Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Coming back after Aadi

It has been quite some time since I have passed by this way. I have been busy of late; trying to fix the travel arrangements for the U.S. and the U.K. and still a long way from tying them up; taking the widening corners of my eternally hot, growing city on Minnal everyday; scrambling to finish my Panos Fellowship on time, handling my chartered accountant and tax; playing Stickcricket and getting good at it; and a million other things that could not really bear elaboration here.
But something happens that forces me to pick up the stylus again. In the Tamil month of Aadi we have just passed, given to wanton religious fervour, some parts of Chennai go crazy. I have nothing against people who practise their faith personally, quietly and even fervently: I do not try to understand their belief or what drives them. Yet, when they spill their religious sentiments on the streets like they do during Aadi, then I'm forced to take notice.
I mean, can you ignore a young girl who turns the bend in the road to appear suddenly in front of you, a sharp instrument going in through one end of her turmeric-yellow cheek to appear out of the other. Just beyond the bend she had just turned, there is a bed of smouldering coals, right in the middle of the road, cordonned off until the fervent are ready to walk across it.
Can you even fathom what goes into this kind of self-inflicted torture? They tell me the devotees hardly feel a thing. Maybe that is true. Maybe it is not. I surely know that when I see them traipsing across the burning coals, I feel my feet burning and that little one-third trident seems lodged painfully in my cheek.



Blogger johnny boy said...

Hmmm Very true... But ppl have spoken loads and loads about this, doesnt seem to be changing anything tho :-(
I also dont support these religious/wedding/funeral processions on the road! Irrespective of religion or occasion, its just not right! Whatever it is, you should never trouble the other people while performing your rites! Just doesnt make sense. Am sure the Gods would agree with me too :-)
Its sad, to see a procession taking place on a crowded Nelson Manickam road, at peak hour! Disturing a 1000 people's lives, and what do u achieve? Nothin but their curses!

6:37 pm

Blogger None said...


i totally agree with you. i have seen ambulances stuck beside such processions, making it so macabre.
i've also seen ambulances getting stuck on peak hour mount road, while the vehicles in front remain blissfully unconcerned.
How these things irritate me! :(
and how little we seem to be able to do about them. anniyan mathiri oru overact vantha sariya than irukkumnu sila samayam thonuthu...


6:44 pm

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, an errata -

"I have nothing against people who practise their faith personally, quitely and even fervently:"

Should read "quietly..."

-A Lurker from NJ.

10:44 pm

Blogger mitr_bayarea said...

Hi Ramya,
i am new to the blog community and landed at your blog from someone else's..

Your blog brought back the memories of the Amman Thiruvizhas, Loud speakers blasting tiruvilayadal,LR Easwari devotional songs and of course the "theemithikara ritual" and all of those stuff.

It is quite appalling to think that when certain parts of India is doing great with the IT Outsourcing boom, there still exist folks who adhere to such kind of can be expressed in less self torturing ways.....

11:01 pm

Blogger P-H-A-N-T-O-M said...


what justifies such torture?
Faith and hope(for a better future promising self inflicted unfulfilled ambitions???) .....I THE ULTIMATUM as they believe it....
Have you read "The Mystery of Time" ...As far as I know, you might even appreciate it(though IDK if you wld like it)....Travelling abroad? coming back home next month :-) / :-( IDK....Pakshi kaathula etho solluthu....check your flickr msg.

11:13 pm

Blogger sanchapanzo said...

Dont think one can draw parallel between 'IT boom etc., vs religious-beliefs'! - Since when has IT changed us the way we think ?

Also, dont think it is right on our part to comment on something which thinking individuals do as part of religious-beliefs!

11:14 pm

Blogger hari said...

Hi Ramya,

Its indeed uncivilised. But that is just not it. The other day when i was driving through a narrow lane with heavy traffic as usual suddenly I found a group of guys blocking the road and when I reached closer I found they were holding a goat and chopped off its neck right in the middle of the road and collecting its blood in a vessel. I almost collapsed at this barbaric act.

