Monday, January 28, 2008

Defending arranged marriage

I have been thinking of the way the institution called marriage has changed over the years for quite sometime now. However, I am undecided about whether it has changed for the better or worse. Who is asking me anyway? But then I have a way of talking to myself and also of taking up for the underdog. In this case I personally feel that parents of eligible bachelors and spinsters, poor souls, are at the receiving end and deserve to be considered first. It is quite another thing that I am such a parent myself but I play the role of a moderator so I exempt myself.

When I was young love marriages were frowned upon. You could be in love with your first cousin (it was very common since our community allowed such marriages) or anyone within the permissible sub-sect of one’s community but had to hope that elders in the family would find the match appropriate and initiate negotiations. If not you just married someone chosen by your parents for whatever reason and adjusted. Parents too did not bother about the boy’s pay packet or the girl’s looks but rather the reputation of the family. The girl had to ‘manage’. Marrying outside the community was a strict No, no. I talk of the majority of cases. There were a few who broke the rule and I personally knew of a college senior who married a man from the muslim community, donned a burkha and lived as his third wife in a neighboring town. No one ever saw her after that and I felt that she had made a mistake by giving up her job in the Telephone Exchange. I would not know if she was happy with the arrangement but I did feel that she could have perhaps been a little more prudent in her choice.

If this was the case of defying the rules imposed by society and family there was another example of a happily married woman in our neighborhood. Happily married? At least I thought so. She had a government job, her husband was a very normal family man and the couple had 3 children all in their pre-teens. Her mother in law looked after the children, getting them ready for school and attending to them till their mother returned from work and everything seemed fine. Yet one day the woman left them all and eloped with a colleague of hers who held a position inferior to her in the office. Years later my mother met her purely by chance. My mother sensed a kind of yearning in her for a chance to see her children and permission to interact with them once in a while. But unfortunately she could not muster courage enough to do so.

With such stories doing the rounds it was no wonder that I grew up believing that opting for love marriages was indicative of a selfish mind where one placed self interest above all else. I wish I were in a position to say arranged marriages were mostly successful. Far from it I have known brilliant minds compromising in the name of marriage and any adjustment made was often one sided.

Years rolled on and I was too involved with my career and children to pay attention to subtle changes taking place in society. Suddenly I find the world around me a changed place. Children are comfortable choosing their life partners and their choice is based on what their head says rather than the dictates of the heart. There is a lot more maturity and a willingness to adapt. All aspects are considered before taking the final plunge and we seem to be back to arranged marriage. The only difference is that it is the couple who decide on the kind of arrangement they want. Try as I might to find fault with their choice, (believe me I still try to defend the role of parents to arrange for a suitable match) I have to agree that the present generation know their mind and are capable of dealing with their lives.

But wait, I was supposed to defend the generation of parents isn’t it? Parents first objected to love marriages. Then they allowed love marriages within their immediate community but objected to anything outside it. They further graduated to the level of allowing interstate marriages as long as the couple subscribed to the same religious belief. Finally they agreed that all was acceptable as long as they were both Indians. Now with the living in relationship becoming common parents have started hoping that their children would at least marry someone and settle down and suddenly the ‘living in’ arrangement doesn’t seem too bad as long as it happened in other people’s homes! But wasn’t it the same for love marriages sometime back? Poor parents. More and more children are leaving home and settling abroad and the rest are too busy to pay attention to the emotional requirements of their parents. They dare not alienate their children lest the occasional visits and weekly phone calls stop. They still arrange their children’s marriage although in a different way.

They talk to the florist and arrange for the best flowers to be delivered on the wedding day.

They shortlist catering services and arrange for the best desi and intercontinental delicacies to be served.

They arrange for a suitable holiday resort where their children may go for their honey moon.

And finally they decide on the kind of wedding rituals they want and make suitable arrangements for the same.

Yet they complain that they were not allowed to arrange their children’s marriage!

