Saturday, January 29, 2011

On myths and misunderstandings.........

I cannot believe that I’ve actually turned sixty. Oh yes since the calendar says so I decided that it was time to look back and see how I have evolved as a person. If, over the years, I’ve managed to learn from mistakes and change any misconceptions that I might have held then it is certainly worth the streaks of grey hair on my head!

Let me first think of the misunderstandings about mankind that I once had and now stand corrected.

Having been treated to a generous dose of mythology by my mother I always had an idea of what angels and demons stood for. Ravan was a demon king and so were many others. Angels were good and kind hearted. I readily believed that any one who consumed alcohol or spoke in a loud voice was bad. Having heard of Prahalad I decided that those who did not believe in Hari (Vishnu) were bound to rot in hell. Good and bad were compartmentalized with no grey in between.

Ramayan and Mahabharat are all time favorites of mine. I was in terror of Ravan as a child. With time I realized that he was not that bad a person. He abducted Sita and wanted to marry her and that was wrong. However, he did not force himself on her but rather hoped and waited for a change of heart. Ram on the other hand stood tall for his monogamous relationship with Sita at a time when it was common for kings to marry more than one woman. He was a just king and obedient son. However, he too failed to place absolute trust in his wife’s chastity and sent her on exile when she was pregnant. I have the highest regard for the epic and the message that it conveys. No one is perfect – the best among us have their faults and even the seemingly wicked people have a good side to his/her nature. If only their good qualities are encouraged and their talents appreciated the world may be a better place to live in.

I had been under the impression that those that did not believe in Hari or Lord Vishnu would head for hell on hearing of the story of Bhakta Prahalad. Then I heard of Bhakta Markandeya who believed in Lord Shiva and was granted the boon of immortality. I promptly decided that all gods worshipped by Hindus would perhaps grant entry into heaven but it all changed when I went to study in a boarding school which had a good number of Anglo- Indians and Indian Christian students. They confused me by saying that Christ alone would grant salvation and my polytheist religion stood no chance at all. At one point I even felt bad that either way my Christian friends and I would have to part ways and that was when I suggested that any one who believed in God would perhaps be allowed entry into heaven whatever be the religion they practiced and my friends nodded half heartedly.

With time I have realized that those among us who claim to be atheists and agnostics are actually much more sensitive human beings than those who claim to have religious affiliations. With the human race messing around with nature and creating an ecological imbalance I feel that nature worshippers have actually played an important role in conservation of available resources, be it medicinally valuable plants or water sources. Tribal communities are indeed lucky to have lived in close association with nature and Humanism is the only religion that ever needs to be practiced.

Having heard stories of dowry menace and dowry deaths, I felt annoyed that the practice should have been endorsed by the Indian society. With time I realized that the fault lies not in arrangement of giving one’s daughter a capital to fall back on at the time of financial setback but rather in society’s interpretation that it is a bargaining tool and uses it for its own convenience. Yes, the boy’s family bargains for a better dowry in cash and kind as if it is theirs by right and the girl’s family uses it to flaunt their purchasing power. The very purpose for which dowry or ‘streedhan’ was initially given has been long forgotten.

I used to think that a parent is actually entitled to decide about the course a child’s life ought to take. I now feel that while a parent’s input is important its importance is quite short lived. The brat and the bean have minds of their own and are judging you for the person you are. So instead of expecting them to be on their best behavior watch out for your own. A seemingly innocent remark can catch you unawares and make you feel petty. I am not talking of your adolescent son or daughter who will not even bother to point out but of 5 and 7 year old children.

And finally the misconception that those who consume drug or alcohol in excess were bad-

I have had the opportunity of interacting with at least two men with an addiction for the bottle and I have found them to be excellent human beings. They are much more versatile, kind hearted and generous than the average person. They are talented and artistic even without formal training and any behavioral problem they may have is due to their addiction. Addiction in any form is bad but alcoholics stand out because they are unable to think or act coherently. They need to be helped to get rid of the addiction and not criticized. I know that it is easier said than done and their families go through a lot of mental and physical torture. I only mean to say that while the addiction is bad the addict is not.

