Monday, July 29, 2013

The Great Indian Tirtha Yatra

Every religion believes soulfully in visiting their holy shrines, searching for their faith and their moral and spiritual significance. I am a Hindu so I wouldn't talk about other religions but, I really want to talk about mine. I want to talk about our religious tradition of Tirtha Yatra or any pilgrimage that a Hindu religiously follow.

Unlike other religions, in Hinduism, it is not mandatory or a must-do activity, however it is said, if you could afford it, you must.

India is a land of culture, religions, faith and ritual practices. While this practice varies among different sects of Hindu religion itself, there are many temples located at Ganges and Yamuna river, which are visited by thousands of Hindus every year.

The journey can be vaguely explained in few lines, but they vary depending on the pilgrim's social and financial status.

For a rich man, the yatra would be something like this - He buys an airline ticket to the nearest airport, hires a car, a horse, a cart or even people to carry him to the temple, whichever is fit for his comfort level and then pays the amount needed for him to be considered VIP enough. The wealth buys him the privilege to praise his lord without waiting in the lines. He worships his lord and leaves more money in the daan-peti (charity box). He boards the next available flight to his hometown and thus complete his Tirtha Yatra without an ounce of distress.

For a middle-class man, the yatra would be something like this - Years before the yatra,  he starts planning his trip. He plans out the expenses and follows an agenda to save for the same. A middle-class man probably have the liability to take his parents, spouse as well as children to the holy shrine. So 'savings' here means working his ass off. After ages, he finally can afford the pilgrimage and proceeds to meet his lord. He travels through crowded trains, buses, tricycles or on his feet. Even on his journey, his mind is continously calculating the math of money. He waits hours and hours in the lines, bending his knees and wiping his sweat. He climbs thousands of steps on risky slopes. He shivers while covered with blankets at night. He probably cuts on his meals to save as much money as he could, after all he also have to keep adding money to his piggy-bank which is labelled "for god".
After all these pains, which he considers are meant for lucky people like him, who gets to visit the yatra, he finally is close to his God. He approaches to face the idol, however to his dismay he is rushed and pushed by the pundits asking him to move fast - "Aage badho, aage badho, piche bohot badi line hai."
He fast-forwards his hands and hastily drops every garlands, coconuts, flowers and money he had accumulated. He moves out without even saying the first two words of his prayers or seeing in the eyes of his God for whom he traveled hundreds of miles.
When things get worse, these people are often trapped in the horrendous gimmicks of nature like snowfall, earthquakes, floods or landslides. Hundreds of people loses their lives each year facing horrible deaths, like buried under snow or being crushed by rocks.

For a poor man - Well, lets just say they are lucky if they even get to eat their daily bread. Tirtha Yatra is a luxury they can't afford.

This is not how it always works, but I hope you got the gist of how worshiping ones lord depends significantly on the economical or rather financial status of a Hindu. This is not just the imagery of famous shrines. You go to a temple like SiddhiVinayak in Mumbai and you would witness the same story.

Temples are the homes of God and they are meant to comfort any man regardless of any factor. They are meant to give peace to human soul and souls are neither rich nor poor. Many banners have been raised, movies has been made and thousands of articles have been written on  how temples and shrines are nothing, but an easy business these days.

I am not here to tell that.

I want to put a different perspective here.

Why do we pray? Or go to temples?

To ask for forgiveness, to ask for health and wealth, to thank for our daily bread, to ask for the well-being of our families and so on. In a nutshell, one prays or goes to a temple to have a conversation with their God. How can one say, God is "omnipresent" and at the same time search and reach for a particular place to have that conversation? Why do they consider some places worthier than the other? Unless one believes that the value of God depends on the structure and quality of their idols and temples, this makes no sense.

This just means that the Sai-baba at Shirdi is greater and worthier because he is made of gold compared to the one made out of earthen clay, across the street! Even though Shirdi is regarded as home to Sai-baba, a true believer would never debate on his presence everywhere and would not be a part of  making the Shirdi temple, one of the richest temple organization in the world. An organization where again, the devotion of a worshiper is classified according to his economical and financial status.

For example, see this-
More god for more money!

Secondly, let's just say, you wont agree to the crap I am talking about and despite of all the discomforts, physically and financially, you are still willing to visit your holy shrine to please the lord.
How would the lord be pleased for the 30 seconds of your prayer in front of him while the other 20-40 hours towards him were only spent worrying about everything else, but him.
Agree or not, while we are on our way to these shrines, we often spend our time cursing the mother nature for odd weather conditions, cursing the expensive food sold at the carts, we curse the flower vendors for selling a small garland for 50 rupees, curse the "GOD" for  making us not rich enough to opt for a better mode of transport, curse the sloped roads that made us puke from the bus window, curse the people pulling our arm to make us remove our shoes at their shops, still half of the time worrying about our shoes being stolen, curse the dry coconut we had to buy because they are the stale ones bought by the vendors from the temple itself, curse other worshipers for pushing us and thus we spend our so called "holy pilgrimage" thinking about everything, but our purpose and our God. Even though people chant and sing the prayers loudly while marching towards the shrine, there are a millions things that are going around in their minds.

