Shut down

I was out all day yesterday. And sometimes days like that protect you from the horrors that we call news. News that streams in faster than we might like it to. News that you really cant escape even if you look away.

I was out all day yesterday, and that meant I was off the computer, talking to real people over pizza and coffee. We discussed writing, publishing, words, creative processes, trials and tribulations, writers block — we talked shop in a way that only writers can.

Meanwhile, the news streamed in. But it wasn’t until 8 pm when I came home and read about Peshawar. With the second news report, my palms turned cold, my eyes prickly with tears and my head was quickly pounding with anger and helplessness.

Does this happen to you? Do any of you have physical reactions to reading the news? This is new to me, and I don’t know how to deal with it. Most often, I take to turning around and sharing it with the cohabitor, the hugsband who is usually the calm to the storm inside of me. The one with the rational answer. The one with the right words, as succinct as they may be. And yet, even he turned quiet when I told him the news yesterday. No answers. No words.

I have an ambivalent (somewhat confused) take on religion and God. I am a believer, and I have a very convenient dependency on prayer (even calling it religion would be a stretch) — giving in to hushed prayers when in times of crisis, but I am also aware that this is just a psychological crutch that has no bearing on real events. If anything, prayers uttered hastily in times of trouble, are meant to centre and ground you, but I know there are other ways to achieve that. So increasingly, I have been questioning the role of religion and the point of it all. Especially given the quickly deteriorating geo-political state of affairs across the world, I’m beginning to strongly believe religion (in the form it was intended) has played its part for us. It has now turned into a trump card that groups of people are using to get one up on each other. It’s done it’s fair share of damage, its beginning to rot in the undeserving hands of those who manipulate and politicise it, and it’s time we gave it a do-over. Or better still do away with it.

Even closer home, over the last 6 months, we’ve seen the rise of extremist and fundamentalist factions spewing the drivel they call their beliefs. We’ve had right wingers claim they want a Hindu world. We’ve had churches burnt down. We’ve had leaders tell us they want the Gita to be the national text. We also believe cow milk holds the solution to corruption and cow urine is the answer to all medical evil. We’ve had vehement calls for forcibly reversing conversion to bring those who we think belong with us, back on our side. We want to cancel Christmas and turn it into Good Governance Day (what governance — oh the irony!) It’s almost like governance = asserting our supposed religious superiority. Oh and sweeping up streets.

And if it seems like I’m highlighting only the extremists, the examples that dangle at the extremes of the spectrum, this was exactly my fear when the new power came into play. That a fundamentalist at the centre, no matter how shrewd or calculative, focused or measured he may be, will provide steam to the chest-thumping extremists that lie at the fringes. They really don’t need much more to come to the fore.

Upset, angry and shaken up. I looked back at a picture I took earlier in the afternoon in the hope that I’d find some solace, positivity and hope. Then I shut down for the day.



I came online to post about some work woes. I had a post planned out in my head. I was going to mock a few clients and share some bizarre stories of things I’ve had happen to me. But I couldn’t do it.

It’s a bit messing-the-head-up to have an fb feed and a twitter TL half-filled with grief, horror, terror, many of us grappling with the shock and sheer helplessness that never seems to find form in words. And the other half filled with Christmas bakes, the minutiae of a food blogger life, pictures of decorations, the expected dose of glib viral content that has come to be the main function of social networking.

In the midst of it all, I saw this.

For Peshawar and for these times.
Via Sharanya Gopinathan on FB

Disbeliever, by Mohja Kahf

…I need a body outside my life that can travel and kneel
on the sidewalk beside a movie theater in Algiers
over the bodies of the supple children
who will never be my children’s playmates or marry them
over the bodies of the men and the women
who will never write a letter, will never phone me from Algiers:
“How was the movie? I love you. I love you.”
I need time outside this history where I can whisper in the ear of each of them,
By God, you will never be forgotten
By God, I will make sure the world
buries its face in your beautiful hair,
sings to you, learns your name and your music,
lifts you up in the crook of its arm like a gift
I am a disbeliever
in everything but the purity of the bodies
of the men and women–with or without the veil,
with or without the markings of the right identity–
in everything but the suppleness of children
I am a disbeliever in every scripture
in the world that leaves out
“How was the movie? I love you. I love you.”


Increasingly, I’m leaning towards a decided disbelieving. My father is an atheist, and I’m beginning to see why. Every religion professes righteousness, tolerance, peace — and yet every day we have the worst most horrible acts perpetrated in the name of religion. It doesn’t make sense anymore.

I browse fb for 30 seconds more. My head can’t take it. And I shut down.

One of my all time favourite Carlin monologues comes to mind. I watch it, it makes me smile ruefully

He hits the nail on the head, and you can’t help but agree.

“I really tried to believe that, but I gotta tell you, the longer you live, the more you look around, the more you realize, something is fucked up.”


12 thoughts on “Shut down

  1. The largest problem with religion is scripture. First of all, I cannot decide which religion is right and which is not. There are so many of them, and each of them has something that contradicts the other.. Then within the scriptures they have something that contradicts some other part of it self.

    Religion was needed at one point of time when we didn’t have a systematic manner of assembling rules and guidelines, laws and edicts… But as we moved on, and time passed.. the same have not been updated to reflect what is acceptable.. What was acceptable for us thousands of years ago, is not what is acceptable today.. Even the other way round what was not acceptable then is acceptable today.. In fact don’t even go back a thousand or a hundred years.. go back only 20.. see how we have changed.. but religion hasn’t.. Which is also why it is open to so many interpretations..

