Thursday, March 21, 2013

A day for everything and everything for a day.

Mother's, Father's, is maybe how it began,
with others jumping  into the fray.
Now there is a theme to everyone,
be it grandparents, doctors or teacher's day.

Water, fire, air as well,
each one has its very own day.
While on others its 'Men', 'Children' and 'Women'
who firmly hold the sway.

You focus on your mother for her day,
and treat her like a queen.
Just as on 'World earth day' think of the planet too,
though on other days pillage and rob the green.

When there is an official day for happiness,,
does it mean other days need not be so?
If we celebrate life on only one day,
what are the others for?

There is a day against discrimination,
as if on others you can.
Is it not better to be reminded every day,
this scourge ruins life for every man.

A day for charity and and a day for peace,
for heart and health and friendship too.
a day to talk aloud of all these,
even if there is no follow through.

And then there are some days,
that are burdened with more than just one cause,
though that might be confusing,
as to which one to espouse.

Never mind what you do at other times,
but celebrate each on their day you must.
Some with flowers and chocolates and gifts,
others in conversations that raise dust.

Just as on a day for literacy earmarked,
you spread the word that its always learning time,
today on world 'Poetry day',
you can say it all in silly rhyme!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Substitute a bride

A young man falls in love with a woman from his neighborhood. He does the honorable thing and proposes marriage 'through proper channels'. The parents are thrilled since all other parameters fit. So they approach the woman's parents. A marriage is arranged and a wedding is planned!  Sounds like a Karan Johar movie so far? So break out the champagne and let the music play.

So how did the fairy-tale end? Oh the prince ( fittingly named Raja) did ride off into the sunset with a blushing bride - only it was not the same woman he was blissfully in love with. Turns out no one had asked the bride-to-be if she wanted to marry the prince in question. So come the wedding day she was no where to be found. The distraught bridegroom just popped the question again- to all the woman at the wedding and one agreed! Before she could change her mind, the 'mantras' were chanted and they were bound in holy matrimony for the next seven lives.The Karan Johar movie just morphed into a Maniratnam film and ironically the woman who ran away is named ..  you guessed it - Roja! (You can watch a random clip from the movie here)

A recent Times of India report claims that "Lady luck shines on groom after bride-to-be disappears". The world over, this would probably be a 'believe it or not' story, but in our country no one seems to raise a brow. I remember a case of  a young woman was rescued from disgrace when she was left standing at the altar for the lack of a fatter dowry. A chivalrous eligible guest stepped into the space vacated by the groom to the eternal gratitude of the bride's family. The other guests lauded him too. Of course no one knows what happened after. We assume they lived happily ever after. But either way, the girl found a husband. So that must count for something, right?

Happy endings? Apparently you have one with Raja and Rani finding each other and eternal happiness.
What about that  girl who is still missing? The parents who decided 'what was best' for her, are hardly going to be pleased about her running away and the 'dishonour' they had to face. Never mind that they had no respect for her as a person and treated her like a commodity that could be off loaded to the first person who offered to take it off their hands, like a piece of furniture that had outlived its usefulness.

As for the substitute bride, it is truly amazing that anyone can step into marriage on the spur of the moment. People probably give more thought to  taking on the role of a bride in a play. But then those people do not grow up listening to how you need to find a groom from the very minute they are born. Most girls in India are 'aware' how hard their families toil to find them the 'right' match. After all if you are a 'responsibility' (liability?) to be settled, one man is as good and as unpredictable as the next. When you have been treated as a 'thing', an object to do with as deemed fit by the elders in your life, you see yourself the same way. The thought that your rights to your own life have been violated does not even cross your mind. Then there is also fate - 'destiny' that must have brought you this cross road. Never mind who the man is, what happens after is your 'destiny'.

The girl whose honour was saved at the altar by the gallant who stepped up to the plate and married her probably got a grateful slave for life. ( Maybe he was very nice and treated her like a queen  though I wonder what his family had to say to the wedding invitee turned surrogate groom.) But for all his chivalry, thought of women as commodities who could be passed around - like the toy truck that's left in the sandbox after a child got tired of it.

No matter what the headline says about 'lady luck shining on a desperate groom' there can be no happy endings till we as a society stop treating women like rag-dolls, to be propped up in a wedding mandap, about as important as the toran or the kalash that pretty up the venue, disposed off with the first seemingly suitable man who comes along.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Keeping God away

When my father passed away eight years ago, it seemed appropriate to bid final farewell to him in the city where he was born and many of his relatives still lived. Despite living away from the place and people for over 45 years and visiting on 'earn leave' just for a month at a time, once a year, he still felt strongly for the place. I am told that my father had  not been a very religious man, but over the years had got increasingly so and had taken to the the rituals and traditions that come with it. So it was decided that we would do the thirteenth day ceremony in a  way that he would have liked. A 'hall' was booked and friends, relatives and countrymen were invited.

It all went on as these things usually do. People came, looked appropriately somber, said all the right things - some even shed tears and stated how much they had hoped to see him and how much they would miss him. Then they would spot some one they knew and had not met for ages, excuse themselves and you would hear exclamations of 'its been so long' 'how she has grown' etc. Eventually everyone settled down to a nice lunch that had all my father's favorite food. The soul is satiated seeing loved ones eating the food and transitions to the next world happily is the theory.

All through all this there was a ceremonial pooja being conducted by a priest . My brother, heir to the family name and lineage would dutifully do whatever he said. I, the married daughter did not have much to do. My mother, who had spent two thirds of her life with him had even less to do and sat a little way away observing all that was happening. At the end of the proceedings as he accepted the Dakshina, his fees for officiating the solemn ceremony, he declared that my brother was free from the sutkal/ sutak that kept him under mourning. From now he was free to go to work, weddings or temples- basically where ever he chose to go. He then turned to my mother who was standing nearby and told her that  as she had been recently widowed, she should mourn for the whole year- even visiting the community temple was out of bounds. A twelve year old who was standing close by summed up our feelings when he asked "Why is he asking her to keep away from God at a time when she needs him the most?" Obviously the priest knew less about being a spiritual leader (or for that matter about being a sensitive human being) than a twelve year old!

Why this story today? This morning one of the news items on TV was about how the church has apparently asked the Suryanelli gang rape victim and her relatives to keep away. I quote bits from a news item  " Catholic church in central Kerala has banned the Suryanelli gang-rape victim and her relatives from entering the church. As the residents in the area have come to know the identity of the victim and her family, it is better that they should stay away from the church until all the problems related to the case are resolved, the church is said to have ordered."   In stories that followed the church denies discrimination.

 But the point is that often the devout are denied the comfort their faith promises in their darkest hour. These  are not the only two people who have had this happen to them. And for some of those it happened to may have been all alone,desperate and needing someone to turn to. Are forgiveness and succor to the distressed not the basic tenets of any religion? Should not those who believe in Him have full access to Him? So why is God kept away from those who need him the most?

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