Mixing Cows & Coconuts

Read these first:-

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(It does not matter if you are breaking it for fun or for a deep sense of devotion but it is high time we reconsider breaking up coconuts in insane numbers on public roads. Imagine driving your car over this minefield and you will understand why we need to reconsider this. God, I am sure, is happy with breaking of one coconut. It is the substance that counts and not the form. Image: http://www.demotix.com)

No one had say it better on why schools should not be used for slaughtering animals than Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim, the chairperson of Parent Action Group for Education Malaysia (PAGE) and it makes a lot of sense too:-

1. The school as a venue for animal slaughter is highly inappropriate as students become unwilling spectators whether or not they are invited to watch. While some may be able to stomach the procedure there will also be some who may be traumatised by even the cry of an animal before it is slaughtered. Children are sensitive lest we forget. Incidentally, religious officials continue to gently remind worshippers that the photographs of slaughters being taken at mosques and suraus are not to be indiscriminately publicised as it may induce trauma to the faint-hearted;

2. School grounds are ill-equipped for any type of slaughter in particular the drainage and sanitary system to ensure the proper extermination of blood, carcass, waste products and odour, which in turn if not adequately disposed of, may result in an unhygienic condition;

3. Also comes into question is the area where the animal is tied down which must be secure to ensure the safety of the students at all times as animals have been known to come loose, run free and hurt bystanders especially children who have slower reflexes than adults;

4. It is not necessarily an issue about religious sensitivities as even Muslim parents are enraged. However, it can be educational if students are prepared and willing to witness the slaughter of an animal in a proper manner best carried out at a licensed slaughter house where facilities are available to ensure a high standard of hygiene. A visit can be arranged to a slaughter house as a school activity instead; and

5. Principals by failing to communicate clearly with parents and students on the purpose of conducting such a practice without considering its cause and resulting effect of such an action in the first place allows matters to be thrown out of context.

(Source)

I have always maintained that schools should be used as a place of national unity and learning and not for anything else (namely politics and religion). On the latest issue above, well some may argues that it is nothing spectacular – slaughtering animals during festive seasons is nothing new. I am sure that everyone agrees that the issue at hand is not whether can slaughter cows or not (I have seen slaughtering of goats and chickens in some temples in a grander scale) or whether it has “offended” the non-Muslims. The issue at hand is whether it is right to be slaughtering animals in a school and whether it is the right thing to do during school hours. I am sure everyone agrees that there is a proper place and time for everything.

Is it right to expose young children to the cruelty of slaughtering a living animal and the “bloody” mess left thereafter? Is a school even designed to cater slaughtering of animals. Some years ago, some of my neighbors got together and organised similar slaughtering of animals. The only place available was the children’s playground. The problem was after the slaughtering and after the blood and the bits of carcass had spill over on the grass, it was not easy to clean (despite the best effort from the neighbors). For some days the smell alone was enough to keep kids from the playground (thankfully a couple days of heavy rain did the trick). But it was a lesson well learned – the open slaughtering stopped and these days, I guess the neighbors do it at a mosque where it was easier clean things up. Even if there is no other place suitable for slaughtering the cows, couldn’t this been done after school hours?

But having said that and since the issue was raised, it has kind of opened up the Pandora’s box or rather the question – what about other religion or cultural rites that may frighten small kids (like the pierced kavadi during Thaipusam) or may pose danger and unhygienic like the massive coconut breaking on public streets mainly during Thaipusam and open burning of those large incense sticks during Chinese festivals. While some of us may argue that is is not the same thing, we need to accept that it is a good question and it is something we should ponder seriously.

I am not sure if seeing anyone with pierced kavadis during Thaipusam is an issue as it is only done near to the temple (sometimes it is not only frightens small kids but also adults who are not used to seeing one) but they may have a good point there with the massive coconut breaking on public roads. But before that, here’s the reason why Hindus break coconut in case some of you are wondering – there are many version of the reason but the simplest would be this:-

Coconut represents the human head. The ego resides in the head. A tantric who has gained mastery over senses, literally cuts off his head as a sign of submission of ego. In Sathwik/Vedic mode of worship, coconut is used instead to depict the same. In either ways, the acts signify surrender of ego and submission to God’s will.

(Source)

Breaking the coconut is usually done within the compound of the temple and sometimes in front of the house (provided there is no cars parked in the vicinity) but doing the same on public road may need to be reconsidered. Yes they have been doing it for a long time now. Yes, it is a core part of the Hindu rites. Yes, it may not be related to the incident of slaughtering animals in schools. However does it makes any difference if we break one coconut in the temple and 100 coconuts on public streets as far as religion is concerned? I don’t think there is a difference. Other than an unnecessary waste of money, it poses unnecessary danger to road users – despite the pieces of coconut may get cleaned after the rites, there still may be some sharp pieces of the coconut shell that can cause serious damage to vehicles. Further, have you smelt coconut water after a few days left under the hot sun?

As I had said, there is a proper place and time for everything. No one is stopping you from breaking coconuts and no one is saying that you cannot break 1,000 coconuts but let’s confine to temples or house compounds. In the meantime, let’s focus on what is more important in schools – educating the future generation and making them the star of the country. Use the schools for the actual purpose it was built and pour all your time and energy for the same reasons. If we simply insist of doing what we want to do without any consideration to others, it is going to be a tough time in Malaysia for everyone.

Have a good Deepavali shopping this weekend…

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