So why not cut this crap and wake up in the morning, take the lord's name, walk few steps to the temple in the neighborhood and pray to the omnipresent lord who is everywhere in every corner. No one is denying you to take his name on your bed. That works too. Remember, he is omnipresent?
Whose prayer you think would reach the right place? The distracted one's in the yatra or a fresh, contended, happy being's on his bed.

I am an Agnostic, however that has nothing to do with my thoughts above. I respect everyone's opinion and everything I said was said from a viewpoint of a theist.
These shrines were made in the olden days when you didn't have to pay material fees to worship the Gods. That was the true reason behind its purity and sanctity.

Today, it is just a corrupted rupee (who am I kidding? Have you ever seen the temples here in America? The pretty charity boxes with "$" sign on it?) printing machine. It has become so popular as easy money that it is attracting international investors. Westerners are investing in building lovely exotic temples in India to scoop out the Roohpeeys!!

It is SO wrong because money is earned by toying with people's emotions. Right from selling the hair of devotees to foreign countries to hiring professionals to deal with the temple income, everything is wrong. How can one not see all this? STOP being a part of it.

Think twice of the people actually in need, before dropping a note in to a daan-peti or showering idols with milk and oils or investing in tons of garlands. If you really want to praise the lord help his people, feed a hungry, cover a shivering man with a blanket, provide shelter to a homeless, adopt a poor child, give him education, but not this.

There are no malls in heaven.


Friday, July 26, 2013

12 helpful tips for people staying away from family

Gone are the days, when people use to settle for schools or employers in their own city, no matter how defective they were. Students, salaried employees and professionals are now traveling around everywhere, to find the best. And everything is golden about those opportunities, until the time comes to find a place of our own, cook our own food and make our own bed.

It sounds childlike however, it IS a big deal. People get homesick and depressed and find themselves lost in managing a life outside their home. Many of them give up and go back to pavilion.

I was out of my house before I turned 18 and have never been home permanently since then. It has been eight years now. I had my own share of troubles, ill-management, depressions, home-sickness and failures but, I feel proud of my decision of choosing to live an independent life, which if I hadn't, I wouldn't be the person I am right now.

So, here is a small helpful guide for everyone who is going to or are already staying away from their family. At least some of these would surely help you down the road.

1) Make your peace with your roommates and landlord - Only if you are born with perfect karmas and glittering luck, you might end with perfect roommates. It all feels easy and smooth like butter in the start but, as time moves on and the habits and attitude of your roommates or landlord starts to surface, you start feeling strangled. You suddenly become capable enough to create a massacre. Even your tightest friend can turn out to be a worst roommate.
Solution? Make your peace with it. Everyone is different. Everyone's habits are different. Make yourself adaptable and flexible as much as you can. Ignore if you can't explore.
Just thank the lord, you don't have him as your roommate

2) Learn budgeting- The concept of being a king for the first fifteen days and a beggar for the last fifteen is not new to anyone, be it a student or a salaried employee . I was never able to do budgeting and that is why I know the consequences. Trust me, they are not pretty. Unless you want to survive on Parle-G and a teeny-tiny cup of tea, during the last week of the month, don't go on spending like a millionaire during the first two weeks. That goes specially for students who live on pocket money. Plan out your month according to your needs.

3) Deal with homesickness - This symptom differs from person to person. I use to get homesick, a lot. Do not let that feeling overcome you because, once you head towards your home, it takes a long time to get back on track. You spend hours on traveling, you get lazy, you extend your vacation and when you come back, everything seems much worse. And you are back to stage one.
Instead, use the technology. Call your family, Skype with them or text them. Make good friends but, avoid traveling to your nest every time you get homesick.

4) Get a vehicle - If you are going to stay in the same city for a long time, invest a little and get a vehicle. A simple moped would work too. You cannot imagine the terror of auto rickshaws and taxis. They make you beg and beg until you get on your knees and act as if you are paid to hire their three-wheelers. Plus, in a way, your own vehicle would be cheaper too, unless you spend your whole day driving around the city for fun.

5) Keep a safe back-up contact - At least have two to three responsible and reliable local numbers in your phone contacts. You might never know when you get hit by a car or catch malaria. And in a place unknown, it's a perk to know reliable people, whom you can call in the middle of night, in case of emergency. Don't be an ass and remember them only in emergency. Try to help them too, in your possible way.

