Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Why is crying de rigeur at marriages?

Why is crying de rigeur at marriages?
Hardly is the wedding over and the whole company dissolves in tears. Not just the bride, but her entire family and entourage, some even sobbing away, for the entire world as if some major tragedy has befallen then.
Yes, there are many to whom marriage is nothing but an unmitigated disaster. Why then marry in the first place? And the usual run-of-the-mill marriage arranged or love match, is arranged well before hand, much anticipated with flurries of shopping and rituals and glamour and giggling. Why then these tears?
Are the tears not an insult to the groom and his family? That the entire bridal party is taking for granted that they are going torture the bride, so the apprehension over her leaving home, never mind the glamorous trappings.
If it is a stranger and the bride is walking away into an unknown entity, some apprehension is warranted. But What if the bride is getting married of her own free will, to a guy she loves?
The crying of the older women can be understood. They are weeping at one more falling into the marriage trap. Is marriage such an onerous trap and ogre? Who has made it so?
First social rules were formulated to throw the two together, for better or for worse. Look at nature; sounds totally unnatural, doesn’t it? Then the males of the species, threatened by gender, created rules to maintain their foothold and inflicted those rules on society forcibly.
“Ghar ki baat ghar ki char diwaromein”. So that they would beat and bruise and massacre, but she’d never breathe a word of his murderous brutality to anyone?
“Ladki paraya dhan hai”. So she will ever by a guest in her own home?
“ Parayi beti” alienates her in the sasural too. Na idhar ki, na udhar ki.
To kahan ki?
“Ladki saat gaon door byave, ne koi aaye, na koi jaye”. So the in laws may starve, beat, even murder her and no one will be the wiser. Why? Just so the male can have his way with her? And to give it a fancy touch, the rituals and ceremonies?
Bride’s fathers were often a garish lot, breathing down the necks of daughter, wife and other sundry ladies in the family.
It is Mothers who are supposed to be obsessed about their daughters’ fates. That they will soon have to bear the woman’s traditional burden of two families. So why do the fathers go overboard?
There is something very typical of men who go overboard over their daughters. Suddenly, as wedding time approaches, their egos start hurting at the thought that Baby Doll finds someone more attractive than her OLE Man.
And worse, they begin to view their own marriage in flash back. Every sadistic detail is recalled, those little games of emotional blackmail they lashed their own wives with. Then they inwardly pale and cringe at the thought that some one is going to do the same to their beloved Daughter.
Of course, they can never admit that to either Wife or Daughter. So Bombast is the only solace. And since it is bombast, then why not overdo it?
Que. sera, sera, what will be, will be

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Whither Women's Lib?

For those of us, footsoldiers of Women's Lib in varied arenas of family and friends, authorities in school, college, public life and work places, Women's Lib then was a quest for an equal space under the sun, the right to do what one desired, rather than submit to ancient stereotypes.
Is it therefore not painful to see the next generation lapsing so easily?
There are those who tamefully hand over hard won freedoms to dissolute husbands who have become tyrannical because they themselves are frightened by the challenge of the confident women in their workspaces.
And then there are those who cheerfully step on the heads of their hubbies, mouthing vacuous Women's Lib lines and rudely defy all social norms and graces.
Was the movement not about giving women choices, rather than having them take the same tinpot despot road that males have taken over the unchallenged centuries and run society into the ground?
And between these two extremes, whatever happened to equal rights and respect for each other?

No response to mumbai terror?

One hears such inanities on newschannels. There was this anchor who tried very hard to convince everyone that any strike at the terror training camps in POK would be disastrous all round. REASON ?
If India attacks Pakistan from the east, it would withdraw its troops from the Northwest to cope with the invasion.
Didn't they have a large enough army for both fronts, when they can afford to export units of their army to other countries?
The net result, it was argued, would be that Taliban/AlQuaida would walk into Pakistan with impunity.
Aren't they there already,in any case?
So India must sit on its hands while Pakistani "non state players' strike at will anywhere in the country?
Condoleeza Rice was brought in to bolster the no-strike theory: that she came to specifically advise against any IAF strike againt the terror training camps in POK. So what's new? Is that not what the US has been doing for decades since Paksitan became its client state? Holding back India to protect its human and other assets embedded all over Pakistan and POK, even when it has no guarantee against those assets falling into rogue elements, Pakistani/Taliban/Quaida.
So how long do we continue to sit on our hands?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Encounter with a cyber terrorist

Terrorists are not just those that fight with guns; they could just sabotage your relationships and may be your bank balances too.

