RELIGION: The DMK is the only political party opposed to Hinduism because it believes that Hinduism hardcore elements promote enmity towards the lower castes. Tamil Nadu is the only state in the country where it is near impossible to get a Brahmin student a seat in a college!

By Rajan Narayan

AND a few stray thoughts for yet another Saturday. For a Saturday following the week when Cardinal Filipe Neri warned parish priests not to target other religions. For a Saturday following the week when Chief Minister Pramod Sawant warned against anyone attacking Sanatan Dharma. For a Saturday following the week when I discovered the magic of physiotherapy. For a Saturday following the week when Goa’s greatest festival is around the corner. For a Saturday following the week when my favorite old doctor friends have abandoned and deserted me. For a Saturday following the week when the poor are much better off than the middle class.
AND a few stray thoughts on Cardinal Filipe Neri warning parish priests not to target other religions. The cardinal has been under great pressure with the BJP government at the center and the State of Goa. The cardinal has been told that the Sanatan Dharma issue would become explosive. Sanatan Dharma promotes the practice of some pure kind of Hinduism.
Unfortunately, some groups claim to be committed to Sanatan Dharma and follow extreme versions. They are the Taliban and the Konbini among the Islamic groups. The rabid Hindutva culture that the BJP is promoting is creating divisions between religious communities. There is competitive fundamentalism among religions.
There was the case of a Catholic school in Ponda which removed the rakhi of the male students who wore them to class. The school had also issued a circular banning rakhi of Raksha Bandhan tradition. Then there was a case of the principal Shankar Gaonkar of a school based in Dabolim, asking girl students to wear the hijab to visit a historical mosque. We have the case of a school teacher from Muzaffarnagar in UP asking students to a slap a Muslim classmate for some misdemeanor.
The Sanatan Sanstha in Ponda has been promoting extreme Hinduism for decades now. The Goa Sanatan Sanstha opposes the celebration of Narkasur. It claimed to have blasted a bomb at the site of a Narkarsur competition. The Hindu Janajagruthi which is a sister organization uses provocative illustrations and cartoons to run down the minority communities.
The current controversy started in Tamil Nadu where the Sports Development & Youth Welfare Minister, Udhayanidhi Stalin, demanded a ban on Sanatan Dharma. The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) political party in Tamil Nadu is totally opposed to any form of Sanatan Dharma, even comparing it to a contagious disease. We have to be cautious as a large number of Hindus believe in Sanatan Dharma though they may neither understand nor practice it to its letter.
Chief Minister Pramod Sawant comes across as a hardcore RSS bhakt. The CM can be expected to fully pack his government with those who practice and preach the Sanatan Dharma. The Bajrang Dal, Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the ABVP (student wing of the BJP) have taken full advantage of government patronage. For the first time, an Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) candidate became the secretary of the St Xavier’s College Students Council. The ABVP has virtually taken over Goa University.
A professor of one of the colleges is reported to have claimed that the natural disasters the country has witnessed is because people eat meat. Pramod Sawant will not hesitate to take action against anyone who makes any negative comments about Sanatan Dharma. Sanatan Dharma also has the support of the brothers and politicians Sudhin and Deepak Dhavalikar.
Sanatan Dharma in itself is not harmful. But it has become an umbrella for fanatical groups to target minorities. It appears that Tamil Nadu leaders are determined to step up the pressure against Sanatan Dharma. Tamil Nadu leaders are now reportedly declaring that Hinduism itself should be banned in the world. This is again a very fundamental step born out of the opposition of the DMK to Hinduism. The opposition comes from the fact that hardcore Hinduism discriminates against the lower castes.

AND a few stray thoughts on Chief Minister Pramod Sawant warning any attacks on Sanatan Dharma. We know he has been a hardcore member of the RSS and ever since became CM of Goa he has been promoting Hinduism at the cost of other religions. The Goa government has started sponsoring every major and minor Hindu festival. Patronage is extended to all the jatra held even in small temples.
The CM himself is obsessed by visiting temples for various puja on jatra days. He was present at Narve where the Krishna Jayanti festival was celebrated. Narve is unique as it is Lord Krishna pilgrimage place and a legend which sees the devotees of Bicholim coming to Narve for the festival. It is similar to the Christian feast of saints that is held in Agasaim annually. Now Pramod Sawant wants to promote Goa as a temple tourism destination. He has announced that Goa will be promoted as the ancient Kashi of the South. Kashi is the popular name for Banaras. Many Hindus belief that if you die in Kashi you will straight go to heaven (although there is no heaven in Hinduism), it is more like if you die in Kashi you will get moksha from rebirth.
The burning ghats of Banaras are very famous and here puja and aarti take place around the clock, this attracts tourists who are fascinated by Hinduism rites and rituals. Goa has the potential to be promoted as a religious tourist destination because it has a large collection of temples. Tourism should not be limited to Hindu temples like Mangeshi, Shantadurga or Mahalsa in Verna.
Remember that the Bom Jesus Basilica at Old Goa has the relics of St Francis Xavier. In 2024 the Exposition of St Francis Xavier will take place anew and visitor from not only the country over but the world will attend the exposition. During this time the casket containing the immortal relics of St Francis Xavier will be carried in procession from the Basilica to the Se Cathedral. Unlike in normal times when the holy casket is kept high up on a pedestal, during the exposition it is brought down and placed at ground level for the public to venerate and pray. The exposition lasts for ten days at the end of the 10th day the casket is taken back to the Basilica.
Goa is also famous for its Safa Masjid in Ponda which is more than 400 years old. Goa also has Buddhist caves. Amongst the oldest Shiva temple in the country is the Tambdi Surla temple at Mollem. It is an exquisite small temple at the foot of the Western Ghats. Besides the Roman Catholics the Syrian Catholics also have churches in Goa.
So if Goa is promoted as a holy tourism destination it must include all religions and this should not be used as an opportunity to further saffronize communal politics.

