Monday, November 7, 2011

OPEN LETTER TO ALL NETIZENS

Dear Friend,

"You are a cheat, a nincompoop and a coward!"

Did that sting? Apologies, but I mean well. For the past couple of days I have been a silent but vigilant observer of the increasingly obnoxious behaviour of fellow netizens. The opening line was only one of those remarks. In the past, I have had friends who have been innocent victims of the aspersions of others in the virtual world. Perhaps, I would have held my silence if I myself wasn't victimized by not one but two netizens on two different networking sites Facebook and Twitter in one week. As they say, you don't know the pain until you face the music.

I have come to realise that within a gap of few days one can go from being a 'conversationalist' to a 'controversialist'. When the first incident occurred, like most others, I gave the person a piece of my mind (sans any abusive language) and blocked him. I considered the case closed and wanted to let the matter rest until the whip cracked again, this time in the form of a 140 character tweet. I was questioned by a complete stranger for 'maintaining' my etiquette while speaking about an elder. It was this comment that made me realize that Social Networking has now transformed radically from a mechanism promoting a healthy exchange of thoughts to personal battles with complete strangers.

After a long and useful chat with a couple of fellow internet users, here's what most concluded:
  • Retort, Rebut, Forget
  • Ignore
  • Answer and if the problem persists then block
  • Promotion of the 'I don't care' attitude.
However one friend did make a useful observation: "Give a man a mask and he would be fearless and shameless in this case. It is a masquerade party you see!"

These lines resonante my thoughts, but how long are we going to discount the kind of behaviour of these nameless, faceless individuals as immature? Internet users are not illiterate. But the attitude portrayed is that of the 'Educated illiterate'. Society seems to be spiraling downward on both moral and ethical fronts. I do not imply every user is worthy of blame but someone needs to raise a voice against this injustice too!

Disagreements are common but does it cost much to be civilized in our argument? Is it incumbent that one must end a losing battle with a demeaning statement or with an abuse.

With the increasing number of celebrities on social networking sites, these portals have now been converted into forums of venting anger and frustration towards the individual rather than the issue/problem itself. Politicians are probably facing the brunt of this open medium to the maximum. What started off as a vehicle of connectivity is now turning into a catastrophe. Character assassinations are common because of misinterpretations coupled with a narrow mind. No wonder then that trite expressions are blown out of proportion and we do not see too many of the tribe keen on connecting with the people in this fashion. Journalists come a close second in the list of celebrities to get abused.

It is unfortunate that with all our education and experience we are unable to maintain our tradition of common courtesy. Criticism without cuss words works well! It is farcical to respect people in the Real world while simultaneously abusing others in the virtual one under the guise of exposing them. Your abusive language may be encountered by silence but don't gloat that the receiver accepted your argument because they haven't. If anything, you have successfully exposed your mentality to the world.

Our gift of free society and free speech is best used with sizable self restraint. It is after all a person like you and me who is at the receiving end; a human being whose beliefs may concur or differ with yours, but at the end of the day possesses feelings like you and me.

Just a few pointers before I close: Research your facts before making an accusation, make your point without being derogatory, cut the use of cuss words and just know that you won't earn a gold medal for this but you will enjoy your camaraderie with different people.

With a hope that before 'Netiquette' is forced to make its way into classrooms and better sense prevails in the Virtual World,

A concerned fellow netizen
Katie_Abraham

@katie_abraham

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Man I Never Met

My Tribute to A Missionary, Father and above all a cherished Grandfather….

In the early 1900’s was born a son to a prosperous Kshatriyan Zamindar in Pacode district, Marthandam. He lived in the lap of luxury for the most of his boyhood until one day as all things come to an end his good fortune too came to an end.

Very less is known about my Grandpa’s early childhood. However, we do know that when he was still in the prime of his youth my Grandpa made a difficult and courageous decision to join the Christian Faith.

Around that time Christian missionaries flocked to India with the idea of spreading the Gospel in an alien land. A few Seventh Day Adventist Americans reached our hometown and it marked the turning point of my Grandfather’s life. As a practising Hindu; a Pujari’s Grandson and a zamindar’s son, things did not look too bright. Being the eldest son, it was a rude shock for the family, which continued in its beliefs. More than the family it was the societal pressures that could bog down a man. Although he knew the problems he would face, Grandpa converted to the Christian faith at a time when those who primarily converted were mostly those who belonged to the lower rungs of the Caste hierarchy. A switch of faith especially for a young lad of the Higher Caste spelt trouble more than you and I can ever imagine. But, if there’s one thing that we ‘Abrahams’ are proud about, it is our willingness to fight against the tide. Some may call it obstinacy, we call it Persistence. Grandpa not only completed but aced his Teacher’s Training in both Tamil and Malayalam which was commendable for the circumstances he was going through. Fluent in all three languages of Tamil, Malayalam and English he was an asset to any organisation he was associated with. Apart from being a Tamil Pundit, he was well acquainted with natural remedies and Ayurveda, a boon that has now passed on to his grandson and my eldest cousin.

Soon, Grandpa was married to a beautiful lady, my grandmother. She was blessed not only with external beauty that was worth a person’s admiration, she was blessed with a beautiful and a loving heart. She too was a devout Hindu and you are right in imagining an old- timer with her ears sagging under the weight of her gold.

Coming back, my Grandpa, Mr. Yovan Abraham began to serve as a Tamil Pundit at the Adventist school. Grandpa gifted a portion of his land to the Adventist Mission to build a church. He broke the tradition by opening the family well to all -people irrespective of their caste. He studied Theology in detail at the Training Centre at Bangalore. Soon, he was appointed as a Tamil Teacher at the Boarding School at Prakashapuram.