I have to add this on a more serious note. Marriage is a gamble that is endorsed by society. It is nothing more than a workable arrangement between two individuals. Whether one listens to the dictates of the head or heart hardly matters. Whether it is an arrangement made by parents or children is immaterial. What is important is that it has to be founded on mutual respect and a willingness to make room for a certain degree of freedom and independence. After all take a look at the soaring branches of a tree and how the same source of light is successfully utilized by each and every leaf of a tree and every tree in an environment. And the root system penetrating the soil uses the same water source without disturbing the roots of neighboring vegetation. Compare roots to cultural values and spreading branches to children looking for new avenues to spread their wings. Do they not play different roles important in their own way but each occupying its own special niche thus complimenting each other?

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Tag of blessings

I was tagged by hillg'mom to bless and pray for three of my blog friends and ask them to pass it on to more people thereby spreading goodwill to as many people as one can.I found the idea great something like the 'vazhga valamudan' group in Tamilnadu that prays for the welfare of mankind sending positive vibes to known and unknown people.I quote ukok who started the idea of a blessing tag and I feel inclined to bless and pray for her before anyone else 'cos in these troubled times it is very important to create universal good will and I already feel connected to her.

While it is my wish to bless all who read this blog, for the purposes of starting this little endeavour it is necessary that I ‘bless’ 3 blogfriends, who may in turn ‘bless’ 3 blogfriends.

Let’s use a simple format, and let’s make it even simpler by suggesting that the recipient simply copies and pastes above picture when they become the recipient of a bloggin blessing themselves.

The idea… it’s a game of tag with a difference, rather than looking inwardly, we look outside ourselves and bless, praise and pray for one blog friend. By participating in this endeavour we not only make the recipient of the blessing feel valued and appreciated, but we are having some fun too. We’re going to see how far the bloggin’ blessings can travel around the world and how many people can be blessed! Recipients of a bloggin’ blessing may upload the above image to their sidebar if they choose to. If you recieve a bloggin’ blessin’ please leave a comment on this thread here so that we can rejoice in just how many blessings have been sent around the world.

I've decided however to change the rule a bit and bless five bloggers instead of three as hillg'mom has done.

1.I bless vishesh because I can see that he is ready to take up a course of his choice thus taking the first step towards a great career.

2.I bless lavs who is moving towards motherhood or rather has already moved towards it and pray that her pregnancy may be safe and her bundle of joy enriches her life.

3.I bless Madhumita for the same reason as lavs and pray that she is granted the energy to deal with the 2 other children - yes I consider tys a child too.

4.I bless Usha and pray that her wish that her grand child uses the beautiful furniture in her house comes true soon.

5.I bless Itching to write and pray that she is energized enough to deal with her twin sons and continue to delight us with stories about them.

Of course my prayers and blessings are with all of you but since the chain must continue I stop here.
God bless you all.

Friday, January 25, 2008

The joy of being tagged!

Here are some things that I changed my mind about. Thanks Usha I enjoyed doing it.There is a joy in getting tagged. You run out of ideas and wonder if your readers are going to vote you out. And pop comes a tag that literally makes you think and you make a 'come back' post and feel included.Isn't that wonderful? I was going to bore you guys with teaching experience-4 or 5. Dear readers please thank Usha for saving you from the onslaught.

It is important to be liked by others.

Only to a certain extent. After that one tends to get bored to death. The ‘wicked you’ craves for an outlet and just because you are so likeable you have to literally beam at people and smile when you want to scowl. Can be rather frustrating you know. I’d rather be myself than the most liked person on earth.

Obedience is a virtue.

According to my mother, yes. She had lovely children including me who never back answered her. But then she maintained her dignity and distance. I didn’t. So I have children who started questioning me from the day they learnt to talk and despite the fact that they obey me only when they are suitably convinced I find them lovely too. So I feel obedience or lack of it hardly matters. In interpersonal relationships it is the comfort level that is of utmost importance.

People are not malicious but they become so because of bad experiences or circumstances.

It is all in the genes. People are good or bad due to the genes they inherit. It is their attitude that is at fault. They are people who fail to see the positive side in a situation and end up being mean and malicious. Luckily extremely malicious people are as rare as extremely good ones. Most of us are averages.

Education broadens our view and makes people more humane.

