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November 2018
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Pariyerum Perumal – A tale of two tumblers!

Rarely do you get to watch a movie, that kindles a flame that almost was dead or dormant inside of you. One of the recent ones that did this to me was ‘Pariyerum Perumal’, a poignant tale of two tumblers.

Discrimination on the basis of caste is a pan-India phenomenon. Each State and region rival each other, in unique ways to shower hatred, and artificially segregate humanity on the basis of family they are born into. While the caste system, talked about so glowingly in our Vedas, simply parcelled people into four piles, the reality of the society allowed these to mutate into a thousand variants. A specific hierarchy and order was tacitly enforced upon them, creating a basis of hate that was permanently etched in our minds. These lines only seemed to get thicker and clearer over the centuries.

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Two different tumblers (glasses) used to serve tea; Segregation.

One such system practiced in some parts of Tamil Nadu is the two-tumbler system. Local tea shops served tea in two different tumblers (glass), to the people from higher and lower castes. This allowed people to partake tea from the same place, but didn’t require sharing utensils, and therefore allowed the so-called upper caste folks to maintain their sanctity.

In less than two and half hours, the narative presents the lives of the people who are afflicted by the curse of this division, leaving little to be imagined. Tact is employed very effectively, which i think is an attempt to maintain a sense of propeity and decency. All this while still not trying to diminish the impact, or more importantly the helplessness of the situation. There is no easy resolution to this problem.

The first rule of finding a solution to a problem is the acknowledgment that the problem exists. This it effectively does. At the end of the movie, if anything you will no longer question this basis. And therein probably lies the answer. Maybe, just maybe we will work torwards fixing it.

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Final Shot of the movie; symbolising hope?

The last few scenes of the movie, provides you rationale to change thinking and begin a journey towards a more integrated and inclusive society. The two-tumbler system is possibly dying a slow death, but differences continue. This is evident from what is in the tumbler (glass).

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Tat Tvam Asi – Only for Men?

Sabarimala

An old picture of Sabarimala, showing the entrance to side. There is another entrance to the rear too (can’t find pictures). These entrances were used by “all (men and women)” who didn’t observe the 41day vradham. Women of all ages were allowed entry at one time thru’ these steps.

As i type out these thoughts, we are in the midst of celebrating Navaratri. Nine days, when Durga and her manifestations came down to earth to slay a demon, that no one else could. Among many other things, Navaratri is also reverently proclaimed by many Hindus as the celebration of woman. As a mirror to show how we, since i am also a Hindu, hold women in high esteem. But these things apparently only are words, and not necessarily translated into real emotions or observed.

In Kerala and in a few other parts where there are Malayalees who are supposedly devotees of Ayyappan are holding protests against the Supreme Court ruling to allow women of all ages to visit the Sabarimala temple. Ironic it is to me. But then a quick look at the crowds, show women coming out in large numbers to show that they too oppose this ruling. Women in India, and in general, have never hesitated to let their kind down, when it comes to gender issues. They are quick to follow the instructions belted out by men. And here again is a clear case of how powerful men in the religion control the rituals at the temple.

Sabarimala is not a gender issue. It is not about women and men. Because women are allowed, except those from the ages 10-50. Why? Because women in this age group, menstruate. And apparently since the deity at the temple, Ayyappan is a Brahmachari, these women will be a distraction to him. They will force him to break his penance or prayer. I have tried to rationalize their feelings and their opposition to this. The more i have searched, and tried to, i have only learnt how ridiculous their arguments are. And how they have kept shifting the goalposts, with the singular objective to keep the current abhorring tradition alive.

The Supreme Court has ruled that all, i repeat ALL people, can be allowed to visit and offer prayers at Sabarimala. The temple already allows members of all faith, irrespective of religion to come and offer prayers. The temple opens tomorrow. I wait with a prayer on my lips that the ruling is allowed to be enforced. That anyone and everyone who wishes to visit the temple is allowed to do so. Let the truth be available to everyone.

Women were allowed to visit Sabarimala, till the ruling of the Kerala High Court in 1991. Therefore, we need to welcome the re-entry of women to this temple, instead of attempting to hold on to rituals and traditions that have little bearing in today’s world. Specially since they were invented in the last few decades.

Faith does move mountains

I recently had the oppurtunity live and experience this old adage in person. And, I have to say, some of it literally.

Kerala had been ravaged with water and floods from incessant rains. Rains caused rivers to flood, dams had to be opened to prevent accidental breach, which added to the misery. As a malayalee, and with lot of family and friends in Kerala, i was waiting to head out there and help.

A group of youngsters from Thuvakkam, an NGO that my office and i work closely, were developing their own plans. They got the ball rolling, thanks to some seed money and with help of a friend and mentor, they were quickly spreading the message, soliciting additional funds and more importantly assembling material required for relief and rehabilitation.

The D-Day was to be 24th friday. It was later shifted to the day after, given that materials were still pouring in. A huge number of volunteers showed up to help, many known and familiar, but many more that were just there for a day, a few hours or a few days. Faces that will never be seen again, names that might be recalled, but the warmth and love that will never be forgotten. I heard later about one that came by to offer food for the night, and ended up staying and helping thru’ the night into the wee hours of the morning.

