So, what’s the limit?

 

Every right implies a responsibility; Every opportunity an obligation; Every possession a duty.

– Rockefeller

              It was in the last leg of our month-long India trip that I watched with dismay, anger and utter shame some of the reports coming in about the JNU incident.

              Hum kya chaahein – Azaadi         (What do we want? Freedom)
              Chheen ke lenge – Azaadi             (We’ll snatch Freedom)
              Bandook ke dam par – Azaadi      (Freedom at gunpoint)
              Hurriyat ke jawaano – Azaadi       (Soldiers of Hurriyat – Freedom)
              Jab Kashmir ne maangi Azaadi, Manipur bhi bole Azaadi    (When Kashmir demands freedom, Manipur demands freedom too)
              Kitne Afzal maaroge, har ghar se Afzal niklega     (How many Afzals will you kill? Every home will beget more Afzals)
              Afzal hum sharminda hain, tere kaatil zinda hain    (Afzal, we are ashamed, your killers are still alive)
              Bhaarat ki barbaadi tak, jung rahegi, jung rahegi     (Till the destruction of India, the fight will continue, the fight will continue)
              Bhaarat tere tukde honge, Insha-allah Insha-allah   (By the will of Allah, India, you will be broken into pieces)
              Pakistan Zindabad, Pakistan Zindabad   (Long live Pakistan)

              One can be forgiven for mistaking the slogans above to be from a Bollywood movie, where the terrorists and their sympathizers are threatening the Indian state – except they aren’t! These are, in fact, slogans raised in JNU and Jadabpur University, in the heart of Delhi and Kolkata – institutes of higher learning where Indian taxpayers’ hard earned money is being thrown down the drain to inculcate such treacherous behaviour. They depict the kind of hatred towards the motherland some of our own citizens carry on in their hearts and on their lips.

              The picture below aptly captures what every right-minded Indian feels about the incident.

Toothpaste
              This post is not just about the JNU incident though: It will be foolishness to dismiss the malaise plaguing JNU as an isolated incident. Secessionism and support for terrorism do not exist in a vacuum. There are various forces at work that spawn, abate and embolden such thinking.

              We have been getting conned by some special classes of people, as far as the security and sovereignty of the nation is concerned. Masquerading as the champions of liberty, secularism, justice, these institutions actually debase these very ideals to serve their selfish interests. They enjoy with impunity the freedom granted by the Indian Constitution and work day and night to destroy the very nation that bestows them rights. While conceding that not all of them are like this, it is imperative to identify these players and challenge their narratives: 

Media: “Honest journalism” is an oxymoron in today’s days and times. There were days when the Fourth Estate used to be regarded as one of the pillars of democracy, a conscience keeper of the nation. But in today’s world of 24/7 news, barring a few, only half-baked lies, half-researched events and mostly ill-formed opinions are peddled as facts and news.

              Worse, there is no unbiased analysis of any issue. The conclusions in any debate or discussions are pre-formed; the news story is run merely to support them at the end! The MSM, by and large, slept through the numerous corruption cases during UPA-II and they have suddenly become vehement in their protests for small things during NDA 2014. Even a child can see who their paymasters are; for which parties they act as powerbrokers. They create issues out of non-issues; decide which report to inflate or twist or communalise and which to turn blind eye toignore, cover up and suppress.

              Mediacrooks, opindia are some of the initiatives by regular citizens like you and me that regularly analyze the lies spread by our mainstream media. However, these don’t have the power that TRP-raising, decibel-blaring electronic media has over the minds and hearts of an average Indian citizen.

