Connect to be Happy!

Passing through the doors, you rush ahead and hold the door ajar for the lady! Chivalry? But in today’s times, with women power and all, this could lead to an embarrassing glance or two.  Right? No, wrong! Don’t hold that door for only the ladies but do it for men folk too! The word for this gesture changes from Chivalry to empathy! Show empathy friends; you connect emotionally with others by showing compassion! Such acts are essential, and this is what differentiates humans from other species. An experiment was conducted in the 13th century, where newly born babies were kept away from human touch, emotions and interactions. All these babies died.

I came across a term Limbic Resonance. Limbic resonance is the idea that the capacity for sharing deep emotional states arises from the limbic system of the brain. These states include the dopamine circuit-promoted feelings of empathic harmony, and the norepinephrine circuit-originated emotional states of fear, anxiety and anger. Enough of tech terms which we don’t understand. It is the empathy and non-verbal communication between mammals that connects them. A child hugs the mother when there is fear or doubt in mind. The hugging gets things going in the child’s brain, and normalcy is slowly restored. Without Limbic Resonance humans will become unreachable and heartless like lesser animals. This property is common in all mammals.

There are some lessons about relationships. The first is that social connections are perfect for us and that loneliness kills. It turns out that people who are more socially connected to family, to friends, to the community, are happier; they’re physically healthier, and they live longer than people who are less well connected. The experience of loneliness turns out to be toxic. People who are more isolated than they want to be from others, find that they are less happy, their health declines earlier in midlife, their brain functioning declines sooner, and they live shorter lives than people who are not lonely.

I will share an example of a friend. This friend is from a different religion than Hinduism. He lives alone in Mumbai and has gone through health issues. Luckily after the initial scare, the problem turned out to be an easier one to handle. He is a widower too! In the recent election in India, NDA looked like being a winner by miles. Media had been hyper how the NDA government will make India a Hindu state. After the election, the friend talked with his Hindu friends and requested all of them to help and make sure that Hindu fanatics do not become too aggressive. The friend asked them to ensure his safety in case of some unfortunate events. Due to loneliness, he has lost touch with society and his mind must be hyperventilating. Friend, start getting back in touch with the community, don’t remain away, don’t force loneliness on yourself. That you live alone is a fact. But whether to be lonely is in your hands!

A friend has an interesting way of looking at life. I was walking with him once; the friend had his dog with him. On a footpath, one beggar was sitting with his dog. The friend stopped, gave the beggar some alms. Then he asked the beggar about his dog, and they exchanged notes about the dogs. While we were moving ahead, I could see the shine in the eyes of the beggar. My friend said, “ I only acknowledged that the beggar exists. Such acknowledgement of persons is fundamental in life when you have nothing else to look forward to”.

I have experienced this personally. Once during my morning walk, I observed some very senior citizens, standing and chatting among themselves, outside the older people’s home. I stopped and said hello to them. One thing led to another, and we spent an hour talking together. My chat, now I realise, was making them feel wanted in this world. It gave them the recognition that at least some people in the world are aware of their existence.

Showing empathy is one way of connecting with people. A way to show your empathy is to listen, summarise and show! Very few people have the art of listening to people, and I am not one of them. When I am discussing things with others, I tend to answer even before the other person has completed what she wants to say. But if you follow the “listen, summarise and show” method, then the other person feels nice. The person feels that you are connected with them.

We see some people selling stuff at the road signal junctions. They are trying to live life and earn some money. Many people behave very brusquely with them. Some ignore them as if they don’t exist; others make some rude comments. It is quite simple. Is there any harm in showing them some empathy? Why not just smile at them and indicate that you do not want to purchase anything or say that you do not want to buy the stuff. This small gesture will make them feel a little better, knowing that someone is acknowledging their existence.

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You don’t have to change the world or find your one real purpose to lead a meaningful life. A good life is a life of goodness — and that’s something anyone can aspire to, no matter their dreams or circumstances. You don’t have to achieve something that will give you a Nobel prize. Giving a little joy to others is good enough. I had mentioned in one of the blogs,  the tag line of the Voice of America radio station of the ’60 s of the last century! If you see someone without a smile, give him one of yours!

To resonate with others, we need to connect when it matters. Such connections nurture both us and others and earn trust. Just as in cricket, timing is everything. Proper timing will score you six runs in place of dot ball. It is here the metaphorical doors come in. How do you feel when someone holds the door open for you—especially when you’ve got your hands full? When would you hold open a door for another person? Keeping a door open at the right time indicates tending to the need of the others when essential.

