Tag Archive: world

Youngsters and Spirituality

Supreeta Singh

When Akshay Kumar sings Hare Ram Hare Ram, Hare Krishna Hare Ram sporting a saffron bandana and branded glasses, the whole nation chants along. A jilted Justin Timberlake croons What Goes Around, Comes Right Back Around about karma. Amish Tripathi’s debut novel The Immortals of Meluha portrays an upright man deified as Shiva.
Clearly, fate and destiny are no more the concern of only the elderly or unemployed – and god-men. Kismet, or divine will, now fascinates and enthrals the youth too. Are terrorism, degradation of the environment and racial-religious fault lines plunging humanity into pre-ordained violence? And what’s the purpose of life? Do human beings really have a soul? Is soul timeless? Does it survive death?
Teenagers, besides young men and women in their 20s, are grappling with these questions as never before  – and want answers. 
Amish Tripathi is floored by the response to his book. “Readers as young as 12 are writing to me. A few of them said they were afraid of God but now they see God in a new light. Others have described my book as a wild ride, while many have changed their Facebook profile picture to the book cover.”
Moreover, the character of Shiva impressed a reader so much that he got the book cover tattoed on his arm. A 16-year-old called Shiva a cool dude. “What I find most gratifying is that the response not just from Hindus but Christians, Muslims, Parsees, Jews and foreigners who know very little about India”, adds Tripathi.
Youth is breaking free of the shackles of religion it seems. It sees God as a supreme power. Period. Riddhima Toshniwal, who has a post-graduate diploma in journalism and mass communications, says: “I am spiritual rather than religious.
True, I’m a Hindu by birth and read the Hanuman Chalisa every night. But I also visit churches often and have also been to gurudwaras. I really don’t have a name for the God I pray to. In that sense, my birth certificate doesn’t tell the full story”, says Riddhi. 
In an age of strife, God clearly is a source of strength. The distinction between good and evil is inevitably highlighted when one has to choose between right and wrong. But many don’t see it from a religious or spiritual perspective. Debak Das, a student of International Relations at Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University remarked that good and evil cannot be defined in absolute terms. “I am neither religious nor spiritual. Incidents like murders, for example are circumstantial. Caste conflict stems from socio-political
reasons. So I try to be as objective as possible. You could call it a scientific approach. We can shape our own destiny with hard work and time management.”
There are many who do not believe in God at all. They want to experience what they call the “truth” sans religion. According to them, religious belief is rooted in fear which leads to superstitions. Student Amoha Das says, “Beliefs distract people from the beauty, grandeur, splendour and divinity of existence. Priests across religions inspire people into believing in God, heaven, virtue
and sin. But spirituality is more individualistic: it’s all about communicating directly with a supreme power.”
“While religions have everything to do with the past and the future, spirituality is about the present moment.”
Abhishek Basu, an MBA student, says: “What you do today will have a bearing on your future. I cannot control everything that happens to me but I can definitely control I how react to them. To remain truthful is my mode of worship. I am not
concerned with spirituality per se. But I believe in giving my best and living as honestly as possible.”
A thoughtful Riddhima says: “There is a purpose behind whatever happens. And while you may not get what you want, you get what’s good for you at that point of time. I have seen this happen in my own life. So I see God as a protective force prodding me in the right direction.”