A capable Teacher, the American Missionaries recognised my Grandpa’s talent of Teaching and inducted him into Preaching as well. He was assigned his first job as a Church Pastor and Teacher at Karianandal. His beginning was not a smooth sailing one even in the Faith. When he reached Karianandal he was faced with stiff resistance from the Natives who did not want him to establish a Church there. For them an alien Church and faith entering the village was equal to a colonisation in itself. It took a sick child of the Sarpanch (village head) to bring these people to their senses. The twelve year old daughter of the village head was very ill. The family tried every natural remedy available. There was not a single vaid (village doctor) that they did not approach just to cure their daughter. Hospitals were a rarity and hence out of the question. Grandpa, was an unwelcome guest in the village, but out of respect was allowed to reside there till the time he did not interfere in the affairs of the villagers. But, he could not resist. Grandpa went to the Panch’s house and prayed for the child. By this time the child’s family had given up all hope. Grandpa sat near the child’s bed and prayed. While he prayed the stunned family members wondered at his chivalry to even step into the Sarpanch’s house. When he finished praying, Grandpa assured the child’s mother that the child would indeed live. As he was leaving he told the family that he would return to check on the child the next day. The family warned him that the wrath of the Sarpanch could cost him his life. That evening, the Sarpanch reached home and was told that this Christian man had come and prayed for his daughter. The anger of the Sarpanch was kindled to the extent that he sat sharpening the knife the whole night so that he would kill my Grandpa the next day, if he did come.

Grandpa arose the next morning finished his daily duties and later that evening reached the house of the Sarpanch. A few well- wishers informed him of the fatal plan that the child’s father had in mind. Undeterred by their pleas to return, Grandpa reached the house of the Sarpanch. Call it faith or a miracle, that evening, my Grandpa not only prayed for the child, he was not harmed by the Sarpanch. The moment of epiphany came when the child began to respond to the treatment and soon was as fit as a fiddle. Grandpa stayed in this very place for six long years where no Missionary stayed beyond three to six months. His preaching led many to accept the faith.

My Grandfather’s life was in danger as a lot many people attempted to kill him. Each time it was God’s grace that he miraculously escaped. But these incidents did have repercussions on my Grandmother' health. Tragedy struck hard, when my Grandfather lost his first and second born. But, his faith continued to be as strong as it had been. He accepted it as a part of the Divine Plan for him.

Soon, Grandpa returned to Prakashapuram, this time as a Church Pastor. He continued his mission service here till he was assigned to go to Lowry Memorial School, a prominent Adventist institute at Bangalore. Petty politics and his adamant attitude not to suffer injustice often- times brought him in cross roads with the authorities. My Grandpa neither succumbed to the incorrigible authorities nor did he give up the two things he loved, his ‘Faith’ and his ‘Family.’ He was blessed with six healthy and loving children. The five lads with my aunt as their only sister and the apple of her father’s eye brought my Grandparents joy even in tumultuous times. My grandmother too had by then accepted the faith whole- heartedly.

The reason I have carefully refrained from mentioning my own Dad’s name anywhere is because he is one of the youngest members of the family.

Misfortune struck the family again when my dad a young lad of twelve was struck with double pneumonia. The family had already lost another son, dad’s first cousin, earlier that year. He was dad’s best friend too. It is said that his death could have been the reason for my dad’s illness. The already bereaved family was now on the verge of losing a second son. Everyone, this time including my Grandfather believed that his life was slowly fading. However, jut a how King David prayed incessantly for his child, Grandpa too prayed without ceasing. It was a miracle that my Father survived.

A few years later, Grandpa got in touch with Pastor Skau another Adventist missionary. It was then that my Grandparents were sent to Salisbury Park, Pune. Soon, Grandpa was appointed as the Assistant-Editor of the Tamil daily Nallavalli and continued to serve as a Preacher at the SDA Church, Pune.

Soon, my aunt began to work for the Voice of Prophesy and my uncle too left for Singapore. Petty politics was something my Grandfather completely detested. In the mid- 1950’ he left Pune.

My dad was just sixteen when, one Sabbath morning my Grandfather passed away.

Apart from his preaching, this amazing man spent his time in comparative study of The Bible, The Koran and The Bhagvad Gita.

In his last sermon, Grandpa’s words resonated in the Church,

“God’s finger is ready to write, are our hearts prepared?”

I am one of the unfortunate ones to never have met this noble- heart but I am thankful to him because I have his clone in my Dad. Today we have a school established in Kanniyakumari, dedicated to my Grandpa.

His entire life my grandpa imparted Discipline, Dedication and Faith to all. These values were, are and always will be the three pillar foundation for our Family.

Most of what I have written today would have been impossible without the chronicling of the events by my Uncle and currently the Abraham family Patriarch, Mr. Jeyasingh Abraham.

Each family is rich in its history and heritage. It takes a little effort on our part to return to our roots and this is the product of my miniscule attempt.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Seventh-Day Adventist Church in a Nutshell

A Brief History of the Seventh Day Adventist Church for Lay people.

I write this blog as we commemorate the 167th Anniversary of the Great Disappointment of 1844. Before I get into the details of the Disappointment, it becomes necessary to understand who are Adventists? Christian Principles and doctrines may seem very simple on the face of it but is very complex when you begin to study it.