All those people want to be understood and appreciated. By connecting in this way, they trust you, follow them, and you are actually looking out for their interests. You are attentive and willing to open doors for them. The power of resonance will keep you happy and healthy and open doors for you too!

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So friends, open that door and hope that you have done it at the right time; you will see the inkling of a smile in the eyes of others, a little brightness, and an instant connect! The gesture might open some vistas for you! By the way, even empowered ladies love this, let me assure you!

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Death Rituals Revisited!

Hinduism and for that matter, the human race has been full of rituals. But the event of death is handled by humanity in many ways. Birth and death are two things common to humankind, irrespective of caste, creed and religion. We are following same rituals which have started thousands of years back. The birth rituals do not seem to be elaborate compared to death rituals. Why is it so? Even with modern scientific knowledge, we only know about the science part of the death process. But we do not understand the moral component, the dilemma of handling the death of loved ones. What happens after death? Is death good, bad or evil?  

One thing is for sure; death is an irreversible event that we cannot change, we cannot get the dead person back among us. Humans have different views about what happens after death. There are various stages in the rituals followed. Rituals probably start with the actual passing of a person. In modern times, some people donate their whole body to research. Some offer their organs which can be used by the needy. I am not sure what rituals take place when the entire human body is donated. But when the person gives away organs like the eyes, the medical procedure gets precedence over the rituals. Another change that I have seen in recent times is that we perform some rituals at home. So when we take the body to the cremation ground, no pooja is performed. We put the body directly for the cremation.  

Some Hindu organisations have modified the rituals to suit the modern times. These organisations want the family to understand what the procedures are. The priests explain these procedures to the family and the near ones. But all these rituals are not so elaborate compared to what we follow in old rituals.  

From olden times the 13th day after death has been crucial for Hindus. This day marks the end of the mourning period. The ceremonial feast marks the end of the mourning period by inviting family and close ones. This meal is an excellent way of trying to come back to normal after a death. After lunch, the guests are expected to give a small gift to the hosts — good idea of continuing with normal life.  

The younger generation does not prefer even this semi-modern ritual. This generation feels that this method is not ok. I discussed this with a young couple, who thought that all this was unnecessary. The couple had attended one such ceremony. The priest chanted the shlokas, the mantras, the hymns in Sanskrit, translated it in Marathi during the explanation where necessary. More than 50% of people present were not involved in the proceedings. The venue selection also added to non-involvement, as the peaceful atmosphere was absent.  

I always have questions in mind about all these rituals. I tend towards being an atheist, but I respect other people’s views too! There is no doubt that death is a sad event or I can say that it is not a happy event. But should the passing away be treated as something evil? When death occurs at a young age (There can be a difference of opinion about the word young), or I can say out of turn death, there is a shock, awe at the event! It becomes tough for all to accept such deaths. Under these circumstances coming back to normalcy can be tough but as usual, there is no option! Such deaths are painful to take. Others will find it difficult to tell the family of the dead person to overcome their sorrows; others will accept them for trying to find solace in some rituals. Ultimately everybody concedes such deaths as destiny. 

But when death occurs at an acceptable age, (Ok, Ok what is acceptable?) situations should be handled differently. Current average age at the time of death in India is around 67; with this reference, if the death occurs past 80, that should be acceptable. Everybody is going to die at some stage. So if death happens while the person is not bed-ridden, or if the person has had no long, painful years of illness, death should be celebrated! In certain parts of England, death beyond 80 years under the circumstances mentioned above, is observed formally as an event for celebration. It is called Golden Death party. 

I am not talking about aping the west, but why not celebrate such deaths?  Writer and Editor Dilip Padgaonkar’s family threw a party to family and friends, after his death, as per wishes of Dilip. In the party, food and alcohol loved by Dilip were flowing. Changes are happening in society, but they are very slow. The number of people taking part in such changes is minuscule, considering our population.   

From my discussions with people, and what I read, the traditional rituals are performed because, well they are being conducted all these years. The old methods of rituals need three to four days to be completed. In olden days, everybody had enough time. Going to work or office did not consume much time. Hence the rituals were elaborate and time-consuming.

