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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

My baby's Sabarimala shame transformed me

Temple issues are raging in India at present. Unfortunate ones and yet some outright insane and ridiculous.
 
Even as I pray for all the souls that left us in the fireworks explosion in Kerala to be guided to light, I pause and include in my prayers those clueless mortals who speak non-sense about women's purity as well as those jubilant women who believe they have broken new grounds by entering the Shani Shingnapur temple and scores of others fighting for their so-called rights to enter temples.
 
This is not about equality. It's about praying. And praying is a personal choice. It's a personal connect. The Divine doesn't check your height and weight and BMI to decide if you should be heard. Nor are you screened on your location - whether you are perched atop a tower or sledging in a slum or queuing up a winding line craning your sticky neck - to be granted permission to speak your heart out.
 
Least of all, is it about women's right. You require nobody's permission to do something as personal and private and as pure an act as praying. It's just between you and the Higher Power or Divine or God or Light or Creator...however, you choose to address your Love.
All set to go from home

I say this with authority today, because I am guilty of having blindly towed the line until two years back. I forced our child to make a trip to Sabarimala. I was bowing to family pressure, culture, tradition... I can lay out excuses many, which were the truth then. But, nope. It was my choice. I have forgiven myself hence.


In November 2014, our then 11-year-old accompanied her dad and granddad on the pilgrimage. Some of our friends cautioned us about the renewed age limit of 10 years, while others said they knew kids above 10 that have been there and so are women below 60 who have made their pilgrimage.

However, we had another hurdle. Our baby has always been tall for her age. So Sanjeev equipped himself with proof of her birth date.
 
Exploring the place...mission unaccomplished
At Pamba they were stopped by a woman police official. She wanted to see no proof of her age. Pointing to a board that specifies age-limit, she screamed in abusive language. Her rant didn't stop even when they agreed to return. Suffice to say, my child and husband were embarrassed. "It was such a shame. Everyone looking at us when that police was shouting at Papa. All because of you...!" my girl cried over the phone that day.

Sanjeev, as is his won't, only said, "I understand rules. But that woman cop had no sense of language.”

Possibly it was her frustration of long duty hours on her feet controlling the crowd or perhaps her arrogance of authority or possibly she had caught people seriously flouting rules... know not what. The unscrupulous policewoman is beside the point.
Devotees making their way up from Pamba

That day, alone in my Dubai home, I had ample time and space to reflect on why I had forced my child and husband to take the trip. It was a mere belief that young girls of our family had to make the pilgrimage before their puberty. Why? I never asked.

That incident served a reality check. In sorts it was the beginning of a tremendously rewarding inward journey that I am into now, taking our baby along. Today it gives me immense pleasure when we discuss the ridiculous happenings around in the name of religion. Not to mention, my mommy pride oozing when my baby talks of subconscious and concepts such as polyanna.

There are many theories and each culture has its own beliefs about why menstruating women should not be allowed in temples, why they should be isolated at home...and so on. As varied the theories may be, they all but revolve around women’s energy and her protection and purity. During menstruation, women are vulnerable as we release energy. Religious places have abundance of energy, and this would interfere in our natural release. Alternatively women would be susceptible to absorbing other's energy, including negativity.

Of the many theories I've read, this is what I resonate with the most. And this is what I have explained to my baby.

Breathtaking Nature... on their return journey

I am not an atheist, nor am I an agnostic. Am I a believer. A believer in the Supreme Power. The Divine. To connect with my Divine I need no one's permission. It's between the two of us. I need no particular time of day or night or a particular place and position to speak to my Divine. This is my private choice! This is my personal right!

No more idol worship in our home. Yes, we do visit temples when we go home. They are places of energy. I love the atmosphere, the motifs, the architecture, the legends, myths of Gods and Goddesses… I enjoy them all and share them with my baby. We discuss them all, even touchy dogmas, and accept those that we both can make sense of and ignore others.

Like when I appraised her about Swaroopanand who claimed allowing women into Shani Shingnapur temple will lead to an increase in rape, my baby exclaimed, “He actually said that! Flipping crazy. Okay what's for dinner?"

11 comments:

  1. Sad as it sounds, in a time not too long ago, I too succumbed to similar religious pressure and did stuff against my own better judgement just to appease traditions.
    To this day, I regret it and all that occurred because of it.

    The path you are on right now is the right one. God does not create barriers, man does. God doesn't discriminate, we do. God doesn't specify rules like these which make young girls feel humiliated... We do.

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    1. Growing up and as grown ups we do, don't we?

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  2. You are echoing my thoughts.

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  3. You have explained it beautifully Nisha. Our generation is left stranded in between the old traditions we have imbibed knowingly or unknowingly and the modern outlook of today. We are unable to decide or are at a dilemma to choose one or the other and end up trying to balance both. Tough! I absolutely agree we must follow our heart and make the connection with God as and when and where we feel like it. God never dictated any terms for his worship so I guess all the terms are man-made. Having said that, I also believe ancient scriptures and traditions had sound logic and science to back them. So if no one is hurt, why not follow some traditions.
    A poignant, thought-provoking post!
    @KalaRavi16 from
    Relax-N-Rave

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    1. Indeed, Kala. Ancient scriptures and traditions do have some logic and science to them.

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  4. You have put it out honestly Nisha. Long ago, I accepted the presence of divine power, how traditions sometimes become namesake and now I do not let any thing disturb me. There may be rationale of energies and everything but with God, I have my own understanding :)

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  5. Hi, why did you move idols out of your home? Your feeling of the Supreme Power resonates with me. Why can't an idol be a source of such energy?

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  6. Idols may be sources of energy... but store-bought ones?

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  7. I so agree with you, praying is a personal choice and all these age etc should not come in our connect with the divine. I like the learnings you have taken from this experience!

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