6) Don't repel from your faculties, classmates, boss or co-workers - Like it or not, they are your family, away from family, even if you think they are mean or unfair. Mingle with them, try to know them and express yourself too. Create a bond and you might just build a whole new family there. This will also help you in dealing with homesickness. Of course there are people who cannot be pleased. In that case, follow our old rule - Ignore if you can't explore.

7) Stack up snacks - DO NOT and I cannot emphasize enough but again, DO NOT say no to those yummy home-made snacks your mom packs up with your luggage. You can never trust those untimely hunger calls from your tummy. There is no nightmare, like waking up super hungry in the middle of the night and having nothing around to eat. Stack up food like rats and ants, once you are away from home.

8) Learn to cook - And with that, I don't mean cooking Maggi. If you have a stove available, cooking is an extremely helpful option. I know, everyone is too busy to be cooking for themselves but, no matter how much finger-licking food is available at a cart near you, one time or the other, you ARE going to crave for healthy, homemade food. Your cooking skills would come in handy, then.

9) Be healthy and wise - The hectic hostel-like life makes us heavily addicted to tea and caffeine. I was a hopeless addict too but, try to control your urges. In long term, they ruin more than they help. And while we are at it, keep every addictions in control, be it drinking or any buck wild amusements you have to entertain yourselves. Be civilized. You don't want to wake up half naked on an unknown street of the foreign land.

10) Be nice - Now, this fairly depend on your character but, being nice won't hurt. Help others. Buy your roommie a lunch when he/she is out of money or help someone move or drop a colleague when he/she is in need or help your classmates with projects. These small things doesn't cost you much but, would surely turn you in to a much nicer person and people would look after you too.

11 ) Be safe - Don't forget you are at foreign place. You might not know all the people or all the localities like you know of your hometown. So, don't try to get all batcrap crazy and take patrol in the middle of night, thinking everything is okay. Times have changed and nothing and nowhere is safe. Take preventive measures, ALWAYS! (specially females)

12) Don't be a cry baby - Yes, don't be a cry  baby. I get it that you are away from your home and you had to iron your own shirt and no one cares about you, and you are forever alone and you had to eat bread and butter for dinner and you cannot recharge your cell phone with negative amount in your bank account and no one invites you to the cool parties and you cannot pass a week without repeating a t-shirt but, that doesn't mean you drive on the road to self pity. You are in a barrel, above people who cannot afford to study in a different town, above people who cannot leave their home to work outside because of too many responsibilities, above people who weren't brave enough to come out of the comfort of their homes to fight challenges in the outside world. So be proud of that and try to see the brighter side of the story. Find hobbies that would help you divert your mind from unnecessary issues.

*) Lastly, do not forget your purpose of being there. You do not want to go through all the things above and then end up with nothing in your hand.

The reason, I wrote all this - I would have lived a lot differently if someone would have handed me this list, 8 years ago.

Learning the hard way is fun too so it's okay to break these rules once in a blue moon after all, life is all about making the most out of it.This time of our life, however much bitter-sweet they are, would never come back. Live it. Enjoy it. Fall and learn. And one day, you would surely quote Bryan Adams,


Thursday, July 11, 2013

20 reasons why aliens would never visit earth

1. They are too fragile to cope with terrorism.

2. They are not used to inequality.

3. No matter how strong they are, they accept the fact that humans are the most destructive species.

4. They do not understand religion and race and are scared of hate crimes.

5.They don't enjoy politics and do not desire to be the victims of political power.

6. They get inferiority complex from Lady Gaga.

7. Male Aliens wouldn't want to risk getting their pretty female aliens being raped or abused.

8. The parent-aliens would hate their cute baby aliens to be molested by pedophiles.

9. There are aliens who loves aliens of the same sex and at no cost, they want to get assaulted and hated for what they are.

10. They cannot digest junk food.

11.They like to have the communication privacy.

12. Owing to our rigid attitude, they know it would be impossible for the humans, to adjust with foreign people and they are afraid World War III might take place.

13. They have watched every Bruce Willis and Will Smith sci-fi movies and they know how it ends.

14. They are scared they would be laughed at because they don't care about Kardashians.

15. They feel it is loathsome to keep up with the future generation of planet earth. They don't want to pull themselves a level down.
Baby Baby Baybeee ooo....Bammmm..crushed!!

16. They feel the earth is too expensive and it would be tough keeping up with the high cost of living.

17. They do not understand the concept of corruption.

18. The gas is cheaper on their planet.

19. In a nutshell, they don't want to invade a land where its citizens are evil, flawed, heartless and live with a callous attitude. It's completely not worth it.
20. They are timid but, they are smarter. They are saving all their fuel and energy they would need to travel to earth. They are sitting on their fire couches, eating their metallic popcorn and are watching us humans, invading humans, on their huge-ass laser screen.