In most cases, people performed rituals out of fear. Society looked at death as evil, an impure happening. If a cause of death was a contagious disease then considering death as polluted was understandable, though the description is incorrect. Hygiene standards in olden days were poor; these poor standards were the cause of contagious diseases. People performed many purification rituals (even today these are followed). I remember the death of a 74-year-old person who died a natural death. He was a non-believer. His family cremated him as per his wishes; cremation did not involve religious stuff. Nobody expected major rituals on the 13th day. When we got an invite to the 13th-day event, we had a surprise in store. They have two homes, one his bungalow and other his family home. The family performed the same ritual called “Shant”, twice. One at each house. When we checked the reason for the change, they performed the rituals because marriage was supposed to take place in the family at a later date. The evil in the form of death had visited their home; hence the residences were “purified”. Are we in the 18th Century? The family is supposedly highly educated.  

In today’s newspaper, I read a piece of exciting news. I am always excited when humans go away from rituals in which they don’t believe. A couple did a very noble deed. The husband lost his father due to old age. The couple calculated the cost of all the rituals. They arrived at a figure of Rs fifty thousand. They donated a much-needed hot water solar system to a residential school. Kudos Sir! The couple is from a small town, and we cannot describe them as a modern couple. Such people are showing the way to society. 

Friends, don’t become only outwardly modern. Change internally, follow your instincts. Look at the whole thing from wastage point of view. In various rituals Hindus perform यज्ञ; they sacrifice multiple items to the fire God. Every year millions die. We sacrifice many things like Ghee, Oil. These things are a total waste. We have a lot of people who do not get sufficient food regularly. People should donate the wasted food to the needy. Is the wastage of such priceless resources done because of fear? Is it justified? 

What is Porn?

Pornography (often abbreviated as porn) is the portrayal of sexual subject matter for the exclusive purpose of sexual arousal. Pornography may be presented in a variety of media, including books, magazines, postcards, photographs, sculpture, drawing, painting, animation, sound recording, phone calls, writing, film, video, and video games. The term applies to the depiction of the act rather than the act itself, and so does not include live exhibitions like sex shows and striptease. The primary subjects of present-day pornographic depictions are pornographic models, who pose for still photographs, and pornographic actors or “porn stars”, who perform in pornographic films. If dramatic skills are not involved, a performer in pornographic media may also be called a model.

Another way of describing porn is television programmes, magazines, books, etc. that are regarded as emphasizing the sensuous or sensational aspects of a non-sexual subject and stimulating a compulsive interest in their audience.

Looks like today I am in the mood to write definitions and sayings rather than writing a blog! So here is a common saying. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” which means beauty doesn’t exist on its own but is created by observers. That famous quote can help you remember that a beholder is someone who sees or otherwise experiences things, becoming aware of them.  Similalarly, “Porn is also in the eye of the beholder”!

All this was essential as I am writing on a so-called controversial subject of Porn! To me the eyes of the person that looks at a painting, photos decide if it is  porn. All these thoughts came to my mind as I saw one lovely painting by my dear friend and classmate Sudhakar Sonavane from Nashik. Sudhakar is a painter who also happens to be a civil engineer and builder.

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On the same day, I attended a speech by Manasi Sagar also, coincidentally from Nashik. The venue for the speech was bang in the middle of very orthodox Shaniwar Peth in Pune city.

ManasiPoster

I had written about Manasi in a blog in June this year.

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2018/06/08/brave-art/

Manasi spoke for more than an hour on the subject “Self-Restoration- A journey. The talk was about how she grew up in even more orthodox Nashik in a middle-class family. Her father is a retired art teacher from a school. Manasi from a young age felt that she should become an artist and her father supported her wholeheartedly.

I will write about her a little later in the blog. But when Sudhakar sent the painting on our WhatsApp group, there was a bit of discussion and to me more of a banter. Another friend Shrikant felt that it was soft porn! Come on Shrikant even 2018 is ending and we all are entering the seventh decade of our life. Our group has 140 plus friends all engineers from 1971 COEP batch. Most have done reasonably well, are well travelled. Friends like Shrikant have lived in foreign countries for a few years. It is said that travel makes a man. So, how come this sudden comment to call the painting a soft porn! Sudhakar has been sharing his lovely paintings on the group for some time now, and at least a few more could fit the definition of porn made by Shrikant.

