What will be your legacy?

What will be your legacy?

Synopsis:  We often think of what shall we leave behind for others to appreciate when we have faded away. Will it be something noble or ignoble? The choice is ours to make but how many of us make the right choice?

800px-Michelangelo's_Pieta_5450_cropncleaned_edit

Image:Michelangelo’s Pieta 5450 cropncleaned.jpg), CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3653602 ( Source : Google )

There was a young man who loved to draw. He made sketches and paintings and often played with stones and carved something out of it but never truly satisfied. So he secretly dissected cadavers in morgue in the dead of night to learn about how muscles worked and about human anatomy. He did this to learn how to sculpt very realistic human forms from solid marbles.

During his time the dissecting of cadavers was considered a crime and a desecration of human body but the morgue keeper saw in him an aspiring artist and let him do it in secret. He got up very early before dawn to inspect a piece of marble in the quarry to see how the first light of the sun played on the stone to reveal its imperfections so that he could select the very best piece for his sculpture he was planning to make.

Slowly his fame as an artist and sculptor grew so he was given the task of decorating the walls and the ceiling of the Sistine chapel by the Pope that he painted centuries ago. He painted the ceiling with fantastic art hanging upside down for hours at a time in a hammock in dim oil lamp straining his eyes and suffering excruciating pain in his body while doing so but he continued.

Now you all know who he was. He was Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni who lived so long ago but his paintings and sculpture can be seen at the Vatican today that is so impressive. You will strain your neck looking up to see all the details of his art in the Sistine chapel so they will offer you a mirror.

I could only look at his masterpiece called Pieta that you will see on your right side as you enter the main door of the Vatican in total admiration and wondered how he could chisel out of solid stone the Pieta so perfectly that you could see the veins in the hand of Christ and the glow in the face of Madonna. What tools he had to achieve such perfection that is hard to believe unless seen? It was not easy for him. He practically became blind straining his eyes in the dim oil lamp and soot hanging upside down suffering pain and discomfort and gained little for all his effort but he left behind a legacy that endures through centuries.

Do people have to suffer so much to make a legacy? All the great names of our century and the past have made personal sacrifices like Michelangelo. Some have been jailed like Mandela for 28 years while others were shot like Martin Luther King who only wanted equal human rights for all. Abraham Lincoln was killed because he ended slavery. The history book is replete with names of people who made great personal sacrifices but left an enduring legacy for the generations to come.

We the common people are not like them because we fail to rise above our commonality and show our mettle but can we not also strive to leave behind something that people will admire for generations?

There was a young man in China who married a woman he loved but suffered the disapprobation of the community for some reason so he went away with his young wife and lived in a secluded mountainous area where he cultivated some land to grow his food and took care of his wife. She had to go down the steep mountain slope every day to fetch water from a valley stream and struggle up the slope with the burden but one day she slipped and fell hurting herself.

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Source : Google photo of 6000 steps cut into the mountain

So the young man started carving out steps on the solid rock of the mountain side and kept at it with his hammer and chisel for many years so that his wife would not fall again. Now people look at those steps and wonder at the dedication and love of this man for his beloved who left behind a great legacy although he did it for his wife only.

So common people may also have uncommon love and dedication like that simple Chinese man and do something extraordinary with their lives.

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Source : Google photo of mini Taj Mahal built for his wife in India

A man in India has built just by himself and a mason toiling under the hot sun month after month, year after year a mini Taj Mahal where he has buried his wife. He became very old and feeble but would not quit until the mausoleum for his wife was complete and he did it alone with no help from anyone. If that is not dedication and love then I do not know what is? He left behind a legacy that is still unmatched. He was just a retired postman.

Note :

Faizul Hasan Qadri, who hit headlines for building a ‘mini-Taj Mahal’ in memory of his late wife in Bulandshahr district of Uttar Pradesh, has been killed in a road accident, police said on Saturday. Qadri sustained serious injuries on Thursday in a hit-and-run incident in Kesar Kalan. The 83-year-old retired postmaster was admitted to hospital where he died on Friday.

He had begun constructing his mini Taj Mahal in 2012 in memory of Taja Mulli Bibi. The couple got married in 1953. He could not complete his ‘monument of love’ as he spent all his savings on the basic structure. After the news of the ‘Taj Mahal’ spread, then Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav called Qadri to Lucknow and offered him money to complete the structure and get the marble work done.

Qadri politely declined the offer and asked the Samajwadi Party leader to establish a girls college in his village instead. The college was constructed and Qadri even donated some of his land towards it. His relatives said he had saved Rs two lakh and was set to buy marble from Jaipur to finish the structure when destiny intervened.

His relatives now plan to bury him alongside his wife, just the same way that Mughal emperor Shah Jahan was laid beside Mumtaz. His relatives said they will complete Qadri’s Taj Mahal in a grand manner. They have refused a post-mortem of his body.

There is a lady in England who has just by herself built massive stairs and retaining walls at the side of a cliff so that one can go down to the beach. Imagine a frail old woman with such dedication and determination? So  common people too may leave a legacy behind.

By legacy I do not mean 1500 pairs of shoes that a woman in the Philippines collected as an extreme example of conspicuous consumption or a dictator using public money to build a 1000 room palace with gold bathtubs in Bucharest while people remained poor and jobless. By legacy I mean something noble and glorious that is the result of extreme sacrifice.

I remember fondly our professor of agronomy during our college days in India who was so nice and so great that we all were in awe of him and mourned his sudden death due to heart attack but he too left behind his legacy in his students who became great agronomists later.

I remember our sweet librarian who always welcomed me whenever I was visiting the campus and who was so delighted like a child when I gave her a copy of my Ph.D dissertation for the library. She too left behind the legacy of a kind lady who gave me a part-time job so that I could pay for my tuition. Such great men and women have all passed away but fondly remembered by those whom they helped.

I think every person has a seed of greatness in him or her that lies dormant for most people because it never gets the chance to grow due to many reasons some beyond their control.

I also think that doing noble work without asking for anything in return is what makes people great. A teacher remains poor but some of his students become scientists and great scholars. I remember a movie where an old primary school teacher was dying of cancer after retirement but one day many of her former students showed up with flowers and gifts .She clearly recalled all their names and how well they did in her class or not that brought tears to her former students among them the governor of the state and prominent personalities.

We all owe it to the next generation to leave behind something for them that they will benefit from. That is the true meaning of legacy.

In our own small insignificant ways we all are capable of touching the lives of others that leaves an impression, an indelible impression that propels them onto achieve greatness in their own time.

So be generous toward those who need your help. Be compassionate toward those who suffer because they are born poor and unfortunate. Be humble and selfless so that ego does not make you a mean and uncaring person. After all how you have lived your dash* is more important than how long you have lived, isn’t it?

Michelangelo said The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.”

Note : The dash comes from the epitaph  Born – Died

 

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Price they paid for love

Price they paid for love

Synopsis : We could all learn something from the sacrifices some people make for their love for each other as Anarkali , Laila and Juliet did so long ago and became a legend.

salim-and-anarkali

Source : Google photo of a painting of Anarkali and Salim

Have you ever heard of Anarkali? Chances are you have not so today I will write about a very beautiful girl called Anarkali whose very tragic life is a testament to what some people are asked to sacrifice just because they fell in love.

Anarkali means pomegranate blossom so it was most likely her nickname but I am sure she had a real name and was a real person who lived in the court of the Mughal Emperor Akbar in the 16th century India. Anarkali was not a cheap prostitute to please others because she belonged to the harem of Akbar so she must have been chosen for her beauty and her talents.

All Muslim rulers and their princes kept their harems full of women who were literally kept as slaves because they had no liberty and could not see other men. They were jealously guarded by the armed guards 24 hours of the day and killed any intruder who was not authorized to visit the harem. To make sure that the guards did not have funny ideas that could lead them to some indiscretions on their own, they were castrated so they were eunuchs just like in the forbidden palace in Beijing in the olden days.

