Wednesday, May 09, 2018

What about the boys?

Now the Kathua case has been transferred, everyone piously hopes that some semblance of justice,(?) will happen, in how much time, no one can guarantee.
After all that Shor, everyone spoke to females... protect yourself, learn martial arts, carry pepper spray etc, acknowledging that family males cannot protect?
Should women now turn violent, carry acid to throw in their faces or a sharp scissors for a Bobbit? Or what? What about little girls at the hands of family members?
Why is no one thinking of the boys?  Why do they feel the urge to rape ... even babies?
I often wonder: is this a side effect of digital India, with mobiles penetrating where health, education, or even proper roads have not.  So they, the boys have access to PORN... great inspiration!
Add to that the frustration of watching girls snap up top spots in all exams, jobs, laurels, even encroaching into earlier male arenas and making good there, albeit with hard work.
The male encroachment into previously female areas such as nursing, teaching, beauty, fashion, air hostessing has somehow not thrown up role models.
Hence frustration intensified by joblessness.... ending in female deaths rising in a land already suffering from a negative sex ratio.
Who is thinking soberly about these issues?

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Pitralok congame

The guys who wrote the Ved Purans must have been a real misogynist lot.
Hey, wait a minute; didn't the Brahmins do all that transcription,
Centuries after their actual creation and oral traditions?
Hmmm Brahmins?        It figures.
Some say, after the release of the soul in cremation,
It goes to Pitralok. 
This enables a forefather to move to his next birth.
Hey!  No instant rebirth?
Anyways, so grandson releases grandfather, and so on.

Now what about the women?
Does grandma also need a grandson?
Does it have to be her son’s son or Beti‘s son will do?
Or a grand beti will do?  Is there any mention?
After all in our times when one son is common,
What happens to Daadima,  Naanima and  Mausima? 
Everyone doesn’t have a son.
Some don't have kids at all.   If no grandkids, toh?
Agar bete ki Beti hai, toh?
Agar Beti ka beta hai toh? Uske Dada ka kya hoga?
If only one child releases grandpa, what about grandma?
Or are women to remain souls floating in ether forever?

Hold on guys. If that happens,
What happens to the guys’ vows of "janam janam ka Saath" For the prescribed saat janams?

How long should we wait for a relook at these Puranic tales 
To spot a clause that  can be interpreted:
It’s ok for a boy to kick off the next birth of one forefather

But each girl will have to kick off at 4-5 of her foremothers 
To make up for the backlog of centuries.

This piece was written in the aftermath of a mental churning and research on Hindu last rites after attending the funeral of my elder sister who died a spinster.

Friday, March 09, 2018

Ladders Against the Sky by Murli Melwani

A Review by Kusum Choppra

The title of Murli Melwani’s collection of short stories should have been “Against Many Skies.”      More than half the stories crisscross  India and her myriad cultures; the rest follow the ancestral trading trails beyond India’s borders trod by the hoary ancestors of a unique community, the Sindhis.
I was so impressed by the perspectives the stories present that I could not  help but make brief comparisons of today’s  reality with the  layers of  literary pastry, appealling to different sensibilities, across numerous boundaries into the hearts of many readers.

“ A Bar Girl.” A  touching story  woven around the life styles that both Amar
Badlani and Rak have  chosen, that prevent them from stopping and evaluating
their lives or asking where there are heading. For me the significant event
was  Amar heading for Rak’s village, where it came home to him that his
estrangement from his family had its roots in his  working life.
His damage control efforts lead him to finance  Rak’s nursing education and
make overtures to his kids and grandkids.  Did he succeed?
The young Jimmy Ramnani, In ”Writing a Fairy Tale,” had literary aspirations.
But the attraction of money and the ties to family led him into a comfortable life
that distracted him from his dream. In Carmen, the wife of one his bigger
 buyers, he found a kindred spirit who revived the dormant literary aspect of
his personality. However, when push came to shove, money does very often edge
out emotions.    Call him a nice and warm human being but a calculating one.

As a kid in Jakarta, I remember seeing and hearing about Sindhi men with local
wives. People talked disparagingly about them. But then that’s life, you take the
sour with the sweet and turn it into bhel.  Sentiments echoed same community
wives, with the  “Mei Mard hu” attitude  in “The Mexican Girl Friend” and  in
“Hong Kong Here I Come” quite forcefully.
The feelings and unhappiness of the women  in their life matters little to both men. 
Ego justifies coldness to a wife selected  with such clinical calculation from the
arranged marriage market.
There are comic mini dramas of the arrange marriage arenas  in “The
Bhorwani Marriage”; while   “Requital,” apart from the refreshing atmosphere
of the North East, reminds the  reader of the universality of being a Chicken
Head, young men, who steal the customers and data bases of bosses who gave
them that start in life.

