December Update…

My India trip was looooooonnng and good! Most of the things I experienced were satisfying except for a few moments here and there. This time around, since it was December time, the climate was bearable and the heat was almost non-existent till I reached Chennai two days before leaving to Singapore. This was how my trip for arranged:

7th-9th Dec: Coimbatore
10th-14th Dec: Salem, my hometown
15th-17th Dec: Temple tour to Madurai, Thanjavur, Karaikkal, Thiruvannamalai
18th-21st Dec: Salem, my hometown
22nd-24th Dec: Tirupathi, Chennai
25th Dec: Singapore, back home 🙂

Let’s deal with the timeline now. In Coimbatore, what we basically did was shopping. We also visited the two famous Temples there, Marudhamalai and Perur Temples. In Marudhamalai, I wasn’t able to do much but I got to enjoy the scenery. My prayers were answered there immediately and I got to buy some books in one of the shops they had there. All famous Temples seem to have all kinds of merchandise shops there nowadays. Its good in one way, but I feel the Temples have only become more and more commercialised. Perur was an exceptionally beautiful Temple, although its not as big as Madurai Meenakshi Amman’s or Thiruvannamalai Temple. We also visited Thyanalingam Ashramam, which was such a serene and calm place.

Staying in Salem was alright, although most of the times I was bored with the stay. All my cousins are grown-up and have their own lives to lead now. I was mostly spending my time with books, tv, talking to my relatives and going out with my mum for shopping and such. Keerthi, my nephew, would be the only one to whom I would be talking to, mostly at nights.

We left to Madurai on the 15th Dec. After finding a lodge to stay, we got ready and visited Thiruparanguntram first. I don’t know how, but without expecting I always get to visit my Murugan first. I was really happy to go to one of the Aarupadai Veedus. As expected, the visit to the Temple was also satisfying. The Temple had powerful vibrations and I had never felt such vibes before in my life. At one point, I forgot myself. Temple visits should be done alone I suppose, because the only thing disturbing my connecting with the divine was my family and the crowd pushing us in the queue.

After that, we went to Madurai Meenakshi Amman Temple. We didn’t expect the security to be so tight. No cars were allowed to go in near the Rajagopurams. So we had to walk barefoot from the car to the Temple, quite a distance. I didn’t feel much of vibes as I felt in Thiruparanguntram. But I did enjoy the grandeur of the Temple, especially the night effect was good. As is my custom, I always get the blessings of Ganesha, who is always there near the Temple entrance or inside the Temple. I would put a coin in His trunk and He would pat my head as a blessing. I love the Temple elephant and always get a feeling that the elephant keeps following me everywhere.

The next day we went to Thanjavur as I was asking my dad that I wanted to visit the Periya Koyil there for so long. I loved the Temple!! It was so huge and not only that, the Temple architecture was so grandeur!!! One whole day is not enough to look around that Temple as there are so many things to observe and admire. I just loved this Temple. All the stones there also had so many carvings. This shows how old the Temple is actually!! Do take a look at my Orkut picture album Tanjore Marvel to admire the beauty. I would have taken more pics, but I didn’t get to spend much time there in the Temple. There are so many architectural marvels about this Temple which can be glimpsed here.

The same day we also visited Thirunallaar, which is a Saneeswaran (Saturn God) Temple. I am told that I have seven and a half years of Saturn influence in my astrology and as such it would be good for me to visit this Temple and seek the blessings of Lord Siva and the Saturn God. The same is the case for my parents and my sister. I am not much of a believer in astrology, but so far, most of the things said by my family astrologer has come true. But I still believe that fate can be won. So after this we went to Chidambaram and stayed there for the night.

The next day we visited Chidambaram Temple. I would say I enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed Thiruvannamalai. Thousand pillars Temple is what they called big Temples like Madurai Meenakshi Amman Temple. It was a marvelous Temple.

After that we visited Thiruvannamalai as planned. I would say my favourite moment of the entire trip would be the time spent in this Temple. This is my favourite Temple and this is my third time visiting this Temple. The first two times I came here, I always had done well in my studies the following year. This is just a belief and I feel that this is somewhat true. Because the vibrations in the Temple are so powerful!! I have no words to describe the Temple. I just wish I know more about Temples.