Last week was my encounter with a cyber terrorist.
He hacked into my yahoo account and sent out a serial mail hoping to fleece as many of the unawares as possible in my address book.

In the midst of my Diwali spring cleaning I got a series of insistent SMSes from a dear friend Rashmi, asking me where I was. When I called, she immediately told me very clear-headedly to change my password immediately as the account had been hacked and told me about the begging mail.
The amazing mail, supposedly written from London, stated that I had been robbed of all my cash, cards and luggage and needed 1200 pounds immediately to clear a hotel bill and come back home.

Fortunately for me, although the mail sounded plaintive enough, those familiar with my writing style caught on immediately: the style was not mine!
The password was immediately changed. In the process, the intruder was identified from the extra alternate address, his location pinpointed and the fear of God was put into him.

But meanwhile, so many people had received the plaintive begging mail and I was flooded with calls and mails. Among others, an old school friend from the West Indies mailed to say sorry he was in Miami and would ask someone closer to help me out after I confirmed where I was.

Another friend from Dubai fired the cyber beggar, telling him that if Kusum was in trouble, she would call her son in Dubai, not a friend. A publisher mailed to upbraid his fake as she knew my writing style. Around midnight, an elderly second cousin of my husband rang from Bangalore to ask what the problem was. A friend phoned in from Bikaner and a niece sent the SOS to my sons, telling them to get a move on, not realizing it was a fake.

Despite the reassurance from the number of calls and mails, the thought was rather disconcerting: had I not been informed so early, how many of my friends would have lost their money, thinking they were actually helping me? I would hate to think that any of my friends has actually lost their money to this cyber terrorist.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Why Karva Chauth?

Karva Chauth is supposed to be a joyous occasion. It is another matter of course that it can border on the ludicrous on its silver screen version –
Glitzy sets and huge, laden tables for a Hindu, vegetarian version of an Iftar party, and that curious, perfectly round water body specially created for the event.

Anyone who has actually kept the fast knows that real life is quite different. Dressing up is probably the best part of the tedious fast, but making it through the puja and waiting for the moon to rise takes up all the remaining energy. How many actually have the vigor for partying either before or after that?
Part of the fun is to gather in a circle to complete the thalis ritual before sunset. Every family has its own hoary tradition (hamare wahan to aisa hi hota hai) of what to do with the diya which is lit on the thali. Most families have one diya, while others have two, one of which goes over the woman’s shoulder after the puja. How would that be possible on the glitzy party settings?
For others, it plays a role in the finale, at the point when they view the moon through the chhani before breaking the fast... When does it go into the water, as shown in the movies and TV serials?

The rituals
Like the Muslim roza, women wake up in the wee hours of the morning for a meal, and the last sip of water for the day should be taken before the vanishing of the last star and the rising of the sun. Practical experience indicates that rather than food, it is nourishing coconut water and juices, which helps one to last the day without even swallowing one’s own saliva. The fast breaks at moon rise, not at sunset as the roza.
The day may be spent in gossip and solah shringar. Mehendi is applied to the hands— is that to ensure that no work is done? Nor are the women allowed to use any pins on this day—is that to ensure that no wily sasuma gives them some stitching or embroidery to complete on what is touted as a Woman’s Holiday?
This is perhaps the only festival which is not preceded by bouts of spring cleaning and cooking of traditional specialties, which break the woman’s back, while offering festive treats for the rest of the family.
Wives are enjoined not to wake sleeping husbands and not to cajole sulking ones, as this is their day—a day to spend on themselves and on 16 forms of shringar. The question arises:
Why do women have to pay such a heavy price for that tiny annual bit of freedom? That the stomach must remain empty the whole day, not even a bit of spittle to wet the parched throat.