Many people ask me, who are Adventists? Are they Christians, Jews or is Seventh Day Adventism a religion by itself? To begin with, the Seventh Day Adventist community is an offspring of the Millerite movement.

Our story begins around the nineteenth century when William Miller a Baptist preacher in the United States began to study and decipher the hidden truths and prophesies in the Bible. For those unaware of this fact, a common Christian belief is that the Bible apart from being the book of Fundamental principles of leading a Good Christian Life, also contains certain prophecies dealing with the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Christians believe that Jesus Christ will come the Second time and the righteous will be saved.

William Miller continued to study the Bible and it was then that he tried to decipher the meaning of the book of Daniel. (Also considered as one of the difficult books to understand). William Miller continued to study the Bible and as he did he was moved by the Spirit of God along with fellow followers of Christ. It was around this time that Daniel 8: 14 picked up significance.

The verse reads: “And he said unto me, Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed.”

Steeped in significance, it became a matter of concern to Miller who interpreted this verse to be '2300 years' calculating the same according to the ‘day- year principle’. Ref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Day-year_principle

According to Miller the 2300 year period was to end in the year 1844. Miller interpreted it to be the year of Jesus Christ’s Second Coming and this stirred up the faith of many Christian believers. It is said that it was around this time, many people sold off their lands and began a sort of penance in order that they might be saved.

The Great Disappointment:

So what happened? Why are we still on earth? Although Miller never acknowledged a particular date of Christ’s Second Coming, he did narrow the time frame of the same to be between March 1843 and March 1844. Later, it was Samuel Snow a skeptic turned Preacher who announced that 22nd October, 1844 would indeed be the closest accurate date for the Second Coming.

Now, if there is one prophesy that has consistently been hidden by the Scripture is the actual date of the Lord’s arrival. In Matthew 24: 36-39 it clearly states on the Lord’s Arrival, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.”

This is why perhaps the presumption of Samuel Snow that October 22nd, 1844 would indeed be the Judgment Day failed.

These events gave rise to three kinds of Believers. The first of these believers are those who were not Disappointed at all. These were believers whose sole basis was Fear. The fact that the Lord had not come, gave them reason to go back to their wayward ways. The second type of Believers was those who had truly believed that the Lord would come but the fact that He had not only disappointed but left them embittered. The third and perhaps the strongest in their faith returned to the Scriptures for a better study of the Bible. This included the Adventist founder Mrs. Ellen G White. Most leaders and believers like Miller and Mrs. White began to study the Bible more intently.

The Most Holy Place & The Great Advocate

It was in these testing times that it was propounded vehemently that 1844 was indeed a year of significance, not solely because of the Great Disappointment. It was a year of significance as it was the year when Christ was elevated from the Holy Place to the Most Holy Place. It was also stated that the Judgement process had begun with Jesus mediating as the Advocate on behalf of each living person so that maximum people would be saved.

Adventist Mission founded:

It is on this background that the Seventh Day Adventist Church was founded on 21st May, 1863. It was an offshoot of the same Millerite Movement.

The Aims of the Seventh Day Adventist Church may be best summarised in three words: Preaching Teaching and Healing.

The Seventh Day Adventist Church is the largest of the Adventist groups in the world.

Important Principles:

· Saturday is the Sabbath. The most important of all the Teachings of the Seventh Day Adventists is their belief that Saturday is the Sabbath.

Ref: Genesis 2:3 And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.

· No Papal hierarchy.

· Important Health Principles : Special emphasis on natural remedies, vegetarianism and simple and plain foods and fruits.

· Abstention from Meat and Alcohol.

· Connection between Health principles and Christian duty

· Strict adherence to the Principles (especially asbtention from certain types of foods) as laid down in Leviticus 11.

In totality, the Seventh Day Adventist Church has left an indelible mark on world society especially in the field of Medical Sciences and Preaching with A- grade hospitals and excellent Universities like St. Andrews that impart knowledge and faith. It is the faith and the undying desire to come Face to Face with the Saviour that keeps the Adventists to lead lives that are different from their counterparts.

All we can hope is that at the time of the Second Coming we are found worthy enough to be saved!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

How far can I go?

The role of women in an ever changing world.

The strength of a woman can carry the weight of the world.

These famous lines by Sarah Pezdek Smith has helped me believe that every woman has the potent to ignite the candle of enlightenment and prove to the world her insignia of Faith, Honesty, Selflessness and Integrity.

ROLE OF WOMEN: AN HISTORICAL ESTIMATE

A few decades ago the inclusion and participation of women in various fields was under terrible scrutiny. To put an end to this misery, feminist movements were undertaken the world over. They were questioned and met with rigorous opposition. In the last few centuries women around the world have gone on a war footing to empower themselves to match the needs of modern day society.

An old political tactic that many liberals employ when talking of such issues could kindle a very strong debate. However, a debate is not the one stop solution for all problems. In order to understand the need for women’s emancipation it is essential to rewind a few centuries in the past.

The mentality of the people around the world at the time can be described aptly in terms of Early Roman law which described women as children, forever inferior to men.