    There’s also the part about the inherent misogyny.

    I believe that religion is a man made construct that we allowed to become larger than us. Which is why it is something that has seeped into our daily lives.. And people manipulate us and our blind faith , resulting into such acts


    1. “cannot decide which religion is right and which is not” — this is just the problem with ALL religions. Theyre monopolised by the so called clergy, who dispense their understanding of scriptures and other things that they hold exclusive rights and privilege to, and operate how societies work. Misogyny, patriarchy, violence, untouchability etc.. all evils stemming from the same fact that we’re all believing stuff a group of people hold true, and theres no way to validate or verify this because its essentially a lot of fiction based on a man in the sky.


  2. A

    My first comment here and how I wish it was not to this post. But then I feel weirdly experienced- death of a child, no religious leanings, ethical and spiritual dialogues and we have part of me.
    Loss of a life itself is hard to deal but of a child feels like so much more. I am beginning to think it is the loss of the physicality of their affection and unwavering trust that hits the hardest; especially with very young kids. I find that I am more tuned in and prone to action with what is going on in the world now and the anger and helplessness is replaced with doing something/anything to help all the time.
    Needing to discuss the ethics behind every decision I was making for my child made me research and read and question like never before. Was I in a better place because I knew I did not have much time with him? Would I have dealt with this differently if I didn’t have a chance to say good bye? I still dont know. I have always been ambivalent about religion growing up in a very ritualistic family. But now I have seen how the normalcy of rituals have helped the grandparents cope in their own little version of therapy. Without rambling on what I am trying to say is trying to get everyone to violently see the same ‘light’ is all kinds of messed up. But religion does have a place in peoples lives irrespective of what the extremists put out there – to form a community, to believe in the potential of something more, to serve etc.Not that it cant be done through other forums but religion may still be the easiest ( and dangerous?) way to get people to want to do ‘good’ for the society at large. Personally I still cant wrap my head round rituals or the religious teachings as they have been handed down to me but I have chosen to be initiated in the learning’s of Vedanta which let me question and learn and accept if I will at my own pace. I do believe there is always something left to love-always.


    1. First of all thank you for leaving this first comment. And so sorry for your loss. It takes listening to the other side to put things in perspective. And you’re absolutely right about the finding grounding and peace in going about the motions of rituals. However, I also agree with what you say about violently getting everyone to see and accept one way of thinking being all kinds of messed up. Its only given the extremists a lot of steam, and it unsettles me deeply to see there has been not a single voice of reason shutting them up.
      Open minded people like you and me will still peacefully talks things out and see both sides of the story, but I cannot digest it when rubbish is shoved down our collective throats in the name of religion.
      INcreasingly, I feel cheated by the Centre because they played the development card so cleverly, and even the so called moderates and leftists played right into it, thinking there is no place for Hindutva in a tolerant country like India. But the writings on the wall, and it scares the bejeezus out of me.
      We are no longer in a position to ignore the close links between religion and politics. They are two sides of the same coin and we must analyse it from that perspective.


  3. My mind tends to associate something very morose and negative when I hear the word religion. I have always felt that religion is a man-made construct which defies the very purpose for which it was formed: to make people think twice before harming others, to instill a sense of personal responsibility important for social harmony. But it seems to represent just the opposite where it’s nothing but a lop-sided vague idea, serious psychological flaw wanting people to value power over human life.
    I have examples of excessively religious hypocrites in my life who score very low on humanity. They are so caught up in trying to uphold something that is their convenient understanding of religion. And I want to highlight the term “Convenient” here. A case in point was my own grandma. She was religious but all that meant was that she chanted prayers without understanding their meaning, and mistreated our domestic help.
    The only thing I manage to say after seeing such mindless violence is, “why? Why? why?” But that’s probably a question that only confronts people who still have some sense and logic left. That’s surely not what the terrorists thought about while mindlessly gunning down little children and killing hopes and dreams even before they were formed. Violence begins where logic ends, I think.


  4. Long unstructured comment alert:

    There’s no word for anti-religion I think .. The more I see what religion in its current form is doing to society as a whole I think it has lost its purpose for most part. There should be a word for this!

    And no .. You’re not the only one who has a physical reaction to news. Kids being shot at in school by spineless grown armed men. How can anyone watch that story without being frazzled – My aunt lost her only son at age 14 in an accident and I know what the loss of a child does. A loss of a child is the loss of hope, potential and a future. Even now I remember the day we lost him. I’ve removed the CNN app from my phone because it started to mess with my brain but its amazing how I keep going back to and feeding the frenzy in my mind.

    I read in Gifts of Imperfection that the opposite of faith is certainty. That’s what most organized religion veers towards. This notion of organizing life into such a rigid structure that makes fools believe that nothing beyond what they believe in is the truth and this laughably dumb belief that they have all the answers.

    My sister takes her kids to the city every year to celebrate first day of school holidays. She was supposed to go to the Lindt Place in Sydney this Thursday. I hear this and it makes my head reel. The thought of my sister and her two adorable kids in there pressed up against the glass. (and idiotic morons taking selfies outside) I feel so scared and small and insignificant. I think the only way to counter this feeling of having touched a live wire is by practicing gratitude. Gratitude that I am safe .. Even if it is for just one more moment.


    1. okay WTF happened to the formatting on my post?!

      I think youre right.. and I cant believe theres no word for anti-religion. I have never thought about it, but maybe thats the word I need. I do really think its played its part, and in its current form religion = politics. The two are not separate, and we are delusion if we dont see the harmful dependencies and connections between the two.


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