One of my longest standing rules has been to give something away every time I get something. I suspect this might have come out of a desire to feel better about myself, about my acquisitions—a plea that I haven’t been wholly taken over by narcissism. I do not harbour any illusions that I am changing the world, or about generosity; for even behind these notions, there exists a strain of selfishness. Maybe I am involved in an ongoing project, to always fit my possessions in two suitcases. I cannot say I have succeeded.
There is a church nearby, and a large yellow bin stands guard. I drop into its mouth clothes and shoes. I imagine it to be a sort of black hole, having never seen what happens to things I leave behind, having never seen another human being here. Last week though, I saw a man and woman, loading large bags of discards into the truck. This image seemed incongruous: other people were, in fact, visiting the bin, and it is emptied more frequently than I had assumed. The woman said Hi, so we exchanged pleasantries, we chatted about the cold and the rain. Then she started thanking me.
I couldn’t get away fast enough.
The last book I read was Wendy Doniger’s On Hinduism. I provide curiosity as my reason. I want to know what she has to say—but do not take this claim seriously, it is what I say about everyone and everything.
Doniger’s book is a collection of her essays over a long period of research. Her scholarship and passion cannot be doubted. Her voice always manages to come through, occasionally funny, never pedantic, and it is evident that she enjoys the material she works on. She makes many attempts to find patterns, she tells us numerous stories and myths. However, the book concerns itself with Tier A Hinduism, as it pertains to the scriptures and various holy books, of which I have no idea. Do I take her word when she interprets texts, by herself, and from secondary sources? Am I to accept her translations as accurate? I do not know if I understood all that I read—maybe I understood nothing, and therefore everything. This might be in line with the many modes of contradictory reasoning religion provides us with. I would have liked to read about localised forms of Hinduism, both within India and outside. It is possible I’m in search of a different book.
I know some things though. I don’t think one can construct a narrative of the religion without caste, this system of dividing society is what unifies practitioners. I also think it is dangerous, and foolish, to hark back to an ideal past, in which such a division of society was desirable and admirable, in which homophobia and transphobia did not exist, in which women were masters of agency.
In any case, praying is one of the most selfish activities we can engage in.