Swamiye Sharamanamaiyyappa !!!

This blog is based on the verdict of what Supreme Court has declared on Sabarimala, where they are allowing women of all age to enter the Sabarimala temple.

 

Those who don’t know Sabarimala can read here and understand about the story of Ayappan and his devotees and believers.

I have a personal connection with Ayyappa and the whole nine yards because I used to go with my Dad to all puja’s and temple visits during those 42 days… ! I remember singing bhajans of Ayyappa during those puja’s such as – Thedi varum kannugalil – which even my North India school teacher’s were fan of and I have sang those during my school assembly as well!!!

So, I have a story too and its very close to my heart. When I say heart, its because it involves my Dad who is a big Ayyappan bhakt and I can vouch how deeply he is spiritual with Ayyappan. My dad Meladathe Chandrasekhan Nair who started worshiping Lord Ayyappan at the age of 12 – very young and today he is 83 years old but he went to Sabarimala for 42 years and walked the sabarimala 42 years from Erumelli to see his Lord Ayyappan’s darshanam (visit). Imagine when he started this at the age of 12, being his daughter how I am connected to all of this. Every devotee who completes 18 years of visit to temple will plant a coconut tree there at Sabarimala and my Dad has planted two of them.

Even before my birth my Dad named me Usha -Ushas and I can see all this is related to Ayyappan because he used to often talk about Usha (Dawn) puja, Uccha (afternoon) puja and Vaighuneram (evening) puja.
Every year my Dad used to take leave/PTO from his work to go to Sabarimala after completing his 42 days strict vritham, when he was bachelor I am sure he could and after his marriage still he did follow and went every year. I remember as a kid I used to see my Mom used to go and stay at my friend’s house and after that she used to come when her menstrual cycle was completed. But my Dad never shy away from his social responsibilities even though he was a Guru swamy who used to take lot of kanni swamies with him to Sabarimala. Being a husband and father of his two children he fully did his duties. He used to take four times bath but he used to make sure he dropped his wife to her office while she was in her menstrual phase and he took care of dropping his daughter to school and rest besides doing puja’s in the Ayyappan temple in Uttamnagar, Pune India. He is a devotee and he would do anything in the name of Lord Ayyappa. He earned things to build a temple for Ayyappan in Uttamnagar, Pune Maharashtra instead of building a house for his family. A very true and faithful human being, I am not saying because he is my father but that’s how I have known him from outside people.

There were landlords/sarpanch’s who have given free land to my Dad to build house but my Dad used that land to build Ayyappan temple. His philosophy is if there’s a will there’s a way and so if there’s a way for his family to have their house they will have. He never believed in things that he got as a gift or bribe, belongs to him – he always said this is not hard earned by my effort so it will not stay with me for long so he used to donate that money which they used to get from their boss to the worker’s canteen and every worker used to enjoy the samosa and tea that day.

An honest man, a believer and family man. I am very proud of my Dad for who he is, a very logical and rationale.

In fact I have been to Sabarimala at the age of 9 when I was in 4th grade. I went to Sabarimala by keeping the vritham (42 days) and then went with my maternal Grandma and cousins. I will tell you I still remember it was a hardship being myself a sports person it was touch climbing those mountains and walking continuously before it gets dark and finally rest in a tent that night. Early morning 4 am you get up to take shower in the Pampa river and then walk to the path of darshan of Lord Ayyappa.
I have been there and done that and after that I have more respect for my Dad because it is hardship and only a true dedicated person would take that effort.

My Dad went till he was 79 and then we as kids being selfish stopped him because we don’t want him to be pushed around during stampede and he probably understood our love and dilemma. But what I want to say is religion, belief is all about individuality and personal choices.
I know my Dad, who is very strict about Ayyappan and the vritham that one must follow. I remember there was one Shekharan uncle who was in Military and came to Dad to go to Sabarimala and my Dad did the puja and he wore the mala to go to Sabarimala but guess what he did drink in between those 42 days of vritham when he was not supposed to. He lied to my Dad but somehow some guilt that it came out and he apologized to my Dad. I remember there were many such stories and it was real not a myth.
Many Maharashtrians have faith and they did follow the rules and went with my Dad to Sabarimala and they came back and been to a Ayyappa bhakt in Uttamnagar.
All this is good, and now we hear about the verdict where Supreme court says women can go to Sabarimala irrespective of what age they are. I hear many debates on this who are in favor of this verdict and those who are not.

