Missing Parenthood in India

Recently, most of us came across the news whereby a 74-YO lady in India set a world record by delivering healthy twins via C-section, having attained pregnancy through IVF procedure. A few people have appreciated the couple’s grit at this ripe age and also, lauded the entire medical team’s sincere and well co-ordinated efforts. But most of our society has badly criticized their decision, particularly centering its questions on the upbringing of the twins and the medical ethics of the team that ultimately helped them.

My two fundamental questions to the people criticizing this event:

  1. If this medical team could do the entire procedure in a safe manner (after weighing other health vitals and doing psychological counselling) on the 74-YO lady, who has been yearning and trying for conception for 57 years, then why did other medical institutions/doctors fail at such a or similar performance earlier? Or were they just indifferent to the couple’s agony as is the case in many instances?
  2. Those who are so concerned about the twins, why don’t they come forward and adopt them later, let alone celebrating the old lady’s joy of conception and motherhood?

And I have no words for people so thankfully relating population control and childless couples!!!!!

It is easy to criticize, blame, ridicule, taunt, tease on these issues in our society. Women who fail to conceive, whatsoever be the reason, are still labelled “barren” in different jargon across India. Nothing changes it yet. For in India, motherhood still largely means through biological conception!!! Whether in cities or villages, how many people are sensible towards the women/couples somehow deprived of it? How many come forward to defend their helpless and even utterly depressive situations? In any social function, the childless women feel (made to feel actually!) a certain degree of isolation and incomplete status in their lives. They are mercilessly compared to women with children or multiple pregnancies, and rigorously questioned. It does not matter what or how much they do for themselves, their families and the society. If such childless couples divert their time and energy for philanthropic works, even then most of them are teased – “what else will you do?” Many people merely preach on adoption. But how many will go for it if it were their case? And they also later ask – “won’t you have your own genes.. own baby, at least one?” As if parenthood lies in DNA only!! Then there are couples who emotionally need their biological legacy to continue; that could be for various reasons. Likewise, there are several other issues.

It is this increasing magnitude of brunt over the years that compels many such affected women to forget every pain..every criticism, and take high risk of pregnancy irrespective of their age and even other health conditions. The attempts itself could be very traumatic. Then the mental, psychological and emotional well-being becomes all, especially as certain hormones also drastically change with increasing age. All these unleash a great amount of toll on their husbands and immediate families as well. Only a strong couple can fight the situation and sail together – whatever solution they finally choose, with or without medical assistance.

The other hugely concerning chapter for childless couples is the changed bill/laws on surrogacy in India. Well, it is good that the option is no longer commercial; so it cannot be misused. But due to ill-regulations, the genuinely infertile/intending couples are much losing it out!! Some of the current conditions of altruistic surrogacy in our country is worth a larger debate and re-consideration. For example – the surrogate mother has to be a ‘close relative’. Even if ‘close relative’ gets defined, can every such genuinely intending couple find a ‘close relative’ to be a surrogate mother? The search of fulfilling this criterion further erodes the couples’ biological clocks, and deters authorized/good fertility centers and hospitals from taking up the cases in ethical ways. And how many surrogate mothers shall come forward for an altruistic one? The ‘close relative’ provision will definitely also have emotional and psychological implications on the associated members at some point of time!! The new bill/laws also do not consider an intending biological mother’s incidental health factors like diabetes, hypertension, etc. risking a normal full-term pregnancy to make her a fit case to opt for surrogacy. Is this right? Isn’t the new bill/law rather adding to the trauma, woes and desperation of such already helpless couples? Parenthood is ridden with biological, emotional and psychological aspects. It is much beyond conception and delivery of a baby; and therefore, neither couples should be callously made to wait for indefinite time, nor they can wait beyond a certain age!

Similarly, CARA (Central Adoption Research Authority) provisions need to be modified for faster process of adoption in India.

Could all the stakeholders concerned in our country care to think on these social issues, and quickly pave real solutions for the childless couples by generating awareness, streamlining medical choices, acting within a reasonable time-frame and bettering lives? The solution should also include sensitization of the society towards empathetic behaviors with childless couples and adoption, and cheerful inclusion of adoptive parents and adopted kids in our diverse system.

 

 

Living Right Above a Happening Lane

Living “near” a lane or a street is perhaps merely noisy and dusty !!

But after a year, I realize that living right “above” a lane, with some view of an open space and a city skyline, is great fun despite it being noisy and dusty during day time.

