This is part 2 of the Thaipusam Archive series. Please read part 1 here first before continuing with this article.
I was standing at the opposite end of the river bank in Bt. Caves inside the Agathiar Sanmarkam Camp. Lost in my own thoughts. As usual Envisioning the contrary. Of what it would it be to have this river and it’s bank all cleaned up. Perhaps three monstrous bins would be set up.
One for cans, one for plastics and the other for papers. And it would be placed on the river up an elevated platforms. There was plenty of earth all around the river bank. Some planted flowers would be nice. There are so many things that can be done.
The air around would just be quiet except for the sounds of urumi and the Vel Vel chanting by the devotees. No blaring horns, no shouting, no dramas. It’s only pure energy and you could relate to it and even feel it in the air.
I was startled by a sound.
The clattering of pots and pans. I saw giant utensils all around me. Everything was so systematic. Everyone was at work. For a moment, I just looked around me to take in my surrounding. This camp has been serving food for devotees the past 18 years during Thaipusam and all was run by volunteers. I was impressed. This was really a large scale event. Serving 100,000 people delicious food is no joke.
For the past 8 years, both my parents and my youngest sister have been serving in this camp, volunteering. Preparations would begin a month before. As my dad was one of the active member of the association, he would be attending meetings to collect fund and planning the event a month ahead. Mum only joins in three days before, during and after Thaipusam to cook for devotees.
Basically such an event involves gathering of volunteers by means of calling them (based on last years list), setting up schedules, buying provisions, preparing the food (i.e peeling, cutting vegetables) and actually cooking it on the day. All of which requires proper planning and massive human effort.
Everyone was happy at work. Serving for a big cause. I learnt from my dad that the great man behind this event, Uncle Paneerselvam ( who happens to my dad’s close friend) forks out Rm5000/month from his own salary to make this event a success. Now how many people you know, who is generous enough to give that much money to people whom he doesn’t even know.
The way I walked to the charity camp site was out of pure selfishness. You know why? After fulfilling my vow from KL to Bt.Caves, I know there was one place where free drinks and food would be given and I know my mum would be there. So I walked in for some comfort. Probably it happened for a reason.
In the past 8 years or so, I was never a part of it. I was only there to listen to my dad sharing his challenges on conducting such an event. Every Thaipusam, I’d give the same reasons. “I’m busy la, pa”. Friends taking kavadi, must carry palkudam and walk with the chariot. Tired.” Reasons.
Thaipusam has and always will be close to my heart. Ever since I was young, I frequented the temple grounds for various reasons mainly it began with sitting on my dad’s shoulder to watch kavadis, then pulling my hands away from my mum’s because I just don’t like holding hands anymore while in the crowd, slowly growing from hanging around with my parents to hanging out with sisters, then friends, then friends who take kavadi and finally joining the kavadi batallion, lending in moral support to those who fulfill their vows.
In the midst of all this, my own clarity towards the realization of the festival happened and of why I pray, how to pray and just to soak in the divine. It’s a journey inwards and it’s amazing if you could connect to it. As I was watching all the volunteers helping out, I was amazed at their spirits. They were boys as young as 10 years old and old aunties in their 60′s.
After looking at them serving, I thought “Come on, there’s got to be something that I can do here.” So I promised next year I’ll come to serve. To help. And to give no more excuses.
I would say this year I’ve attained a tad bit of clarity in terms of fulfilling my vow.
I did not pour milk but instead poured rosewater. Technically it was still a wastage of resources but at least I didn’t waste food anymore.
Just like last year, I did not pay Rm5 for my kudam to be emptied and manage to alert a few aunties around me to not do the same.
I was in a situation where I had to use a lot of plastic mineral water bottles. I held on to them in a recycle paper bag and emptied them only in a bin that I found much much later.
Why do we pray? How you ever wondered?
A million tonne of rubbish thrown everywhere and our community integrity fades yet again…
A million liter of milk poured on “God” and it clogs the drain, stinking wasted…
A million kg of fruits hooked, unhooked and rots away…
A million more coconuts broken and yet the ego remains the same…
A million more was donated to the temple undials but God never got a cent…
It’s time for us to reflect and think. Why do we do things? Just because culture and tradition said so?
Yes, people keep cultures alive but believe me even if you don’t pour milk on Lord Muruga’s vel in that one day of the year, Hinduism will still live because it has been the oldest living religion in the world to survive till today and will still be that way.
In the end of the day, you pray to get closer to the consciousness in you. For that is ultimately the goal. Finding God in you. Not only in a cave.
If I was a member of any other religion, I would be puzzled as well.
What kind of Gods do Hindus have? A God that encourages people to waste?
I hear some Indians explaining it’s a form of vow fulfillment, so they give all sort of things to God. To thank God so to speak. This is the projection we are sending out to the whole wide world.
While the true essence of the festival is something so great and unique for we just don’t see it in any other religions, our uncivilized way of handling Mother Nature by wasting all of her resources in a day is something we should be shameful about. It’s a disgrace, if you ask me.
Even if you’re not one of the hooligans who spots the trojan hairstyle and blares that irritating horn, you’d be guilty of throwing rubbish and wasting food.
Fulfill your vows but do so with a reason. Practically. Don’t care what others think or do. Conformity is so yesterday.
Yes, our Puranam says Lord Muruga loves milk but do you really think He would like it if you use his name in vain and eventually spoil it down the drain.
In the same grounds that a great few are boiling milk to serve Nescafe for the others, million more devotees are allowing the same milk to go to waste.
And then there are some morons who will say ” Whether or not, I save food here, doesn’t make a difference to African children”. Humanity in some parts of the world are dying of hunger. It’s called gratitude.
So let’s be the change that we want to see in the world.
We will govern ourselves first. Each one of us. Rightly. And when we do it in a mass scale, we will make a difference and nullify the negativity.
Because you can never separate religion and politics in this country.
Because Indian politicians and temple leaders will continue to swindle money from all of us in any form they can and most importantly as long as you LET them. The huge temple undial is the recent effort.
Because the Trojans and Indian rempits with its’ yearly variations will never vanish.
So it is with utmost respect that I ask all you educated, tech savy Indians out there to help the community in whatever way you can (Your time is the best devotion and dedication you can give God by servicing mankind), to held on to your rubbish stubbornly till you see a bin and to not waste food the in the form of vow fulfillment.
I hope you and me can find some time to volunteer together at the camp site next year.
The festival itself is one of a kind in this whole wide world. We should be proud about our cultural heritage and the religious significance it holds.
No where are people so devoted that they can go through so much of pain and sacrifices in the name of devotion
And no where are people so selfless that they can feed hundreds of thousands in a span of 2 days without expecting anything in return.
In a nutshell, this is Thaipusam year in year out.
We as younger generation can make a difference by being the change we want to see for our future generation.
Decide what matters and do just that.
To all those who have embarked on that selfless path of service, congratulations. Please spread your “ideology” and let every Thaipusam be better than the year before.
Label: Culture Thinking Out Loud