Wednesday, September 3, 2008

A Visit to ISKCON Temple in Los - Angeles

I am not a religious guy by any means.  People who know me would rather argue that I generally don’t  believe in concept of religion. However at the same time I am not an atheist cause I  believe in God and follow Hinduism (as I was born in a Hindu Family) and once in a while I also go and worship at a temple (mostly to fulfill my parents wishes). Being brought up in quite a religious family , I have had certain rituals ingrained into me since childhood -such as donating coins at temples, ringing bells , showering flowers , worshipping all the idols in the temple and so on.  But some part of my mind disagreed with this entire concept of worshipping and I always felt a inner dilemma in my mind regarding the importance of these rituals and stuff. I knew something was wrong with all this and yet I was not sure about what exactly it was.  

However about two days back ,me along with my roommates went to a ISCKON temple in Los Angeles and this visit probably have given me a better perspective of religion. Being a long weekend ,we were quite bored sitting at home and hence we decided to visit ISCKON temple. There was an added incentive that on Sundays there was a free food for all the devotees and so we decided it was worth spending 2.5$/head (bus -fare). And in the hindsight I am glad that I visited the temple. For those of you who have visited ISCKON temples before it might be a common site watching foreigners dancing on chants of  “Hare Ram Hare Krishna”. Though I have visited ISCKON temples in the past and I knew that you will see lots of foreigners worshipping there , the scene at LA temple was quite unprecedented for me. Its not that I haven’t seen people dancing and enjoying while worshipping the Lord, but I was really amazed to see “Americans”, “Mexicans” ,”Indians of American Origin” and most notably the “Blacks” rejoicing together in an Indian temple. But  the thing that struck me the most was the joy and happiness on their faces. The scene struck me as one of a playground where you see little children playing free from any worries or tensions of the world and having complete faith in their parents ability to protect them. 

And I knew that very moment - God doesn’t want you to pray to him or carry out any rituals , he just want you to keep complete faith in him and remember him as often you can , and he will ensure that “whatever happens ,it will always be for your own good in the end”.  Despite the fact, that I hate dancing and I am extremely poor at it ,I danced my heart out with all the others , and for once I enjoyed it like anything. I have never experienced peace of mind or joy in a temple before and this was quite an experience for me . I have always believed that religious places are meant for providing a spiritual environment where people can forget all wordly matters and experience tranquility of mind and this visit provided me with utmost pleasure. 

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Indian Olympics Story Comes to an end

Olympics dreams for 99 participants strong Indian Contingent that went to Beijing came to an end few days ago. Like most of my fellow countrymen, i didn’t expected much from our Olympians just a bronze medal here or there in shooting or boxing . And in the end it wasn’t much different or was it !!! Yes i agree it was the best performance by India in terms of medals in its entire history . It was for the first time that a Indian has won a gold medal in an individual event. I was extremely exhilarated when I came to know about Abhinav Bindra heroics. But once that euphoria died, I realized how little we Indians expects from ourselves. I am not taking anything away from Abhinav or for that matter from Vijender Kumar or Sushil Kumar(they won bronze in boxing and wrestling respectively) , cause their efforts demanded nothing less than a national celebrations, but at the same time isn’t it somewhat ironic that from a country boasting of second largest population in the world ,could only produce handful of sportsperson who have been able to challenge the world over the last century. In fact our total medal tally for all the Olympics combined comes to dismal 20 Medals and more than half of them are from hockey(11). Reading these facts, I dont get a feeling of pride or envy but i only feel disappointed.

Being in LA , I haven’t been in touch with Indian Media(Read 24 Hours News Channel) ,but I am sure that they might have created a huge hype about our Olympics Performance. Our Medal Winners -> Abhinav Bindra, Sushil Kumar and Vijender Kumar might have been transformed into overnight heroes(they deserve every bit of it) only to be kicked out of the limelight in few weeks time , but nobody would have actually raised the issue of how far we lag behind China(which like India is also a developing nation) in terms of sporting achievements(about 97 medals). Instead each media house and indeed our politicians would be busy trying to fool people by drawing a rosy picture of how Abhinav Bindra ,an Indian defeated the archers from all over the world and how this would inspire India to greater sporting heights in the future. They would have led people to believe that like our economy ,our athletes are fast progressing on the path of becoming a force to reckon with and thus giving them a feeling of false pride. And the public soon forgets that our improvement from the last Olympics has been just a single gold medal and the fact that our Hockey team failed to reach the Olympics for the first time in 80 years. But who's to blame for this ? Probably the biggest blame goes to the government for their dismal attitude towards sports and sportspersons other than cricketers. But I am not here to discuss that as lot has been said about it already. I believe apart from the government behavior towards sports, it has been the attitude of we Indians , in general that has prevented us from reaching heights that we are capable of . When I talk about the attitude of people, what I mean to say is lack of sporting culture in our country. I haven’t seen many parents who would be open to the idea of their child taking sports as a career. Infact even in schools and university hardly any importance is given to sports activities (Infact schools in cities like Mumbai and Delhi don’t even have a playground) . On the other hand here in America a sportsperson is much more revered and popular as compared to an academic geek. One more reason where we Indian lag behind US and other western countries is our low expectations and low satisfaction levels . During the last decade , India has emerged as a strong economic powerhouse and have forced every nation big or small to stand up and take notice. Despite such a rapid emergence as one of the influential nations in the world , we Indians are satisfied by just a single gold and are rejoicing it as we have won more than any other nation .Abhinav Bindra’s Heroics or Sushil Kumar’s success or for that matter Vijender Kumar’s moment of glory belongs to them and them only and are occasions of personal pride rather than being an occasion of national pride. These individuals, just didn’t gave up their sporting ambitions due to lack of government encouragement , they weren’t satisfied by wining National Level Honors and they weren’t buckled down by their competitors’ . Their success is a result of there own perseverance, hardwork grit and determination. The society in general didn’t contributed anything to their success and have no right to feel proud about their achievements.

These individuals and many other before them are role models for the society. There is a lot for us to learn from them . They have shown that Indians are capable of beating anyone. Only thing needed is strong determination ,hardwork and ofcourse high dreams. By 2020 we might be leading the world in economy , but to fulfill Dr Abdul Kalam's dreams of becoming a Sporting Giant we need a complete overhaul of our attitude towards sports. I hope that this Olympics is a catalyst that inspire our sportsperson as well as the Government and also increases our belief and expectations from our sportsmen.