Diwali, religion etc…

First of all, wish you a very Happy Diwali. For those of you wondering what hell that is, it is an Indian festival celebrated for the same reason that all other Indian festivals are: to eat, watch the zillion special programmes on television and enjoy a holiday. Given that Diwali is a Hindu festival, now would be a good time to talk of religion. A religion that claims to be one of the most tolerant in the world. Don’t get me wrong. Hinduism is very tolerant if the devotee is just left alone. But, our guardians of religion (read priests and temple officials) just decide to make things as difficult as possible for the average Hindu. This priest claims that the God housed in the Sri Krishna temple at Guruvayoor does not like salwar-kameez! The salwar-kameez is a North Indian attire that millions of Indian women, including me, feel comfortable wearing. It is so popular that it can probably be called India’s national dress. Now, apparently, God decided that he did not like the women entering his temple to be clad in salwar-kameez. Pray, how does a priest know what God likes and does not like? Does God have a mobile phone on which the priest can contact him? Or perhaps, as Amit Varma suggests, He must simply provide an RSS feed of his wishes.

But seriously, what was Mr. Padmanabhan Sharma (the astrologer/priest/whatever else he is) thinking? That rational, thinking individuals would actually take him seriously? And just who is he to decide what women devotees should wear? This is not the first time the Guruvayoor temple is in the news for the wrong reasons. Some time back, the head priest of the temple denied entry to a devotee because he was married to a Christian. As I had said in my earlier post, if Hinduism is as inclusive as it claims to be, it must accept that dresses are part of a culture. Denying entry into women who wear salwar-kameez is tantamount to denying entry to women because they are Punjabi or Haryanvi. Whatever happened to equality? Can’t we try and set an example? Or am I being a heretic?

PS: In case any of you are wondering why the look and feel of my blog keeps changing, I am experimenting with templates. I am hardly an expert in XML. So please bear with me until I get a template that satisfies me.

It’s a fictional character…for Heaven’s sake!

Yes, I mean Albus Dumbledore, the lovable Headmaster in the Harry Potter books. The hype and hoopla surrounding the recent revelation that Dumbledore is gay is unbelievable. I have read analyses, letters, book reviews and even a feature in a magazine on how it affects the series. Well…the simple truth is, it doesn’t. Dumbledore’s sexuality has absolutely no bearing on the story itself. Neither is it obvious to readers that Dumbledore was, in fact, gay. Then, what’s the big deal? Whatever our reaction may be to homosexuality in general, I don’t see how that interferes with our enjoyment of the books.

My greatest confusion comes from people saying homosexuality is anti-Christian and so it ruins the books for the reader. Tell me, do we think about religion while reading a story book? At least, I don’t. To me, Dumbledore’s sexual preferences hold no consequence whatsoever. To me, Dumbledore is a brilliantly etched fictional character, with his own flaws and drawbacks. That is what makes him human. If he is gay, and that is a problem, then it would be just another one of his flaws. Why should long-time readers of the Potter books suddenly detest both the author and the series? Do we stop reading the works of Oscar Wilde because he happened to be gay? If not, then why are we so obsessed with Dumbledore?

Maybe we, as readers, should learn to separate fact from fiction. Maybe we should be more rational in our outlook towards things that exist, even if we don’t agree with what’s happening. Does that make me a bad person? I hardly think so.