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Puja in the office: Hindu privilege in action
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unsorted Offline
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Post: #1
Puja in the office: Hindu privilege in action

I want to share an experience I had a couple of weeks ago. Apparently there was a major Hindu festival. For the occasion, the people in my office had a puja - in the office premises. Now I've seen this happen before in my previous companies - but it's always been an unobtrusive affair which you could easily ignore. I.e, it was opt out by default, opt in if you want to.

But my current office is a small place - literally one room with 25 people in it. And as luck would have it, the puja was right next to where I sit. They set up idols, diyas, the works. Someone put religious music on his computer's loudspeakers. Agarbattis were lit. And then everyone was "shushed', and people were self-righteously "asked" to come attend. They all gathered round, hands clasped piously in front as someone did the arti/whatever.

I remained on my seat, eyes fixed on my screen, and carried on working. I was the only person in the room doing so. After the puja, one of my colleagues came over and offered me prasad - I refused and got an incredulous look from her.

I was disgusted and furious. It was opt in by default, opt out if you want to - and be made to look bad because of it. I wonder if these Hindus realise that this was an exercise of privilege? Do they even realise they have privilege? (Probably not - it is the nature of privilege that those who have it don't realise they have it.)

Has anyone else had experiences like this at work, and been equally bothered by it?
(This post was last modified: 22-10-2010 08:25 PM by unsorted.)
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astrokid.nj Offline
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Post: #2
RE: Puja in the office: Hindu privilege in action

Good job opting out of it, unsorted. Your defiance is good.

Way back in 1994, in my first job in Bangalore in a Software company, one morning when I come in to work, all the computers had tilaks on them. Thanks to Ayudha pooja. I didnt care at that time, but one of the bosses there saw it and got irritated.. he probably was an atheist :-)

I have changed my locales a few times since then, and I didnt encounter anything at work since then. But Ayudha pooja continues to haunt me.. coz just a few days ago, when I got back home from work, some of my material stuff at home (music system, telescope) had some tilak discreetly applied to them by a family member. Religion it seems wont leave me alone.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has - Margaret Mead
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Post: #3
RE: Puja in the office: Hindu privilege in action

Oh yes the tilaks - it was absurd here. Everything in the office had it - right from the frigging UPS to the Coffee Day coffee machine!
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Lije Offline
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Post: #4
RE: Puja in the office: Hindu privilege in action

Ours is a big office and I haven't seen a festival celebrated in the manner you describe. Maybe it is because celebrating a Hindu festival in a big way would invite complaints from followers of other delusions. There were a couple of occasions when people planned for some activities and wanted monetary contributions, but I passed up on them.

There was this one time when the office guys freaked me out. They brought in some yoga consultants for a few days to teach us meditation and some light yoga exercises. The intentions were good, to get us sedate softies some physical workout. But the consultants also gave us pseudo-scientific nonsense like how the breathing exercises remove impurities from the lungs.

I went along for the first session just not to be the odd one out (This was before I was more assertive about my rationalism). But from the other sessions on, I just ignored them and carried on with my work. But it was surreal. For the meditation sessions, lights were dimmed and the instructors were chanting "breathe in, breathe out" and during the physical exercises part, everybody were standing at their desks trying out various yogic postures.
(This post was last modified: 22-10-2010 11:54 PM by Lije.)
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shrihara Offline
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Post: #5
RE: Puja in the office: Hindu privilege in action

In my office, very often, I get request to have Thirpathi prasadam, Mookambika prasadam etc from colleagues who had returned from "Holy piligrimage". I do take them since I like the Thirupathi ladoos. It is not poison and there is nothing wrong in accepting it. They are not asking you to do pooja or pray God. Its better to maintain good relationship with everyone in workplace rather than showing ego of our disbelief.
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Ajita Kamal Offline
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Post: #6
RE: Puja in the office: Hindu privilege in action

(22-10-2010 08:24 PM)unsorted Wrote:  It was opt in by default, opt out if you want to - and be made to look bad because of it. I wonder if these Hindus realise that this was an exercise of privilege? Do they even realise they have privilege? (Probably not - it is the nature of privilege that those who have it don't realise they have it.)

This is a very good observation.

The same thing happens in the US, where Christian rituals are often forced on you. For example, you are expected to get in on the "Secret Santa" gift exchange during Christmas, along with everyone else in the office. It doesn't occur to these people that they are forcing the majority belief system on everyone.

"Fossil rabbits in the Precambrian"
~ J.B.S.Haldane, on being asked to falsify evolution.
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Sajit Offline
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Post: #7
RE: Puja in the office: Hindu privilege in action

(22-10-2010 10:45 PM)unsorted Wrote:  Oh yes the tilaks - it was absurd here. Everything in the office had it - right from the frigging UPS to the Coffee Day coffee machine!
Lol
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Sajit Offline
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Post: #8
RE: Puja in the office: Hindu privilege in action

(26-10-2010 09:30 AM)shrihara Wrote:  In my office, very often, I get request to have Thirpathi prasadam, Mookambika prasadam etc from colleagues who had returned from "Holy piligrimage". I do take them since I like the Thirupathi ladoos. It is not poison and there is nothing wrong in accepting it. They are not asking you to do pooja or pray God. Its better to maintain good relationship with everyone in workplace rather than showing ego of our disbelief.