On a more serious note…. the story behind the Karva Chauth quite defies logic. How did the fast start in the first place? I have been questioning this anomaly for the 37 years that I have been married to a Punjabi.
The story is that the ‘laadli’ sister of seven brothers undertakes the fast for the first time after marriage. Apparently, although she has seven older brothers and seven bhabhis, who presumably kept the fast while she was an unmarried sibling in the house, both she and her brothers are totally oblivious to the sacrifice that the festival entails.
The brothers are so troubled by their little sister’s thirsty agony that they cheat her by lighting a fire behind a hillock nearby. They tell her to look at the light through a round channi (to make her believe that it is the moon) and persuade her to break her fast.

Is that possible? Rational?
Immediately, her husband is pierced mysteriously with thousands of needles and she has to carefully pick them out one by one. One has to presume that the pain of the extractions and possible infections delay the process so much that it takes a whole year until Karva Chauth comes round again and misfortune strikes once again.
Veerawali, the laadli sister of her male siblings, hears a hawker selling karwadas, a typical Karva Chauth delicacy. Deputing her maid to the needle extraction task, she goes off to take her pick. While she is buying her karwadas, the maid finishes off the job. As the last of the needles is extracted, the husband comes out of the coma and amnesia takes over.
Seeing the needle in the maid’s hand, he takes her for his wife. When the actual wife appears, she is relegated to the post of maid and over the whole of the next year, no one, not even her fond brothers bother to disabuse him of that false notion.
Is this an indication of a very Punjabi notion that once a girl enters her sasural, she is to be abandoned to the mercies of her in-laws no matter what – even death? Witness the modern day parallel in dowry deaths, with parents taking tearful action only after death claims their daughter, never during all the time that she has been complaining of ill treatment.
So Veerawali is reduced to a servant’s status in her own home. She takes to spending her spare time playing with her doll, telling her repeatedly “Jo rani thi so goli ho gayi, jo goli thi so rani.” (the queen became the maid and the maid became the queen). Another year rolls by before the husband overhears Veerawali’s refrain and questions her. Finally, she spills the beans and tells him that she is his real wife. What took her so long?
Look at that story and wonder: if any fire can be mistaken for the moon. Also, it is difficult to imagine such terrible nanad-bhabhi vibes that Veerawali has no conception of what Karva Chauth entails.
It beats me why the silly woman did not send her maid out to buy the karwadas when she knew that there were just a couple of needles left. Having cared for her husband for a whole year, would she not be more concerned about those last needles? Why did no one tell the husband the truth about his wife?
And of course, most importantly: why the fast in the first place?
We are told that it is kept for the long life of the husband. But there are several such fasts. What is so special about this one, except that it falls on a day when the moon rises later than usual?
And as for fasting for someone’s long life, how come there are so many widows in India when fasting for husbands is such a popular and common phenomena spread over all the different varieties of culture in this huge sub-continent? If some wives don’t fast, does it mean that they don’t care for their spouse? Or that they wish him ill?

Friday, August 01, 2008

OUR SANSKAR?

