Monday, June 26, 2017

Cultivate Evil

This phrase was meant to tell people to stay away from evil i.e. do no evil and stay away from people doing anything evil.  Instead, in today's world it has a new connotation.

Instead of just staying away from all things evil, including people who commit evil, it has come to mean fear people who do evil to you and protect yourself by cultivating them.

In the course of conversation, a friend of mine told me, 'I am walking with the devil to safeguard myself'. This got me confused.  I asked how and why.  So, the explanation goes thus.  The old saying was 'fear evil'.  Meaning stay away from evil, committing evil and the influence of evil.  However, in today's world where for example, your boss decides your career, staying away from evil is not an option.  Staying away from influential people who are evil, does not help if one is in need.  And, if you start doing that, then you will have to stay away from a lot of people, which is not possible.  Besides, you never know who you will need and when.  

So, the new mantra is that you walk with the devil, knowing you are walking with the devil.  Be polite and go through the motions, else one never knows what the devil will do, directly or indirectly.  Smile and do as the devil wishes, all the time knowing that you are doing something wrong but in the belief that you are protecting yourself and so the cause is justified.  It does not matter that one is not true to oneself, one's conscience.  The act of being a friend when one is not is a farce.  And there is nothing wrong in the farce.

Then came my question, 'Do you walk with the good always then, and are you true atleast then ?' Got an interesting answer.  'I walk with the good when possible, but I compromise.  If walking with the good will do me harm, then I stay away.  The good don't and cannot harm you.  So, it is okay if you ignore them and you can always explain.'  Meaning you can get away by being mean and nasty to the good.  

It was a strange conundrum for me where one values the devil more than the good because of the harm they cause. So, in the process of safeguarding itself, is the world teaching people to be bad as everyone fears the devil and will do as the devil says.  No wonder God is loosing his place in the world.  More he becomes like the devil, his followers will increase.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

A woman is a woman's worst enemy

This line is one that is both derisive and idiosyncratic in many ways.  One that irritates and infuriates any sane woman.  However, a closer look at many a woman's life and one will find that this line, if not fully, is at least partially true.  How many are the cases where the mother-in-law or sister-in-law or a woman relative is involved in a dowry harassment ?  How many are the cases where there was a woman around who didn't raise her voice when an atrocity was committed ?  Even if a woman did not raise her voice, how many cases are there where a woman has criticized rather than sympathized with a victim ?  In how many cases of rape have we heard a woman point at the victim as though it was in some way her fault ? How many women question and find fault with the dress and lifestyle choices of other women ?  

A sample case is when one sees a boy and girl going out together.  Many a time one sees the blame left unfairly at the girl's feet; in the name of protecting her or that no matter what, society will point fingers at her.  Instead of equally holding the boy responsible, one hears justification of a boy's behaviour as he is of that species.

Personally, I have seen many a time when a woman is a woman's worst enemy.  A girl feels it first at adolescence when the monthly is not understood.  Not just by peers but by teachers and other elderly women around.  When there is complaint of pain and tiredness, the girl is straightaway termed 'lazy' or 'escapist'.  Then comes marriage.  While men in the family one is married to are inconsiderate many a time, most often it is the women who are the worst.  It starts in the kitchen - one uses a wrong spoon or vessel and there comes a story of 'ignorance'.  It is equated to a crime, especially in homes where there are separate vessels for vegetarian, eggiterian and non-vegetarian food.  It is totally ignored that any human being will take time to memorize new things.  Then comes the recipes.  Way of cooking is not good, not tasty, not healthy: it doesn't matter that the girl's family is of robust health despite eating the same recipes for decades.  The monthly haunts here too.  From the issue of what one can touch and what one cannot, what one can do and what one cannot, what parts of the house one can walk and cannot - worst part is that the women in each home tunes it to their own convenience and decide how far and how close one can go. As if all this is not enough, comes the part of how you dispose waste - all kinds included.  Through all this, while the men folk ignore, the women folk in the family will make a hue and cry about every aspect.  