Politicians: Like leeches, some of our opportunist politicians latch on to any issue and have the magical ability to turn it into a communal or casteist one. They stoke the fire and fan the flames in a media-manufactured controversy as described above just for the sake of a few more votes. The cards they play are many – Religion/Minority (e.g. Muslim/ Christian), Region (e.g. Bihar/ Delhi/ Telangana/ Bengal), Caste (e.g. Dalit/ Mahadalit/ OBC/ Jat/ Gujjar), Poverty (e.g. Farmer suicides, Kanhaiya’s poor background) Feminism (women’s rights), Secularism (minority rights), Liberalism (human rights) – whatever works the best for a particular situation! Below are just a handful of gems coming from this class in recent times:

laloo_kejriwal

Ishrat

Academicians: Check out this video in which Prof Lahiri of Jadabpur University comes up with all sorts of ludicrous excuses for not supporting the hoisting of the Tricolour in the campus: We have our own university flag; the hoisting of the Indian flag will be “infiltrating the autonomy of the university”; it is “perverted nationalism”; ABVP students carrying the Indian flag have destroyed our campus etc. If this is the mindset of the Prof of International Relations of the topmost university of a state, one can very well imagine the resultant thought process of impressionable students attending his lectures!

              Gone are the days when teachers were responsible for building good character, for instilling patriotism and discipline among students! The academia has always been a hotbed for leftist liberal thoughts – but what can become catastrophic for a nation is when that’s the only thinking allowed to flourish. Yet, this is what happened recently when an invitation to Baba Ramdev by JNU officials was opposed by the students, while they regularly invite Naxalite, Maoist and even Pakistani leaders for talks and “cultural events”. The JNU students who have been agitating against the recent government action citing freedom of expression, right to dissent etc. can not listen to any ideas opposed to their own! If this is not the height of hypocrisy, I don’t know what is!

Intelligentsia: These consist of a few obscure poets, novelists/ journalists, the award-wapasi brigade, some one-novel-wonder authors, some senile retired judges, some actors well past their prime, some NGO activists. Read here a theory on how and why they raised the Intolerance boogie, their hypocrisy and inertia when the country passed through some really turbulent times, how they concocted some of the vilest details on the 2002 riots, and about the political stooges that they really are! They abuse the freedom and rights granted by our Constitution and do not lose a single opportunity to denigrate India on the world forums.

              Watch here how Arundhati Roy, one of the idols of the Pakistan-Zindabad-shouting JNU students, has been touring the world for many years now accusing the Indian state of “waging war on its own people” in a way that even Pakistan does not. She demonizes the police and Indian army while waxing eloquence on Maoists, Naxalites and Jihadists. Read how Teesta Setalvad siphoned off funds meant for 2002 riot victims and spent them in buying wine/jewellery among other things, cooked up incidents of killings and tutored witnesses to tell lies about the riots. Check out this good rebuttal to the frenzied claims of Aamir Khan based on facts and figures. These are just the tip of the iceberg.

Leftists:  In an ideal world, leftist and rightist policies should work in harmony, complementing each other and getting the best of both the worlds to take the country on the path of justice and prosperity. But of course, that can not happen in India. The Congress and communist parties have been the powerholders for majority of the 68 years of India’s independence. They have worked hands in glove with keeping the masses poor and subjugated through their economic and social policies, while doling out populist sops for an intact vote-share.
              It is amusing how the Leftists speak of right to dissent when the world over the Communist regimes have been imprisoning/torturing/executing millions of people even on the suspicion of the slightest opposition! When worldwide the Communist ideology had to bite the dust and even a large communist country like China had to adopt capitalist policies to bolster its economy, rabid liberalism is plaguing our institutions. See how they can turn a blatant secessionist act into a fight for freedom of expression, a war against fascism – as evident in the JNU incident. They can turn a terrorist Ishrat Jahan into a martyr for the sake of preserving their respective votebanks.

              While the above forces have always been there, they have suddenly become hyperactive following the election of a nationalist government at the centre. Makes you wonder – why? Modi’s strategy of communicating directly with the Indian citizens through social media, radio or websites (like mygov.in, PMOIndia ReportCard, Mann ki baat) bypassing traditional media has not gone down well with the latter. India’s rank on global corruption index has jumped from 94 in 2013 to 76 in 2015. India’s standing in the international arena has improved. With a “Perform or Perish” directive to bureacracy, things should look up. And guess what kind of elements will have problem with all these positive developments?

              The legendary Mark Twain used to say:

Loyalty to the government – when it deserves it.
Loyalty to the country – Always!