These beautiful but helpless women were purchased from the slave traders who kidnapped them from many parts of the world and they were traded as a commodity and not as a human being. The king could never marry them because as Muslims they were only allowed 4 wives so they were kept as concubines .

Now Akbar himself was no stranger to love as the history shows because he married a beautiful Hindu princess called Jodha Bai from Rajputana ( Rajasthan now) and made her the Queen of India and loved her dearly and fulfilled all her wishes but he also kept other wives and a harem full of pretty women like Anarkali to boot. It was the standard practice at that time so many rich people in power did the same and sired numerous illegitimate children from their concubines that created its own problems later on.

But let us focus on Anarkali . She saw the crown Prince Salim and fell in love at once with him as did the prince himself. Anarkali was not just a beautiful woman like any other but she was a great dancer, musician, educated and talented in many arts and calligraphy but she broke the taboo being in the harem of the king so Akbar got very angry with the lovers and forbade any further contact between them so prince Salim rebelled and took a large number of troops sympathetic to his cause to give battle to his father.

The outcome of this rebellion by the prince was a foregone conclusion because the loyal army of Akbar easily defeated the rebels and the unrepentant Salim was brought to his father in chains to face the music so to speak. Akbar was still very angry with his son so ordered him to be blown away by cannon fire so the hapless prince was tied up to a post to face the canon that his father himself lit.

But a General sympathetic to the cause of the prince turned the cannon at the last moment so the ball went in a different direction saving the life of the prince. By this time the anger of the king had abated somewhat and he realized that the prince was after all to be the next king. Perhaps the queen mother was also able to convince him to cut the prince a bit of slack and go easy on him.

But Akbar was still angry with Anarkali who had to be punished. A crown prince could never marry a commoner like her so he ordered her to be buried alive but that was probably just in the movie made in the sixties called Mughal e Azam where it was shown that secretly a tunnel was dug under the tomb to take out Anarkali that way. Indians did not like sad endings in their movies so were relieved when Anarkali escaped her death.

Some say that she was exiled by the King to Lahore where she spent the rest of her life on a small pittance and piety which was indeed a sad ending of such a beautiful girl who was so talented. She was punished for loving the wrong person but the history shows that prince Salim who later became the king never forgot Anarkali and built a nice mausoleum where she is buried in Lahore. People place flowers on her grave and wish all loves are so priceless and exemplary.

 

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Source : Google photo of the grave of Anarkali in Lahore

The grave of Anarkali in Lahore that has Arabic inscriptions identifying it as her grave. The painting below shows she being buried alive by the order of the king .

(The tomb is accessible to the public in Lahore. Anarkali was a legendary favorite in the harem of Emperor Akbar. Apparently she had fallen in love with Akbar’s son Prince Salim . One day Akbar saw her return Salim’s smile and as a punishment she was buried alive in 1599 – Source  Wikipedia)

anarkali

Source : Google photo of a painting depicting the execution of Anarkali

Known for his temper ,the mighty king Akbar quite likely gave the order so that she was executed this way but her place of execution is not known although probably in Agra.

 

There is another tragic story of unrequited love that I write about here called the story of Laila and Majnu.

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Source : Google photo of Laila and Majnu

The Story:

Qays ibn al-Mulawwah fell in love with Layla al-Aamiriya. He soon began composing poems about his love for her, mentioning her name often. His unselfconscious efforts to woo the girl caused some locals to call him “Majnun.” When he asked for her hand in marriage, her father refused because it would be a scandal for Layla to marry someone considered mentally unbalanced. Soon after, Layla was married to another noble and rich merchant belonging to the Thaqif tribe in Ta’if. He was described as a handsome man with reddish complexion whose name was Ward Althaqafi. The Arabs called him Ward, meaning “rose” in Arabic.

When Majnun heard of her marriage, he fled the tribal camp and began wandering the surrounding desert. His family eventually gave up hope for his return and left food for him in the wilderness. He could sometimes be seen reciting poetry to himself or writing in the sand with a stick.

Layla is generally depicted as having moved to a place in Northern Arabia with her husband, where she became ill and eventually died. In some versions, Layla dies of heartbreak from not being able to see her would-be lover. Majnun was later found dead in the wilderness in 688 AD, near Layla’s grave. He had carved three verses of poetry on a rock near the grave, which are the last three verses attributed to him.

“ I pass by these walls, the walls of Layla

  And I kiss this wall and that wall

  It’s not Love of the walls that has enraptured my heart

  But of the One who dwells within them  ”

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Layla visits Majnun in the wilderness; Indian watercolour held by the Bodleian Library  (Source :By Arie m den toom – eigen werk / selft made, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3508955)

Many other minor incidents happened between his madness and his death. Most of his recorded poetry was composed before his descent into madness.

It is a tragic story of undying love much like the later Romeo and Juliet. This type of love is known as “virgin love” because the lovers never marry or consummate their passion. Other famous virgin love stories set in Arabia are the stories of Qays and Lubna, Kuthair and Azza, Marwa and Al Majnoun Al Faransi, and Antara and Abla. This literary motif is common throughout the world, notably in the Muslim literature of South Asia, such as Urdu ghazals.

The story of Layla and Majnun was known in Persia as early as the 9th century. Two well known Persian poets, Rudaki and Baba Taher, both mention the lovers.

Although the story was known in Arabic literature in the 5th century, it was the Persian masterpiece of Nizami Ganjavi that popularized it dramatically in Persian literature. Nizami collected both secular and mystical sources about Majnun and portrayed a vivid picture of the famous lovers. Subsequently, many other Persian poets imitated him and wrote their own versions of the romance. Nizami drew influence from Udhrite love poetry, which is characterized by erotic abandon and attraction to the beloved, often by means of an unfulfilled longing. Other influences include older Persian epics, such as Vāmiq u ‘Adhrā, written in the 11th century, which covers a similar topic of a virgin and her passionate lover; the latter having to go through many trials to be with his love.

In his adaptation, the young lovers become acquainted at school and fell desperately in love. However, they could not see each other due to a family feud, and Layla’s family arranged for her to marry another man. According to Dr. Rudolf Gelpke, “Many later poets have imitated Nizami’s work, even if they could not equal and certainly not surpass it; Persians, Turks, Indians, to name only the most important ones. The Persian scholar Hekmat has listed no less than forty Persians and thirteen Turkish versions of Layli and Majnun.” According to Vahid Dastgerdi, “If one would search all existing libraries, one would probably find more than 1000 versions of Layli and Majnun.”

In his statistical survey of famous Persian romances, Ḥasan Ḏulfaqāri enumerates 59 ‘imitations’ (naẓiras) of Layla and Majnun as the most popular romance in the Iranian world, followed by 51 versions of Ḵosrow o Širin, 22 variants of Yusuf o Zuleikha and 16 versions of Vāmiq u ʿAḏhrā.   ( Source : Wikipedia )

There are many such stories of unrequited love found in many countries that lovers still shed their tears upon like that of Anarkali  or Romeo and Juliet. I have seen the house of Juliet in Verona , Italy but not the grave of Anarkali in Lahore.

 

Source : Google photo of the house and tomb of Juliet in Verona, Italy

What makes these stories remarkable and eternal is the tragedy that befell the lovers that destroyed them and set an example of how great their sacrifice was and how steadfast they were in their love for each other. Can you imagine the agony of a young and beautiful girl being buried alive just because she was in love? Can you feel her pain centuries later?

They set the bar for love very high indeed.

