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Navaratri, other systems of dieting; but Persian maxim trumps them

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Navratri snacking

Corona has taken a toll of my discourses on elementary Hindu rituals, like Navratra, because my yoga guru from the Monghyr Ashram has placed himself under severe restrictions. Last year, between asanas, he was able to slip in the odd recipe centered around tapioca, water chestnut, without grain, meat and the amber stuff.

My man Friday, a Hindu of insufficient Hindutva, a gourmet cook of non-vegetarian delectations, is almost thrilled to forego his dietary excesses during Navaratri. What comes into play is his innate ‘aastha’ or faith: scratch any skin, and it is there.

Two categories of Indians, of any faith, tend to have a link with religion which over the years has become tenuous: those exposed to western education continuously for two generations or those who grew up in a ‘progressive’ household. The ‘progressives’ in my environment represented a confluence of two streams. Their anti-feudal, anti-imperial stance had certain Marxist antecedents. Otherwise, they derived from the Urdu poets of the 18th and 19th centuries with their innate abhorrence of religious orthodoxy, a caricature of the Mullah, an elegant irreverence towards traditionalism, committed to social justice — a modern outlook, way ahead of self-proclaimed liberals reared on John Stuart Mill.

In modern times, Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Krishen Chander, Rajender Singh Bedi, Ali Sardar Jafri, Ismet Chugtai, Kaifi Azmi, Munish Narain Saxena, and Niaz Haidar have followed the tradition.

Multiple social malaise continued to haunt Muslims in the grip of the clergy to whom they had been subcontracted by the politician. Those being targeted as ‘urban naxals’ are precisely the sources of enlightenment for a community which would otherwise have sunk further into social backwardness.

By way of diversion, social backwardness has triggered an unrelated episode from my travels to the Connemara coast of Ireland where the great cricketer, Ranjit Singhji (Ranji) had bought Ballynahinch castle on a river known for the finest river salmon, a paradise for anglers. W.G. Grace and C.B. Fry stayed with him, but for his sister, he had made expensive arrangements in the nearby convent with some very strict conditions: she would not be converted to Christianity and she would only wear saris.

From childhood, participation in Diwali, Holi and Dussehra for Muslims and Eid, Bakr Eid and Moharram for Hindus was more or less compulsory among families and their circle of friends. Raksha Bandhan too was a beautiful occasion for cross religious participation. What has surprised me is my lack of acquaintance with, say, Navaratri, on which my yoga guru, absent because of Corona, has been my informal instructor. What I suspect has happened is that during my formative years’ observances like Navaratri, Ekadashi, pujas for change of seasons, elements, waxing and waning of the moon were either in a low key or confined to the mofussil who were marginal to Lucknow’s mainstream.

Ramzan, the month of fasting, was noticed by non-Muslims in a sensitive way: invitations for lunches or dinners were suspended. Only the closest of the errant friends made clandestine arrangements to imbibe prohibited beverages. There were eccentrics among the aristocracy in the vicinity of Lucknow who broke their fast with a shot of Scotch. One instance I am aware of where a family protested at the eccentricity of their elder relative. They were roundly rebuffed for standing between the old gentleman and his God.

Ghalib was the biggest advertiser of his mischievous indiscretions during Ramzan. He mentions in his letters how he snatched a bite of ‘roti’ (bread) here and gulped water there. Excuses he makes for not fasting were almost childish:

“Jis pas roza khol ke khane ko kuchh na ho

Roza agar na khaaye to lachaar kya karey?”

(If someone doesn’t have the means for an elaborate ‘Iftar’, or breaking of the fast:

He has only one choice: “swallow” the roza). Swallow here means “end the fast”.

His poor finances and rising costs after 1857 were forbidding. They caused him to write bitterly. “Life in Delhi is becoming impossible; Scotch is selling at Rs 16 per dozen bottles.”

There is a subsidiary group of Hazrat Ali’s admirers, among whom Ghalib counted himself, who fast only for three days of Ramzan, beginning 19th when Ali was struck by a poisoned sword in the mosque at Kufa and Ramzan the 21st when he died.

My grandfather’s fasting companion during these three days was Pundit Brij Mohan Nath Kachar, a regular at our village during Moharram. His sermons attracted full houses.

The speed with which Hindutva has in recent years transformed faith and practice of religion into religious assertion has left me a trifle shaken. Should my 50 years of commitment — films, books, columns on cultural commerce — be put away as a chronicle of wasted time? Or should I dismiss these as cow belt excesses exactly as the authors of the Constitution did.

After 1947, the UP Assembly grappled with a list of 20 alternative names for United Provinces. The matter could not be postponed indefinitely because the drafting of the new Constitution was nearing completion and the state’s new name had to be inserted. The Provincial Congress Committee met in Varanasi in November 1947. A majority of 106 members voted for ‘Aryavarta’ as the state’s new name, 22 members voted for ‘Hind’. Both names were shot down by Nehru.

I had started this column on Navaratri, as nine days of austere dieting. Faith was not an issue at all. Under the guru’s advice, I had been persuaded that it was a healthier way of giving the body a rest than total starvation for 10 to 14 hours which Ghalib found difficult to cope with.

In fact, the best I heard on this theme was from my uncle Syed Mohammad Mehdi. He used to recite a Persian maxim:

“Ba har hafta faaqa

Ba har maah qae

Ba har saal mushil

Ba har roz mai”

(Fast every week;

Drink litres of saline water and

Vomit it out every month;

Purgative every year;

Wine every evening)

(Saeed Naqvi is a senior commentator on political and diplomatic issues. The views expressed are personal. He can be reached on [email protected])

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International Day of Persons with Disabilities: Theme, Date and history of the day

International Day of Persons with Disabilities: It aims to increase public awareness, understanding and acceptance of people with disabilities and celebrate their achievements and contributions.

