Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Power of Scientific Knowledge

Indian culture---which I come from--is full of rites and rituals. There are dos and don'ts for almost every minute of the life. In a multi God Hindu religion (the predominant religion in India) each day of the week is dedicated to one or the other God of the Pantheon. And each God has his/ her rules for the day. Some are carnivorous (Lord Shiva-for Monday), others like yellow food (Lord Brishpat-for Thursday) and so on. Ideally, if you want to please the Gods you would play by the rules. BUT as you grow up in an Indian household you realise most often it is not about pleasing the Gods as it is about pleasing the society we live in. And, so many a traditions continue unquestioned, continuing to give many a folks many an inconveniences. The idea of taking on practices for the sake of tradition numbs the mind, and we become a very unquestioning lot. It is when the general populace is so yielding that a few smart ones become the power-wielders, eventually abusing power as we see so rampantly in India. We begin to take information, never stopping to seek its scientific basis, its logical beginning or its analytical end. I was myself a victim of this mentality for the longest time that I attended educational institutions in India. And looking back, I know I dislike that submissiveness.

Simple, rational knowledge can most often drive home a point so well. This was illustrated to me recently when I overheard a conversation between two of my girlfriends. One of them is pregnant, and was being advised by the other one to eat an apple the first thing in the morning. The pregnant girl said her mom and mom-in-law had asked her to do the same, but that she just did not have an appetite for an apple in the morning, plus she found the whole notion very orthodox. The other one promptly retorted that it was not about superstitions, but just that an apple with all its iron was best absorbed by a body that had starved for the whole night, and thus was very good for pregnancy when iron is most needed. Presto----the point had been driven home. An (organic) apple is being consumed every morning in an expecting mom's house every day.

Likewise, I think, as the season for the Indian festivals of Karva-Chauth (when Hindu wives fast without food and water from dawn to moon-rise for the long lives of their husbands) and Ramzan (when devout Muslims fast again from sun-up to sun-down food and waterless) approaches, it is important for fasting Hindu women and Muslim brethren to accept the past with the new scientific knowledge we have in hand today. Not eating for an entire day is not such a big issue----occasional fasting cleanses the digestive system. However not taking any water stores the toxins in the body and can do more harm than any good. Water is the UNIVERSAL SOLVENT. It is needed by human body in as much quantity as possible. By shunning food we can display our commitment to the motive of the fast, but by drinking water we can make it a more doable commitment. It will become a commitment that our children tomorrow will not fear taking up. They will be comfortable doing it and look forward to it.

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