One gets to see so much of life…

Dawn : a sky full of purpose, freedom and hope unfolds with an air of freshness, birds fly around and the lake reflects on the soul amid enchanting bells of nearby temples… a little later – one sees enthusiastic morning-walkers, the carefree appearances of the colourful garland-makers, the business of water-tanks, milk supply and newspapers, the hectic pace of the bai (domestic help in India) who otherwise never misses the malli-phool gajra (a jasmine flower garland) :), the time-bound biking cooks, the grunt and the smile of school-goers, the anxiety of job-seekers, the contentment and stress of office-goers, the gazing cabs and autos seeking to be hired… the gathers of daily-wage earners queuing in their yellow helmets and some holding tools… the luring calls of the vegetable and fruit vendors… the errands of the peon, the hopping and laborious tasks of the courier and packer-mover agents………

Noon : and then one can see some cattle grazing on the few green patches near the lake… grannies idling on the lawn, playing cards or chatting and waiting to collect their grand-children from the school-bus..some mummies too can be seen chatting on the phone as they wait near their society gates… vendors of aluminium utensils and other domestic goods start calling aloud as they know mummies, naanis (mothers’ mothers) and daadis (fathers’ mothers) are bored by now :)… the gardener attending to every detail in brown and green… as some men and women are seen rushing home for a quick lunch………

Dusk : the sky and the skyline glow in a golden radiance along with pearly clouds… school-goers flood the streets..now as playful as kittens and the society playgrounds resound with their chirpy echoes… the college-goers who are a bundle of joviality, dreams and achievements now merrily catch up in various groups at paani-poori (an Indian street food) or ice-cream stalls… uncles and aunties are out for a stroll or to shop at a mandi (an open vegetable market)… early office-goers speed back home amid all the traffic hurls and snarls… and then the daily-wage earners return with their aprons ridden with dust, grime and sweat – now the yellow helmet is balanced in the angle at the elbow of one hand, and white poly-bags of onion, garlic, masala (spices), oil and a black poly-bag suggestive of a meaty feast hang from the tired, infirm fingers of the other :)………

Evening and Night : the moon gracing the dark sky… the late office-goer walking down the lane in a relaxed mood with ear-phones plugged in or loud phone calls made to their far native land, boasting how the boss called him up and asked to apply for a visa :)… then the pretty lass (a new office-goer) is heard urging on her mobile ‘kya kundli-kundli karte rehte ho aap log ??..maiine bola na Papa, mujhe wahan shaadi nahiiiii karni..frequency toh bilkul bhi match nahi ho rahi..aap Bhaiyya se bhi pooch lo !!‘ (a disagreement with parents over a marriage proposal which they have approved solely on horoscope match) :)… the hurrying traders and shop-keepers… the closing of gates and the change of guard… the heart-to-heart conversations of distressed and homeless souls………

the other Occasional Scenes of sorrow, delight, interest and concern : a holy janaja (funeral procession), a sincerely chanting humble group of Siridi Sai Baba bhakts (devotees), that..in sharp contrast to a gaudily crazy procession of some so-called god-man, neatly cladded men – mostly in white – returning from the nearby mosque as the Jumu’ah prayer concludes on Fridays, a fleet of Ganapati bappa morya processions, a dazzling view – far, high – and below – during Diwali, a band-bajaa baraat to whose pulsating tune I can happily do a balle-balle in the inconspicuous dark balcony :)… a beautiful rain and the beaming joy of youngsters getting drenched… a talented show of various street musicians and other artists… a lamp-post repair that makes me the first person in the apartment to know ‘ki aaj se apan yahan pe light jalne wali hai‘ (that this part of my lane is thus going to be lit up), likewise the first person to know where a transformer has blown off or which areas in and around have or lack power supply, who’s moved in and who’s moved out of the society… a political rally, a public announcement, a ‘press gaddi‘ (OB vehicle), a street fight, an instance of moral policing, an accident, a speeding ambulance, a chase by the Police…………

So far, so good…

One Episode, Two Realizations: an Emotional, a Funny

Every year on Rakhsha Bandhan, I remember the early morning gift (a Raakhi and a Coconut) from the priests of Jagannath temple at my hometown. (In this festival, this is also a ritual between temple priests and yajmaans (hosts); the yajamaans in turn gift them due dakshinas.) Being the only child, I used to much look forward to it because to celebrate the occasion, I neither had a brother nor I was/am a brother to someone. Actually, I more desired that someone tied a Raakhi to me ! Moreover, my near cousins were either too young or too old or resided in remote terrains or atheists.

Hence to fill all sorts of emotional gaps on this day, my sister-in-law has now made it a point to include a Raakhi for me too in her annual Raakhi parcels to Bangalore. I was indeed elated with her idea…

Last year, she sent a beautiful gem-studded Raakhi. But while it was in transit, thieves stole it 😦 !

So this year, she sent a ‘Jaga-aakhi’ Raakhi (based on Lord Jagannath’s eyes). As usual, thieves have torn the envelope but it seemed the ‘Jaga-aakhi’ deterred them !! My sister-in-law’s trick worked this time 🙂 .

IMG_20140810_102755

The other realization : chor adat se toh majboor hain hii… saath mein, police-ke-dandey aur divya-netron ke ” sirf ahesaas” se bhi majboor hain 🙂 ! (no doubt, thieves have a habitual compulsion… at the same time, they also have another compulsion owing to “mere realization” of police-batons and divine-eyes !)