Women who are widowed and childless face the brunt too.  Women who are widowed, stay away from festivities.  Yes of course, it is changing today.  But who are we fooling.  For an auspicious event, a widow is still not allowed to light a lamp which is the most auspicious thing to do.  She of course is allowed to stand around.  While it is progress, is it enough ?  Take a marriage - a widow including the mother of the bride groom stays away from the front / stage when the main festivities go on.  However, this does not work in the case of the widower.  He will be in the forefront.  While the societal norms are known to everyone, it is women who talk and talk creating the atmosphere that is despicable.  Have heard women comment about how the new widow is not sad enough, is not crying enough, about how the colours she chooses to wear are bright, about how she wears jewelry and bindi, about how she has to have her head down.  Thankfully, in the part of India I live in right now, tonsuring the head and wearing white or saffron is not longer followed.   Have seen so many such in childhood and never understood it then.  

Have to mention here the case of an uncle of mine who more than thirty years ago, held his widowed mother's hand proudly as he walked out of his home to get married - something unheard of those days.  He made her sit right next to him in the car taking him to the wedding - another taboo in those days.  He went against social norms and listened to no one.  No one dared tell him much either.  Sad part is that it is very rare for a girl going to her wedding to do this, not just because of her own circle but also that of the grooms family.  Hope the boys in my family take him as the role model.

In a wedding house, if a widow comes even a tiny bit well dressed, then you hear the women talk in the background.  The same cannot be said of men - they look, talk, many a time pass a nasty comment too.  However, more than the men, it is the women who talk - and talk dirty; even though the victim is a woman, and any day they might find themselves on that seat.  I many a time wonder how a woman who is widowed feels in such an environment ?  All I come up with is a life caught in a paralyzed body screaming to be let out or die, but not a whimper comes.  

The childless woman's case is pathetic, as I can say from experience.  Family members poke and prod wanting to know who has the problem, whether treatment is pursued and what kind of treatment.  Then comes suggestions on doctors far and wide one can go and meet.  So many people, so many suggestions - I find one application of studying 'Algorithms'.  If at any point I think of pursuing suggestions, I know what optimization algorithm I can use to find minimum travelling distance and time.  Then there are family members, who you know very well had no issue in begetting a precious one, but make up stories of how they traveled far and wide visiting holy places and guruji's to beget that child.  Then another kind asks you to write down the name of the temple you will have to visit if you beget one as they have prayed for you.  This list grows so long that at one point any sane woman would trash it.  Then there is close women family who are your time keepers - times including when you sleep, when you wake up and poke and prod about everything in between including passing 'A' jokes about you when guests are around.  

While this is the state when meeting family and friends, trying to get away someplace unknown is not of help either.  Travel in a train, bus or plane and your neighbour at some point will ask about family.  The moment you say you don't have kids, the next question that pops up is, 'how long since you are married ?'.  Then the next, 'how old are you ?'.  Then the advice : 'you still have time, though you must hurry'.  Even the decent looking among them ask the basic question of treatment undergone.  Then they offer suggestions as if they are your soulmate instead of a travel companion of a few hours.  And all the time, the victim searches for ways to shut ears or cut the conversation down.  The one I usually try is to point upwards and say, 'When He decides'.  It helps many a time but does not cut grass with the specialists.  They tell you how He cannot help unless we the couple help ourselves and chuckle and laugh much to the amusement of everyone around and our embarrassment.  Only upbringing and control helps tide through situations like this - else many a slipper would have gone missing and many a black eye and hand would have needed treatment.

As if all of the above is not hurtful enough, one hears women tell lines that can slice the heart without even the skin being incised.  Lines include, 'don't you want to have a kid ? ', 'oh you are the career kind, who don't want a kid', 'is it a fashion choice that you decided not to have a kid ?', 'you are still young, keep trying and one day you will have one'.  Then there are taunts from those who have kids : 'you don't know how tough it is to bring up a kid', 'you don't know the complexities involved in handling a kid because you have none', 'you are lucky you don't have a kid - you have time to yourself', 'you can work late and go home late as you don't have kids', 'you can't empathize with a kid enough because you don't have one yourself', 'you don't know how much energy goes in bringing up a kid', 'you have time on your hands because you are free, I have kids to look after', 'you are lying when you say you like kids',.................  All of the above said by women of all kinds, ages and sizes.  Only one question rises in my mind, 'Did anyone force you to have a kid ?' 

