of her final end.

A girl is living under the Mental Burqa if she is told that she is “resisting God’s Biblical plan for her” by pursuing a higher education or by exercising a legitimate profession, before settling down to marry, should she believe that is God’s will for her.

She is oppressed by the Mental Burqa if she is trained to believe she is not fit to choose whom she will marry. Patriocentrism treats women as interchangeable, and castigates as “modern sentimentality” a woman’s loathing to be “given in marriage” to a man she finds repulsive, one with whom she has neither affinity of character nor compatibility of intellect.

So, yes, I am for the woman’s right to live as a human being with a rational nature. I am for her right to know she has a God-given choice between the legitimate means to reach Him. I am for her right to the education that will equip her to embrace any state of life. I am for her right to determine, if she decides to marry, which man she thinks will make a good husband for herself and father for her children.

I am for the woman’s right not to be extinguished by the neo-fascist philosophy of a group of men who know that their own agenda is best served by women who have been denied or who have abdicated their duty to act as rational, responsible human beings.

We have a face and a mind.
Fight the Mental Burqa.

wwf_burkas

P.S.Only on Cindy Kunsman’s blog UnderMuchGrace did I first come upon the term spiritual abuse. Her blog is also very warm and reflects the kind of Christianity I would like to promote.

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The most irritating thing about Dasavatharam was seeing Kamal Hassan in every frame. It being his magnum opus film in no way justifies the fact that the whole film is Kamal, Kamal and nothing but Kamal.

The irritating things about the movie:

Kamal‘s ego. The scene in which social activist Vincent Poovaraghan replies, “Yes. I am a world-class actor” to the villain’s “Who do you think you are? Are you a world actor?” is too irritating for words. K S Ravikumar films have the trademark of K S Ravikumar appearing in at least one shot. But K S Ravikumar crooning about Kamal in the last song Ulaga Nayagane….”You have to be a UN member…You have to get an Oscar award…You have acted in thousands of roles….You are a world actor, world actor, ” Shucks! And K S Ravikumar trying to dance with scantily-clad girls! Too ignominious!
Missing links. Where did Kamal get his cellphone? How did the villains get the number and call Kamal in that scene when Kamal is standing in front of the police station? And containing a bio-weapon with plain NaCl or common salt is plain stupid for a movie that’s trying to be scientific (but fails nevertheless)? And how does a scientist (Govind), who spent most of his adult years creating a bio-weapon for the US so that it can kill millions of Innocent civilians, suddenly develop a conscience and want to save people in India (which he left for a well-paying job in the US)? And many people feel the US itself is a terrorist nation, so why protest the sale of the bio-weapon to a terrorist nation? As if the US is spending billions of dollars on bio-weapons for peaceful purposes.
Pathetic make-up. Kamal is a great actor and without any make-up in Michael Madana KamaRajan we were able to differentiate between the four Kamals. Here the make-up artist didn’t too a good job (Try watching Nutty Professor, you can’t recognise Eddie Murphy in any of the five characters). The faces looked artificial and kind of mummified.
Manmohan Singh, George Bush & Karunanidhi on the same stage? I don’t think so! Donning the role of George Bush and trying to outdo Sivaji Ganesan’s Navarathiri was such an immature attempt at the Oscars. I think Kamal would be better off, if he followed Aamir Khan’s non-special effects style.
Ten roles & a haywire script. Kamal had decided he’d do 10 roles. He decided he’d play a Hindu, Christian, Buddhist, Sikh, Muslim & atheist. He also decided he’d be a tall guy and a short, old lady. So the script is just plain confusion, with the director and script writer trying to fit in all of Kamal egomanical demands.
Too many issues. Kamal Hassan tried to talk about bio-warfare, globalisation, imperialism, terrorism, Shivites vs Vaishnavites, religion, the butterfly effect, chaos theory, discrimination against Dalits, caste feelings, lethargic functioning of the bureaucracy, sycophant government officials, corruption in the govt ranks, the tsunami, ….its just too much packed in three hours.
The Indian anthem being played when Govind lands in India with the bio-weapon. Why the national anthem? When nothing in the film has anything remotely to do with patriotism.
Hiroshima, Nagasaki vs Pearl Harbour. Its so stupid when Christian Fletcher tells Shingen Narahashi “Remember Hiroshima, Nagasaki?” and he retorts with “Remember Pearl Harbour?”. Its so stupid and doesn’t make sense.

What I did like about the movie despite all this, was the subtle criticism he dared make about the present system:

  • He says that both God and science betrayed human beings during the tsunami. In his own words in the last scene, “I didn’t say I don’t believe in God. I only said it will be nice if there was one” (Meaning that God is not there. Why quibble about it?). And that the stone (Vishnu statue) is just powerless. As it didn’t save Vishnu followers (including, the skeletal Ranagaraja Nambi) and got cast up on the beach due to the tsunami not its own powers.
  • He says that people have always killed and got killed in the name of the God in India. Even before Christianity or Islam made its entry to India, people were killing each over communal riots.in this case Shivites vs Vaishnavites.
  • When he’s protesting the sale of “bio-weapons to venture capitalists,” his boss tells him not act like a unionist. I liked how he showed that industrialists try to buy off people with unionist tendencies; when his boss tells Govind he will be paid hundred thousand dollars to go with the tide; and when Vincent’s men are bought off by the sand-mining industrialists here.
  • When he hugs the sanitary workers (most probably Dalits) and the sanitary workers are surprised that he’s touching them.
  • When the old, mad woman hugs the dead Vincent and they tell her not to touch him because he’s from another caste. But the old woman rejects what he says, leaving us with the question who is really mad? The old woman who embraces a stranger as her son or the Hindu fundamentalist, who thinks touching someone from another caste is sinful?
  • when he shows the rampant sand mining taking place on the Palar river bed. He has imitated real-life activists in portraying the anti-sand mining group
  • when he shows the blind faith and prejudices people have due to religion
  • when he makes a hit at Vaiko and Vijaykanth. In the interrogation scene, Balram Naidu questions Govind’s loyalty towards promoting the Tamil language, to which Kamal replies “Telegu people (Vaiko/Vijaykanath) like you will promote the language for their own benefit.”
  • when he criticises Jayendra Saraswathi. When Balram Naidu wants to interrogate people in the Hindu religious mutt, he asks “Are there not criminals in mutt?” (A hit at the recent murder case in which the acharya was arrested and many brahmins protested the move)
  • when Kalif’s dad tells the govt officers not to think “every Muslim is a terrorist”. Kamal of course phrases it in his roundabout way as “don’t think everyone who prays to Mecca is a terrorist.” I feel there’s too much of branding going on. Just because the US govt, UK and other European countries didn’t like Communists; Communists were bad and terrorists. Now the new villains are Muslims. Because the US would love to occupy the oil-rich lands of the Middle-East, the natives or Muslims become evil and terrorists. Even the BJP and RSS get votes using the same platform that “Hindu Rajaya must be born, after killing all the Muslim terrorists in India.” In Gujarat, I guess the Modi govt was partially successful, but it was interesting to note the subtle criticism the film makes of the Gujarat riots and the more than 2,000 Muslims killed in the riots.

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