These days viewers are flood with ads steering them to the many mythologicals on TV with the tag line “ teach the kids sanskar “, especially from the Ramayan.
Now, let’s get a bird’s eye view of some of what the Ramayan and the Mahabharat have to teach our kids:
Those dirty old men like Dashrath and Shantanu had so little control over themselves that they went to any extent, made any promises with disastrous political impact for their countries, merely to bed the next nubile young woman who caught their fancy.
The net result was that Ram spent 14 years wandering the forest, making conquest after conquest there and returned home to dump his pregnant wife so he could get on with ruling his kingdom. (Wonderful family planning since she never got pregnant during the jungle sojourn). Divorce goes a long way back in our society, does it not? So does deceit in the manner in which Ram dealt with Sigrid; and the rewards of family disloyalty with the way Ram received the brother of Ravan.
In the case of Bhishm Pitama, his life was disrupted forever and the fall out wrecked havoc on Hastinapur. He forced three wives on his brother to make sure that there was no shortage of heirs; when exactly that happened, he propagated Niyoga for the young widows to produce heirs. As a family elder, he presided over the court where a family bahu was disrobed in public by another member of the family.
Arjun, one of the heroes of the Mahabharat, was a sailor, with a wife in every port aka part of the country he touched down in.
Bhim used Hidimba and Ghatokach to the benefit of the Pandavas. What was in the relationship for them?
Kunti has six sons, from six different men, none her legally married husband. Yeet chaste?
And of course, while many of the kings had three wives each, Kunti prescribed five for Draupadi and no one saw anything amiss. How much more liberated can a woman be?

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Shortchanging the Services

Is a bureaucrat babu’s blood redder or more precious than than of a soldier?
IFS Officer V Venkateshwara Rao and Brigadier Ravi Dutt Mehta were both killed in the suicide bomb attack on the Indian Embassy in Kabul earlier this week.
While the Army Officer’s widow will get RS 5 lakh ex-gratia and normal pension benefits as per existing government rules, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has announced special benefits for the widow of the IFS Officer: Rs. 5 lakhs ex-gratia, plus full salary benefits, including due upward revisions when due, until his date of retirement and pension thereafter, with government accommodation until his date of retirement. But for the PM’s intervention, she would have got only the pension and other benefits.
One has full sympathy for the young widow, ditto for the Brigadier’s and those of the two ITBP officials who were also killed in the bomb attack.
But the question does arise: Why the special package only for the IFS widow?
Is Fauji blood thinner than a Babu’s? Why are the Services being shortchanged all the time by the Republic of India?

Friday, May 30, 2008

Whither Technology

Whither Technology?

Any visit to a doctor, with the most innocuous of ailments, is inevitably followed by a series of tests, the path. Lab., X-ray House, ECG etc. etc. until the results come in, the doc will offer some palliative only, A Placebo?
Why do modern day docs, after all those exhaustive training, 6 years for MBBS, 2 for MD and then another three for the M.CH, still require the crutch of various test results to tell the patient what the problem is?

Where are those who used to tell the patient the problem by looking at their eyes or ears, fingers, nails or feeling the pulse?
Nowadays “qualified” doctors rely on the verdict of a lab. technician to determine the problem of the patient!!
It seems the advent of technology has rendered doctors quite clueless in their own arenas.

In a related one, investigators rely more and more on forensic science’s advanced tools in brain mapping and lie detectors…only to have people still beat their systems.
Are they actually so out of touch with their own native intuitive powers that they need these high tech tools to resolve each and every crime?

And yet, the biggest ones get away, unless cornered by public opinion campaigns.
Tera Kya Hoga Technology?

Friday, May 16, 2008

DRY SOAPS SCENE

This is the dry season. Summer’s heat keeps most indoors, glued to the TV screens which have turned dry too. All the soaps are at a virtual standstill. It is painfully obvious that their script writers are stumped and don’t know what to do with their characters.
On the so-called reality shows scene, the less said the better about the imagination of people who turn music which is supposed to usher in peace and quiet and restoration of the soul, into Wars of Music. The language spoken by their propagandists makes one reach for the mute button, rather than listening to the war mongering of Music.
Movies are a let down with all producers latching on to identical themes of 2-3-4 heroes performing ridiculous antics, with the heroines reduced to bit players of no substance. What happened to all those multiplex movies and the song writers and musicians? Has Indian talent dried up, along with the influx of the American league style cricket which monopolizes evening TV?
Who will now contest that men were as great, if not greater fans of the saas-bahu soaps, as women, since the advent of IPL cricket has rung the death knell of the TV soaps?