Then there are family and friends who suggest adoption.  They make it sound as thought it is like buying a product off the shelf in a supermarket.  'Have you considered adoption ?  Many people are doing it ?  You should do it too ? It will help a child and help you too', was a relative's suggestion.  I wondered, 'How do you know it will help me ?  and who gave you the right to make a choice for me ?', 'Why  didn't you consider adopting when you were trying hard to have one instead of taking treatment ?'.  'Ok, you didn't think the first time, but you could have considered adopting atleast the second child instead of having your own ? It would have helped the child and you too, right ?'

Compared to the any women's comments, I can count on my one hand the times I have heard a comment like this from a man.  A very old man even taunted his wife for asking me whether I didn't want a kid ?  That day, I blessed that man with all of my heart for his humanity.  For he had it in him to raise his voice. Otherwise, in all these years, I haven't had one man or woman, close or far, relative or not, standing by my side, raising their voice against the questions and taunts, except of course my husband.  

And so life continued thus, till recently.  A rude comment from a family member got me researching on cultures and their attitudes to childless women and women in general across the globe.  Women treating women in the family badly is widespread around the world, especially in the eastern world.  With widowed women, the west fares a bit better.  With clothes and choices women make, the west fares better.  The east and middle east are the worst places for women dependent on the country or place.  Every part, every culture, every country in the world has the same attitude to childless women and have names for such women.  The universality of it hit me.  There is I think, no escape for women in this world from some issues till death.  Or so I think, as the after world is not known.  Will know when some woman returns from there to tell the story or when I get there. 

Statutory warnings :  

1.  In case a woman tries to defend, the perpetrator will try to act like the victim and say 'I was just trying to help.  Didn't mean to hurt' and shed a few tears if the woman does not immediately say 'It is ok'.

2.  All of the above is based on my own experiences, those of women in similar situation, I have directly seen or heard.

3.  All of life's experiences makes me stronger and bolder.    


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Glorifying Motherhood

Motherhood must be an amazing thing.  One hears time and again in our society of women who speak about how they had to carry a life inside for nine months and the sacrifices made in the form of food, life style, pain and freedom and more during the period and beyond.  For those of us who have not gone through it, we can only imagine of course and listen to stories.  However, I know one thing for a fact :  man forgets that just like their own gestation time, the cow has nine months while the elephant has 18 - 22 months.   

All beings bring up their child, equip them with life skills and let them go free.  It is man who keeps an account of the bringing up as well as the training time, and demand their pound of flesh for the lifetime of the kids.  All other animals do the hunting and feeding, teach their kids life skills and then when the time comes, they let them go. Go Free.  In literature and poetry the nine months carried by a human mother is glorified while you don't hear a mention of the same with reference to other animals.  Instead, we can kill all animals that carry a child for food or for fun.   We savour eggs of different kinds.  An example is fish being cut open to take eggs when very much alive and thrown back into the sea to drown and die. The parts of unborn calves of various animals are delicacies and sought after around the world. Where is Motherhood ?

Then comes the part of rearing, the toughest part.  There are many a mother, who after delivering a child leave all the affairs to someone else.  How many times does one come across women who have more than one hand at home to feed, clothe, teach and help the baby poo.  Many consider breast feeding a chore and use storage mechanisms.  While all of the above are a necessity today where woman go to work and handle affairs beyond the home, one thing I fail to understand is how the mother takes all the credit slipping under the carpet conveniently of the many hands that help in bringing up the child.

My mentor, a researcher and a very wise man, sent me a line on the morning of Mother's day.  'Ayah care replacing Mother care.   Let there be an Ayah day.  In praise of all the Ayahs'.  This line touched something that has been on my mind for sometime now.  It is also very true.  I visit when possible the school to pick up two kids in the family.  Name the make and you can find the cars there.  Me the unknowing kind, thought that all the cars brought with them parents.  Instead, majority of them were ayahs and drivers who picked up the kids.  Simpleton ayahs, fashionable ayahs, english speaking ayahs, and the high funda ayahs. They said hello, hugged the kids, fed the kids a mini lunch, handing them juice or water, and inquiring how school was.  Kids tell them all the stories, happy for someone to listen to them.  Parents, have you heard a kid repeating a story more than once ?  I doubt it. Rarely, maybe.  So, the story of the kids life is in the hands of the ayahs and drivers, not with the parents.  Under the watchful and caring eyes of the ayahs and drivers, a kid grows up, loving them probably a wee bit more than the parents who bring them toys and gifts.  The most glorious time of a kids life is lost to the parents.