An Arrant Illusion (Reflections: Part-IV)

Adapting to the utter rationality and fast-pace of the west is one thing. Imbibing a foreign culture in its truest terms is a second thing, may be even supplementary to the first. Respecting and carrying forward the refined tastes of one’s own culture is altogether a different aspect.

Let’s not mix up !

A simple “Hello” or a sincere “Good- Morning /Afternoon /Evening /Night” are customary ways of greeting in most of the western countries. While doing so, they neither exaggerate on emotions nor suppress it below minimum display. Its cordial.

But today in India, we are in a complete illusion somewhere ! It is very common nowadays to hear a “Hi” but it is usually deprived of sincerity; sometimes the person does not even look at you while greeting thus. Then there are instances of addresses like “Hi Aunty” or “Bye Uncle” in a tone of disrespect; kids here now speak to their friends or even to their seniors in unhesitating terms as “What’s up, dude ?” or “Hey baby !” or “Hang on, man !!” or “Ohh shit !!!”, etc. Labelled slang or not, I find all these extremely impolite, particularly while relating to any typical Indian culture.

I strongly believe that my thoughts here have nothing to do around adaptability or acceptance of our changing times. That is what I clearly noted right at the beginning of this article. Otherwise, the saying “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” would have never existed. For it generally means that when you go as a visitor to a different place, you advantageously adapt its ways or politely abide by the customs of that society. It does not say that being a Roman and in Rome, you change your Roman ways, whatsoever be the reason- that’s not adaptability !! That would be either a political compulsion or a social blunder !!!

On similar grounds, I shall also not appreciate such greetings when as an Indian and on social occasions, I meet a fellow countryman or an NRI, whether in India or in a foreign country. Rather, I would yearn to see the original chords of cultural ties reverberate, wherever.

Issues as these sometimes awfully bother me; many a times, I experience some sort of disconnection with my own ‘modern’ society.

It therefore makes me wonder if we could possibly together go back to our customary ways ! For example, revert to greetings as Namaskar /Sasriyakar /Vanakkam /As-Salamu Alaykum /Adaab and the like. Are these not things to be valued ?… Let’s admire with due respect that many foreigners visiting India read and learn a lot about our customs and culture even before they actually land here; and as expected of them, almost everyone observes the rules maximally though they may opine otherwise. But what eludes us, the desi folks ?

The other trend is that many parents here communicate with children to such an extent in English (at home, on the playground, public places) that they forget to teach them the wonderful values of their own culture and sometimes, even their native language- call it mother-tongue or whatever. They are superficially proud of that seemingly big ‘English achievement’ (a mis-conceptualized ‘high status’ or ‘elite society’ by many desi folks), and absolutely indifferent about not been able to teach their kids about their own cultural aspects, let alone any sense of loss at it !!!

Unfortunately, the polished outlook, mannerisms and etiquette of a gora saheb (usually meaning an English gentleman) are rarely observed !! I much agree to the concerned views expressed by Jug Suraiya in his blog titled Mimic Man.

A very few parents /guardians observe and inculcate the young with Indianness in the real sense, even though they have rightly adapted the western philosophy (mostly as a wonderful means) on certain justifiable grounds. That is a good balance which must be well-recognized and highly appreciated.

Well… It is definitely good to learn different languages and cultures. Because apart from seeking answers to the scientific quests on man’s evolution, such respectful learning also shows our liberal spirits and progressive minds. But it should never be at the cost of one’s own cultural values !! How can someone be not excited about the timeless, good aspects of one’s culture or custom ?… Without due regard to it, I am afraid, that way certain cultures and languages of the world shall become obsolete down the line; our own scripts and lawful practices or customs would appear strange to us !!! That would be the dead-end of this arrant illusion which most of us now continue to ignore with vanity.

Wish a healthy balance is maintained…

Abhishekam and The Hungry Feeds

In olden days, Rajyabhishek used to be performed for royal coronation in some kingdoms.

But Abhishekam or Abhisheka is a custom still practised routinely in some religious institutions around the world, either as a ‘bathing ceremony and anointing of the deity being worshipped’ (sanctification) or as an ‘esoteric transmission’ (empowerment of the disciple).

Depending on the type of Abhishekam, the libations on deities could be holy-water, milk, yoghurt, ghee, panchaamrutam, honey, sesame oil, rosewater, sandalwood-paste, etc. Among all these items, it terribly hurts us to know and to see buckets of milk being poured on the deities. It ultimately goes down the drains, leaving both the calves and the children hungry on the pavements, some right in the temple’s premises !!

Moreover, this milk comes from cows that are considered as the most sacred of animals and even worshipped as ‘divine mothers’ (gow-mataa) as per certain beliefs and customs. By pouring all those milk for Abhishekam and keeping the calves and our children malnourished, aren’t we being dishonest, selfish and treating our gow-mataa disrespectfully ?