All those who think that this painting is porn should have attended Manasi’s speech today. From the tender age of 20 plus, just after her education, she started getting a bit disillusioned with portraits and landscapes etc. She felt that nude painting is an area she should venture into. Now she must be 32/33 of age. The calm way in which she was explaining the nuances of this art, why she got interested in human nude paintings, how she evolved as an artist who painted nudes, was remarkable. There was an audience of about 70 to 80 people and some of the audience were my age too! Since she could not get models, she decided to use herself as a model. She was very much at ease about discussing human anatomy, as a doctor discusses with us when we go for a check-up. Doctors are trained in anatomy whereas artists do not learn anatomy as a subject in their curriculum, to my knowledge. But Manasi was very comfortable discussing the human body.

We humans have started wearing clothes since time immemorial. But with no technology around, the clothes were generally worn around the loin areas. Adam and Eve typically wore fig leaf for modesty. Britishers were shocked to find when they came in India, that women kept their breasts open like men. They enforced the blouse. In 1820 a big social turmoil took place in Kerala when a large group of women said that they wanted to wear blouses after they became Christians. Till then blouses were allowed only for Nairs, the so-called high caste!

Manasi had displayed some of her nude paintings; these were of a very high quality. There were some paintings where her own sister had agreed to model for nude paintings. She was at ease to inform that the model in some paintings was she herself  and the other painting was  her sister. At the end of the speech, she got a standing ovation.

 

We have Khajuharo temples built about a thousand years back. These temples are dedicated to Hinduism and Jainism. The relative layout of temples integrates masculine and feminine deities and symbols highlight the interdependence. The artwork symbolically highlights the four goals of life considered necessary and proper in Hinduism – dharma, kama, artha and moksha.

When we have such traditions, where does the thought of porn come up? Yes, there is a huge porn industry where people can access free or by paying some fees. These sites show humans in the act of intercourse or masturbation or whatever comes to the mind of the owner/director of that site. These pictures and videos are meant to purposely titillate humans. Like liquor, drugs and prostitution no power in this world is able to stop such sites. I do not know the statistics but I am told an unbelievable number of men and women (yes women too, after all, they are also humans) watch these pictures and videos day in and day out. That to me is porn and not what Sudhakar and Manasi are doing.

We see hundreds of advertisements of products which have no relevance to the bikini-clad models used in them. During international car shows, around the new cars being displayed, scantily dressed women are dancing. That to me is porn! Let us all grow up and be mature! Porn definition will change from person to person, and time to time but let us not become moral police!

Procrastination!

काल करे सो आज कर, आज करै सो अब | 
पल में परलय होयगी, बहुरी करेगा कब ||

This is a famous Doha (couplet) by Sant Kabir. He has said that if you have to perform some important task, why wait for tomorrow, do it today; then why wait for today, do it just now. But the modern Doha would be, if you have to perform a task just now, do it later today. If you have to perform a task today, then do it tomorrow; what is the hurry buddy, there is day after too!  This picture below is the perfect definition of procrastination.

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What Kabir has implied is that for some important work, if you delay it, then what will you do, if some catastrophe takes place and your important work could get delayed or you may never get the opportunity to do it again. In Hinduism, there is a concept of rebirth. If some things remain pending at the time of your death then, one’s soul will remain dissatisfied and will not be able to transcend into the next yoni. Procrastination can be bad for both body and soul!

See the slide show below which throws further light on what I am trying to say.

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There are of course funny sides and serious sides to this problem. We assume that people procrastinate simply because they are lazy but it is not as simple as it looks. There many reasons for this issue and of course there are solutions. But we need to decide that we WANT to do it.

