Thursday, January 2, 2014

Charity begins at home ..

Note: At the outset, let me make it clear. I am not an 'atheist'. I do believe in God. What I don't believe in are the scores of religious beliefs, the so called God-men and what not. 

It was New Years' eve, and like anyone else, I was at the local temple praying for a good year, if possible a better year than this one. Murmuring my prayers and going around the deity, I passed the back side of the Garba Griha, when something caught my eye. The temple storage area - with furnishings that would put most flats to shame, and saree variety that would rival some of the top saree outlets in Chennai. 

I was curious as to what the temple did with the many sarees that devotees gave in, in the form of prayers (our family included), year after year. I was told that the same are auctioned after some time, and people buy these sarees; and the proceeds to the temple charitable trust. New Year saw atleast 10 devotees donate sarees to the temple. And even with an assumption that the temple receives just one saree on an average on every other day, the tally goes to about 370. A realistic figure would be close to 400 I guess. 

Why not donate these sarees to an old age home nearby? Or to the needy on the streets, who would actually need these clothes. Why auction them for money. Or even if you auction them, why not use the proceeds for a donation to a charity of the person's choice? Person gets the saree that has been blessed, a needy person gets the money and blesses the person even more. Win-win no? 

Or even better, why not give the saree that you want to give the temple, to a person who actually needs it? Or a blanket to someone sleeping on the streets without a blanket on new year? Won't he bless you a lot more, and give you far greater satisfaction and happiness than a token donation to the temple. 

I am sure some of our traditions are rooted to the past - the realities of the past. I completely agree that our ancestors and elders definitely deserve our respect, and prayers for what they did, and their role in making us - me and the family - what we are today. 

The tradition of inviting a few brahmins to your house on the death-anniversary ceremony of your parents, I guess would have been a result of the poor brahmins of those ages who struggled without food - an opportunity to serve them, and get their blessings. But today, the same seems to have morphed into a ritual, something like a business - where the people who end up coming for the lunch, don't look poor by any standards. 

Some of the priests, no doubt are extremely sincere, and do their job diligently. But scores of them run this like a business, with multiple functions on the same day - rushing about the whole affair like a formality - some who own very good cars, real estate that puts me to shame. (Taxes? What taxes most of them ask)

While thanking and remembering our parents/forefathers who helped shape our lives and made us what we are today, is not wrong at the outset; the whole affair today seems so commercialized that I have lost my faith in such stuff. 

I would rather, if the money spent (quite a few thousands from what I know and have seen) is spent in a better cause - lunch for the truly needy ones at an orphanage nearby? Sponsoring a child through Worldvision or Make a Difference? Aren't there better ways to remember people ...


Oh, astrology! I wouldn't ever forget the tale of an astrologer who charged 500 bucks per question; and swore to God that I would get into Computer Science when I was in 12th standard. Where did I end up? Civil Engineering. 

Good time, bad time. Leaving for a flight? 7-30 to 9 is Raahu Kaalam. So leave before 7-30 for your 10-30 flight. As if the flight taking off in Yama Kandam at 10-30 is fine. 

Matching horoscopes for marriage, when your whole horoscope hinges on the time, place of birth of yours etc. Hey, the clock there when the doctor wrote down your time of birth could have been running slow for all you know. I even risked getting thrown out, and asked this question at home and pat came the reply - "Then that was what your horoscope had in store for you". A horoscope that hadn't even been written at that point of time had in store for me that my horoscope would be wrongly written. Horoscope-ception. Or more like Horror-ception. 

The guy's horoscope could have been written based on an altogether different Panchang(am) to the girl's. But hey, we will match them using a third Panchangam, to see if the two are fit to live together. Their interests, motives and goals for life, philosophies can be thrown out of the window. If that grid says they can live together, whoa. Celebrate. 

I am not an anti-religion crusader. But when someone 'fools' around in the name of religion, off late, it has started irritating me to a fair level. I am not taking a high horse, and saying I have not been party to any of the above. I have, no doubt. Even my name stands testimony to that - That extra 'H' added for numerological purposes. 

But I guess, with time, one starts to develop an independent perspective. And with that, you start questioning some of the meaningless stuff you've been following. Why can't we do this in a better way, a way that will actually help people a lot more. 

Incidentally, I had this argument at home this morning; and logged into my FB account a while later; to find a ping from a MANIT junior asking if I wanted to Make a Difference by sponsoring an outbound trip for underprivileged kids. And I am :-)