I am a believer and I feel that one should have freedom to do what they want that doesn’t hurt anyone. I never was religious and I know even today I have my sentiments because of my parents. I will respect what they believe in but over the period of my personal experience I am an agnostic and strong believer in humanity as my religion.

People should have freedom to worship or not to worship. It should be their personal choice.

After this verdict was out, I was listening and reading about this but I had my Dad behind my mind all the time. As I see lot of debates and arguments and discussions on the social media. All this and then I thought of my Dad.

Whenever I felt a doubt, I have always gone to my Dad to ask because I think he is a person who thinks rationally and would give his unbiased response after that he won’t tell me what I should do.
So today, I asked my Dad what is his thoughts on the verdict.

His response: “I don’t agree supreme court’s decision about women’s entry to sabarimala temple. Those who believe in sabarimala ayyappa swami they will not enter the temple when they are in the age-group of 10 – 50.”

I responded back to him with love saying, Swami Sharanam and he responded back – Ayyappa Saranam,!
I totally agree, its all about one’s belief system.

If you really believe in God which ever God you will have your faith in that and hence you will follow the rules as supposed to those who don’t believe will not take the effort to do anything.

It’s all in the belief system. Now those who don’t believe and still want to prove something will go and visit ….? Not sure what they are trying to prove!!!

I know that in other parts of the world wherever Ayyappa temple is there women go and worship and there is no restriction so what is this all about?

Is this specific about Sabarimala? Then women who are okay to take that hike during their menstrual period is totally their personal discretion I believe unless there is a separate agenda.

Still, I believe this should not cause any issues to those who believe in Ayyappa dharma sashtav.

Because at the end its about one’s own belief. Those who believe will follow the rules and those who won’t will not take the effort to do anything.

Being an agnostic, I will say let’s live and let others live peacefully, as long as you don’t discriminate between human being all is well and peaceful!

Swamiye Saranamayyiappa !

~ Dawn

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Humanity should be our race. Love should be our religion!

I remember when my Hindi poetry book ‘Khwabon Ki Zameen‘ – Land of dreams, was published in 2008 the funds that I collected was mainly for HIV kids in India and during that time I heard from my Mom-in law about Palliative Care and her decision to practice that after her retirement in a hospital for AIDS patients in Calicut, Kerala India. She had mentioned that my Father-in law Dr Narayanan, wanted to do this and since he is no more she would like to take that dream forward.
I was very much touched by that and I also decided at that time of doing the same in one or the other way through whatever way I can support.
Many times our family responsibilities come as priority but I believe there are many other ways that we can support such as financial help, professional help and also through spreading the message across as this is something that not many know about the palliative care and the need of it.
Being in the developed countries such as Canada and USA, I have heard of these and I have seen how patients are supported, in fact I had volunteered in my early days in Toronto, Canada by visiting the old age home where patients need that compassion and love. I used to spend one hour every time I went there and the amount of love I received from each one of them was something I can’t even describe in words and many times I felt did they needed that or was it me, who had no family or friends in that country at that time. It is such a therapy that everyone can benefit by mere showing compassion and love to each other.

“The best way to find yourself is to loose yourself in the service of others.” ~ M. K. Gandhi

These things are not that common in countries like India and many others. We all within ourselves know that every living being needs love, compassion and support during all the times. It’s even more when one is suffering but I feel we in this fast paced era forget about compassion or it gets ignored and lost in many other priorities but what we forget is the main fundamental thing that we are human!