 

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International students

International students

Synopsis: Studying in prestigious universities abroad remains a dream of many students because only a few get admitted while others get discouraged due to high cost. I look at the growth of private universities that are being run as business that cater to the rich but leave behind many brilliant students who just can’t afford the cost.

international_students

Source: Google photo

Now we see more and more students who study abroad for their higher education giving rise to a multi-billion dollar growth in the education sector. Some universities are so sought after that they reap huge benefits in revenues from foreign students and advertise constantly to lure more students to their campus while others simply open up new campuses overseas that offer the same curriculum or tie up with other universities in the home countries of the students with exchange programs or credit to courses.

This has made it easier for the foreign students to attend the universities of higher education in their own countries where they set up campuses or have inter university tie ups.

Here in the Philippines I have known that the Cornell University in the USA offered its students to do his research for dissertation in the Philippines because of such tie ups with the university here and a friend of mine brought students from the Philippines to his university in the USA to earn some credits in some courses through such exchange programs.

When I was a graduate student in California a long time ago, I was frequently asked by the Americans if I was an exchange student and were very surprised when I said that no one was exchanged for me. I was on my own and worked part-time to meet my expenses.

This trend of studying abroad has picked up considerably lately because the universities actively seek foreign students who bring in huge revenues to them and help the universities an increase in their prestige, popularity and rankings. Not all the foreign students return home after their graduation so many opt for staying; getting a residency permit that eventually may lead to their acceptance as citizens.

They get jobs, marry and settle down in their new country but there are many who return home and find jobs there. I did not return home after my graduation from California University but I did not stay there either because I opted for the international life I chose and enjoyed.

I want to focus today on why so many young people choose to go abroad. I also want to look at the means of getting there that has changed dramatically since I was a student so long ago.

During my time there were only very limited options available to poor students like me. One was to seek a scholarship from a foreign university that paid for all or most of the expenses including the airfare or sea fare. The second option was to go as independent using own resources that was a much harder option because the cost of such education was high and beyond reach of poor students or their families.

There was a third option that I chose because I was lucky to be chosen as a volunteer to work in Vietnam in an agricultural team that paid me a small stipend that I saved meticulously for two years that then enabled me to go for higher studies in California. The part-time job there helped meet my expenses so I graduated with 50 dollars still in my pocket and a bright future in Algeria but you can say that I was lucky and daring.

To be jobless and money less after graduation in America is a very difficult proposition for a foreign student in there because there is absolutely no one to help you out even temporarily and there is no family to support you like back home. So many foreign students who intend to stay there after graduation start looking for jobs frantically even before graduation and apply for the resident permit that allows them to work. In other countries like Australia, they make it easier for the foreign student to get the necessary permits so that they can stay and work and eventually get the citizenship because they want new graduates who have brought in new skills that the country needs.

When I was young, our parents could not afford to pay for my foreign education so I had to find a way to do it on my own and I suppose it was true of most families so going abroad for studies was a big deal in those days. Only those who got scholarships could do it but such people were few in numbers.

Now the economic situation has improved dramatically for the ordinary middle class in many countries like China and India so many families now can afford to send their children abroad by saving for such huge expenses for a long time.

The question to ask is why students opt to go for higher studies abroad in the first place when there are many good universities at home? The answer is the prestige of such education that gets them jobs easily and the opportunity to settle in a new country where they can earn more and live the life with some measure of prosperity. That seems to be the ultimate goal of higher education for most if not all people.

People do not get education just because they want to be educated but they do it to learn some marketable skills that are in great demand somewhere with good pay and a promise for a better life than at home.

The older generation of our parents and grandparents was content to find a job in their home country and raise their family on meager salaries because they could not imagine sending their children abroad. It was simply out of the question. They expected their children to get a good education and find a job near them just like everyone else and be happy with the mediocre life of a small town person with small salary because going abroad was for the rich people and not the ordinary poor folks.

The next generation that came along during the era of rapid technological advance and the age of internet, free Skype and instant messaging service worldwide has now become more audacious than the previous generation and seeks opportunities on-line and finds them.

You can get admitted to a good university somewhere on-line or find a job on-line and get interviewed on line through Skype. You can apply for scholarships on line and can search the internet for all the scholarships available worldwide to seek the one you want. You can get the response also on line and quickly. This kind of advancement in technology was unheard of during the previous generation that has allowed many young people to find ways and means to go abroad and study in a school of their choice.

I did it in the old-fashioned way before the era of internet and Skype so it was considered unusual by many at that time but it is no longer unusual anymore. Many are going and many more are falling in line to go by seeking work visas in the US because they have the education and skills that are in demand there although there has been some backlash now.

How the foreign students are treated abroad?  

Now I come to the sticky part of this issue when I see that some Indian students in Melbourne have been attacked by the local thugs who see them as undesirable aliens who must be beaten up because they are of dark skin etc. so racism is involved. In other countries the far right local politicians are saying that these foreign students of dark skins are taking away jobs from the locals and want to settle down instead of going back to where they came from etc. that encourages such attacks on them by local thugs. This sort of thing is not widespread but it gets headlines back home making other aspirants to think twice before going abroad.

An ancient tradition:

Students going abroad for studies they could not get at home is an ancient tradition dating back thousands of years. The University of Taxila and Nalanda in India had many foreign students thousands of  years ago. There was no visa and passport requirement in those days. Students just appeared at the universities and were admitted, housed and fed and taken care of by the sponsors who were the kings and queens or other rich people who saw the merit in doing so. The student could stay for many years if he so desired and find employment easily later. Many returned home to become teachers themselves. The destruction of such centers of advanced learning in the hands of Muslims is another story that is out of the scope of this blog here.

Hiuen Tsang came to India from China on foot crossing the mighty Himalayas to study at Nalanda in the 7th century such was the fame of Nalanda that reached China. Taxila was even older than Nalanda meaning before Christ. They had massive libraries of hand written books and scrolls in parchment or on palm leaves that were systematically burned by the fanatic hordes of Muslims who burned the universities to the ground but it shined as a center of learning for a very long time before its demise.

The university at Timbuktu in Mali was also very famous where many students from around the world attended long ago but nothing remains now except some parchments of their once massive library that is slowly crumbling to dust.

The modern era:

We now come to the modern age of learning when we have seen a rise in the number of centers of higher learning everywhere phenomenally in the last century first due to endowments making land grant colleges possible in the United States that has served as a model for other countries to do the same. We have seen the rise in the numbers of private universities everywhere that are run purely as business where students are trained in skills in demand but where the students are required to pay high fees for their education.

The high cost of education in some countries now makes students indebted because they take student loans they pay back for years to come. Some female students get into prostitution to earn to pay for their education but the foreign students are spared because either they have sponsors or financial assistance from the university. I was denied financial assistance by my college because they did not believe my argument that I saved 600 dollars in my bank account to pay for my return ticket to India.

We have seen a rise in the colleges and universities that are funded by the religious institutions like Vatican or other religions thus we have the Benares Hindu University or the Aligarh Muslim University in India, Catholic universities in the Philippines and the United States where the religion is emphasized.

But long ago the tradition of non-denominational centers of learning based on pure knowledge in science, mathematics, astrology, logic, astronomy, economics and many such subjects was born in India that welcomed anyone irrespective of caste, religion, race or ethnicity so students came from  everywhere to learn from the masters there.

Now many see higher education as a business to make money so they invest in massive buildings, staff and laboratories and pay good salaries to all staff. Students are housed in modern dormitories and have all the facilities to live on campus nicely and get the education they want. They just have to pay the price that rules out poor students who have to go elsewhere.

The advances in technology now allows a professor to teach a class through Skype in another country or another place far away and the students now go to their classes carrying laptop computers that they use for instant searches of reference materials they need.

However, for most of the poorer countries where they lag behind in the development and use of such technologies, students have to contend with very limited resources available to them. I see it here in the Philippines where the libraries are so poorly stocked of books they are supposed to keep that students borrow the book to photocopy at great expense adding to the financial burden on their parents.