6:26 am

Blogger None said...


welcome to tbe blog world. talk about diversity! :)


11:28 am

Blogger B said...

Thalaila theangai Odaikarathu ennum keavalam!! Its horrible to watch these kind of barbaric activities and the ignorance among our ppl.

11:40 am

Blogger None said...


yes, it is totally appalling. but you just have to go into the otteri abattoir....


11:42 am

Blogger None said...


coming home? cool! will check flickr mail!
No havent read the book. who is it by...


11:43 am

Blogger None said...


well, re: IT i think she means the IT boom has brought in rapid westernisation. That is undeniable. Largely, globalisation (of which the outsourcing boom is an essential part) has done that to our society.
In that way, it is not a direct link. it is just a measure of the variances in the spectrum.

why should we comment?
well, what's a blog for? btw, so have you! :)
but seriously, my blog is a place i articulate my concerns. If i went there and tried to pull that trident out of her mouth or put out the bed of coals, that would be interference.
If we were to stop completely talking about religion and its rituals, then the only way is downhill.

and 'thinking people?' - you think that young girl who could hardly be 10 years old (with the trident in her mouth) made that choice herself!? surely, you dont believe that!


11:51 am

Blogger Swahilya said...

Poking a sword across the cheeks, planting an iron hook on the back and pulling a temple car, walking on fire, beating oneself red, doing angapradakshanam, wearing clothes of neem of the few things that people feel they should do to experience the divine in them. For the really lucky ones, the same experience can be had if they just close their eyes and sit down or even walking on earth with eyes wide open. That's the way it works!

3:04 pm

Blogger sanchapanzo said...


Largely, globalisation (of which the outsourcing boom is an essential part) has done that to our society.
In that way, it is not a direct link. it is just a measure of the variances in the spectrum.

I still think that this indirect link doesnt really bind us to change ourselves - but, nevertheless I agree to disagree!
I still feel whatever changes that IT boom etc., is all mostly superficial and end-of-the-day we still succumb to our instincts(rather than scientific temperament)!

If i went there and tried to pull that trident out of her mouth or put out the bed of coals, that would be interference.
If we were to stop completely talking about religion and its rituals, then the only way is downhill. And 'thinking people?' - you think that young girl who could hardly be 10 years old (with the trident in her mouth) made that choice herself!? surely, you dont believe that!

Agreed, to use violence to pass across one's message to the rest is really silly! Agreed, 10-year old kid to perform such acts of rituals is also kind of cruel! But the point I was about to make is that there are people inspite of all the education, still believe in god/superstitions etc., - and trying to reason them out is really impossible! Thus, the better alternative is to accept the fact that every individual (atheist or theist or agnostic)have the right to do what they want-to-do as long as the people around them are not disturbed!

8:05 pm

Blogger SamY said...

wow okie ... been a while since u'v updated ... I dun know if u watch this channel which goes by the name of - discovery, where there was a feature on thai poosam, body piercing, kaavadi yedukarudhu and all ... s our very ppl were the highlights ...

as for running over coal ... scientific explanations and some techniques are there ... but accidents do happen ...

science says the mind is much more powerful that we know ... hav u seen hypnotists who can make one believe that the stick he's holding is a red hot iron ... n it hurts?

u'd have heard bout ppl in the west doin body piercing n stuff ... me not talking bout the ornamental ones ... by they do so to enter an altered state of mind ... suspening themselves in hooks and alll ... the excessive pain is said to push em into another consciousness ...

so belive me those folks are not all that crazy ... maybe the associated fervor is earning the infamousness ... just that we dont quite understand em ...

n btw my belief in all this is not in reverence to god but science and society ... when human's loose hope (the quintessential human delusion ... you greatest strength and simultaneously your greatest weakness - The Matrix) nuthing can rescue them for the adversity ... but these practice give these weak minds a strong hope ... make em believe that something beyond them is helping em out ... but actually its their own resolve which had been burried deep inside ... n these are ways to bring em out ...

believe me we all live on our own world of rules trying to fit other within ... do understand and respect others ... and for all we know they could be right and we wrong ...

as for all our customs ... I belive indian lineage / heritage is the most advanced ... I'll proly spend my time associating our practice with science ... but I know that our forefather knew society ...

the most herculean task is changing peoples mind ... hitler was expert in it ... our forefathers were pioneers ...

sad that it has reduced to practice which look barbaric ... but luk @ it positively and u might discover a science behind it ...

cheers ...