              The Modi-baiters and Modi-haters in the media, academia, intelligentsia, political class have turned the above saying on its head: In their overzealous loathing for a democratically elected leader of the largest democracy in the world, they have started maligning and working against their own nation!

              Coming back to Rockefeller’s quote at the beginning of this post –

              The Indian Constitution accords unprecedented rights to its citizens. To alter one of the most popular catchphrases from Spiderman – With great freedom, comes great responsibility!  Apparently, all the JNU student protesters are alert to their rights and none to their duties.

             Despite the fake intolerance boogie raised, the fact of the matter is this – We Indians are a tolerant lot. We have tolerated too many things for too many years! We have tolerated corruption for eons; we have tolerated politicians playing caste and religion-based politics for ever. We have tolerated state-sanctioned inequality in the name of caste-based reservations. We have tolerated terrorists being accorded all legal rights and cases pending in the courts for many many years. We have tolerated stone-pelting, bus-burning protests everywhere from Kashmir to Tamil Nadu. We have tolerated special status being demanded and accorded to various factions of the society. We have tolerated third-degree treatment meted out to Indian army personnel in captivity by enemy states. But there should be a limit to even virtues of patience and tolerance.

              So, the question now arises: What should be the limit to our tolerance?

              (In 2010, when some JNU students distributed sweets and organized events celebrating the murder of 76 CRPF jawans during Maoist insurgency in Dantewada, the Congress government at the centre remained a mute spectator! Had there been steps taken then, things probably wouldn’t have come to this in 2016.)

              When students celebrate massacre of the police and army personnel – that’s when you know what the limit should be! When CBI, NIA and almost every central institution is compromised by UPA government to feed their political interests while jeopardizing national security- that’s when you know what the limit should be! When the protesters start talking in the language of the enemy states and defend secession in the name of freedom of speech – that’s when you should put your foot down! When a part of the state population hold an entire nation to ransom – that’s when you should crush it! When a school-principal like Kazi Masoom Akhtar is beaten with iron rods for daring to encourage girls education, for daring to promote respect for the National Anthem and the Tricolour – that’s when you know what the limit is! When known and legally proven terrorists like Afzal Guru and Yakub Memon are deified in a society instead of heroes like A.P.J Abdul Kalam and Azim Premji – that’s when you know what the limit to your tolerance should be!

              Hope we learn our lessons in time, or it might be too late.

             

 

Deepawali song

              

By – Advik (Grade 1, Fall 2015)

DiwaliSong

Good Habits

              

 

By – Advik (Kindergarten, Summer 2014)

GoodHabits

Space poem

              

 

By – Advik (Preschool, Spring 2013)

SpaceshipPoem

 

How I scared a Monster!

              By – Advik (Grade 1, Spring 2015)

 

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PBS Kids National Contest Winner, 2015

 

Nirbhaya revisited – by India’s daughter

 

Be the change you wish to see in the world.

– Gandhi

              No, I haven’t seen the documentary. I did not find any compelling reason to. As one of India’s daughters, I know exactly what the conditions are that drive seemingly ordinary looking men to commit horrendous crimes against women. This is what I had pinpointed at the time of the incident more than 2 years ago: mindset.

              Let’s look at what happened since then.

              – There were massive protests cutting across class, gender, regional barriers.
              – Nirbhaya became a symbol of resistance and bravery (e.g. 2013 International Women of Courage award by the US State Department), but also a symbol of the massive failure of our system and public rage around it.
              – Public outrage forced the then UPA government to appoint Justice Verma Committee appointment. Sexual attack laws were redefined and strengthened.
              – Several apps and services were introduced to strengthen women-safety.
              – The Delhi High Court found all the adult accused guilty and reconfirmed the death-sentences by the fast-track court. The case is pending in Supreme Court.
              – Modi cabinet approved a bill to try juveniles as adults for heinous crimes in August 2014
              – Parliamentary Committee rejected the above proposal in Feb 2015.
              – The minor involved, who was the one to call out to Nirbhaya and her friend to the bus, will walk free in Dec 2015 after spending 3 years in a reform home.

