This update refers to a piece of photo-documentation originally in blog form called Welcome to Kaliyuga [http://welcometokaliyuga.wordpress.com] that has since been converted into an EPUB book called THE LAST AGE OF OUR BALANCING ACT [for you to read at high altitude on your way to Incredible India], available through AmazonKindle; you can – or will be able to – find information about this in the Menu section “BOOKS/e-books”.
THE LAST AGE of OUR BALANCING ACT by Abhithakuchalambal
Culture Change Climate . . . Celebrating India Today
In one specific respect the blog form was preferable because of the facility to add an update each year as I have no doubt will be relevant and interesting both to write and also to provide photographs [as it was in 2015 when I prepared the piece below here] – as well as to read.
This superb procession happened to pass me on my way into Wifi to begin uploading images to the Welcome to Kali Yuga blog two years ago. A little statue of Lord Siva was being carried lovingly in a palanquin with much ceremony around the mountain believed to be his embodiment. Lord Siva is the Destroyer of Ignorance, in case you didn’t know. With respect for both synchronicity and beauty, an image of this procession became the cover of The Last Age.
So here is last year’s update to THE LAST AGE:
An expected two hundred million people are almost certain to be displaced globally with a sea-level rise rise of only two meters, while an ice shelf presently collapsing in Antarctica will soon bring the global sea-level rise to ten feet, so obviously we as a species are severely challenged by the present consequences of our reckless middle-class way of life.
However here by the embodiment of Lord Siva – the destroyer of ignorance, we are not much disturbed by prognoses of any kind, even pertaining to our own immediate urban congestion or the great health risk faced by such a flourishing pilgrimage place.
On the surface thanks to optimistic Pachamama with the green hill behind, bolstered by the famous psychological stability of local culture, abetted by economic resilience: it’s all good here in 2015 when you get can get a word in edgeways between traffic to face friends and ask, the answer is clear: All Good.
Those two images represent Life-goes-on-as-usual, now let’s just take a peak at KaliYuga signals again:
This photo is of motherly members of a pilgrim family who has travelled all the way from somewhere to walk around the hill; they had the presence of mind to plan a picnic for on the way. Now that they have returned from pradakshina to their waiting vehicle, their husbands rest placidly in the shade of their parked van and their children explore the forest fringe, while they organise the food.
Instead of skinny bare-big-footed villagers with shaven heads smeared with turmeric-and-sandal-paste and a few rupees rolled into the cloth around their middles or respectable best-dressed polyester city-siders with hip-pockets and hand-bags who have always walked – snacked along the way perhaps, taken tiffin in town, here we have a symbol of versatile empowerment in action indeed: everything but the kitchen sink comes so the women can conjure up the quality spread their family deserves. No shonky tiffin on wobbly tables in dirty Tiffin Stalls for them. Rajas and Ranis and the very rich of centuries now past naturally had servants to provide the spread but in KaliYuga we can do it ourselves.
And now for something completely different:
Look at this KaliYuga phenomenon!
What has this to do with The Age of Ignorance you may ask?
Well the answer is firstly that in all previous centuries, coming across a WhiteMan handling garbage in India was hugely unlikely. And secondly because as I passed and thanked this young person for his unprecedented charitable endeavour he sarcastically asked me if I would help him – me an old lady all dressed in white with camera up front and no hat on a hot day, which does indicate to me that his heart is not in it: he’s tarnishing the beatitude of those immaculate garbage bins not to mention the charitable face of the German ashram who he represents and who provided the marvellous bins; also he’s fooling himself as well as anybody else who might have presumed his authenticity.
Notice that although self-deception is certainly one of the most basic of human weaknesses, it is also a hallmark of the Age of Ignorance. Advertising stands victorious upon it! (Never forget that.)
Another hallmark of this age is the degeneration of cultures and the homogenisation under the Capitalist flag; it is in fact as pervasive and perverse for us all as the degradation of environment and bio-diversity. The past forty years have witnessed a tremendous loss of traditional wisdom as mentioned previously here (e.g. In Medical Matters : Medicine Matters – sections of The Last Age). Another dimension to this loss is the breakdown in traditional values and even beliefs.
One illustration of this can be represented by our JimmyDog:
This JimmyDog is a facsimile of our previous JimmyDog but he has a big problem.
Jimmy’s problem is that he is chained up here almost all of the time; it is very hot most of the time and the chain is short, consequently he whines, ravages the unfortunate only sapling he can reach, scrapes up the earth, yelps, barks, picks up and empties his water bowl and by all the means at his disposal tries to persuade the humans who have power over him to let him free. In the image above he is exhausted after such a performance. His female humans were sitting very nearby for the duration, washing clothes, chatting, seemingly oblivious to his efforts.