If I must begin with the past I find it necessary to start with my own homeland India. In the 16th century India, Gender discrimination was at its peak. Prior to the foreign invasions the worth of women was described in the words of Manu, the great Law- giver who said, 'where women are honored there reside the gods'. No religious rites could be performed without the participation of women. Men were considered incomplete without their better halves accompanying them. Slowly however this phase climaxed and the condition of women took a 360 degree turn when the country was taken over by an alien rule. The Islamic rule began in the country and the status of women was in a ‘see- saw’ state. During this period women were reduced to mere puppets in the hands of men. They were virtually reduced to the position of slaves and compelled to stay within the four walls of their homes. They were deprived of their basic rights. They had no say in their own family matters. Sati, Child marriage, tonsure of widows, female infanticide and forbiddance of widow re- marriage were some of the Social evils existing in the society. As a matter of fact, apart from the women from the higher castes, women were literally forbidden from education. It was considered a waste. Although we cannot blame any 'One' period of history or community for the deplorable condition of women, it is a fact that the women of today enjoy greater liberty as compared to their ancestors.

The arrival of the British in India and the spread of western education among Indian thinkers slowly and steadily tried to reform the scenario. It must be noted that the Empire did not immediately do anything concrete for fear of the wrath and rebellion of the natives. Soon however, a welcome change arrived at India’s doorstep in the form of leaders like Raja Ram Mohun Roy a western educated Indian and scholars like Veershlingam Pantalu, Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar etc. Thinkers like Swami Vivekananda, provided for an evolution of thoughts. The rigid mindset of the orthodox Hindus was transformed radically.

We’ve come a long way since then. Today, The Hindu Code Bill which once did not include the daughter, today asserts that a daughter is as much a ‘heir’ as is a son and she is entitled to an equal share of the property and The Marriage Act no longer regards a woman as the property of man. Indian women have made considerable progress in the fields of Arts, Science, Humanities, Law, Sports and Entertainment. Our ‘Famous Firsts’ include Dr Kiran Bedi the first lady to join the Indian Police Services in 1972, Mrs Indira Gandhi, the first lady Prime Minister and Dr Pratibha Patil, currently serving as the First Lady of the country.

Surprisingly, India was not the only country were the women led a constricted life. In fact the country that gave the world the principle of ‘Democracy’ (Greece) did not regard women as a part of society. Women were not allowed to vote nor were they accepted as an equal.

Moving on, in the American Society, women were a significantly oppressed section of the society in the 17th and 18th centuries with no voting rights for them and they were kept out of armed forces and other businesses. Running on lines parallel to the Indian society, American women also were suffering with an inferior social and economic status. During the early history of the United States, a man virtually owned his wife and children as he did his material possessions. The status of the women in the United Kingdom can be described through 'My Last Duchess' a dramatic monologue by Robert Browning. The character of the Duke of Ferrara shows the mentality of the British aristocrats symbolizing dominance and arrogance of the men. However, today the British and American societies have accepted women and their contribution to the society with open arms. Surprisingly although the Muslim world has been accused of promoting the sub- ordination of women, it must not be forgotten that Turkey played an important role in promoting the development of women. In the 1930s, Turkey became one of the first countries in the world to give full political rights to women, including the right to elect and be elected locally (in 1930) and nation wide (in 1934). They were indeed the first to recognize that “The hand that rocks the cradle, rules the world!”

WOMEN AND EDUCATION

Today the fairer sex has not only succeeded but in some cases superseded their male counterpart. The role of women has shown phenomenal progress in the field of Education. It is surprising, that the role of women has changed drastically in this field. In a recent study, it was observed that 4,587 of the 17,357 primary schools in England do not have a single male teacher. However at the University level men outnumber the women. It holds true the words of a famous man who once said, ‘Educate a man, educate only a man, Educate a woman and you will educate a family.’

Sadly, much is left to be done in the field of Education.The educational system especially in many middle east countries have not developed fully and are still reluctant to give in to the fact that women can be effective instruments in the field of education.

ROLE OF WOMEN IN POLITICS

Cleopatra may well be branded as a woman who enticed two great rulers, but none can deny the fact that she was a capable ruler, perhaps one of the finest of her time. Her political progeny has only increased down the years in the garb of women who have taken up the political reins in different countries. In a poll conducted Hilary Clinton is said to have outbeaten President Barack Obama at one point. Indian History cannot be complete without the mention of Mrs. Indira Gandhi who was titled (and rightly so) as the ‘Only Man in the Cabinet.’ She once stated, ‘You must learn to be still in the midst of activity and to be vibrantly alive in repose.’ She lived up to her words when she took the courageous decision of declaring a National Emergency in the country, a decision not many of her fellow politicians were comfortable with. However, this remark is not meant to demean the consistent efforts of her fellow – members. It is a subtle reminder that a woman’s determination can if need be change the face of the political system. Angela Merkel the Chancellor of Germany proved her mettle in the political field becoming only the second after another important lady politician Margaret Thatcher (former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom) to chair the G8 summit in 2007. Christine Lagarde too made her mark becoming the first woman to head the IMF. No description of International politics is complete without the mention of one of the longest surviving female rulers the ruling monarch of the United Kingdom, Queen Elizabeth who has effectively ruled her country for the past few decades. COuntless others have left an impression in different fields.

WOMEN AND ENTREPRENEURSHIP

Another outstanding contribution from the now ‘stronger’ sex is seen in the world of business. Women Entrepreneurs are fast picking up pace. Although women face a lot of constraints in terms of lack of family support or at times battling the male ego, a sense of awareness has led them to make the right decisions. A lot of women today are taking over the businesses of their families in India especially. Roshni Nadar, the daughter of the leading business tycoon and the current director of HCL Corporation in India is probably the best example of young women taking over the business world. Many have begun small scale industries. Being the more fashionable of the sexes, the leading ladies today find it easier to attract a lot of potential customers with their knowledge of style thus benefiting the World of Fashion. In fact it is even said that introduction of more women in the world of business could lead to a rapid growth in the economic health of the country. V. Cheryl Womack heads ‘Leading Women Entrepreneurs of the World’ a non profit organization established to identify and encourage talented women entrepreneurs in the world. Till now they have successfully aided many such entrepreneurs to start their individual businesses.

