Saturday, October 31, 2015

From Facebook.

Many years ago I stopped going to temples (except as an aesthete of heritage and architecture). I saw in their machinations the distilled essence of every human foible and vice that piety purports to absolve. I saw class, caste and every petty divisive metric amplified hundredfold. When I craved quiet reflection, I got noise and chaos. To attain detachment from worldliness I was directed to a VIP queue that promised to bring God closer, but only to the wealthy. Temples reminded me of feudalism and untouchability, privilege and nepotism, colossal waste of natural resources, environmental degradation and abuse of power, and everything else about the human race that dismayed me, and which I had opted to forget and outgrow. The larger the temple, the stronger the sense of alienation from humanity, and the more distant I felt from my life's purpose. My decision disappointed many close to me but excising religion from my life has only strengthened my faith - in humanity.
Which is why I was glad to receive this via Whatsapp from my dad:
Go not to the temple ~
by Rabindranath Tagore:
Go not to the temple to put flowers upon the feet of God,
First fill your own house with the Fragrance of love and kindness.
Go not to the temple to light candles before the altar of God,
First remove the darkness of sin, pride and ego,
from your heart...
Go not to the temple to bow down your head in prayer,
First learn to bow in humility before your fellowmen.
And apologise to those you have wronged.
Go not to the temple to pray on bended knees,
First bend down to lift someone who is down-trodden.
And strengthen the young ones.
Not crush them.
Go not to the temple to ask for forgiveness for your sins,
First forgive from your heart those who have hurt you!

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Much Better

In my favorite TV sitcom 'Frasier', Niles asks his brother,"What happened to 'less is more'?"
Frasier responds with- "Ah, but if less is more, just think how much more 'more' would be."

That's what makes the world spin isn't it - the desire to have more, to do more, to be more, to be... better?
I assume that the common answer to that question would be yes. Make the bitter butter better, to quote. But when one has achieved a decent level of goodness, one must not answer hastily. Things could get uncomfortable for the overly zealous. For example, what if a vegetarian decided to take the penultimate plunge and vow he would never kill mosquitoes again? He'd say, "The blood of the Universe and all its creatures flows through my veins. Let my mosquito brothers and sisters partake of it freely." Death by malaria would follow quickly. Even if it didn't, he'd probably go mad and end up killing all his adoring disciples (because we all know a person can't talk like that and not attract worshipers).

There seems to be a cut off point for goodness when it comes to those who want to embrace everyday life, as opposed to those retire to the mountains for some heavy-duty meditation. The latter can 'go good' all the way. The rest of us have to hold back to survive each other.

I was driving along a road near my house on my Scooty when I noticed an old, bent woman shuffling along in the hot sun. I usually stop and offer a ride to the elderly, so I pulled up beside her and asked her. She was a bit deaf, so the conversation quickly became a shouting match. She also appeared to be partly blind; the cataracts in her eyes were severe. She said she didn't need a ride as she lived nearby, but she could use Rs.10. I silently gave it to her. That's when her brain kicked in with a vengeance. Through her milky orbs, she recognized a compassionate cash cow. All she needed to know was where I lived, and so she proceeded to interrogate me. I tried pointing vaguely, but she kept at it till I smiled, said goodbye and drove away, shaking my head in amusement. Easily 80 years old, multiple sensory organs on the fritz, and yet this woman responded to goodness with greed. I don't blame her completely; the sum of her life experiences have led her to learn that lesson and live by it. Even if she is one out of ten who reacted that way, with the others being nothing but grateful, she still reiterates what I'm saying- I held back, because I knew that if that I'd been purely kind and showed her to my home, she would have made me regret it. Even our acts of kindness have to be tamed by caution.