Padma Shri Dr. M. R. Rajagopal is an Indian palliative care physician. He is the founder chairman of Pallium India, a palliative care non-governmental organization based in Kerala, India.
He is often referred to as the ‘Father of Palliative Care in India’, in honor of his significant contribution to the palliative care scene in India. In 2018, the Indian Government honored Dr M. R. Rajagopal with the Padma Shri award.

I would like to share a documentary movie based on Dr M. R. Rajagopal’s life, titled “Hippocratic: 18 Experiments in Gently Shaking the World” which was released on World Palliative Care Day – Oct 14th, 2017.

“We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery, we need humanity; more than cleverness, we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost.” ~ Charles Chaplin

Yesterday I had the privilege to meet in person Padma Shri Dr. M. R. Rajagopal at a charity event hosted by Punyam. Listening to his speech where many stories he shared from his real life and experience that brought tears in many people’s eyes who were present there. It really touched some of the inner core of my soul and the question that I keep asking myself came back again – why are we living if we are not there for each other to support.
Personally when I hear about someone suffering or being expired because of illness, my immediate thought goes to my loved ones because I know one fact about life is that we all are going to die. It’s matter of time and matter of who goes first. No matter when it happens and who goes first, all I care about is to give that happiness and peace while they are there with us. It is so important to do things while people are alive because after death they are not there to see anything, not even your tears.
No matter how much technology takes lead in our lives, love and compassion can never be given by technology. I am a supporter of technology but as an enabler for us. Technology can help with many aspects of health industry but the human touch, and compassion can only be through us i.e., we humans.

“We are very, very small, but we are profoundly capable of very, very big things” ~ Stephen Hawking

Many times I have wished myself to be at places where I can be of some help for humanity and at times the responsibilities takes the first priority and so I try my best to support financially wherever it is possible but my ultimate goal is to be there and help in person on the field for humanity sake.

This is not possible by one person as it takes a whole village to help and support the cause and I am a believer of ‘Drop by drop is the water pot filled. Likewise the wise man, gathering it little by little, fills himself with good’ !

So lets pledge to support Dr. M. R. Rajagopal in his mission for our loved ones sake and for humanity.

“Strong people stand up for themselves, but stronger people stand up for others”

~ Dawn

The next evolutionary step for humankind is to move from man to kind…!

Recently came across a note by friends in social media saying, women who don’t change their last name after marriage – is a sign of women empowerment.

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I see women having their own opinion on that note and I feel that itself is a great achievement that they made a choice, they have an opinion – some did change because they like it that way for what so ever reason – may be the culture they grew up with, or be part of their husband’s family and the belonging aspect of it etc. But having changed the last name or not, the truth is does that makes anyone liberated? I mean I have seen women without changing their last name after marriage and yet have not empowered to make any family decisions or even make a decision for themselves when it comes to career or any other choices.

“Some guys will want to change everything about you. But the right guy will not want to change one thing your last name.”

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Are we dwelling on the right thing when we say ‘women empowerment’? I am not sure but for these name change and not change things and the identity through those actions… because I feel irrespective of what your name is – whether the name and surname is from your maiden family? Or your name is given by your parents and surname is from your husband’s family? Or your first name and last name is given to you by your husband’s family during the marriage as part of the tradition?

“He stole my heart and I am planning for revenge. I am going to steal his last name!”

In my opinion nothing gives you an identity other than what you do and establish yourself as with your thoughts and actions. Believe it or not, I often say to friends when they ask me if I am Usha, Dawn, Fiza and my response to them is – what’s in the name?

“We cannot despair of humanity, since we ourselves are human beings.”

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Yes, what is in the name? I feel specially with the Indian culture and tradition when you see a name your mind opens into – the person is from which religion, caste, language, state and what not. Is this is what you’re defining as your identity? Then hell no!!! I don’t need such identity because I want to be known as a human first and not tied to any religion, caste, state, language or anything such things that divides the human race. I am sure if we were named as numbers because names cause these kinds of issues, still we would come up with who’s the top most and who’s not and would start discriminating based on that.