The reasons for procrastination are

  1. Perfectionism
    1. Perhaps you are worried you might make a mistake in your work and expose a weakness. The fear of making mistakes is a real thing, and it can cause people to put off some of their important obligations for another day.
  2. People forget that they can learn from mistakes. Why not try?
    1. This means that they avoid doing certain tasks because they fear the risk of making a mistake and looking anything less than perfect. They want their work to be perfect. Because they believe that they will inevitably fail if the task is not in line with their given talents, it is best to set it aside for another time.
  3. Fear of the unknown
    1. This is a natural reason and sometimes valid, but we must not forget that it is not going to be helpful
    2. One might see a growth or a mole somewhere on the body. The person is afraid to get it checked from the doctor for the fear that it may turn out to be cancerous. But will postponing or delaying going to help?
    3. This can happen due to half or lack of knowledge too! Somebody might tell you that cancer is hereditary; nobody has cancer in my family so why bother? Cancer is not curable hence the fear but there are some cancers which are curable if treated on time.
  4. A similar thing can happen in a relationship also. It could be in love, it could be with friends or the boss. There are some issues which need to be resolved, by delaying them, the issues are not going get resolved.
  5. I will do it later
    1. One always thinks, “Oh, I am little tired just now, let me do this task, two days late.”
    2. But it may so happen that after two days you really be tired and one will go in an endless loop
  6. Working on small tasks because they are easier
    1. This is pretty obvious
    2. Humans look for a path of least resistance
    3. We might look for small pending tasks to perform instead of the one which needs to be done.
    4. More the time and effort the task is going to take, the more the thoughts of procrastination will come in mind
  7. Lack of Motivation
    1. Lack of motivation has many reasons. But we need to check the priority of the task you are trying to do; and the effects of not doing it or delaying it
    2.  Fatigue
    3. Lack of confidence
    4. Negative surroundings
    5. Wrong environment
    6. Other priorities
  8. No clarity as to how to get started
    1. Sometimes problems are too complex so one gets confused
    2. Try and put things down on paper point by point
    3. See which are the points you are confident about
    4. Take help or guidance from someone for points which you think are tough
    5. Remind yourself that putting off things is not going to complete the task, in fact, the delay might lead to some more cascading problems
  9. You get distracted
    1. In modern times following distractions come in the way. According to the study, people spend 35/40% of the productive time on distractions
      1. Email
      2. Text Message
      3. Social Media
      4. Phone Meetings
      5. WhatsApp
      6. Others ……………
  10. The knowledge that task is hard work and will require efforts
    1. Working on a long project can be really difficult because of the amount of effort that it takes to finish. There are also opportunity costs along the way where you have to give up something you would rather be doing to get some work done on your project. This often leads people to lose their motivation and choose to set aside their projects for a later time.

There can be many reasons for postponing things that need to be done. One of the most important would be to judge the risk of postponing a particular task. If the risk analysis says that it should be done, then it needs to be done. In my first job after a few years of good work, my boss tried to make a contract with me which was unfair. I had to act immediately or I would have got stuck. I met a professional contact who was a big boss in another factory. He immediately offered me a job! I saw the risk of not acting quickly. When my voice tone changed suddenly five years back, I went by the guidance of my ENT surgeon and within a few weeks, my cancer was detected and successfully treated. The fear of the unknown would not have helped.

How to correct Procrastination issues?

How do we correct this problem of Procrastination? Experts say Change Your Outlook, Stop punishing yourself for procrastinating. Tackle your most important task for 15 minutes. Break tasks down into small chunks. Start your day with the hardest tasks. Give yourself a pep talk for motivation. Promise yourself that you’ll get a reward when it’s done.

I am going to give highlights of what can be done to overcome anxiety causing procrastination.

  1. Break your work in little steps
  2. Change your environment and be with positive people, have someone close for discussing things with
  3. Identify when you feel like procrastinating
  4. Talk to someone who has already achieved similar goals
  5. Don’t wait for the perfect time to do it. It may too late
  6. Share with someone what you want to achieve, it will help you to go ahead with the task.
  7. Just do it

There will be many ways to achieve the final goal besides what I have suggested. Similarly, there will be many more reasons to fall into this trap. But to me, point number 7, “JUST DO IT” is the real solution! So friends just do it!

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Death, a journey in Peace?

Friends, you will have to pardon me! This is a major modification of a blog I had published four years back. This is a very important subject for me, hence I want to share my thoughts with you again; I have gained more insights on the subject in last four years. I have a new title ending with question mark; why the question mark you will ask me! In the matters like rituals, I think like a trained engineer, always challenging the hypothesis, if I am not convinced! When we communicate in writing about death, we say “Rest in Peace”! Ok, I am a non believer, but still I will go with the theory, that after death the soul goes on its journey! But do we allow the soul peace it deserves?

We have one life and our aim should be to pass through the life’s journey in such a way that we are truthful, respectful, gentle and have empathy for others. How do we give respect to others? Why do we respect others? Whom should we respect? These are the questions that came to my mind when a friend of ours died. The departed soul was a respected professional, gentle, truthful and always had empathy for others. Such a person should have been reciprocated by the same thoughts and deeds by others after he departed. We should have same philosophy in life and death, irrespective of how others are and how they behave with you.

