Mind Scavenging for Sitaram Yechury

By Sujnan Nayak

On Twitter @SujnanNayak

(Edited only for Hyperlinking and formatting – Else retained verbatim)

It has become a fashion nowadays to criticize Gujarat & “Only GUJARAT” to get in the limelight. It is just like a cheap publicity stunts played by heroines of our film industry when their stars are fading and Sitaram Yechury is no different. Now that the puerile debate of Temple vs Toilets is in vague Mr Sitaram wrote another op-ed taking about “Dirt” in Gujarat Development Model. You can read that here

Sitaram’s obsession & hate for RSS/BJP is visible from the fact that couple of more recent articles start with “The RSS/BJP ….

1) “The RSS/BJP had perfected the art of double speak” here

2) “The RSS/BJP is already sounding the victory bugle” here

Mr Sitaram usually start with RSS/BJP and ends with communalism or Narendra Modi and it doesn’t matter whether he is talking about Economic Policies, Social issues or Foreign policy he has his fixed agenda of bashing BJP/RSS as if there are less people on TV channels to do this job.

So like Mr Sitaram I won’t go round in circle and come straight to the point. In the article “The dirt on Gujarat development model”

Mr Sitaram talks about manual scavenging in Gujarat apart from the usual rhetoric and compares it with Kerala. (A Model based on foreign remittances) He says “In a recent survey, a community-based organisation fighting for the rights of the scavenging community, Manav Garima, found that there are 126 spots where manual scavenging is practised under the aegis of the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation.”

manual_scavenging

So Mr Yechury here are some of the statistics that may help you understand better about your “Development Model” in West Bengal which your party ruled for more than three decades and Kerala.

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According to the report   Manual Scavengers: Welfare and Rehabilitation No. 18 /RN/Ref./August /2013

West Bengal has 1,30,330, Kerala 3011 & Gujarat has 2566 manually serviced insanitary latrines. WOW!! How come a state ruled by progressive, socialist & secular party (CPM) for so long have such social indicators? May be toilets aren’t that secular to be taken care of.

Here’s another

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By the talks of Mr Yechury Manual Scavenging must be only existing in books in West Bengal & Kerala but here are the facts

In West Bengal there are 6465 households where manual scavenging is done whereas it’s 1119 in Gujarat & 843 in Kerala not far behind.  Uttar Pradesh tops with 100634.

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Hope these statistics are enough to prove to the reader who is the hypocrite.

Finally, Mr Sitaram your obsession can be understood by the fact that your political ground is shrinking day by day but attacking BJP/RSS without a valid point will not help.

Manual Scavenging is a black spot on India’s society which needs to be eradicated. Even after passing of Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993 we still see manual scavengers in our cities and rural areas. Manual Scavenging is against the people’s right of dignity of life but we have long turned a blind eye towards these people who make a living out of someone else dirt. Hope we see a real change in India rather than empty promises which are served as sanjeevani during elections.

Manual Scavenging should be prohibited from India forever and not only from Gujarat. As far as people who blindly support or hate Narendra Modi are advised to look at the statistics and ask questions to the rulers and bring about a real social change.

Onam Message – Celebrate Act not the Actor

Onam 2013 has turned out to be significantly different compared to the earlier ones that I have celebrated with friends and families in the past. A new insight as I was discussing with a lot of my friends who have contributed to my understanding of the festivities and rituals. A personal thanks.

Upfront a personal note

This may not be the traditional belief, but purely my take and hence pardon my ignorance in case of conflicts with my understanding – a word on what caused it would be highly appreciated.

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Our Chennai Days – With Sri Sukumaran and Family

While discussing with those who celebrate Thiruvonam (or simply Onam as it is popularly known) in a traditional way I could not help be awestruck realizing of the deeper significance of this Harvest Festival and the legend behind it.

Onam is celebrated over 10 days starting Attham (Hasta) Nakshatra in the month of Chingam (Solar Calendar followed in Kerala) and ends on Thiruvonam (Shravana) Nakshatra  (the 10th day) . It is also celebrated by some in the Coastal Karnataka with equal gaiety and pomp.

Mahabali was the King of Asuras, grandson of Prahlada, who despite being born as an asura was known as paragon of devotion to Lord Vishnu. Mahabali was brought up under the tutelage and guidance of Prahlada from whom he imbibed the qualities of devotion and governance.