11:01 pm

Blogger Sriram said...

Coming to the US? Neat! when, and more importantly, where? Oh escoos me,, sometimes that trident isn't really going all the way thro the cheek. I've seen some cheeky fellows stick one rod inside the cheek and another outside it, so that it appears as if the trident is going all the way through the cheeks... cheeky isn't it?

And as for walking on hot coals.. no clue :)

1:21 am

Blogger thennavan said...

Ramya, so when is the US trip coming up? There are a whole lot of us in DC who can help you out should you choose to visit the national capital area. Good luck :-)

3:47 pm

Anonymous deepakjeswal said...

So you off to US/UK now... cool. I am not aware of this festival. But it is very inconvenient otherwise if a jagraata plays all night near house and u r trying to sleep! Or a Prabhat Feri goes about in the wee hours of the morning! Religion is personal and that's how it should remain.

BTW uploaded some pics of Kathmandu. Hope u like them. Click on this link:

10:45 am

Blogger None said...


hey, nice pics man! i wish i had seen all those places though! too little time for much s.seeing, eh? and what little i saw was thanks to you! :)


2:52 pm

Blogger None said...


yes, things are simple. but we dont take the easy route always, do we? such tortuous, contrived ways of getting where we need to go... sigh!


2:55 pm

Blogger None said...


yes! will be in D.c. in fact landing in D.C. and will be there three days before we leave to NYC.
hopefully, we can meet!


12:48 pm

Blogger viji said...

Ramya... wat u said abt the self-inflicted torture is so true. Once my dad went for 3rounds of thee-midhi & came bck wthout evn a single stratch on his feet. I still wonder how.
Bcoz i was standing eagerly abt 5feet away frm the scene & ran off coz the heat was unbearable!
How ppl peirce thmselves ... me jitters!

3:31 pm

Blogger Sriram said...

Aww... looks like someone forgot to reply to my comments... Grrr... wait till you get here to the US!!!

Just kidding :)

2:09 am

Blogger VHS said...

What’s most disappointing about this whole thing is that ‘children’ are being encouraged to do this on the roads as a means of survival. It has just transformed itself to another form of begging. Seeing a child whip himself on the streets is a poignant sight. I do sympathize with the kids for being coerced into doing this but refrain from giving any money for that would mean this would be their perpetual source of income and ‘profession’ in the future.

8:52 pm

Blogger None said...


agree with you on that... putting children on the streets and making them beg in the name of religion (or whatever else) is totally unacceptable...


12:50 am

Blogger None said...


hey sorry. been a little busy... :)
but yes, i'm stopping in Washington, nyc, tampa, florida, ohio/texas/nebraska/alabama/ dakota (any one of these cities) san diego and LA.
so where are you? south indian saapadu kedaikuma?! :)


12:53 am

Blogger None said...


i too know a couple of people who do the thee midhi... and come out unscathed. i'm just curious: HOW is it possible?
i understand that there are things much beyond my comprehension, but it is the human endeavour to search, isn't it? :)


12:55 am

Blogger None said...


wow! that is a really long comment! :) i really like these comments - can it get better? :)
yes, i've heard of the other acts performed in a trance like state. the mind is powerful, i'm increasingly getting to find out how very scientifically: reading V.Ramachandran's the emerging mind. let me recommend it to you as a fellow believer of science, if you have not already read it, that is...
as for the bit on religion giving hope to the masses. that is just what marx said: REligion is the opium of the people/masses.
yes, i can see how... though i cannot be the same way...
thanks, again, for commenting!