              Let me narrate a true incident here. It is comic and tragic at the same time: The year was 2001. It was my maiden trip to any foreign land and I landed at the JFK airport in NY with a female colleague of mine early in the evening. Due to some misinformation about flight timings, those who were supposed to receive us at the airport were not there. We spent more than 2 hours with our luggage, not venturing out of the airport even once. We tried to call up the rest of the team at various numbers; spent time being skittish at the unfamiliar sights, accents, currencies. But never once did it appeal to two women in our early 20s  to take a cab to the address given. In hindsight, it was a simple thing to do really. But for the 2 of us Indian women that grew up hearing things like ‘Be safe; don’t go out at odd hours; avoid strange places; always remain with the crowd; avoid deserted areas’ – the possibility that any new place could be safe at night simply did not exist!

              Subjugation of women is not endemic to India; it has been done all over the world since time immemorial. But what ails India in particular are these: low conviction rates, justice delayed (and hence, denied), no fear of the law, patriarchal mindset, big social and economical divides.

              What are some of the solutions? Fast-track courts, swift delivery of justice, efficient and gender-sensitized police force, gender equality, bridging the gap between haves and have-nots.  While a lot of these are beyond our purview, we can do a lot as ordinary citizens to transform the mindsets, and even more importantly as parents. The encouraging fact is that many Indians are and have been already doing this:

Respect everyone: What every child in my son’s preschool in the US was taught is this: Respect and treat everyone equally. The first year there was full emphasis on behavior and very little on ABCs or numbers or months-of-the-year. This is what they teach 2-3-4 year olds here like a Mantra: Respect others; Be nice; Follow the rules or be ready to face the consequences; Learn to share with others; Be responsible; Understand and Express your feelings. Initially, I was a bit concerned about the lack of rigorous academic curriculum in the schools here. But now, the way I look at it –  you can live with some crooked handwriting, but not with crooked mentality. You can live with imperfect grammar, but not with improper treatment of others. Your degrees are useless if you don’t have a minimum level of empathy for others.
              Women do not need worship or protection or special status in the society. What they need is respect and equal treatment just like anybody else. Respect for everyone – irrespective of their gender, paycheck, physical appearance, class, language, culture, religion. Respect…not because she’s a woman, but respect – because she’s a human being first and foremost.

Raise equally: Indian PM Narendra Modi nailed it in his maiden Independence speech in 2014, and I quote verbatim: “Parents ask their daughters hundreds of questions, but have any parents ever dared to ask their son as to where he is going, why he is going out, who his friends are. After all, a rapist is also somebody’s son. He also has parents. As parents, have we ever asked our son as to what he is doing and where he is going?” We have to totally do away with the sense of entitlement males are given in a large section of the Indian society. Both boys and girls should be raised to be able to cook a meal, to make their own beds, do the laundry; in short, to be able to take care of their own basic needs. I have had both my son and my daughter help me in the kitchen and at home, right from age 3. They enjoy peeling eggs, sorting out utensils from the dishwasher, cutting vegetables (under my supervision, of course), watering the plants, cleaning up after a meal. The list of chores will increase or decrease with time, but my kids can rest assured that it will not at least be based on their gender.

Name and Shame: There’s a lot of social stigma associated with rape-survivors. Change the equation. Let rape or pre-marital sex not be made into an issue about a tissue. Name and shame the perpetrators of the crimes, not just for rapes but for molestation (euphemized as eve-teasing), female infanticide, dowry, acid attacks, honor killing, domestic violence – all these are symptoms of the same malaise. Take a stand; refuse to give or take dowry. A lot of these social ills is due to the ‘Chalta hai’ attitude we have.  The laws can do only so much, but the real change has to come from within the society.

Redefine customs: If there’s a tradition that you feel is discriminatory, either discard it or redefine it so that it goes with your values. e.g. Karva Chauth (observed in some parts of India) has traditionally required only the wives to fast for the well-being of their husbands. However, I know of several friends that do observe this as a couple and for the well-being of the entire family. I personally celebrate Rakshabandhan in US every year, where each kid ties a Rakhi to the other. This is a way of saying to each other – I’ll be there for you in good times and bad. And who says that brothers do not need the support of their sisters? See further examples here of women as priests and performing last rites, again done traditionally by men.             

