Band, Baaja, Baaraat Aur Toast!

Use every occasion to celebrate those who mean a lot to you – it will mean a lot to them!

Yesterday we watched a short video shot at the engagement ceremony of our niece Priyanka. In the video, Priyanka takes time to thank everyone who’s made a difference in and to her Life. She is honest, grateful and very compassionate as she pauses to reflect and share her innermost feelings about her mother, brother, grandmother, fiancé and the extended family!

This is refreshingly different from what traditionally happens at Indian family occasions – most certainly among TamBrahms – like engagements and weddings where families invest all their time and energies in performing rituals and in being subservient to ‘those that make the most noise” in the name of “protocol and respect”. For instance, the girl’s side are always the underdogs at these dos and the members from the boy’s family must always be pleased, their whims pandered to and even their unstated demands must be magically understood and met! Until the last decade, I don’t think TamBrahm weddings were fun. People were always either trying to please the other or find fault with the other. Resultantly even if the boy and girl were in perfect sync with each other, they too were on tenterhooks because they didn’t know when the next explosive situation between their families would erupt! Nett. Nett. No one enjoyed themselves. The celebration was always superficial and never real.

But in this decade, a growing, welcome, trend is emerging.

Eulogy Vs ToastI think this generation of people, in their 20s, has developed a couldn’t-care-less attitude to what others feel, say or do. And I think this irreverence is most appropriate when it comes to dealing with senseless gender-based protocol, inequalities and egos. So, of late, I see a lot more youngsters at our weddings, engagements, baby-showers and such events really celebrating. Important, people are pausing to use these – and other occasions – to talk about each other. To share what they feel about each other and what they mean to each other. After all, what’s the point in eulogizing someone at their memorial service when they won’t be around to hear what you have to say? I feel there is great value in telling people how much they mean to you when they are still there. Surely, it will mean a lot to them.

Slowly, but surely, gender-based protocols and inequalities, in the name of tradition, are also being done away with. At our friends’ son’s wedding recently, the entire family from the boy’s side – all of them accomplished musicians – performed a fusion medley on stage celebrating the girl and her family. In a TamBrahm setting, and in India where the girl’s family have always been treated as doormats, it was really, truly, inspiring to see this change.

I wish that the force be with people like Priyanka, her generation, with families such as our friends’ and with all those who will embrace this new way. I believe family get-togethers and events like engagements and weddings must be used to raise a toast to those that have touched your Life. Even a death must not be mourned in grief or sorrow. Instead the way that Life was lived must be celebrated. True celebration does not come from rituals and protocols it comes from camaraderie and having fun being together. Hope this trend picks up momentum, becomes a wave and drowns everything anti (to it) in its wake!

Nothing is sinful in Life. Least of all, having sex!

There’s nothing wrong with consensual sex – even if it is pre-marital or extra-marital.  In fact, nothing is sinful in Life, as long as you don’t let it disturb your inner joy and peace.  
The debate over Tamil writer Perumal Murugan’s Madhorubhagan continues to make headlines – on social media and among the literati. The reason why the writer and his work, also translated in English as One Part Woman (Penguin), are being discussed is that Hindu organizations are seeking a ban on the book and want Murugan arrested. The protesters question the veracity of Murugan’s claim that an ancient ritual at the Arthanareeswarar temple in Thiruchengode (in Namakkal district, Tamil Nadu), during the annual Vaigasi Visagam chariot festival, allowed childless women to have consensual sex with men so that they could conceive. The ritual, per Murugan’s “research”, dates back to over a 100 years ago when assisted and alternate reproduction techniques were not around.
I haven’t read Madhorubhagan or its English translation. I have no interest in speaking for or against Murugan’s right of free speech or expression. My simple point is this: if indeed such a ritual existed, that helped men and women copulate in order to satiate a physical and biological need, what was wrong with either the idea or its practice? It is our collective pettiness and the designs of the self-anointed mandarins of religion on the one hand, and the pathetic prevalence of casteism on the other, that unnecessarily bring religion, God and morality into play, whenever sex is considered, discussed or indulged in.
I must share two perspectives here.
One is what Osho, the Master, has to say about sex. According to him, having sex, making love, is the most exalted form of expression of us humans. He has said: “Sex is a natural phenomenon. Don’t bring your metaphysics to it, don’t bring your religion to it. It has nothing to do with religion or metaphysics; it is a simple fact of Life. It is the way Life produces itself. It is as simple as the trees bringing flowers and fruits – you don’t condemn the flowers. Flowers are sex; it is through the flowers that the tree is sending its seeds, its potentiality, to other trees. When a peacock dances you don’t condemn it, but the dance is sex; it is to attract the female. When the cuckoo calls you don’t condemn it; it is sex. The cuckoo is simply declaring, ‘I am ready’. The cuckoo is simply calling forth the woman. The sound, the beautiful sound, is just a seduction; it is courtship. If you watch Life you will be surprised. The whole of Life is through sex. Life reproduces itself through sex. It is a natural phenomenon, don’t drag unnecessary rationalizations into it.”
The other is what we can learn from the Gen Y and Millennial generation folks. The latest issue of India Today, that has its annual sex survey on the cover, says that “sex is no big deal for the Indian teenager”. The survey reports that the age of first sexual encounter has dropped from 18~26 years in 2004 to 15~16 years in 2014, that 25 % of the surveyed teens have been sexually active (they have had sex more than once) and that cities rooted in conservative ethos – like Ahmedabad, Patna and Jaipur – are the ones that are most experimental when it comes to sex.

I believe that the average Indian teen or young adult is turning out to be far more practical than us “conservative, preachy” adults. Yes, teens do need orientation and guidance on how to handle their sex lives. But that seems like an easier challenge compared to changing the holier-than-thou attitude that adults bring to the subject. They muddle it up further by mixing religion, and undoubtedly politics too, with it. I will any day go with Osho’s unputdownable logic. Nothing is sinful in Life. Least of all, having sex! In fact, it is in the union of two people, when they lose each other to – and in – the orgasm, that they experience the divine. This moment, when the individuals cease to exist and a rare, raw, unifying energy consumes each of the partners, is when true, pure loving happens. To quote Osho, again, “Sex accepted, respected, lived, becomes love.”