Justice instead of judgment.

This should warm the heart (I deliberately use the word ‘heart’ rather than the one I would normally use) of my future lawyer Ashok. This should also be of interest to those of my readers interested in the very complex society that India is. The most gratifying part for me is that our Justice (Judicial) system is working! I wish that I could say the same about our Legislative and Executive systems.

A news item in The Calcutta Telegraph, brought to my notice by Anil, has this to say.


Women should not be left to lead a life of vagrancy. This seems to be one of the chief messages of the Supreme Court ruling on the maintenance of women deserted after living with and depending on a man for a long time, even if the relationship had not been one of legal marriage. The court ruling is in line with recent legislations placing the live-in partner within the purview of rights and claims to duty granted to legally wedded wives. Its generous scope, however, obscures two interesting points. One is the emphasis on vagrancy. It offers a sudden glimpse of the helplessly dependent status of many women and points to their lack of education, of exposure, skills and of control over their own lives. The just ruling has behind it a protective impulse. In terms of principle, this is a movement, intellectually, away from the ideal that all are equal before the law. Not that the law can help it. A law can only respond to a given situation, and this situation has been created by long years of indifference to constitutional directives: a social situation produced by political apathy. “Someone” has to take care of a deserted woman, the court has reportedly said. Mindful of the dignity of women, the court also referred to the old notion that women are the source of all strength. The ruling itself proves how distant the reality is from the ideal.

The second interesting point lies in the particular case. The widow of an older brother was ‘married off’, by custom rather than by law, to a brother much younger, as is the convention in many communities, especially in the north of India. With the turbulent entry of modern ideas, the traditional safety nets for widows in the family are beginning to fail. The younger brother in this case refused to maintain the older wife after he married according to his wish. The silent acceptance of bigamy within the family as a strategy for security is no longer working, for sharing the resources with a traditional burden is not a priority anymore. Hence the court’s ruling regarding the continuity of maintenance. A woman ‘married by custom’ is not really the same as a live-in partner. Although the ruling on maintenance will help many women in different situations, in this particular case, it is basically ensuring protection for a woman left in the lurch by her marital family.

Social Status.

I was attending a small get together at a neighbour’s place the other day and was quite uncomfortable with the, what to me appeared to be, very artificial gaiety. I was also the only male not imbibing and that too had caused a bit of merriment among the others, but that is something that I am quite used to handling now after eleven years of abstinence.
I was just quietly sitting and observing all that was going on around me and nursing a lemonade when a young man decided to join me and came over to sit next to me. I had been briefly introduced to him at the bar as an old time resident of our neighbourhood and he to me as a newcomer immediate neighbour to our host.
The young man, asked me how long I had been living in the neighbourhood and was quite taken back when I told him that it was twenty years since I had moved in there. We talked about the old days when the locality was a newly developing suburb and the problems we had.
After that topic was over, he wanted to know what I did and I told him that I was a retired hippy. After laughing about it he wanted to know the meaning of the word hippy and I enlightened him. I asked him what he did, and he replied that he was in the Information Technology industry and was a Manger of a team of programmers. I expressed my admiration for his achievement and was looking for a way to get out of the intrusion and go for dinner when he asked me again as to what I did. I told him that before I retired, I was a traveling salesman selling textile accessories. He was quite taken aback and said that from the way I spoke he had thought that I would have been somebody in Senior Management or Civil Service. I just laughed and said that I was just a nobody who had had the benefit of good schooling and a reading habit.
I got out of my predicament with that inspired answer as the young man decided that I was not interesting enough to make acquaintance with and excused himself and moved off to meet other better prospects. I heaved a sigh of relief and went to the buffet table.
Lesson learnt, I think that henceforth if such occasions arose again, I shall introduce myself as a retired Head Clerk or something like that to avoid status conscious page three types from straining themselves to position me in our highly status conscious society.
Do such things happen to you?

The Hindu Muslim Equation In India.

Four sets of photographs which tell a story of sorts about India.

These are two photographs of me and my younger brother taken in 1963. Both of us were wearing “Sherwanis”. A long closed coat almost inevitably worn by the Muslims of Hyderabad and other places of those days. Except for some rare occasions like weddings and other formal occasions, nobody now wears these except the odd politician to score brownie points with his electorate.

This photograph has been widely published in India showing a Muslim mother taking her son made up as Krishna, to the latter’s school where they were to celebrate a Hindu festival called the Janmashtami which celebrates the birth of Krishna.

