Tuesday, October 4, 2011

worship them but don't have them...

Some Hindu mythology terms used in the text...

Kanjka ...a name given to the young girl avatar of the goddess Durga.
Devi ... goddess
Pooja ...worship.
Halwa poori and chana ...the traditional dishes made as an offering to the Godess.
Maha astami ...a auspicious date in hindu calender 
Navratra...a nine day period in hindu calender when Godess Durga is considered to visit the worldly ...

The day of maha ashtami during Navratra is considered special for worshiping the kanya roop (young girl avatar) of the Devi. Young girls from all over the neighborhood are invited and worshiped, their feet are washed and they are seated on a decorated place and offered the traditional halwa poori and chana. They are worshiped like any other God, in this case Devi (goddess). In the northern parts of India, young girls are called Kanjka on this day, Kanjka is the name given for the young girl avatar of the Goddess.

I witnessed something very obvious which has happened in our society recently. Still it remains oblivious.
Early in the morning i saw a middle aged lady searching for kanjkas in the neighborhood and muttering how there are no kanjakas 'available' these days.

What i see in my neighborhood is that people call the daughters of maids and other workers to perform this pooja which is considered to bring good luck and prosperity (all kinds of worshiping is done with a sole purpose), the maids bring a group of young girls with them, often all the young girls from their locality, and they visit the apartments one after the other.

Now , don't get me wrong as i do not have anything against feeding these young girls(from slums) and offering them some gifts on this occasion. I myself used to invite many of my friend's daughters and some maids' daughters (and sons too) for maha ashtami pooja some years ago and it used to be a great picnic for all the kids. For me it used to be a nice get together of kids which my daughter also enjoyed and many kids would refuse to go home.

I would come to what came upon me today seeing that middle aged woman asking for the kanjkas  .... Aajkal kanjkan milti hi nahi hain ( these kanjakas are not available these days)... I was reminded of a day when i overheard this lady advising another younger pregnant lady , asking weather she has got the 'tests' done. She was saying ...hamare zamaane me to ye test hote nahi the to humne kuchh nahi kiya, ab toh mauka hai , beta hi kar lo .....(these tests were not available in our times but now you should try for a son as there are options).....A quick flash back flickered before my eyes and i have been thinking about the morals we have as a society.

Incidentally , the trade and practice of sex determination and preferential abortions has picked up in the last decade only , may be a little earlier Although there were other practices like killing the girl child after birth in some parts of the country but this particular 'sex determination test' thing has made it more convenient for the people who think that aborting a female foetus is not murder and there is nothing wrong in doing that. I will talk about this mind set a little later, but this sudden unavailability of kanjakas (young girls during navaratra) is a recent phenomenon. I guess girls aged below 10 would be even lesser in numbers than the already skewed gender ratio.

Interestingly , the gender ratio doesn't seem to be affected amongst the slum dwellers . Is it due to the unavailability of means for them or ignorance of such 'divine facilities'. Or it is due to the fact that their social fabric is different from the mainstream society . The woman is often the sole bread earner and worker by all means. Or just more working hands irrespective of gender. They seems to be the providers of Kanjkas of maha ashtami for a long time to come. Idols for worships come from the most unlikely places and go back to the oblivious life they live.

How the same people who worship the kanjakas whole heartedly are the same people who advocate those 'tests' and advice young couples to abort a female foetus . Isn't that shocking? I wouldn't be surprised to see the couple who chose to abort a female foetus , inviting young girls and worshiping them for the prosperity they thought their own daughter would have hindered.

I am talking of my own experience...
I have seen people of my generation (earlier i used to think our generation is the one who would bring change)
justifying sex determination and female foeticide. It was numb shocking for me to see a friend of mine whose family includes 4 doctors and a lawyer, choose to abort a female foetus...which would have been her second daughter. Yes, i am ashamed of that friend of mine. It was even more shameful when she tried to convince me how there is no life in the foetus till.....

I will tell you something even more shocking. This was a person who used to talk like an activist, talking about women's rights all the time in our college days and rebelling against every restriction she thought society is putting on women. The question is , how these people turn deaf and dumb when it's their turn to act. They want everything from the society, condemn the society when their own conveniences are denied and bend the moralities in their own favor whenever required , for their own convenience. Are we a nation of self centered people? Pointing a finger to others when norms are inconvenient for us and keeping our eyes shut when we ourselves do a crime....