Many argue that the milk and other liquids are collected after the Abhishekam. Even if it is somehow done and converted into ‘Prasadam’, hygiene cannot be guaranteed ! And token amounts of such offerings by each one of us shall lead to a huge wasteful quantity at the end !!

Folks- is preserving such rituals meaningful than filling the empty stomachs of the calves and feeding the hungry mouths of teeming millions ?

As the human race holds big conferences to eradicate hunger and poverty from the whole world, why can’t we sensibly contribute by altogether doing away with offerings of milk (and its derivatives) and similar practices ? Like ‘money saved is money earned’, ‘food saved is also food generated’.

And with increasing or unresolved demographic, economic and environmental crisis, that is what Time also now demands of us…

Let us engage ourselves on a little introspection and thoughtfully hear our Conscience……perhaps the Lord’s answer lies within !!!

Aamjunta – what do you say ?

 

A Home-made Recipe of Cereals and Nuts

Since ages, we know that many cereals-and-nuts based food items are prepared in Indian villages and towns, and some are carried in containers for months together by native pilgrims.

Here’s one such recipe slightly modified (I would rather say upgraded) by my diligent mother-in-law, especially with the aim to control sugar-levels and check obesity. During her stays in the village, it also grants her good space and time from preparing a routine breakfast when she has to rather hurry for a special occasion of Pooja during the morning hours. 🙂

This recipe is designed to be easily stored and carried even during long-distance journeys. Having learnt the art from her, I now definitely prepare this food-pack for my husband on his tours abroad because it makes life easy for a hard-core vegetarian like him ! And of course, sometimes I manage to find a bearer to send these packs for both our families who prefer to reside at our respective native places, near the realm of Nature.

Here now, I bring to you this blissful recipe…

Ingredients:

For sake of convenience, I have referred the measure of cups. You can scale up the required quantity in the same proportion of these ingredients or adjust as you like it.

1.  Oats (replacing rice grains or puffed-rice or flattened-rice) – 2 cups
2.  Broken Wheat – 1 cup
3.  Soya Granules – 1 cup
4.  Cornflakes (normal variety) – as preferred
5.  Almonds – as preferred
6.  Raisins – as preferred
7.  Aniseed – as preferred
8.  Cardamom – as preferred
9.  Cloves – as preferred
10. Black Pepper – as preferred
11. Salt – a pinch

Method:

1. Take a deep non-stick pan; it should allow you enough room to stir properly. Dry-roast the Oats, Broken Wheat, Soya Granules and Almonds separately in the pan over low-heat. It must be adequately roasted (brownish) and emit the ‘dry-roasting’ flavour. Stir each ingredient continuously during this step so that all the grains or Almonds get a uniform heat and are not charred.

2. Allow the three dry-roasted cereals and Almonds to cool.

3. This step is attached only with the Wheat. Take small amounts of the roasted quantity and grind it to a slightly powdery texture such that it blends well when it is served with hot Milk or Water. This part of processing will require some further efforts –  each time you will need to extract the desired form from the grinder by using a hand-sieve, put back the coarse part in the grinder, add some more fresh Broken Wheat and then repeat the process. You need to do this till you obtain a consistent texture for all of this dry-roasted Wheat. At the end, you shall get the 1-2 tbsp coarse Wheat grains left; you may store it for making Wheat Porridge later on.

4. Mix this hand-sieved slightly powdery Wheat part with all the remaining ingredients. Aniseed (slightly fried or raw), Cardamom, Cloves and Black Pepper may be mixed as is or coarsely crushed. Add a pinch of salt to the mixture.

Its done.

Store it in an air-tight container. You can roughly estimate the expiry date of the whole mixture as the expiry date of its constituent ingredient that expires the earliest ! (So you should choose the ingredients such that they all have nearly the same expiry date.) Once you get it, do label the date on the container.

Serving:

Whenever you desire to eat, take hot Water or Milk in a bowl and mix the required amount of the mixture in it. Depending on your health conditions, you may have it simply that way or further season it with Fruits, dried-Dates, Sugar, Honey, Syrup, Jaggery, Sugar-free tablets, Ragi or Oats sugar-free biscuits, etc.

My father likes it as a snack with typical Indian Tea; so he sprinkles some crunchy salt items (like Haldiram‘s) in the mixture. 🙂

Aamjunta, do try this healthy recipe and let us know your feedback.

The Chaste of Liberty

Last week, it was reported that the Maulanas in Aligarh (India) are opposing burqas that are trendy with laces, studs, gems, etc. Reason – they fear it will ‘attract the attention’ and ’embolden’ the evil-eyed people !

Many ordinary persons, social or religious organisations and celebrities have also held similar views in the recent past.

Well, I think statements as these are not baseless in view of certain present circumstances as long as they mean to protect women in unknown zones (physical or social) or when they go out alone in places lacking proper gender awareness.

