A Journey Towards Rational Thinking : A Personal Examination – By J.N. Daamodhar

In the annals of my academic history, Loyola College, Chennai, served as my cradle of learning during the years 1962-63, while I pursued my Pre-University Course. The subsequent chapter of my educational voyage led me to the College of Engineering, Guindy, where I studied Mechanical Engineering from 1963 to 1968. This institution, now affiliated with Anna University, imparted to me the knowledge that would shape my professional journey.

In 1969, I embarked on a career at Ashok Leyland, Chennai, dedicating three years of my life to the company’s endeavors. It was in 1972 that I took the momentous step of marriage, relocating to Hyderabad to facilitate my wife’s legal practice in the High Court of Andhra Pradesh. Despite spending a decade in Chennai, I remained unaware of a place called Periyaar Thidal, until an accidental discovery in 2003.

Upon entering Periyaar Thidal, I was immediately drawn to a bookshop brimming with Tamil literature authored by the likes of Periyaar and Anna, among others. My rational inclinations were ignited, as if I had stumbled upon a treasure trove of critical thinking. I eagerly collected as many books as I could transport back to Hyderabad by train, although at that time, I did not delve deeply into their content, merely skimming their pages.

My second visit to Thidal in 2015 marked a turning point. It was then that I subscribed to the Viduthalai newspaper, a Tamil daily devoted to rational thinking. This time, I left with even more books, carefully packaged in a carton. This coincided with my departure from a private company, providing me with the opportunity to immerse myself in Periyaar’s philosophy.

I marveled at how a person with limited formal education could think so profoundly. What Periyaar grasped at the age of seven took me seven decades to fathom.

Despite my engineering background and numerous trips to the West since 1980, it wasn’t until 2015 that I began to think like Periyaar. Perusing Periyaar’s writings and speeches catalyzed a transformation in my worldview, leading to several significant changes.

1. An End to Superstitious Rituals. Since 2018, I ceased the ritual of Ayudha Pooja for our car, a practice rooted in my childhood that I had unquestioningly carried forward. This experience underscored that education alone does not guarantee rational thinking; even scientists in India succumb to superstition.

2. Environmentally Conscious Celebrations. In 2019, I stopped purchasing Vinayaka statues for Vinayaka Chaturthi. The traditional practice of immersing statues made of plaster of Paris in water bodies causes pollution, an unsustainable legacy that we need to curtail. I advocate celebrating festivals without physical representations, similar to how we observe Rama Navami, Shiva Rathri, and Krishna Jayanthi.

3. An Expanding Literary Legacy. In the year 2020, I embarked on a journey to translate Periyaar’s work into multiple Indian languages, starting with Telugu. My desire is for Periyaar’s reforms to reach every nook and corner of India. We’ve since translated his works into English, Kannada, Malayalam, Oriya, Marathi, and Hindi, with more translations underway.

4. Simplified Ceremonies. After completing the construction of our farmhouse, we refrained from doing grihapravesanam with pooja by purohits in Sanskrit. A simple coconut-breaking ceremony sufficed, omitting traditional rituals like Ganapathy homam and cow walking inside the house.

5. Questioning Vastu Shastra. A friend of ours made vastu correction to the house he purchased. After making the correction he died due to cander at the age of 50. Where as the person who build a house with vastu defect was still alive at the age of 85 in Chennai. I reject the principles of Vastu Shastra as unscientific and fear-driven. The success of a business built against Vastu, like my brother’s marriage hall, speaks volumes about its credibility.

6. Numerical Indifference. I see no significance in lucky or unlucky numbers. Our vehicle registrations reflected easy rememerance rather than blind belief in good luck associated with numbers.

7. A Personal Approach to Mourning. I do not engage purohits for death anniversary rituals. Instead, we offer our prayers privately.

8. Everyday is a Good Day. I don’t believe in good or bad days, adopting a practical approach to celebrating special occasions, much like in the West.

9. Disbelief in Horoscopes. horoscopes are wrong assumptions. People accepted everything since they do not have the knowledge to question the so called astologers.

As I continue to explore the rational ideals of Periyaar, my hope is that more individuals will embrace these principles and contribute to a more enlightened and rational society.

J.N. Daamodhar
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