Whenever he is freed, he scoots immediately up to scavange rubbish heaps in the carnivorous village and returns to his vegetarian home with unspeakable filthy stuff which he proceeds to stink here out with.
He himself is fed on rice and sambha. What else!? (Yes, imagine a human fed their whole lives on worms or grass!)
Being an empathetic type wimp I offered a solution but Mo told me very firmly that the village people will not burn or otherwise dispose of their filthy waste because they do not care about flies that crawl over their garbage and then their food thereby spreading disease. They do not care about cleanliness or their children’s health. Or future: not that either.
My impressions over forty years have led me to believe that the Tamils are scrupulous about cleanliness according to the conditions imposed within their own domain: in this case all the villagers need to do is burn or bury their dangerous garbage. But this is not worth the value of cleanliness, evidently. Times have certainly changed.
There are other values that have lost their repute as I learned yesterday during an event that this image below conveys at least visually; the absent audio accompaniment is deafening, including dynamite let off in between concrete walls for extra shock:
This procession is part of a village festival; our village was sparkling for three days with fairy lights strung up beside neon tubes tied to posts – yes, even in the day time – along all streets including the one downstairs that also serves as a living room for the inhabitants of the house; my room is on the roof; I have ear-plugs.
The drums had been banging away for quite some time. Hours before this photo was taken when the drums first began I rushed to ask Mo who had died: the drumbeats were the Death Drums ubiquitously used in funerals.
Oh said Mo They use the Death Drums for all festivals now. He-he.
WHAT! I was truly stunned, this is Incredible India not some barbaric alien country. Playing those funeral-drums at a gay village festival is exceedingly inauspicious..
Yes said Mo but what can we do?!
What can we do! This is a democratic country Mo! You can speak with other women in the village and remind them of the implications of doing something inauspicious like this. They will persuade their men to go back to all the great old particular idiosyncratic festival rhythms.
In Oz from where I come, most people don’t know what auspicious means . . . mostly they have never heard of it, or have a vague notion that it’s religious, which it is not – not necessarily. But in India we do know and auspiciousness is a tremendously important concept in the culture, especially the local Tamilian culture.
Oh – said dear Mo, they don’t care about those things anymore! (He-he.)
This is analogous to people in a Muslim community not caring about blasphemy anymore; this is what radical degeneration means!
Digression! [Slightly relevant digression]: After seeing parades/processions involving young men with flower-pots on their heads hundreds of times and asking for explanations also sometimes – (e.g. see the story: One Way to Settle a Dispute, in Tales Told to the Tooth Goddess (Partridge Publications, 2015).) – this time I asked: Well, what’s this festival all about, Mo?! Her answer confirmed my impressions about village festivals in general, listen:
Well, we cook Coollu (millet with curd).
Yes . . .? . . .?
Mo didn’t seem to have any more to say. She and her two lovely daughters were dressed up way beyond a Maharani’s scope, jewellery galore. All three shone on me.
Eventually after suitable admiration was expressed, Mo brightly said: We drink Coollu today – would you like some?
What about the meaning of the festival?
Oh, it’s for Mariamma. (Mariamma is one of the Tooth Goddesses, she takes care of women and children, especially children with chickenpox.)
Right. Then why do they carry pots decked with flowers on their heads?
Oh said Mo. I don’t know that.
My impression is that a village festival is always about getting dressed up and cooking something in particular or just heaps, inviting family and maybe friends to eat with you, and some action is necessery – in this case the flower-pots taken around the village.
The action may not mean anything in particular anymore but that’s not important. Doing it is. The action will relate in some way to paying homage to a god or goddess or both. There will always be music and dancing. The dancing is done by the transvestite community – usually young men with frilly ballet-type skirts over jeans and t-shirt, ankle and wrist bells, very red lipstick. In many such processions the Nadaswarams (a long flute, a relative of the Clarinet) accompanies the Tavil Drum. Nadaswarams is an uplifting, joyous if raucous sound, the instrument is always used in Temples and at marriages. Very noisy and very exciting.
The drums and dancing at funerals is supposed (theoretically, so I am told) to express the gaiety of the family and friends of the dead person, since that person – provided of course that they attracted positive karma in this life – will have gone on to their just rewards.
However the drums do not express any such gaiety at all: the beats are an ominous combinations of sounds. Tamil people – like any other people, grieve the death of loved-ones, consequently even if only by association, the funeral drum-beats conjure up feelings of anything but gaiety.
It’s not the instrument that’s inauspicious, you see, it’s the music.
Now regard another manifestation of KaliYuga:
Progress has done well here on the surface. All glitter!
Oh the satisfaction of being able to have a day away in the big smoke . . .
. . . . but it all comes with a price.
The price is our time, our equanimity, our spaciousness-inside; as you all know these priceless attributes of a sane and sober life inevitably become overwhelmed by the pressure of keeping-it-up.