This person was a “non-believer”. His views, about the “after death” were very clear as he had already told his first family in clear terms, about not performing “any” religious stuff after his death. After his death, things began well, with no religious stuff at the time of cremation. Respecting his views, family followed his wishes, they respected him. Though it was very late at night it was decided to wait for one of his siblings, who was staying far, to reach for the cremation. This was also I am sure must be one of his wishes.

I want to tell you my observations of events, at the time of his funeral. I have not spoken to anyone from his close family and I am just writing the thoughts that come to my mind. Our friend lived his life in a small town and was a respected professional. When his body was being taken from home to the hearse, some religious stuff was performed by his neighbors. His immediate family almost lost control over the situation; family became spectators. So much for peace of mind!

But let us not forget and look at the other side. Some people and their families believe totally in rituals. Others should give respect to their feelings. Recently, I attended death rituals of someone close to me. Their family totally believes in rituals and on 13th day, there was a full blown religious stuff. Next day one of the siblings said to me, “You had to sit through a lot of things, in which you don’t believe in.” I said with humility, “please don’t embarrass me; your family believes in these things so it was my duty and wish to participate in everything, to respect the departed soul on final journey”.

In Hinduism, after death religious functions are held after a certain number of days based on age old traditions. In this case, since the person who died was a “non-believer” a decision was taken by close family, initially, NOT to have anything religious. So far so good. Then suddenly we came to know that there will be religious ceremony on a certain day, not one but two of them, held one after another, believe it or not, the same ceremony was to be repeated. One was at their home and the other one was at their work place cum old home! If this change was decided by first family, I respect the family’s decision.

In such situations it is incorrect to say that something is correct or wrong because everything depends on the perspective. Why did the first family take this decision? Were they pushed by other relatives into taking this decision? Were they forced to take such a decision? I came to know later, that this decision of double Puja, was taken to “take care” of bad vibes that might be generated because of death, as there was a marriage in the family after 3 months. The decision was pushed by the other family members on the first family. Amen! If there is God then, why are people scared of Him! He brings you to this world and then takes you back when the time is up! Then why the fear of “bad vibes”?

Who should take such decisions? The first family or the next level of family? Why such decision could have been taken? In Hinduism it is suggested to perform these religious functions after  death, so that evil will go away!! Is death evil? Is almost a natural death, due to old age, bad? How does a loving peaceful souls death lead to bad events in your family or create bad vibes? How will this natural process cast a long shadow of death on your family and the events that will take place in family in future? How do you know that performing religious Puja will ensure that everything will be hunky dory in your family, post puja? Does it ensure that no bad thing will ever occur in your family? Will there be no deaths in the family, ever? What is bad about death? Yes it is bad and shocking if it happens to a young person, as an out of turn event.

I will share with you another  example which I had noticed when I attended one more cremation recently. At the cremation, many people are present but one can make out who is from the first family. During this event another cremation was taking place. I saw a gentlemen, whom I could judge that he was first family. This was confirmed next day when he was also present to collect the ashes, generally first family attends to this chore. On both occasions his cell phone was regularly ringing and he was all the time busy attending the same!! I cannot imagine that a person from the first family is so busy, that he had to take his calls all the time during this process.

Is one really so busy? Can you not be involved with the family even for a small duration, when death has occurred? Can you not respect the departed soul? At least for the last journey one is expected to honour the dead person. In Hinduism dead body is treated on par with Him!! Whenever you see an unknown funeral passing by, you automatically bow!! Maybe the cell phone guy was GOD himself!!

In all this discussion we have forgotten about  the wishes of the departed person. Should we not respect him? It will be polite to follow his views which do not affect anyone. What happens if there are no rituals? What is wrong in having views different than the “normal” views? Then again what is a “normal” view?

My friends I am confused. How the so called educated persons follow things that have no scientific background? Why under the garb of religion, things are pushed on the family? Why could the close family not resist such a push? Did they do it to err on the “safe” side by following the so called traditions? I hope my thoughts will give the few people who read this blog, strength to resist such pushes in life. RIP Sir!!

The Modern Final Journey!

Vaikunth-min

I was required to go to Vaikunth, a crematorium in Pune, for the final rites of a family member. He was 91 years old but was always positive and smiling. All were in somber mood for obvious reasons but also had a comfortable feeling that he had led a reasonably satisfactory life and had seen all good things that can happen in our lives. We were waiting for our turn to start the process, we were third in the queue! Then I saw the board displayed above.