In numerous countries worldwide, the dream of a poor student to get higher education just remains a dream while for some, getting any sort of education especially for girls remains a goal that they find hard to achieve. I have written about Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan who is fighting hard for the education of all girls everywhere but it is an uphill battle for many.

I envy the countries in Europe where higher education is guaranteed by the state to anyone who wants it, where all expenses are paid by their government and where everybody is encouraged to be educated. The governments there invest heavily in the education sector by subsidizing everything or pay for everything so that everybody has a chance to get education. But in countries where education is a business, students get into serious debt problem as a consequence.

I see the future not in rosy terms for those less fortunate than others who also want to go abroad for studies because of high cost and a lack of sponsorship so what is the alternative? The education should not create the elite class that then reaps all the benefits leaving behind the vast majority that ends up just dreaming.

Is that the only way a country makes progress?

 

Note :  My blogs are also available in French, Spanish, German and Japanese  languages at the following links as well as my biography:

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Am I your servant?

injured-woman-leaning-sadly-on-wooden-wall_3cecdc42-28ba-11e7-a28f-c563b2540923

Source : Google photo of a mistreated person

Synopsis: The term servant taken literally can be demeaning and derogatory to any human being. I look at the master servant relationship under different situations and expose its malevolent nature in this blog.

 

We humans have always demanded others to serve us to meet our daily needs. How we demand has changed over the centuries but the servant master relationship still exists in other forms that I will discuss in this blog today.

The Romans and the Egyptian rulers demanded service from slaves who had no rights of their own and existed only to serve their masters and were often punished with death if the master was not pleased with their service. Young and pretty slave women were kept only to serve the sexual desires of their masters and often mistreated. Romans kept thousands of slaves to build their infrastructure, stadia and aqua ducts etc. and to power their galley ships during the war and chained them to their seats. The poor slaves drowned if the ships went down.

Cleopatra used her slaves to taste her food to see if it was poisoned so many died doing so .The inglorious history of mankind is replete with such abuse of servants by their masters. No one could protest because the slaves as servants had no rights of their own and could be treated anyway the master felt like.

We now come to the modern time and see how this servant master relationship has developed for the better or has it remained the same as before albeit in a different form?

Almost daily we read or hear about the maids being raped or physically mistreated by their masters in the Middle Eastern countries and elsewhere just because they can do it with impunity but once in a while a maid fights back. There was a 16-year-old girl who stabbed and killed her employer in a Middle Eastern country when he tried to rape her. It was a case of self-defense but the poor girl was arrested  and given a harsh punishment until a great clamor for her release arose in her home country so finally under tremendous international pressure, she was released to return home.

We always hear of such physical abuse of poor hapless women who only want to earn their honest wages and escape the poverty back home but end up getting raped, beaten and even tortured by their employers with no recourse to their ill-treatment. Men who work in the construction jobs there also tell us how badly they are treated by their employers who force them to live like animals in overcrowded   hostels under appalling conditions violating all the labor codes as promulgated by the ILO.  Repeated complaints to their government serves very little purpose as they make fake promises to improve the conditions of workers but in reality nothing changes.

Someone told me that his brother’s wife in Delhi left her maid locked in her apartment for days or weeks while she went out-of-town which was so shocking to me that I was speechless for a while. How can anyone treat a maid so heartlessly? Doesn’t she have any rights? I have seen the same thing here in our neighborhood where the employers lock their house for the day so their poor maid sits on the sidewalk the whole day waiting for them to return. Doesn’t she need to eat or go to the bathroom or rest?

One movie actress used hot iron on her maid that burned her badly just because she was angry with the maid for some reason. She was rich and had lawyers who got her out of the legal problems but we hear of such cases again and again because of its tabloid nature and wonder how people still behave like the Romans after all these centuries.

In India a menial servant who cleans your house and polishes your boots is called Naukar. A naukar means a servant but in a derogatory sense because he is just a lowly servant who is prone to be abused by his master. The British took the meaning of a servant to a new level of deprecation because they expected a servant to polish their shoes, tie their shoe laces and bring them cold drinks at any hour of the day. A naukar brought to his master his hookah that he prepared meticulously with glowing charcoal and tobacco and even gave his master a massage when demanded.

So the word naukar has stayed in the Indian vocabulary even today because people will ask you if you have found a naukari  meaning a job. When I say that I am no one’s naukar , they say that of course we all are naukars because we serve as servants. Who are the elected officials? Aren’t they called public servants?

This is because they do not have a better word to replace the derogatory word naukar ,so they keep on using it. I can suggest a better word like employee or a contract worker or a professional or even a consultant which sounds better than naukar  but people still use them due to their colonial mentality developed during the long British Raj. It is like a freed slave who is still smarting from his past status and has a hard time coming to terms with his new one.

Once I saw an Algerian movie in Algeria that showed how the poor Algerian women working in the car assembly plant of Renault in France were harassed sexually, mentally and psychologically daily by their supervisors who were white until one day a girl so abused fought back. It galvanized other workers in the factory who then collectively demanded the removal or suspension of the abusive supervisor who had the power to fire anyone he did not like and who complained. I do not remember finally what happened to the girl but I do remember how the Algerians reacted so angrily to this sort of abuse that goes on even today in France.

Once I saw a store keeper in Washington, D.C. shout and yell at his Ethiopian employee in front of me and was terribly shocked at this behavior. The Ethiopian gentleman looked so crestfallen and humiliated that I felt very sorry for him but could do nothing except to walk out in disgust. No one should treat another person this way. It is an abuse of power over a helpless person just like that Algerian girl in the Renault factory.

How many times you have seen in the Hollywood movies the boss asking his secretary to bring him coffee right away with two sugar cubes or buy roses for his mistress? The poor girl is a secretary and not his personal servant at his beck and call all the time. If she complains then she is fired so the poor girl does what the abusive boss asks of her that may even include sex on the sly.

There is a classic story of such abuse in India that is too tempting to overlook so I will mention it here. There was a medical student who was very smart and got good grades in most of her subjects except in one where her teacher demanded sexual favors from her in order to give her good grades.

On the day of the practical exam when an external examiner came to give her a test in her troubled subject, she broke into tears in his presence. The examiner sensing something was wrong asked her abusive teacher to leave the room so that he could learn from the girl what was wrong. The poor girl told him everything and said that this particular teacher was harassing many other girls as well. The examiner was very sympathetic toward the girl and gave her high marks because he found out that the girl was very smart and knew her subject well.

So there are all kinds of situations where an employer abuses his employee or a teacher abuses his students or a housewife locks up her maid in her apartment for days while she goes out-of-town.

Here in the Philippines, I have noticed how poorly people treat their hired helps be they maids or gardeners or grass cutters. They work very hard under the sun but are not given even a glass of cold water or something to eat and rest. They never invite the laborers, masons and carpenters to their house blessing ceremony so our workers were very surprised when we did so and were very happy. My wife takes care of our hired help by giving them food and water because she is a very kind-hearted lady who treats everybody well.

I was once told by an American who took wedding photos how badly he was treated by the rich people who ordered him around like a menial servant and even got angry when they did not like the photos he took. They never offered him food and drinks so now I know that such poor treatments of human beings are more common than one can imagine.

We now see that even today the meaning of servant is taken literally by many who see them as nothing more than uneducated poor fellows who should be grateful for the pittance people throw at them for the services rendered but it is an obsolete and very degenerative mentality that is reprehensible in anyone let alone someone who should know better.

When my wife offered a hot cup of freshly made tea to the poor and shivering maid in India, she was laughed at by the women who said that she was spoiling the maid. They gave them lukewarm left over tea only. They also ridiculed me for giving a beggar five Rupees saying that I was spoiling them. But India still suffers from the colonial mentality so people feel that now they have become the masters, they should treat the servants the same way the British did. May be it is called the reverse psychology but wrong just the same.

