Rationed Rationalism

I was deeply disappointed by the Dravidar Kazhagam’s decision (double-back?) to put off (call off?) the Thali cutting program (protest?). Maybe the date was inauspicious or probably Periyar’s parivar had more pressing problems. I was looking forward to see the modus operandi and participants, for some grist this week. In any case, whatever the fate of that project, I stand provoked. You can read this now or await Veeramani’s next call … whenever it comes(?)!

Forget the famed filmy Thali sentiment. Its sanctity or importance and the wish or compulsion to wear one is also not my concern here. Let us not also try to rationalise why the rationalists find thali objectionable while more visible symbols of women ‘subjugation’ in other religions escape their eagle eyes. They are rationally secular which means anti-Hindu in India. So let’s leave such lofty things for later. Instead let’s get to ‘their’ level playing ground on some basics.

Now, more clarity is needed since DK rationalism is a perfect science. Are thalis to be snapped or just untied? Whose thalis are to be cut? On any day, just in any one of the busy shopping streets in any locality in Chennai alone, thousands of women walk around with that ‘offensive’ thing dangling from their neck. Now will DK activists be making a grab for them? Then how do they propose to counter the inevitable chain snatching charge? Even if there is no gold, the thread dipped in turmeric paste is deemed more precious than a jewel. Also by a natural chain of thought is not such a criminal act of ‘attacking’ women worse than the thali torture inflicted by Hindu custom? Of course, I assume they don’t intend to break into households which at any given time hold more thalis.

DK must have figured out these silly constraints of law. So rational logic leads us to the next query. Who are the target women? When and how did they get disillusioned with thali? After DK’s stirring appeal? Then why not rip it off right away instead of waiting for Veeramani’s call and clearance? Also, is there any way for non-rational ignoramuses like us to verify the credentials of these women? Fresh femme rationalists need to be asked if there was any coercion or incentive. Original rationalists have to be quizzed on why they had ‘it’ on so long. But most important is the question of thali-less rationals, on the lines of a film song, what else: ‘Will thali be cut after wearing one?’ And who will tie that? By self or through support, is that not an irrational act?

Now to the larger picture. We will be cautious not to step on secular landmines vis-a-vis other faiths. I am as scared as Veeramani since there is no distinction between rational or non-rational infidel. More doubts haunt us. Thali and Kaavi are bad and brutish but yellow towel and black shirts are sterling ‘symbols’ of rationalism. Pillayar idols deserve desecration in total contempt but Periyar statues are to be consecrated in all rational glory. Archanas to former is stupid superstition but garlanding the latter is a ritzy ritual. Shiva’s jumbo son is ‘stone’ deaf and dead but DK’s towering Thandai is immortal, and what, can even know, see and hear who comes and goes, from his grave or granite pedestals! Festivals of deities are a farce but B-days and D-days of Dravidian demigods are for full-fledged celebs. Mantras and poojas are literally barbaric, lies and flattery are literature and art. Offerings to God is quid-pro-quo but political bribery is fair and square. Acharyas are evil, Archbishops are angels; Gurus are hoaxes, Imams are holies … sorry about the last one. Got carried away with the flow.

Such twisted rationalism is only a small part of DK’s lethal legacy. Every other facet, namely self-respect, atheism and social justice have all fallen into the same hollow, hypocritical pits as their much touted pagutharivu (rationalism) dissected above. Self-respect is prostrate at the feet of Dravidian demagogues, religious fervour has only zoomed despite their ‘slippery’ rhetorics and their social-justice has enriched more of their leaders and co-borns than it has emancipated the teeming downtrodden. One should ideally ignore this fossilised pest from the past and dismiss its occasional attempts to rise and infect as comic stunts. But sadly, the joke has been on TN people.

But worst of all is the damage done to debate, its content and character. Wow, how they tempt and trip us too into a lowly trap of triviality and trenchancy. It is not Thali, but their wretched rational rope that has us all tied down!

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Jawahar T R