Perhaps the story with the most empathy for mingling of communities was  
“Water on a Hot Plate.” The narrative flows with events, meaningful conversations,
memories, touching on classic dilemmas of expatriates. In this case an element of
poignancy is added by the fact that the chief concern of the older characters
 is about the loss of their unique culture with its blend of Hindu, Islamic and
Sikh traditions.  While Gen Next had other weighty concerns.

“Sunday with Mary” is  typical middle class life and yet it is atypical. How
many couples take that trouble to ferret out that little space in a hard existence
for each other and organize the day and week around it? Six days of spoken
and unspoken bickering? These are the marriages that survive all the odds and
there plenty of them around.
“ Shiva’s Winds,”  is about those who challenge the elements;
why the seasonal laborers trek to higher altitudes, the  vagaries of weather,  
and finally the baby who conquers the elements while adults don’t.
What is different about the “Inner Light”story is that the brainwashing of a young
kid practically from birth!  As gory as those reality shows featuring children,
put them through such terrible wringers by parents, for those 15 minutes of
fame on the idiot box.
“The Shrine” is yet another take on sati, after Padmavati, this time for a lover
where the husband failed to ignite.

Not one, but four stories draw focus on our innate refusal to accept each other,
zeroing in on and shows our biases against background, economic status, caste,
region, or religion. Why do we insist on creating and drawing lines instead of
dissolving them when we do  have a hoary  history of merging n mingling.
Who decreed that death by fire was the punishment for stealing two brass

I love the irreverent as in  “Waiting for Leander Paes, Sania Mirza or Somdev
Dev-Varman.” It speaks up, while examining the players’ personalities via
their playing styles, and mastering it's master!

Let me confess.  As a post-Partition Sindhi, these stories evoked so much
delightful nostalgia for a long gone past, those memories of eavesdropping
on conversations of homecoming uncles and cousins, accidental overheard
chatter, tales of wheeling dealing, adjusting to different environments, the
second families abroad, the celebrations, the songs, looking, listening,
absorbing, until one day one realized  - so this is what being Sindhi is
all about!

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

An Ancient Matrilineal Code

"Whistling or hissing, inviting by winking, soliciting or beckoning, writing songs with suggestive words or tunes, using amorous words, grasping and squeezing the wrist, caressing, placing a foot on the toes, touching the breasts, embracing and clinging, knocking down or forcing to lie down, assaulting while lying down , etc....."
LIsten folks, this is not a list of the Do Nots under any modern Sexual Harassment of Women Act of our times. 

It was found by Pro. Bina Agarwal while researching India's matrilineal Garo tribe in the North East, part of an ancient oral code of "moral laws" followed by the Garos for generations. 
Any of the actions mentioned were punishable if reported to the village chief. 
In our times, which is that Chief to whom women can go to report with any assurance that needful/justice would be done?

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Caste: better times and regress

For those who slept through history, some happy memories of Progress: seeing our grandmas enjoy a ripe old age, from radio to TV, color TV, STD booths, then Internet and mobiles. Now Aadhar.
Gadgets came along with grain surpluses, milk and eggs; goodies like Metro, Autobahn, IIM, IIT, AIMMS,  low cost airlines, etc.   Now Made in China has replaced made in India, which only assembles.
Our educated masses of young people have caste certificates, speak broken English, have no job skills.  Lakhs of science students know all about some branch of science, but nothing of the humanities through which to glimpse at humanity.
Bas degree hai, mere paas naukri kyon nahi hai?  Usko kyon diya? Mujhe kyon nahi?   Boom, boom, boom .. unemployment figures zoom.  Is rioting and stone throwing  as easy and profitable  as selling pakoras?

Earlier educated classes, even collegians talked and debated, exchanged notes in a civilized fashion, not with plunged daggers and lynching. We celebrated all festivals, ours and others too.
That was the bedrock of democracy we grew up with; not as it stares us in the face now, and nor the Oligarchy of Time Immemorial when only landed people of certain castes were allowed to vote.
Manusmruti was Ancient death knell of democracy, gender, any other justice.   How many have actually read the whole?  It not only lists different types of marriages, sons, but also rules for divorce!!!
So divorce is also an Ancient Tradition of ours?  
Consider:  the Vedas spoke of 4 : Brahmin Kshtriya Vaisha, Sudra.   Even early travellers in ancient times  like Huan Tsang mentioned 4;  ditto Alburni ,  with not more than 40 mixed castes, related by blood.
Cut to the British: they counted 2378 main castes, 43 races, numerous subcastes, and a 1891 list of 1156 subcastes of Chamars alone!! Divide and Rule!  
Aadhaar was perhaps conceived as a counterpart of the Social Security number that citizens of the US and some other countries have.  Has anyone examined those models, how they were implemented and how they operate?  Like Nazis with deadlines?  Why are those without Aadhar cards denied rations from PDS shops?  When someone dies….  who will acknowledge the shame of starvation to TV channels?  And mysteriously slit open sacks of dal and rice find their way into a back room.  
Who is fooling whom here?