SOCIAL STATUS: CHANGING TIMES

The social domain can never be complete without the presence of the fairer sex. Diane Mariechild described a woman’s presence in just one sentence, ‘A woman is the full circle, within her is the power to create, nurture and transform.’

Society has agonized women and healed injured hearts. Society has been responsible for the downfall and the upliftment of women. The reason is, that this Society is made of people who have been oppressed and people who bear this oppression. In the past women were toyed around with. Their status was designated as one of child bearing and child rearing. It was quite effectively forgotten that the same woman who nurtured the child was ultimately reduced to a footstool. What is shocking is that, inspite of being the first teachers to their children the very same mothers were treated as mere unpaid baby- sitters. Women were considered too dumb to write and were forced to assume pen- names that were pre-dominantly male; George Eliot being the most famous of them all. Although these harsh realities may seem unpleasant to the readers, truth is always a bitter pill. Does a woman do nothing but submit, then?

We must be grateful that despite the grievous errors committed, it was this very society which gave a chance for women to get a fair chance to prove their mettle.

From the sorry and pathetic lives of unpaid house- maids, society now recognized these women for the talent that they exhibited. Society gave those willing to challenge this male- dominated world the opportunity to assert their individuality. This is the basic and most pre- dominant reason that Feminist movements sprung up in various parts of the world. Be it Literature or arts, women fiercely propagated their need to rise out of the ashes of sub- ordinance and inferiority. All those passionate about this cause began to stand up for their right forcing philosophers, thinkers, scholars and above all the common man to reason out for themselves if it was in fact the right thing to do. Henrik Ibsen’s ‘A Doll’s House’ was one of the plays that showcased a woman’s need to be independent. A woman was not to be thought of as a co- dependent but an active participant in all life’s struggles. A literary awakening not only enlightened the rich upper class but also dismissed the wanton fears regarding a woman’s integrity being at stake. The upcoming bourgeoise or the neo- rich class thought it right for their daughters and wives to share in their burdens equally. Today, we have stable families where both spouses are bread- earners and the family is running smoothly.

SHOULD WOMEN WORK?

A common cause for concern that has always arisen is regarding working mothers. Many orthodox countries around the world believe that the essence of a woman is reflected in the upbringing of the children. The question posed is that if a lady spends the most of her day working, when will she get the time to even have a relaxed conversation with her children or for that matter will her children ever grow up to be responsible individuals? Whom then should a woman choose?

Choices are but limitations. It is not mandatory that in life we can only choose to fulfill certain tasks and in the bargain lose your identity. It does take a little soul- searching on one’s part to make the right decisions. For this purpose it is important that a woman must understand her own priorities in life before stepping out to work. Many women today take a break from work till their children attain an age of understanding. Similarly there are women today who also operate from their homes. Some mothers schedule their lives so wonderfully that their children do not feel aloof or left out. Family dinners and lunches help in family bonding. Vacations from time to time allow the parent- child relationship to further develop thus giving the entire family to understand each other and develop. Virginia Satir inspires all mothers to carry their burden with a smile with the words, “We need 4 hugs a day for survival, we need 8 hugs a day for maintenance and we need 12 hugs a day for growth!”

How wonderful to be a mother and feel complete as an individual.

WOMEN TODAY

If you read the book ‘Let Me Be a Woman’ by Elisabeth Eliot, one can understand exactly what it is to be a woman, to think like a sensible woman and to execute decisions in life as a smart woman. A few days ago, we were discussing about employing a young girl who is suffering with cerebral palsy at my new workplace. Despite her handicap she has successfully completed her graduation. Though her feat is commendable the fact remains that she is bright but jobless. My employer decided that she would give her the job and make her feel that her education and her hardwork are paying her. The benevolence that my boss showed while deciding to employ the girl indeed touched me and I feel proud of working at the institute.

Women have reached the zenith of success today in the fields of Science, Medicine, Space Research, Law, Defense and Civil Services and so on. Women are even given free primary education and financial aid in terms of scholarships, fellowships and easy access loans are also being provided to them.

ORGANISATIONS AIDING WOMEN

Various institutions like the National women’s Business Council, the International Alliance for women and Centre for Women and Information technology have been set up in the United States of America for promoting business women. Self- employed Women’s Association (SEWA) is an important organization in India for the same. The motto of these institutions is, ‘Empowering women in an insecure world.’

Other institutions that champion women’s rights to be liberated from domestic violence include Stree Mukti Sanghatna, Association for women’s right in development, the MADRE, etc. These organizations have freed thousands of women from mental harassment, physical and domestic violence and have also ensured that the affected are recuperating so that they are fit for turning a new leaf in their lives. The United Nations formed its Commission on the Status of Women in 1946 in order to monitor the treatment of women and promote women’s rights on a global level.

CONCLUSION

Ensuring women’s empowerment is today a global issue. It must not be taken lightly. Gender inequality or gender bias must be actively discouraged. There are no superiors or inferiors in this world of ours. It must be considered a privilege to be able to work with different people from different caste, creed, race or sex. We must accept the fact that in many areas of life men will remain ahead , but there exist domains where women have proved that they can withstand the test of time equally well.

