entropy

A friend sent me this link today. It’s about therapeutic writing.

http://www.allysonlatta.ca/interview/more-interviews/conversation-with-dr-james-pennebaker/

Now I know why I write the stuff that I write. Much of what I write is simply catharsis. I already know that most people are not interested in it, which is why I don’t talk about any of this to anyone! But I have to get it out of my system. So it goes here. I know this is a safe place because I’m not inflicting it on anyone, because they are not obliged to read it. There might be 1 nanosec wasted when they see it pop up on their screen and groan “Oh no, not her again!” For that I apologize.

This is how it usually happens: I read the newspaper in the morning (my generation still does). Something in it gets on my nerves and I have to write it out of my system because there’s nothing else I can do. Or, it triggers some old unresolved existential worry and I drift with it into an uncomfortable space in my head. I make myself a cup of tea and try to put the thought aside. It usually works and I move on to doing other things.

Then I might get a whatsapp forward from my friend whose husband is in the army. It could be about the water situation in Cape Town, data security compromised by linking something to Aadhar card, or some terrible news from the Pak or China border that she gets on her army wives’ whatsapp group. This sometimes sends me back to square one, and I might advance my mid-morning cup of coffee by an hour to calm down.

Today was a little different. I met my friend Jay at the lake on my morning walk and we walked together at his frenetic pace. As I panted along beside him, he talked about how screwed up India is, and why do they keep calling it secular when it simply can’t be.

I drove back home ruminating on all that Jay had said. By the time I had breakfast and turned the computer on I was already in the zone, and in a hurry to get it out of my system. I hammered it out at top speed, and here it is.

Schisms >> entropy

  • Though the Constitution declares that India is a secular country, it’s hard for India to be one.
  • Secularism denotes a separation of religion and state, the government having nothing to do with people’s religions.
  • But the sacred frequently bumps up against the secular and puts the government in a spot.

Take the case of Goolrokh Gupta. A Parsi married to a Hindu, she was not allowed to participate in her father’s funeral rites because she married outside the community. This has been the norm for centuries in the Parsi community: people who leave the fold through marriage are excommunicated. Distressed, Goolrukh approached the Gujarat high court for justice. When the high court judgment didn’t favour her she took it up to the Supreme court. Meanwhile, my Parsi friend Rozbeh tells me that Goolrukh is wrong and the court has no business to decide she isn’t.

Our government can’t be called secular. It is very much involved with people’s religions. While some say that the government is promoting Hinduism, it could also be seen as promoting Christianity through the Joshua Project that I wrote about in my last post. It could even be seen as supporting Islam if you go by the minority appeasement politics it has indulged in for decades, and its recent noisy debates about triple talaq and pilgrimage rights of women. The newly added triple talaq clause in the nikahnama will hopefully prove a win-win situation for the government and the community. Then, the government has banned the Jain practice of santhara as being a form of suicide and Jains have taken out protest marches against the verdict. Last month the long-drawn-out Padmaavat row happened because Hindus objected to it as a deliberate negative portrayal of a respected Hindu queen. How can a government stay secular in a country where religious beliefs keep clashing with laws and fundamental rights?

A lot of unrest in India is because of religious issues, including caste. The Hindu caste system has been widely publicized. If you google it you get 10,50,000 results. It is deeply entrenched. Nobody can hope to find a solution soon, or want to find one, because caste groups vote en masse and are useful to political parties as they are.

Schisms occur in every group, religious or otherwise. They almost work like castes, actually. Broadly speaking, Buddhism got divided into hinayana and mahayana, Jainism into svetambara and digambara, Islam into shia and sunni, Christianity into catholic and protestant long ago. Later, more splinter groups appeared.

Navdeep, a Sikh friend, told me just yesterday that there are castes in Sikhism too, something I didn’t know. My Sindhi friends, Kantha and Renu, say there are four castes among Sindhis, divided into higher and lower. In India there are even low-caste Christians who are converts from lower castes of Hinduism, called Dalit Christians. They have their own separate churches and priests and marry among themselves. My Christian friends, Nina and Rachel, deplore this as there are supposed to be no caste divides in Christianity, but candidly add that nobody in their families would marry a Dalit Christian.

