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9 myths about Hinduism — debunked

About time everyone got it right.

CNN Belief Blog

By Moni Basu, CNN

(CNN) — Caste. Cows. Karma.

Suhag Shukla knows that’s how some people outside Hinduism see her religion. As the head of the Hindu American Foundation, Shukla, 42, clarifies misconceptions all the time.

Hinduism is ancient, though there is no specific date for when it was formed. The name is a Sanskrit word; Hinduism and Hindu were coined by invaders who used the terms to refer to the people they encountered when they crossed the Hindu Kush mountains and arrived at the Indus River.

Hotel Death: It’s a place of celebration and salvation for souls

In America, Hinduism’s profile was elevated by Indian immigrants who brought their customs and rituals with them and perhaps most recently, by the growing popularity of Hindu teachings like yoga and meditation.

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Hold On, Home Needn’t Be Just One Place

“There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you have altered.” – Nelson Mandela

We cross barriers, borders and lives. We aspire to being worldly travellers and knowers, but we still permit attachment to things that take us back to the start, Coldplay style. Home clearly means different things to different people. Some see it as a place, some see it as a person, some see it as a movie or a photograph, or even as a memory. I think home is more intangible than that, something you can only feel. I personally don’t have a physical home; I have each foot in a different place.

Some want to leave their physical home because they never felt like home there. Others want to leave because they believe that meeting a certain person or having a certain experience, which isn’t where they are now, will lead them to that sense of home. I personally always wanted to leave, simply because I aspired to make my physical home my metaphorical one. I never really found absolute comfort in most things or people I experienced in Bombay. Truthfully, I never felt devastatingly sad at the thought of leaving. Instead, this aspiration towards that sense of homecoming came bubbling out. I wanted to leave so I could come back and truly mean it when I say “I’ve missed being here.”

You know what I mean, right? When you enter a rut; same old places, same old faces, no inspiration; there really isn’t a lot to apply your intellectual capabilities to. An immersive experience of another culture was an eye-opener I definitely didn’t see coming, and I can’t stop craving more. I crave the different perspectives there are to encounter, the beauty there’s left to see. I crave the feeling of returning somewhere, and finding salvation in self-evaluation. I crave the knowledge these travels will lead me to, the biases they would inculcate or deplete.

And though this won’t really fix the world up for anybody, it starts with one person and all that, right?

Right.

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Those Damned Desis

When I first moved to Canada to attend University, I was obviously aware of the huge Indian population. What I wasn’t so aware of are the weird (and often ridiculous) stereotypes that exist within non-Indians about desi culture. Over the years, I’ve made a list of the assumptions people have made to me or around me about Indians, and attempted to clarify as many of them as possible. So here it is –

  • All Indians are Punjabi – People from the different states of India have very little in common beyond geography. Trust me.
  • Indians don’t know English – English, believe it or not, is the only language spoken all over the country. Most Indian majorities don’t even speak Hindi (which is the national language, BTW) fluently. Even the fucking beggars in Slumdog Millionaire speak English. What does that tell you?
  • Slumdog Millionaire is an accurate and well-rounded representation of Indian culture – Bitch please.
  • Indians are cheap – The Script’s ‘Breakeven’ is clearly based on the Dollar-Rupee exchange rate. Now if you’d care to explain why $4 on a slice of pizza is absolutely ridiculous?
  • Living in the USA is the ultimate dream – Though this is true to a great extent, I’m sure it wouldn’t be so if the Google headquarters were located elsewhere.
  • The Kama Sutra is nothing but ‘Indian’ for Sex for Professionals – Didja read the part about how women should learn art and science? Or the part discussing how to live a healthy and financially stable family life? No? So you’re just a presumptuous little twit then? I thought so.
  • ‘Indian’ is a legitimate language – In response to this, I recommend that you visit the page of someone wise on Tumblr – “In Indian we don’t say ‘I love you.’ We say ‘That’s not even a language you ignorant imbecile.'”
  • The Brown People-Terrorist Relation – Honestly bro, most brown people have more useful shit to do than to spend their days planning a bombing in the West. Get that narcissistic pole out of your arse, North America, and whack yourself in the head with it.
  • India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, etc. is all one huge nation – This doesn’t even deserve to be dignified with a response.
  • All we eat is curry – I really thought that this was as a joke. Ain’t nobody got time for this! And in relation to this, I found that a lot of people think that –
  • Butter chicken is the only curry there is – Sweetie, 42% of Indians are vegetarian. We know how to make veggie food like no other bitches can. Please keep your lentil veggie burgers to yourself and let me add my chaat masala.

So all in all, people need to wise up, and learn that we aren’t just a nation full of stinky, hairy, cab drivers. It’s honestly appalling that cultural ignorance is still as widespread as ever before. And I sure hope that this article made someone see our existence more clearly.

