Anyone ready to sponsor this dinner?

Here are some of the world's most expensive foods. I don't want the whole meal. Just the dessert will suffice. Any volunteers?


An atheist's guide to the festive season

The season from September to the end of the year is "festive" season in India. It's a time of celebrations, meeting relations, holidays from work and so much more. For this year (and the past couple of years), due to the timing of Ramzan, the festive season is very secular, incorporating three of the major religions in India.

That last line was very important. Indian festivities are inextricably tied up with religion, and there is no escaping it. So what do atheists like me, who are "out", do during this time? Do we stand apart from the crowd, sulking and refusing to join in the fun? Or do we pretend for a few months every year, so that we can be part of the flock? Well, I don't think it is neccessary to do either. Although most of the festivals in India are liked to religion, religious activities per se are not such a big part of the whole celebration. There are aspects like food, music and dance, attire and socialising which are more prominent. So this is a post that looks at all the things we can get involved in during the season.

Dussehra/Durga Puja/Navratri: This ten-day long fest has everything you can ask for. Start with shopping for clothes! You must have at least one outfit, properly accessorised, for the dandiya. Get decked up in your most resplendent silks and blend in at the local Pujo Pandal. At both these places, go with a big group of friends. These are good places to check out cute singles of either gender, who are dressed to the nines. Teach the shy friends how to whirl around with a pair of sticks in hand, and introduce the uninitiated to the delights of bhog and the various food stalls at any Pujo Pandal (think Kolkatta rolls, mutton chop, kosha mangsho....) On and after Dusshera/Dashami, make your elder relatives smile by calling them up to offer "Bijoya Pronam" or whatever is the flavor in your corner of the country. If they are in the same town, do this in person, and get rewarded with the choicest of sweets and delicacies.

Diwali/Kali Puja: This is when you get the annual dry fruit boxes from your employer. Again, clothes are important, there are sales galore all around, offering great discounts. Look for special offers on cars and jewellery for the occasion of Dhan Teras. If you enjoy fireworks, go to one of the huge firework markets around the city and pick up a selection. Light up your house with diyas, candles or fairy lights, in any combination. Drive around town to look at how everyone has decorated their homes. Hog on Diwali sweets when you go visiting relatives, friends and colleagues. Host a party at home, with firecrackers, food, friends and fun. Enjoy the rangolis and decorations all aroud town and in your workplace.

Ramzan/Id: One word: Haleem. All through this month, feast on this delicacy. Visit friends on Id, and wrangle invites to their feasts. If you are into heavily embroidered ethic wear, look out for good picks in clothes, specially in the old city.

Christmas: Bake a fruitcake, loaded with fruit, nuts and brandy and take it to work to impress your friends. Get home a tree (plastic, no chopping down real trees) and decorate it. Have kids over to look at the tree and to have cake and chocolates. Cook up a Christmas lunch, or go to one of the restaurants that serve one. Again, host a party, either around Christmas or for new year's eve. Enjoy the decorations at malls and in the office. Oh, and don't forget to leave up the fairy lights you had put up for Diwali all through till the new year.

So there you have it. An atheist's guide to the holiday season. Please note that a lot of it is relevant to Hyderabad (haleem, embroidered clothes). This list may seem to lean a little more toward the food aspect, but you are welcome to add any of your own suggestions to it! Have fun and wish you all a very happy festive season!!!


1000 hits!!!

There have been 1000 on my blog since I installed the Sitemeter!!! Party time!!!


Negative reinforcement?

In the past 2-3 days I have had 36(!) hits on my site from one sort of google query. They have all gone to this one post, which I had made a few months ago in honor of the solar eclipse that was to occur. This time, the queries were made in honor of the partial lunar eclipse that occured yesterday, and could be observed from all parts of India.

What were the queries about? They were all, unanimously, about "precautions for pregnant women during eclipse" or with out without the same words. And most of these queries return my blogpost as the first result. What surprised me yet again (I guess I should cease to be surprised by these things anymore) is that supposedly net-savvy people use Google to find out whether superstitions like this are actually true!

I suppose a lot of people got disappointed yesterday because my post did not reinforce their belief that eclipses are harmful for pregnant women. I am hoping that at least a few of them got to re-thinking their attitude about the wonderous phenomena of eclipses and has seen them for what they are: beautiful coincidences where we can rejoice in the grand ballet of the celestial spheres rather than some demons taking a bite out of our main sources of energy and light.

So, what is the opposite of "positive reinforcement"?


"Harry Potter and the Exorcist"

The pope's senior exorcist believes that Harry Potter is the "prince of evil". From this article: ""Behind Harry Potter hides the signature of the king of the darkness, the devil," he told Vatican Radio." He also said that "Adolf Hitler and Russian leader Joseph Stalin were possessed by the devil, and that Pope Pius XII once tried to perform a long-distance exorcism on Hitler." Do read.

So out of all the evil that is spread around this world, the head of one of the world's most popular religions is singling out Harry Potter, a fictional character, who lives in a fictional world and has fictional adventures.

Well, there are many things weird about this article. The first weird thing is that the Vatican apparently has exorcists, and apparently it has more than one exorcists, since the gentleman mentioned here is called the senior. Why does the Vatican need exorcists, in plural? Are they exorcising demons and stuff from all over the world? Then how come we never get to hear of these exorcisms in the news? How come most of our knowledge on this topic comes from a movie where a girl with a spinning head spews green vomit? If there are so many exorcisms happening around the world, then it would be the easiest thing to film a few of them, and sell them on DVD, to make piles of money! And to show those doubting atheists that they mean business!

OK next, what I don't understand is, what does the exorcist mean when he says that our dear Harry hides the signature of the prince of darkness? Does he mean that Harry Potter himself is possessed by the devil? Surely not? Then does he mean that the author, the incomparable Ms. Rowling, is the one possessed? In that case, does he mean to exorcise her (long-distance or close up) of her devils? Noooooooooooooo!!!!! This must be prevented at all costs! If her devils are exorcised, then we will never get to read Book 7!!!

What is the wierdest, or saddest, I suppose, is that the Vatican attributes human evil to demons, absolving Hitler and Stalin of all their crimes by simply saying "the devil made me do it!" What we need in this world is to realise that evil does not come from some underworld but from within us. Instead of having religious leaders that can be looked up to for guidance in times of moral confusion, we have people who talk of white and black magic both being from the devil in one breath, and in the next breath they try and prove magical "miracles" to canonize Mother Teresa, who would directly be declared a saint by any number of people whose lives she has touched.


Opinion Poll

Out of curiousity, and maybe inspired by something I read recently, I present an opinion poll. Please answer the given question completely honestly, in as many words as you need to use. If you want to express an extremely negative answer and don't want to reveal your identity, then please use the anonymous commenting option, but please do not hold back.

I am an atheist. How does that make you feel (about me, in general, etc.)?

Why am I doing this poll? Because I am really curious about what my friends think about my lack of belief in a deity. And this is what inspired it.

So please be honest, and verbose. If you have questions, I will be glad to answer them too.