Basis of Marriage: Let marriage be a beautiful union of two souls where each connects with the other based on shared values, understanding, love, trust and respect. A lot of times, the decisions about marriage are based wrongly on factors like biological age (as opposed to maturity age or readiness for marriage), physical appearance, social status, parental pressure, astrology, ability to give and command dowry – in short, everything except the will and personalities of the two people that should matter the most. Unless the husband and the wife are on an equal footing in a marriage, the next progeny will grow up seeing the same misogynist attitudes being propagated and will continue the cycle.

Be a Role Model: We do not realize this that often, but each of us influences the other. Especially educated, liberal, upper middle-class, urban elites in India can do a lot for the economically disadvantaged by just being socially aware and responsible. The cooks, drivers, gardeners, delivery guys, repairmen, security guards, maids – they all may be looking upon you and learning from your behavior while you are not looking.

Redefine culture: A lot of discriminatory practices are perpetuated in the name of culture. What we fail to realize is this: Culture can never be stagnant. Culture shapes us, and we shape it – in turns. Culture is what we choose it to be. India, especially, is a land of mind-boggling number of cultures, traditions, customs. What is true in one part at one time, may not hold true for another region at any time. So the argument of not changing for the better just for the sake of saving your culture holds no water at all.

WomenMistreatment

              While change of outlook/mindset takes time or may happen instantly, the one thing that can be seen for sure is the judgement in all these cases. So coming back to the Nirbhaya case, I would have preferred if the juvenile had been tried as an adult, as done in some countries on a case-to-case basis. I definitely hope it ends with the strongest punishment for all the accused adults. I have seen the following arguments against it by various people:

Human-rights activists: They shed tears for the human rights of the accused. What about the human rights of the relatives of the dead? Don’t they have a right to closure, a right to see a just punishment in proportion to this kind of rarest-of-rare crime meted out to their own blood? Let the message go out strong and loud – The moment you violate others’ rights, be ready to lose yours.

Statisticians: They argue that there are not sufficient statistics to show that death-penalty acts as a deterrent. One can argue on the contrary too that there is not sufficient evidence to prove otherwise. We have had the lackadaisical attitude towards convicting and delivering justice for gender-violence crimes for decades. Let’s try the other approach at least for brutal crimes, even if for symbolic value, before dismissing it altogether.

Spiritualists: They are concerned about healing for the accused, who are ‘spiritual beings having human experience‘. This is a dangerous notion camouflaged as compassion. I too believe that we are all spiritual beings and Hinduism considers every being at a conscious soul level, not just human beings. Yet, two of our Itihaasas, the Ramayan and the Mahabharat, deal with atrocities on women – abduction of Sita and disrobing of Draupadi – in very unambiguous terms. And, what is our duty, what is the central message? As Krishna says very clearly in SrimadBhagwadGeeta – Fight Adharma.
             
              A lot of times, we see misogyny and gender-violence being justified in the name of traditions, scriptures, religions. But, in my opinion, our scriptures or our traditions have been absolutely clear on how to deal with the Ravanas and Duhshaasanas of all times. The question we should be asking ourselves is: Are we?

PK : Not just a review

 

I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.

– Voltaire

              I must admit that I am not a regular movie buff. I see very few Hindi or Bangla or English movies per year. I was interested in seeing PK though after reading about it online – about the film being a revolutionary one, that delivered its message in a hilarious manner, leaving one to ponder upon some deep questions about religion and concept of God.

              My takeaway?

              PK is a film with an outstanding packaging but with a very superficial look at the issues it raises. My problem with the movie PK is not in what it showed; it is in what it did not show…rather did not dare to show!