1:01 am

Blogger None said...


hi! thanks for the re-response. a studied one. i was keen to post a reply, but dint want to do it in a hurry, when i don;t have the time..

--- i still think that this indirect link doesnt really bind us to change ourselves - but, nevertheless I agree to disagree! ---

Well, i din't say the indirect link binds us to change, but that it brings in more options that people might pick up in the course of time.

and yes, i even agree with your statement about instincts, i'm glad you din't say tradition, though. btw, science need not be contrary to instincts, it merely tries to rationalise, explain them...

---But the point I was about to make is that there are people inspite of all the education, still believe in god/superstitions etc., - and trying to reason them out is really impossible! ---

impossible, i wouldn't say. besides, i'm not trying to reason them out, i'm just trying figure out for myself. like the one line on my profile column says, this blog is a search ... for many things....


1:06 am

Blogger Vaibhav said...

I Completly agree with you.
Read my kissay@

2:59 am

Blogger Sriram said...

Me in South Carolina,,, southern food readily available in nearby Atlanta ;)

5:30 am

Anonymous Ravi said...

Religion and its practice are such complicated topics that its best - unless one is doing a thesis on its origin - we leave it alone. Meanwhile as Swahilya mentions, there are more peaceful routes to experiencing the divine. Kids, for instance? ;)

11:47 am

Blogger Slice Of Life said...

though religion is a personal matter,when in the public domain,things like blaring music from the temples ,disturbance to public should be avoided

9:31 pm

Blogger IBH said...

Now am based out of Ohio....i just read ur response for Sriram's comments..

home made *ahem* *ahem* south indian food nalla kedaikum Ohio le..
what say? mail meat

10:54 pm

Blogger P-H-A-N-T-O-M said...

Beyond your comprehension?

"whtever the human mind concieves, it achieves...."
Yaaro pechhu vakula kathula pottutu ponanga

2:33 am

Blogger SamY said...

the comments can get better :) ... more time ...

is that doc u mentioned bout vilayanur ramachandrna? the guy who came with with a cure for the Phantom Limb problem ...

not a voracious reader but I do go on recommendations ... well I can buy anything with a science behind it ... even if its religion ;)

9:47 am

Blogger None said...


i cannot arrrogate to say i can understand EVERYTHING the human mind conceives of! :)


9:38 pm

Blogger None said...


yes, the same guy, very interessting, rivetting...


9:40 pm

Blogger None said...


every one has his/her own obsession... :) agreed...


9:40 pm

Blogger None said...


will do...


9:41 pm

Blogger None said...


absolutely. no contsting that!


9:42 pm

Blogger Anandkumar_V said...

Dear All
I m indeed surprised that when there is a rise of curiosity in the West in eastern traditions, u ppl (and that too claiming to be true journalists) are hell bent upon making a mockery of Hindu Rituals.

1. Why is it that if Jesus can walk over hot coal/pit of fire, he instantly became a GOD?? And to the contrary, if it is practiced by Hindus it becomes an act of injustice/child cruelty??

2. If Prophet Mohammed can indulge in child raping, then he can become a messenger of GOD, whereas if Hindus practice the Vedic culture, it amounts to cruelty is it??

3. If Mother Teresa can become a saint by indulging in Child trafficiking/prostitution, then what on earth is wrong when Hindus follow the Vedic tradition??

It will be nice if you ppl (those of u who care about the girl child) better go and enquire what Europe and Islamic countries have been doing b4 making any comments on the Legitimate Vedic culture.

Anandkumar V

6:19 pm

Blogger Hiren said...

Very interesting blog you have got herre but th bit on religion made sordid reading. That is why I belive that religions are many, religion is one and that is spirituality. If mankind runs more after spirituality than organized religion, half the trouble would stop.

3:36 pm


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