As I started with a quote, so will I end in the words of Washington Irving the famous American writer: “There is in every true woman's heart, a spark of heavenly fire, which lies dormant in the broad daylight of prosperity, but which kindles up and beams and blazes in the dark hour of adversity.

REFERENCES:

Indian Society and Social Institutions by H.R. Mukhi

Let Me Be a Woman by Elisabeth Eliot

http://www.soros.org/initiatives/women

http://www.enterweb.org/women.htm

Friday, September 16, 2011

HOW FREE ARE YOU?


Reflections of a young adult on the susceptible position of a subverted concept

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high….…Into ever-widening thought and action, Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.”

- Rabindranath Tagore

I belong to a country that is currently sixty-three years young, but, when I look around me, the thoughts that are ricocheted seem centuries old. This paradox called India is a paradigm of ancient dogmas intermittently arrayed with a sense of an artificial modernity. Maybe, this is the reason we still revel in dynastic politics while wriggling simultaneously in despair to free ourselves from the clutches of poverty and indifference.

The question that arises in my mind is, ‘How free am I?’

Keeping the facts in mind, my attempt in this essay is to emphasise on the need to wipe out the diffidence of the youth towards the country and encourage them to assume responsibility as ‘Architects of the Future.’

This essay will serve as an exposé on the issue at hand ‘How Free are you?’ by highlighting four important themes:

Part one focuses on ‘Civil Society as a primeval need of Modern Man.’ The following section, will deal with the ‘Idea called Freedom’. The third part elucidates the Role of Freedom in a Democratic society and its gross manipulation in various fields under ‘Freedom: A Democratic Sham.’ The final section, ‘I can be Free: The Audacity of Hope’ will counter these problems with a simple seven- step workable youth program supplemented by comments by Dr. Shashi Tharoor and Mr. Rajdeep Sardesai.

Civil Society: The Primeval need of Modern Man

As we deliberate on the various periods of history, we study the progress of Man from being an absolute nomad to a social animal that cannot thrive in isolation. It is from this need for social contact that the first civilisation emanated and today continues to flourish. [2]

The case, however, seems to have changed drastically over the years. Given the current deplorable scenario on the political front and the dismal display of the hunger for power and money, I am forced to recall and re- think if Lao Tzu was right when he stated,

Exterminate the sage [the ruler] and discard the wisdom [of rule], and the people will benefit a hundredfold”[3]

As I contemplate on the issue at hand, reality strikes hard and I am faced with the quintessential question: ‘What have I done to secure my freedom?’ The issue at hand today is one that we all as responsible citizens should be vigilant about. As a young adult, I am faced with innumerable questions on the economic, political and social health of the Motherland I love.

A major determinant is the perception of man that works on two levels: individual and social. Man primarily seeks to serve an individual purpose first, fulfil his self- interest and then if he finds it in his interest he looks to the benefit of mankind.[4] This gives rise to the involvement of the common man or colloquially the ‘Aam Admi’ who must rise above all and perform his civic duties as pre- determined by the supreme law of the land, The Constitution of India. The law bestows a certain amount of authority to elected representatives of the people. Here, it is imperative to note what an Indian strategic analyst pointed out regarding the difference between ‘power’ and ‘influence.’ He said that a country may earn its title as a superpower but if its influence is on the wane it is in need for active coalition-building.[5] We are forced to ask ourselves, ‘To whom do we owe our solidarity? Is it to the country, a political party comprising of flawed human beings much like ourselves or something greater?’

Freedom: An Idea or a Practice?

If we are to study the question posed in the previous section, we must first deal with the idea called ‘Freedom.’ This concept may be best defined in the words of Bertrand Russell who said, “Freedom in general may be defined as the absence of obstacles to the realization of desires.” This means that there is no scope for any sporadic hurdles if we want to consider ourselves free. Now, a concept remains so until it is put in practice but, here it is that we confront the naked truth. Although, India won her Independence at the stroke of the midnight hour on the night of 15th August, 1947, she attained a limited ‘paper- freedom.’ This is because the lust for power was overwhelming to the sons of the soil. The fact that pristine politicians like Pandit Nehru, Sardar Patel and others existed cannot undermine the reality that corruption exhibited its ugly countenance through the lower rungs.

Today, India features in the ‘Top 100’ list in terms of Corruption. On reading this statement you and I are now forced to cogitate on the more important point, ‘When we talk of realisation of desires, whose desires are we talking about?’ The ancient Latin Proverb, Optima corrupta pessima’[6] comes to mind.

Freedom: A Democratic Sham!

We have already seen the role that Freedom should play in the logical sense. Now, we will deal with the Reflections of Freedom in the modern day scenario. The Commonwealth Games scandal and the 2G Spectrum Scam will go down in History as the darkest period of Indian Democracy. All our achievements of this period have been overshadowed by the incessant need for supremacy. It is now a distant dream for anyone to wake up one morning and read a newspaper headline that is free from the scar of another politician’s wayward ways. The immediate effect of this permanent blot on the political circle has evidently affected the economic sphere as well. Foreign investors are questioning the credibility of the country. Research shows that India is to take a severe hit financially in 2011-2012 as a result of the dent on the country’s reputation.[7] Stagnation on the economic front will further widen the Great Economic Divide that is prevalent in India.

We call ourselves a Pluralist democracy that has transcended the most important barriers of religion and language. The point however is that it is not enough to only show unanimity on the outset and not make the best use of the opportunities that society has to offer in the service of the country.