              Don’t get me wrong. I did like most of the movie; loved the funny scenes dealing with the idiosyncrasies of our world, confusion about language, sex, dress, religion. We humans are indeed a confused and confusing lot! We knew that already, didn’t we? But it is always refreshing to see ourselves from an alien’s point of view. I also liked several things about the movie: Mr. Perfectionist Khan’s adorable Bhojpuri act; superb acting by the support cast; Hirani’s treatment of a challenging subject through humor, lovely music; the points the movie makes about rogue Godmen duping people in the name of God, about veneration of Gandhi only when he comes in the form of money, about people urinating/defecating everywhere else except at places of worship, about taking the name of God only in difficult times and so on.

              But here’s what I didn’t quite reconcile myself to.

Not an honest film: What constitutes an honest film/ book/ debate/ art? That you show, or at the very least, touch upon both the good and bad aspects of a particular topic. Now I agree that a film is an art of fiction; it is just another story to be told. But an Aamir Khan movie that usually comes with a message, that tomtoms itself as holding a mirror to the society should have at least pretended to present a balanced view. If you are going to be preachy, you are expected to adhere to the standards you are preaching about. Isn’t it ironic that a film that attempts to bring out the dishonesty of Hindu godmen itself does not honestly show at least one voice of reason, one redeeming Hindu character in the entire 150 minutes of its length?…Which brings me to the next point.

One-dimensional: All the characters are one-dimensional. There are only black and white characters in the movie..no shades of grey. So much unlike life! It shows only a Hindu Godman as a villain, but there’s no other Guru who can soothe PK. There are Pakistani people that are sugary-sweet in their behavior towards the Hindu girl, but no glimpse of the extremism-hellhole that Pakistani society has allowed itself to descend into. There are Hindu parents objecting to marriage of their daughter to a Pakistani Muslim, but no real discussion on what their reasons could be. The Hindu followers are shown devoid of any mind of their own. The sole character that is shown to have any intelligence is the alien.

Just another film: There was nothing revolutionary, nothing earth-shattering in the film. May be I expected a bit too much from the movie after all the hype? But didn’t we have a whole lot of serials and movies in the 80s and 90s that showed the exact same thing – Godmen duping and instigating people in the name of God? Didn’t time and again we read in news about Godmen taking advantage of women or piling up obnoxious amounts of money? Didn’t our parents caution us many a time against falling for foolish and lazy paths to reach our goals (see the extra devotion by students just before exams)? PK is just old wine in new bottle, albeit, an attractive one.

Wrong religion: If the film was against organized religion as it was made out to be; well, it chose the wrong religion! Hinduism is as dogmaless as a religion can be. There’s no Pope, no Dalai Lama, no Imam in Hinduism whose diktat one has to follow. Hindus are free to choose between various concepts of God (Saakar-vs-Niraakar; Saguna-vs-Nirguna; Dvaita-vs-Vishishtadvaita-vs-Advaita; worshipping God in the form of mother, father, friend, lover, teacher, child or master; worshipping God with various names and forms as per one’s temperament). There are Hindu followers with all kinds of diets all over the world – from vegans to vegetarians, to lacto-ovo-vegetarians, to non-vegetarians, to beef-eaters). There are all kinds of books revered in Hinduism – Geeta, Ramayan, Mahabharat, Upanishads to name just a few.

              There are all kinds of Hindus – from atheists to agnostics to theists. No follower is persecuted for their belief or lack thereof. Hinduism is perhaps the one and only religion that recognizes the different  (emotional, reflective, intuitive, active) temperaments of human nature and one is free to follow any path(s) that best suits one’s abilities and nature – the paths of devotion/love (Bhakti), reasoning (Jnana), meditation (Raaja), action (Karma) – respectively for each of them. You are free to pick your own path and hardly anybody forces you to do one way or the other. You are responsible for your own actions and thoughts that eventually determine your destiny. Isn’t there a vast difference in the worldview of these two persons? Not as per PK, that paints everybody with the same brush.        

Person A: ‘I love red apples and survive only on red apples. Not just that, you should also eat only red apples. (Not just that, if you don’t eat only red apples for the rest of your life, I’m going to kill/ rape/ maim/ shoot/ colonize/ enslave you)’.              

Person B: ‘I love red apples; you can also eat red apples or daal-roti-mooli-cake-pie-biryani – whatever you want as long as you let me eat mine and take responsibility for the consequences of what you eat’.