Mahabali Visits Art of Living Ashram :-) Panchakarma Centre
Mahabali Visits Art of Living Ashram 🙂 Panchakarma Centre

During Mahabali’s reign, the kingdom never saw poverty, crime or any societal ills and hence revered by his subjects. But Asura that he was, was not considered trustworthy and his ambition made him expand his kingdom and becomes Ruler of all the 3 worlds – an Asura ruler was against the laws of nature. Devas approach Lord Vishnu for a solution and when Mahabali was performing Ashwameda Yaga, Lord Vishnu appears in the form of a small brahmin boy (Vamana Avatara) and seeks to fulfill his desire as promised by the King during the Yaga. Upon which the righteous Mahabali offers to fulfill any demand that was placed by the boy who demands land covered by 3 steps.  Despite warnings from his Guru who foresaw disaster and had a vision that it indeed was Lord Vishnu who appeared in this form to deprive Mahabali of all his belongings. But Mahabali who valued Maana (Honor) even at the cost of his life told his Guru: “I should be the most fortunate one as the Lord, who gives everything to mankind, is seeking something from me.” So saying he offered to donate the Three steps that the brahmin boy sought. Vamana then grew in size so mammoth that one step covered the entire earth, the next the whole of Heaven and there was nothing left to claim for the 3rd step.  Mahabali the man of honor did not hesitate to offer his own head in lieu of land. Vamana steps on his head and sends him to Sutala, the heaven of Patala (the netherworld)

Lord Vishnu also appoints him as the King of Netherworld and also position of Indra for one Manvantara. Mahabali who loved his subjects very dearly also seeks Lord Vishnu to allow him to visit them once every year. And it is this visit that is celebrated as Onam.

The festivities includes ceremonial welcome of Mahabali on the first day. Clay idols painted red (called Trikkakarappan) to which all the harvests are offered first thanking him for the Gift of abundance showered.

Trikkakarappan-Representing Vamana (Mahabali too)
Trikkakarappan-Representing Vamana (Mahabali too)

Maveli nadu vaneedum kalam,
manusharellarum onnupole
amodhathode vasikkum kalam
apathangarkkumottillathanum

(When Maveli ruled the land, All the people were equal. And people were joyful and merry; They were all free from harm.).  On the last day of Onam (Thiruvonam), the clay idols are immersed in sea/river with a prayer to Mahabali to return next year.

An essential part of the fesitiviy is laying out of the now famous & renowned flower rangoli called Pookalam. Some pictures below, the way we celebrated with friends

In Nasik - With Mr. Thomas (yes, it "was" secular)
In Nasik – With Mr. Thomas (yes, it “was” secular)
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In Chennai – With Sri Sukumaran & Family

Traditionally each day the Pookalam gets bigger and the 10th day was the grandest one.  And this in itself was an enjoyable ritual for children, thanks to friends who celebrated it traditionally.

And then business part (for me) of any festival the famous, Onam Sadhya (Onam Feast)

Enjoying the Feast - With Sri Sukumaran
Enjoying the Feast – With Sri Sukumaran
Feast Next Year - With Sri Sukumaran & family in Chennai
Feast Next Year – With Sri Sukumaran & family in Chennai
The Sadhya... More items to come.
The Sadhya… More items to come This are just the sidies 😉

Other associated rituals and fesitivities include Pulikali (Tiger Dance), Thiruvathirakali (Women dancing in honor of Lord Shiva), Kummattikali

Now that the fun part is done, for some deeper significance (May not be politically or even religiously correct but this is what the festivaal held out as learnings for me)

This festival is the best example of Sanatana Dharma tradition – Even an Asura who is a true Bhakta (devotee) is venerated – Goes to show that it is not the “Who” that matters but the “What”. Being an Asura did not preclude him from being worshipped, his virtues were recognized and aspired for. Which by extension also means there is no concept of Sinners – only people who commit acts of sin. Love or hate the “Act” not the “Actor” It is a value that I alway cherished & forms part of my introduction in the “About” page

Secularism was an essential part of our Festivals. It was all about revering and honoring the nature. Even the Mahabali song (in red above) indicates the Secular character. Bharateeya Sanskriti never talks in terms of  “Tolerance” but in terms of “Acceptance” (A bane these days? I tend to think so). I celebrated Onam with Mr. Thomas and family in 1993 while living in Nasik. Not sure if the radicalized society that the state has become, still allows him such niceties

Idols made of clay (I was told it is traditionally made from the soil for the fields that sustains their livelihood) is honoring the land that gives us everything and the immersion of the clay idol finally is to signify whatever we take has to be restored back to nature.

WISHING EVERYONE A VERY HAPPY ONAM

PS: In the Mahabali picture is Sri Praseed an ashramite and an ardent follower of His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji of The Art of Living 