I have been treated so well the moment people came to know which place I come from and the state, some have treated me so well when they came to know I am Fiza, I got many friend requests and appreciations from Muslim friends, similarly many have asked me if I have married a white guy since I have my name as Usha Dawn – I mean c’mon!!! And to another extent the Dawn is referred as Dhawan and some south Indians they call me north Indian very proudly… I feel sorry for them!

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If people cannot connect with you or your identity without your last name, then it’s better not to connect because it will be a rough pathway.

“Humanity should be our race. Love should be our religion.”

Let’s be human first because that’s what we became as part of evolution and we have not been successful in doing a good job on that itself and we created so many barriers for ourselves in the name of caste, creed, culture, religion and what not!!!

“Find the sweetness in your own heart, then you may find the sweetness in every heart” ~ Rumi

~ Dawn

Do not become a slave to society…!

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Last week I happened to watch a regional movie. It was funny with the name ‘Uncle, my dad’s friend’.

The name was such that one would only imagine what it could be…but anyway I didn’t put much effort to my mind.

As the movie was progressing it was kind of building a suspense as one can expect anything and when I say anything the hype is being created about a possible molestation or a rape only because there is a male and female are involved.

I agree with the kind of things happening in the society, people do make up their mind to tune to one aspect of it and always tend to think the worse than anything good.

“We are fickle, stupid beings with poor memories and a great gift for self-destruction.” ~ Suzanne Collins

Here the situation is a friend’s daughter is near the bus-stop to catch a bus to go home which is in another state. The guy who is this girl’s dad’s friend recognizes her helps to drop her home. Since the journey is long and tiring they do take a halt at one of the places and next morning they continue on their journey. During all this time the audience is built with suspicion is it here things will go wrong or yet to happen. Anyway, there is nothing between the two, but the society doesn’t seem that way and hence they create a fuss about this two traveling alone. Even when the parents accept that their daughter spoke to them and they are aware of their daughter being dropped by this family friend, society doesn’t see it right and they even blame the parents for sending a grown-up girl with a guy.

“A society that puts equality before freedom will get neither. A society that puts freedom before equality will get a high degree of both.” ~ Milton Friedman

What makes me surprise is that even though the daughter and uncle and her parents all are on same page, but the society is so narrow minded that even a good man will be painted with rapist, womanizer and a molester – that’s the society we are living in.

“Society is funny. They ask you to be yourself and yet they judge you.”

These days it’s not limited to man and woman as it can be for LGBTQ members as well. When will society really mind their business and help the world navigate in the right direction? When will we start seeing through a lens where we are not discriminating and treating everyone as human? Society never comes to help when and where it is needed, they will always do the opposite – why?

On Twitter I read this, and it really made me sad …

Me: I’m just not happy.

Bishop: You need a family, it’s the only way to be truly happy.

Me: I’m gay.

Bishop: You don’t need a family, you can still take the sacrament as long as you don’t act on this.

Me: What do I do? I’m lonely.

Bishop: Pray, the Lord will help.

I am not here to change anyone’s belief, but I want to tell that look after for your happiness and protect yourself. Because if you don’t take care of yourself no Lord will do. Because the lord lives in you. Please do not suffer in silence.

There is a reason for your existence, and you must be strong to set example and help others who might be in the similar path of suffering.

“No two leaves are alike, and yet there is no antagonism between them or between the branches on which they grow.” ~ M.K. Gandhi

~ Dawn

Peace and harmony

Many would get offended
Many would laugh too
Some may argue with purpose
Some may just wonder he is dumb
Few would say it’s a mockery
Few would call him crazy
Wearing the uniform proudly
Holding the gun lightly
Yet carrying peaceful mind
With a smile on his face
And flowers in his hands
A message to everyone
Humanity that loves
Peace and harmony
You only need roses
To spread the fragrance
Of love and happiness
~ Dawn
#happypoetrymonth

Freedom of choice is more to be treasured than any possession earth can give…!

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These days we see so many incidents, messages, tweets, videos in social media talking about ‘stand up’!
Yes, I don’t want to mix this with the usual tech industry norms of ‘stand-up’ meeting.