The question to ask here is how to educate people so that they can learn to treat other human beings well so that they feel happy. It is a well-known fact that people work harder and become loyal when they are well treated, well paid and looked after than those who are not.

In Japan a factory worker in an assembly plant for cars or other things has the right to stop the assembly if he notices something wrong so the supervisors come over quickly to find out what is wrong, fix the problem so that the assembly can start again. It prevents the shoddy practices and improves the overall quality of cars or other things being assembled so it is no wonder that the Japanese cars are known for their high quality.

They also listen to workers in meetings who may offer new ways to make the product better and are given rewards if their proposals are implemented. But a worker who has no voice and cannot take part in the decision-making process in the plant feels just like a cog in the machine that is heartless. When  a worker in a Firestone tire plant in the US complained of the poor quality of tires being manufactured, he was summarily dismissed instead of taking his advice to correct the problem and make better quality tires.

So there is a tendency to ignore the employees who may have bright ideas because the employers are afraid of such employees. Who knows what other bright ideas they may come up with like unionizing the workers for better pay and work conditions or better health care or pension plans? The employers tend to come down hard on such workers or choose to ignore them.

They used to hire the goons called the Pinkerton who beat up workers who demanded better pay and good working conditions and tried to unionize to make their demands collective.

I am very disappointed in those who still treat a human being this way today and continue to exploit them due to their own greed and selfishness. Equal treatment for all, better gender equality, better working conditions, better healthcare and pension benefits, better and humane treatment of all can dramatically improve the economic health of any company so it is in their own interest to do so.

A happy person is a hardworking and a loyal worker but he is not your servant. He is certainly not your naukar.

 

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Means of oppression called racial profiling

Synopsis : If you are a non white person then you may have been racially profiled in some places and treated unfairly. This blog throws some light on this issue that is like a cancer slowly spreading through the humanity.

Means of oppression called racial profiling

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Source: Google photo of racial profiling

Almost every day we read or hear of police injustice done to common and innocent citizens going about their own business. The most recent one happened in a Starbucks coffee shop somewhere when two black gentlemen were meeting someone to discuss something important but someone called the police who came promptly and arrested them without cause, hauled them to jail on imaginary charges ,finger printed them ,photographed them and locked them up just because they were black. They were released next day when the prosecutor declined to prosecute them because they had not committed any crime.

This sort of thing happens all the time to the people of color but not very often to the whites in America where the policemen and the white population show a general mistrust of black and other people of color because of deep racial prejudice against them.

One gentleman was trying to look for his keys to enter his house in the evening but could not find the key easily due to the dim light. A neighbor called the police right away saying that there is a suspicious character next door who may be a burglar trying to enter a house so the police came and arrested the gentleman without asking questions, hauled him to jail and photographed him and finger printed to create the police record based on false charges because the gentleman was just trying to find the key to enter his house. He happened to be black and  a distinguished professor.

There are thousands of such arrests of innocent people who mind their own business but it all happens just the same due to what is called racial profiling. If you belong to a non-white race then automatically you are under suspicion in many countries so the whites call the police right away even if there is no real cause for doing so.

Aren’t all the blacks crime prone and aren’t all the Mexicans rapists and illegals? The common wrong  perception and  such negative feelings toward the people of color is so widespread that it makes you wonder why it is so and what such innocent people have done to earn this reputation.

The racial profiling is widespread in many countries including Australia where I was singled out at the Canberra airport for testing if I had any trace of explosives in my hand. The agent asked me to read the rules aloud thinking that I did not speak English and then scanned me from top to bottom. One woman showed up very quickly to ask if I needed assistance because she thought automatically that I did not speak English but disappeared when I said that no such assistance was needed. The agent of course did not find what he was looking for and was surprised that I was fluent in English as if only the whites spoke it well.

This procedure was repeated in Sydney airport confirming my belief that I was being racially profiled because I was of dark skin therefore a suspect from their point of view. If you have thick beard and wear a turban or wear traditional native dress of your country then the alarm bells start pinging furiously and people start getting nervous around you and ask all sorts of questions, scan your body, luggage and check your passport and the visa page to see if you an illegal or a wanted person somewhere.

I have a friend who has thick beard so he is singled out every time he visits the United States due to this racial profiling. It is illegal, immoral and shows naked racism in airports or on the streets practiced by the policemen or others but it goes on unabated because now they have elected a person who sees nothing wrong in such high-handed tactics of the police.

I have a lot of respect for Obama because he did what no black person had ever done but he too failed to teach the policemen that we are all equal under the law and racial profiling is illegal, immoral and plain racist. He could have given orders to all law enforcement people to behave justly toward everybody but he didn’t so he gets a poor mark on this score. Jimmy Carter was also a great president but he too failed in this respect.

In many countries, racial profiling is accepted as quite normal and the policemen are given directives to do so to catch the few who may have committed a crime somewhere or are perhaps thinking of doing so. Thus the general perception is created that if you are not white then you must be scanned, questioned and thoroughly checked even if you happen to be the prime Minister of Malaysia. He was asked to remove his shoes at some airport to check if he was hiding something there. This created a huge diplomatic uproar that took a lot of apologies from the offenders to cool things down.

I see everywhere an increase in this sort of offensive behavior at the airports by the security people who say that they are simply following orders that come down from their superiors but who tells a stewardess to act aggressively toward a passenger who simply got into a wrong seat? One such passenger was forcibly knocked down by the police and handcuffed and removed from the plane because the stewardess asked them to do so.

We live in an era of increased suspicion, general mistrust of everybody who does not fit the profile of a gentleman so we see this sort of ill-treatment of people without cause just because they are being racially profiled by biased people. This bias is not limited to the police and the airport security people but is found in the general population as well.

Just enter a shop somewhere to look at things and you will be followed by store keepers through security cameras and by store guards constantly until you leave because you are a suspect due to your dark skin or clothes you wear or even your accent. One woman told Oprah in a Swiss shop that she could not probably afford the bag she was looking at so she could show her a cheaper one. Obviously she did not know who Oprah was so here was a clear case of racial profiling of a very well-known and loved person. If it happens to Oprah then it can happen to anyone and it does happen to ordinary people.

There is another case that comes to my mind that shows how racial profiling has gone out of control in some countries. There was an old Indian gentleman who was visiting his son in the United States and was out to take his morning walk when a policeman suddenly appeared and asked for his papers. The gentleman did not understand the accent or the drawl of the policeman because he was from India and was not used to American drawl. It all went downhill from there. The policeman wrestled him to the ground for “resisting arrest” so the old man suffered severe injuries and had to be rushed to some clinic for first aid.

Over the years I have watched a deterioration of general courtesy and overall degradation of what should have been normal human behaviors toward anyone. Now it is based on your skin color and the way you dress and talk.

One German fellow we met in Haiti told us that once he was in Texas sitting in a park and looking at the Time magazine that he ripped a few pages off of that he was interested in and was very surprised when a policeman suddenly appeared and arrested him for ripping pages of a magazine. Someone had called the police because obviously the Time magazine was an American icon that must not be ripped. Don’t they have better things to do than this?

Now more people travel as tourists but ask them what they have to do to get a simple tourist visa and they will tell you about their horrendous experience in consulates that require tons of documents, bank statements and even marriage certificates, exorbitant visa fees, a very lengthy processing period even for a short 10 day visa and non-refundable visa fee if the visa is denied for any reason. It makes you wonder if it is really worth it to visit such countries that are so tourist unfriendly to begin with just because of racial profiling at the consulates.