I think I did a good thing to put all this on pen and paper. I have learnt a lot but there is still a long way to go with four grandchildren waiting to tutor me.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

My Grandpa Will Not Die.........

My grandpa is not going to die soon. He plans to score a century"...........

"My mother in law will not leave till she swallows her only surviving son"...............

"I need to get on with my life. I cannot be responsible for my mother all my life. I plan to put her in a home and accept my promotion with a transfer"...............

Old age and the available medical technology to prolong life have evoked such comments from the kith and kin of old people who live but have no life. I do not know whether their caretakers ought to be blamed because in most of these cases children have tried their best to look after them but are reacting to the frustration that sets in when one feels helpless.

I remember having a talk with my husband a few months back. An elderly relative had just passed on and his family felt relieved. The affection was there alright but the death gave them a much desired freedom to plan a holiday or pay a visit to their children in distant shores. I had then expressed my opinion in favor of mercy killing in my own case.

"I'd be pained to be the cause of any inconvenience to my children. So in the case of an incurable illness I wouldn't want anyone to prolong my life with medication. I'd be glad to go."

My husband made a joke of it.

"The police would arrest me in that case and you'd be unable to leave on your heavenly journey in peace."

"I am serious. I would want you all to let me go."

There was pain in my husband's voice when he said-

"Is it that easy? What if it was me that is terminally ill? Would you then let me die? I too would not want to be a burden to anyone."

His words set me thinking. I had not thought of it from anyone else's point of view. But what then is the solution? It is so common to see people leading a healthy and sometimes not so healthy life even after they've entered their nineties. Their children are retired pensioners with as many if not more health problems. Medical expenses keep soaring and the next generation in all probability has moved to distant places in search of a satisfying career with a good pay package. A weekly phone call and an annual visit is all that they have time for. This is where I feel senior citizen's homes help. This is no longer a home for abandoned parents. This is a place where one can perhaps get the care that an ageing parent deserves – so what if one has to pay for it? In these days of unreliable domestic help, would not an arrangement that takes care of cooking and cleaning be a viable option? I know of a couple relocating to a senior citizen's home in Pondicherry after retirement taking with them their mothers aged 85 and 82. They sold their house in Jamshedpur and invested the money prudently to ensure adequate monthly returns and now lead a peaceful life. They visit their children and relatives as and when they feel like it and their mothers are looked after by the staff in the home. They receive visitors too and do not feel the strain because they have the option of ordering food from the mess and both groups are happy. More than other things medical attention is readily available with 24 hour ambulance service and a tie up with hospitals ensures that they are treated immediately. Under the present scenario I feel that one should consider this a possible option along with that of moving in with their children at some point of time.

And they had better remember that adjustments have to be made whatever their choice.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Dealing with mental disorders.........

I keep thinking of the problems posed while dealing with mentally challenged individual's and wondered if along with the patients, parents and siblings of such people need to be counseled on ways to deal with them. I have written about it here and wonder if you could have a look and offer suggestions.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Gup Shap

My computer is like a whimsical child who is out to act difficult. It just would not get started for the past one week despite having called a service engineer who addressed the problem and rebooted it thrice in my presence and the next morning the problem persisted. It is purely by chance that I managed to start it today so here I am quickly typing out my thoughts hoping that it won’t conk off again before I finish. I wonder how life was before I learnt to use the computer. I remember the time when my daughter spoke of a colleague snatching the mouse from her and I almost shrieked at the thought of my daughter holding a live mouse in her hand and the colleague snatching it from her. That was nearly 10 years back and I only knew that a mouse was a yucky rodent that had better be out of my sight. Today, I have become like a spoilt child and cannot write a complete sentence legibly using pen and paper. I type with one hand with my eyes on the key board. Yet I prefer computer typing to using pen and paper. I wonder how I dealt with the lengthy 4 hour examinations during my masters. I think I’ll get myself a cursive English handwriting book and practice writing along with my grand children.