Final D-Day was Sunday, 26th. The 20-feet container truck was to leave around noon, accompanied by a 14 seater van full of volunteers. The truck left around 3:30pm, almost filled to the door, on an arduous journey from Chennai to Coimbatore, with a quick sleepover, so as to begin again from there unto Wayanad. The plan was to arrive by mid-day to begin distribution, and possibly return by that evening.` The truck and the van, arrived late. Very late. A detour, misplaced info from google maps helped in taking more time than required. The whole of monday was lost in travel. That left Tuesday to unload and distribute. Any plans to unload the materials at a location for distribution by others, was squashed by the District Collector’s office. They had enough on their hands, and was only too happy to heed to the team’s request to distribute directly. The loaner of the truck had originally wanted it back by Monday night. If you thought that was all, that was working against us, keep thinking.

To make up for this lost time, we knew we had start early on Tuesday. After a tiresome almost 24 hours of travel, it seemed impossible. But these kids were determined to do just that. They were up and ready early on Tuesday. It didnt help, because weather, our local coordinators, location and facility to park and unload; all conspired against this plan. A sunny monday turned into a wet and deary tuesday, as if warning us not to attempt the impossible. With less than 12 hours at hand, the team unloaded the entire truck, distributed materials to over 2000 families, with help from the local coordinators called “Promoters”. Each promoter, accompanied by a volunteer took off on a jeep, the only vehicle that could traverse the terrain easily. Jeeps moved in and out of the makeshift load/unloading facility; a boys hostel with half a shade to block the rain. Rain coming in bits and pieces, just enough to irritate, and add to the misery.

I left the team there (i had to leave that afternoon), a lot guilty, but with some semblance of a backup plan. My scare for any kind of partial or unfinished work, was misplaced. The team was resolute in finishing what they had started. They were not about to be fazed down by the challenges presented. With everything having gone wrong in the first half of their trip, the second half was about making up with sheer will and grit, overcoming anything and the everything that came in their way.

Later almost a week after, when we gathered to share our experiences, a member of Thuvakkam provided an explanation that made me understand things a little better. All the love they collected from donors, all the warmth they accumulated from volunteers, and all the spirit of the people they encountered also conspired, to take on the forces of nature, plans that went wrong and mountains of work to be completed. Ultimately, what tipped the balance in the team’s favour, was the faith they held steadfast; faith that they will complete this, and they will not let people who gave and the ones that were to receive, down.

Faith did work. It helped overcome any fate that was planning otherwise.

Vajpayee

Vajpayee dead.

And very typical of Indian tradition, people here do not speak ill of the dead. As a result of this or otherwise they miss this ‘statesman’. Why? Because compared to the current regime and autocrat ruling the country, he appeared a little more timid or sane. But look a little more deeper and you will see the rot he prevailed upon.

How did the BJP come to power, that resulted in Vajpayee becoming the PM? It rode on the hate wave spearheaded by Advani, in the form of a Rath Yatra. And everywhere this vehicle went, it spewed hatred and violence against the muslims and other minorities. Hinduism was being replaced by a more hateful thought called Hindutva. Hindu terrorists were being spawned as a result of this hateful environment.

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And yet we think Vajpayee was a statesman. This statesman was at the helm of the country, when Gujarat burned under the influence of the then Chief Minister Modi. The state and government stood by watching as innocent were butchered on the streets in the name of revenge. Muslims that is. And we are told stories of how this man wanted Modi government dismissed. Yet as i recall, he and his goverment in the center uttered not a single word to stop, instead he adviced Modi to follow his “Raj Dharma”. Modi, the maniac manufactor from the same factory that produced Vajpayee, the RSS.

Today with his death, we call him a stateman. Tomorrow some will do the same for Advani and later Modi. Because by then we may have experienced some other maniac, far worse than what Modi and his RSS have done till date.

By these standards, i wonder how we should address other monsters that are dead and gone. And whose poisonous acts have been surpassed manifold by others.

The News Deluge

I don’t recall when i first started reading ‘The Hindu‘, the local daily from Chennai; given that it was the only daily we ever subscribed at our home as a kid, it is safe to assume a very early age. But the concerted devouring of news from page to page, column to column was during my college years. I had the opportunity to read other newspapers, news magazines, and other publications that bordered on information and gossip. Radio news was dead by this time, and in India, the news on TV was mainly a government propaganda broadcast. Newspaper was the only source, and The Hindu was the only source that i trusted.

A political animal at an early stage in my life, news and current information was a prerequisite. No, it was more than that. It was the basis for simple survival. Those days, it was not too difficult to consume news from different sources, with slant and bias for different topics. The biases if any were more straightforward, and always applied, based on principles. Journalist curated news and published, and put their name and stamp with an authority that demonstrated validation, authenticity and credibility. I am yet to recall a story that was later labelled as “fake news” , during those times. Publications that carried sleaze and or naked pronouncements without validation or stories without proper attribution was collectively junked as “Yellow Journalism”. These publications and journalists were treated with the rightful disdain.