The mention of ladoos reminds me of a friend who fractured his tooth some years ago after taking a bite into a tirupathi ladoo and had to go in for a root canal treatment ! He remains a devotee, but I am sure he will be more careful biting into these ladoos smile
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Sajit Offline
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Post: #9
RE: Puja in the office: Hindu privilege in action

(26-10-2010 09:30 AM)shrihara Wrote:  In my office, very often, I get request to have Thirpathi prasadam, Mookambika prasadam etc from colleagues who had returned from "Holy piligrimage". I do take them since I like the Thirupathi ladoos. It is not poison and there is nothing wrong in accepting it. They are not asking you to do pooja or pray God. Its better to maintain good relationship with everyone in workplace rather than showing ego of our disbelief.
http://truthdive.com/2010/01/07/tirupati...-rs10.html
But due to limited availability of laddus in temple, those who return from Tiruppati buy fake Tiruppati laddus in black market for distributing to more number of people taking advantage that most of the people who taste these fake laddus cannot find out which is original.
Lol
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shrihara Offline
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Post: #10
RE: Puja in the office: Hindu privilege in action

(26-10-2010 09:40 AM)Ajita Kamal Wrote:  The same thing happens in the US, where Christian rituals are often forced on you. For example, you are expected to get in on the "Secret Santa" gift exchange during Christmas, along with everyone else in the office. It doesn't occur to these people that they are forcing the majority belief system on everyone.

I work in an IT company in Bangalore and "secret santa" was arranged here as well. There was no compulson but I had participated in it last year. I didnt think it as a religious belief but rather as an activity for fun. It was good in a way to meet a stranger and become friends. My secret santa during last time is one of my best friends in office now.

I feel that there is nothing wrong to participate in activities like "secret santa" or "ethnic day" or accepting prasadam. When theists are all happy and celebrating in festive mood, if we refuse to be a part of it, they start to think that atheists are pessimists having sad life. That's the worst part in these events and its better to avoid it.
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shrihara Offline
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Post: #11
RE: Puja in the office: Hindu privilege in action

(26-10-2010 11:31 AM)Sajit Wrote:  http://truthdive.com/2010/01/07/tirupati...-rs10.html
But due to limited availability of laddus in temple, those who return from Tiruppati buy fake Tiruppati laddus in black market for distributing to more number of people taking advantage that most of the people who taste these fake laddus cannot find out which is original.
Lol

Right, once I had a tirupathi ladoo which was mostly sugar and ghee Thumbdown
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Ajita Kamal Offline
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Post: #12
RE: Puja in the office: Hindu privilege in action

(26-10-2010 12:02 PM)shrihara Wrote:  I work in an IT company in Bangalore and "secret santa" was arranged here as well. There was no compulson but I had participated in it last year. I didnt think it as a religious belief but rather as an activity for fun.

The point to keep in mind here is that this is what you think. Others, I for instance, don't think so. I choose to see it as a silly ritual associated with a terrible ideology and tainted from the start. There is a very well-developed body of criticism of such religious social rituals, and much of it is positive, concerned with building up secular alternatives that celebrate reason. But I won't go into that here. The point is this is about choice, and in my case (and in the experience that 'unsorted' had in his office) there wasn't any possibility of choice. This is because an office is a place where social relationships are very important and have tremendous impact on one's success, often even more so than merit. People are in a trapped situation, often having to work with other people not of their choosing. And often there is a power structure involved in determining office relationships. Such office relationships are affected greatly by value systems, and religious belief is one important marker for value. Such religious beliefs must remain private. The very act of holding a religious ritual in an office setting makes it an abuse of my rights.

Quote:I feel that there is nothing wrong to participate in activities like "secret santa" or "ethnic day" or accepting prasadam. When theists are all happy and celebrating in festive mood, if we refuse to be a part of it, they start to think that atheists are pessimists having sad life. That's the worst part in these events and its better to avoid it.

If this is how you feel, then by all means go and be nice. There are plenty of those who feel the way you do, and most of them do not even self-identify as atheists. But simply because theists think "that atheists are pessimists having sad life", doesn't mean I have to give a fuck about their superstitious rituals. I think that participating in such social rituals legitimizes religion and prevents us from realizing meaningful social celebrations based on a naturalistic and scientific understanding of reality.

It comes down to a simple idea. Any religious ceremony must be a private affair, not to be flaunted in a setting such as an office where people are forced to participate or be shunned.

"Fossil rabbits in the Precambrian"
~ J.B.S.Haldane, on being asked to falsify evolution.
(This post was last modified: 26-10-2010 02:50 PM by Ajita Kamal.)
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