This is a picture of Hindus praying at one of India’s famous Dargas, the Ajmer Sharief.

This is another touching story that has just appeared in one of our popular weekly magazines, The Week. The article is self explanatory.

This was and in many respects is, the India of common people where cross religious practices were and are totally acceptable.

This is what is being challenged by fundamentalists of both religions.

Sad don’t you think?

Genetics And Memetics – II

When I wrote my post Genetics and Memetics, the thrust of the post was in the declining number of male descendants in our family to highlight that perhaps something genetic was influencing the trend. Some of my readers have however asked whether the declining trend is seen in the birth of girls in the family and so, I went back and did my sums and am pleased to note that in our family girls are flourishing and doing very well indeed, thank you.

My father had three sisters of whom one is still around and kicking a lot of our butts. She is the youngest in her generation and she and my father are the only surviving members in that generation. Though from the males of that generation only two girls were born, from the girls’ side a total of nine daughters and five sons were born. So, from that generation, a total of eleven daughters were born.

From my generation, from the male cousins, eight daughters were born and from the female cousins,seven girls were born.

From my son’s generation, so far we have already seen five that I know of but I doubt that there are more. Pardon me for that observation, as I have lost touch with a lot of them due to my being up in the Western side of the country, whereas most of the younger generation as well as their parents are down South,

The point however is that female children abound!

This is contrary to the trend in the Northern parts of our country where a major problem of female infanticide prevails resulting in skewed male female ratios which are challenging some social norms and equations. In fact, many men from the Northern parts of our country are now forced to seek brides from the South despite linguistic and cultural differences. While this may indeed eventually work out in integrating the country better, for the moment, other social problems are very obvious, and the progress in educating the affected populace is going very slow.

We do not have the problem that Afghan and Pakistani girl children have but our problems are more serious. Some of the social problems, like dowry that need to be addressed by better education and perhaps even propaganda to overcome this situation needs to be undertaken on a war footing. The efforts so far made have just been scratching the surface. This is a perennial problem with the group of states here called the Cow Belt or the BIMARU states, which are in a time warp of the 18th century culture and values. Unfortunately, this is also the most populated and send the maximum number of Members to our Parliament and the quality of our Parliamentary democracy is there for all to see.

In urban India, even in the Cow Belt, things are improving but not all that fast as one would like. There is another peculiar problem of a higher widow population compared to widowers and in the cow belt, that is another problem altogether needing a separate analysis. Another post in the making!


I hope that you enjoy reading another post of the Friday Loose Bloggers’ Consortium when eleven of us post on the same topic chosen by one of us. Today’s topic has been chosen by Conrad.

Please do visit Ashok, Conrad, Grannymar, Magpie11, Maria, Gaelikaa, Helen, Judy, Anu and Ginger to see ten other views on the same topic. Some of these bloggers may be preoccupied with vacations, examinations, family problems and/or romance, so be a little indulgent in case they do not post or post late.

Google informs me that there were 1968 words ending in ism that it found while searching for words ending in isms. For our purpose, I do not intend going through the whole lot but would restrict my post to some isms that had or have major roles to play in my life.

The very first ism that I was exposed to was patriotism. As little children, attending a Montessori School, we were taught to sing our National Anthem and were told all about Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru besides a few other local worthies too. That impression has not left me till date and I still get goose pimples when I hear our National Anthem about which I have posted before here and here. This over a period of time morphed into Nationalism but fortunately perhaps not yet into Jingoism.

The next one was when I was older and in higher classes at Madras, now known as Chennai when the Anti Brahminism and Dravidianism combined with Atheism and Casteism, took hold of the State of Madras, now known as Tamil Nadu. This had major implications for the state and it also spun off into a national phenomenon subsequently.

Then I grew up and started my working life when other less earth shaking but important isms came into my life. Capitalism, Socialism and Communism were regularly bandied about till I hit the Management side of employment when Absenteeism, and Sadism/Masochism took frequent parts in my daily conversation.

Then came the time for Romanticism and Nihilism which somehow seemed to go hand in hand around me. Then came the Bra Burning Feminism of the late sixties which made men look at women in a different way.

From the seventies till the late nineties my life revolved around Middle-classism. Staid, dull and boring as it could be, the redeeming feature being Careerism which balanced the dullness of the middle-class existence.

Then a life changing tryst with Alcoholism came into my life with some serious consequences. It however enabled me to become a resource for others afflicted with the problem and that is one of the satisfying aspects of my current battles with Existentialism.

