Tuesday 25 June 2013

It is time for a moratorium on …. You decide.

The month of May mostly brought us anguish and heart burn: for some for the right reasons but for many for non-issues. Chinese intrusion inside the sensitive Ladakh region and Maoist massacre at Chattisgarh should have made Indian psyche burn in anguish. And Indian collective mind did burn and it did for IPL Cricket scandals.  Such is the stranglehold of Cricket in the minds of Indian people.

China has been making systematic plan of weakening Indian geo-political advantages in the region. Apart from the 'String of Pearls' the network of Chinese military and commercial facilities around Indian Ocean which effectively neutralizes the naval advantage that India has over China and Pakistan in the Indian Ocean, now China has also connected a strategically important Pakistani port Gwadar port via rail, road and air routes. This makes it possible for a China-Pakistani coordinated encircling of India through a naval network. The deal was signed by the authorities of two nations May this year – when Indians were enthralled in a voyeuristic pursuit of IPL scandal over that colonial hangover called cricket that is more a gambling than a game – even in its pre-degenerate days when it used to be played without cheerleaders in miniskirts.

 Maoists have been launching deadly attacks on our security personnel, democratic setup, using every weakness and corruption in our polity luring the frustrated and righteously angry youths as well as marginalized tribals into their ranks. On the day of the recent massacre perpetrated by Maoists, the social networks of Indian cyberspace buzzed more with IPL scandal than with this inhuman barbaric attack committed by a section of our own people on us.  Can one think of US cyberspace talking about a baseball scandal on 9/11 evening? Welcome to the modern mind of India where the opiate of a colonial game makes people worry more about the scandal in the gambling lanes of their metro-cities than their own kith massacred in the killing fields of Chattisgarh.

Bollywood-cricket-human auctioning-millions of rupees- obscene consumerism: it is all heavy heady cocktail for the terrorist network, next door and inside India, which has already taken strong roots in the shadowy financial world of Bollywood. Dawood and his boys would have to be moronic imbeciles if they are not using this brew to boost their operations and control over the financial empires of India. And they have definitely done a perfect job – even as our middle class cheered with meaningless jingles the action of the greased palms in the cricket creases.    

Let it be said that cricket has for long sucked the vitality of our national youth, drained our national resources mercilessly and has imposed itself on our collective psyche like a demon. Think of the unsung heroes and heroines of other sports and games. See the way Chinese and Japanese sports and games are promoted worldwide and see just how much attention Kabadi gets. In fact Kabadi is the naturally evolved sports of this nation. It unites India in a way we have never given its due. If one has seen the players belonging to any state – Punjab or Gujarat or Tamil Nadu- before entering the field instinctively touching the soil and venerating the Mother Earth, one would surely understand how much of a civilizational value that game represents. Promoting Kabadi internationally is promoting also Indic values and cultures worldwide. But where is the money? Where is the media limelight that is due? It has all gone into that colonial drain called cricket which now also finances Dawood to plot further massacres of Indians.

Or wrestling: It is one of the most beautiful games in the world. It is about flexibility and strength. It is a scientific game. It is not barbaric as boxing where the players routinely spend the evenings of their lives immobilized and privacies of their lives as socially hostile individuals. But in India wrestling has been nurtured as a spiritual tradition. The Akharas with Hanuman as the spiritual Guru of the sports, has created a vibrant network of logistics for the players throughout India. When the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided to drop wrestling from the 2020 Olympics games, where was the outrage that should have been there in India? It was missing because all sports energy has been channelized into that colonial game called cricket.  

Or Hockey: India was once the best team in hockey in the world, and The Indian men's field hockey team is the most successful field hockey team in Olympic history with 8 gold, 1 silver, and 2 bronze medals. However we and our media notoriously let hockey fade from our attention. Where was the national euphoria when India beat France in 2012-Olympic qualifier hockey with a resounding 8-1? Where did vanish the media lime light and adulation for Sandeep Singh, who scored against France five goals – including a hat-trick? Where was the national outrage, when hockey player Dhanraj Pillay was humiliated by powers of petty politics which systematically destroyed hockey in India? When was the last time one saw a hockey player endorsing a product in Indian television channel?  

Or Archery: How many of us remember the tragedy of Limba Ram – the boy from the Ahari tribe of Rajastan who was nurtured by Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram and who went on to create world records and win gold medals for India in International Archery and ultimately ended up living in the garage of an MLA when a shoulder injury –not properly treated- affected his archery talents? Where are those advertisements which featured Limba Ram – a worthy descendant of Arjuna and Rama- and where are those posters which adore the youth hostels projecting him as a youth icon for millions of Indian youths?

The simple answer is cricket swallows it all. Like a glutton cricket has lapped up all our time, energy, money, and media light. In return it has given us degeneration, corruption and scandals. 

To paraphrase Mahatma Gandhi, even with the best of our efforts India can only be a third rate cricket playing country but with a little more effort it can create the best teams in hockey, chess, wrestling, Kabadi and archery. Then for Indian sports and games, scandal shall become a rarity and Olympic medals in dozens a habitual reality.