So, if I met Betty of the limerick- the one who tries desperately to make her bitter butter better, I'd tell Betty to embrace the bitter instead. Like good, decent folk, maybe that butter shouldn't be made any better!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015


I filled out a job application form today. It was a tediously long Q&A that I scribbled my way through, barely pausing, even at the questions that touched on the personal. But one question brought me to a complete standstill. "What is the one thing that you would change about yourself?" After a few painful moments of blankness, I seriously considered putting a dash there and moving on, but I realized how conceited that would be. 'Think!' I ordered myself. "I wouldn't mind being thinner," my mind said. Then it went 'Thooo'. It's not that I'm perfect, it's just that I'm so at peace with everything, even myself, that I really have no five year plan for my soul. So, I thought back to my previous jobs and decided to put down something about being able to handle people better. It was not well thought out. But now, as I sit at my computer, thoroughly annoyed, I realize the truth behind what I wrote.

Do you feel a black demon rising inside you when you ask someone a question and they respond with another question? Does your skull part to give way to horns when someone doesn't respond when they should, even after having seen your time-sensitive message? Do your fingers twitch with murderous intent when people speak in tangents, barely making sense and yet expecting you to understand? Do you imagine people slowly roasting over a flame because they've misunderstood you so completely that they've just dowsed you with a bucket-load of troubles?

As you can see, I have a problem... Reading what I just wrote, I realize I have two. I use too many evil Satanic metaphors. But that's something I'll deal with when I finally make my way down there. For now, I'm looking at all the impatience and shaking my head impatiently. Why is it so hard?

I'm tempted to blame the oil in my hair- I always feel like a witch when my tresses are well greased. My nose feels sharper and my teeth pointier. I wanna bite. Or take a bath. Sanity says I should do the latter. I don't know.

It's no surprise I isolate myself quite a bit. I'm one those friendly people who rarely make friends. I often ask myself what I would eat if I was marooned on an uninhabited island. I spend more time with my dogs than with people. I like bittergourd. But is all this cause for concern, for change? You're nodding your head vigorously, I know, but wait!

There's a convincing argument in my favor........I just haven't thought of it yet. It's elusive at this point. Slippery, I'd say. Dammit! It's the oil again! I have to go get some shampoo to turn my life around.

Minutes later...

"Anna, don't you have Head and Shoulders Lemon Fresh shampoo?"

"Are you going to take a bath at this time of the night?"

And the demon rises....

Friday, October 9, 2015


I'm not an activist. I'm one of the many people who live inside their own bubble, a bubble that's just transparent enough to see enough good in the world and enjoy it, a bubble that's just opaque enough to be able to walk past starvation and abuse without letting it destroy you. Like everyone else, I too live comfortably within, hoping that the unpleasant stuff stays at a convenient distance, that my family and I remain as untouched by it as possible.

But I think also, that for everyone like me, there's an elephant in the room of our consciences, a whisper of something unnatural that we're very good at ignoring. But even acknowledging it makes very little difference- I still do not wish to be an activist. I do not have the moral courage to hold the shivering body of a raped child or try to calm the trembling of a fading puppy. Activists do that on a regular basis. They step into the deep well of human suffering and somehow remain afloat. I met one recently. She puts my kindness to shame, my good intentions mere dust.

I've taken a few steps in the direction though. "Walk up to the well, but don't jump in it, Poorni- you'll sink." That's what the voices say and that's what the plan is. Though I may be limited in many ways, I can write, and I can talk. And maybe I'll surprise myself and do more.

It's called M.I.P.

Making It Pawsible.

A animal welfare group based in Salem. I've been writing and designing and learning all at the same time these past few weeks. One good thing about entering into this in my 30's is that I'm not wildly naive or even optimistic. There have been crazy dedicated people working this field for decades and see where we still are. No, I'm just calmly looking at this as an attempt at increasing compassion and empathy, an appeal to what's buried within people. I'm not looking to burst bubbles, not even my own. But maybe make them a tiny bit less opaque? Let's try.

P.S. If you're in Salem, from Salem but elsewhere now, or even just interested, you could point people to the Help Us section, so that they do what they can. I'd also be thrilled if, wherever you are, you just print out what appeals to you in the downloads section and stick it on your door or gate or something. Simply making people aware of animal rights would be such a positive step. You have my gratitude for anything you do- even if it's happy thoughts sent this way :)