May be the era of terrorism we live in has something to do with it. The only problem is that the people with bad intentions of causing harm to others due to their political beliefs right or wrong usually get through all the scanners and body checks using fake passports or other such documents but the general public suffers needlessly that wants to travel and enjoying as a tourist. At some airports they even ask to see how much money you have on you if you do not have the right skin color or the right passport.

The world as we know has shrunk in distance due to jet travel and through new advances in technology that connects you to any part of the world instantly free of charge but it has failed to improve the human interaction I am writing about because of government policies that discriminate people who fall into the category of suspects due to their race, skin color or ethnicity. Travel was supposed to be enjoyable but not anymore.

Now a plane ride is just a means to get somewhere. You can’t complain about tight seats and people packed like sardines on long flights, where the food offered is poor and tasteless, where the stewardesses are rude and impolite .Then there are those waiting to process you through their security at the airports, pat you aggressively and ask all sorts of questions like why are you here ? How much money you have? Have you made a hotel reservation and do you know someone here? If the woman with you is your wife then show us the marriage certificate etc.

It is all the more surprising to encounter such behavior based on racial profiling because the countries that practically depend on their tourist dollars to prop up their economy are the ones that show the unfriendliness as if to say that they want your money but not you. There are millions of people employed in the tourism industry who suffer if the tourists stop coming for some reason. The hotels remain empty, the beaches deserted and the tourist trinket sellers sit and wait in vain so why not make the country’s tourist friendly? Does money have any particular color or is it the green color preferred over all others and why?

I always blame the governments for creating the problems in the first place so they are also responsible for solving them. Take for example the question of reciprocity of visas between any two countries. If your country requires visa and a stiff visa fee then my country should also do the same for you. I only know that India has a policy of strict reciprocity. If my country gives you free visa upon arrival then your country should do the same because such arrangements should be reciprocal in nature. But in reality we find that such reciprocity is non-existent between many countries. It is quite unfair and illogical but the world is unfair and imperfect so people suffer.

I therefore come to the conclusion that racial profiling is inhuman, unjust and very unfair so all people need to wake up and realize that we need to be most of all fair in treatment of others who are not like us and the built-in bias based on race and ethnicity or accent is an outdated concept that needs to be gotten rid of so that the world becomes a better place for everybody and not just for some people with right skin color, right passport and right color of money.

Sometime I get depressed just to think about such people who still feel that they are better than others. We are in the year 2018 and not 1700s  but have we moved in the right direction since then?

 

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Learn loyalty from dogs

Synopsis : Loyalty is a wonderful word but difficult to find in anyone these days. It is given voluntarily and cannot be demanded using threats or intimidation so the dog called Hachiko shows us the way to show loyalty at the cost of his life.

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Source : Google photo of Hachiko the dog at the Shibuya station,Tokyo

There was a man who took the train every day at the Shibuya station in Tokyo while his dog waited for him the whole day at the station for him to return in the evening and showed great delight when he returned. Together they went away happily. People got used to seeing the gentleman who was a professor and his dog at the station every day and often greeted him and his dog.

One day the gentleman failed to return for some reason while the dog patiently waited for him but the evening came and then the night but he did not return. The dog waited there day after day and night after night for his master, whimpered and cried due to hunger and grief but would not budge and would not take any food from anyone.

People were amazed at the extreme loyalty of the dog to his master but could not help the dog in any way except to watch him slowly die of hunger. The news of the loyalty of the dog spread through the media and there arose a clamor for the dog to be remembered in a special way so money was collected and a beautiful statue of the dog was erected in front of the Shibuya station that you can see today.

We have all heard of such loyalty in dogs and admire but it is very hard to find such loyalty in human beings. I have seen photos of dogs lying on the graves of their masters and shedding tears and refusing to eat or move away until they died but can you imagine any human being doing so? Can you imagine anyone not eating and dying doing so out of loyalty and grief?

The mafia people ask for absolute loyalty to them and punish those disloyal with death but that is not true loyalty because it is demanded with the consequence of violence so the fear is involved. Now some politicians are doing the same with threats and consequences just like the mafia people but it is not loyalty.

Loyalty that is due to love and faithfulness like that of a dog is true loyalty because it is given out of own volition and not because of threats.

Kings and tyrants, despots and power-hungry people demand loyalty which is grudgingly given because people are afraid. How many people give their loyalty to someone whom they privately despise yet are afraid to admit? How many people just wait for their turn to take revenge on someone who threatens them every day with punishment for disloyalty?

Indira Gandhi was gunned down by her own body guards who were Sikhs and who hated her for her decision to attack the terrorists hiding in the Golden temple of Amritsar. Anwar Sadat was killed by the Islamists who hated him for making peace with Israel and Hitler was attacked by numerous people because they knew that he was destroying Germany but his luck was with him every time so he survived only to kill himself when there was no other choice left to him.

So everyone demands loyalty. Spouses demand it from each other, families demand it of their members, employers demand it from their employees, politicians demand it from their underlings and people who are illegitimate in holding power demand it from their staff and inner circle. It seems that everyone demands loyalty but few get it.

Wives cheat on their husbands, husbands cheat on their wives, brothers cheat their own brothers and sisters out of inheritance and body guards kill their masters due to political reasons so it seems that loyalty is in short supply.

We have faced the problem of disloyalty of our maids here for over thirty years who have stolen money or things or have quit when we were against their immoral behaviors. None in 30 years had shown an iota of loyalty for their employment and the care and concern we showed them. I very much doubt if loyalty was a part of their vocabulary or they knew the meaning of it. Certainly they never practiced it. We do not miss such people when they leave and disappear for good.

But an animal knows the meaning of loyalty and will die for you to save you from harm. Dogs are known to carry an infant in their mouth out of a burning building at the risk of their own life but can any person be counted upon to do the same? I know that the firefighters risk their lives daily to save people from burning buildings but it is not loyalty that drives them to do so. It is just a part of their job albeit a risky one.

The army demands absolute loyalty from soldiers and instructs that no wounded soldier in the battle field should be left behind but that is not loyalty but due to the fear that a captured soldier may spill secrets under torture that may jeopardize the army operations. The soldiers are just pawns in the games the governments play and often you hear of terrible conditions under which the wounded soldiers are treated back home.

The Vietnam War veterans returned home only to find a life of drugs, abandonment and homelessness because there was no care or concern for their sacrifices from anyone. Some were despised for going to fight in Vietnam while others were ignored. Their wives showed no loyalty and often ran away with someone else. A war memorial was built at a great cost in Washington, D.C. but the returned veterans were not cared for the way they should have been.  The cheap medals pinned on them did not serve their medical and other needs.

Have you seen the photo of a crane that flies thousands of kilometers every year to return to its mate who is injured and cannot fly away? That is loyalty. Have you seen the photo of a man carrying his very old parents in baskets hung from a bamboo pole on his shoulder and walking from Myanmar to safety in Bangladesh? That is loyalty and very rare. It makes international news because it is so rare to see such loyalty in human beings. It will not make news if it was common.

When loyalty comes out of love for a person the way a dog loves his master, it has more meaning therefore love is the reason why people show loyalty but when there is no love then there is no loyalty. I think love is the fundamental reason for any relationship between two people but this love is very conditional.

You can’t love your parents who are very abusive toward you, ill-treat you and do not feed you properly. You can’t love your siblings if they are mean and selfish toward you. You can’t love your relatives who take advantage of you and scorn you when they do not get what they want from you. You can’t love a narcissistic person who is toxic and takes advantage of you using the word friend liberally. Between such people there can be no loyalty ever.

So loyalty is earned because it is so conditional. If all the conditions are met then a loyalty develops but not so with a dog. A dog loves his master unconditionally to even death as shown in that case mentioned earlier. He pays back in loyalty and love for the care he receives.