And if this isn’t enough, I suggest you look at this before you ask anyone from South Asia anything at all.

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Hipsta Please.

It’s almost blasphemous how doing something new or being someone different, is now a whole new label people attach to you. I don’t even exactly know what being a hipster entails, but I do know that this – this is one more bag of shit I do not want associated with me. I mean, just because I got one blue streak in my hair and put on a fucking beanie/toque/whatever, does that seriously make me a hipster? Is ‘hipster’ now a synonym for someone who wants to keep her head warm?

Don’t get me wrong, I think people put in effort to go against the gradient are commendable. Exploring new worlds of fashion, spirituality and even politics is a kickass way to expand your horizons, and might just lead you to some of the best experiences you’ll ever have. PLUS I now know that hipsters provide for the cheapest Halloween costume ever. But clearly the irony of being labeled a hipster is lost on most people, along with its almost farcical repercussions.

Firstly, this sudden outburst of people averse to the nuances of popular culture, has led to a whole new trend of exploring the unexplored and the under appreciated. Sure, all that is well and good. Promoting individuality and all that. But this trend seems to have turned into a struggle to be the ‘different’ one in one’s social circle, almost like an incessant need. The one who’s known as the group hipster, just so that they’re in the limelight. The Age of Attention Whoring? You’re sitting right in the midst of it, sweetie. Those trilby hats that were only sold in that one-tiny-shop-near-that-far-away-place, are now literally in every store you’ll ever see.

This urge to defy the mainstream IS the new mainstream. Trying to hard to be a hipster is the precise reason why you’re never gonna be one.

And as if this isn’t mind numbing enough, this hipster trend has extended into the smallest fucking things you do. You switch your radio to punk/alternative/grunge while Roar by Katy Perry is playing for the 53rd time? OMG, so hipster. You’re just dying for the new Nexus 5 to come out? That’s so weird, like, you’re not like anyone I’ve ever met. I’m sorry, I thought being different meant NO tags and labels. Doing something that everyone may not do shouldn’t automatically mean that you’re an Apple-hating, Urban-Outfitters-wearing, sometimes-pseudo-intellectual.

And what about the people who were already hipsters in the traditional sense? Those interesting minds and styles one would come across maybe just a few times in their lifetimes? The ones who couldn’t possibly give less of a fuck about what one sees or says about them? Its become hard to tell who actually ARE those wondrous minds, because everyone’s trying to be them. Thanks to the literary loophole called free verse, random sentences strung together are now lines of “OMG so beauts <3” poetry. The world now knows who The Who is, but only as those four long nosed dudes on the T-shirts they sell in those small shops. That girl you saw 2 years ago with the long feather earrings and a Trilby hat in the streets of Bombay, is now a Forever 21 spokesmodel.

The premise of hipsterisation is pretty cool – the interesting and the hidden can finally see light of day without being questioned constantly. But of course, one of the better things to happen to culture since the decline of bell bottoms can’t glide through our world without some bumps in the way. I personally think it’s fucking ridiculous that pop culture now chases after the different for the sake of being cool, but y’know, as long as you’re original in some sense.

 

 

 

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A N00b’s Guide To University

You know how it goes – typical scared newbie international student enters cool North American university all scared and shiny-eyed. Learns the ways of the world the hard way. Tries to make a semi-serious version of it on the internet. Hopes for praise and recognition. Real talk though – university isn’t easy. And for those of you about to enter the scary world of $100 textbooks, this list might just help make your life a dot easier. Or so I hope anyway.

Family

  • No matter how far away you are from them, keep them close. Keep your parents (and other members you’re close to) updated about your life once in a few days.
  • If you’re an awkward turtle like me and can’t tell your mom you love her – tell her you bought her shoes/lipstick. She’ll get the message. Trust me.
  • Thank your parent(s) if they pay your tuition. They’ll know you value your education.
  • Their lives will go on without you. It’s not a bad thing.

Academia

  • It’s harder than high school because you’re the only one who can push yourself to study.
  • Nobody is going to chase you to get your shit done, so I’d suggest that you stay on top of your schoolwork at all times. Trust me, you’ll be able to enjoy university so much more if you don’t have to leave a party to finish that essay due the next morning.
  • Textbooks are $100 frequently. Or more. Just casually slipping it in there.
  • Most importantly – Cite. Even if you’re taking one word from somewhere other than your own head. Cite it. You’ll never regret it.
  • In case the above point didn’t clarify this enough – Research papers will come your way at least once in your university career. And you will not like it.

Fraternity parties

  • Only cool for a week. Tops.
  • Trust me when I tell you that frats have a very limited repertoire of fun things to do. And they get old. Fast. Beer pong gets sticky; you aren’t getting a boy/girl unless you are or look like John Stamos/Mila Kunis; and it simply boils down to “too many people, too small a place.”
  • Leave them frats behind after the first few toga parties, and get your arse to an actual bar with some real alcohol.
  • Unless you’re under the legal drinking age, and frats are your only source of alcohol. In which case, suck on your pacifier ‘til you’re legal.

