Can I ask a question?

Hello people! As you might know, I blog infrequently. I constantly have random thoughts and questions in my head many of them IMO can form blog posts. There are 2 main reasons why I don’t write then. 1. I get lazy and like a FIFO stack, the older thoughts are replaced by newer more random thoughts; and 2. Whenever I am with hubby, I have an outlet for these potential-for-blog ideas. I keep bombarding him with this mish-mash of questions, thoughts, radical world changing ideas. Now, after 3.5 years of marriage and around 6 years of being a couple, he has learnt how to not listen at all while pretending to be completely interested. Both of us are fairly happy with this arrangement.

I have noticed that whenever he is not around, I update my blog. This post is slightly different though. This is a topic, we discussed for many hours and our disagreement was stronger than on most topics.

So how the thought came up: I recently read Palace of Illusions. Retelling of Mahabharat from Draupadi’s point of view. I started thinking, if we are told Indraprastha is where Delhi is now and Kurukshetra is where the war happened. Maybe someone should look for archaeological proof to prove how old the story actually is and what is the scientific explanation for what is mentioned as miracles. I have always been fascinated by this epic. Unlike the goody two shoes nature of characters in Ramayana, this one has gray shades in each character, including Krishna. Interesting way of highlighting that the human race is flawed, even Gods in their earthly form will fall prey to human shortcomings.

The hubby is psycho about history and guessed that since Harappan civilization is dated back to around 2600 BC and the society in Mahabharat is much more advanced technologically(weapons, vehicles, construction etc), the story would have to be set much later than the claimed 5000 to 6000 BC. That is, if it ever happened. (Since Ramayan is supposed to be older than Mahabharat, the same questions apply to that too)

I think many historians and sociologists have in the past said these epics could be retellings of tribal tales which have been combined into one epic, thus explaining multiple side tracks. And that these stories are full of hyperbole, so hanuman didn’t really fly but was a very fast navigator. Things like that you know.

Till this point our discussion was very cordial. Then came the issue where things fell apart. I was wondering, given that he is in media and writing, why noone researches and writes about these things.

His contention is: “People who write about/question these things will be targetted by extremists. And the moderates have to take part of the blame for this situation”

Why? What is a moderate expected to do?

The same argument of moderates being at fault has been used against moderate Muslims when it comes to terrorism. It now is being applied to moderate hindus, who go about quietly following whatever they believe in their homes.

Just because a moderate believer (of any religion) doesn’t come out on the road and behave like the extremist idiots, they should not be held responsible.

So basically I have at this point 2 main questions:

1. What is ideal moderate behaviour? Come out on the streets as a counter balance to the extremists. Make noise about your religion and beliefs being different from that radical group? Doesn’t that go against the definition of a moderate. If I vote for the party I consider capable of making decisions on freedom of religion, behave in a unbiased/un-prejudicial way, isn’t that enough.

I recently saw how a mob behaves when they were outside the Headlines today office. In my opinion, the controversial news article was anything but that. It was like stating the obvious – in fact it didn’t even need a sting. The RSS is increasingly a bitter group of people who don’t want a solution to their problem, they want ‘their own’ solution. Not open to debates about their ideology. Just like the mullahs of Taliban or many madarasas who think they have all the answers and don’t entertain any questions. Should I and others like me become like them screaming at everything and telling others to shut up?

2. Who will ask the questions and find the answers? If as an researcher/historian/author, I have to fear for my personal/family’s safety and also the reach of my work, what is my incentive? It the best research on Hinduism and Islam can not happen in India, with everything becoming a cause for mob violence, the times to come will be sad. IMO at some level, everyone has to accept that all religions are sexist/regressive/outdated. You can’t take them literally all the time, if you want pick the right things. Let the ones who have the knowledge answer the questions or give their theories about things you don’t understand.

Recently Priya Ramani mentioned her opinion on Ram and his behaviour towards Sita in an editorial. Some of the respondents were full of rage with no valid points, except for “how could you?”.

Same thing happened to Salman Rushdie with Satanic Verses.

If this pig-headedness was shown by a country on any basis other than religion, they would be boycotted by everyone (e.g. North Korea).

I will leave you with this:

If  every time a Hindu questions their religion they are labelled ‘Pseudo secularists’ and if they like something about their religion, they are labelled ‘Extremists’?

Similarly, if a Muslim questions their religion, there is a fatwa against them and when they like something, they are labelled a ‘terrorist supporter’.

Will they ask questions? And if they do who will answer their questions?

9 Responses to “Can I ask a question?”
  1. Well, I feel you went too ahead in your analysis. Take the basic questions in our society:
    1. Can we ask freely why parents are fighting when they do?
    2. Can we ask why someone is wrong when he is?
    3. Can we ask freely what we want to do with our life?
    4. Can we ask the Grading systems in our colleges?
    5. Can we ask why we are under-paid when our counterparts get paid hugely sitting at the Headquarters?
    6. Can we ask….
    The list is plenty. For me, extremists are those who can always ask “why” and others fall into the other category

    • kaaliyakapoor says:

      I think these questions are also very interesting and important. Nonetheless, just because some basic questions are unanswered, doesn’t mean I can’t ask more complex questions. 🙂

  2. Arby K says:

    In the Bible, there is a story about Jesus and one of his disciples, St. Thomas. After the Resurrection, St. Thomas questions whether Jesus is really Jesus. Jesus shows his wounds to him and says, “Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.”

    Religion is a matter of faith, and so are the gods that represent it. The thing about questions is you may not want to know the answer.

    Second, does it really matter to you what other people say?

    And third, how do u intend to find the answer. Digging up Delhi won’t solve it, because the hypothesis that Delhi was Indraprastha can be wrong. May be the stories happened during the IVC, or it maybe folk tales from Central Asia, from the Andronovo culture. Written history before 500 BC is a bit dicey because not many people knew how to write back then. Islam might be easier, given the similarities between Eastern Christianity and Islam and the Nestorian connections of the Prophet, but for more ancient material you may need to take a leap of faith.

    In the end, does it really matter if the stories were true or not? Religion is more about how to lead your life. Gods are like Santa Claus preparing Naughty lists every Christmas.

    • kaaliyakapoor says:

      My problem is not with the belief. It is with not being able to question the belief. Some people might be happy with no answers, I am not one of them.

      It doesn’t matter what people say, it matters to me what is proven and how our mythology is connected to history. It is interesting information.

      On the question of how to go about it, I actually have no answers. I don’t know if it is possible to prove anything. But am sure an expert could do that. I am not saying I want to dig myself. 🙂

  3. Calvin says:

    Have you read prem panickers Bheem (an adaptation of MT’s Randamoozham) and also Iravati karve’s Yuganta… both these look at how mahabharata without the religious trappings. Yuganta i would say is a must read as it is an anthropologist’s view of the story.

    Both of that did not raise any kind of extremist reactions. But what i guess pisses of the moderates is when the likes of priya ramani go and write statements like “Ram was a loser” and such!

    • kaaliyakapoor says:

      Have read Yuganta. Very interesting stuff.

      And I actually agree with Priya on Ram being mostly a loser. But my contention is if I am a moderate and I believe religion is personal, even if I didn’t agree, I shouldn’t be offended.

  4. ravi says:

    Interesting….I wonder if you have read SL Bhyrappa’s verions of Mahabharat? Its called ‘Parva’ and tells the story from multiple POVs, including Draupadi’s

    • kaaliyakapoor says:

      I haven’t read it. Will look for it soon. It is such a fascinating story, I can read about it again and again.

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