The board indicated how the final rites of your loved and dear ones can be seen by live streaming where ever you are in the world. Wow! Hinduism is modernizing or is India modernizing? Want to see a movie, go to Netflix, want to order pizza go to a site, order it! Want to see the final rites, get them by live streaming. What is happening? Is this good for the human race? You are too busy to travel for last rites? Or you want to brag, “I have seen so and so persons last rites on live streaming”. Emotions? Heard this word before but I am not sure what it means. When a person dies, two things are important, how close you are to that person or how you are related to that person. If you are out of these circles, on both the counts, then your presence during final rites does not become important.

What is the purpose of the seeing the last rites on live streaming? What do we achieve by doing this? The hospitals now provide facility for keeping the dead body in mortuary. This allows dear ones to travel from around the world for the final rites, within reasonable time. What is so important in one’s life more than attending the final rites of your near and dear one? After this you never see the body again; but if you are comfortable with that then probably next best thing is live streaming. Or is it? Maybe you will say, “Hey bro or sis! Could you adjust angle slightly? I can’t see the face! Ya, that’s better, now!”

In Hindu culture and for that matter in most cultures, taking photos or videos of the departed ones is not the norm! This generally happens only in case of very well-known public figures. Their lives as well as deaths are public! What could be the reason for this? First and foremost is that in olden days there were not many cameras; it is a tradition that is continued, though now cameras are everywhere. Personally, I prefer this tradition of not photo graphing the dead person. I remember at a funeral, years back. In the funeral place, somebody was taking photographs. Those were for that person’s son in law (grandson of the lady who died) and his family who could not travel, taking an eight-hour flight! I stopped him from taking the photos as others in the group did not want confrontation!

Though I am not an atheist, I have reservations about chanting of mantras, following of rituals at funerals. The more I see them, the more I am convinced about the futility of these things. These rituals are supposed to be saviors in the life after death. Is there life after death? My understanding is that when the human race did not know anything about nature and science, the knowledgeable people of those times, came out with rituals by creating fear in the minds of the people. This turned out to be a good business and it made sense to continue with the same. I keep on talking to various experts about this, but nobody has been able to convince me the utility of the rituals and mantras, except probably mental peace. Do I follow what I think (preach will not be the right word)? Yes, when my mother died, we went to the crematorium and without any ritual we took her to the furnace! I have attended many funerals, body is pushed inside, door shut and the furnace blower starts. That sound of the furnace blower motor, makes my heart heavy and moistens my eyes. To me the real final journey just starts, to merge the body with the nature. I have always thought, that when we are born, there is no chanting of mantras, there are no rituals. Then why should we have them at death? Birth and death are only two absolute truths in the world. Someone is either born or has died, there are no two thoughts about it. All other issues have more than one side to them. We should accept the death as we accept birth; of course, our emotions are bound to be different when someone dies.

When we change so much in modern times, why do we not change in our way of thinking about death? Another thing is that the modern world has created physical distances, though you may be close electronically. Or it creates mental distance too? It has also created a busy culture, fast paced life. But is it really so busy that we cannot attend funerals of near and dear ones? I will share a story with you. Someone had an accident, died after about ten days of treatment. So, it was not a sudden death in that sense! His both children were in the US. His daughter flew out.  But the son had some issue regarding Visa status. End result, the son did not come home for the final rites, in fact he never came at all during that year ! Of course, Visa status is more important! Friends, to me this is just not on! Modern life? Do you need a tradition to attend your father’s funeral? Is this a conflict of modernity and tradition? No way. But why such decisions are taken only that family can tell. I am sure that the son will keep on having nightmares till end of his life for this decision!

Am I modern? No, I am contemporary, but would I keep the same thoughts in death too? Yes, direct to the furnace, no mantras and rituals! That’s my take! A Living Will?

Evolution of Human Social Life!

We always talk of scientific evolution, industrial revolutions and progress of sciences. Evolution of human thinking about life and the way it is lived, is probably equally or more important. My thinking is based on practices followed in Hinduism. During initial thinking, a couple of thousand years back, life was divided in three parts; Obligation, Success, Pleasure. I am not talking of Ashramas as discussed in Hinduism. Later, freedom was added to the thinking. In Sanskrit, these are Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha. I feel that addition of freedom, was necessitated due to social changes, in parallel with changes in science and technology.   