Keeping what up?
Appearances. Excitement. Satisfaction. Security. Social vantage point on the ladder. Survival. Entertainment. Action. Anything to distract attention from existential consciousness. Fun. . . .
Here is the mature Kaliyuga: whereas a large contribution to India’s famous psychological security evolved from sound family/home environment in which the women maintained the fostering/nurturing climate necessary for the young to mature in a dignified and secure way, now with the progressive dog-tag, nuclear families demand that both parents work. This is just as much if not more of a catastrophe here as in my native place or anywhere else on Earth.
Five-days-a-week working life was off the Indian table long ago but now seven-days-a-week seems to be absolutely necessary, with perhaps an hour earlier knock-off-time to buzz off with wife and all the kids on board your bike to a favourite temple regularly Sunday afternoons. Either that or turn your TV up full-blare and the whole family Bollywood away together in the small space of your living room, (afterwards you all have to go up onto the roof to cool down). Without exception – among the well-organised small-town middle-class families I know that is, this is the kind of routine. These people know how to spend their time.
The imperative that both parents work is partially caused by the proliferation of small businesses as population perculates menacingly beyond reasonable capacity: a person who had the initiative to open up a small shop selling something under great but unavailable local demand ten years ago now has to share distribution of that commodity with many clone-shops that sprouted once the innovative business opportunity was revealed. Business still thrives thanks to the Great Goodness, but only with increased effort and commitment of parents.
Money is hard to get although much more of it is needed due to astronomical inflation savagely coupled with compulsory middle-class requisites hitting the fan fast and furious.
Here now it’s only the sadhus and beggars who have time for reflection and contemplation, the rest of us are in the rat-race. People whose parents were villagers – simple-minded people without rampant ambitions, are now faced with impossibly high expectations to provide some semblance of security for their children and their old age, expectations that rob them of inner peace.
The national role-model of the cow’s existential equilibrium is now tethered uncomfortably to materialism.
Nice though, that cows still sit all about on corners and under the rare shade-trees, chewing cud. At least they are content just to be.
Nice that we have sadhus and beggars. At least there is a way out here . . . like through the trap-door at the back of the rabbit rubbish bin.
All we ever needed was a third stomach!
Speaking of our tummies there is a very recent influx in our local Digital-Poster-Culture to remind us of just how much our Chief Lady is responsible for not only the food we eat at reasonable prices but many many other benefits . . . you should see the Main Street of town! I will go in now and return with a photograph or two for you.
Here are some, aren’t they encouraging!
I only battled half way down Car Street for these, they are just a few … Stunning! And there were more on the way back home:
Those little thumb-nail inserts are brilliant. But just in case you leap to the appraisal that this is all just the work of her PR woman . . . . you’re mistaken, this woman walks her talk, she does, everyone can tell you that.
Just to give you the feedback promoted by my photographing these Digital-Poster-Culture posters today, listen to this:
– one boy reported that the government hospital operated on his brother’s savagely broken knee-cap FOR FREE because Jayalalitha told them to; many poor people are able to have operations like this that they certainly could not afford otherwise;
– one woman’s daughter was given a bicycle . . . everyone in her school with poor parents was given one – by Jayalalitha. She has a huge army of people who organise all this.
– another woman’s son was given a computer – again all the kids with poor parents in his school were given one – you guessed it: by her;
– one kid and all the poor kids in his school were given school bag, books – everything they need, on first day of term. . . She arranged all this.
– my Auto driver told me that The Ration Shops sell low cost food – all essentials except vegetables I guess, for poor families: Rice, Dahl, oil, spices – everything. He pointed out the thumb-nails illustrating this contingency.
A few days later up in nearby hill-station this beautiful truck passed us carrying supplies of discounted food to ration shops in remote villages; it masterfully negotiated hair-pin bends ahead after passing us:
In other words Jayalalitha’s playing out Maid Marion in real life now that she’s free of the movies . . . . and she’s doing it FOR REAL!
Jayalalitha? She’s a legend!
It’s now a week later and most of the big boards are suddenly absent – evidently they were up because a member of the opposing political party was coming with his own loud-speakers.
Here is another symptom of KaliYuga that I learned about yesterday, it comes down from up top: a new local father friend had to devote most of two weeks to persuading the civil authorities to register the birth of his baby daughter because he and his wife delivered their baby at home. When my grandson Hari was born at home I was able to register his birth without any difficulty at all and I was just the grandmother – not the father! An allopathic doctor friend justified the new rules that prohibit home births on the grounds of protecting women and children . . . the handiest of fascistic restrictions on citizens all over the world. Fascism seems to be contagious nowadays!
However India is far too incredible, too flamboyant, too versatile for her people to be oppressed by fascism; this is culture is one of classic Anarchical Democracy of all time. And it works. It really works!