This marks the end of our Temple tour. We returned to Salem to rest before we left to Tirupathi on the 22nd.

Tirupathi trip was very disappointing to my family and me. The trip was very poorly planned as there were a lot of things that was unexpected. It seemed like there was a VIP visit or something and because of that much of the things were delayed for us. As a result, we ended up waiting for 8 hours in the “free” queue for nothing. We didn’t get tickets as they were for the next next day. We couldn’t wait that long in Thirupathi as our flight was due! So we stood in the “free” queue. We waited for 8 hours in the cold night weather with basically nothing to cover ourselves with. So then we just left without seeing Mr Venki, the VIP God.

Since the beginning I was a bit reluctant in going to Tirupathi because of the commercialisation there. My parents put me off by saying that its not like that at all. In the end, what I said was the truth. First, you have to buy tickets to see the God. Now, I’m not saying that this is only here in Tirupathi. It is everywhere I agree. But not like in Tirupathi, you have to have a minister letter!! And not only that. You have to have a minister letter to stay in Tirupathi as well!! My goodness! Never have I seen or heard such things, but maybe it is common in India, I don’t know. We didn’t have time to wait for another day as well, otherwise we would have. The entire fault is with us to have not foreseen all this and to have poorly planned things. But they have the made the whole pilgrimage into a business!!

And after all that waiting we drove back to Chennai. I would have to admit, Chennai has become cleaner!! I am surprised. Singaara Chennai is living up to its name now. I got sick in Chennai itself. And it got worse after I came to Singapore. I went to the doctor the next day itself and got myself an injection. That serious! Now I’m writing this post after I’ve gotten well. Haha. So yeah… This is how my trip went for those who want to know 😉

Jai Hind India!!

It’s a great day today! Or not, for some. Today is India’s Independence Day. I feel really restless today and I don’t know why. I wish I had some Indian friends to celebrate with. I really want to have some Indian friends from India.

Oh, did I tell I prefer Indians from India to those in local? I don’t know why, but I feel that those from India seem to be friendlier than those in local. But so far I made three friends from India. That’s a good start for now. But we can’t really hang out with each other. Two of them are my seniors.

Can a person be capable of feeling loyalty for two countries? According to me, I have two mother countries. One is India, where I was born and brought up or the first ten years of my life. The other one is Singapore, where I was educated for the next ten years of my life. It’s not the question of towards which country I feel more loyalty. But if it is possible to feel loyalty towards more than one mother country.

I feel more at home in India. Because that is where all Indians reside, obviously. But there are reasons above that. I have felt the total experience of falling in love all over again each time I fly to India. Because it is not always what you had seen last time you went to India. It is completely different each and everytime you step your foot into India. India is emerging quickly. Poverty has not fully vanished. But I hope the people and the government will do something about it.

I feel loyalty to Singapore too because I feel living here to be more easy than living anywhere else around the world. I have been and am being educated here. I am receiving tution grant from the education ministry just like all other students. I don’t think I would get such education elsewhere. I am really glad we came here. I would have been a completely different Priya if I had stayed in India.

So I love both places. But I hope to settle down in India one day! Maybe when I have grown old, I may go back to my mother land. Let’s say I have only a few months to live because I have a disease or some condition. I would spend three quarters of my time here, because most of the important people in my life are here. I would then spend the rest of my life in India, with my relatives and friends there. There is certainly a lot more things I would want to do. But this is a general idea.

I might seem sentimental. But hey, this is me. The truth…

Swades: My comments

I have been wanting to make a post on this movie called Swades for a long time. But I have always been distracted by the topics of interest and never seemed to have any time or mood. But now, here’s my chance. It’s one of my favourite movies. For the synopsis of the movie, go to this site.

Many of the sites that offer a review of Swades have either made it sound mundane or very great. Eventhough it’s a documentary-movie, I think Swades is a consciousness-raiser for all those who live overseas without any knowledge of what is India like at the level of the grassroots. Be it the Indians or foreigners. In the case of the Indians, their ancestors have migrated to US, UK or other overseas countries in search of a better living. So most of the Indians brought up there know nothing about their roots in India. Not even what kind of a country is India. Some do take the effort to know about their distant ‘motherland’. But not all of them. Not to mention the number of foreigners, who totally misunderstand or have a gross misconception/generalization about Indians and India.

