Rakesh's movie talk
Temple: Crime and Misdeameanours

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Regular visitors of this site (or should it be irregular), may also know that I contribute to an Indian Malaysian writers site called Kavya. Well, not exactly contributions, but I provide the site with a link to my Misc Article section. Hopefully this section will educate the readers of Kavya the importance of education and eating low-fat food. Okay, kidding. All I want is the reader to have some fun. That's all.


However, reading the last issue (November 2002) of Kavya I was irked by one particular column that somehow made me uncomfortable at the thought of present day youth's sense of openness and appreciation of real history. I got serious and wrote this piece. That's very unnatural, me getting serious.

The article I am referring to is related to Hindu temple worshipping manners and conducts. Here I would like to point out several generalisations that I wish the writer had avoided and readers would overlook. As much as I hate to bring them up, I feel unloading them here would do my chest a lot of good.

First the writer mentioned about getting annoyed seeing some of the devotees who comes in the temple wearing shorts, tight jeans and mini skirts. I can't see anything wrong in guys wearing the first two attires, unless I would want to stare at them instead of praying. And if I indeed end up staring at them, there is a great possibility that I might later leave the temple with black eyes and swollen cheeks.

Of course, in the case where the same attire, plus mini-skirt are worn by ladies, I think it would do me no good either if I allow myself to be annoyed or aroused rather than just paying attention to my theological needs. If I want to be an observer, I shouldn't be in the temple first and foremost. And if I am not annoyed by a semi-nude priest, his prosperous belly, his blinding sets of jewellery and often, his rude manners, I believe I should not be offended by what my fellow devotees are wearing or doing or saying. Speaking of which...

The article also mentioned about loud devotees and some that smoke in the temple garden while praying. Honestly, I had never seen anyone doing the latter in my life. A person with right mind would never smoke in a temple compound while praying, unless he is doing it with firewood, camphor or incense sticks. By smoking cigarettes, the devotee is only damaging his own lung, and I firmly believe that we should best ignore such suicidal characters, or preach them the value of lollypops and nicotine patches. Of the loud people, I believe that they should also be left alone. Loud bells usually accompany the poojai session and this would usually shuts these people up, and also the rest from hearing the 'slogam' and 'manthram'. I think I would not have any problems about not knowing what the priest is saying, unless I am into Sanskrit.

A good many devotees come to temple to meet their friends to chit-chat and the article pointed out the writer's discontent on that part too. During my younger days, I would go to temple to meet some girls myself. I think it is better than meeting them behind some bushes or in cheap hotel rooms. Many of us have forgotten that temples also function as a socialising place. As long as both of you don't strip yourselves and proceed making love to each other there, you are fine. I can identify a couple of acquaintances that have actually met their respective spouses first in temple. Even arranged marriages have begun there. Many business deals have also been concluded there, and as a reward, donations and contributions have grown higher, making the priest and the temple wealthier and very enticing to thieves.

There was also a mention in that article about a small number of strange devotees who come to temple when the prayer is over, and it seems these strange devotees are never late to miss the "anna prashadham". The writer didn't specify why these devotees are strange. Probably they speak in alien languages and walk on their two hands. Anyway, I believe Hindus overall should be glad that these, err... strange creatures made it to temple at all, considering the growing number of temples and the lack of devotees to service them these days. Also, there's nothing wrong in not missing the "anna prashadham" unless the earlier devotees are worried about the lessening of their share.

There is also unavoidable mess like the fights during the major festivals like Thaipusam, as the writer aptly quoted in his column. Temple committee should get their act together and work into avoiding this. I recall a fight back in my plantation where people fought because of some conflicting methods of certain rituals. This is merely one of the reasons. They are so many other reasons that the authorities should look into before simply blaming those who wield parang or 'arua'. I know a temple in my hometown, in which the committee members themselves threw chair at each other, and it was not even Thaipusam yet. It was a normal weekly meeting and these religious, holy people had some sort of confusion between politics and religion. Gone are the days when only politicians are allowed to throw chairs at each other. If the leaders can get physical, what is there to stop the followers?

I believe the writer is right in pointing out the parents role in moulding their child's behaviour. But the people he was annoyed with are mostly parents themselves. Who should be moulding them? A good temple, with good leadership and well-defined rules and regulation which is enforced in most diplomatic manner should never face the kind of problems that are agonising the patrons, I mean, the devotees.

A temple is an open place with no proper four walls. Like the religion, it is open. God sits there and watches everyone. God also sits in homes and also watches all the nonsense going on in there. Temple is a place for worshipping and also a place to develop oneself as a human being. It is built using the devotees' money and it is their right to do anything they want as long as it is legal as far as public places are concerned. If such thing doesn't happen, call the cops.

Open-minded thinking is getting scarce these days, especially when there is a form of religious rejuvenation - thanks to strong advertisements by the vendors of religious products. There is also an emergence of many so-called religious organisations, some doing excellent job of educating the society, and some that usually does nothing but to hold meetings, prayer sessions and collect loads of money. Temples, which started out as a place of worship, socialising, education, and in some places, town/village/estate administration, have now turned into a commercial exchange centre. There is nothing wrong with it, as long as God gets His or Her share too. But devotees must not forget the main reason they are there first and foremost. To pray, and to communicate with God. When he can get himself going about with his own business, the happening surrounding him can be ignored. God, if he should believe, will take care of them.

If one is agitated against the nasty ongoing he or she should take charge and in the most diplomatic manner, tell the fellow devotees about his feeling on what is right and wrong. You would be surprised to see the effect of nice words and firm manners to many people. Do it there, and do it then. If it didn't work, go back to your business. If the patrons get rowdy in manners, call the law. No use griping and generalising about it in national dailies.

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