Education and academic qualifications are not the same. A person may be educated by/ from the experiences he is subjected to. Valuable lessons are learnt in simple interactions with those around us. One can have a string of degrees to his/her credit and yet draw a blank where human relationships are concerned.

People who have no money troubles are happier.

The lack of money does create problems that are different to those caused by an excess of it. The latter has more to do with the mind while the former is more physical. I do have to admit that the phase in my life when we faced severe financial strain is not the one that I correlate with unhappiness and misery. Touch wood we are financially better placed but there seems to be some kind of indifference that seems to have set in. Financial security has certainly not made me jump with joy. I hope that I never reach a stage when I have excess of money ‘cos I’ve seen ‘sukh rogis’ who keep worrying about a new outfit for every party they attend and the designer accessories to match their exceptionally unique ‘costumes’. I am happy wrapping a saree or suit of my choice without worrying about what others think about me and I really want ‘not a penny more, nor a penny less’. However, like Usha I did believe that people with money were happier when I was young.

As people get older they get wiser.

I know of several people who have grown old but are as immature and stupid as they were 25 years back with no control over their emotions, driving everyone else crazy. I have also seen youngsters behave in a balanced and dignified manner putting us oldies to shame. Hats off to both groups. I belong to neither. That makes me wonder - ‘Am I wise? Anywhere near it?’

You can live on love and fresh air.

May be during courtship. Since mine was a strictly arranged marriage I wouldn’t know. The first time I went out with my husband, my love was certainly not strong enough to be happy in his company. I insisted that we eat out and he settled for a kulfi. I think I still love him for it.

There is a celestial guardian angel looking after each one of us.

For several years after my father’s death I seemed to feel his presence around me, feeling happy at my achievements and guiding me when I felt low. A little before my wedding I had a dream that he had arrived with a packed suitcase saying that he wished to spend sometime with us. Over the years I’ve continued to believe that he is up there in heaven blessing and guiding us.

All living beings reincarnate.

I do not subscribe to this belief at all. It seems to endorse wickedness with the tormentor getting away with what he does expecting to be punished in a future birth and the victim accepting the torture as a punishment for past misdeeds. No sir/ma’am I am not taking this nonsense as part of my destiny. There is just one life that one lives and let us spend it in peaceful co-existence.

Heaven and Hell are places you go to after death.

I am with Usha in this. ‘No they are right here in on Earth and sometimes in one's own mind.They are not even two different things but two sides of the same thing.’

And finally

I used to believe that man was superior to animals due to his sixth sense but nowadays I feel that animals are better in that they obey the laws of nature and attack either when they are hungry or insecure. Man with his ability to reason seems to be the most unreasonable living being. How else do you explain terrorist acts directed against innocent civilians?

I used to think that Lord Krishna really visited our home on the night of Janmashtami and wanted to catch him stealing butter that my mother religiously left for him in the puja room.

And I still think that my grandfather was the best person known to me and I see God not in the idols in the temple but in my thatha who had never ever spoken ill of another fellow human being, was kind and generous to all and taught us to treat all human beings with the dignity they deserve. This is one belief that is going to be with me always.

Everyone who reads this post is tagged. But I specially invite prats, hillg’mom and madhumita to do it.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Teaching and learning.

I sometimes wonder whether the rules of teaching and learning have changed. For instance children seem to be fast losing interest in self study. We have students in undergrad classes who ask for a book to help them draw diagrams whereas our teachers would insist on observing the specimen and draw diagram freehand. I was myself the most unsuited candidate to take up Botany as my main subject. Till my 11th boards I’d leave blank spaces for diagrams that would seldom get filled up. Those were days when one had to opt between Biology and Mathematics and I chose the former ‘cos I wanted to try for a seat in a medical college. At the end of my Pre-university course I was so disillusioned and disappointed with Biology that I refused to even apply for a course in medicine much to my grandfather’s disappointment. Again I made a wrong choice and opted to study Botany as my Major. In the first year each practical class was a nightmare with teachers rejecting every diagram I drew and finding fault with every slide preparation. We would spend at least 2 hours each evening ‘neat lining’ our diagrams and stop once by the chapel and then turn towards the Rock fort temple to seek divine intervention before leaving for college for our record work to be signed by our teachers without much ado. The effort paid off and today my B. Sc. Record is good enough to be shown to any one for reference. I try the same with my students and with the exception of a few most wish to be given prepared notes and diagrams and if I insist, manage to remain seated in the class till the bell rang and turn in their record with neatly copied diagrams from the book which at times are very different to those actually observed. I need to be grateful to them for not boycotting my class or walking out in the midst of one.

