Friday, July 19, 2013

God, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Me

Rainbow Flag, from Wikimedia Commons by Ludovic Bertron
Hate. That's what I see some Christians (as groups, and as individuals) spew when it comes to matters associated with the LGBT community. Whether it is a church group that pickets and holds up boards at a public event, or a renowned Christian leader preaching to the masses. I've seen quite a bit of hatred - all online.

Love. That's what I think Christians need to be. It's what the God we believe in is, and it's what we need to strive towards. Above all else. The two greatest commandments hinge on love. I've seen little or no examples of love from Christians towards the LGBT community.

Whispered conversations. That's what I see Christians partake in, when discussing the LGBT community and matters related to that community. No common discussions. Not much of sound advice from youth pastors and leaders on how we, Christians, should handle members of this community.

Frowns. That's what we Christians wear whenever we need to address an issue regarding the LGBT community. We frown at songs that talk about this, we frown at films that showcase this and we frown at people who embrace this.

Wrong. That's what I think the current general state of affairs is. Amidst all our whispered conversations and frowns, the piling on of hate and the lack of love, we seem to have lost the thread of true salvation brought by God to His people. Let me underscore that last, key phrase - His people.

So what do I think we should do? Read on.

1. Acceptance:
If everyone on Earth is created by God, then we're all His people. Okay, done. Regardless of caste, creed, colour, language, geographic location, physical non-conformity, mental non-conformity and sexual non-conformity. If members of the so-called LGBT community are also His people, the primary thing they need from God's people is acceptance. No holds barred, unconditional acceptance. No nonsense of "You give up your sinful ways and then step into the Church". Nobody forced me to give up ALL my sin to step into Christ's kingdom. I'm still pretty sinful. It's why I need a constant Saviour, rather than an instant Saviour. So do people in this so-called LGBT community. So, let's start by accepting them.

2. Embrace:
So we accept them into our lives, into our churches and into our family homes. What's next? Embrace them (Metaphorically, of course. Although, you could go ahead and give them a hug, if you so feel like it). We supposedly worship the Christ, who, when on Earth, went around dining and having a good time with sinners and prostitutes. Personally, I've never even had contact with a prostitute. I'm sure there's plenty of Christians like me. We need to embrace people from such backgrounds, because these people are the real ones who need our God (Just paraphrasing what Jesus said about the sick needing a doctor). So, let's fully and wholeheartedly embrace people from the LGBT community into our daily lives. Let's break bread with them.

3. Understand:
This is a tall ask. It's difficult to get two colleagues to understand each other about a single sentence, some times. How on earth we'll understand what a person from the LGBT community goes through is beyond me. With God, I believe it can be done. We, as Christians, cry out and lash out and fight out, when it comes to certain things. Let's try understanding these people. Similar to what I've said about smoking - smoking, as an act, does not tempt me at all. Then, I have no business to condemn a smoker and tell him to quit. I simply have no clue what that addiction is, and what a smoker goes through. Similarly, when it comes to the LGBT community, first, let's try and figure out where the lines are drawn and where each person from that community stands. And then, let's build each other up for His kingdom. Not for personal gain or supercilious self-righteousness. But purely for His kingdom.

4. Defocus:
Come on, let's face it. Even if every person from the LGBT community is the worst sinner on Earth (that's definitely untrue, and a big, big 'if') there are bigger issues in this whole wide world that God has given to us, humans, to care for and nurture. There are people dying of poverty, starvation. There are people fighting each other over petty issues on varying scales of grandeur (civil, international, inter-community). There are orphans languishing in poorly funded 'homes'. There are marriages being torn apart. All this stuff happens on a daily basis. I'd personally suggest that we completely defocus from the LGBT community and refocus on what actually matters more.

