Saturday, September 29, 2012

Religious effeminism

The devotee wore white clothes with 'Hare Krishna Hare Rama' inscribed on them. A satchel made of cloth hung loosely on his shoulder. The beads of the rosary rotated through his delicate fingers, while his lips murmured softly the 'Hare Krishna' chant. The effeminate quality hovering around him was what caught my notice. And the seemingly sacrilegious thought occurred to me. 

Is this man married? If yes, is he able to sexually satisfy his wife? Religion must be infesting these people with a crisis about their sexual identity, which might extend to a crisis about their sexual orientation.  

I remembered the young priest whom I met on the Mathura bus stand. He was dressed in a semi-masculine floral gown which was, he explained in his ultra soft whisper, designed exclusively for the Krishna devotees.

The male God - a storehouse of sexual energy.

  • Krishna. There wasn't much need to cut to inferences. He told me explicitly that there is only one male in Vrindavan, i.e. the Lord Krishna and the rest are all females, supposedly His gopis (Krishna's maidens). Even in the mythology, Krishna describes to his lady-love Radha that the gopis were male sages who wished a closeness with their lord, and hence were blessed by the gracious Sri Krishna to be his wanton strumpets in that incarnation. But they could have been close to him in the guise of his fellow gwalas, the male herdsmen. So probably, it was a sexual closeness with the lord that the celibate sages desired. The question that storms my imagination is that having had a knowledge of this fact, did Krishna not feel uncomfortable in conducting the maharaas, the great festival of lust, with these male, female or rather transsexual sages. I sighed with relief that I wasn't born in the holy land of Vrindavan, where, in addition to having to bathe in the gutter-like holy Yamuna, my sexual identity itself would be endangered by upholders of religion and tradition.   

  • Shiva. The Bhagvata Purana tells us that after Mohini, the female form of Vishnu, had slayed the demon Bhasmasur, Shiva wished to see the bewildering Mohini again, while His abandoned wife Parvati (Uma) looked on with shame and envy. After repeated protests, Vishnu had to give in to Shiva's persistence, and took on the female form. Shiva was overcome by Kama (lust) and reached for her beautiful body. But he ejaculated before reaching into her vagina. The semen is poured into Anjani's ear and Hanuman is born. However, the transsexual Mohini and Shiva continue with their violent love-making. It is probably owing to such uninhibited nature of his sexual energy, that the God Shiva has His penis worshiped by the people. Wendy Donigeran American scholar of the history of religion, states about Shiva lingam, "The lingam appeared, separate from the body of Siva, on several occasions... On each of these occasions, Siva's wrath was appeased when gods and humans promised to worship his lingam forever after, which, in India they still do." Why should a man with a straight sexual orientation touch, worship or pour milk over a penis, even if it were of a God? 

The slaves and devotees of God devoid of a healthy sexual life.

Isn't it ironical that while all the male Gods are married, some of them even polygamous or possibly bisexual, and replete with sexual energy, the slaves and devotees to the lord are expected to abandon their sex life?

  • Hanuman. Hanuman is the human-monkey God whose sweat contained semen and thus a drop of it impregnated a fish swimming hundreds of feet below in the deep sea when he was flying from above. However, ironical as it is, this sexually charged-up and utterly masculine God with rock-solid muscles never had intercourse with any woman in his whole life, and is hence the deity of the celibates. Neither he drinks madira (liquor) or smokes, nor hang-out with apsaras, who are the concubines of the deities. What does he do? He is the daas (slave) of Lord Ram having decided to spend his entire life in His service. It's my inferential reckoning that his vow of celibacy is a consequence of his being preoccupied with Lord Ram's service. What's tragic is that despite this torturous vow, the poor slave Hanuman had to rip apart his chest and show inside a picture of 'Ram and His wife Sita together' to convince the suspicious Ram about his pure feelings towards Sita whom he addressed as Maiya (mother). 

  • Laxman. The same holds true for Ram's younger brother Laxman, an incarnation of Shesha naag, who left behind his newly wed wife Urmila and proceeds to the forests with Ram and Sita into the 14-year exile. Urmila beseeches her husband to let her accompany them, but he replies that during these 14 years, he would be a sevak (servant) to his brother Ram and sister-in-law Sita in the forest, and that her presence would be a hindrance in his carrying out of his services. 

