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India

Zen And The Temple Of Motorcyle Mania

An Indian shrine built in memory of a dead traveler and his motorbike has attracted prayerful followers who credit the unusual temple for all manner of good tidings.

The Royal Enfield of Om Banna
The Royal Enfield of Om Banna
Jasvinder Sehgal

JODHPUR — Kala Saini is singing a lullaby for her 8-month-old daughter, who was born after the couple had been married for eight years. Kala says the wish for a baby came true after praying at the Om Banna temple near Jodhpur, in the Indian state of Rajasthan.

But the temple isn’t that kind of temple. Built along a busy highway infamous for fatal accidents, it’s a shrine to a motorcycle and its dead owner, Om Banna. The shrine has the motorbike inside a glass box with a photo of the owner.

Pug Singh has been looking after the shrine for the last two decades. “In 1991, Om Banna was returning home on his motorcyle when he suddenly hit a tree,” Singh says. “He was killed on the spot. After his death, the motorbike was taken to a local police station. But the next day, it was found again back at the accident point.”

Singh explains that the police thought it as a prank, so they took the bike to the police station again. “But on the following day, the same thing happened,” he says. Apparently, Om Banna’s father had a dream in which his dead son asked him to build a temple for his motorcycle.

People who visit the shrine sing folk songs in the name of Om Banna and offer prayers to the bike. Legend has it that paying respects here at the temple will ensure safe travels, says visitor Kala Saini.

“If they don't honk the horn, they will definitely meet an accident and will never reach their destination,” she says of passersby.

Nirbhay Singh Rathod and his wife traveled over 100 miles to pray here. He wants their son to marry soon. “It all depends upon your faith and belief,” he says. “I believe in the Motorcycle god and the holy spirit. I come here to invite the holy spirit to my son’s marriage.”

Near the shrine, there’s a tree covered with some offerings such as coconuts, sweets and flowers. Many visitors tie strings around the tree and put their wishes there with the hope that their dreams will come true.

Rukmani Devi sells the strings to customers. “The motorcycle driver died after hitting this tree,” he says. “So when you tie a wish band on the same tree, your wishes will come true.”

Truck driver Rishpal Singh says he is now a regular visitor to the temple. “One of my friend's vehicles got punctured and his vehicle was jammed,” the truck driver says. “It must be because he didn’t pray here.”

Kala Saini says praying at the motorbike shrine has changed her family’s life. She now plans to bring her baby daughter to the temple someday.

“I will come here again, but this time with my full family. But the Motorcycle god should fulfill my wish. “

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Society

A Closer Look At "The French Roe" And The State Of Abortion Rights In France

In 1972, Marie-Claire Chevalier's trial paved the way for the legalization of abortion in France, much like Roe v. Wade did in the U.S. soon after. But as the Supreme Court overturned this landmark decision on the other side of the Atlantic, where do abortion rights now stand in France?

Lawyer Gisèle Halimi accompanies Marie-Claire Chevalier at the Bobigny trial in 1972.

Lila Paulou

PARIS — When Marie-Claire Chevalier died in January, French newspapers described her role in the struggle for abortion rights as an important part of what’s become the rather distant past. Yet since the recent overturning of Roe v. Wade in the United States, Chevalier’s story has returned to the present tense.

A high school student in 1971, Chevalier was raped by a classmate, and faced an unwanted pregnancy. With the help of her mother and three other women, the 16-year-old obtained an abortion, which was illegal in France. With all five women facing arrest, Marie-Claire’s mother Michèle decided to contact French-Tunisian lawyer Gisèle Halimi who had defended an Algerian activist raped and tortured by French soldiers in a high-profile case.

Marie-Claire bravely agreed to turn her trial into a platform for all women prosecuted for seeking an abortion. Major social figures testified on her behalf, from feminist activist Simone de Beauvoir to acclaimed poet Aimé Césaire. The prominent Catholic doctor Paul Milliez, said, “I do not see why us, Catholics, should impose our moral to all French people.”

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