Aravindan Neelakandan

Saturday 15 June 2013

Does Mythology reinforce Caste Prejudices?

Recently in Tamil Nadu a caste leader made a hate-speech triggering violence and inter-caste hatred. In the speech he made a reference to the mythological origins of his community and claimed that they were born of sacrificial fire and that they were the children of Shiva and Parvathi. That was an interesting claim and the demagogic orator supplied the Puranic evidence for his claim. The Purana does exist – a latter Purana belonging to the medieval times and it has origins in the southern city of Madurai. The Hindu hating pseudo-progressives at once went for the jugular. They started claiming and criticizing Hinduism as reinforcing caste pride and prejudice and caste hatred through its mythologies.

However what the rabble-rouser as well as the pseudo-progressive Hindu bashers missed was that every community in India has such a mythological account enshrined either in a mythology or folk memory which forges a special relation with the Divinities. 

The 'Valangai Malai' – a very famous and popular ritual folk song among an important community in Tamil Nadu claim them to be the children of Goddess Kali. Joe de Cruz the eminent Tamil writer points out to the abiding belief in his community that Deivayanai the celestial consort of Muruga belongs to their community. Chenchu tribes of the Andhra Pradesh claim that Narasimha was their son-in-law.  The 122nd name of the Goddess in Sri Lalitha Sahasranama is Shambhavi. This name also means She is the Mother of Sambhavas – those dear to Shiva. Shambhavaas also is the name of a Dalit community in South India. Similarly many Dalit communities see Shiva as belonging to them. The famous Dalit thinker and leader M.C.Rajah, (who was a close friend and associate of Lala Lajpat Rai, Dr.Ambedkar and Veer Savarkar) had pointed out there is a tradition among the Dalits that Adi Sankara learnt his final Advaitic lesson from the Divine who came as a Dalit in Kasi and He was their community forefather. Saiva Siddhanta considers Siva as the ultimate cleaner of the worst impurities – the inner one and thus forging an identity with the occupation of cleaning the impurities – which was considered then in many societies as defiled. 

All these mythological origins, relations and status attributed to different communities are not idle stories of community pride. Far from that they served a purpose. The different occupational, social and regional communities used these mythologies to form organic relations within themselves, with other communities and also with the natural resources. For example many tribal communities have a special relation to the Vishnu at Sri Rangam. In a 16th century classic famous Vaishnavite Tamil poet Pillai Perumal Iyyengar celebrates the fierce independence of the tribal community by organically foisting it with the special relation they have with Vishnu. Many medicinal plant species are preserved by specific communities because of their centrality in the mythologies of that community. During the 20th century these community centric-mythologies have been used by social reformers and revolutionaries to promote social emancipation. For example, the dramatization of Siva coming as a tribal to bless Arjuna with the knowledge of divine weapons and the romantic marriage of Valli the tribal girl by Skanda have been popular weapons in the hands of social emancipators like Ayyan Kali in Kerala and SanKaradhas Swamigal in Tamil Nadu to promote social harmony and fight against the evils of untouchability and caste discrimination. For many nomadic communities marginalized in the dominant historical processes because of many factors like alien invasions, migrations, colonial impoverishment etc. these mythologies have provided them with self-respect and have guarded them against exploitation. For example the folk tradition of Guru Ravidas being the spiritual mentor of Rajput queen Mirabhai has been central to the social harmony and Dalit liberation narratives in North India. What is true of social communities is also true of gender minorities. Transgender in India identify themselves with both Arjuna as well as Sri Krishna – based on folk versions of Mahabharatha.  

The recent isolated incident of a casteist rabble-rouser using a mythological version to boost the caste ego is definitely condemnable. However it would be foolish on our part to jettison this rich socio-spiritual literary resource our civilization has evolved because of the flaw of a single person. On the other hand we should remember for every one such demagogue there are many social emancipators who have used Indic-mythology in a positive way to enthuse confidence in the minds of the down-trodden people of India. In fact, the Indic mythology which for an outsider or a western-educated mind looks like an untamed forest is actually a well-developed socio-psychological and spiritual science. To contrast let us see the way the Abrahamic and Indic minds work with their mythologies. The West has churned out race theories by historicizing Biblical mythology which in turn had led to bloodbaths of Nazi holocaust and Rwandan genocide to mention a few. Indic mind on the other hand has been constantly mythologizing the history thus removing all bitterness and forming positive healthy relations with other communities. Now those forces which try to read racial narratives in our epics or caste superiority in our mythologies are simply reversing this age-old process. Ultimate aim of our myth maker-seers and forefathers is of course to transcend all these relative labels using the symbols evolved through these very mythologies and embrace that great identity, which Adi Sankara requests Goddess on behalf of us all to bestow upon, 
Oh! Goddess Parvati, you are my mother and Mahadeva Siva, is my father. All devotees of Siva are my brethren. All Universe is my own country.

Aravindan Neelakandan