  • Jogta and Jogtini. Talking of religious tradition brings to the fore one of the most peculiar ancient traditions of Jogta (male) and Jogtini (female), still prevalent in the south Indian state of Karnataka. The Jogta and Jogtini are devotees of Goddess Yellamma who are forced by the society to give up everything and serve God. They are treated as sex slaves. The women aren't allowed to marry or have children, whereas the men have to give up the very fact of being a man and suppress their desires, while satisfying the crude desires of the priests and the other men in the village. A recommendation of a worth-watch film in this context would be the poignant Marathi film 'Jogwa', which portrays one such Jogta's crisis over his sexual identity and his efforts to resolve it, while fighting against the shackles of discrimination and sexual oppression in the quest of uniting with the lover jogtini. 

  • The ascetics and spiritual gurus. The anti-sex religious trend has percolated through several ages, as is seen from the sex-free lives of ancient saints, middle-ages Himalaya ascetics to modern spiritual gurus. Even for ordinary folks, the man and woman are supposed to sleep away from each other during some fasting periods. Christianity goes to the extent of condemning sex as an act of pleasure assigning to it a little sanctity only as a means of reproduction. Even the mother of Jesus Mother Mary is impregnated by the God Himself, and described as virgin and pure. Osho is an exception. He was normal in the sense that he didn't render himself effeminate before advancing onto the journey of enlightenment. But he became the one who was tainted by the puritanical masses. Even mentioning his name in some Indian households can create a scandal, and call for hushes and murmurs. 

Sex as a need and natural process.
Now it's an inessential but natural inquiry that does the vow of celibacy prevent the release of testosterone.  Surely it doesn't, as that's a natural process. So, do these devotees and slaves never feel attracted to any women? Do they never desire to have sex? If they control the desire, then how? Do they masturbate? A religious devotee and masturbation - how unholy! So, do they leave its secretion to a nightfall? But then, don't they touch that semen while washing their underwear and pants? Probably that's why, instead of the young people, it's mainly the old-aged people who are generally supposed all the more to devote their time to worship, when there is no slimy masculine extract to disturb their religious fervour. 

The sexist tendencies of the patriarchal society and religion is what seems to have brought in this religious effeminism, anti-sex religious trends and the myth of the female purity

  • The weak female Goddesses for whom the husband God is Swami (master). Despite being goddesses of high repute, Lakshmi and Saraswati who are revered as the givers of wealth and knowledge also have to serve their husbands Vishnu and Brahma respectively. Lakshmi massages the feet of Vishnu. Parvati has to prepare Bhaang, an intoxicating bevarage made from the leaves of female Cannabis plant, for her husband Shiva whereas the most unfortunate, the embodiment of piousness, Sita had to go through agni-pariksha, which had her enter the fire to prove her loyalty to her husband, whereas he didn't have to prove his loyalty to her. Had she been disloyal, the fire would have burned her. But even after proving her innocence, she was ousted from the kingdom in a pregnant condition by Ram as a reaction to a casual doubting remark that he overheard between a washerman and his wife about His acceptance of Sita after a year of separation. 

  • Polygamous Gods but Goddess tied to the husband for ever. There are several instances of polygamy, non-marital love relations and extra-marital affairs in case of the male Gods like Shiva and Krishna, but there are no instances of polyandry in the case of the Goddesses, who are either spinsters or utterly loyal and devoted to the service of their husband Gods. In contrast to the pure Goddesses, the Gods could also enjoy the company of the concubines, the apsaras, the dancing maidens in Indra's court.  

  • The 'beloved' God and 'Mother' Goddess. Legends mention female devotees utterly devout to the worship of the God thinking of Him to be her lover or husband. The God is appeased and accepts her as his wife thus offering her sexual intimacy with Himself. The best examples are Rukmini and Parvati. Even when the God rescues a women as in the case of the 17000 women liberated by Krishna, He takes on the role of their benefactor. But nowhere the female Goddess marries a male devotee by being happy with his worship. The possibility is removed from the root itself as the male devotees are supposed to worship the Goddesses as mother - Durga Maa, Sitya Maiya, Sherawali Maa etc., whereas the male Gods are never worshiped in the form of father or brother, rather as a husband or lover. 

The effects of Sexual oppression. 