AND a few stray thoughts when I discovered the magic of physiotherapy. I have undergone physiotherapy in the past but without any dramatic changes. However, Dr Sanat Bhatkar, very distinguished neuro physician of Goa, has diagnosed me with a crushed spine. This means my spine is virtually crumpled. This has affected my left leg and I have to use a walker to move even from drawing room to bathroom.
A young physiotherapist, Saidnya Naik, has done a great job of at least partially restoring my mobility. It was like going back to childhood and learning how to stand again without any support. I had to learn to walk all over again. She even made me walk out of the house and attempt to climb a couple of steps. There are two aspects to my physiotherapy. The first aspect is to strengthen the muscles which have become very weak. My bone density has also reduced. With the result that my weight is down to 41kg. The greatest risk that senior citizens like me who are 77 years plus face is fear of falling down.
Everything was going smoothly till I had a fall in the washroom or bathroom, same thing. Unfortunately, our bathrooms in a rental flat does not come with railings to support senior residents. Ever since a fall my sense of balance which I had gained, I lost anew. This is because we ignored a swelling at the right neck caused by the fall. So now I have to start all over again to learn how to stand and walk. Even the new walker I have has become rickety. It has either not been fitted properly or we don’t know what screws to loosen or tighten. The fact remains that the walker has become even more unsteady than me.
Alas, I also have a major problem with my prostate and am not able to empty my bladder completely. This causes great discomfort. It all began with my decision to put some stitches around my prolapsed rectum but the surgeon made the stiches too tight and I had to ask him to loosen them. The result is I am worst off than before and I am slowly being forced to live with an exposed rectum fall which can be very painful, I keep pushing the organ inside but it keeps slipping out because of the loss of musculature grip. It is very tiresome to live and I am told to be aware of something which is technically called rectum strangulation. In the 77th year of my life I am miserable and don’t know what to do.
At first I was diagnosed with spinal TB which turned out to be the wrong diagnosis. I spent almost two to three months in and out of the Goa Medical College & Hospital (GMC). My continuous pain affects my mind and I find that I am not as confident about my writing skills and memory as I used to be. Part of the problem is nutrition. I am a very fussy eater. I want everything fresh from the oven or off the gas. I cannot tolerate cold food.
And the situation is compounded by the fact that my wife is 74 and has lost her inclination to cook for me at home. She wants me to eat protein food like the millets ragi, jowar, bajra which was the only food I was offered as a child. In Bengaluru, ragi was much cheaper than even ration rice. So in my mind ragi is identified with poor men’s food. I don’t like its taste either.
It is crazy but the millets have now become like high fashion to consume and these grains have become more expensive now than basmati rice. The 5-star hotels are having millet buffets. At the dinner offered by President Droupadi Murmu to the G20 Summit leaders in New Delhi there was an entire section of millet dishes. But the truth in my case is that since I cannot get what I like to eat I end up eating virtually nothing. This causes weakness.
My physio warned me that without adequate nutrition no amount of physiotherapy can help me. It is complicated. I do not know whether I can afford physiotherapy much longer because it costs me Rs20,000 per month and I have very little sources of income. So there is no hope of my getting a tummy like Lord Ganesh this Chovoth.

AND a few stray thoughts on Goa’s greatest festival around the corner. The Supreme Court has issued detailed orders on the use of fireworks during Ganesh Chaturthi called Chavath in Goa. The hours during which firecrackers may be burst are now limited. The police have got strict instructions to enforce the guidelines on use of fireworks strictly. There is also a ban on the Ganesh idols of plaster of Paris. This is because after immersion of the idols it is distressing to see the various body parts of the Ganesh idols floating up here and there and being part of the garbage along with other dead fish and maritime animals. The Lord Ganesh idol and pandal put by the Gaud Saraswat Brahmins in Mumbai is called the Lal Bagh Ganesh. It is insured for Rs300 crore.

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