FAILED TEACHERS

Almost twenty five years ago, I had once helped a teacher friend to correct exam papers. Those were the days before centralized examining of papers was done and the aim of the exercise was to finish off the work to head for a movie.
At the end of the session, I was astounded to find that out of a class of 48, a handful passed the exam; three scored around 60% and all the rest failed, many scoring less than ten marks.
The question that came to my mind then was: Who's to blame for this result, the students or the teacher?
Today the same question rises with a Pune report that only 10% of some 1.25 lakh teachers of Std. 1 to 7 could answer all the questions in the English and Math books at a workshop conducted by the State Council for Educational Research.
What does this speak of our educational standards and the teachers who impart that education?
This is not to criticize our system per se. There has to be something going for our system of education which allows planeloads of our youngsters to migrate to foreign shores every year and make good there, beating the locals, possibly raising the sort of ire being propagated by the beat drummers of the Marathi Manoos (what would they do if those locals started the sons of soil campaign against the Marathi Manoos in various foreign locales).
But yes, some major tweaking of the system is definitely in order, especially at the primary levels; clearing that is a motivation by itself perhaps; and among the priorities must be improving the standard of the teachers, with perhaps an improvement in their status and emoluments as well as a cleansing of the system of sexual favors for marks, in order to attract a better class of student into the teaching profession.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Afghanistan Again?

This morning, a TV headline read “US eyes Afghanistan again”.
Why is the US again eyeing Afghanistan? Since the politics of the Taliban and al Qaeda has already been exposed fully, there is now a lesson in international economics there.
The US got over its Great Depression, largely thanks to the influx of orders for its industry during the Second World War. The end of the War saw the US Aid Industry give its economy an unbelievable boost which lasted well into the Cold War and made it the richest country in the world, along with conferring its Super Powerdom.
It was only when countries flooded with US aid which brought them American goods and took away their resources and their sovereignty, started rejecting that aid that the US economy started taking a sharp downturn. The largely man-made wastes in Africa, along with war torn Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, Afghanistan and Iraq are living witness to American misadventures.
The American economy has now touched its pits possibly. Hence the prospects of renewed adventures into a country already pulverized by US Air Force and its bombs. Once again the cycle of aid to gouge out the aided country’s innards to feed the American economy?

Is India Shining?

Last week, the editor of a TV channel took pains to explain that these channels are driven to focus on single scandal stories per day because of the tyranny of TRPs. Editors, these days are too busy taxing from seminar to seminar while their journalists are PR fed and feted and given handouts. TRPs he says rule the roost and decide the story and the TRPs reveal that people only want gossip about celebrities and little else. Obviously he was unable to explain why TRPs only reflected the tastes of selected households whose opinions were created to give legitimacy to the decisions taken by channel editors et all.
Does this channel preoccupation with celebrity gossip and the issues of the well heeled to the total exclusion of the Other India or Bharat as they tend to call it, not sound very much like India taking a steep downturn?
History is replete with examples of great cultures which are struck down soon as the ruling elites become too preoccupied with their pleasures, pastimes and luxuries to be bothered with the masses.
Look at the Roman orgies which preceded the invasions of the Barbarians. The demise of the French and the British empires. And in our times the total ruin of the USA which is now overrun with leisure industries and preoccupations rather than the needs of the silent majority.
Our finance minister too seemed more concerned about the share broker community and its bottom-line than the living conditions of the middle and lower classes in his budget.
Is this media driven preoccupation with the lives of films and cricket stars, netas and models and their life styles and its requirements, the IPL fantasias etc a sign of India taking the down turn even before it actually reached the top?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Shreesanth controversy

Shreesanth may be a junior but is he really that ignorant about the realities of cricket, especially big time cricket, that he has taken pungas with the senior players?

Every cricket novice knows that that even after “seniors” finally retire, they still carry enough clout to wreck any promising junior via their new avatars in the commentary boxes, the bak bak panels or the selection committees. Remember Shivaramakrishna, who has only recently started being seen again?
Just because M S Dhoni got away with keeping the seniors out of his Twenty20 team, can every young player follow on against those holy cows?