  • Sexual dominance brings about ultimate dominance. This exertion of the God's sexual authority is one of the primary foundation stones of the establishment of his ultimate authority. You must have seen in old Bollywood films where the landlord or Seth (merchant) played by Amrish Puri or Prem Chopra ask their servant to send his wife to their cottage to spend a night. The Jogtini or the devadasi, whose work used to be to sing and dance in temple functions, is "married" to the temple deity and in a puberty ceremony, the devadasi-initiate consummates her marriage with an emblem of the God borrowed from the temple as a stand-in bridegroom. This sexual dominance of Gods over a female is further asserted by the fact that in the brahminical tradition, marriage is viewed as the only religious initiation (diksha) permissible to women. But the Jogta or any male ascetic has to give up the fact of being a man, because the man is already there - the all powerful male God. Be it the Hare Krishna or the Sufi tradition, he has to vouch only for the love of the (male by default) God, and hence ending or when unable to fully control, diminishing a sexual intimacy with his wife. 
  • Curb the primitive instinct so as to tame them. Another big reason behind sexual oppression, which enabled its usage by kings, rulers, religious teachers and the state for their respective motives, is the primordial instincts, the intensity and the passion involved in the sexual act. And such a man is difficult to tame. 
    • Hence, a conditioning is initiated right from the childhood in creating a taboo around it and guise it to appear to be something disgusting. 
    • Religion condemns it as a an act of pleasure and suggests it to be seen only as a means of reproduction. Many mythological tales and texts talk of woman as one of the major impediments in a man's journey into heaven. 
    • Also, the myth of female virginity seen as her purity, 
    • And the ancient religious rules that a woman shouldn't engage into sex as an act of pleasure but rather as a duty to appease her pati parmeshvar (the husband God) are some tools to create a rift between the man and woman and thus alleviate the flames of liberating primordial passion. 
    • Religion does away with it altogether by attaching it with guilt and making it a necessary renunciation for the attainment of God.    
And thus, in order to create an all fucking (literally, pun unintended), all powerful God, religion resorted to sexual oppression, infesting several male devotees with a crisis over their sexual identities and explaining to the females their virginity as a  symbol of purity or say a Godly virtue required in order to attain God.  

Friday, September 28, 2012

A suitable death

The glory had faded
His charm receded
He had outlived his life 
Weakened sensibilities
Left not much for him to do 
His weak frail body
Unable to move 
He was lost and forgotten 
 He could perform no more
Many referred to him by mistake
Literally as a figure of yore
The best that he was fit for 
Was a great obituary
But with all his being consumed 
Nothing left behind
Could he not exist in
A remote corner of his mind 
 Could he?

"It's better to burn out than to fade away" - Kurt Cobain

Monday, September 17, 2012

Reciprocatory love

Do you love me?
Yes? Then I love you too. 

What! You hate me?
Get away, Damn you!
You want break-up?
Who wants to live with you!

Dare you torture me! 
And I'll kill you.

Fair enough, isn't it?
Oh my love! 

Friday, September 14, 2012

The effortless geniuses

Today I downloaded Ray Charles' last recording - 'Sorry seems to be the hardest word' with Elton John, a song which was to form a part of the album 'Genius loves company'. Lying on a sofa in the dark room with my eyes closed, I listen to the reverberating voice of the legendary singer. I am not able to appreciate it. I am not able to say 'Oh wow! it's amazing', because I am taken in too much to analyse or comment. It fills my soul and goes deep down to touch me. This touch is so rare these days. Everything comes with layers of superfluousness. But here, I ain't talking about humans. I am talking only about arts - literature, music, acting etc.

There are some people who are crafty, who believe that there is a technique for everything. They try to impress you with hit tricks and formulas. There are film-makers who know just the right mix of item song, sex scenes, comic punches, action, romance, songs to make a blockbuster. There are poets who try really hard to make the audience laugh in a kavi sammelan even if it means reciting idiotic jokes as a prelude to the poems. Same goes for song-writers who are on the lookout for a catchy phrase which would get onto the tongues of masses. Or the cinematographers for the over-edited Tamil blockbusters who use those unusual camera angles, over-saturation, the flashy camera movement, dolly shot and other techniques each and everywhere. I loathe them and would extend my discussion here on to the kind of people who I admire. The people who are artists in every sense of the word. 