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Today is different. The news is already stale and old, by the time my favourite newspaper is delivered in the morning at 6am. Can you imagine that? Between the 24×7 TV Channels and online news etc., the news, or better stated views has already been shared, sliced/diced and shred to pieces. Then there is the social media, notoriously twitter, closely followed by facebook and whatsapp, all which spray information. The poor receiver is inundated, by this overflow and struggles to keep their sanity. News, views, fake news, accuracy, credibility, information and source are all compromised and interchanged, leaving doubt about which is what?

I have given up watching TV news. I use twitter a bit, but its a place to dump my views, just like this blog. I read stuff, but am always double checking stuff i read on twitter or from other SM. In the end, i still look to my newspaper for credible source of news. I try to maintain a steady head and clear mind as i read The Hindu newspaper every morning and form my own opinion on issues that interest me. It is a losing battle tho’, and i am trying my best to stay afloat.

Good luck to you too.

Contemptuous Misapplication

If you are from Chennai, then you have salivated over the melt in your mouth Mysurpa from Sri Krishna Sweets. I have. Living close to one for many years in Adyar, i have visited their store, and end up buying a small box of this freshly cut pieces of magic. Even if that was not the original purpose of the trip. The person would behind the counter, begin cutting them into pieces from a tray, and box them based on weight as per your preference. Smallest they usually sold was 1/4kg (250gm), which was about 4-5 pieces.

I was aghast to see how Sri Krishna Sweets have turned their stores into selling packed and sealed boxes. It does make business sense, given they have been on a roll.  This new concept killed the pleasure of seeing your food packed in front of you, but that is only a cultural change that eventually one may have to get used to. Better yet, if you want the old feel, we can switch to other stores and brands. The shocker though comes from packaging.

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They now sell a single piece of Mysurpa in a box. A neat little cardboard box, or sometimes a tin container, within it a nicely shaped plastic pouch that snugly holds a single Mysurpa. Adorable and charming design, almost rivaling ideas of packaging from Apple and the Steve Jobs idea factory. This piece of about 70-80 grams of ghee, sugar and flour will melt in your mouth in a total of about 20 seconds.

That is till you stop and realize the ecological and environmental impact of all this. To me, that is what struck me almost immediately. First the plastic, the single use, and the resultant wastage. All this because they want to sell many more pieces of this sweet dish at the lowest unit cost. In spite of all this cost reduction, this single unit costs almost Rs 40/-, little more than half a US dollar, making it out of reach for most of the people in India. The economic sense is without basis, since the person who can afford to burn this kind of money, can easily bear the expenditure to buy larger quantities.

This action by Sri Krishna Sweets is only a symptom of the larger problem of packaging that is contributing to an environmental disaster waiting to happen. Online shopping and convenience hold the biggest responsibility when it comes to this packaging issue.

How do you fight this? How do you stop this? Something we can fight, something we cannot. Online shopping is so ubiquitous now, for most, if not all the items we need to buy. The best way to counter this packaging issue, albeit a little easier, is to recycle. Bigger and larger packaging material makes it easier to recycle or reuse.

As for the Mysurpa, i have decided to stop buying it. My last visit to a Sri Krishna Sweets, resulted in me providing a written complaint about their packaging concept.

Forwarded as Received

With just three words, we absolve ourselves, of a crime, we are about to commit. Yes, crime is a very elephantine word, but given the circumstances, there is every possibility that it could just become true.fakenews

If you havent come across this phenomenon, you are probably not active on one of the many social media platforms, specially some of the biggies like whatsapp, facebook, or twitter etc. Given the prevalence of these, it is likely that only a few small sections of humankind has been spared from this plague. And in which case, you are also less like likely to be reading this post.

The SocMedia is taking the place of the gossip circles and rumour mills that existed before, only it is able to proliferate misinformation at a much faster rate. And thanks to all the education, or i should say literacy, we have become predisposed to news, even before it converges on us. We either believe, or we dont. Simple, there is very little scope to change opinion with just one news item. One swallow does not a summer make. What do you make of it, when you see the next swallow, and the next, and the next? Oh then, slowly but steadily you give in.

feku-memes

Mitron (friends)! Catch whatever i keep throwing at you!

SocMedia has exposed us to so many view points, that it is difficult to be ever satiated. A paradox? Yes. Its a typical problem, with the choice of plenty. You never know if you made the right one. And so in a bid to contribute, we end up bringing more sand to the beach. We crow louder than required, without thinking and reflecting upon one’s action, we drop the grains of sand, and walk away purportlessly.

When you come across another news on your fav SocMedia, dont just shoot it off into the www of nothingness. Think before you do. If there is any truth, it is that the information you recieved today, is old, rehashed and most importantly a sham. If it quacks like a duck, waddles like a duck, and looks like a duck, the chances are it is a duck.

The only possibility of rebuilding any trust is not to forward, unless you subscribe to the information a 100%, or have verified the content yourself. If you have any doubt left, then it is best simply left alone. When in doubt, Dont!

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