Saturday, September 24, 2011

Marriage: An Oriental Perspective - Loose Bloggers' Consortium (LBC)

Welcome to the Loose Bloggers Consortium, where AkankshaAnuAshokConradDeliriousgaelikaaGrannymarOrdinary JoeMagpie11Maria the Silver FoxNemaNoorPadmumPaulRamana SirWill knotand I write on the same topic. Please visit the other blogs to get seventeen different takes on today's topic, chosen by Conrad.

The concept of marriage in Indian culture is rooted in the philosophy expounded by the Vedas which practically touch every aspect of human life and the sphere of activities. Contrary to popular belief, there is nothing religious about them, at least as far as the traditional western conception of religion goes. You may just be surprised to see the similarities with what it means in other cultures. Moreover, some of the things they talk about are so generic, they really can be applied right across the board no matter what one's faith is. Marriage is considered to be the fundamental unit of society. To use an analogy, married couple and their family is like the cell in our body, several such cells make tissue (several married couples/families = local community). A group of such tissues forms our organs (several local communities = society). Several organs with certain similarities form organ systems, e.g. nose, wind pipe, lungs form the respiratory system (many societies with similar belief systems, customs and traditions = region). Several organ systems ultimately form our body (several diverse regions = nation). In our body, mutation in a single cell may give rise to a tumour which if unchecked, can spread across the body with systemic manifestations and this cancer ultimately leads to destruction. Dysfunctional marriages break down families, broken families lead to displaced individuals who having lost their way in life are vulnerable to follow wrong paths. This is the beginning of cancer. If it spreads, the society is driven on a course of self-destruction. Destroyed societies lead to downfall of nations or civilisations. Therefore, the bottom line is that saying whether or not one should marry is a personal choice and nobody else has the right to interfere with it is not good enough. When individual liberties encroach upon the social welfare, the forces that bind such societies together have every right to check these freedoms in question. A common approach in treating cancer is killing all tumour cells. Similarly, the only effective approach to prevent, avoid and avert societal disintegration can only be nipping the tumour of dysfunctional marriages in the bud, by eradicating ideologies which give rise to such tendencies. Unfortunately the case in India today is quite the opposite.

In Indian culture, even marriage is based on the concept of "detachment in attachment". One of the treatises that deal with structure and functioning of an ideal society ("Manusmiriti" or The Code of Manu) describe it thus: Human life (assuming a life span of a 100 years) is divided in 4 quarters, each lasting roughly 25 years. The first quarter is all about following complete chastity, purity of thought, word and deed, gaining knowledge and skills necessary for one's chosen profession and so forth. In ancient times, when a child was between seven to eight years old, he would be sent to the teacher's house for a period of 18 years to gain knowledge and learn the importance of service and surrender. The child was not allowed to ever see his parents for this 18 years period and was expected to treat the teacher and his or her family as his own. At 25, the child would return home to his parents, get married and start his own family. Bear in mind that by the time a child turns 25, the parents are about 50 years old. Between 25-50, a person would be expected to enjoy all aspects of marital life and engage in productive work. By doing so, one should earn wealth with an aim to distribute it for the needy once the family needs are taken care of. Such a householder is the foundation of society where every act one performs is supposed to be selfless. If one earns money, it should be with a desire to use it for right purposes; if one begets offspring, it should be with an intention that these children are a debt I owe to the society - my duty is to raise them such that they continue the tradition of self-less service to their society, nation and the whole world. At 50, one would be expected to leave family, possessions and society and depart for pilgrimage, following which they must dedicate the next 20-25 years in self-less service to the society in any capacity feasible. When they eventually become old and unable to work, at about 75 years old or so, they should retire to a secluded place, and spend their remaining days in spiritual pursuit. This could then involve following whichever means of praying one feels strongly about. Some would choose meditation and silence, others would choose another form of praying, yet others who are still able bodied may decide to continue with selfless service.

I must highlight a few things here. The above mentioned things were only and only expected of a male child. Patriarchal society to blame? Not quite. All spiritual traditions in the spectrum of Indian philosophy have one thing in common, a belief in complete surrender and respect to women. This is because above all, Mother is considered to be the supreme most object of respect because she is the one who brings life to this plane and sustains it. Women are not required to undergo such austerities and it is said in the scriptures that for women, the easiest way to reach the "kingdom of God" is to simply engage in what comes to them naturally, things such as being true to their caring and affectionate nature regardless of the activities they are involved in. For this reason alone, if one observes carefully, in the 4 divisions of life, women only leave their parents to live with their husbands at the age of 25. Until then they enjoy all the happiness and luxuries of being with their families. However, in those times, as parents would leave the house at 50, it only made sense that the woman moves in with her husband. As the husbands parents would leave their house soon after anyway, the net effect is that the husband and wife stay together by themselves with their children.

