Austerity, Conformity and Compliance
Juggernaut’s cousin Lakshmi was always fasting; she fasts on most Hindu auspicious days and every Saturday; she drinks water and buttermilk whenever she feels hungry during the fast. She was only 16 years old when she started fasting, not for health reasons but to prove control or compliance, again and again. Everybody in the family particularly the older folks admired her conformity and austerity. As she grew, she extended her austerity by stop eating certain vegetable on a particular day; say on Fridays she won’t eat onions, on Thursdays she won’t eat garlic and she stopped eating her most favorite vegetable ‘Eggplant ‘ on Mondays.
“How you can fast whole day,” Juggernaut expressed his surprise.
“Well, It is mostly mind control, I manage my hunger to prove I am in control of myself,” Lakshmi looked serious.
“Control of what?
“My inner strength.”
“I am sure I am in control of my inner strength, but I don’t have to prove by fasting or sacrifice by not eating my favorite dish,” said Juggernaut
“But then how you prove or show to yourself that you are in control?”
“Is this austerity and conformity has anything to do with religion and God?”
“I am hoping that God would recognize my compliance and make future events favorable to me,” “have you attempted fasting?”
“Not voluntarily only when I was sick and could not eat on hospital bed.” “I am not sure whether fasting or sacrificing a favorite dish could have made any difference in my life.”
“Conformity and austerity were opposite to indulgence; implementing whatever austerity measure gives self assurance and reinforces self confidence.”
“May be you are right but does all those measures made you a better person?”
“What you mean?”
“Are you more kind, charitable, compassionate, forgiving and less judgmental?”
“I am who I am; I am not sure whether the austerity and compliance changed me a bit as a person.” “The austerity and conformity is to sustain inner strength and reinforce myself that I am in control.”
” “How about our cousin Balaji who dressed only in black for the entire month before taking his final exams at the college?”
“Well, he was doing fine, I am not sure wearing black helped him or not to get good scores in his final exams.”
“How about Ramanand who shaved his head every time he got into financial troubles?”
“He shaved his head over a dozen times and yet his financial problems followed him until his death some years ago.” “Have you tried any austerity measures?”
“Wearing my sweaty and smelly grey color shirt every day without washing during the entire week during year-end class test was my fix; I told my mother not to wash it until I finish taking all the tests but the shirt smelled so bad for not washing for over a week, she washed it anyway, I took the test wearing the freshly washed grey shirt only to get C.”
“In what subject that was?”
“So you did have some hang-ups; any fasting or giving up favorite dishes or austerity of any kind?”
“No, except my grey shirt fix when I was in 12th grade.”
“Well, how you explain that?”
“I guess that comes under general superstition believes; I did not sacrifice any of my dishes or fasting like you.”
“Well, austerity, compliance and conformity, all could fall into the general category of superstition.”
“I am beginning to understand.”
“Do you try fasting with me on this Saturday?”
“I will try; can I have a nutritional drink during the fast so I don’t feel weak?”
“I will go fasting this Saturday and perhaps every Saturday.”
“Well, once you get a hang of it, you may like fasting; it is good for your health too.”
“Shall we toast the nutritional drink for 24-hour fasting then.”
“Sure why not.”
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