              Why am I bringing up all this? Because all the Hindu believers depicted in the film are shown blindly following their religion without any real understanding of why they are doing whatever they are doing (i.e. following Hindu rituals), without any real understanding of the higher philosophies.

Rationalism: The followers in the movie are seen having unfaltering belief in Tapaswee, who rules with an iron hand. It gives the impression that Hinduism does not brook dissent nor questioning. Nothing could be further from truth! Many great Hindu scriptures, starting from Geeta to Kathopnishad to Mundaka Upanishad are in the forms of dialogue. Questions and answers. Doubts and their resolutions. Arguments and their rebuttals. The very goal of life in Hindu philosophy is to know and experience one’s self. Note it is called Self-realization, not salvation or eternal damnation or reward/punishment by some Saviour or faraway God. Do your own search, experience by yourself to come to your own conclusion. It is almost akin to the scientific method, only much harder to achieve.

              Swami Vivekananda and Ramakrishna each tested the other many times before accepting each other whole-heartedly. Sri Ramakrishna spent many years just testing different philosophies and paths to experience for himself what they meant and what they led to. Swami Vivekananda emphasized the need for reasoning in all his writings; In Swamiji’s own words, “I am sure God will pardon a man who will use his reason and cannot believe, rather than a man who believes blindly instead of using his faculties He has given him.” From Schrodinger to Einstein to Tesla to Carl Sagan, numerous scientists have appreciated the principles of Hinduism. If Science is the process of enquiry into the external world, Vedanta is the process of enquiry into our internal world.

Murti Puja: There are several scenes in which PK ridicules this. In one of the most poignant scenes in the film, PK is seen asking for help from Hindu deities – all of whom are deaf, of course! The scene could be interpreted in several ways – that of God not answering his prayers, that of PK getting tired of begging before God, or that of berating the Hindu practice of worshipping Murtis. And this is where OMG scores in my opinion. It gave the Gods a chance to answer back.:-) No such leniency in this Aamir Khan movie.

              When Hindus worship Vigraha or Murti, we do not worship a stone/rock/metal that the Murti is made of. Rather we bow down to the energy of God in that particular form, the energy that comes only after Praan Pratishtha, not the Paan-pratishtha as done by PK in the movie (Praan = life-force, Paan = betel leaf). Why do that? To help you concentrate, to help you focus and to help you come to love God in a form that is easier to comprehend. It’s similar to why lovers separated by a distance used to carry each others’ photos in their wallets, in an era when there was no facebook, skype or whatsapp:-). Does that mean you love the paper the photo is printed on? No. It just helps you fondly remember your sweetheart when he/she is not around. At the same time, nobody’s going to shoot you if you don’t want to carry your beloved’s photo!

Need for temple-visits or pilgrimage: Another message is there’s no need for pilgrimage and temple-visits. I both agree and disagree. When we intend to study, we retire to a library, a study or a quiet place. We need to shut out the external noise and focus on our subject. It’s the same with spiritual practice. We need to go to a quiet place for meditation, for uplifting our soul, for connecting with the sacred. Especially, a Hindu temple is supposed to be constructed on the basis of special Vaastu that is supposed to elevate our consciousness from gross to the sublime. Note, Aamir Khan himself does not believe in real life in the lines he spouts in the film about not visiting places of pilgrimage.

              We also have this concept of ‘मन चंगा तो कठौती में गंगा’ (If your heart is pure, even the crucible you have will hold the holy Ganga). It means, for a realized soul, there is no need for rituals. Sri Ramakrishna used to tell a story – “Suppose you want to go from Dakshineshwar to Calcutta and your friend has given instructions about the path in a letter to you. You follow the route, you sometimes even memorize the instructions carefully lest you forget them. But once you reach Calcutta, there’s no real need for you to keep on carrying the letter with you.” Like the letter in this story, rituals are just the means, not the end.

