Ganesha.

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This post is a direct result of landing myself in trouble at Grannymar’s post, Shapely Legs.

One commentator there said something about elephants with which I disagreed and Grannymar had to put out the fires that developed after that. Please do visit her post and read all the comments. Totally fascinating.

In the process of putting out the fire, Grannymar has suggested that I write about Ganesha.

I am not an expert on Ganesha. I shall leave experts to tell my readers all about Ganesha in a nut shell. (What a paradox!)

I am a Hindu. What that makes me is an anarchist as far as religion goes. I can do anything I want, or not do anything, believe or not believe, pray or not pray, visit temples or not, perform sacrifices or not and so on so forth. There is no one sitting over my head and telling me that I will either go to heaven to enjoy the company of virgins or pomegranates, or to hell and roast at very high temperatures. Some Hindus go to elaborate lengths with rituals and ceremonies and many like me, do not. We live and let live. God is strictly personal and we do not like to be told how to approach him. So, you have a colourful kaleidoscope of deities, festivals, ceremonies, rituals etc and all dovetail nicely into a hotchpotch called Hinduism.

In this chaos, Ganesha plays a very important role. It is not because he is a funny figure but because of what he represents. The link would have given you some background about that. For Hindus, the attitude is the most important aspect of worship and prayer, and it has been rightly observed by many that Indians worship milestones too. Yes, they do. If the milestone remotely resembles some fancied deity, some Indian will anoint it with sandalwood paste and red coloured powder called kumkum and start a worship. He will however first invoke Ganesha to remove all obstacles in the process of anointing and then only proceed. How does he do this? He takes bit of sandalwood or turmeric powder, add water and make a dough to form a cone shaped figure. He then summons Ganesha to come and sit in that shape and bless the proceedings. After they whole affair is over, he will dissolve the shape in a plate of water, throw it out and bid Ganesha farewell after profusely thanking him for being symbolically present and preventing any mishaps.

This is not because he is stupid. For a Hindu, it is simply a form to focus his attention on. For a Hindu, there is not many Gods, or one God, but there is ONLY GOD. He therefore does not find it odd to worship a milestone. He will worship anything that takes his fancy because he cannot picture anything without it representing God.

My very first blog post on this site, made last June, is an invocation to Ganesha to bless this blog. You can read it here.

Maria, I hope that you are reading this. You and Grannymar expressed the desire to learn something about our religion and culture. This is an attempt to briefly give you the role Ganesha plays in it. To talk in detail about the whole subject, I will need to write a tome. I am however willing to answer any questions that you may have on what I have written and elaborate where necessary to explain.

Mystery Solved!

I have been blessed by my Guardian Angel who has solved a big mystery in Conrad’s and my blogs. We have had a “Gail” commenting on both, who has so far refused to let us have a look at her photograph. My GA has solved it finally and I have just received this magnificent autographed photograph. What a girl, she does not look 27 does she?

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heavy1

Whining.

A young Catholic priest decided to enter a monastery. He joined one particularly strict sect. The head monk told him, at his indoctrination, that they were sworn to TOTAL silence. They could not speak one word at all. However, every ten years, they would be permitted to speak two words.

After 10 years of total silence, the head monk indicated it was now time for him to speak his two words. The monk said, “Bed hard!” And then he resumed his silent study and work.

Another 10 years passed and the head monk again indicated it was time for him to speak his two words. The monk said, “Food bad!” And then he resumed his silent study and work.

Another 10 years passed and the head monk again indicated it was time for him to speak his two words. The monk said, “I quit!”

The head monk shook his head and said, “I knew this was coming.
You’ve done nothing but complain for the past 30 years!”

Conrad, whatever happened to your whine bar?

THANK STEREOTYPING IT’S FRIDAY!

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Now there is a title that has been borrowed from a stereotype phrase! It is expected that TGIF is universally applicable to all and sundry, including those who work 24/7 and those whose, weekly off starts on Thursdays and also spare fellows like me who do not work at all!