Standing up for self and for others is basically asking defend and be strong. This is what I teach my kids because I always have this fact behind my mind that one day I will be gone and kids will have to face this world all by themselves.
We all know how this world is and it’s not easy to live in. My thinking used to be that as we move forward in life we will be more intelligent and will be more human but that’s not the reality.

“Charity begins at home, and justice begins next door” ~ Charles Dickens

My son is a big fan of Katy Perry the American songwriter and singer, since he was 5 years old. He loves her songs and he sings them as well. Since then he has been after me to go for Katy Perry’s concert and not only this but he would also check if she is performing anywhere. Years passed but he would come and tell she is performing in London or Costa Rica, can we go and I had to tell him it’s far and expensive to go for a concert in those places.
Finally, it happened and Katy Perry’s tour was announced on the 101.3 radio and I got excited about it only because I could imagine my son’s excitement if he would know about it.

I went ahead and booked the ticket even though it was way too early. His excitement and happiness had no limits and at the same time he thanked a million times for this opportunity to watch Katy Perry’s live concert.

He also requested if possible can we buy her t-shirt at the concert and I said sure!

“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything” ~ Plato

The concert was good, we all enjoyed it as by now we knew all the songs that Katy Perry has sung and more over those who have attended her concert know that she is a great performer and entertainer as well. We bought t-shirt and my son was so happy and excited that he was ready to wear the t-shirt to his school and let the world know that he finally did attend Katy Perry’s concert.

I was really happy for him being a music lover I know the excitement of attending the concerts as I do all the time.

He went to school wearing Katy Perry’s t-shirt and couple of kids teased him why he is wearing a t-shirt that has a girl on it. We got to know all this only when he returned that afternoon from school. What I saw was a strong person in my son. He clearly told them he is a big fan of Katy Perry and he likes her and hence he is wearing the t-shirt. He also said, I support her, don’t you support your mom and/or sister?
I was amazed at his stand! However, I didn’t like when I heard his friend was nagging about this as why he wore that t-shirt. I felt this should be reported to the office, because no one should tell anyone what they should do. It’s everyone’s individual choice.
I was reading few quotes to my son on the internet and I showed some of Martin Luther King Jr. quotes which spoke about standing up for self and for others. I told my son, today what you did is for self and I am proud of you.

“Our children have to be educated in the values of equality, freedom of choice and democracy” ~Ehud Barak

Couple weeks went by and as I was folding the clothes from the laundry wash, he sees the t-shirt is washed and the response comes, yay! I see my t-shirt seems got washed, nice and clean so I can wear this tomorrow to school!
I was surprised and happy too!
I was surprised because last time when he wore that t-shirt he had an incident at school and now he is again going to wear it and I was nervous again things will be different. So, I asked my son, ‘are you sure? You want to wear this even though you know what happened last time?’

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My son’s response was cute, ‘I don’t care what anyone says. I like Katy Perry and I will wear the t-shirt again.’

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter” ~ Martin Luther King Jr.

This made me feel very proud about my son. It could be a small thing but this is important step in life, to stand up for self. One should have the freedom to choose what they want and not others to choose for them.

His best friend asked again, why you are wearing that girl’s t-shirt and my son had an answer for him.
‘Would you support your mom, sister and your girl cats?’ If your answer is yes, then this is for Katy Perry and I support her!’

It is very important to have that freedom to choose for self. Today he stood for himself and I am sure he will stand for others too!

“There is no such thing as freedom of choice unless there is freedom to refuse” ~David Hume

~ Dawn

Dear I Love You!

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Dear, I love You
Where are You
Why I miss You
When I know
I am far from You
These were the words
For You!
The voice came across

Dear, I love You
I am here for You
Always and forever
You!
They were far away
Not even reachable by highway
They were in different country
Yet,
They never stopped dreaming
For their togetherness
And kept accompanied with love
And hopeful words and expressions
The only thing kept them alive was and is
Love!

~ Dawn