Need for a Guru: The central message of the film is that there is no need for mediators or business managers to communicate with God. Again, I both agree and disagree. Suppose you want to learn about a subject. What do we do? We turn to books or the library or Google/Wikipedia these days. That is perhaps sufficient to gain a certain level of competence. But what do we do if want to be a Ph. D or an expert in a field? We train under the best minds in that field; we get an adviser, a guide, a mentor. So it is with spiritual sciences. But even there, we have several examples such as Sri Ramakrishna in recent times, who realized God the first time without any Guru on the basis of sheer willpower.

              What is erroneous is not the need for a Guru, but the way we search for a Guru! In an era where even a small piece of software or phone or any product is not user-accepted unless it undergoes rigorous system-testing, what makes us think we can accept any Tom, Daler or Hari as the Guru? Our own laziness of course, our tendency to look for quick-fix solutions to life’s problems. Finding a true Guru is many, many times more difficult than finding a needle in a haystack.

Marriage to a Pakistani: Of all the things I did not like in the movie, I found this to be the most objectionable and it is not even related solely to religion. If any of my Hindu male or female friends would have called from a faraway country to ask my advice on whether to get married to a Pakistani (where I had no way of knowing that person personally), I would have given him or her the same advice as Tapaswee did in the film, though not for the same reasons. (I admit I did not like it too much coming out of Tapaswee-ji’s mouth.:-) But hey, don’t kill the message due to the messenger!).

              The very birth of Pakistan was rooted in fear and hatred for the Hindu way of life. How can I advise any Indian Hindu friend (even Muslim ones for that matter) to get married to someone who has not been brought up in an open multicultural society like India’s? How can a liberal Indian girl used to wearing miniskirts and shorts be with someone who may as well have learned the alphabet thus – A   for Allah, B  for Bandook (I’m not kidding; see this and this ) ? It is bound to lead to marital tensions in the long run, not to speak of a possible sinister plot of using you against your own country. A clear case of conflict of interest. In an age where bombs go off left, right and center every other day in Pakistan, where even Muslim kids are not spared by the Islamic radicals, where even Pakistanis have to pose as Indians due to the bad name given by their extremists – how can anyone in their right minds advise a friend to marry someone from or possibly live in a country, termed as the epicenter of terrorism? What’s the probability of her being converted, being made to wear the Burqa, being ruled by the Shariat? Entire generations of Pakistani people have been taught to develop, and I quote, “prejudice, bigotry and discrimination toward women, religious minorities, and other nations, especially India”. Remember, love is blind, but marriage is a life-long commitment. And marriage without shared values is a recipe for disaster. Being liberal and progressive does not mean sacrificing basic common sense on the altar of political correctness. It is not jingoism; it is called self-preservation. Even animals with limited intelligence practice it.             

Photo credit: http://desiwhatsapp.com

              Understandably, the makers of the film took some calculated risks and targeted only Hindu practices. They knew very well that it will generate just the right amount of controversy and attract revenue, without causing serious damage. Some wannabe-liberals termed the protesters as the Hindu Taliban. Really!? A more-than-2 hours Indian film by one of the top actors that targets the majority religion goes on to become the highest grossing film in Hindi film industry; while cartoonists in France at a not-so-mainstream newspaper that targets a minority religion there get murdered in broad daylight. Events speak louder than words. The last time I checked, India was still a democracy. Just as the filmmakers have exercised their right to freedom of expression by making this movie, the protesters have a right to oppose it by filing legal suits or calling for a boycott or coming out on streets. What they do not have, of course, is the right to violence. Personally, I do not consider boycotting of a film or banning of a book the solution to anything.

              So, do I think films like PK should be made? Absolutely!

Gives us a chance to introspect, to correct, to separate the wheat from the chaff.

              At the same time, do I wish PK had been a well-made, well-rounded film? Absolutely!

Gives us a chance to write blogs like this. May be, just may be, films like these in future will be unbiased.

            निंदक नियरे राखिये, आँगन कुटी छवाय |

            बिन पानी, साबुन बिना, निर्मल करे सुभाय ||

(Keep your critics near you, even making their dwellings in your own courtyard. Without the use of soap or water, they will cleanse your nature. )

– Kabeer

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