At the same time, I’m not suggesting that this movie will reach everyone of this supposedly targetted audience and touch their hearts. Bollywood is quite famous in US and Shah Rukh Khan is quite a well-known personality among a lot of Malays here in Singapore and Malaysia, as far as I know. Therefore, such a movie will definetely have an impact, regardless of its scale, on these ignorant people, with it’s touching scenes and repeatedly conveyed messages. I know a handful of my other ethnic friends who have watched the movie and have good comments about it. Ignoring the fact that its such a long movie, of course.
I myself was not aware of these issues in India as I didn’t stay there long enough. I came to Singapore when I was 9. I’ve lived here in Singapore for 10 years and I know about the Japanese Occupation and Malaysia-Singapore merger. But not so much about Mahatma Gandhi, Nehru, why they celebrate Republic Day, the caste discrimination and so on. I did find out more about them after I was exposed to this movie. So afterall, there is no mystery why the Indian reviewers of this movie find it so cliched. Because I don’t find it cliched at all. For me and for others like me, this movie is or must have been an eye-opener.

Other than all these comments I have, the movie is not so boring from my point of view. In fact, I’ve watched this movie for three times now, sitting through the whole movie. I love all the songs and their meanings. The songs are better in Hindi compared to in Tamil. Khan’s acting was really good. His dialogue deliveries were good. A.R. Rahman has left his permanent mark once again in my heart and all others’.

So it proves that its all in the eyes and mind of the beholder. While I find this movie not-so-boring and not-so-cliched, most of them do find it that way. I can’t help them. Neither can I help myself feeling that way:P

My Temple Tours in India

Last time, three years ago, when I went to India, we only went to Thirupathi. But this time in 2006, we went to a lot of different temples. We went to Thiruvannamalai, Srirangam, Namakkal, and Palani. And what more, it was Ayappan season and so we saw a lot of guys in black clothes. Once in a restaurant, I almost bumped into a guy and he saw me and said, ‘swami saranam’ and went up away. Oh my, what a devotion to God!

Do I sound mocking? Definitely not. I’m not mocking at anyone and nor do I wish to. I learned a lot of things from these temple tours to different places. I admired the artistic values of the gopurams and the statues of the deities. I certainly felt peaceful after visiting these places. And by saying this I’m not implying that belief in God gives comfort. It sure does sometimes. But that doesn’t prove anything.

I’ve always thought that it is possible to be an atheist and still show some appreciation for the religious practices and places. Even the holy scriptures can be viewed from an artistic point of view. They are certainly great persuasive literary works. But the problem with religion is that most of the people read the texts and believe in its literal truth. Sure there are some nice verses written down there, but there are also vicious once that denounce heretics and praise martyrdom.

I think we are all culturally religious at heart. We are infatuated with the memes that come from these religions. I mean, just imagine. Weddings, celebrations of Christmas, Deepavali, Pongal, Hari Raya and so forth are all feel-good factors of religions. They certainly do a lot of work in bringing families together and creating happiness. In the process we thank God for such happiness, while we can derive such happiness ourselves without the help of the God! But if we were to deeply question ourselves whether we believe in a God or not, I think the answer will be a vague one. We’ll be sitting on the fence.

I still find it a problem to reveal myself as an atheist to most of my colleagues and friends at work. I’ve already told my close friends and my parents. And all those who read my blog know about me. My friends understand me better than my parents. Mom and Dad still have trouble accepting my views, but they will eventually come to understand. But I think I’m still not ready to tell my short-term friends and acquaintances about my views on this matter.

Yesterday during lunch, my Chinese friend asked me whether I can eat beef. It is believed that hindus cannot eat beef. So I replied them: “I don’t eat beef not because hindus can’t eat them, but I don’t like to eat it. I don’t like the taste or it’s smell”. Then I said I don’t mind trying a different version of beef. At that time, she was eating beef noodle from a famous hawker stall in holland village and she said that it was very good. Then my other Indian colleague started to question me, that if I am an hindu and so on. She believes that we can’t eat beef. At that moment I was a bit stalled off. I couldn’t come out and declare that I’m a non-believer and that I don’t believe in such nonsense. There were two Catholics, and one Hindu sitting on that table. Damn, one of them actually prays before eating. While they are so much of believers, I felt a bit out-numbered. Atheists are out-numbered. But there are a significant number of atheists in this world. I don’t know why I feel this way, about declaring myself. Maybe I need more time to feel comfortable of myself being an atheist in front of all those moderately religious people.

