Monday, October 22, 2012
“If the law supposes that,” said Mr. Bumble, “the law is a ass — a idiot.” Dickens made one of his characters mouth this in Oliver Twist, and he was not far wrong! Especially in today’s scenario when self-styled Khap panchayats in Haryana make irresponsible statements, intoxicated with an unhealthy dose of male chauvinism, making one wonder if the 21 century is in regression, all set to scurry into the Middle Ages. Sube Singh, a Khap member, kicked up a storm when he said: “I think that girls should be married at the age of 16 to curb the instances of rape in the State.” According to him, girls themselves were responsible for their rapes, and adding insult to injury, he blamed television and movies for the incidents. “Boys and girls should be married by the time they turn 16, so that they do not stray... this will decrease the incidents of rape.” The former Chief Minister, Om Prakash Chautala, echoed similar sentiments when he suggested that the marriageable age of girls should be lowered to 16 to ward off crime against them. Sadly, no one has any suggestion to turn negatives into positives, to try to change the mindset of these men. They try to mask misdeeds by offering a shoddy, downright stupid solution — one which goes against the philosophy of an ancient culture which looked upon women with reverence. Just imagine the plight of a young girl, who has been brought up like a flower by her adoring parents and who suddenly gets married off to a strange man, who, by the rule of wedlock, vows to protect and take care of her. She is obviously not yet ready for marriage, and if she has to give in to her new husband against her wishes, isn’t that ‘sanctioned rape’? Is that how our girls are to be protected? The spate of gang rapes in Haryana over the past one month has provoked National Commission for Protection of Child Rights Chairperson Shanta Sinha to demand exemplary punishment for the rapists, after a teenaged Dalit girl immolated herself following rape. “There should also be a fear amongst those who indulge in such activities. They should be punished so that the girls are safe.” Aye, that’s the rub! Murder and robbery are law and order problems. Rape, apparently, is not. So rapists parade around, heads held high after their heinous deeds, while their victims cower, faces covered, self-confidence shattered as though they are the ones who are the criminals, a travesty of justice? Why does a victim have to prove her victimisation? Hasn’t she suffered enough, both physically and mentally? Especially when a local party head from Haryana, Dharambir Goyat, tells reporters that 90% of rape cases are a case of consensual sex between the boy and the girl. The solution lies in the hands of these girls, who will later be women. It lies in the hands of all parents who have daughters, and need to instil strength in them by teaching them to protect themselves from an early age. Self-defence classes should be made a must in every school, along with the three Rs and mental strength and fortitude imparted to them in their curriculum. Parents of boys have an even tougher role. They need to rid themselves of age-old prejudices and bring up their boys to treat the opposite sex with respect and care. The day women stop being the weaker sex and learn to defend themselves, society will start looking at them with new eyes. And the law might just stop being an ass! Open Page, The Hindu 21st October, 2012
Wednesday, October 3, 2012
My maid came to me the other day, a worried look on her normally cheerful face. “Madam, yesterday a boy had come to ‘see’ my daughter. He liked her but his family has made the following demands.” She rattled off the list — 12 sovereigns of gold, a refrigerator, a television, a grinder, an induction cooker, a bed and mattress and a cupboard. Plus she had to conduct the engagement ceremony and give her daughter the requisite jewellery and saris that would showcase her as a bride. She was talking about her daughter, a girl whom she had scraped and scrounged for over years of slaving at people’s homes, and whom she had moulded into an engineer. She now works for a reputed company. There was a second daughter who had finished her graduation in commerce. It was an amazing tale of fortitude and struggle on the part of a mother, whose drunkard of a husband had abandoned her for another woman. He could share none of the credit as he had never been around for his daughters, nor paid a penny towards their upkeep or education. He had escaped lightly as no one ever asked him why he had absconded. On the other hand, it was his poor abandoned wife who was constantly probed about how she had managed to educate her two girls! Unfair, but true! The said ‘boy’ was a graduate in commerce, working as a supervisor. His to-be bride was an engineer with a fatter paycheck than the ‘boy’. Yet, the fact that he was the man pushed his price up to a level where his family expected the bride’s family to pay for the honour of ‘acquiring’ him. We cajoled our maid into putting her foot down. She listened with a woeful look, but had the sense to take along with her a crowd — her estranged husband, his mother and sisters, a talkative niece and a few other wallflowers to make up an impressive contingent. The next day she came back, grinning all over her face. “Everything has been fixed!” she announced. The boy’s family had taken back the demands of much of the household goods, all except for the bed, the mattress and the cupboard. The sovereigns had gone down to nine and the girl’s side had to conduct the engagement ceremony. The wedding after three months would be conducted by the boy’s side. Now there was a smile on her face, as she recounted what the boy’s mother had said to her. “The reason why we are insistent that your daughter should come into our family is because she is an educated girl.” In that one sentence lay years of sacrifice, hard work and tribulations undergone by the poor mother who had never given up on her daughters. Other mountains lay before her — jewellery, silk saris, suit for the groom, the feast and the invitations, but for today, the smile in her eyes spoke volumes. All those long years had been finally worth it! 03rd October 2012 12:00 AM New Indian Express
Monday, October 1, 2012
It was a sad sight! I was sitting at an eye hospital along with my mother who was due for a cataract surgery. She had decided to have it in Chennai as two of her daughters were in the city. The various tests took ages, punctuated by long waits in between to see various doctors, and we were both reduced to doing Sudoku puzzles, reading and texting. I went out to make a phone call as there was no mobile network coverage within the basement where we were waiting. As I was dialling, I saw a heart-rending sight. A young man in a red shirt suddenly appeared, holding the hand of an older woman, obviously his mother. He strode along authoritatively, as the woman hobbled along behind him. It was clear that she could hardly see anything, as she had dark glasses on. There were a couple of steps at the entrance and she stumbled over them as he did not warn her, and it was piteous to see her lifting her foot high up in the hope that it would encounter a step, where there was none. The staircase loomed ahead, and again, she almost stumbled, as she said something in a trembling voice. The man pulled her on, as she tried to slow down, turning around only to rebuke her — impatience writ large on his face. She held on for dear life to the railing that ran along the side, terrified that she would fall flat on her face. Walking into a dark nothingness can be terrifying, an occasion when one needs not only a helping hand, but words of warmth and reassurance. Wasn’t this the same mother who had helped her son to take his first fledgling steps, not allowing him out of her sight, and who had clapped when he had taken that first all-important step alone? Wasn’t she the mother who ran to pick him up when he fell, showering him with kisses and caresses when he cried? Wasn’t hers the first hand he grasped when he was unhappy, hungry, happy or excited? Could he repay the debt that he owed her, even if he had been the gentlest, most caring and loving son ever? Yet, here he was, a brute who grudged his mother the time he had to spend on bringing her to hospital. His face was like a thundercloud, and every time he jerked on the old woman’s hand, it was as if he was exacting a sort of personal revenge on her. Ironically, my mother in her 70s, who was also there for the same surgery, proved just the opposite. Feisty and independent, she strode ahead, leaving me running after her, shrugging off my helping hand brusquely. When she had turned 70, she had told her three daughters in no uncertain terms, “I can do things on my own. Don’t treat me like an invalid!” Here she was at the hospital, and each time I tried to help her down the stairs, she would give me one of her looks, and make her way down on her own. When her surgery was over, she jumped off the bed, picked up her medical files, and walked to the lift on her own steam, black glasses and supreme self-confidence in tow! New Indian Express 14th September 2012
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