‘Now these are students’, I tell myself. ‘They will have to learn when their turn to teach comes’. But I was surprised when a teacher had a different take in the matter.

The Ranchi University Youth Festival was nearing its conclusion and the President of the student’s union was asked to address the gathering. The young man had earlier spoken on 3 occasions in 2 days. I felt that he was a good orator and whatever he said made sense. I felt that the students’ choice had been good and here was a young man who would perhaps take genuine interest in problems facing the student community and perhaps aim at solving them. On each of these occasions he spoke in chaste Hindi and to the point. But not so this time. He opted to speak in English, perhaps goaded by friends, and it was evident that he was not in command of the language. In his enthusiasm he ended up saying the exact opposite of what he wanted to say at times. For instance instead of saying “Students lack basic facilities in some colleges” he said “students lack basic problems in some colleges”. I lamented that he could have stuck to Hindi instead of switching over to a language that he was not familiar with. A teacher from another college who was seated by my side was quick to defend him.

“Why don’t you appreciate that he is at least trying?” she said. “How will he learn if he did not try?”

“This is the concluding session of the youth festival” I said “and he is addressing the students as their president. Can he afford to be misunderstood?”

“Please remember that English is not his mother tongue and it is natural to make mistakes when one tries something new.”

I did not pursue the conversation but I was certainly confused. Students who ought to try to understand their subject and prepare their own notes resort to guess papers and student’s guides and they choose to learn a new language not by participating in debates and discussions at their college level but by addressing a gathering at the University level at the expense of being misunderstood. I was genuinely concerned over his lack of fluency and my colleague was openly appreciative of his efforts. Which of us were right?

Friday, January 11, 2008

New year tag

Sango tagged me and has asked me to reveal what I would to say to the person I was on 1st Jan.2007.A difficult one but let me try.I'll call myself pram2008 and I'd be addressing pram2007.

pram2008:you asked for just 10 minutes at the end of 2006 and you were granted a whole year.I see that you haven't moved an inch.what were you upto eh?

pram2007:I may not have moveded an inch but I've certainly gained a few pounds. isn't that something to show? After all despite my age my system is able to assimilate and store food.

pram2008:You were supposed to put your papers in order and inform your children of your investments.Have you even started on it?

pram2007:I meant to do it. Honestly. I'll do it once the weather warms up a little. It is rather cold now and that husband of mine....keeps stuffing things into different folders. He,he...... we're made for each other you see.

pram2008:what about your plans to coach a few needy children at least twice a week?

pram2007:The needy children need to be spoonfed. I hadn't done it for my children.I certainly can't encourage the practice now. It is too late in the day for me to change my ways. If they start to work on their own I am willing to work on them.I haven't given up.

pram2008:A whole year has gone by and what have you got to show apart from your age and weight?

pram2007:why not? I met artnavy,usha and eve's lung in person and spoke to ITW over the phone. After 5 years the government has relented and has declared us demonstrators and at the age of 57 I attended an interview along with youngsters who were younger than my youngest child. Why don't you recognize the optimist in me? Forever criticizing........:-((

pram2008:okay,okay. Healthy criticism has not harmed anyone and it won't harm you too. You need to grow up don't you? Afterall you are now a grandma and have 2 cute grandaughters looking up to you. you wrote a post on 'Going back in time........ You want to give your grandkids something to remember you by don't you? And please for God's sake off load all unwanted items to needy people. You have so much unwanted stuff. And stop irritating that husband of yours. He is a simple family man and let him be.

pram2007:What do you mean? The man irritates me by his constant channel surfing habit and you blame me? Ah! that reminds me. I resolve to get a new TV for myself or else I'd be pushed back to the era before TV entered our lives. Good bye!

pram2008:G'bye for now. will be back in a year's time and you better have something to show as progress.

