Saturday, January 31, 2009

Growing up Karen....

Do I look good....I hate you! Well...this is one refrain my neighbor mala hears from her, quite hip and popular, sister Karen every day. Poor mala! Let me explain a bit about this Karen, because she catches my fancy much more than mala. Now, Karen is this child-woman, whom if you approach her as if she were a child, she'll fix you with a grow-up-you-moron and when u wanna have a woman-to-woman talk, she'll baby talk! Nevertheless, we neighbors have a good time having her around.

Now, to the refrain part...Mala, with whom am good friends, tells me that Karen, on average, spends 1 hour every day getting ready with an assortment of cosmetics that will put even a fashion diva to shame...and, Karen looks quite good...in the sense all the cosmetics are just addons...however, every day, Mala and all of us have to be sensitive and each time she has a doubt about her looks, we need to tell that she looks good...but the moment we lose our cool, or are distracted with ourselves (vanity traps all women, you see) we are dead! Phew! You women are so carzy...I hate you all! Come on Karen grow up....

Disclaimer: This is purely fiction; any resemblance to any person living or kicking or fuming is merely coincidental.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Parents, children, control and many other things...

Of the many unifying factors of religion, such as women subjugation, stratification, and special status to a select few, is the elaborate rules on behavior, especially with respect to children. And, mind you, am not talking of children in terms of one’s age…you could be well past your ‘adult’ age or you could even be over 25 or 30, but you will be still a child to your parents, and hence you are obliged to follow the detailed rules for children about their behavior and life.

In this context, let me delve into the actual day-to-day realities of some children. As a growing Christian child, the virtues (and of course the carrot of long life, as if good health and fitness never mattered) of being an obedient child was drilled into me, as it was into all the other poor unsuspecting children. Even before we knew it, we were given tags as Christian, obedient, girl, sweet, intelligent, etc…and, one tended to hold on to these tags, even if they gave you no returns…well, the returns were roads of gold after death. But, our minds/intellects were dwarfed so that we don’t ask questions like, “If I obeyed, I would have a long life, which keeps me away from the golden roads!” Then, why should I hanker after a long life here? If I have a long life here, I must try and fit into those tags, which are incidentally given to several Christian children.

This piece is not about religion, rather about the power that certain relationships have due to religious sanction, and hence the prelude. The relationship that parents have with children enjoys much more that just religious sanction, I assume. It has societal sanction, with financial backing. At this outset, the chances of a short change for the weaker party is quite high, and my assumption is most of the children are short changed, except a select few who wage a war, who walk out of the house, who run away, who stay and question/rebel, or become artists…

Well, there might be reasons to why parents behave in a certain way. It could be due to religious, patriarchal, and market forces. However, what happens to the independent free will? After all, isn’t growing up a child a huge responsibility? Especially because the child has no means for developing an independent idea or will? Can a child grow on its own? Is it truly possible for a child to just be on its and develop into a fine individual, well again how does one define what is fine and unfine? Is that why we have scripture to tell us what is right and wrong? But, then why are there so many different types of scriptures, which are most often at loggerheads with each other? And, it hasn’t just stopped being at just loggerheads, rather, we today have armed battle…and who are the arsenal…the poor, unsuspecting children, grown on the much fermented anger of the parents. Dovetailing this idea, I have known of so many children being the actual deliverer of hatred between families. In such situations, do parents treat their children as their arsenal? The ultimate weapon—a young body indoctrinated in the scripture of hatred for the other; without any scope for love or humane ideas, because all of these ‘unnecessary’ emotions have been systematically removed so that the child can be customized to take on the enemy!

If you have noticed, elder children, usually speak the parent’s language, and most often are clambering to take on the ‘parent’s’ role more because that role is the role of power. And, what parents don’t see is that, they make their first-borns their ally! Is this because people marry young (especially those that are immature enough to think of marriage as an escape) and have a child immediately? Is their long-time desire to control comes delivered in the package called ‘first baby; now do what to you want to do!’

This, of course is not a plea for apology or a call to understand a ‘first child’; it’s in fact a way to be re-born…to choose one’s emotions…to break away from set patterns…in Steven covey’s language, to break the social mirror…and rewrite one’s destiny; to be the controller of your destiny and not let others control you…

