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The wrong description of India as other worldly, particularly the Hindu society by British rulers was never a correct and honest description. I was born and grew to be a teenager in British India. I never saw any otherworldly society. What I saw was a more passive, ignorant society with ninety percent illiteracy among women and seventy percent among males. These days men in the age group 20-45 take to drugs easily without any inhibition, indulge in sex, show more violence on the internet under assumed names and show all that is known as bad upbringing. They are no better than the scum of the US society of the last decades of the last century.

Kaliyugi tendencies
That is not eternal India but they fit into the eternal Hindu explanation for the rule of the Lord of Kali. If the society degenerates we have an eternal explanation. In a way that is true because we have fraudulent gurus whose five star culture shocks you and jyotish gurus who drink, exploit women and do all that gets easily described as tendencies of Kaliyuga. Illiterates are always more tradition bound and religious, more out of respect for the powerful in the feudal society of those days than they are today. But they committed all those crimes against women, particularly mothers in law proving a nightmare for the daughters in law. The dowry demand had not reached such menacing levels as I saw after independence.

Astrological guidance
Astrological consultations for each and every thing and decision was not known then at all. The marriages of girls were decided without tallying horoscopes, more on the recommendation of the barbers who visited so many houses and were walking marriage counselors. One man fifty four years from Rajasthan had totally confused me once when I asked him when had he got married. He had said fifty five years ago. His father and a friend of his had got married and the wives of both of them had become pregnant. They decided that one of them was a girl and the other a daughter they would be married. They were and I met both of them. The wife was senior to the husband by some months.

Barbers as marriage counselors
If marriages were successful it was because the girls were told that they had to be a success. In all the cases known to me, I saw few years after marriage, women dominating. My joke then and even now is that every successful marriage is built around henpecked husband whether he admitted it or not. And what were traditional women doing in northern India? Cooking food, producing children till they reached menopause and reading Sundar Kanda of Tulsikrit Ram Charit Manas. Life moved on predetermined lines till the second world was created black market, corruption and the society started changing. That society changed because it was feudal not eternal. But the eternal element in it Sundar Kanda of Tulsikrit Ram Charit Manas seems to have become an eternal element suggesting that the belief in the supernormal will never die. If that were not true we will not have had so many preachers in the prospering religious television channels.

Post independence India After independence, literacy levels and health care improved but women remained fettered by tradition till the late eighties of the last century. But they were all downright materialists, with spiritual pretensions but accumulating money for the education of their children and marriage of their daughters. In our locality in Lucknow of less than one thousand households, only two freedom fighters were there, our family and that of Gopinath Srivastava. In both cases, the CID was chasing us and imprisonment was a common story. Other households had passive sympathy for us, being timid, and never ever helped us openly when we were starving.

I always wondered then, and wonder even now, what is the use of such worship which prevented them from helping suffering people. It is later when I read the Srimad Bhagvatam, particularly the Devahooti and Kapil Muni dialogue that I found the right answer. I had another and larger of that timid India and Indians in 1975 when Indira Gandhi imposed
national emergency and she and her party the Congress have becomes symbols of national disgrace since then. Make no mistake those whom you mistake for devotees are not devotees. Some of the drunkards and debauched people have greater devotion.

During my childhood and boyhood we were in very active touch with south India also and I found south Indians more materialistic though they memorized more Sanskrit stotras to pose as wise men of society! Before fixing the marriages of their daughters they first made some inquiries about the family property of the would be bridegrooms ! What was otherworldly in all this I always wondered and never understood why the British called Indians otherworldly.

This was the normal India but it had the other side always visible, the eternal side. Going to take bath in rivers on sacred occasions, going to pilgrimages, respecting mahatmas, memorizing some beautiful poems of Meerabai, Soordas, and of course Hanuman Chalisa and reciting the Ramcharit Manas was the commonest feature of community life. Through these, the spiritual ardor of some was kindled and kept alive. That was, and is the eternal India we know of.

Fatalistic acceptance of sickness and death was inevitable because the average longevity then was 27 years against 65 of these days, infant mortality was very high and death through malaria and tuberculosis was common. Now when all this has improved that fatalism also has vanished mostly. If the British mistook it for other worldliness, it was their mistake or a deliberate distortion.

Astrologers were consulted only on very few occasions and that too by some families only. It is now that astrology has become an obsessive mania with the middle classes. It turn has led to the growth of fraudulent astrologers just as in Mexico there are fake plastic surgeons and IVF operations in UK by greedy doctors. A pregnant now wants an astrologer to fix a time for cesarean operation for the delivery of a child who should be an angel, a great person whether her own or her husband’s karmas promise such a great child or not.

What we must know is that kama, krodha, lobha, moha, matsarya, mada are eternal everywhere. In India, the land of seers, we have thought and thought and thought about these problems and found a way out which is why we have the richest spiritual traditions, very genuine spiritual traditions and have not  perverted the meaning of spirituality as Americans have. No religion other than the sanatan dharma has understood all this and yet we have the ludicrous sight of seeing the leaders of other religions, which appear more like codes than deep metaphysical understanding of human life and world, wanting to convert Hindus!

( 2 January 2008)

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