Supreeta Singh
There was a time when younger men dated older women openly only in the West. In India it was mostly unheard of or best kept under wraps. Even the ones that surfaced were quickly hushed up.
But at a time when shifting gender roles are laying down new rules in the game of love, the age difference is also put on the back-burner. Men are comfortable being with women who are years older than them and women too are reaching out to  them.
Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher redefined the dynamics of such relationships when they got married. You have seen similar instances in movies such as The Good Girl, Harold and Maude, Class, Notes On A Scandal, Prime, The Graduate and others.
It is often said that men never grow up. As they age, their need for emotional succour and dependence continues to escalate in equal proportion. Whether such relationships are successful or approved by society is no concern for them.
Amit Dhar (name changed on request), a successful professional is in his late 20s. Currently, he is living in with his girlfriend at her house in south Kolkata. She is in her early 40s and a senior marketing manager.
There are certain factors that determine the strength of a romantic and committed relationship between men and women. Emotional maturity and worldly experience are two such qualities that have always been important.  They influence the core factor of dependability of one partner on the other. This, in turn, makes the bond between them stronger and deeper.
Amit says, “We met at a party thrown by a common friend. Initially, we started out as friends. However, as time passed I realised that she was a mature and independent woman. Unlike girls of my age, who always look up to you for protection and care, here was someone who could take care of herself. This attracted me to her a lot.”
Amit’s partner is divorced. His family is yet to come to terms with the relationship. But he is hopeful and says that once they see that they are together for good, they will come to understand and accept both of them. “We want to get married and settle down. I know for many this situation is not comfortable, but I believe in our relationship,” says Amit.
 Some may reason that an attraction such as this comes when a guy has been brought up by a sensitive mother who is very close to him. Or perhaps an aunt or teacher who had made a strong impression at an early age.
Niladri Dutta pooh-poohs such notions. He says that when it is a matter of love, the heart has its own reasons. “My ex-girlfriend was almost seven years older to me. We had great chemistry but for some reason the relationship did not work out. In my case, I can say that age had got nothing to do either with my falling in love with her or our breaking up. I liked her personality and sense of values irrespective of her age. And when we decided to discontinue our relationship, it was not because of our age difference but some other personal reasons,” says Niladri.
From a psychological point of view, there is no hard and fast rule that marks such instances as ‘out of the normal’. Dr Srimanti Chowdhury says that there has been no research based data that can tell whether these relationships are successful or not.
“It’s a matter of personal choice. Age is just a social construct. If two people are happy being together, then let’s not add special dimensions and connotations to make it more complicated,” she says.

Biking in style

Farah Khatoon
Live life on the fast lane; that’s the mantra. Riding, yes you heard it right, on the trendiest bikes and zooming past the rest of the people on the road is not just the passion for men anymore. Women too have given into this temptation.
‘Pretty women don’t ride bikes,’ no longer holds sway. The image of women as pillion riders has been belied by some female bike riders of the city. Throwing caution to the wind and getting close with nature — women are taking the roads by storm.
When Youth Hostelling Association of India organised a biking trip from New Delhi to Ladakh as part of the grand celebration, Sukanya Paul, a 20-year-old sociology student from Lady Brabourne College was the only female biker from Kolkata. Apart from her Anita Rao of Vizag was also among the 110 participants scheduled to cover 2,500 km to reach the world’s highest motorable road.
There are many young women like her, thirsting to try the unconventional. More and more urban women are now trying their hands swiftly on the two-wheeler that was so long dominated by the masculine man. Kajal Bango (28) who won a bronze medal in Boxing, proudly rides her Bajaj Platina. For her the bike is a companion that gives her immense strength as she cuts through the road and makes her way to her workplace at Alipore.
“Riding a bike is like riding a bull. I feel very energetic and confident the moment I hold the clutch and accelerate my bike,” she gushes. But she has not limited herself to merely riding the bike. She is keen on doing stunts and goes out with her neighbourhood mates at Hastings for practice sessions.
“I do burnout, which means making the rear wheel spin, heating the tyres and produce smoke. I also do pop wheelies, i.e. lift the front of the motorcycle off the ground, perform stoppies and hands-free riding,” she points out explaining her smooth grip over the bike.
Breaking free from social barriers by reversing the status quo and racing against the wind is what Gen-X women are looking for. The bikers are not bothered about the gaping spectators anymore.
“It hardly matters whether people are looking at you as the speed of the bike veils it all,” said Priyanka Motwani, (25) who owns a 125 CC TVS Flame.
Kakuli Ghosh (32) of North Kolkata has been riding for the last 10 years. “For me biking is a passion. It does not give me any extra confidence. In fact I have the confidence and that is why I am riding a bike. For me it is a transport medium and a lot better than Scooties,” she says.
Kakuli recalls how people used to talk ill of her when she was a student of Vidyasagar College. “Though my neighbours behaved normally there were others who thought differently. But with time everybody has become receptive and accepts my female presence,” she says.
Whether it’s Sukanya, Kajal or somebody else, in India when a woman shifts gears and zooms off, heads still turn. MTV Stuntmania, a reality show based on stunting, is giving such women a chance to display their skills on national television. When MTV auditioned for the first season of this show across six cities, 15-20 per cent of the applicants were girls.
However, the percentage was higher in cities such as Pune and Bangalore. Kolkata does not have abundance of women bike riders but more and more women are trying out the unconventional sport.
Riding motorcycles is no longer a ‘man’s thing’ because the women are doing it with style. Move over Easy Rider, the ladies have arrived.

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