Many may not agree with my opinion but I would still request them to take a look at my reasons, even briefly.

In this regard, I would first of all like to make a small but very appreciative note on my recent observations of some foreign tourists (mostly westerners) visiting south-India. I found everyone of them to abide by certain directions, probably issued from their respective Embassies, in their attire. They all wore traditional Indian dresses and cast a very lasting impression on the native folks by respecting their values.

The gruesome Nirbhaya incident in December-2012 led to some modifications in India’s rape law. Even then, numerous such cases of either rape or molestation or eve-teasing or brutal murder after a sexual assault or acid-attacks have been reported. Sometimes it appears as if these occurrences have rather increased exponentially, like a severely infectious or viral disease ! To add salt to the diabolic wounds, age of the victim or the offender seems to be no more restricted to the country’s present definition of an adult, that is, a biological age.

With regard to rising rape cases, a year back, the Supreme Court of India had asked the Delhi Police to find out the root-cause of such brutal incidents happening every day even in the capital of India. Many psychiatrists like Dr. Nimish G. Desai are of the opinion that rapists are not mentally ill but attribute sexual perversions or psychopathic behaviour to them due to rapidly changing and non-monitored social mechanisms. They recommend institutionalization of gender studies wherein such people of inherent or acquired violent behaviour and/or having feelings of disengagement from society (work or family) can be identified and reared towards a positive direction before they commit such an offence.

In this context, let us delve into a bit more analysis. We all know that nudity is a form of both ancient and modern art expressed as any gender type, and it continues to be unblemished in some regions or societies. It is unblemished with regard to gender studies and characteristics of art itself. There it is accepted and appreciated as a normal, genteel perception. Now here is the sharp contrast. In other regions, a fearsome trend persists or has emerged of late – women (yes, mostly women and young girls) in attire like tight-fitted outfits, jeans, flashy tops, kurtis or even salwar-suits, are being watched with lustful glare. It happens anywhere, at any time and at any age in a society that is not well-versed with gender-related chapters. Formal education, high social status or financial riches are not always a dissuasion to check grossly misconstrued sexual desires. Rather some people’s disengagement from society combined with their lack of awareness of gender studies can turn out to be extremely distressful for others, as rightly cautioned by psychiatrists.

Now consider juveniles and how susceptible they are to committing crimes, the degree of which is comparable to that done by adults. In this post-modern age, juveniles, almost everywhere find quickly streaming information and easily accessible hi-end gadgets. These gadgets are often provided to the young generation either by unsuspecting parents to make them merely happy or by irresponsible parents to promote through the gifted devices a sign of their proud possession or affordability in the neighbourhood. With swiftly changing times, today children are more intelligent and smart enough to use these gadgets, irrespective of whether the usage is right or wrong. If both the parents are working, then there is hardly any one at home to guard against its misuses; and this may further worsen matters. Sometimes, family woes stir the mud in already troubled waters. Unless duly checked, it is possible that the unwanted or violent behavioural trends of juveniles would continue to get perpetrated across their peers or younger groups.

Perhaps, the same logic would apply for potential eve-teasers, molesters, acid-attackers and other type of abusers or violence instigators, abettors or perpetrators.

And obviously, with rising crimes the already feeble police:public and the judge:public ratios will also further deteriorate, thus delaying justice !

Now let’s explore two of our crucial roles in a society that is not only waiting to get adequate lessons in gender studies but having to already confront frequent crimes ridden with sexual components.

First and foremost of all, we must sensibly regulate or restrain certain type of entertainment and media channels, both print and electronic. Films and documentaries should be more censored, very strictly categorized according to various age groups and then distributed with immense precautionary measures. Particularly, women, young girls and eunuchs depicted on reels or magazines must always be shown in a respectable manner; it should not bear the slightest hint of any vulgarity or obscenity just for maximizing commercial profits. Here I want to highlight a very important point – where gender studies profusely lag, mindless projection of any sensual element for promoting modernity or liberalism, or for gaining commercial goals, further exposes the ‘aam aurat’ (ordinary women) and the eunuchs to sexual glares, pounces and pats !! Instances in an elite society may be rare but the ‘aam aurat’ generally bears the bigger brunt. Surely, there are other factors to be reasoned out but the one of mindless projections is definitely very crucial. Such projections can have an immediate negative impact on the minds of both the adult men and young boys; more severely, if they are disengaged from their family, friends or work-place and/or are already associated with anti-social elements or unhealthy environments like taking banned drugs. When every day we get to hear numerous crimes against women, then as responsible citizens, should we not check certain filming or broadcastings ? By preventing thus, we can help a meek society to muster fortitude, act and practically care for preserving the dignity of its weaker sexes.