Feel free to click the Flickr link below. I have uploaded photos from my India trip in 2006.

My Rant!

Sometimes we are so naïve that we don’t realize that our loved ones are being such hideous hypocrites. I have been like that for almost my entire life. This time when I went to India, I was expecting a lot of things. Obviously, from the tone of this post, none of them came true. But some unexpected things came true. I had a good time chatting with my friend Sriram about various topics, like the education system in India, his activities, actor Vijay. But I only got to see him for two days. I am happy that I am being a good influence over him. Atleast that is what aunty says.

It was really uneasy to stay in my grandmother’s house this time. I don’t mind the living condition also. Actually they are quite fine. But people change a lot. And this is the first time I noticed how. People’s real character comes out when they are in some kind of financial trouble, This time they were in such a situation and therefore, the house was a bit dull. My uncles, aunt, grandma and grandpa all behaved differently towards us, because we refused to help them financially. A lot of politics is involved here, so I can’t really explain the reason here.

Previously, whenever I went to their house, there will be two or three servant girls. I’ll play with them in the evening when their work is finished. I really liked them and treated them as friends. Way back, in my mother’s time, there were 5-6 servant girls in our house to do both housework and business work. Their business is to make pattu dhoti (silk sarong). Then there were my cousins to play with too. The house will be full of noise as we play hide and seek, cards, carom and so on. What a contrast this time! My cousins are busy in their own lives. No servant girls anymore because they are already married and settled and there is also financial trouble. All I did was talk and talk.

Then one evening I heard a big fight going on in their house. It was terrible how they treat their daughter-in-law (my aunt). They asked her to go inside when the ‘guys’ were have a pretty bad discussion. They didn’t even let her support her husband(my uncle). They were no longer the kind of kind people they supposedly portrayed. And all this happened while my parents were away. All this happened after my parents refused to help them. What an act in front of my parents! I should probably applaud. I don’t even know whether becoming bankrupt has changed them or were they like this all the time. They used to buy me gifts. But none this time. I don’t care so much for material possesions but I expect some form of affection from them.

I’m ranting a lot here, I know. But it’s really saddening to know that the person you thought to be someone, is not that someone anymore. Especially if that person is your loved one.

Consciousness-raisers

Work is taking a toll on me. I find myself spending more time than ever going for work, thinking about work, doing extra reading for work, and even dreaming about work. But i’ve learnt something from this week’s work. I am really getting the hang of this researcher job and i’m starting to like it. I think i’m really suited to it. Ok, i think i’ve reached to a conclusion very quickly. Let’s wait and see until the attachment period ends.

In the same time, it seems my friends are having a good time teaching. Especially Kasturi. Kalpana, well, i think the teacher job is not suitable for you if you do not feel the commitment to your job naturally. Even after facing a lot of troublesome students, Kasturi still wants to go on and become a teacher. If one is not strong-hearted like that, then that job is not for you. It’s the same for every career. There is always some aspect of that career that one does not like at all. In my lab, none of my colleagues ever talk to me. Fine, they say ‘good morning’, or ‘hi’, or atleast smile. But they don’t socialise much. Mainly because they are so engrossed in their research work. Actually, i myself notice that i too am fully engrossed in my work, as mundane as PCR and gel electrophoresis. Moreover, the repeating of failed experiments and getting back bad results again is frustrating. If i want to become a researcher, i have to tolerate the inadequacies of such a career.