None of this was intended to happen when each of these religions began. Every religion started off nice and pure, then got corrupted over generations like the first sentence uttered in a game of Chinese whispers, then split up into castes, sects or denominations. You see this happening in whatsapp groups too, often within days or weeks of their being formed, when you see a list of so-and-so lefts, and the group admin can’t do a thing about it!

It’s entropy. It happens to everything.

IMG_1430
I guess we all have our little nests where we feel safe – our communities – but if the tree falls, all our nests will be destroyed…

So, well, that’s the way it is in our country. We are a highly imperfect society, but we haven’t been doing too badly. We just have to keep resolving issues as and when they arise, and may have to lock horns with the government every now and then over some strong religious belief held by our community. ‘Secular’ is a borrowed idea, it simply doesn’t apply here.

Note: all friends and conversations real, names changed for their comfort should they happen to read this.

(Photo by Sandeep Vatsa)

7 thoughts on “entropy

  1. very nice, kind, benevolent thoughts about such volcanic issues like religion and caste. One has to read it with some peace of mind…:-) Perhaps, that the essence “some peace of mind” for every individual on earth…is required…

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  2. Writing is therapeutic and I’m glad you write regularly. I once heard that Carl Jung stated that writing is the next best thing to psychoanalysis and I believe this. I have enjoyed reading your posts and they have stimulated a lot of thought and opinion in my mind. Your writing is thoughtful, based on insightful analysis, and addresses important topics. I admire the way you write, and how you delicately weave your own emotions and angst into a discussion of topical situations. In writing workshops I have attended, we were given a ‘prompt’ to use as the topic of writing. The teacher would give us a word (‘red’), or a phrase (‘something that is no longer useful’) and ask us to write about this prompt, and we would write continuously for about 20 minutes before we shared our writing with the rest of the group – usually we read it aloud. When I see you writing in response to the latest newspaper headlines or comments by friends, I see you responding to prompts. Writing about these prompts allows a writer to surface her inner emotions, thoughts, and struggles, and blend them into her writing. And although the writer might write about neutral topics external to her, she and her feelings exist in between the lines, in the choice of words, and in the careful juxtaposition of one sentence next to another. And now I find myself using your post as a prompt for my writing. I have some thoughts swirling in my head this morning on human societal differences based on caste, religion, class and socio-economic status. Some based on my own experiences and some on observation and reading. I will try to compose and post on here later today. Am off to a meeting right now. With regards from Chicago, which is in the middle of a snowstorm…..GS

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  3. Your writing brings to mind the words of Alexander Pope… “…what oft was thought but ne’er so well expressed. “Yes, very often nowadays, when one peruses a newspaper or turns on the TV news, one is left seething at the goings-on.
    I too have pointed out during many a discussion with friends that we are a divisive society. Perhaps it is in the nature of things to be divisive for survival. (Amœba). But also very un-evolved.
    But when you say that the recent ‘talaq’ ban and ‘santara’ ban is pro-islam and pro-jain, I tend to disagree. It is rather pro-woman and pro-human (pro-life, and pro-freedom I would say, like the British ban on ‘sati’). And that is how everything should be decided. Life and liberty over ideas and dogma. For what, after all, are religions, if not one person’s ideas, or some people’s ideas, put forward aeons ago? And how many more such are yet to come into existence? Like Young Sheldon’s ‘mathology’ perhaps? Who can tell? 😊

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    1. The govt doesn’t support or promote any religion but uses all of them for electoral gains through votebank politics. So the belief among different religious groups that the govt is pro this or that religion is just a perception.

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  4. A sensitive person often reacts to things around and it’s wonderful that you have found a creative outlet for it.
    Our nation is still quite secular when you compare it to most others; people of all faiths generally staying together peacefully and amicably until the parties play spoilsport for their vested interest of vote banks or the media manipulates situations to blow them out of proportion to boost their viewership/sales.
    Just one point though – you have mentioned Sindhis in the context of religions. Sindhi is just a language; the Hindu Sindhis having migrated to this side of the border and the majority of the Muslim Sindhis deciding to stay back in the newly formed Pakistan, in 1947.
    Love reading your posts ….please continue writing.

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