Secondly, comes our role as parents or guardians or teachers of the current generation of children. It is a gradual effort. Right from an early age, we must educate them on various aspects of gender, and teach them to dress, converse and behave as suited to our culture and society, that is, where we live. Wearing full-length attire (whether oriental or occidental) should not make us a judge in our own minds even; we are not supposed to be labelled traditional or modern merely by our clothes or appearances. The terms are antonyms but it is wise to interpret them such that adhering to one outweighs the other according to relevant occasions. We should thus adequately put bridle on what we wear and appreciate. We should not fall into any sort of crazy rat-race. Our matured thoughts must do the smart talk and walk. Young boys and girls must be taught to equally respect each other and accommodate their issues. Gone are the outdated ways of gender-based barriers and patriarchal dominance ensnared by attitudinal issues!

Similarly, social or official guidelines must be adhered to by all groups of gender in corporates and other social gatherings. These are awfully necessary safeguards in our very own interests.

Well, now consider the provisions and protection sought under law. If enforced properly, it can take a tougher stand against mere violators of law and criminals. But it should not be just to punish them or deter potential offenders. It should also be because children witnessing depictions in any form of media or offences in society, that has sexual components or differential roles of man and woman, imbibe an awful sense of gender inequality at a tender age, and it would in all probability remain with them life-long or worse still, may find their yet scurrilous or violent vent in some form of anonymity at a later stage !! Moreover, changing rules should be in accordance with the definition of gender, the attributed social patterns of which are changeable over time. Hence, it needs thorough discussions and debates and cannot be simply listed over-night.

Nevertheless, law is definitely one of the greatest tools of social transformation. But legal reforms must be supported by an efficient administration, institutionalization of gender studies, holistic understanding of other socio-economic issues by the people of the land, their active participation in large numbers in associated programmes and awareness generation by a responsible media. Without all of us realizing these various aspects and acting in a co-ordinated manner, it would be quite impossible to root out the causes of such diabolical crimes and prevent these in some present societies.

As a well-known Indian columnist has aptly remarked yesterday in a leading newspaper- ‘Empowerment doesn’t work without maturity‘ !!!

Aamjunta – what do you say?

Delightful Diwali but… NO crackers, Please !!

Over the years in the Indian subcontinent, we have celebrated Deepavali or Diwali by lighting clay lamps and bursting fire-crackers to drive away evil spirits.

Now, let’s reflect from a different but existing interpretation from our ancient holy texts. It is the festival of lights, which signifies a “consciousness of the Inner Light- the Atma” dispelling ignorance and also generating compassion for all beings.

Looking at things around in this age, one can observe with a little insight that any unmeasured or unconsidered practice of bursting fire-crackers can fatally harm, aggravate and disturb four major cases of life on Earth –

1. already high levels of pollution
2. conditions of ailing people (particularly, the heart-ached or migraine-affected)
3. the common man living on the streets or slums, or awfully needing to rush his/her child, aged-parents, spouse, relative, friend to the hospital
4. creatures living on the ground or underground

Many of us have ourselves confronted these situations or watched others helplessly struggling against it. Is not it then our responsibility to check the way we celebrate Diwali and also educate the younger generations?

Let us care a little for Mother Earth and ALL beings living on it. Human beings are the highest kind of intelligent animals here. Therefore, as long as it is within our control, we should avoid killing or hurting even lower and weaker life forms; we should rather strive to protect them.  FOREMOST, we can surely try and make things Safe, Secured and Clean !!! That would in fact bring us closest to attaining the real “ananda” or “rejoice of the Inner Light”…

Lets make it a festival of lights for all; not festival of darkness for some !

Wishing everyone a truly Delightful Diwali.

Aamjunta – what do you say?

Eunuch or ‘Hijra’ – the third sex in India

Before delving into our current title, I would like to make a small note on three important (re-)defined terms which I came across reliable sources in the internet: Gender, Gender Equality and Gender Mainstreaming.

Gender: Prior to John Money’s work in 1955, the word “gender” was commonly used to refer to grammatical categories only. Gradually, as various sociological contexts were understood or emerged, this term also evolved in its definition. It now assimilates the aspects of biological sex (i.e., male or female or inter-sex), social roles (as the Hijra of India and Pakistan) or gender identity. In simple terms, it distinguishes between masculinity and feminity in a broader socio-cultural context which is also time-specific. The socio-cultural contexts include considerations for class, race, ethnic group, age and poverty level.

Gender Equality: It means that rights, needs, interests, resources, responsibilities, protection and opportunities (including decision-making) must be equal for all, irrespective of their sex or socio-cultural diversity. The United Nations Millennium Project that aims to end world poverty by 2015 claims that no society can develop in a “sustainable” manner unless it is modelled on gender equality.

Gender Mainstreaming: It is the process of integrating a gender perspective into all policies, legislations, programmes and activities in political, societal and economic spheres, at all levels, to transform that which generates or perpetuates gender inequality. Therefore, the ultimate aim of this socialisation process is to achieve gender equality.