I’ve been reading a lot on the subject of whether there exists a god. All along in my life, i have been told to believe in the gods that i worship (the hindu gods). And i have always done so. Especially at night before i go to sleep. This is because praying gives me an invisible protection from bad dreams and so on. I used to get nightmares quite often last time. But reading Richard Dawkins’s books like The Selfish Gene and The Blind Watchmaker and getting to know more about evolution and natural selection, has made me feel sceptical about the existence of god. Now the very notion of the hindu gods sounds quite ridiculous to me. I have stopped praying for quite some time at night. And i don’t get the nightmares that much as i used to. I sleep peacefully. My disbelief in god has also made me sceptical about the existence of spirits and ghosts.

My parents are strong believers of the hindu gods and i think any other gods. I don’t think they will ever understand the arguments put forward by Richard Dawkins. Even my dad who is well-educated. I think belief in a god comes about easily, rather than not believing. It’s like a pillar to lean on in times of trouble/suffering/pain. And i feel surprised that a lot of students who study evolution and natural selection are believers in christianity. I wonder how. Are they scared to tell their opinion on the existence of god out loud? Like what Richard Dawkins says, it might be true. I myself have not told my parents that i do not believe in god at all. I have told it to my close friends. And sometimes, it’s easier to talk about it to a friend who agrees with you in this matter. Kasturi is one such person. But she still believes in a god who created this world. Then who created god?:)

Another thing that is running on my mind now is about this childfree issue. i’ve been to India and have visited my cousins. One of them got married last year and is 8 months pregnant now, going to give birth later this month. And another cousin of mine, 24 years old, has finished her MBA. I asked her if she is going to go for a job? She said no and that she is not interested. Then i wonder why she has ever studied at all? Well, she doesn’t have to go for a job, being rich and all. The thing is, she is of a marriagable age and her mind isn’t in career planning at all.

Lots of girls are quite ambitious when they are teenagers. But once they finish their degrees, i don’t know why they lose interest in their ambitions. They just want to get married and ‘settled’. And i don’t know what they mean by ‘settled’. If ‘settled’ means giving birth to a child and bringing it up, man that’s not the end of life. All these girls ever think about is when they want to have children and not if. Why don’t they ever question about such things and why do they just accept it? There was a book in the library i was browsing through. It was about the other unpleasant side of motherhood. The third trimester of pergnancy, the labour, lactose intolerance and so on. The book also has another section in which it gives advice to girls in their late teens and 20’s on preparing for motherhood. What crap! We have to prepare for motherhood knowing that such unpleasantness exists in it? Stop romanticising the idea of motherhood and let’s just face the hard truth, shall we?

All these thoughts have been a kind of consciousness-raisers for me in this part of my life. I think i’ll post more on them when i have time. I have spilled out quite a lot that was lingering in my mind. I feel quite peaceful now:)

I’m Back!

Bangalore has really changed a lot! I was totally astounded with all the new shopping malls, modern-looking youngsters and north indians. The darker side of Bangalore was like this: heavy traffic jams, noise pollution, air pollution, dust, lots of poor people on pavements and so on. Life has become easier for those living there with a comfortable income of at least 30000 rupees. People spend most of their money for food. Spendings have terribly increased.

A fair amount of money also goes into house rental fees. My cousin who moved to Bangalore with her husband after marriage is paying 6500 rupees for a house with just three small rooms. Ten years ago my parents only paid 1200 rupees for the same kind of house.

Below is the picture of the Forum mall. The theaters there are superb! Even better than Golden Village theaters here in Singapore:

However, amongst all the glam and glitter, all they do is cheating. The prices are unfairly high, just because they are sold in branded malls like Shopper’s Stop and Garuda. A chocolate milk shake bought in the food court in Forum is 50 rupees ($2). Whereas, that which is bought in Nilgiri’s or somewhere else is only around 16 rupees or so.

I really felt sad for all those poor children begging for money on the streets. India is a place where you can see clear class division. Whereas in Singapore you don’t. It takes some time to come to a conclusion whether a girl you see on the road is rich, poor or middle class.

I honestly do not know what’s wrong with grown-up men and women, some older and still capable, who beg on the streets. They look fine. They can do some other work to earn money, even if it is little. But all they do is sit or go around the street during every signal waiting and beg for money. People who give money encourage these beggars to remain lazy and retarded even more.

I have more to talk about my trips to Salem, my birthland, and Coimbatore. But I’ll do so in my next post. I’m still having jet lag. Just landed in Singapore this morning.