During the British Raj in India a curious loyalty developed among the foot soldiers who served in the British Army. It was called the loyalty to salt. It comes from the Middle East tribal culture where someone who has eaten your salt can’t go against you. The Indian soldiers used the same reason for not taking up arms against their oppressors although some 60000 left their service and joined the Indian national Army of Bose to fight for the independence. Obviously not all soldiers believed in Salt. It is quite an outdated concept now.

Bose himself tried to convince the Indian prisoners in Germany to come and join his army to fight the British in India but many refused due to the loyalty of the salt although several thousand of them were willing to join the INA. Hitler could not repatriate a large number of soldiers by land through enemy territories so that plan fell apart.

We often hear the word doglike devotion but why the dogs have such devotion and loyalty while we fall short of emulating them? It is because devotion, love and loyalty are all conditional. It is also conditional in dogs because a master who ill-treats his dog and feeds it poorly will not be loved by the dog and may even get bitten as recompense. The dog depends on his master for his food and care but a dog is devoted and loyal to a child without conditions because the dog knows that the child must be protected at all times.

His loyalty for the child comes from a love the dog develops for the child because the child plays with him and may even steal food to give to the dog when the master does not.

Even wild animals are known to show love and loyalty to someone who cared for them when they were orphans. The movie Born free showed it where the lions raised as cubs by a compassionate man never forgot him. The same thing happened when the wild elephants came to the bedside of a dying man who had raised them with love and great compassion in his orphanage and released them in the forest later. They had not forgotten him and showed love and loyalty when they knew he was dying so came to pay their last respect. How they knew is unknown.

Now the loyalty due to salt is as rare as a hen’s tooth. People quit their jobs if they have a better opportunity somewhere else or due to abusive employers or many other reasons. There is no longer the lifelong employment to serve only one employer. The employers are also edgy and often fire employees for sundry reasons so the lifelong loyalty does not develop here. The economic health of the corporation or the office that employs you determines the hiring and firing of employees so a longtime loyal relationship does not develop. In Japan the companies often demanded some sacrifices from their long time employees to take some pay cut during hard times but now people are not so willing. An educated and highly skilled person does not feel the need to be employed for life under one employer because he can get another job with better pay somewhere else.

But when people are not very well-educated and have only limited skills tend to stick to the job they have because they have few other options. It is not due to their loyalty but because they have no other option.

So I return to the issue of loyalty and the doglike devotion that Hachiko showed and wonder how such loyalty can be found in us. Can we really learn something from dogs that we can’t learn from each other?

I will conclude here that we all need to treat others and animals we keep fairly and with love and compassion without ever asking for a reward. Such rewards come in spades when least expected.

 

Note :  My blogs are also available in French, Spanish, German and Japanese  languages at the following links as well as my biography:

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Bliss and curse of marriage

Dealing With Abuse

Source : Google photo of curse of marriage

Synopsis : The marriage can be a bliss or a curse depending on the partners and how they cope with day-to-day challenges of marriage that may be numerous. If they love each other and are determined to overcome all difficulties, the marriage can be a bliss but otherwise it can be a curse. The blog looks at the issue of marriage critically.

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Source : Google photo of bliss of marriage

People often think about marriage at a certain age. Perhaps women think of it earlier than men because their biology is different from men and they become physically mature earlier than men. But the maturity that is more important is the mental, emotional and psychological maturity that is needed to make a rational decision about choosing a mate who may be for life so it is not an easy decision to make for anyone.

People who rush into marriage only learn to their regret the wrong choice they often make and live the consequence. I will not write about those who do not marry but live with their mates and say that they are called the liberated women who do not believe in matrimony. They say that marriage is an outdated concept that is no longer valid in the modern world. I agree to disagree with them so I will put forward my own thoughts on this subject in the most cogent way possible. This is not to change the mind of anyone but to present a different perspective on the subject.

From time immemorial, man has sought his mate and his society’s approval in the choice through the act of marriage. Believe it or not, man is a social animal and cannot do away with the society and its rules. Some societies are more orthodox in their approach to morality and immorality but by and large all societies are run by a set of rules that are enforced communally to ensure the continuation of certain values they hold dear. This is also true of primitive societies.

Marriage therefore becomes a communal affair and everyone wants to participate in the joyous celebration of a marriage that may last several days. More than the union between a man and a woman, it brings two families together. There are several types of marriage depending on the class of the people. In high society, a marriage is often used as a tool to consolidate power and business so less importance is given to the feelings of the couple in question. Jalaluddin Mohamed , the great Moghul ruler called Akbar married Jodha Bai who was a Hindu princess from Rajputana so that war could be avoided.

There was no love between them at first but later she became his most favored wife. This type of marriage was and still is practiced by the European aristocracy resulting in the mixing of blood of various royal lines. Most of the royal houses there are interlinked through marriage but these marriages were the result of necessary political alignments and not due to the alignment of the hearts of the young princes and princesses.

So what I write about is not about the marriages of political alignment of the aristocracy that still exists but rather about the common man and woman in every society. This happens in two ways. One is the traditional arranged marriage that is still practiced in many countries like in India and the nontraditional marriage in many countries where men and women are free to choose their mates through courtship with or without chaperons. In India such marriage are called love marriages and are frowned upon. The traditional arranged marriage has nothing to do with love although many women claim that love blossoms later in their marriage.

In such traditions, the responsibility of getting the daughter or son married rests entirely with the parents or guardians. Once a suitable girl or a boy is found, a thorough background check is made about the boy’s character ,habits etc but more importantly how much he earns and how good is his job. The family he comes from may be of secondary importance. The boy’s family then scrutinizes the girl thoroughly to determine if she is pretty and has good moral character. She of course needs to be a virgin although her possible mate may escape such scrutiny.

A tentative consent from both parties is then sought and the two families then get down to the serious business of how much dowry the father of the daughter must pay, what are the other expenses, nature and the kind of gifts expected from both sides etc. Once these deliberations are complete, a priest is called to determine the most auspicious day and time for the marriage and all other preparations then get started. This is still the practice among the Hindus. A “love marriage “ is discouraged by the tradition so the girl may not have a boy friend or the boy a girlfriend although this system is under scrutiny and is slowly changing as more and more young people decide for themselves who they want as their lifelong partner.

Often someone makes a childhood promise to his best friend that if they have a son and a daughter, they will arrange such marriages between two families without asking the girl or the boy at all. I know a case where a fellow I knew found his love in a South Indian woman and decided to get married but his father strongly disapproved the marriage saying that he had given his word to his best friend that his daughter will be the bride. He then disowned his son and refused to attend his marriage because he felt that he had lost his face. The couple married and moved to the United States and live there happily. This was a classic case of “love marriage”.

Now I will mention also a classic case of arranged marriage. I knew a boy who was one year junior to me in college , smart and good-looking. He found a good job after graduation and married a woman through arranged marriage .This woman was so bad that he was very unhappy and started to drink that eventually killed him at an early age. In arranged marriages, the man and the woman has no chance to get to know each other before marriage so often there are surprises like this.

I know another case where a sweet girl got married at the age of 19 but her husband turned out to be a very jealous person who abused her and drank a lot that also killed him . But her two children from her marriage to this bad person are jewels and take very good care of her so now she is happy and lives a religious life.

So not all the arranged marriages are successful but most just accept their fate and live together by compromising their own dreams and aspirations for the sake of their children. Divorce is rare because the society disapproves divorce although I knew a very intelligent and pretty girl who was married to a very bad and abusive person and one day ran away from him and later got divorce. She has remarried and lives happily in England so she was lucky. Not many women trapped in abusive marriages are so lucky. Often they get no support from their parents and siblings because they wash their hands off once a woman gets married. I think the hated dowry system has something to do with it. So the system of arranged marriage continues in India and in other countries.