5. Big Sin / Little Sin:
My favourite point. And the last, in this post. We, Christians, proudly teach our young children that for God, there is no 'big' sin or 'little' sin. And as I've grown in the Christian faith, I've understood that since sin separates us from God, even the tiniest of sins makes it so that God can't bear to be with us. Thank heavens that Jesus Christ died on the cross, so that our sins would be washed away by grace. With this in mind, even if it is sin for a man to lie with a man or for a woman to lie with a woman (the LG part of the LGBT community), how dare we single them out for their sins when we continue in our lesser-public sins - such as lies, lust, greed, selfishness, unkindness, etc. How. Dare. We.


I have had multiple discussions about this topic with many peers and older Christians. Nobody has clear-cut answers to everything - for example, what about people who are physically male but have female hormones? Or vice versa? It is so difficult for us to admit that we have a crush on someone of the opposite sex. In today's LGBT-hating world, can one of us even imagine what it would take for a person from such a community to openly admit his/her sexual orientation? We can't. And, by clubbing all this under the term, 'LGBT', we're only adding to the possible hatred. We should actually stop using that word - LGBT. We don't call ourselves heterosexual (as opposed to homosexual) or mono-sexual (as opposed to bi-sexual) do we? Why differentiate those souls? Think about it.

You know, you can strike out everything I've said in this post except point number five above. That is the single point that tells me that I, as a child of God, have no business to point to a sect of God's people (all people on Earth are God's people) and label them as "LGBT", point fingers at them and cry "Sin!". I simply have no business. And if you would be so willing to allow it, I'll extend that a bit further to say - neither do you.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Ban CSK? Really? Pray, read this and then tell me why



Below is a response I posted to a commentor on Facebook, who said, "CSK team must be banned and Guru - the enthusiastic crook - jailed." and followed it up with "All these guys are frauds. But Srini is a shameless fraud". While it shouldn't be too hard to dig up the details of this enlightened human being, I personally would not mention his name here to maintain whatever level of privacy the world wide web offers. So, here we go.

Dear Mr ... 
All frauds are shameless. Having said that, let me focus on your actual point here - that CSK should be banned and 'Guru' should be jailed. 
1. It is yet to be proven in a court of law if Mr. Gurunath (forgive me for using his full name - I don't know him well enough to call him 'Guru') has broken any laws. Let him be proven guilty first, before throwing accusations on him. 
2. In the possible event that he is found guilty, banning CSK doesn't help you, me or anyone on this big, beautiful planet. It is yet to come to light the exact nature of his standing with the team - once again, this would need to be proven in a court of law. 
3. In case Mr. Gurunath is proven to be some man of position and power within the CSK official framework, AND proven to be completely guilty - even then, banning CSK does not help. Asking for something like that would mean that India would need to be banned from world sporting circles because a minister of ours broke some law by accepting a bribe, or laundering money through a deal. Do you realise how stupid this sounds? 
4. Lastly, if you were actually trying to accuse CSK of match-fixing because of the arrest of Mr. Gurunath, then you're a complete and a total idiot. You need to pull up your dictionary and see the differences between a 'bet' and 'fix'. You may use an online source to check out 'match fixing'. The two are very different. If you still insist that CSK has been fixing matches for six yeas, please let the world know how and why a team that has been throwing money everywhere to fix matches for six years would skimp out on not fixing the finals? CSK has appeared in five finals and won only twice. Also, if CSK WERE fixing all their matches, all the other teams are the ones who should be banned as they would appear to be accepting money from CSK happily to let go of their possible performing capabilities (which also means Mumbai wouldn't have won 3 out of their four matches with CSK this season). 
Before I close, I'd like to gently suggest that you find some other way to pass your time rather than make far-reaching, unneccessary flaming comments on Facebook. Get off Facebook, find a way to reduce all the illegal goings-on in the country. Pay your necessary taxes. Don't bribe the cops or the TTEs. Be the change that you want to see, Sir, assuming that it is, after all, CHANGE that you want to see. 
Thank you for reading till the end,
Yours,
A fellow Indian.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

I am a Tamilian

Tamil Brahmi inscription in jambaimalai, from Commons
When the Mullaperiyar dam issue 'outed' in the press more than a year ago, my Facebook news feed was filled with comments from both sides of the border (I have plenty of friends from Kerala and Tamil Nadu). I read up as much as I could about the dam, the arguments from the two states and decided - I didn't care about the whole issue much. It's a dam. It affects the economics and public sentiments of two states of our nation. So be it. And I am a Tamilian.