Sree Narayana Guru – Greatest Advocate of Humanism

Translation of the Tribute piece written in Malayala Manorama on August 22nd 2013  by HH Pujya Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar of The Art of Living. Responsibility is completely mine, for any errors in this translation from Malayalam to English. Kindly notify me for corrections. This tribute piece was written on the occasion of Birth Anniversary of the Guru (August 20th)
NaryanaGuru
Sri Narayana Guru took birth in the 19th Century for the sake of development and progress of Human race. He was a great proponent of Humanism. He was responsible for the extra-ordinary awakening in the Kerala of those days, both by his action and deed. This Great Maharshi, was responsible for bringing Advaitadarshana as means of salvation to the entire Human race, which otherwise was exclusive preserve of Scholarly debates
His effort was towards unifying and equalizing the entire human race across the world by exposing the futility and meaninglessness of differences and differences caused by Caste, family and religion. He expounded that everyone is a part of same Divine & composition of humans across the world both physically and mentally is the same. This great Guru who described Characteristics of Indivual Human as “punarnnu perum ellamo” (All that are born of sexual union of humans are same species), “Oru yoni oru aakaaram Oru bhedavum illa ithil” (One yoni – womb, one form, there is no differences between them), Manushyanam Manushyathvam (humaneness is the quality of a human being) – says primary needs of all human beings are the same. Everyone desires Food, Clothing, Health, Water & Shelter. He also made people aware of the fact that – the recognition & position earned by someone is also desired by others is good for a better world & Unending and selfish desires & acts sows the seeds of disharmony in the community.
Guru exhorted Keralites to reject discriminating people based on limited comprehension of Caste, which gave rise to differences and conflicts. His words and life was devoted to obliterate non-Dharmic thoughts and deeds of fellow human beings. He preached that “it is not other human beings who make one impure but one’s own thoughts, words and acts”. His dreamt of a humans who made understanding, love and compassion a basis of their lives
He rejected the belief that those who adapted Panchashuddhi (5 types of Cleanliness) & Panchasheela (5 practices) are the protector of generations. Instead he directed people to make unselfish nature a way of life.
While the birds and animals with its limited needs co-exist harmoniously with nature, He warned that it is dangerous when humans who destroy nature and earth to satisfy their greed.
Personal traits like purity in words, thoughts, senses, country, home etc along with community benefiting traits like Non-violence, Truth, Asteya (Non-Stealing), Fidelity, Prohibition (intoxicants) – were his dreams for realization of a Modern Kerala. Guru’s preaching that a Pure Divine thought on part of individual and family is inevitable, gave rise to a new culture of temple ritual system. Consecration of Lord Shiva temple in Aruvippuram in 1888 was a beginning of a big Revolution. It was a proclamation that God and Supreme Knowledge is birthright of everyone irrespective of caste and religion.  Guru in fact set in motion a powerful & impactful mass movement through this temple. These temples established all over became a place for a devotee to seek knowledge, skills and solace and had Educational, Library, garden and some vocational training centres associated with it.
Guru’s message Freedom via Education was an invitation for an flood of scientific thinking. Guru made people aware that rebuilding Kerala – which was then beset with ignorance, misdeeds, superstitions & poverty – was possible through education alone. His goals for Education was for creation of a Modern Kerala. Guru who encouraged an educational system with equal prominence to Malayalam, Sanskrit and English, Study of Shastras, Vocational/Technical study, Women education also set aside funds for those willing to study abroad and also set up evening schools.
According to Gurudev, final goal of every religion was the same. and those who did not realize were like the blind men who touched elephant and imagined things. Religious bigots will see nothing in other religions and also sees a separation. Guru insisted on a creation of culture of acceptance and respecting other faith to prevent religious animosity & conflict.
In those days, every word and deed were controlled based on the religion and caste they belonged to. The tenets, adaopted by other cultural and development organizations, he preached awakened & arose everyone towards strengthening of community & cultural bonding.
It was giving a shape to culture of Humanatrianism, co-existence and peace in Kerala. Every cultural and political organizatins included the teachings in their work. Kerala which benefited enormously walking the path advocated by Guru became an example for the whole world. Malayalis thus became capable of settling anywhere in the world. Malayalis rejected the caste system. Kerala became an abode religious harmony. People thus were able to reap benefits of this favorable situation .
But, this change could not be sustained by Keralites. This enviable material prosperity, especially those of middle class gave rise to commodification. Without their knowledge the culture of humanism got ejected out. Malayali community who are ever ready to accept any change, without any second thoughts or analysis adapted this commercial culture. Today we see a community that has slipped away from the path prescribed clearly by Sree Narayana Guru
This culture of excessive greed & uncontrollable commercialization changed a Malayali to an unthinking, highest polluter. Unstable family, violence against women and children, extremism, alcoholism, disrespect towards Nature & corruption and such characteristics that are against human values, reminds us of the importance of adhering to Guru’s vision.
The teachings and path of Guru, which is relevant beyond any generation is the mantra of hope. We have to be prepared to imbibe it mentally and convert it into our life-style. It is not a world devoid of natural diversity, terror or insecurity, we should leave a world more beautiful than what we enjoyed, to our future generations. Humankind should ensure that valuable gifts like smile, amicability, compassion, broadmindedness etc   that nature has bestowed on us is never forsaken. We need variety, material comfort and progress. At the same time, let us not forget to be human or humanism.