Thanks sango. I enjoyed doing it.I think I'll ask anyone interested to carry this forward. Tys you can do a great job of it. May I tag you??

A Happy Sankaranti to all of you.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Tambram customs

This being my first post for 2008, let me begin with my New Year greetings to one and all of you. We had the coldest day in five years this New Year so it was statistically an important day. However it made me curl up in bed doing nothing at all so I am afraid that it was certainly not a great way to celebrate the beginning of the new year. But I kept finding excuses the most plausible one being that I was getting on in age and long before reaching my age my MIL had handed charge of household duties to my SIL and me. I could certainly afford to curl up in bed on the coldest day of the season.

I’ll begin this year with an account of certain uniquely Tambram practices.

1. We can drink hot coffee and tea by pouring it directly into our mouth without actually sipping it. And mind you, there will certainly be no slip between the cup and the lip. The coffee will be poured straight into the throat after being cooled to a suitable temperature which is based on individual preferences and the amount of risk one is willing to take.

2. We can swab the floor moving backwards bending our bodies but not our knees and as children we were taught not to remove our hand from the floor while cleaning up the dining space on the floor till the entire area is done. We would not sprinkle water and wipe the place directly with a swab cloth. We’d first pick up left over food that may have spilled on the floor, then sprinkle water and clean it with our palm and finally wipe it dry with a swab cloth specially marked out for the purpose and finally rinse the cloth and dry it out for future use.

3. There is a custom called ‘pathu’ that was religiously followed by us till about 25 years ago but has been eased out these days. Cooked rice, dal, sabzi and other rice based salted ‘high tea’ delicacies like dosai, idli etc. were declared ‘pathu’. One had to wash one’s hand after touching these items and could not directly touch pickle, milk, curd or other food stuff. Strangely wheat preparations like puri and chapathis were exempted. Uppuma was ‘pathu’ but suji halwa was not. Deep fried items were not ‘pathu’ even if they were rice based. Like the English language where the spelling of ‘put’ and ‘but’ are similar but their pronunciation is different one had to be born a tambram to understand when one needed to wash one’s hand and when it was not required. When I say washing hands after touching certain food items I mean merely touching water with the tip of one’s fingers. I now realize that those were days when refrigeration of left over food was unheard of so all items marked out as pathu tended to spoil fast and this was a precautionary measure to prevent mixing of food.

4. ‘Palaharam’ is what we tambrams consume on days that we are supposed to fast. The variety one consumed after a whole or half a day’s fast would make our digestive machinery work overtime. Deep fried items, sweets and savory dripping with oil/ghee and a whole lot of fruits both dry and fresh would all be served to those on a fast. I’ve often wondered about this contradiction when one actually feasted instead of fasting and actually consumed more food than on normal days. I found an answer when I tried to trace the root of the word ‘palaharam’. It can be split into pala + aaharam. Pala in tamil means several (variety?) so a wide variety of food is served to compensate for the period of fasting. However it could also have meant Phala + aaharam. This means a meal based on fresh fruit. The tamil script does not distinguish between ‘pa’ and ‘pha’. So Tambrams ended up consuming variety food instead of fresh fruits. It makes sense to have fruits since the roughage it provides would clean up the system.

5. Finally the custom of ladies isolating themselves during the time they had their periods. If as one explained, it was started with the aim of allowing them rest from work why were ladies shooed off as if they were outcasts by their elders who had reached their menopause as if it was sin to even see them? Why were they served left over food saying they could be served fresh food only after the men folk and other elderly ladies had finished eating? I personally feel that the reason for starting this practice has been twisted out of context and by giving it a religious overtone women were made to feel inadequate and inferior. One possible reason could be to indirectly keep track of an unmarried girl’s periods for whatever reason.
I hear that these customs were followed in other groups too. I welcome inputs from one and all of you.