While the world and his wife is shouting from the roof top that corruption has to be eliminated from the bureaucracy, it is obvious that corruption is making new inroads. Witness the senior players carrying on despite injuries, bad health etc.
Why? All because of the lolly obviously. The older they get, the heftier are their advertising contracts and the longer their obligations to the advertisement companies, which are obviously dependent on their place in the team.
If they are dropped, the amount lost would be massive enough for desperate negotiations to stay in the team, come hell come high water? Or a spreading of the lolly all around?

As a nation addicted to stupidities, we sit and listen to all that cover up nonsense on our TV screens where a slap between two players is of more consequence than the overlooking of the Defense services in the latest pay commission.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

The Patan Rapes

The rape victim at Patan has been fully exposed - all except her name is public knowledge: the names of her parents, her siblings, the village they come from.
What about the six rapists? The media has only revealed their names. Not a single fact beyond that. Are they married? Fathers? Brothers? Who are the parents who reared such evil rapists? Who are their neighbours, their school and college mates, their seniors at Gandhinagar who shielded them, right upto Anandiben Patel, the former education minister of Gujarat?
Why is not media not camping on their respective doorsteps, asking questions of their neighbrs on what sort of boys were they? their teachers, the paan galla from where they bought their cigarettes and masala? their brothers, sisters, wives etc?
Some shrug of media responsibility, saying that police has not revealed their details. Is it not the job of the media to track down the culprits? The female has been identified and crucified effectively already, hasn't she?
No doubt, identifying the background of the men would mean that the families would be subjected to public shame in the media glare. If that has been done to the victim's family, then why not those of the culprits?
Merely because the victim's family is poor and landless and the culprits' are well off??
In that case, if these men and their families were to be exposed on TV and in the papers, as those who reared Rapists, that public shame may put the fear, not of God, but of the public ignominy into other Rapists and would-be rapists.
Otherwise the farce of a magisterial enquiry will carry on for a few months and then the six rapists will be quietly rehabilitated elsewhere to commence their nefarious activities. This time, with a payoff to their superiors, not only in cash but also the sexual kind?

Friday, January 25, 2008

Customer care anyone?

In the "good ole days" if a customer had a complaint, he went and talked it over with the businessmen or manufacturer.
Nowadays, entrepreneurs and corporate types do not like to converse or meet with customers. Hence the emergence of a brand new management category "Customer Care Service". These employees are trained to stonewall the customers, rather bludgeon them into silent acceptance of whatever the corporate dishes out to them.
Practical experience has shown that the customer care department is the first to be outsourced to the anonymity of call centers whose employees are almost totally ignorant of everything except a few standard unhelpful phrases and sentences the purpose of which is that the entire financial burden of the inefficiency of the company must be borne by the customer for having committed the fatal mistake of purchasing the company's wares.
It would be interesting to read this translated into corporate managementese.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Ads. to Toil, Sweat and Tears

How many of you have seen the new HDFC Pension Plan ad; the one in which this gent comes home and hopes that his wife has not forgotten how to sweep and swab," get rid> of that house help"; and that he will happily eat what she makes, "just get rid of the cook".
And then comes the punch line: all this is in aid of a little trip to Singapore, which makes Wifey all dew-eyed.

Now my guess is that only a Man could have written this advertisement.
Tell me, how many plus 50 women (after all, if he is retiring, even she must be that much), staring arthritis, osteoporosis, diabetes and/or BP in the face, would go dewy eyed at the prospect of a return to back ache and elbow grease? In the cause of a week in Singapore?
Did this guy even ask his wife if she was willing to the exchange? A week in Singapore against two odd decades of sweeping, swabbing and kitchen chores?
And what does HDFC pensions have to do with this little dirty deal?
After all it is the wife who is going to pay for the Singapore trip, in daily installments of toil and sweat? And tears too perhaps?
Here’s a brand new festival conjured up by the marketing geeks, the great Retirement Festival, with pension plans and retirement funds and health schemes etc etc etc. ; paid for in the coin of toil, sweat and tears, perhaps?