Thursday, April 13, 2006

localised rant

i'm a Hindu. and proud of it. i have always had deeply personal relationship with God, and He has always been there to hold my hand through all my ups and downs. i pray everywhere and aywhere, as and when i feel i need to address something... this has got something to do with the way i was brought up, but i guess it also has a lot to do with the fact that i am a nitwit, who would forget my own head if it hadn't been screwed on... i.e if i didn't address issues as and when they arise, i'm likely to forget to do so entirely...

i grew up mainly in penang and kl and the only thing that bothered me about being a Tamil Hindu in Malaysia was that there was no community to fall back on. i mean there are hindus all around, but no organisation or structure as such. each temple has its own committee and practises, and temple committees have essentially been about power play, and who gets to make the most money...

my christian friends who belonged to individual churches - (and this is the thing, i don't BELONG to any temple or place - i am free to roam and graze, shepherd-less) had church activities, church friends, structured religious education, church support groups and choir practise...

my ismaili friend has got structured religious curriculum for her children, organised prayer meetings, women's groups, kids groups, a fully organised all year calendar that is centered around their prayer group, and all sorts of other wonderful stuff...

prayer meetings and religion for them was not only about worshipping God, but also about finding a sense of self and understanding where you are coming from... it was about having an extended "family" over and above the ones you are born with.. (now i know this can be a double edged sword, as sometimes you already have enough with the family you come with, and don't need anymore, thank you very much... but for kids, its nice)

frankly i've always been envious about all this, and now that i have a child, i wish it was possible to be able to give her some of that...

the good thing however is that i was brought up by my mom, who considers herself one of the "puthumai penn" (new women) envisioned by the poet Bharathi - she is liberated for her era, and has always taught me that i should question and understand all that i am told. hence, my religious education, under her tutelage, has always been comprehensive, in that i know the whys and the wherefores, and have never been asked to do something based on the "that's how its done. just do it" logic.

however, i have since come to realise that not every Hindu is so lucky, and hence you will find people doing a large number of things (some of them quite strange), without having a clue why they are doing it in the first place... and a lot of times, people mix up culture with religion with old wives tales, and you just get a confused lot...

the tamil hindu community in malaysia is going through a difficult era and wresting with a large number of social ills. i feel that adequate and proper religious and community support would help alleviate this problem. This is a time when we should be doing our level best to bring our young people into the temples and away from the streets - when we should seek to divert the young towards God and nobler pursuits. We should have more structured temple activities, targeted at the youth... encouraging them to come in and "party", structured religious education, community activities etc

In the circumstances, I was deeply disturbed to hear that a Hindu temple in Ipoh has taken to posting a notice outside its walls, dictating that within the temple premises, Punjabi suits are to be worn by for North Indian women whilst South Indian women should wear sarees.

Temple committees should be picking their brains on how best to serve the community. As the elders of the community, they have a deep responsibility to the people they serve. As such, they should think about the messages they are sending out with their actions. Do we really want to teach our young, discrimination and segregation? What does it matter which part of India I am from? Am I not allowed to pray in peace in whatever outfit suits my fancy? Isn’t it better to have our young going to the temples instead of the shopping malls?

It looks like we’re not really interested in getting the young people into the temples. We don’t really care what they do or where they go. The primary concern is that if by some miracle they do turn up at our temple, they had better be dressed right. We’ll tell them off, and next time they’ll know better than to come in here…

Is this really the day and age when we should tell our people how they should dress when they come to worship God? Will God be offended if a woman in jeans came in and prayed (As i do all the time)? What should I do if I am deeply distressed and need some solace? Apparently the answer to this, is that I should rush home and change first…

No comments: