Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The rise of feminism: is it WYSIWYG?

We all hear about the neo-woman, see her, feel her power, the woman of the 21st century. She is independent, cool, savvy…….

I am proud of this development, particularly in the Indian context.

But is it just that? Nah, I think there is more than what meets the eye!

Let’s rewind our memories back to the '80s.

Stage 1: First murmurs- the early and mid-80s.
i. India is not brand conscious
ii. Difficult to sell a branded product in India.
iii. Customers decide on a product based on utility, not the brand or who endorsed the product.
iv. Family was first. Customer bought products only if they were a necessity.

All the spare cash went into the family savings, for a rainy day.

Stage 2: Grumbles – the late '80s and early '90s
i. Head of the family (invariably a male) controls the family purchases.
ii. He (family head) is not influenced by brands,
iii. The women of the household have no say in family purchases

Stage 3: Faint shouts - the early ‘90s
i. Women are not financially independent. They are forced to depend
on their husbands for all their financial needs.
ii. Women prefer branded products over unbranded products

Stage 4: Screaming from the rooftops - the mid and late ‘90s
i. Women are not treated equally with men
ii. Women are ill-treated.
iii. Women should have independence
iv. Women are not represented equally in all areas.

Stage 5: The Crescendo – Early and mid '00s

i. Women should have equal opportunities at work
ii. Women should go out to work and gain financial independence
iii.Women should lead life independently

Let’s come back to the present. Yes, the Indian woman has come a long way.

She is financially independent, has her own car, her own apartment, makes decisions about her life by herself…. No longer the helpless damsel depicted in Bollywood movies who screamed “मुझे बचाऒ“

At the same time, India has witnessed an unprecedented, explosive growth in white goods sales. You find more malls, shopping complexes, departmental stores than hospitals! The sales of branded products is increasing by bounds and leaps.

Imagine the days when all we had was the neighbourhood ಕಾಕ ಅಂಗಡಿ where we used to buy only what we wanted.

Today, we buy products, some of which we do not have the faintest idea about their utility.

And, who form a significant portion this “we”, women!! It may seem crazy, but true. Spend a few minutes at any shopping mall, you can see it yourself.

So, do you still think feminism is all about improving the woman’s lot?
It has more to do with market economics and corporate bottomlines!!

Food: Importance of eating the proper way

A rough translation of this Sanskrit word ಭಕ್ತಿ (bhakti) into English would be Devotion which means “Express total loyalty, a feeling of reverence and adoration….”

Sometime back, I read newspaper article about the effect of mental tension on the digestion of food. The article seems to suggest that the tensed mind has negative effects on the digestive system. The article claims that if you are tensed or too happy (The internal reaction of the body to both happiness and threat is similar), the enzymes necessary for the digestion are not released in the proper quantity. So, the food will not get digested and assimilated into the body.. The article suggests you eat your food in peaceful frame of mind, preferably silently. No distractions allowed, no listening to music, no TV!!!!

At dinner times, even at the slightest whisper, my parents used to say, “ಊಟವನ್ನು ಭಯ ಭಕ್ತಿಯಿಂದ ಮಾಡಬೇಕು. ಮತಾಡಿದರೆ ಅನ್ನಕ್ಕೆ ಅವಮಾನ ಮಾಡಿದ ಹಾಗೆ, ಮಾತಾಡದೆ ಊಟ ಮಾಡು”.When I used to gobble up food, they would suggest “ನಿಧಾನವಾಗಿ ತಿನ್ನು, ಹೀಗೆ ತಿಂದ್ರೆ ಅನ್ನ ಮೈಗೆ ಹತ್ತೊಲ್ಲ”.
Almost of all us would have heard this, with some minor variations.

Back then, I used to wonder why we need to show devotion to our food or why we need to eat with a peaceful frame of mind. On reading this article, I realized that what my parents said was not what they made up, but repeating what they heard from their parents who inturn heard from their parents, the chain continues (sounds similar to how the Vedas were handed over from generation to generation). This sounds very strange believing hearsay. But if you look back, the origins or this hearsay lie in our scriptures, the immense ocean of knowlegde accumulated over the millenia.

Our scriptures describe “ಅನ್ನಮ್ ಪರಬ್ರಹ್ಮ ಸ್ವರೂಪಮ್”. Food is the manifestation of Brahma.
You have eat it with
i) utmost devotion,(bhakti)
ii) with a pure mind,
iii) in clean surroundings.

The food should be first offerred to the "ಇಷ್ಟ ದೈವ" and then partaken as ಪ್ರಸಾದ.

This ensured that all the above 3 conditions were satisfied.

So, what is the relation of the these 3 conditions with the article?

1) Eat with utmost devotion : Focus on nothing but eating, no diversions
2) Eat with a pure mind : Eat with peaceful frame of mind
3) Eat in clean surroundings: This last condition implies cleanliness in all aspects, visual, aural,smell.

This ensures a peaceful environment to partake food.

Does it not sound similar to the newspaper article????

The main point I wish to put forth here is : There is a scientific background for what our scripture, our culture, our age old practices prescribe for us. Merely that someone called our traditions ಗೊಡ್ಡು ಸಂಪ್ರದಾಯ does not make it baseless.

Einstein is supposed to have commented " Science is too young to understand religion"

Is it too far stretched to suggest that we are too young to understand the truth in our culture???