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Surplus Extravaganza?

by Sneha Subramanian Kanta
(Mumbai, India)

Are we becoming mere silent puppets watching the surplus show off?

Are we becoming mere silent puppets watching the surplus show off?

Well, I've been often accused of harboring an identity to what is not in "our culture"; or so some people seem to think. This issue had been picking the corners of my skull for quite sometime now; and I thought it is time, my writers block be damned, that I should write about it. Most of the festivals celebrated in our country are a show of ones wealth and that, in return; is considered to be the best one can do to please God. Obviously, I do understand that a lot of religious sentiments are associated with festivals in our country; and it's also true that like everything else, this too has another side to it.

About 2 weeks back, a couple of people from a religious group came to our building (this is a very common practice); to ask for daan dakshina (some funds to be donated for religious purposes). I have been extremely wary of signing off a cheque or giving money to these people, despite the fact of them giving me a receipt. I gave them INR 100; to which they shockingly told me that INR 500 is the minimum that I should be donating; and how this is done for a good purpose. I, being the stubborn woman I am, did not relent, and they had to settle on the amount given by me. Why do people who come to ask for charity for celebration of festivals have a "minimum amount"? Isn't this supposed to be dependent on the person giving money? All that apart, one never knows how much of the money is utilized for the festivities and how much goes into their pockets.

On the same lines, two very esteemed corporators of two different political parties in our area did something that got my nerves ticking. A few weeks back, the HSC (12th grade) results were declared and as luck could have it, respective children of the err...(not so respective?) corporators had secured a second class each. Fireworks were set at 06:00pm in the evening, a time when I usually workout in the nearby garden. Noise and air pollution aside, there was almost a battle that broke out on who sets more fireworks ablaze, who has more grander music (Yes, musicians and drummers were called and played in the middle of the street). Suddenly, I was shocked at what I saw. There was a huge crowd assembled at both the places...and this was because one corporator had started throwing INR 500 rupee notes to the general public. There was a stampede of sorts, literally. Seeing this, do you think the other corporator could hold back this kind of foolishness? Yes, he too did the same thing. And yes, there was a festival that their communities celebrated that went on during the same time. This was done to appease lords of the heaven.

During the time pandals are put in, during Ganesh Chaturthi; which is celebrated with great pomp and fervor in my state, there are separate 'Q's'for VIPs and VVIPs...normal public like us be damned. There is such a difference in the treatment; for, it's almost like, "You are not well, stand for hours."; "You have money, yes, come, buy this pass..." I do advocate special passes for handicapped people, senior citizens, pregnant women and people with serious diseases; but not the general public. Few youngsters today know (my students included) that Lokamanya Tilak had started this festival to promote a feeling of patriotism and nationalist identity - the question is, does it serve the same purpose today?

During Diwali, there are several cases reported of senior citizens being at unease, children suffering and pregnant women feeling nauseous. The harmful particles of fireworks we love to show off cause all of this. Diwali is essentially about the light of knowledge removing ignorance. But why has it become about stuffing ghee filled mithais (sweetmeats) to people who do not want to eat it? Why is it about showing who has more extravagant Diwali parties this year? I wonder how it is for those from the lower socioeconomic strata of society.

Earlier, worship was all about worshiping the forces of nature: air, water, soil, fire, wind, trees. Look at what has happened to those in the kalyuga; the water in the Ganges has become very polluted; the river which was once the epitome of our cultural heritage now is in shambles... the air in India; do we need to talk about it elaborately? According to a report published in a reputed medical journal, the air in India is one of the most unsafe for human beings to live in. And yes, where are our trees? Why so much deforestation? What do we want to make of our country? An ignorant, only on the papers 'developing economy'?

I'm proud of the rich cultural heritage we possess; but not at the cost of all this...!

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Aug 06, 2012
A wrathful article on a burning issue...
by: Geetashree Chatterjee

Firstly, this article should have been uploaded in the Spiritual Section. The common belief amongst Indians is that being spiritual refers to the realms of high thinking and complex philosophy - an elevated almost elite existence. They forget that all great spiritual leaders, like Swami Vivekananda, Swami Yogadananda and others have stressed on good deeds and serving the community along with having higher thoughts and an insatiable thirst for intimacy with the Divine. Spiritual awakening should be utilized for the betterment of the society.

As regards your scathing article, recently, I read a similar one on the big fat Indian wedding and the ugly show of wealth which goes with it. As you have rightly pointed out, Sneha, nowadays be it any festivity, religious or otherwise, pomp and show have become an integral part of it. The nobler intents and contents of the rituals and festivals are overlooked totally. Is it the growing consumerism, a shift towards market economy or just a blind followership of the rich and the who's who of the country who usually set wrong examples for the masses to emulate? I think we can have an endless debate on this.

The competition between the Corporators cited by you reminded me of the feudal extravaganza centering around cock and pigeon fights organized by Nawabs and the Rajahs to waste their riches while the commoners could hardly meet both ends. I think this bane is inherited.

In this whole rigmarole, it is the middle class who suffers, caught between right and wrong, ideal and excess, values and wantonness! We who think shudder, we who do not possess cringe every moment from worthless expenditure, we who have precious principles worry whether we would be able to retain our ownership over what we consider priceless. Its the Powerful who have only one motto in life - plunder and make merry. Its the powerless on whom the onus of civilization lies. Like Tagore says, "it is on the debris of a decayed civilization, the (the masses) labour on..."


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