For several years now, I've been hearing of renowned actors, politicians and other public figures in Tamil Nadu 'speaking out against' the atrocities committed against the Tamils in Sri Lanka. When I first heard of such things, I used to wonder why those people were resorting to extreme measures to have their voices heard - when the issue they were protesting wasn't even in our country. Only later did I realise that these people felt a bond of kinship with the Tamils in Sri Lanka. Yet, I feel no such bond. Still, I am a Tamilian.

When I've heard derogatory comments about people from Tamil Nadu - and I've heard comments in almost all shapes, sizes and colours - it definitely irritates me, but I feel no need to pummel that commenter's head in, or whack him black and blue (a feat, which if you know me, you'll know is quite next to impossible!) because the people of Tamil Nadu are what they are regardless of what others think. I was born in Tamil Nadu and I've lived there - so I know what those people are, the good and bad of it. Yes, I am a Tamilian.

I've heard plenty of people accusing Tamilians of lacking a knowledge of Hindi, yet I seldom find Tamilians accusing people from another state of not knowing Tamil (And for the record, no, Hindi is NOT the national language of India. Please look it up. We really don't have ONE national language.) Amidst accusations from many quarters that Tamilians will always only speak Tamil, and never learn another language, I've picked up a decent amount of Malayalam in college, a fair amount of Kannada in Bangalore and Mysore and a smattering of Hindi during a few months aboard the SEBS 2012 in the northen portions of our country. And yes, I am a Tamilian.

Back in college, during a Republic day (2006), I wore a traditional Keralite mundu (without a belt, mind you) matched with a John Player's shirt while I extolled the brilliance of National Integration amidst westernization. It still amazes me that we, Indians, who look upon certain caucasians with disdain for the way they treat non-caucasians, can so easily differentiate between Indians from different states. We seem to love to classify people into stereotypes that we possess, and we whisper them behind those peoples' backs. If you're still wondering what my point is, let me spell it out loud and clear: Yes, I am a Tamilian. That's because my parents are Tamilian and I was born in Madras. But I am also an Indian. And that's more important to me when I talk to you, my fellow Indian.

Yes, I am a Tamilian, but I am also an Indian citizen. Please don't forget that.

So, let's try to put aside our cultural/ethnic differences - we're all humans. We're all Indians.
And don't even get me started on the people who think Muslims don't belong to India... Such talk just ignites a fire within me. Indian is Indian, regardless of culture, creed, colour, race or any other thing we can think of.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Scripting my online demise

When I created my first email ID back in 2000, dan_hercules@yahoo.com, I did not have much use for it. A few years later, tired of all the spam I was receiving, I switched to eihdee@rediffmail.com. That ID was put to much more frequent and meaningful use, as I was in college and away from the life I'd known till then. When Google launched their Gmail service in 2004, and I received the requisite invite, I signed up for ajcfreak@gmail.com. Since then, aJCfreak has been my online presence. The ID stems from a dc Talk song, Jesus Freak. I wanted to be a Jesus freak, and it kind of epitomised everything that I desired to be. So it was perfect. Almost.

Over the past 8-9 years, my online presence has grown to several locations and multiple avatars and IDs and such. It's something that I've become tied to. Who's ajcfreak? Yeah, that's me. In tying myself to this online ID, I seem to have tied my creative outputs to myself as well. For example, the scores of songs I've written (at my website) and this book I started writing all amount to MY work. Mine. Solely. Looking back, the "JC" part of aJCfreak seems to have diminished over time. I have started ventures and involved myself in online activities that are perfectly well-mannered and completely lawful, but may not exactly be what the Lord intended me to start or involve myself in.