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Pearls of Wisdom

www.warriorofthelight.comCopyright @ 2009 by Paulo Coelho
I decided to conduct a survey among my friends about what society considers to be normal behavior. What follows is a list I have made of some of the absurd situations we face in day-to-day life, just because society sees them as normal:
Anything that makes us forget our true identity and our dreams and makes us only work to produce and reproduce.
Making rules for a war (the Geneva Convention).
Spending years at university and then not being able to find a job.
Working from nine in the morning to five in the afternoon at something that does not give us the least pleasure, so that we can retire after 30 years.
Retiring only to discover that we have no more energy to enjoy life, and then dying of boredom after a few years.
Using Botox.
Trying to be financially successful instead of seeking happiness.
Ridiculing those who seek happiness instead of money by calling them “people with no ambition”.
Comparing objects like cars, houses and clothes, and defining life according to these comparisons instead of really trying to find out the true reason for being alive.
Not talking to strangers. Saying nasty things about our neighbors.
Thinking that parents are always right.
Getting married, having children and staying together even though the love has gone, claiming that it’s for the sake of the children (who do not seem to be listening to the constant arguments).
Criticizing everybody who tries to be different.
Waking up with a hysterical alarm-clock at the bedside.
Believing absolutely everything that is printed.
Wearing a piece of colored cloth wrapped around the neck for no apparent reason and known by the pompous name “necktie”.
Never asking direct questions, even though the other person understands what you want to know.
Keeping a smile on your face when you really want to cry. And feeling sorry for those who show their own feelings.
Thinking that art is worth a fortune, or else that it is worth absolutely nothing.
Always despising what was easily gained, because the “necessary sacrifice” – and therefore also the required qualities – are missing.
Following fashion, even though it all looks ridiculous and uncomfortable.
Being convinced that all the famous people have tons of money saved up.
Investing a lot in exterior beauty and paying little attention to interior beauty.
Using all possible means to show that even though you are a normal person, you are infinitely superior to other human beings.
In any kind of public transport, never looking straight into the eyes of the other passengers, as this may be taken for attempting to seduce them.
When you enter an elevator, looking straight at the door and pretending you are the only person inside, however crowded it may be.
Never laughing out loud in a restaurant, no matter how funny the story is.
In the Northern hemisphere, always wearing the clothes that match the season of the year: short sleeves in springtime (however cold it may be) and a woolen jacket in the fall (no matter how warm it is).
In the Southern hemisphere, decorating the Christmas tree with cotton wool, even though winter has nothing to do with the birth of Christ.
As you grow older, thinking you are the wisest man in the world, even though not always do you have enough life experience to know what is wrong.
Going to a charity event and thinking that in this way you have collaborated enough to put an end to all the social inequalities in the world.
Eating three times a day, even if you’re not hungry.
Believing that the others are always better at everything: they are better-looking, more resourceful, richer and more intelligent. Since it’s very risky to venture beyond your own limits, it’s better to do nothing.
Using the car as a way to feel powerful and in control of the world.
Using foul language in traffic.
Thinking that everything your child does wrong is the fault of the company he or she is keeping.
Marrying the first person who offers you a position in society. Love can wait.
Always saying “I tried”, even though you haven’t tried at all.
Putting off doing the most interesting things in life until you no longer have the strength to do them.
Avoiding depression with massive daily doses of television programs.
Believing that it is possible to be sure of everything you have won.
Thinking that women don’t like football and that men don’t like interior decoration.
Blaming the government for everything bad that happens.
Being convinced that being a good, decent and respectful person means that the others will find you weak, vulnerable and easy to manipulate.
Being convinced that aggressiveness and discourtesy in treating others are signs of a powerful personality.
Being afraid of fibroscopy (men) and childbirth (women).
And finally, thinking that your religion is the sole proprietor of the absolute truth, the most important, the best, and that the other human beings in this immense planet who believe in any other manifestation of God are condemned to the fires of hell.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Affirmative Action: A Beacon of Hope

A couple of days back, Kiddy, our little kitten, had a bad accident, and I had to rush her to emergency care at the Tamil Nadu Government Veterinary College and Hospital. Despite all the talk and negative perceptions about the type of care given to patients in government hospitals, I had to go there because Kiddy’s condition was really serious—she was mauled by two grown-up cats; one them her own mother!

In the hospital, she was immediately attended to. Her wounds were bandaged, glucose was administered, and an x-ray was taken. In about 2–3 hours, the entire process was over and I was told to return the following day when Kiddy’s trauma would have subsided. As a young child, well even as a grown-up, visiting a medical college was something big, even if getting into one was next to impossible, what with the high cutoff marks and the near-impossible-to-crack syllabus, which only the truly brainy can aspire to be part of. And, the doctors who passed out always maintained this steely exterior of the learned, whose mere shadow venerated the ground it fell on.

Well, all my stereotypes of the doctors and medical students were about to change. Yes, there was something very strange and different about these students. They were medical students who would soon become doctors, but lacked even a trace of the hype that surrounds such students. Something has changed, yes, something definitely was different. And, it was unique to Chennai. Because, in Delhi, the medical college students participating in the much-touted, but demented agitation against reservation, were clearly different—they had this aura about being the very learned or brainy students, which only reinforced the stereotype I carried about them. But, I wonder where their brains went when they took to novel ways of agitation; they started sweeping the roads to show what will happen to them if reservation was implemented! Clearly, if I was being treated by these students, I will be treated as if I were a thing to be studied! Not as a human, who had just one life.

So, back to the Chennai medical students, who were very different in their approach—
very methodical, but with a sense of simplicity. They could have easily been a cousin or a relative. One of them was getting a syringe ready when I turned and he quietly said, sorry maam, did I spray the water on you by mistake? Such humility! The chief doctor was equally nice. So well-qualified to do her job, but with such elegance and simplicity that with just her simple hello or how are you, she could reach out.

As I was growing up, there was always talk about how doctors needed to be compassionate when they treated their patients. But, if your family atmosphere always made you feel superior to lesser mortals (the depressed classes) how can you reach out compassionately to, for example, a riot victim, a drunkard, a child rape victim, or a victim of domestic violence? Especially, if your patients come from backgrounds you have no scope of knowing or the backgrounds that you so abhor. Then, those patients will naturally become a lab specimen to be studied! But, how is that medical students in Chennai are so different today? Are they seeing a sister or a brother or an aunt in their patients? Have they become compassionate? Which, I believe, to be the first qualification to be a doctor! Is there a special paper on compassion? Or, have their backgrounds come closer to the backgrounds of the common people? I guess the latter is the reason, and it has happened because of affirmative action. The students today was naturally dark-skinned, come from government schools, talk in the local Tamil dialect (not a sankritized dialect), and do not believe in pollution (because they come from the so-called polluting or backward castes). These students are my hope for the future…a future rebuilt…a past reclaimed. No wonder, Tamil Nadu is one of the progressive states in the country. Am truly happy to come from a state that hasn’t batted an eyelid before implementing reservation. Our doctors are more effective because they combine medical science with compassion, which comes not from sympathy, but from empathy.

Destination Sikkim - Till we meet again

On the third day, we went to the Sikkim Himalayan Zoo. It was day of little rain and much mist. The walk into the zoo was surreal because o...