I am trying to understand life style evolutions, going hand in hand, with scientific evolutions. I was wondering why the Moksha was not included initially as a part of human life. I think, that not many people really reached the age of freedom or Moksha.  

Dharma or Obligation was about doing the right things. This involved creating the right thinking in human mind; don’t become selfish, think about others. When we live in a society, the societal norms and etiquettes need to be followed. These have evolved over a period of time. In this phase of life, it is our duty is to learn societal norms. During this phase, humans also get married. Marriage is not only coming together of two people but it is about coming together of two families. This involves readjustment in your lives. This phase has undergone a major change. In olden days, marriages took place between bride and groom, who lived in the same vicinity and whose families were known to each other. The marriages took place at an early age. From time immemorial, there have been hierarchies in our society based on caste, creed and many other parameters. Ones station in life was decided by these parameters. Marriages also took place initially, dictated by hierarchy. King’s family did not marry a commoner. Have these things changed today? It is both yes and no! 

There is a typical Hindi word बिरादरी, which means fraternity. Marriages still take place within fraternity, caste and so on. But there is a big change; people now do marry outside fraternity, different castes, different religions, they can be from far off places, or from different countries. With more education, people tend to get married late. Our thinking is slowly adapting to these changes. This is major social evolution or even an upheaval.  

In adulthood, one gets established in life, simultaneously while establishing in a job or business, but both are equally important. This is the success phase. Over a period, in this phase, now there is a big change. As late as 50 to 70 years back, one finished education, got a job, got married, procreated and retired from the same job. A few years after retirement many simply died! Now post education, someone may start a business right away. On the other side it is no more surprising when people continue with their education till early 30’s. By the age of 30, I had a six-year-old son and had a work experience of 6 to 7 years. This changing trend has its own pluses and minuses. But system does evolve itself.  

Trends in the stable phase of human life are also changing. This is now a phase where people procreate, work, travel and have fun. This goes hand in hand with their professional work. Now we see many cases where both husband and wife work. People tend to be busy 24/7, 365 days doing various things in life. The trend of buying homes and big cars, as soon as possible, is also coming in vogue. Adding to these changes, another important aspect that has changed is, from joint family structure, we are switching over to nuclear family. Money in plenty is available but home support is diminishing. Our society is adjusting to these changes too! Crèches, home staff, drivers become your “family” for support. When people live in foreign countries, their parents go and live for months together for support; but in the end parents do come back home. Nuclear family of old parents is also becoming a norm. This recent trend is mainly because of globalization and IT industry proliferation. 

I feel that pleasure and freedom phases have merged and these phases start a little late in life because the medical revolution has increased longevity. People live much longer than before; life expectancy was 31 in 1947 in India now it is 66. This indicates that larger proportion lives much longer after retirement. By the time of retirement, major family responsibilities are over. Financial commitments are lesser and finance availability is much better. This is the time when pleasure phase is in top gear plus freedom to do things, that were not possible during busy phase. I have an argument which may be, a bit controversial. In olden days, after the productive phase, Moksha or merging of soul with cosmic soul was thought to be final phase in life. During those days, there was hardly anything else to do than to follow the path of Moksha and try to achieve nirvana. Hence the term merging of soul with cosmic soul was used. I have nothing against trying to give up so called pleasures in lieu of bhakti or following the religious practices to achieve moksha. But now moksha is an option, not like olden days when it was the only option.  

Large number people travel, follow their dreams, maybe start a new venture in this phase! This social change is happening rapidly due to advent social evolution in tandem with ease of travel, ease of knowing about far off places. There are online courses available for photography, learning new languages, gardening. There are facilities to learn details about Bhagwad Geeta and there are special religious tours arranged for senior citizens. This reminds me of a joke. A guy tells his friend that he was about to book a religious holiday package for his family with parents. When he went to ask his parents, the father said, ” Sorry son can’t make it! We have booked a holiday for Bangkok and Pattaya!” Social change, anybody?  

Moksha is liberation from cycle of birth & death. This is taught by our religions but religious thinking which is part of social fabric also undergoes changes, along with technological changes! When no other option is available we adopt to existing conditions. But current social changes in pleasure and freedom in life can be considered like migration of young people looking for better options! So, Moksha or evolution, what is your take? I will prefer Moksha in St Moritz or Gangtok anytime! Come join the new Moksha brigade!