Seminal Questions Monday, Jan 29 2007 

In India, arranged marriage is the norm. Parents derive foremost satisfaction from arranged marriages of their children because their role, authority, preferences and approval prevail.

But all marriages are not arranged. Though elopements and love marriages face disapproval from the family and the society, some bold and adventurous couples take that course.

In arranged marriages parents and other responsible elders in the family consider all aspects of a relationship- family, financial security, close relatives, social standing, and the like- before approving a marriage. A marriage is not just a relationship between two individuals, but a strong and lasting bond between the two families of the couple.

Parental fears and concerns have more emphasis in an arranged marriage and mostly these are the issues considered traditionally. Couples are required to abide by what the parents have decided for them. Their own personal concerns and needs are not considered much; they are considered to the extent they can be accommodated. That’s all.

In such a scheme the following critical questions recommended by relationship experts do not have a place. Nevertheless some of these questions can be asked and discussed even by married couples. But those in love and want to marry may consider them first and marry next.

1) Have we discussed whether or not to have children, and if the answer is yes, who is going to be the primary care giver?

2) Do we have a clear idea of each other’s financial obligations and goals, and do our ideas about spending and saving mesh?

3) Have we discussed our expectations for how the household will be maintained, and are we in agreement on who will manage the chores?

4) Have we fully disclosed our health histories, both physical and mental?

5) Is my partner affectionate to the degree that I expect?

6) Can we comfortably and openly discuss our sexual needs, preferences and fears?

7) Will there be a television in the bedroom?

8) Do we truly listen to each other and fairly consider one another’s ideas and complaints?

9) Have we reached a clear understanding of each other’s spiritual beliefs and needs, and have we discussed when and how our children will be exposed to religious/moral education?

10) Do we like and respect each other’s friends?

11) Do we value and respect each other’s parents, and is either of us concerned about whether the parents will interfere with the relationship?

12) What does my family do that annoys you?

13) Are there some things that you and I are NOT prepared to give up in the marriage?

14) If one of us were to be offered a career opportunity in a location far from the other’s family, are we prepared to move?

15) Does each of us feel fully confident in the other’s commitment to the marriage and believe that the bond can survive whatever challenges we may face?

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Imitation Gandhis Sunday, Jan 14 2007 

Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated in New Delhi 58 years ago, on 30 Jan 1948.

Gandhiji continues to inspire scholars and peace activists worldwide. Gandhiji also interests beggars and mean attention seekers.

In Hyderabad city, every now and then, you come across beggars young and old with tonsured heads, wearing a piece of loincloth and carrying a staff in one hand and a book in the other. All these imitation Gandhis are painted in aluminum colur from head to toe. I don’t know why.

Some of them choose a raised spot in a very busy place and stand motionless like a statue of Gandhiji. Frozen while walking.

The trick attracts attention of the curious public, but I’m not sure whether it fills their begging bowl. But that’s not my point.

No one has ever complained about this practice or tried to stop it. No one feels offended?

But this short video on Gandhiji on You Tube and broadcasted on two Indian TV channels has caused a furore. Congress party activists took to streets carrying placards and shouting slogans.

The video insults Mahatma Gandhi and the Nation, they claim.

The government has condemned the action of the TV channels and demanded a public apology from them.

In the video, Gandhiji resists violence with violence; brandishes a dagger, drives an SUV, goes to a bar in the company of two half-naked women and shoots and kills with a gun.

The video was posted on You Tube by an Indian in the U.S. He’s apologised since.

The poor beggars imitating the great man are seeking to fill their begging bowls, but what does this guy want to gain from it?

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HIV/AIDS Test Mandatory For Marriage Friday, Jan 12 2007 

I don’t know whether HIV test is compulsory anywhere for registering marriages.

In India, the state government of Andhra Pradesh has taken a crucial decision regarding the issue and is all set to make the test mandatory soon.

According to the U.N. India has the highest caseload with 5.7 million people living with HIV/AIDS. Of this 1.5 million cases are in Andhra Pradesh, making it second only to Maharashtra.

Recently the top brass of the state government and the ruling party have undergone AIDS test with a massive media blitz in order to generate public awareness about the disease and remove misconceptions about it. The other day a minister went as far as to adopt two HIV infected boys aged six and four. The boys’ parents succumbed to AIDS last week.

In India “some of the most painful parts of HIV infection [are]- prejudice, rejection, hurt, ostracism, etc.”, says a study.

In September last year, a man with full-blown AIDS in eastern India was stoned by villagers, who were scared he would spread the HIV infection. The 35-year-old man died later of his injuries. (Link).

In an incident near here a few weeks back a primary school boy was sent away from school and other schools nearby refused to give him admission, because his father died of AIDS and his mom and he tested positive.

