Of those who seek… And those who find…

I always thought of myself as agnostic – someone who was indifferent to the concept of God. It was only later that I learned that agnosticism stood for the belief that man did not possess the faculties to prove or disprove the existence of that higher power. In any case, my disdain and skepticism for the idea of God extended to religion as well. I began to view the two as one and the same and grew increasingly intolerant of those who believed. My grouse would almost always start with the argument that some of the biggest wars in the history of the world were fought over religion and God. And that God was nothing but a figment of man’s imagination, and religion a regressive and sexist device born out of man’s desire to dominate.

While the genesis of these views can be traced to my hormone-fueled teenage years – a time when it was considered “cool” to be a rebel and have a contrarian view of things – I have over time mellowed down. I have come to understand that the two are not the same and that a distinction needs to be made. That the transition from hunting and gathering to agriculture and trade required a semblance of order. That the moral, ethical and social code of conduct that religion provided was necessary for societies to exist. That religion actually provided the framework within which the constitutions of many modern day democracies were conceived.   Continue reading

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Kutte… Kaminey…

Devdutt Pattanaik’s retelling of the Mahabharata‬ (Jaya) makes an interesting observation about dogs and why they’re considered inauspicious in Hindu‬ culture. There are (at least) two instances in the epic where dogs are shown in poor light – when a dog steals Yudhisthir’s footwear from outside Draupadi’s chambers and when a dog follows Yudhisthir on his ascent to the heavens. The first because it led Arjuna to violate the arrangement the Pandavas had with Draupadi. And the second because it was symbolic of attachment and stood for all that was worldly. And perhaps the reason why ‘kutte’ is still bandied about as an expletive is because this epic – along with its counterpart from an earlier age – has shaped our thought and behavior for centuries. Perhaps it is time we questioned our literal interpretation of these stories (as Devdutta Pattanaik points out in an article from 2009) for our fight against our chauvinistic minds is not just about changing our attitude towards women and issues like homosexuality but also animals.