There is a new, well undertaking ( for lack of a better word) which I need to set upon next week, which has met with some stubborn resistance from the MIL – for no other reason than the timing. The inauspicious ‘Pitrupaksh’ fortnight devoted to ancestors where the so-called auspicious projects are avoided.
S, predictably enough, loses his temper, every time the topic is brought up. He had to pay a substantial fee a few years ago on some investment because of this, and consequently views the whole Pitrupaksh thing with an extremely jaundiced eye and gets exceedingly irate about what he claims is debilitating ritualistic superstition designed to stop people from living freely.
Having said that, I don’t think he is an atheist or an agnostic or a sceptic – or a believer for that matter – but somewhere in that fuzzy gray zone in between. I think that pretty much mirrors my views on faith and God too – but more on that later.
That is something that has intrigued me – how does one manage to separate rituals and superstition from faith. Rituals necessarily implies that the belief in a higher power, almighty force what have you – who manipulates your life as per the sudden whims and fancies. Thus the composite of rituals are in effect offerings or bribes or good-behaviour in exchange for which this almighty force doesn’t finger too much with one’s life. Which always seems to me of a very transactional relationship. A fasts on Saturdays and Hanuman will protect him from Marquis de Sadesati. X doesn’t wear a red thread and is asking for trouble. You cannot travel on an inauspicious day. If two bad things happen in a family, you need to do an elaborate puja to appease some God who has it out for you. By and large, if you look at it, they are all pulling you back rather than giving you that impetus to soar.
Somewhere the ritualism takes over coherent thought and becomes quite inextricably linked with faith. And rituals BECOME the religion.
The sad part is that even for a lot of educated people it is difficult to break away from these rites or practices of what-have-you. The eclipse a couple of months ago, is a case in point - I know a girl, who is extremely well-educated, independent and has all the exposure and worldly wisdom and cynicism one would expect - but because she is expecting a baby, she (on instructions from her family) followed a number of quite hare-brained rituals like not cooking anything that required cutting and eating only at certain times. She explained that she doesn't believe in these things in the ordinary course of things, but cant take a risk when it comes to her baby.
In spite of myself, I can grudgingly respect that.
These are the moral dilemmas about which I am not sure how I would deal with. If I was in her position I might have done the same - the illogical, fear factor overwhelming cold reason( of course, I would have despised myself for doing it too).The current quandary about whether to do or not to do is a bit of a foregone conclusion - as far as I can see, there is no leeway on the date - so that takes care of that. But there are so many other quandaries like this, isn't it?
That is the problem with these so-called rituals or superstitions or whatever - somehow its less about emotional anchorage and more about becoming an emotional millstone.
P.S. To be continued
P.P.S I am not sure this post is particularly coherent or has a point. Hmmm. Disjointed thoughts being typed out. Ah well.