Thursday, January 15, 2009

Superstition and belief

I had an occasion to visit the house of an acquaintance of mine some time ago. I had been to that house some years ago and thought it would be easy to find the place. I went to the same street and cross but couldn’t locate the house. Unlike the other up market areas of this city the area in question had not changed much and I could easily locate several other landmarks. But whatever has happened to my friend’s house? Seeing me walking around, apparently lost, a kindly resident asked me whose house was I looking for? I told the name. He laughed and showed me the house. I was standing right in front! What had happened since my last visit was that my friend had completely redone the house. What to my eyes was a beautiful little cottage with an inviting garden in front has now turned into a concrete monstrosity with no front porch and door! The entrance to the house was in the rear where it faced the back wall of the neighbor’s home. The front garden was built up. I couldn’t help asking my fiend what made him do these hideous alterations to his once beautiful home. He did not take kindly to my comments. It may appear like that to your eyes but it is vastu compliant now and my asthma has since gone and there is improvement in my business.

Those of you who are ignorant of what Vastu is here is a very brief introduction. The construction of a dwelling is based on vasthu shastra, ancient principles in the Indian tradition. The house entrance must face the east and the water source [even if it is piped water supply from the municipality] must enter the house from the east. The pooja room should be located away from where the kitchen is which should be located south. The bedroom should be similarly located at a particular place and direction. If one follows all these principles, then, peace, health [disappearance of asthma in my friend’s case] and prosperity are guaranteed, if not, you will be visited by demons and your life in that house would be hell. There are vasthu experts who advise builders and many architects and engineers have some basic knowledge of vasthu. What my friend had done was to completely ruin his house to suit these basics of vasthu and appeared happy that he had done it.

Seeing the disbelieving cynical expression [I seem to be blessed with this expression] he went on. ‘You don’t know how great we were thousands of years ago; we were the originators of today’s mathematics, science, technology, medicine and surgery. See our temples, they are built on sound vastu principles and they have stood the test of time, our ancients knew how to fly aero planes’. I kept a discreet silence, knowing full well it is futile to argue with a believer. His belief has no logic or rationality. The whole issue of religion has many irrational elements and the avid practitioners, some of them are otherwise very rational implicitly believe in these. My friend is one such and his argument is that today’s rationality is tomorrow’s madness. There is some truth in this statement. Yesterdays rationalist is today’s believer and vice versa. What to my eyes hideous is to my friend’s eyes beautiful. I dread to think that I would be so brain washed one day that I would become like him!

Another irrational nonsensical belief is in good and bad time in the course of the day. The good time, as far as I Know has no name. So I presume what is not bad time is good time. The bad time is calculated based on astral position of planets and is called Rahukala.There are almanacs prepared and printed by expert astrologers which give the precise extent of Rahurkala every day. It might surprise you to know that I have known surgeons who will not operate at these hours. Many believers don’t even step out of their homes in these times let alone undertake any work. Now you have another reason why we are so unproductive! There is a gentleman who told me that all the problems that his son is having in his marriage is because he went to see the girl at Rahulkala, against his advice!

This brings me to another irrational practice [according to me].This is, matching horoscopes. A horoscope is an astral chart at the time of one’s birth. This horoscope is for many the most important single document. This is frequently referred to when one is launching a venture. As marriage is a very important venture, we Indians take recourse to matching horoscopes to decide who should marry whom. The logic is, you any way will get to know your partner after the marriage and if the horoscopes don’t match and you marry, then, disaster is guaranteed. I have had many who have attributed their misfortunes to mismatched horoscopes. I gave an example of one my cousins who married after all the matching done, only to lose her husband to a heart attack a few years later. The person to whom I said this replied that he was sure that the person who read the horoscopes was not an expert or the horoscopes were not properly cast. The horoscope is in itself is not to blame. I gave him many examples of successful marriages with no horoscope matching. He smiled and said.’ had the horoscopes been matched, you would have found that they were perfect.

You can never shake a believer.

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