And we worship the kanjka.....

And i question the activist types more.....just because i have seen more fake activists in my life.

Do we use activism as a means to make the societal fabric convenient for ourselves only ?
Do we work from our own side to make the societal structure conducive for overall growth , including equal rights for women and children and for other people deprived of human rights?
Do we know that demanding for equal rights and working for equal rights could be more result oriented if we would have worked for self empowerment and awareness (i would call it awakening) ?

I was just thinking if today being maha ashtami , some people might have performed this pooja first thing in the morning and went on to do this business of sex selection as their 'job' .

Or in some family the discussions of aborting a female foetus might have been hush hushed just for today or they might have gone ahead with their plans after performing the pooja at home...

I am wondering.....


  1. the title says it all.. worship them but dont have them .. jsut shows how hypocrite we have become.

    so true and you are wondering the right thing..


  2. Sangeeta,
    And think of it ..that elderly lady is herself is a "woman"..wonder if her parents have thought on the same line then perhaps she hadn't breathed here on earth..anyways truth is we all are bigots in someway or other..when we goona realize that?? never ?....so heart touching topic ..hugs and smiles

  3. Never understood such attitudes, but I think some of it is a result of self hatred. Hearing everybody around her say (or convey) that daughters are a burden hurt when she was herself a daughter, but now that she is safely out of being only a daughter, she wants the convenience of avoiding a 'burden'.. just thinking aloud.

    All the activism and aggression was perhaps a half-hearted, half-convinced way of trying to exonerate herself from her biggest sin, of being born a woman. But she was never convinced that she was no less (or more) than anybody else. Just thinking aloud...

  4. @ IHM... Human psychology is complex for sure , but in this case this woman was an only child .. someone you watch over the years and you understand....i don't think it was self hatred , cannot be when someone thinks he/she is always right and every demand is rightful. Duties are conveniently forgotten.

    This example was just incidental and i have seen many who play ignorant when it's their turn to act or decide....personal conveniences are way more important for many of us... isn't it?

  5. thought provoking!!
    came here after a long time!!! saw a lovely bird in our farm and somehow remembered u. thought you would have identified the bird!!!
    How are you?
    and pls dont wonder too much...it will only give you grey hairs and heart ache!!!. believe me i work in the villages..i thought female foeticide is rampant only there!!! but recently when i had been to my gynaec here in the city there were atleast two ladies who wanted to abort the foetus after knowing its gender!!!

  6. Very true Nena....heartache is so very easy to get.

    I am glad a bird reminded you of me sweetheart :)

  7. well written Sangeeta ,it is a black truth of Indian society!!!

  8. Agree with this post so wholeheartedly. Activism for activism's sake seems to be the in-thing today. Earlier there were no killing of female babies or foetuses, Sangeeta. We all saw how the AIIMS presented a paper and started the trend and let the haathi out. Now any effort is like getting hold of the tail. We are very fast turning into a society of selfish and bratty people who want only our convenience. We are ably aided in this quest by the fake activists as you so rightly call them and the media. If we end up doing everything to make US feel good, why do we need anyone including our families? Parents only to fund your fancies and fetch and carry for you? Tell me how many so called young women who want to do their own thing and be independent pull their weight when they go home? They make their mothers do their work. These women are the ones who are working for other women? Ha!

    1. I agree. Most of the activist types use their family support for themselves and think they are entitled to it and do not need to reciprocate. I have seen more of this kind unfortunately. Although i believe there are sensible people too :-), including sensible activists.

  9. Very hypocritic. Running to the temples to pray to the goddess but they do not want to have the goddess with them, at home. A friend of my husband's is currently thinking of aborting a foetus, if its a girl, as he has 2 daughters, and I am so so mad. They have 2 daughters, which is what their reason is. But this is not a method or an option, that is what people need to understand. You can just try, thats the only method.

    1. This is really frustrating. To see someone known doing it, the friend I mentioned here, had only one daughter and had been a rebel of sorts during younger days, demanding 'equal' right for girls.
      First of all I think it's never about equal rights, It's always about absolute total human rights, and secondly the rights should not be demanded just for a temporary convenience, we should be able to stand up to our values when required, not succumbing to the convenience factor one more time..in this case convenience of not having to bring up a girl child and not having to bother about dowry. How ridiculous.