And what about letter writing that was considered an art when I was growing up? I remember arriving at the Steel city some 38 years back and the only available mode of communication with my folks was through letters. I’d wait eagerly for letters from my mother and reply almost immediately. The practice continued when my daughter went to college. By the time my son went to college we got a telephone at home and it was adieu to a practice that I had cultivated since the age of twelve when I first went to a boarding school. Now with mobile phones available one does not even have to remember telephone numbers! Connectivity has improved but there are times when I wonder if there is a negative side to this privilege. Take for example the case of a girl known to me-

A…. was a friend’s daughter. She got married soon after she graduated and was hardly prepared to deal with the responsibilities associated with marriage and married life. As it happens with most of us she too tried to see her mother in her mother in law and was naturally disappointed. But she had the facility of talking to her mother from the privacy of her bed room and would invariably ring her up every night briefing her about every problem she faced. Unable to help the daughter living in far off Bangalore, the mother would cry herself to sleep wake up the next morning with a headache and worry herself sick about what may or may not be happening in her daughter’s life. If I compare my own life with hers, I have to admit that I too faced teething trouble in the initial months of my marriage. But I’d be careful about what I actually wrote. That I would not want to trouble my mother who had enough to deal with even without having to worry about me was one reason the other being that a written document could always fall into other people’s hand unlike a personal conversation. With time, adjustments were made and I learnt to regard my acquired parents with respect for the kind of people they were instead of comparing them with my own parents. I wonder if such maturity in my approach could have been possible if I had the privilege of talking to my mother over the phone on a daily basis. A mother’s reaction tends to be biased and it is perhaps better to deal with a new set up on one’s own unless of course it is a really unbearable one.

Here again I can almost hear my young readers ask me as to what exactly qualifies to be an unbearable situation? I really have no answer. So I think I’ll end with a story I like to repeat.

A woman would deliberately leave for the temple soon after her son arrived from office since she wanted her son to bond with his newly wed wife. She remembered the time when as a young bride she had longed for a few private moments with her husband and her own mother in law would keep him engaged in meaningless conversation on his return from work. She was therefore surprised to hear her daughter in law complain to a friend that her mother in law seemed to be a work shirker with no real affection for her son.

“It looks as if she was waiting for me to arrive. The moment Anil arrives from office she goes off to the temple. I have to slog in the kitchen preparing tea and snacks and she deliberately returns after all the work is done. I wonder if he ever got to eat a decent meal before I arrived. Poor boy…….”

Having said this I’d like to add, at the cost of sounding hypocritical, that I too use the mobile, computer and all the facilities that the 21st century offers. I’ll be turning sixty soon and I have to behave like one. What better way to begin than by comparing my times with yours??

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

A Happy Year 2011

My very first post for the year 2011 should naturally begin with my wishes to each of you for a very happy, scam free New year. Wishful thinking but I do hope we put our heads together and think of what can be done to improve the quality of life rather than let sensational report be utilized to improve the TRP ratings of news channels.

My visit to Mumbai, Bharuch and Shiridi was a memorable one. I got to meet Suranga in person and felt that I had known her all my life. She is the fourth blogger I got to meet. Artnavy, Usha and Mallika (Eve's lung) being the other three. I've spoken to Riti (Itching to write) over the phone. It was a pleasure getting to know you and as for the rest whom I haven't met let me say that each of you is as precious and hopefully we may still meet up any day any time.

How does one feel when one meet a cousin after 35 years and her husband for the first time? That's what happened when I visited Bharuch. It was so nice to meet A... about whom I had only heard in a favorable light and again my husband and me took to him instantly. My husband who takes time to open up surprised me when he said that he wished to talk to A... on our return from Bharuch. Since I can count the number of times he has spoken to me or to his own sister and brother or to our children for that matter, I concluded that he must have felt connected to A... Hats off A... you have indeed achieved something!

I wonder if I should switch over to the reading mode for the next few months? My posts are becoming repetitive and I seem to have nothing new to write about. But then the talkative person that I am, I may just forget my resolution within a week and want to share my observations with you all!

It is rather cold in our parts of India though not as bad as the North as in Delhi or UP and Rajasthan. My knees are a constant reminder of the chilly weather. that reminds me. Suranga had advised me to check my B 12 and D 3 levels. I think I'll do it soon- after all health is wealth isn't it?

A Happy New year all of you. please come up with ideas to deal with scamsters and the like who think nothing of depriving children below poverty line of precious milk meant for them as has happened in the Aanganbadi in our town.