Another very interesting thing is the words in Sanskrit for a married man and woman. A married man is known as "grihastha" literally meaning "the one who lives in the house". A married woman, however, is called "grihini" literally meaning "the one who possesses (owns) the house". What's more, it is considered a sin for a married man to be at home between the hours of sunrise and sunset, a bigger sin yet to rest while at work unless for genuine reasons and an even bigger sin if he doesn't treat his wife as an equal. Whoever says women are powerless in Indian society due to cultural reasons, here is the answer. It is a lack of awareness and understanding of the culture by the people which causes the problems we see today. It is a complete disregard for scriptural injunctions and a know-it-all attitude with a tendency to follow one's own whims and fancies more than what is morally and culturally appropriate that is to blame. The divisions of society and of human life are balanced. Any deviation from this is perversion at best and sacrilege at worse!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Breath - Loose Bloggers Consortium (LBC)

Welcome to the Loose Bloggers Consortium, where AkankshaAnuAshokConradDeliriousgaelikaaGrannymarOrdinary JoeMagpie11Maria the Silver FoxNemaNoorPadmumPaulRamana SirWill knotand I write on the same topic. Please visit the other blogs to get seventeen different flavours of the same topic. Today’s topic has been chosen by Padmini.

Breathe free while you can, they may start taxing Oxygen sooner than we'd like to imagine!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Love, Revenge and Justice

Over the past few days I have been thinking. This itself should suffice as a breaking news bulletin. However, this time the thinking managed to yield a little something useful, at least for myself. It all began with a rather lengthy conversation with a very good friend. It was an exercise in "freeing up" some space in mind's hard disk so to speak. Cutting the chase, it was about a certain issue both of us have been facing since a few months now. Although the particulars differ, the bottom line is same, its about experiences of riding emotional roller coasters. A common theme soon appeared, and that was mainly around three things - love, revenge, memory. Following is simply a screen dump of the toxic waste this created in my cerebral cavity, just free flowing thoughts resulting from that conversation. This friend I mentioned suffered from a major heart break that is stopping her from moving on in life. This followed what she prefers calling as injustice by a certain selfish individual who struck her life like a lightening, only to have left a few years later leaving behind significant damage. This led her to believe that love is fake, revenge is justified and memory (and a good memory at that) is not always a gift. This is what I have been thinking about.

Firstly, I am still not entirely sure what this thing love is all about. Of course I understand the classification, definitions, implications and consequences. Nonetheless, the thing I don't quite grasp is its relevance. Is every human being capable of love, at least in the sense this emotion is understood by the masses? Is it ever possible to love but not love at the same time? Is love possible without attachment? If there is no attachment, can it be called love? Is love minus attachment just as credible? I don't mean commitment, faithfulness, loyalty, etc as is the case in a romantic relationship...those things are paramount. The only problem I have is with attachment. Maybe this is total nonsense. But something inside me makes me feel it may just work if done the right way.

Second point on agenda was revenge. This friend of mine now seeks revenge, but her idea of revenge is pretty unusual from what I have been exposed to so far. She has a very elaborate plan of wreaking havoc in this person's life, systematically, steadily, one step at a time, in a way that the memory of this wrong doing never fades from his mind. I feel somewhat ashamed that the primary advice she wanted from me was whether the plan would work and if I could suggest any improvements to cause even more damage. Regardless, having taken an indifferent stance in this matter, I feel better about myself now. This made me think about the nature of revenge. I remember reading many years ago a quote by Sir Francis Bacon - "Revenge is a kind of wild justice; which the more man's nature runs to, the more ought law to weed it out". It has only started to make sense now. However, is revenge always by definition wrong? Or are there acceptable forms of revenge? I have come to understand over time that its not really what we do but our intentions behind doing it that matter. Looking at it from this perspective, could revenge taken only with an intention to establish justice and bring someone who has a habit to do injustice to account be considered acceptable? Well one argument may well be that this is not revenge any more then because there is no personal satisfaction involved. However, is it worth all the time and energy spent to achieve it?

As for the third point, well I've written enough to continue with that. It was quite insignificant compared to these two heavy weights so I'll just leave it for now.

*In case anyone is wondering what's that picture doing up is meant to be suggestive. It is a photograph of different patterns created by smoke. Just a subtle innuendo that maybe smoke isn't always bad, perhaps it too has beauty of its own :)

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Culture Shock - Loose Bloggers Consortium (LBC)

Welcome to the Loose Bloggers Consortium, where AkankshaAnuAshokConradDeliriousgaelikaaGrannymarOrdinary JoeMagpie11Maria the Silver FoxNemaNoorPadmumPaulRamana SirWill knotand I write on the same topic. Please visit the other blogs to get seventeen different flavours of the same topic. Today’s topic has been chosen by gaelika.

First of all apologies for not being able to write for the past two weeks. Things were quite busy over the working week and weekends spent enjoying the natural beauty of Wales and Cornwall.

So let me begin this post by my first ever experience of culture shock. I had been in England for a few months, it was only my second month at school here and for some reason the classmates wouldn't believe I had come from abroad. One fine day the "class clown" came in all excited and pleased. The reason was that his mum was getting married. She had been on holiday with her friends in Tuscany where she met the man of her dreams at the age of 45, called her "civil partner" to announce the end of their companionship and her decision to settle with this new man in Italy. For reasons I still don't understand, her (then) partner was overjoyed, decided to go ahead to help with the wedding preparations and their two sons (one 16 and the other 13) would follow a little later before the wedding day. Bearing in mind I had never seen a divorced couple until then, this came as a huge culture shock. I didn't know whether to congratulate him or express condolences. Perhaps this is quite uncommon by the usual standards here, but nonetheless, more of a shock for me than it was for the others.

Having moved around so much though, I'd rather be on the receiving end of culture shock and continue with this almost nomadic lifestyle than be stuck in one place all my life. Even imagining living in the same house, forget the same town, is a nightmare for me. Now this would be one culture shock I wouldn't want to experience!