Now, coming to the topic…

The eunuch or Hijra (in Hindi) is usually considered as a social stigma in India. Though the concept of “third sex” or “tritiya prakriti” exists in India from its ancient era, it was formally recognized in India in 1994. At present, “third sex” is being recognized in India with an option to identify them as “Eunuch (E)” on Passports and on certain other documents. However, it is yet to be accommodated fully in all other departments. Though there are efforts seen within and outside the Government to grant the basic civil rights to the eunuchs, it is still discriminatory in many cases. For example, in 2003, the Election Commission of India did not allow eunuchs to vote, unless they identified themselves either as male or female. In 2009, three eunuchs were not allowed to contest election, citing the very same rule- male or female.

The discrimination towards eunuchs is not new in modern India. During the British Raj, authorities attempted to eradicate eunuchs, citing them as a breach of public decency. Eunuchs were labelled as criminal tribe and were placed under the Criminals Tribe Act, 1871. They were subjected to compulsory registration, monitoring and stigmatized. However, on a positive note, independent India de-notified this in 1952; still the century-old stigma continues which labels the Hijra only as a social role and not as a “third sex”.

For their survival, the Hijras have developed a secret language called Hijra Farsi, which has a sentence structure loosely based on Urdu and a unique vocabulary of at least thousand words. Beyond the Urdu-Hindi speaking areas of the Indian subcontinent, this vocabulary is still used by the Hijra community within their own native languages.

On a socio-economic analysis, eunuchs in India live at the margins of the society, with a derogatory reference to the term Hijra. Hijras are not defined by specific sexual orientation, but rather by renouncing sexuality altogether. Many believe that their sexual energy is transformed into sacred powers. For this very reason, the Hijras were employed in royal houses and during ‘hom’ (a Hindu ritual of making holy offerings) in the past. Until even a few years back, the Hijras were invited by rich families /landlords to distribute sweets and clothes to the poor during festivals or bless a bride on the day of her wedding. But in reality – Hijras are today often self-employed as prostitutes for survival reasons.

It is often noticed that without any major employment opportunity and social acceptance, eunuchs in general get their income by begging, sex-work, working as escorts, performing ceremonies, etc. Study conducted by Peoples’ Union for Civil Liberties, Karnataka in 2003, is an eye-opener in many forms. Without any social acceptance and with the discrimination in health-care, education, employment, income, housing, legal and social justice, etc., eunuchs in India are forced to live in sub-standard conditions and in inhuman life style. With a eunuch population of 10 lakh or more, and with such little efforts, the acceptance of the “third sex” in the Indian main stream is a dream that may not be fulfilled at all in the near future. Unless a comprehensive civil rights legislation is enacted to offer eunuchs the same protection and rights as guaranteed to the two other forms of biological sex i.e. male and female, nothing can be expected from the society.

The religious India however treats the Hijras in a different form – the bahuchara mata in Gujarat, a form of ardha-nari-swar (Lord Shiva and Parvati) and the aravanis in Tamil Nadu. On a different note, beginning 2006, eunuchs were engaged to accompany Patna city revenue officials to collect unpaid taxes, receiving a 4-percent commission. India’s first eunuch legislator, 40-year-old Shabnam Maushi joined the mainstream politics in the state of Madhya Pradesh in the year 2000. The success story of Shabnam Maushi has encouraged other eunuchs in India, resulting in more of their participation in Indian politics and policy-making as Mayors, Legislators, Councillors, etc. But surely, more remains to be achieved for them in any advanced civil society.

Moreover, as Gender Mainstreaming is gaining momentum in India, we should therefore no more ignore the eunuch or Hijra… but respectfully treat them and work for their well-being at par with every other strata in our society.

Aamjunta – What do you say?

Socialism in India – Some Ground Realities

A guest article by a fellow aamjunta

Implementation of socialism – whatever be its form or type – without properly educating (not just formal Degrees) the targeted audience, will always be a disaster anywhere in this world !!

I am now of the opinion that Socialism, whatsoever be the form or type, would be perhaps unwise to implement to the fullest extent in our country.

I have always tried to the best of my capacity, to extend all possible help and uphold fair treatment towards the section of Domestic Workers – during childhood under the guidance of my parents, then during working years in a self-motivated way and now, with more inspiration and support from my family-in-law. Irrespective of the communities and cities they come from, I find most of these people get disoriented from work at some point of time. Then they suddenly become highly ungrateful, rude or may be even disloyal to any extent !

I don’t buy the argument that disparity in wealth is the reason. Here are my observations regarding this point.

This section of people I am particularly talking about were initially in poverty and they have been through lot of struggle. Some of these families now control agricultural plots and/or produces. When they stepped out seeking work, there was no sign of disengagement from society, no resentment or a rebellious tone. They were rather focussed, sincere and polite. Hope bloomed in their lives in the form of better employment, they toiled and they prospered; they were able to send their kids to standard schools and colleges. They could avail most of the welfare schemes launched by the respective governments. In general, their living standards improved.