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International Day of Persons with Disabilities

International Day of Persons with Disabilities is an international observance promoted by the United Nations since 1992. It is celebrated on December 3 all around the world. It aims to increase public awareness, understanding and acceptance of people with disabilities and celebrate their achievements and contributions.

IDPD mobilizes support for critical issues relating to the inclusion of persons with disabilities, promotes awareness-raising about disability issues and draws attention to the benefits of an inclusive and accessible society for all.

UN agencies, civil society organizations, academic institutions and the private sector are motivated to support IDPD by collaborating with organizations for people with disabilities to arrange events and activities.

International Day of People with Disability: Theme

The theme for IDPwD 2020 is “Building Back Better: toward a disability-inclusive, accessible and sustainable post COVID-19 World”.

Every year the UN announces a theme to observe for International Day of People with Disability. The annual theme provides an overarching focus on how society can strive for inclusivity through the removal of physical, technological and attitudinal barriers for people with disabilities.

This has been occurring since 1992 when the General Assembly announced 3 December as the International Day of Disabled Persons.

National Disability Strategy 2010–2020

In Australia, the National Disability Strategy 2010–2020 commits all governments to a nationwide approach aimed at improving the lives of disabled people, their families and carers.

The Strategy’s ten-year national framework for reform concentrates on better inclusion for people with disabilities and seeks to create a society that enables people with disabilities to fulfill their potential as equal citizens.

On the 2012 International Day of People with Disability, the United Kingdom government introduced mandatory work for disabled people who received welfare benefits in order to “Improve disabled peoples chances of getting work by mandatory employment”.

A program is also launched on December 3 across India to serve the differently-able community of the country as an initiative called Accessible India Campaign under the Article 9 of UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD)

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BJP leaders brainstorm for second day, say govt ready for talks with farmers

Union Home Minister Amit Shah met Agriculture Minister Narender Singh Tomar earlier in the day to discuss the strategy to break the logjam.

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Farmers on Protest

Eager to break the deadlock with famers who are agitating for scrapping the new farm laws, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leadership held meetings for a second consecutive day on Monday and sent out the message that the Union government is ready for talks.

Union home minister Amit Shah met Union minister for agriculture, NS Tomar earlier in the day to discuss the strategy to break the logjam. A senior party functionary said, “The message from the top is clear that the laws are not anti-farmers and that the farmers are being misled. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has reiterated that laws will offer better opportunity for the farmers.”

The functionary said the government is ready to sit across the table and discuss the new laws and “address whatever concerns” the farmers have.

Speaking in Varanasi, the PM on Monday said the laws have given farmers new options and legal protection. He lashed out at the opposition for “misleading” the farmers and said earlier decisions of government were opposed now rumours have become the basis for opposition and propaganda is being served even though the laws favour the farmers.

The party has also opted for a cautious, measured response to the agitation. Even though it is pinning the blame on the opposition for provoking the protest, it is taking care not to rile the farmers. “The farmers are innocent. They are being misled by those with vested interests. The laws have barely been implemented and their impact is yet to be ascertained, so how can people rush to call these anti-farmers,” said Rajkuamr Chahar, head of the BJP’s Kisan Morcha.

He said the Punjab unit of the Morcha has been communicating with the farmers’ representatives and has relayed the government’s willingness to address their concerns.

On Monday, even as the party tried to diffuse the anger against the bills, its ally the Rashtriya Loktantrik Party (RLP) joined the chorus for the rollback of the laws. Rajasthan lawmaker and RLP chief, Hanuman Beniwal, shot off a letter to Shah, seeking the reversal of the laws.

“….In view of the countrywide sentiment in support of the ongoing farmers’ movement, the recently introduced three bills related to agriculture should be immediately withdrawn. (The Centre must) implement all recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission, and immediately hold dialogue with farmers in Delhi,” he said.

The BJP, however, played down the ally’s demand. Its national spokesperson on economic issues, Gopal Krishna Agarwal said, “We assure all, including our NDA partners that farmers’ well-being and welfare are in our heart. Large scale market reforms are needed and that has always been the consensus.”

He went on to add that while the BJP opposes misgivings about the APMC mandis being dismantled and MSP being withdrawn, the opposition is politicizing the issue along with the Arhtiyas (commission agents) and middleman.

“We have offered all the basic facilities to farmers, drinking water, toilets, shelters and medical facilities. They have been given permission to protest and also been invited for dialogue. We are open for all discussions on the merits or demerits of the three bills. If farmers have certain serious concerns, we are ready to listen to them,” he said.

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Lunar Eclipse: Chant these mantras for peace during Chandra Grahan

Check out the Chandra Beej Mantra, Dhanvantari Mantra, Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra and Shanti Path given below to ward off the ill-effects of this celestial movement.

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Lunar eclipse

Lunar Eclipse 2020: The fourth and the last Upachaya Chandra Grahan (Penumbral Lunar Eclipse) of 2020 will take place today. Though Sutak is not applicable during Upachaya Chandra Grahan, the constant movements of the Grahas (planets) may cast an impact on zodiac signs. It may influence people’s natal charts. Hence, people must chant mantras to negate the negative effect of Grahan.

The Lunar Eclipse will have a duration of 4 hours and 18 minutes. It will begin on Monday at 1.04 pm and reach its peak at 3.13 pm. The Lunar Eclipse will end at 5.22 pm and will have a magnitude of 0.82.

Check out the Chandra Beej Mantra, Dhanvantari Mantra, Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra and Shanti Path given below to ward off the ill-effects of this celestial movement.

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