Archive for August, 2011

Fast, the new fad!

One of the most endearing scenes from my childhood years is the site of the vernacular calendar hung strategically at a wall in our house such that all glances fell on it very easily. The calendar, called the “Thadhi Calendar” in Tamil, had a picture of one of the innumerable deities of the Hindu pantheon and 365 tiny tear-sheets stapled on it from which my mother would tear off one every dawn as part of her morning religious ritual. Each of these sheets would carry data on the positions and movements of the celestial bodies during the course of the day that could make the most exhaustive Wikipedia post on the subject look very pedestrian. And to decipher those plethora of fine-printed almanac information calls for a training in astrology, religion and mathematics that only a school of zealously guarded traditional upbringing could offer. The monthly highlight of the calendar for the family is the “Ekadesi”, the eleventh day of the lunar month, the day on which my grandmother would invariably observe a fast.

Ekadesi, literally translated, would mean “one plus the tenth day” and the preparation for the event starts well on the” Desami”, the tenth day itself.  My mother would grind the wheat very coarse and soak it overnight which would form the main ingredient of the grandmother’s frugal meal once she decides to call off her fast well into the night of the Ekadesi day. Granny would spend the best part of the waking hours on that day in rituals and in contemplation and once tired of them, would resort to loud reading of some religious texts. And with night falling, she would partake her meal of sweetened wheat gruel and share a portion of it with all in the house. Everyone in the family would relish the unique recipe and would keenly look forward to the next Ekadesi! Grandmother continued this fasting austerity month after month, for years and decades and she believed it to be her sure-shot passport for a place in the heavens.  Fasting was thus a spiritual exercise for her, a tool for communion with the divine. 

What is essentially an austerity to please the gods, fasting, in the hands of Anna, morphed into a coercing technique to ruthlessly bring the “powers that be” to the knees.  And when Anna fasted, the government initially fumed, then fumbled, quickly stumbled and at last stooped and kneeled in front of a septuagenarian whose towering moral authority was too much of a force for the authority of the state to handle.  Cheering at its discomfort were the disempowered people of a nation, long lost their collective voice to tame their so-called representatives and felt humiliated at  the insignificance of their democratic participation that remain confined to its little duty of putting a little mark, on a little piece of paper  standing in a little booth- once every five years.  When the government became exhausted with each day of Anna’s fasting, the people knew they have discovered a new weapon to regain the right to script their destiny.  But when a new weapon is invented, it is only to be expected that it be tested in different scenarios under varying conditions so that its universal validity and effectiveness is scientifically established.  

Students could now think of fasting if their teacher gives them less than distinction marks and just in case distinction is not good enough, they still could fast to have the right to take guide books to the exam hall so that they could get nothing less 100%. And if even with 100% they still don’t find their names in the college admission list, they could again fast, either to get a seat or to make their score 101%.  At home, teenage children could fast and pressurise their parents to give them decent enough money to be able to take their fiancee to a five-star dinner and as SMS becomes passé, a day-long fast may not be a bad idea to speed up the next level mobile purchase so that they could video-chat with their friends, all night long.

In the hands of housewives, fasting could assume more lethality than a Kalashnikov in the hands of a Jihadi.  They could fast, not to reduce their waistline, but to compel their husbands to shell out a bomb of money at the month-end to buy that fancy diamond stud while the poor guy carries on with the same razor blade for weeks on end. And if that is not proof enough of its effectiveness, they could still try the technique to ensure that their mothers-in-law do not visit them for the next five years.

Oh, I just realised that I have been fasting all night long!  Let me break-fast.

Yours

Narayanan

August 29, 2011 at 4:46 pm 6 comments


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