Among the Moslems, the same system exists but the women are more prone to abuses because a fellow can just say “talaq” three times and divorce his wife leaving her with no money, property or even children and does not have to give reasons for his divorce. Such women often become destitute. There are women who are now pushing for laws that protect their rights but it is still a long way off because Mullahs protect the right of men more than women.

Another practice among the Moslems is to marry the first cousin which leads to inbreeding and may cause genetic abnormalities in children. Hindus prohibit marriages between the cousins due to this problem although most Brahmins marry only among the five families that may have originated only from one a long time ago that may suggest inbreeding as well.

In the west, the men and women choose their mates through dating that  starts early in high school .Many such high school sweet hearts get married the day they graduate from college while others do not wait that long. I had a roommate in College who one day announced that he was getting married to a woman he just met a week ago .But it however, is more of an exception than rule because most people spend a great deal of time knowing each other before deciding on marriage. Parents are not involved except in the preparation of the marriage and paying for some expenses. In America women often make a list of what kind of gift they want from their relatives and friends but in other countries the women do not ask for gifts because their values are different.

If you happen to be a Caucasian woman and go to the Middle eastern countries, you may get many marriage proposals from Bedouins and others who may propose to buy you with 30 heads of camels and may throw in a few goats and sheep as well to seal the deal if you accept his proposal to live in his harem in a goat skin tent and cook, wash (seldom) and breed like others. In other countries like India it is the bride that brings in the dowry so literally buys her husband. There may have been social reasons for this system but now it is obscure yet still practised.

In rural India, child marriage is still practised although banned by the government. I had a 16-year-old classmate who was hiding from his parents who were hell-bent on getting this young fellow married to a still younger girl who was still a child. I do not know what finally happened but felt sorry for him. In some remote villages in the Sundarban swamp land south of Bengal there is still a system when a visiting young man as a part of a marriage party is forcefully married off to an ugly girl who otherwise would not get married.

Among the Hindus, the marriage ritual is simple although lengthy that does not require marriage license, registration, witnesses etc. No papers are signed and no documents required registering the marriage somewhere in a Government office but this sort of forced marriage cannot be annulled. I know a case when this happened.

In the Philippines there is still a system in rural barrios where a boy who is interested in a girl is asked to work in her father’s farm for a year or more proving his worth as a sturdy hand who will later need his experience to work as a farmer.

This also gives everyone concerned an opportunity to evaluate the fellow over a long period of time. But these systems tend to become obsolete as more and more young boys and girls are going to school and make up their own mind about marriage. This is happening in many countries but such changes come at a price. The dogmatic refusal to accept change in certain societies lead to tragic consequences .A recent case comes to mind where a young girl and her boyfriend were lured into an empty bus late at night in Delhi. The boy was beaten senseless by the driver and his cohorts and left by the road side but the girl suffered gang rape and serious injuries in their hands and left to die also by the roadside. She was brought to hospital and the prime minister’s plane brought her to Singapore for hospital care but she did not survive so grave were her injuries.

The question to ask here is why was she raped and beaten up? This has something to do with the belief that a young woman should not be out late at night with her boy friend so she must be immoral and must be punished. This sort of tribal belief leads to honor killings among Muslims in some countries. The traditional society in many countries frowns upon women who have boyfriends and are seen in public so they take it upon themselves to “preserve the virginity of women” so that the tradition of virgin bride is maintained at all cost. In such societies, the mother of the newlywed woman must show the blood spattered bed sheet by hanging it in the window for anyone to see that her daughter was a virgin. If the woman was not virgin before marriage then the poor mother has to sprinkle goat blood on the sheet although I wonder if that fools anyone. You may think that this is an extreme case of prejudice against women but such are the tribal practices in many parts of the world.

Now let us return to the subject at hand that is the bliss and curse of marriage. The marriage is a time-honoured tradition worldwide that celebrates the union between the man and the woman by giving it the social approval. What happens after the marriage is left to the couple in most cases although the in-laws interfere in some instances. If the woman finds happiness and comes to love and respect her husband who does the same, all is well. A happy marriage then seals the bond between two people that may last a lifetime. This is the bliss .Out of such bliss come happy children who are loved and cared for.

I know some couple who have been happily married for a long time and take care of each other in their old age. In America it is good to meet such people because many marriages end up in divorce and broken families. Apart from the couple, the children suffer the most. The Hollywood movies and TV shows point this out graphically everyday as if it is quite normal for the families to split up due to their personal differences or for other reasons.

I tend to think that there is nothing normal about divorce which is the result of deep intolerance and inability of a person to adjust and make some compromises in life. This is the curse of marriage. A bad marriage as I mentioned earlier that ends up in divorce is good and it gives the woman the chance to regain control of her life. If the woman is bad then it gives the man a chance to regain control of his life and move on although a friend of mine died of alcoholism because he could not get away from his bad wife. If both are bad like Bonnie and Clyde then there is no help for them.

The notion that two people must get along in a marriage automatically or without any fuss requires some introspection. People have different personalities and are brought up differently by their parents. Some spoil their children who later grow up to be more spoiled and develop an intolerant personality. They must have everything their way with little room for compromise and understanding. Others give good example to their children by their own happy marriage and hope that the kids develop into well-rounded persons with compassion and willingness to adjust to any situation. Such people make wonderful marriage partners. They easily forgive and adjust to the shortcomings of their partners not necessarily condoning their faults but gently pushing their spouses in the right direction.

The marriages are not made in Heaven but often bad attracts bad and good attracts good in people. The trouble starts when good and bad try to make a successful marriage because they are like oil and water. They do not mix so the Indians look to astrology and advice from astrologers to see if the two people are well matched. A woman dating a man may find out sooner or later certain things about a man and vice versa but I am writing about the traditional society like in India. I do not have any statistics to prove if it works or not but I do know that the divorce rate among Hindus is very low. How much is due to societal pressure or astrology is hard to tell.

What I do know is that two people who are happy together have a few things in common. One is a willingness to compromise and meet the other partner halfway. This willingness to give up a few things and compromise in order to have a peaceful co existence is of paramount importance more so if the couple comes from two very different background or even religion. The second is to remember what your spouse likes and dislikes and adjust accordingly. It may be little things like your wife likes to drink chilled water so always remember that or the husband likes to read late at night or watch something in the TV. This habit of remembering each other’s likes and dislikes goes a long way to make a wonderful marriage .It is like WD40 or even better.

Third is to be always available to your spouse in all her needs at all the time. If she needs a ride, be ready. If she wants you to wait for her at a certain place then be there. This of course works both ways. A person who subserviates his own likes and dislikes to his wife is an ideal partner in a marriage because he is willing to compromise the most. I think my last point will sum it up nicely when I say that between two people who are married and are living under one roof, it is very important that there is some space between them so that each person feels free to pursue his or her interest. Both should respect each other’s freedom and space.

I will quote here a few words from The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran that are worth reading:

“ You were born together, and together you shall be forevermore.

You shall be together when the white wings of death scatter your days.

Ay, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God.

But let there be spaces in your togetherness and let the winds of

Heaven dance between you “

“Give your hearts but not into each other’s keeping.

For only the hand of life can contain your hearts.

And stand together yet not too near together: For the

Pillars of the temple stand apart, and the oak tree and

the cypress grow not in each other’s shadows.”

Note :  My blogs are also available in French, Spanish, German and Japanese  languages at the following links as well as my biography:

Mes blogs en français.

Mis blogs en espagnol

Blogs von Anil in Deutsch

Blogs in Japanese

My blogs at Wix site

tumblr posts    

Blogger.com

Medium.com

Anil’s biography in English.

Biographie d’Anil en français

La biografía de anil en español.

Anil’s Biografie auf Deutsch

Anil’s biography in Japanese

Биография Анила по-русски

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