It is rightly stated, “Poverty and prosperity are not matters of land. Poverty or riches or personal satisfaction depend on man, on his culture and on his political arrangements. Understand that and you will understand the most important cause of wealth deprivation.”[8] It is shameful to note that in a country with 1.21 billion people we are struggling with a whopping 41.6% below the International poverty line.[9] Sauvik Chakravarti summed up the entire situation in a simple statement encumbered in Truth. He said, “We as a nation have been woefully ignorant for far too long.”[10]

In the political and economic spheres of our country we need to focus on the issue of collective planning that needs to be complemented by political consciousness for it to work in favour of the Aam Admi. Ultimately, the members of the Government are very much answerable for their actions to the people who elected them. The recent 2G Spectrum Scam brought to the forefront the issue of corruption at the highest levels of the political hierarchy. No one man can be held responsible for what happened. It was the callousness on the part of all those concerned to maintain a check on the working of the Telecom industry. As if that wasn’t enough, the Commonwealth Games Scandal took the cherry, the icing and the whole cake! In fact, a popular comment doing the rounds these days is that the oncoming monsoon session of the Parliament may just have to shift to Tihar! It is when I read statements like these from the naïve youth who call themselves the ‘Future of India,’ I realise we need to work our way out of this disgraceful situation. The Youth of today are slowly losing their faith in the workability of a Democracy in the country. Before we can concentrate our attention towards finding plausible solutions for this problem, we need to focus on other difficulties that are leading to social dispiritedness.

The Government of India recently passed a bill in favour of a thirty- three per cent reservation for women. However, this has failed to make a compelling impact on the majority. The reason I do not support any form of Reservation is because it gives rise to a hackneyed society. We all would prefer to have a healthy competition, rather than show unwelcome pity to a deserving female candidate whose potential may never be recognised because she falls under a category called ‘Reserved.’ The age- old myth of Reservation becoming some sort of status symbol is definitely a farce. The lesser we believe in it the better will be our future. A similar problem is faced by deserving students who lose their seats because of reservation.

A glaring issue when we talk of Freedom is the issue of Economic Growth. As I peruse the newspapers each day, I am apprehensive about the catharsis of the Economic Crisis. Edward Wilson once stated, “We are the first species in the history of life to go out of control on a global scale.” Although the statement may seem astounding, the truth in it cannot be undermined.

The major pillar of a glowing Democracy is its Free Media. In fact one of the first propagators of a Free Press, John Milton has given the essence of Truth in media in his essay Areopagitica, “Though all the winds of doctrine were let loose to play upon the earth, so Truth be in the field, we do injuriously by licensing and prohibiting to misdoubt her strength. Let her and Falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the worse, in a free and open encounter.”

Today, the media it seems has succumbed to the indomitable power of money. The integrity of the media is at stake especially because it has now engrossed in the trivial. This is a matter of serious concern and so it is essential that both the Print and Broadcast forms of communication must be scrutinised. I do not believe in ‘Media- gagging’ but I am in favour of a positive restraint. Given the corruption that is rife even in the Media today, Mr. Rajdeep Sardesai shared his views on the Responsibility of a Free Media and Student Participation. He wrote,

“I think the quality of the news will improve when we invest greater time and effort in content generation. News can be fast food only up to a point. The prime responsibility of the media is to report the news as they see it without any personal agendas influencing it. I wish the student community would get more passionate about public life, and their attention span should not be fleeting. There is more to news than a 140 character tweet! Explore the complexities of news, look for shades of grey, and not black and white descriptions. [11]

I can be Free: The Audacity of Hope

Since we have studied the major issues that affect the Indian political system we realise the reasons that young people are soaked in political indifference. The need of the hour is to find a solution to the impending problems rather than fall prey to worthless Criticism.

Lord Byron once remarked, “Nothing is as difficult as the beginning.” So, keeping in mind the various problems that our country faces, here is a simple Seven- Step Program recommended in order to have a substantial increase in the percentage of youth participation in the country.

1. Introduce Day Training programs, workshops for the Youth to broaden their views about Politics.

2. Political Counseling and setting up of Political Engages at regular intervals throughout the year and not only at the time of elections. Make the Youth believe in their leaders!

3. Induction of young Turks in the Indian Parliament.

4. The use of various media like Twitter and Facebook to connect with the people. Excellent examples include, Mr. Kevin Rudd, former Australian PM, Omar Abdullah CM of Kashmir and Dr. Shashi Tharoor, Former Under- Secretary General to the UN and currently a prominent Member of Parliament in India. All these popular international personalities have created a virtual platform for Political Accountability apart from connecting remarkably well with the young minds!

5. Establishing schools that work for an overall development of the student and imparts not only secular and cultural values but also a greater degree of civil consciousness.

6. Each political party must include Youth Participation compulsorily in their Party Manifesto and recruit committed young people in the cadre.

7. Finally, establishment of schools specializing solely in the field of Politics and Governance like the MIT- School of Governance in Pune would be a welcome relief.

With the hope that this essay has fulfilled its task of elucidating upon the current trends of Political Apathy in the Youth in the context of a free society, I conclude in the optimistic words of Dr. Shashi Tharoor,

“The only answer is to get involved! Young people must know they should not be indifferent to politics because it determines their opportunities in so many ways. We all get the political leaders we deserve, so if we stay apathetic we allow others to decide for us who makes the policies that shape our futures...”[12]




Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Being Democratic

A youth member’s take on Corruption and the Current Political scenario.

The current political scenario has finally got me to a vantage point. Years ago, during the Emergency my dad as a youngster wrote an article entitled, ‘The Rape of Judiciary’ sensing the urgency of the situation. Today as I watch the Parliament proceedings and the current political scenario I feel a sense of Emergency and hence this blog...