But almost all of them, at one point, still seem to lose their base… their humble connection to the soil or rather say, roots. They think they have become mega-haves, and it does not matter whether their achievements were by right or lucky charm or some sort of vote-bank politics or by their hard efforts.

This year, the Indian festival of Teej (Gowri Habba /Tay /Bali Trutiya) was on a Sunday, followed by Ganesh Chaturthi the next day. Our Cook had obtained an approved Leave for both the occasions, mainly to observe fasting. I also agreed to accommodate her preparing our dinner for Tuesday on the same day morning as she expressed her desire to celebrate her younger son’s birthday in the evening. The same schedule was also supposed to be repeated on Friday for her elder son. I also offered her half-duty on both these ‘birthday’ occasions so that she could make it early to her household and prepare well. Even Saturday’s ‘rotiz‘ (Indian bread) at dinner were agreed to be made during the day time, if it was not possible to do so in the evening.

All these, assuming traffic and unpredictable rain while her festival-shopping would be on. Things looked fine till Saturday late afternoon when I became doubtful… I called her up to ensure that she comes in the evening to at least make the ‘rotiz‘ for dinner. This especially because all the three ‘tavaas‘ (flat pans) in my kitchen got seasoned as per her expertise, including the non-stick ones which were reduced to raw pieces of iron plates – I just could not further manage making ‘rotiz‘ using them !

She did not respond to my three calls, though paced at good intervals. Thankfully somehow, my fourth call was received amidst hullabaloo of many busy bees (kids). Thinking that she might be shopping for the festival, I went on to ask her “when are you coming today evening ?… its fine even if you come at 10:30” (11:00 PM being her last slot and by her own suitable choice). Without any hesitation or an iota of guiltiness, she promptly replied “kyaaa Didi, ek din nahi khane se nahi chalega ???… aap bhi vrat kar lijiye naa !” (“Didi (an address to an elder sister in many Indian languages), can’t you skip meal for a day… you too can observe a fast !”)

I lost my cool for a few seconds. Not because I was bent upon having ‘rotiz‘ at dinner but the reason was that my generosity seemed to be unhesitatingly taken for a ride !! My granting extra Leaves or spontaneously agreeing to let my palate chew cold ‘rotiz‘ were not the only signs of free-handedness towards someone whose labour I equally respected like mine or anybody from the upper echelons of the society; there have been considerable ones- small and big, over the months.

Managing to quickly gather myself, I said “aap bhi ek kam kijiye- yahan aake khana banaiyye aur kuch khaa lijiye…ek din vrat rakh kar kya milega !” (“you too do one thing- come here, cook and do eat something…what would you gain by fasting just for a single day!”)

She perhaps understood the sarcasm. She then muttered that she would make it in the evening, which of course she did, though much reluctantly. And as if I was the person responsible for the incomplete cleaning activities in regard with the festival at her house !

I am sure all of us keep facing these type of situations in our daily lives in India- big or trivial…

These are not just isolated incidences. As I am preparing to launch my ideas and goals to improve lives of such classes of people in our society, these incidences in fact de-motivate me, weaken me. I am stuck with such confusion that it sometimes make me ponder for days if I am doing justice to all the other strata by attempting to uplift the plight of these folks… would I be really helping these under-privileged people in bettering their lives or simply fuelling their recklessness, vanity and ego ? Is the improvement in their financial and social conditions teaching them some sort of defiance in the wrong context ? Would this dwarf trend one day grow up into a big giant ?

These people are known to stir the most touchy heart-to-heart conversations, be the protagonists of almost all the famous writers and poets of the world, subjects of famous revolutions, real strength of kings and emperors, nature’s most admired children….. Now, where is that wonderful emotion gone ? Why these type of lackadaisicalness from the same folks ?!

These type of indifferent attitude and lack of work ethics is not limited to the  un-organized sector as illustrated above. Therefore, I do not see how moulding an un-organized sector into an organized one can help promote simple affairs of the heart ! And we are perhaps concerned more about those values and less about scheduled performances routinely guided by brains.

So, is it the absence of education (the intellectual or emotional wealth) in their families and communities ?

Perhaps, socialism minus education will always act in the negative direction. It will perturb the society even more. It is quite similar to saying that power corrupts without sanity !!! In the realistic world, it would be perhaps wiser to have two groups- one, that of educated and financially privileged people and the other, of rustic simpletons toiling hard, than to form a society based on all equal terms for every strata BUT minus the most effective factor of progress- education, whether of formal degrees or of moral lessons !

Its high time to quickly check Maslow’s pyramid vis-a-vis education, and may be along with a few other factors recommended by social scientists, psychiatrists, social activists, government authorities and other stakeholders. This is very much required, at least, in the present Indian scenario !

Aamjunta — what do you think ?

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