Questions of equality struck me later. At first it was accepted, the inequality – I mean of the genders – and frowned upon like a bad fact of life. That it can be questioned didn’t occur to me. It’s the same with faith. At first you accept it, like the sights you see and the sounds you hear, you think of it as a belief to believe in. That it could be questioned, again comes later. Now I put the latter under the category of feelings. Faith is a feeling, like love, like hatred. You can’t choose what to believe in, you have to feel it. Nobody can make you.
And here at Sabarimala, both these questions come together. That of equality and that of faith. It just became one of those things I wasn’t concerned about. And that’s strange, that I wasn’t. Now I have mentioned my problems of being identified a feminist, if only for the strong reason that the word is highly misconstrued. But fact is I boil every time I hear about some kind of inequality – big or small. I don’t believe you have to be the one discriminated against to feel the injustice. But when it is a woman we are talking about, I can’t help it. I would have liked it if I were a man when I boiled. But never mind that. Point is I can’t take it. And that’s earned me the feminist tag that I am not fond of. The cause of equality is lost if you add a fem to it. It can’t be fem, it can’t be masculine either. It should just be.
So that’s why it’s strange I didn’t boil for Sabarimala’s women. When I heard words like tradition, I may have twitched an eyebrow but that’s about it. It is somehow not my area of concern. And I could brush it off as my agnosticism coming into the picture. Perhaps that’s why I am not boiling. And then again I hear it is the atheists that are actually “causing trouble”, raising voices for the women. I can see where that thought comes from. Women of faith – of the extreme kind who want to go through the pain of climbing the sloppiest slopes of Sabarimala – possibly also believe in the traditions handed down. Which is to say Ayyappan, the lord worshipped here, doesn’t wish for their presence. So then they make that sacrifice of not making that sacrifice they so want to make.
The atheists now are mostly rationalists, strong believers of equality and boil like I said I do. It’s plain discrimination, they feel, even though they probably have little wish to go themselves. They are fighting for the women believers who do not want to go against Ayyappan’s wishes. It’s not irony, it is not catch-22. It is just a fight for no one.
Fundamentally, I should be against it. And my question to those raising the argument of tradition is, if that were so, the temple entry proclamation could not have happened, and people of lower castes would still be standing outside, untouched. If traditions had not changed, there’d be sati still, child marriages, education a taboo for the antharjanams, and on and on and on goes the list.
That said, I somehow still feel we are fighting a non-issue here, despite my strong feelings for equality. Because those who care for rights, do not wish to go, and those who wish to go, do not wish to go.