It looked like I was really going somewhere - gaining the world, so to speak. However, Jesus asks in the Word what would profit a man if he gained the whole world, but lost his soul. This past weekend, 12th/13th Jan 2013, I felt the Lord asking me the same thing. "What profits you, Dan" I thought He said, "if you gain the whole online world but lost sight of what I want you to do specifically?" It was so monumentally staggering that the thought took couple of days to sink in. Here's some of the things that helped me along the way. During Sunday service, I felt Jesus saying "Would you leave everything and come after me?" similar to what He told people when He walked upon Earth - only, for me, it was everything online plus everything I've created so far. All my songs. All my writings. All my online accounts. Would I give them up and go after Him alone? Next, the Toby Mac song Lose My Soul says, "I don't wanna gain the whole world, yet lose my soul". This kept ringing in my head, and I took a closer look at the lyrics - which seem to completely (or atleast, 99%) mirror my current decision to give up everything and follow Him.

So what does this actually mean? It means that I've started scripting my online demise. Over the next couple of weeks, I'll be taking almost all (if not all) of my existing accounts offline. I've begun with my least used accounts - Ustream, myspace, soundcloud, flickr, YouTube, Yahoo!, Qyuki and XDA Developers. I will continue the deletion of my online accounts. Whether I will end up deleting my current Facebook, Gmail and Google accounts remains to be seen. If I'm required to do that, it would be the hardest thing I've ever done - harder than quitting HP and this blog would also go bye-bye. I'm just waiting and praying and seeing.

Lastly, I just want to make it clear - there's nothing wrong with online accounts. There's nothing wrong with creativity, or the outputs from it. It's just that for me, personally, I had lost the Lord of the creativity amidst all the flurry of creativity. He's still the One pouring forth out of me, but I had lost the sense to see it, acknowledge it and be bound to that fact. I will definitely continue to exist online; just that it won't be in the same manner, and most probably not in the same avatars that the online world has seen till date.

Any thoughts/questions/clarifications/criticisms/comments/prayers are welcome, as always.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

If we fall, we fall together

Our Hero Honda Passion's 'cockpit'

After my time aboard the Science Express, I've been trying to get Smitha to ride the bike. The bike is a Hero Honda Passion, with a 100 cc engine - what folks generally term a 'commuter'. I've ridden it over vales and hills, near rocks and lagoons and about 40,000 km in the two-and-a-half years that I've owned it. What I really would love to see, is my darling wife riding it. Confidently. Comfortably. And of course, joyously. As far as the last one is concerned - joy - I am sure she'll find that it comes with the phenomenon of bike-riding. As for the first two, confidence and comfort - I decided to begin building it.

One night, I gently coaxed Smitha to ride the bike for about 4.5 km, inside Mysore city. This coaxing took several persuasive words from my part, plus my hands controlling the handlebars from the pillion position behind her. I also acted as her right rearview mirror, and at times, helped her operate the clutch gear shift lever with her left foot. Among all my words of  coaxing, the only ones that I still remember are: Don't worry. If we fall, we fall together. These words weren't simply said. I meant them with every fibre in my body. And as we sped along that night, I kept thinking and praying, God, if we fall, make it so that we are not too hurt. Both of us. We made it home safe. The next time I offered her the bike to ride for the same stretch, I barely touched the handlebars. The gear-shifting was all her own. It wasn't a very satisfying ride for the biker in me, but we all start with baby steps, don't we? After that, there have been one or two other such rides and couple of stints on the highway between Mysore and Bangalore. Smitha has ridden at least 65 km on the highway. Illegal - I know. Dangerous - I know. But whatever happens, happens to the both of us. With trust in God above, and little trust in the fledgling rider that my wife is, I had let go of the bike's control completely. I found that the comfort and the confidence part go hand in hand. Her comfort in riding the bike depends as much on her confidence in doing the same. And I'm still laying on the bricks...

