Tuesday, October 30, 2012

What can an atheist look forward to?

I must admit that sometimes being an atheist is hard. (The only thing harder than being an atheist is being an agnostic- and I hope I will write about why that is so sometime.... ). Especially when things go wrong. You cannot believe that ultimately good will triumph- even if you have put in all your efforts into something, nothing really stops anything from going wrong. No, I am not trying to be defeatist here, but the truth is that believing something good will happen out of the blue, or that there is something that rewards hard work is still belief in the supernatural- just without the baggage that God is forced to carry around most of the time. Anyway, when things are going bad for you, you cannot simply pray to some supernatural power and hope that he will set things right. You cannot believe in any sort of essential fairness in the world. If there is any law that governs life for you- it is survival of the fittest (which is a different form of fairness, in my opinion.. But anyway..) and then maybe the laws of physics. But these laws cannot provide solace- you simply cannot hope that Newton's third law will slap that guy who was mean to you at the store this morning. 

The other problem is- what ultimate goal do you have? Most religions advocate some kind of heaven or salvation- something to look forward to. To work towards. There is no such goal in atheism. We are simply insignificant chemical specks in a vast universe that may or may not have its own agenda. We are products of our genes which are simply fighting for their own "selfish" reasons. (Yes, I am oversimplifying things here- but the details aren't particularly comforting either..) We do have some role in modifying nature- we can and have affected it in many ways, but that is not something you can work towards. Nor is it something you can look forward to, because many of these changes will have a sizeable impact only long after you are gone. Yes, many atheists find joy in serving the poor and improving life conditions of the underprivileged- so much as to say that service is their God. Unfortunately, not everyone can feel that. Some atheists can work for improving life conditions of others, but cannot see it as their goal (Objectivists, for example). It is like saying- "I like making people happy, but I cannot live for it". So then, what CAN an atheist (like me) look forward to? Is there anything at all that can be labeled the "joy of being an atheist"? (Click on "Read more" to continue..)

Monday, October 22, 2012

Taken for granted

I am one of those women (or do I still call myself a girl? :P ) who would never consider a career of being a housewife. Even when I was in primary school, I could not imagine spending my life in the kitchen. It is not that I despise being a housewife- just that it always felt like I could do "more" with my time and it is not the thing for me. Notice the more. I'm one of those people who agrees with what Romney almost said (yes, finally one thing that I agree with Romney about)- that working women do "more" with their time.

Most of my friends' mothers are working women. Though not CEOs or anything, they are at least in some clerical position or the other. And I can remember at least 3-4 instances where said friends say- "unlike your mother, mine doesn't get time". I always use to consider that a legitimate argument. In fact, how many times have I thought that myself- that my mother has a lot of time? (Sometimes, I have tried to analyze this, but often I just get taken over by the idea that working women handle both home and work).

But, know what, that is just naive. No, really. Most housewives I know do a lot with their time too. It is just that what they do is not quantifiable, doesn't seem to have much impact, is in other words, taken for granted. My mother spends a lot more time at home but she is meticulous, she is very careful about the details. She thinks that reheating food is blasphemous, that every corner of the window sill should be dusted every week, that every meal must be freshly made (and if possible, the spices freshly ground!) and she is a perfectionist in her world. She may not be the greatest innovator or the "smart" hostess that many working women claim to be (smart because they can whip up an interesting looking dish out of MTR mix)- but she is indispensable. And our (aka mine, my dad's and my brother's) lives would never be the same if she hadn't decided to pour her time into fixing the details for us- details that are essential for us but which we always fail to notice.

Now I am not trying to say that working women are bad cooks or something- just that they have limited time to spend with their family, which they must apportion accordingly. Since housewives get more time to do household work, some of them do put in a lot of effort into it. Again, I am not saying all of them do, but the deep rooted stereotype in our minds that 'if somebody is a housewife, she is not doing anything' is simply untrue. To echo a line in the movie that brought me to this post "doing that would make us judgmental!"

As I said before, I find it unimaginable that I spend my life in the endless cycle of cooking and cleaning. ("One's life MUST matter, Dennis, beyond all the cooking and cleaning.."- Alexandra Roach as Margaret Thatcher in 'The Iron Lady'). I know I never will devote my life to supporting the lives of others in such a direct manner. But I respect the fact that there are people who are selfless enough to do this- not because they cannot do any better but because they see greater joy in it. THAT is the key thing I wish to say.

In a changing fast-paced cutthroat world, our generation (including myself) tends to think that just because somebody is not working, they are not capable enough. And as we rush through our lives with lack of time for each other, we forget the small ways in which we might be hurting someone who has been nice enough to spend their entire life for us. Capturing THIS was the essence of what made "English Vinglish" awesome! I am not reviewing it here, but I saw it today last week and I had heard it was good, but didn't expect to concur so much. I watched the Hindi version and all I could think of was my mother. And when I finished a few minutes ago that day, my amygdala was overworking (Yeah, yeah, I am doing the bioengineering showoff here.. Forgive me!)

The movie simply made me think of how my mother must be feeling amidst the three  of us who are always on our toes and not taking the time to appreciate her enough. Though her English may not be like Sridevi's there are many subtle ways in which we hurt her, and we don't even think about it. I also thought about how housewives get so caught in their little world that they don't get the time to update themselves about the world outside- so while the rest of the family becomes internet savvy and touchscreen friendly, they are still struggling to catch up. It doesn't mean they are slow learners, just that they never had the time or incentive to learn as much as we do. And then we laugh at them or get frustrated with them, when in fact helping us so much is the real reason they never caught up. So yes, the movie was awesome and I recommend everyone (housewives, children of housewives, children of working women who are friends of children of housewives and so on.. :P) to go watch it. In one word, it was "inspirational".

But the real thing I want to say is here- To all housewives I might have ever known and underestimated in any small way, however subtly or spontaneously, I am sorry. I know I shall never be in your shoes, but I will definitely try to respect your decision and you as a person. Above all, to my wonderful mother- Sorry for all the times we hurt you, however unknowingly. It is not fair to you and we try our best not to do so but  after all we are humans with our own foibles. You are a talented person and we are proud of you. And if we ever let you feel otherwise, don't take it to heart. We don't mean it. And what you have done with your life is a hard decision, one I would never take, one that involves more sacrifices than I care to even think about- we are lucky you did it. It is great. And we will try our best to never never do the worst form of ingratitude to you- taking you for granted! And yes, we love you!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

It doesn't matter

A twitch of your arm muscle, a small patch of your skin,
both our eyes meeting, though we knew we weren’t supposed to be looking at each other
both our eyes not meeting because I avoided your eyes so you don’t see I was looking at you
your sparkling smile that spontaneously made me burn with desire
your one word compliment that made you take my hand and dance inside my head
making my day one unending song…

We never really spoke to each other, except insignificant courtesies
Yet even your ‘hello’s were special, somehow different from the rest
That day when we were talking shop- and I disagreed with your idea vehemently
Did you know that when I explained the ODEs, I was actually professing undying love for you?

I always thought I saw a twinkle in your eyes, when you saw me alone
Maybe I was imagining- but I shall never know-
We parted our ways without ever finding out…

It doesn’t matter of course,
we always knew this wouldn’t happen- this was never meant to be
And yet your silence titillated my senses in ways nobody’s touch ever did
You made me happy and proud, though I knew it was all in my head
Yes, our time “together” was simple ecstasy
But of course, it doesn’t matter.