Of fasting, fuming, fidelity & farmers…


Hey guys, being a stay-at-home-mom I often get this craving for assessing my self worth. What is the sum total of my value right now? I wonder. For answers I look at little things like a “thumbs up” for something new I cooked or a genuine compliment for a “dot painting” I made while mandala meditating. When I was a student and later a journalist, these reassurances came about automatically with every report card, medal, letter of appreciation, bonus or promotion, and I took them completely for granted!

Today, I even get a kick out of acing Facebook quizzes: How good is your grammer? Can you identify these famous paintings? Is your eye-sight prefect? Hey Bhagwaan! That’s how I chanced upon some interesting “personality-type” quizzes and most, I have to admit, were quite spot on. So naturally I was game for the latest Gretchen Rubin quiz too.

Acclaimed author of The Happiness Project, Rubin broadly categorizes people into FOUR types: the Upholders, the Obligers, the Questioners and the Rebels. The answer, in my case, would be a fight off between the questioner and the rebel I knew that. Ultimately the questioner won! And the tick tock began…

The freshest debate on the block was obviously Karva Chauth. Gaining momentum with every new blog post, every opinion piece, every new Tweet, and my questioning mind also got into major action. For every Twinkle Khanna going Scientists studying longest living mammals, bowhead whales found for a long life what is needed is a slow metabolism & not wives who fast:); there was an Ayushmann Khurrana celebrating “equality” with the chant “join her if you can’t dissuade her from fasting.”

Another chirruped: Under influence of @Bdutt ;if yr wife doesn’t keep #KarwaChauth fast ; does it amount to criminal conspiracy with attempt to murder? (Frankly, I found it quite hilarious, purely from the sense of humour point of view, taken with a dollop of salt of course). To counter that sentiment there were the sanskari quips on fake feminists, cultural bigots, misogynists, regressive patriarchy @ #lovealbum#ladyboss!

Though I thought the “gadhe ki yoni mein janam etc” was quite over the top, one fasting husband’s “this is hard” was a rather sweet tweet, leading me on to the 5Ws and H of KC.

First up: What is fasting, any idea? (hunger/search/discipline/prayer)

Next: Why are YOU fasting? (pressure/pleasure; by choice/by order)

Where are the rules? (clearly delineated/blind faith)

Who decides the rituals? (self/other)

When does rationalism end and ritualism begin? (pure introspection)

How do you react to the stimuli? (opinions/starving/thirst/materialism/societal norms)

The Jain texts describe abstaining from the pleasures of the five senses (sight, taste, touch, smell, sound) and dwelling in the self in deep concentration as upavāsa. In Islam, fasting isn’t just refraining from eating and drinking, but from every kind of selfish desire and wrong-doing. The fast therefore is of the body and spirit as well, with the physical fast being a symbol of the real, inner fast.

In the Scripture, the purpose of fasting includes self-control, and even though it means going without food, one can fast from anything — food, drink, sleep or sex — “to focus on a period of spiritual growth.”Fasting is actually an intrinsic part of the science of Naturopathy and Ayurveda as an “expression of self discipline and gratitude.” Contemporary Hinduism apparently has no fixed rules for fasting as it is considered a “declaration of faith and resolve to build character, strength and purity in preparation for liberation. It also helps practice detachment and austerity.” Absolute nirvana in spirit to be precise. But how many, I wonder, can truly claim to tick all the above boxes? (rhetorical question!)

My search for more answers was full on, when news just came in from Rohini that a 40-year-old man stabbed his wife for “not fasting on karva chauth” and then committed suicide by jumping off the roof, enunciating that school of thought which dismisses tradition as “an explanation of acting without thinking.”

Millennial icon Malala Yousafzai takes that debate a step further by suggesting that “we should not be followers of traditions that go against human rights… we are human beings and WE make traditions.” That’s it. That is the crux from a little girl on the fundamentals of tradition anywhere in the world.