I am a member of the Youth Community who is silently witnessing a Protest that is being termed as a ‘Second- Freedom Struggle.’ This Struggle is against Corruption. Now, before any of you readers get the wrong impression that I am supporting any one faction, I am not. What I am doing is adding a little Reason to both sides. A humble request to all those who read this blog: Please keep your mind free from any clout or bias to understand what I have written. I respect your point of view, I hope you do too.

To begin with…..

Who are Members of Parliament?

Constitutionally, a Member of Parliament is an elected representative of the people representing the hopes and aspirations as well as the miseries and the problems of the people.

What have I witnessed in the last few days and months?

All that has happened in the last few weeks is that Members of Parliament are being Insulted, Abused and De- graded and for what? For ‘Representing’ us! I agree, you are frustrated and at a near breaking point but, abusing the Prime Minister, Home Minister and the Finance Minister on public forums is not the solution. I have heard the nastiest things being talked about these distinguished members of society. They are international figures who have been applauded for their efforts at National and International levels. Just for starters, apart from many other things, Dr. Manmohan Singh, Dr. Salman Khurshid, Mr. Praful Patel, Mr.P.Chidambaram, Dr. Shashi Tharoor, Mr. Manish Tewary or for that matter the Opposition leaders like Arun Jaitley are in this Parliament not as opportunists but they are there to get a substantial amount of work done. They have a passion to serve society.Now, this may bring out the cynic in you and you may now come up with a list of names of corrupt politicians, but do we sacrifice every pristine politician at the same altar as those who are tainted? Each of them and many others (It would take couple of pages just naming all of them) is trying to make your voice heard too. You and I can sit in the luxury of our homes and tweet and rave and rant about the ‘Corruption’ in society or we can show our solidarity by firstly respecting the Members of Parliament who are trying to make sure we don’t face problems and not allowing these corrupt elements to thrive in society.

So, what is the Lokpal?

It was decided by the Members of Parliament that in the greater interest of the Society certain measures were needed to be taken to curb the corruption and it was to ensure that common man would be able to report the malfunctioning of various government bodies and various government officials so that this wanton bribery and corruption could be curbed effectively. The problems arose when the Lokpal was branded as ineffective and incompetent to serve the aforesaid purpose.

The Lokpal Debate:

When the Parliament decided to table the Lokpal bill, there was a huge uproar. A slim petite figure, a former war veteran realised that he had to stop this supposedly 'weak' bill. Backed by a few other prominent members of society and a belligerent media, a parallel bill was instituted to serve the purpose. Differences arose in both factions and this soul called Mr. Anna Hazare is on a fast unto death that has today entered its second week. This group of early risers against corruption christened itself as the ‘Civil Society’. They represented the aspirations of the people. The question then arose, “Why do we elect Members of Parliament?”

What I Support:

Like you, I believe that we DEFINITELY require a strong Anti- Corruption law that will address all aspects of this growing cancer. It is necessary that we all come together and have a good law. No one appreciates a well drafted law more than a student of Law. The intention of Mr. Hazare is much appreciated and so are the Government’s efforts towards the same.

What I am against:

I am against those who are ‘Losing faith’ in the Supreme Legislating body. Most of the people I had this discussion with said, “No, the Parliament is taking too long to pass the Bill, stringent action must be taken.” If you think rationally, every aspect and every clause of a Bill in the Parliament needs to be carefully deliberated upon before it becomes a law. After all even Jefferson said, Delay is preferable to error. I still recall the golden words of an eminent legal personality of our country Mr. Ram Jethmalani who said, “Justice hurried, is Justice buried.” If the law is made in haste, we are sure to pick out more lacunas once this bill is passed. Time is of the essence, but sometimes we need cynicism to take a backseat and allow the Parliament to make decisions for us. After all it’s a simple analogy; you elected the Member of Parliament, now show some faith! If you trusted them all this while why not a few more weeks? One person can be wrong two, even three but a Parliament of 552 Lok Sabha members + 250 members of the Rajya Sabha cannot be corrupt, wrong and unworthy of office! At the same time, this does not discount the fact that like you, I am also against the Parliament being adjourned three times a day with no substantive work getting done.

There’s always room at the top if we all put our minds together rather than obstinately stand against each other, because of foolish pride.

Protests by screaming slogans that are against the Government are never going to do any good.

But, I am a student, Protest is the best I can do:

Wrong! You can do a lot more than shout out in the middle of the square that you are against Corruption. You are up in arms against the unknown devil. You need to treat your country with dignity. Will sacrificing a day at college bring corruption to an end? No! If you feel so passionately about this problem, do what the country expects of you today. Study hard, get into the services and ensure that you do not encourage bribery or any other form of corruption. You will have done your bit for your nation. Stop paying that extra buck, start becoming an aware citizen, spread the awareness and make sure you get heard. If your still unhappy make sure you chose rightly the next time around. Hurting yourself or hurting another fellow Indian’s reputation and dignity is no answer to this grave issue.

I appreciate every citizen’s need for a Corruption- free society but lets’ not have Opportunists blowing things out of proportion. Each one of us has faced and is facing various effects of an unethical part of society. Let’s not delve into the minor and trivialise such an important issue. Let us all stand against corruption without holding our Democracy at ransom. Let us show some faith in those whom we elected to make the right decision. Let us all be a little more Reasonable.

Having said that, I rest my case!


*Views and Opinions expressed by the writer are personal.