For some of my readers, who are not aware, this post is my weekly contribution to a consortium that Conrad has cooked up. Conrad, Grannymar, Ashok and I are now expected to come up with a post on a topic selected by one of us every Friday.

Later on, we expect Marianna and some more people to join too to see diverse approaches to the same topics. Those willing to participate can contact Conrad who is the convener of this laudable activity.

The best definition that I could come up with for ‘stereotyping’ is – “Classifying people based on, one perceived, unique characteristic. Stereotyping is a form of prejudice that can form damaging images of people because of a particular characteristic without having any personal knowledge of the person.”

The latest and the most widespread stereotype is the Islamic Terrorist. There are terrorists of other religious persuasion too, but for some strange reason, the minute the words Extremist or Terrorist is thought of , the association is with Islam. The fact that the vast majority of Muslims are not terrorists gets buried and some ridiculous situations arise. For instance, we recently had the instance of a highly respected Indian artist subject to the most humiliating detention, investigation and body search, on arrival in the USA, because his surname is Khan.

Edward Said started off a complete new stream in academia as a counter measure to what he perceived to be unfair stereotyping. His monumental work on Orientalism is worth studying if one wants to understand the mechanisms that create stereotypes and what can be done about the negative impacts such stereotyping has.

Internationally, Scots are misers, Germans are automatons, Indians are vegetarians, Italians are lovers etc. Nationally – Madrasis are gentle trusting innocents, Sardarjis are Martial clowns, Sindhis are not to be trusted, Marwaris are misers, Bengalis and Malayalis are all communists etc. What can be perhaps called “Going from the particular to the general.”

I have personal knowledge of all these statements being untrue at the individual level and very often the reverse can be said about the particular group. Take my own example. When I was looking for a rented bungalow in Delhi, I was introduced to a Punjabi Indian Navy Captain who had just built a bungalow and was looking for a good Multi National Company lease and which will be given only to a Madrasi. I fit the bill and he came down on the rent too, as I fit his idea of two stereotypes; one Multi National Companies are better than Indian Companies for leasing accommodation and two, Madrasis will be gentle people who will look after the premises and live gentle peaceful lives.

Come house warming party and I had invited the good Captain and his wife and they were stunned to see a whole lot of merry making locals, booze flowing in gallons, non vegetarian food being grilled in the garden, music being played loudly and people dancing in the living room. The landlord/lady combination too joined in the festivities and then quietly cornered me to say – “If we had known that you were this type of a Madrasi, we would not have given the bungalow to you.” Subsequently, we became good friends and I always teased them for stereotyping me.

I have personally been exposed to being stereotyped as a Pappaan (Tamil slang for a Brahmin), Madrasi (The North Indian’s name for all people coming from what in colonial India was the Madras Presidency, now comprising of four linguistic states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka), and after I shifted to the Northern parts of India, the Southerners started to call me as a Northerner, Bombay Iyer, etc. When I started to work for the British, the British who came in contact with me called me a WOG, (Westernized Oriental Gentleman) till they found out that I was far from a gentleman. Whenever I was in London, I was called a Paki as all South Asian brown skinned folks in Britain are supposed to be economic refugees from Pakistan.

It always surprises people when they come to the individual level that the generalized stereotype is a myth. My first disillusionment was when I discovered that all Americans did not wear Stetson hats and wear cross slung six shooters on their hips. Also when I found, that all Englishmen were not the Colonel Blimp types.

I think that mankind will be lost without the ability to stereotype as a tool to create comfort levels of existence. There is a great deal of conditioning that takes place in all of us, and part of that process is the creation of stereotypes besides of course all types of value systems. While these may well be deliberately done to give protective shields around the individual, if by the time the individual is in the mid twenties, these are not dropped, all kinds of problems arise and great opportunities to explore the diversity of human beings slip out of grasp.

Personally, as a GOM (Grand Old Man), I try and avoid stereotyping. I can however assure you that at times, it is difficult. It is also very difficult to stereotype unique individuals. Try as I might, I just can’t find a stereotype where I can fit in Grannymar or Conrad! Free souls in their own orbits! TGFT (Thank God For That!)