There are people who are geniuses - poets who wouldn't get any syllable in the meter of their poem wrong, writers who know just the right word for every expression, singers who wouldn't let any note go wrongly an iota up or down, film-makers who are so organic to make films with all the semblance to life - whose works are flawless. Be it Edgar Allan Poe or Ustad Mehdi Hassan, they have an extreme or, let me say, exhaustive knowledge of their craft. They are too careful to let one word or note seem even inappropriate, leave alone wrong. Surely I have a lot of respect for them. 

But there are some other people who are careless. They don't take pride in conforming to rules. No, these are not the people who take pride in breaking rules and strive to create experimental cinema or modern art. Rather, neither they conform to the rules nor they take pride in flouting them. They are the people whose art stems from deep inside. However romantic that might sound, but yes, I know it because I have felt it. And even without any trying, the final piece is of great quality. However, remarking on such pieces of art in terms of quality is itself a bit inconvenient. It's the rising of hair on my arms, the chills down my spine, the awe in my eyes, the grip on my mind and the hangover which remains for long after the experience.

Two days ago, I read Mohan Rakesh's novel 'Na aane wala kal' (the tomorrow which never comes), about the weariness of a school teacher disgusted with the mundane life at school with hypocrite colleagues and whose wife has abandoned him with whom he was anyways not happy. The novel questions the normalcy of the so-called normal life highlighting the burden of existence for those who wouldn't acknowledge it, and the resistance in form of survival issues and internal skepticism for those who realize the misery of this life and want to break from it. The novel has no show of elegance. Written in simple vocabulary and simplistic style without any metaphors, similes, symbolism or other elements, it seems like it was written in running hand. And I guess this is what makes it so poignant. It's just right in your face. Going to the extent of describing the minutest thoughts inside the head without the need for screening any of them, this honest diary entry automatically gets laced with imagery, where you see images of not just the prevalent scene and situation but also of whatever is going on inside the narrator's head. Readers of naturalist fiction like to read a story as if it were true, but in this case, no such effort is required. On the contrary, it's too difficult to discard it as a fictional tale. It's a natural piece written effortlessly. This is what I call authentic. This is what I feel has stemmed from the soul.

Similarly, there are actors like Heath Ledger in 'Dark Knight rises' and Daniel Day Lewis in 'My left foot' who went to extremes in impersonating their character and had their personal life disturbed months after the shoot of the film. The tendency to impress by doing one's best is an inherent tendency in actors, which sometimes becomes almost a desperation. But when someone lets go of all such worries, ambitions for applaud or awards, or the demand posed by the internal self to perform great, when someone doesn't use any method or technique and just performs from his soul, when the actor becomes the character, when the singer becomes the song, when the shayar's emotions at the time of writing the ghazal get personified in the singer, it is then that a true, authentic performance comes up, which thrills, moves, and as I said, touches somewhere deep down.

Doing this is not easy. To be so careless and to just write for what, in my view, is the first cause as well as effect of writing, acting or singing i.e. expression. It's all the more difficult in writing when there is no immediacy, take any amount of re-takes, and you've all the time to keep musing and analyzing your lines.  I haven't achieved that genius, where no one could pinpoint flaws in my writing. Leave alone others, I am myself hardly ever satisfied. So, even speaking from a practical perspective, there is a need for me to fit into the second model, that of the careless authentic poets. But even if there is a whole plot in my head, firstly I keep avoiding or procrastinating from putting it on paper. Then, after a long time, when I start, I scribble the first line. I keep gloating over it for some time. It doesn't sound good enough to be the starting line. So, I slash it, and start with a new line. Again, slashing it and rewriting keeps happening for some time. Finally, I get it and move on. But after writing a paragraph or two, I read it over and dismiss all of it as a futile attempt. It was much simpler in childhood. But now, it's quite difficult. It does happen in poetry that the whole poem comes to me right within five minutes from its origin in my mind from unknown source. But it's a rare phenomenon. And moreover, I disregard many of these poems. I wish I had more respect for them, but they just don't read so good to me. So I neither recite them, nor make a fair draft of the scribbles in running hand. While there are some other poems which keep on going unfinished for months or even years in the hope of finding the right word. Frankly, I don't even clearly know what does 'right' mean in poetry, especially when I am an upholder of free verse. But it just doesn't sound right. With prose which is longer, the problem is all the more bigger.

Well, today I have written this piece. And although I have half a mind to save it as a draft for ever like so many other drafts, yet I think I'll post it today.