Food & Drink

  • Pizza is the solution to EVERYTHING.
  • People do NOT like to be disturbed before their morning coffee.
  • A lot of people like sushi.
  • ^ All of the above should probably be in the Holy Texts to come.
  • Bubble Tea is the new ‘thaang’ too.
  • For people in Canada – Tim Hortons > Starbucks.
  • Whatever quinoa is, it tastes like feet wrapped in shit. But it’s healthy so shut up and eat it.
  • Bagels = Love.

A side note on Alcohol – I believe that the process of consuming alcohol is to drink until you’re happy, then CAN IT. I mean, do you really wanna put on heels and makeup for a night that’s only going to end in you either throwing up all night/passed out in a field full of mice? There will be a LOT of moments for you to get carried away with drinking. Indulge in some, pull back on the rest.

Loneliness

  • It hits at the most inopportune moments.
  • You will probably spend a lot of time getting used to being an adult. Especially one who has to fend for himself/herself.
  • This involves a lot of time by yourself.
  • Most life lessons are learned while lonely.
  • Get involved. Trust me, it really can go a long way, even if you don’t end up making any long term friends out of it.
  • Bright side though – you can listen to All By Myself and pretend this is a sad scene in a movie, as you look out at the rain/snow/leaves floating by. Or, y’know, be sad in the regular people way.

Friends

  • Are not gonna fall into your lap. I’ll be blunt here – ain’t nobody got time fo you, unless you’re willing to reciprocate the effort.
  • Introduce yourself to people in class (read: not creepily), go to that karaoke/sushi dinner your RA is hosting, or join the fucking yoga club if you have to, but do something. Put yourself out there in the smallest and the biggest of ways. Wink at that cute guy in the library. Smile at that chick with the cream cheese ‘stache. She might just introduce you to your weekly breakfast indulgence to-be. Or even another cute guy.
  • Friendships change. They go up, they go down. You can turn friends into family, or they could just fade away. Keep hoping. Move on.
  • There are some really diverse perspectives out there. Enjoy them. Appreciate them. Don’t hate ALL of them.

You

  • If you are leaving home to go to university, remember that home will never be the same again, but in the best way possible.
  • You will never be the same either. Be open to that change.
  • Everyone has his or her own agenda. Everyone is at university to make something of themselves. Don’t lose out because of someone else. 
  • They teach you to be selfish. It’s not always a bad thing.
  • Doesn’t mean you can be a dick. Compromise is key.
  • It is very likely that you will spend a lot of your time with yourself. Treat it in a positive way. Buy a good pair of headphones.
  • Failing? Confused about your path in life? Neon green dip-dye phase? Perfectly normal.
  • Be your own Jackie Chan to your Chris Tucker sometimes. It’s okay to do you. 
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The Beginning

I wanted to start something, y’know? Something for me.

She said that I don’t do things for myself. I sit on my arse and ponder upon the fate of others, while time slowly ebbs into oblivion. She said that I was being “blasphemous” by wasting my mental space on things that “really won’t pay your ransom money if you get kidnapped or some shit.” I’m not quite sure what part of this eloquent speech my mother expected me to latch onto, but there was one part that stood out. The part where me and the generation I belong to are losing our identities as individuals, and drifting into the battered shoes of a cultural vagabond of sorts.

Upon reflection, I enjoyed the term. Cultural vagabond. Without place, without identity, without restrictions of the mind. Seems like a good way to summarise where the natives of the 21st Century are heading. An ocean of undiscovered choices and thoughts and experiences and possibilities and troubles. And we’re nosediving into it without a backward glance or second thought. Dora the Explorer style.

Which led me to the nuances of the digitised existence we live and love. Sure, social media has spread to every corner of our ginormous planet, but for a very specific purpose. To encourage us to share our stories. To support the voices of the average. But my conversation (read: screech-off) with my mum got me to thinking – Has this phenomenon boiled over? Are there too many voices? Have the realities of existence have been drowned by the wild credulity of the blogosphere? I’m not sure if I disagree.

We’ve now ushered our way into a vacuum of social recognition. We use media most as a means to give credence to our existence. An existence dedicated to the externals and not ourselves. Mum wasn’t wrong she accused me of living my life through the another’s eyes, and it never fazed me. Hey, my people will sort my life out. But now I’m not so sure if I want that to be the case.

So here I sit, warming my arse, starting something for me. Something small, but something real.

I’ve come to find that a few words on a screen possess the strength to change shit up, big time. I don’t possess the idealism required to change the world. Ain’t NOBODY got time fo dat. I also do realise the hypocrisy I am exuding by doing this on WordPress. But, it’s about time I make something mine. Even if it is carving a niche into the internet.

Who knows, it might even work.