Still, motherhood is glorified.   Maybe because the mother is juggling many things and is a good manager, managing to find the kid a first-class nanny.  While the lower strata of society has a reason for not spending as much time with their kids due to the run for making money to feed and clothe, the other strata today has so much to do :  the work time, whatsapp time, facebook time, parlour time, kitty party time, and all else not to forget the 'me' time.  What time is left, is leftover for the child ?  To compensate and make up, the kid gets lots of toys and whatever else (s)he asks for.

Many a house has grandparents who are required to take up the role of rearing with boundaries that are unmarked.  They should control and instill good values but cannot punish, they cannot scold or beat but should accept the pinch or punch and still smile, and they should act mature and be magnanimous when the kids fault and falter.  This kinds life is strange indeed.  As if rearing one's own is not enough, going through another cycle and with no control ?  Just wonder about the havoc it must play on their nerves.

Then there are the fashionistas - the kind who talk very fashionably :  'I spend quality time with my kid'.  'I have compartmentalized my life so well that kids have quality time with me'.  Who decides how much is quality time, when and how ?  Was the timetable run through with the kid ?  Any quality control process followed ?  Any feedback obtained ?  Any correction mechanism ? What is enough for you, was it enough for the child ?

Then there are the kind who speak about 'making sacrifices'.  No kid asked to be born.  If you have a kid it is solely because you wanted one.  Where is the space there for sacrifice.  According to me, the only people who have a right to say they are making a sacrifice are those who have kids because a man has violated them, within or out of a marriage.  This because one has to overcome bitterness and grief to bring the new one to life and forget the pain and love the child no matter what - that is sacrifice.  This may also hold true of women who give themselves up to protect their children in war torn and drought hit parts of the world.  It may also be true of women who lay down their lives to protect their own in other circumstances.  However, remember, the latter two kind hardly live to talk about their sacrifice.  If alive, they would call it their duty.  All others who have a child have no business using the word 'sacrifice'.  

And still the mother is glorified.  All for the act of delivery which every other being on earth does without fanfare and without a day of glorification. Not to mention the countless ayahs who silently hands over all the glory and remains in the shadows.  And a bow to those who are fired in the line of duty, for being protective or for being too loving or loved all because the mother does not want to loose control.

There are countless women and men who go about bringing up their children telling they are blessed and privileged to be part of a kids life.  There are also countless who don't have time to think that way, but do what it takes to make their kids life a better one.  And all this with no noise or celebration.  I see videos of mother ducks waiting for her line of kids, protective and caring.  There is an amazing video of a mother cat who walked into the flames of a burning building more than once to rescue her kittens and burnt her legs in the process.  Or the women folk among animals who live in groups - like the elephants, gorillas and monkeys who take care of others kids as their own. None of these amazing mothers make a noise about being a mother.  So, it is sad to see those busy in their own world, who hardly spend time with kids nor take an active interest in their affairs make a hullabaloo this one day.  

So, a thought :  Whose 'motherhood' should be celebrated ?  Of the one who just delivered, of the one who delivers and does what needs to be done to the best extent possible, or the one who did not deliver but rears the kid, or the grandparents who are seeing life repeat itself a second time around without a say, or others who have no say but have to go through it.

I would say ,the day if it requires to be celebrated should be 'Motherhood of the one who gives up the best part of one's own kid out of necessity to bring up another's'.  Motherhood if celebrated at all is for all beings who take time to be with kids, their own or others, who contribute to their well being, who enjoy in being there.  Any other kind is a farse.

Disclaimer :  The above is of course not written to belittle motherhood as many may accuse because I am not one.  Also, I am an expert in hardly anything, especially in the area discussed.  What I have written is based on interactions with mothers and interactions with kids especially in the age group of 17-23 who speak about time they desperately want but don't seem to get.