Simultaneously it was also the time for Absurdism and Elitism which played significant roles in my move into Spiritualism. In the process of growing in the last, I find myself dropping most of the isms that I have collected over the years and that too, I suppose should be called some ism, quite what I do not know. Droppingismsism?

Overriding all the above isms in India, at the macro level, we have a national policy of Secularism. My understanding of this ism is that there should be complete separation of state and religion. In India however what this has come to mean is appeasement of the minorities and vote bank politics. In my own way, I am a practicing secularist but an avowed anti pseudo secularism advocate.

On December 6, 1992 Hindu fanatics demolished an old decrepit mosque in Ayodhya, a town believed to have been the birth place of one of India’s favourite Gods, Ram. Since then India has been in the grip of Communalism. That in turn evolved into Terrorism. We now have cross border Terrorism thrust on us from Pakistan, we have home grown Islamic Terrorism and now the beginnings of a Hindu backlash Terrorism. We have a state machinery to Counter Terrorism which to the best of my knowledge provides security cover only after each act of Terrorism.

That is a list of the various isms that have occupied my life, and the only ism that has so far had no role to play in my life and I hope that it does not ever, is Rheumatism. I am however advised by knowledgeable sources that I suffer from a sister affliction called arthritis of the brain. I hope that does not lead me into some other ism like Totalnutcaseism.

Quiet Desperation.

“What I really lack is to be clear in my mind what I am to do, not what I am to know, except in so far as a certain knowledge must precede every action. The thing is to understand myself, to see what God really wishes me to do: the thing is to find a truth which is true for me, to find the idea for which I can live and die. … I certainly do not deny that I still recognize an imperative of knowledge and that through it one can work upon men, but it must be taken up into my life, and that is what I now recognize as the most important thing.”
—Søren Kierkegaard,

Recently, I have been experiencing many conflicting emotions arising out of my current situation of not being able to do many things that I would like to do. The core problem based on which the other factors build, is the need for me to be physically present to provide the care for my father, which he would not get if I were to put him in a home for the aged or some such place, nor arrange for hired help to provide the same at home with all its attendant facilities to which he is used to. I am resigned to the present state of affairs, and that too is part of the problem!

I often feel guilty for even thinking such thoughts. That is the level of conditioning that I have been exposed to, by our Indian tradition of providing care for our aged. I have seen other relatives and friends in similar situations going through exactly the same experiences and though comparisons are of no help, I cannot help reflect on the time when I provided care for my late wife for nine years without going through these conflicts. The reason being, I suppose, that when it was caring for my wife it was out of love and when I am doing it for my father it is due to a sense of obligation that a dutiful son has to carry out due to the conditioning. It is also possible that in the former case, there was expressed appreciation and gratitude whereas in the latter the care giving is taken for granted.

On further reflection, I also conclude that when it was caring for my wife it was the higher purpose or meaning that one looks for in life at the level of self actualisation that Abraham Maslow talks about or, the meaning that Viktor Frankl talks about in his ” Man’s search for meaning.”

Now, the conflict and the guilt, is in not being able to assign the same intensity of “meaning” to the current situation, which is more like the Quiet Desperation that Thoreau talks about in his “Walden”.

“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation. From the desperate city you go into the desperate country, and have to console yourself with the bravery of minks and muskrats. A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind. There is no play in them for this comes after work. But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things.” (Bold lettering mine)

– Henry David Thoreau, in Walden.

I have read Walden on three different occasions and on each, I have spent time on this particular paragraph in the first chapter. I have kept this quote in a number of places so that I can go to it at need to reflect on this observation, whenever some thing triggers it off.

In the present particular situation, I wonder if it is really the wisdom that Thoreau talks about that I do not do desperate things like arranging for alternative methods of giving care to my father, or running away from it all, or whatever, or whether it is something more noble! Whatever it is, I often do feel like I am living a life of quiet desperation and that annoys me. That it annoys me further aggravates the desperation and it is, I can clearly see, a self fulfilling prophecy or a reinforcing loop or whatever else one wants to call it.

At the end of all such reflection, I simply conclude that it is perfectly normal, and I am just a human being with normal instincts and reactions and it is perfectly the normal thing to do, living a life of a quiet desperation. But as Soren Kierkegaard points out in the quote given at the beginning of this post, I am still in search of the same “most important thing.”

Or am I?