I don't know if Smitha would ever really bike down the highway, completely unassisted. Alone, or otherwise. Yet, I feel that these words apply to so much more than just biking - If we fall, we fall together. I believe this makes the two, one. I believe it shows support. I believe it shows sharing of trials and sorrows. Most of all, I find, it encourages a partner to stand tall and attempt something seldom attempted. And that, my dear readers, is worth the risk of falling. Together.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Aboard The Science Express


From 5th June 2012 till 9th November 2012 I was a Science Communicator aboard the Science Express Biodiversity Special. The journey across various parts of our country was a superb experience which I doubt I'll ever see the equal of, for the rest of my life. I have stayed in some of the worst and best hotels, eaten some of the best and worst food found in this country, interacted with a wide variety of people ranging from the uncouth to the top brass of the scientific community of our country. I've interacted with bright-eyed, interested children and with youth who just wanted to pass their time in an air-conditioned space. I have been left wondering, at times, at the magnitude of the task that we were trying to undertake - to educate a people that did not want to be educated, nor did they care - while at times, the understanding smiles from a class of eager young children have left a lasting, glowing memory in me.

With this mix of memories, when I look back on my time on the Science Express, the one memory that shines bright is that of my colleagues. The ones I really liked, the ones I didn't care too much for, the ones that liked me, the ones that didn't like me much - all of them. Without each of them, this journey would have been so much different. It still would have been possible, but in an entirely different way with a different set of memories and a different set of possible outcomes. Right now, all I can say to each of my colleagues aboard the SEBS 2012 is, "Thank you."

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Quitting HP, moving on

Me, during my years in Bangalore (from L to R): August 2007, May 2009, August 2011
When, like me, one works in a large MNC for 5 years and 9 months, and then decides to move on, the onlookers raise questions. The first question, "Where did you get a job?", is also the most unnecessary question. I haven't got a job elsewhere. And I'm not looking. The second question, "What about money? Survival?" has a pretty unconventional answer ("unconventional" by the standards of this fast-paced, rat-raced world). It is an answer that some have scoffed at, others have considered as part of "Dan's craziness" while still others have been left stunned at hearing it. Nevertheless, the answer is simple: "God will provide." Let me try to explain things a bit more clearly.

On 22nd January 2012, during the regular Sunday worship service at my church, Adonai, the Australian worship band, Shalom, was ministering to us when God spoke to me. Directly, clearly, softly. And, repeatedly. He convicted me of three decisions:
1) To quit HP
2) To move and be with Smitha, wherever her research field takes her
3) (I shall keep this undisclosed for now, since this seems to be a longer-term thing, and I'm unclear yet of the exact steps to be taken in this direction)

So, I handed in my resignation on 31st Jan 2012, after a personal discussion with my manager at HP. Till the evening of 30th Jan, I was deliberating the date of leaving HP; for the 60 days of our notice period, we don't receive the regular salary - it is provided as a part of the "final settlement". I was wondering how I would survive in Bangalore without the regular salary for 60 days; a friend called up, out of the blue, and pledged the required amount. This incident has proved as a small view of how God intends to provide for Smitha and myself as we move forward in this new direction that He's leading us through. Our next plans are to move to Mysore temporarily, and once Smitha decides on the location of her research field, we both will move there for the foreseeable future.

24th March 2012 is when we're moving all our stuff to Mysore. 30th March 2012 is my last working day with HP and 1st April 2012 will most probably be my last day in Bangalore. My mobile number and email ID would remain the same, and I plan to remain active on Facebook as well. Oh, and I might be spending more time at The Indian Geek, among other things.

There are big plans that God has chalked up for Smitha and me. There are big changes occurring in our lives. There are big sacrifices we've been called to make. But you know what? When God says Go, you just go. No questions. No turning back. No second thoughts. I've drawn the line. And that's that.