A new group called Network of Positive People (NPP+) started by HIV positive people in Andhra Pradesh works for “raising awareness in the community to create a better environment for people living with HIV/AIDS.” Its various activities aimed at the infected are commendable.

The government hopes that there won’t be any hue and cry from any corner, especially religious bodies and orthodoxies regarding the proposed legislation. In India you can’t help inviting trouble from people whose religious sentiments you hurt by such things. And politicians are wary of that.

There’s also concern that it will result in an avalanche of fake test certificates that many people will pay for instead of obtaining genuine ones after tests.

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Immigrant Inventors And Innovators In The U.S. Thursday, Jan 11 2007 

America prides itself on being a country of innovators, and it seems immigrants are the most prolific.

Of engineering and technology companies started in the U.S. between 1995 and 2005:

* a quarter had at least one foreign-born founder.

* in 2005, immigrant-founded companies produced $52 billion in revenue and employed 450,000 nationwide.

* almost 80% of immigrant-founded companies were in two industries: software and innovation/manufacturing services.

* in Florida, Hispanics led the pack among immigrant groups that founded companies. In Massachusetts, Israelis led. In New Jersey, they were Indians.  (source)

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To Saddam With Love Thursday, Jan 4 2007 

When the news of Saddam Hussein’s capture in a dark hole exploded towards the end of 2003, and humiliating images of his bearded deranged face, and of his jaws opening for medical inspection, were beamed on television, another old man far away felt something turn inside his stomach.

Seventy-one-year-old P Sivasankaran Nair, for long in the peace of Palakkad in Kerala, rubbed his chest to console himself

Nair was the chief cook at the Basra International Airport between 1982 and 1987, once a heady place where Saddam Hussein used to come for elaborate dinners.

During that tenure, Nair’s path had crossed the dictator’s when he made a Tamil snack called bonda, a type of batata vada. Nair remembers that Saddam was so enamoured with the bonda that he asked animated questions about it.

Long before that meeting, Nair had considered Saddam a profitable god. “I educated my children, married off my daughter and constructed a house with his money. To be honest, I’m indebted to him for all the comforts that I enjoy today,” Nair says. He lives in a traditional house, that has a cosy purposeful austerity about it, in Kalpati, a Tamil Brahmin village.

His gratitude is so immense that when he opened a provisions store in 1989, upon his return from Iraq, he named it Saddam Stores. He sent some pictures of the shop to Saddam Hussein along with a letter in English.

Dear Supreme Leader,

I’d worked in your country for five years.

I came back to Kerala some two years back. To keep myself busy, today, I opened a small shop at my village. It’s my honour to name the shop after your Supreme Name. Whatever I’m today, it’s because of the salary you paid me. By your blessings, my family is leading a comfortable life. Welfare be with you always.

With profound love and regards,

P S Nair.

The letter not only reached Saddam, it also impressed him so much that he released the pictures of Nair’s shop and the flattering epistle to the local media with a statement in Arabic

“So many people come and work in Iraq. But it took one Nair from a distant land to express his gratitude. It’s not religion that matters. But the bond of human love. I’m touched by Nair’s gesture. This is what I call loyalty. This is what I expect from every Iraqi. Insha Allah.”

Nair’s friends in Iraq sent him the clippings. The story didn’t end there. Saddam Hussein sent a personal emissary, Muther Ali, to India who met Nair. And the message was conveyed to Nair that Saddam wanted him to return to Iraq.

But, when Nair cited age-related problems which forced him to remain at home, Saddam welcomed his children to join him at his palace. Unfortunately, none of them were of employable age then. Eldest son Suresh was studying in the tenth standard, second son Murali was in the eighth and Pusha, the youngest child, was in the fifth.

“Saddam conveyed that I was the most loyal citizen of Iraq and the country’s doors would always remain open to me. Ali presented a gold watch and Rs 16,000 in cash,” Nair says, producing the watch from his cupboard’s locker. The timepiece carries Saddam’s picture on the dial.

Nair has removed the watch’s battery to save it from the tedium of being in a working condition. “I’m praying for his welfare. Daily, I do archana in his name at the Shiva temple here. I’m certain he will come out unscathed,” Nair says, throwing his hands towards the heavens.

When he is confronted with the question why he worships a man who is believed to have killed thousands, Nair flashes an angry look. “Who says…?” he thunders. “It’s the US which is harping on this. I don’t believe a bit of it.

Kuwait deserved to be invaded because it didn’t pay what was due to Iraq. Then the killing of Kurds…you should understand Iraq was a military regime. It had its own laws. People who violated the laws also knew the punishment they faced.”

Nair ends his political observations with the conclusion, “It’s Bush who should be hanged.”

(From timesofindia.indiatimes.com, dtd 26 Nov 2006)

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