The Hindu View of Life also stresses that “religion is not the acceptance of academic abstractions or the celebration of ceremonies, but a kind of life or experience… and this experience is of a self-certifying character (svatasiddha). If a tradition does not grow, it only means its followers have become spiritually dead.” Operating term for me personally was the “self-certifying” bit. Indeed.

In layperson’s terms that would mean we do not owe anyone any explanation for our faith and the traditions we choose to follow, as long as we can justify them to our OWN selves by questioning the higher purpose and re-working equations according to changing circumstances! “Tradition,” according to the great philosopher S Radhakrishnan,  “is something that is forever being worked out anew and recreated by the free activity of its followers. We rise from life to thought and return from thought to life in a progressive enrichment which is the attainment of ever higher levels of reality.”

The sad reality of today though: 20 Farmers Die Of Pesticide Poisoning In Maharashtra, a day before Karva Chauth! News reports say they were “not wearing protective gear”and would have been paid Rs. 200 per day for the hazardous job. What price human life? Even as twitter simultaneously explodes with #love memes, mushy telly promos and in-your-face ads for salwar kameez, facials, carnivals, mehendi, foodgasms, festival specials and cool contests. Blogs and articles continue to dissect: Why You Shouldn’t Break Your nirjala Fast with Fried Foods and Caffeinated Drinks! along with the many interpretations of the legend of Veervati.

Meanwhile change once again proves it is the only constant. And how? Five-year-old Emily Dover, from New South Wales, Australia we are told 3 days ago, “got her period when she was only four years old. And now, at the age of five, she is already getting signs of menopause,” Dover was a healthy baby, “but her body started maturing rapidly with time. By the age of two, she began growing breasts and developing acne.” My eyes nearly popped out. The point all this makes yet again is that ‘progress is impossible without change’ suited to the ever transforming world around us for good or bad — in other words, ‘if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got!’

As attitudes change along with the sanctity of marriage itself, a CNN report, talking of Esther Perel’s new book State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity, highlights a recent survey stating that, “since 1990, the rate of married women who report they’ve been unfaithful has increased by 40%.”

“More women than ever” apparently are cheating and “willing to admit that they are cheating.” And even though they love their husbands, “they felt in some fundamental way that their needs (sexual, emotional, psychological) were not being met inside the marriage.” INTERESTING! Yet again that question of the traditional role and the set gender equation that often perpetrates an unequal division of labour rears its head. An equation, the women now complain, that “does not take into account  the disproportionate amount of invisible labor that went into maintaining their lifestyle… and constantly managing the emotional heart of the family.”

Every situation clearly crying out loud for an attitudinal shift. Something on the lines of Sadhguru’s Inner Engineering for overall well being.”The way out is IN!” for the people of today, who are the “most comfortable generation that has ever lived in this planet… (yet) definitely not the most joyful, or the most loving, or the most peaceful.”

The tendency to “take instructions from the outside rather than the inside,” says Sadhguru, “is the only thing that stands between you and your well being.”

Quoting an interesting story from page 29 of Inner Engineering to elaborate the point:

On a certain day, a lady went to sleep. In her sleep, she had a dream. She saw a hunk off a man, staring at her. Then he started coming closer — closer and closer.

He was so close that she could even feel his breath.

She trembled — not in fear.

Then she asked, “What will you do to me?” 

The man said, “Well, lady, it’s YOUR dream!”

Your dream! Your search! In the environment of intolerance, insanity and irrational behavior all around, this example is actually quite like the  The Fight of Two Wolves Within You! – a beautiful tale my mother told me this morning when I called her to discuss something bothering me about blind fanaticism in human relations and rituals.

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life:

“A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.

“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”

He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

Clarity at last! For it’s ultimately all about feeding the right wolf within you. The questioner in me has got her answer for now.  Life, however, is very complicated “because when you find the answers, life changes the question.” Am I up to the challenge?  I ask again!

(written in mycity4kids)


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