reprints of articles published in magazines

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

greek love

Man to Man love is considered quite abnormal by some. But this was the regular happening in ancient Greece, Eygpt and Sumeria. So common was this practice of males falling in love and living with other males, that the ancient Greeks considered it very natural. From mythical heroes such as Apollo, Zeus and Achilles to real life men such as Aristotle and Alexander the Great, homosexuality was so common that it was even called “Greek Love.” And Greek love was not frowned upon, it was considered normal. So much so that ancient Greek art, sculpture, literature, mythology and history is full of homosexual references.

But ideologies changed over time. Later literature began to view homosexuality as immoral, sinful and abnormal. Religions preached against homosexuality and gradually over the past two thousand years, homosexuality became unacceptable to society. Laws written in the last centuries such as the Indian Penal Code, consider homosexuality an unnatural offence and the perpetrator can be imprisoned for the act.

For long people believed that homosexuality was abnormal and hence to be prohibited. But in spite of this strong cultural taboo, homosexuality continued in secrecy. Great writers like Oscar Wilde suffered because of this homosexual leaning, which was at that time a kind of “forbidden love”.

But lately science has come up with strong evidences to prove that homosexuality is not unnatural. Several species of animals, such as bees, sheep, birds, monkeys, apes, etc have been found to have spontaneous homosexual bonding. The brain of such homosexual individuals has been found to be quite different from those with heterosexual orientation. Thus it is quite clear that homosexuality is just a natural variation, not a deviation. Much like left handedness.

With more and more evidences emerging to show that homosexuality does exist in nature, most countries have shed off their earlier concerns about “unnatural offence” and their legal systems have scraped away the punishments for homosexuality. Many countries even permit homosexual marriages.

India is yet to join the list of countries that have thus updated their laws and so in India homosexuality continues to be an offence to this day. Therefore, the homosexual population in India leads a secretive life, still unable to “come out” and openly admit their sexual preference.

And in a quirky kind of a way, the gender that bears the brunt of this law is not the male, but the female! Because the society does not permit a man to openly express his homosexual orientation, he is forced to marry a woman to at least “save his face” , fit into the society and make his family proud. But because he is biologically designed to fall in love and be sexual motivated by a man, this husband is usually unable to keep his wife happy. Most wives never know the reason for their husband’s “cold shoulder” behavior, but when they do, the consequences can be quite pathetic.

Last year in Kolkatta, a 32 year old wife committed suicide after she discovered that her husband was gay. Apparently she had confronted the husband several times on the issue, but he was never able to change his ways. The wife was tortured mentally and physically. She decided to end her life on the eve of their 5th wedding anniversary.

And it is not like the men are happy to thus cheat on their wives. Given a choice, most gay men would prefer to just live with the man they love and never consider marrying a woman. However, outdated laws such as this and the “marry and have a baby, that’s what life’s all about” kind of attitude that Indians still have, force such men into such loveless heterosexual marriages.

There are still some other kinds of men who are bisexual. These individuals can make love to a male or a female with equal fervor, because their minds are sexually oriented to both genders. A bisexual man may be married to one woman, but may have extra marital affairs with other men. Either way, the victim is the woman.

What could a woman do if she discovers that she has been married to a gay man? Should she tell others or suffer in silence and protect the dignity of her husband, as would befit the “Adarsha Barathya Naari”? Should she walk out and file for a divorce? Does the Indian Marriage act have a clause that makes homosexuality a reason for divorce? Or should she put up with this loveless life and uphold her husband’s place under the Indian sun? Should she try to work the marriage despite all these odds? If there are children, what should she tell them or should she keep it a secret? Is the wife now at risk for sexually transmitted diseases? And what about if the husband only has gay orientation, and always dreams of making love to men but has never done that so far? Just how should a woman deal with a gay husband?

Of course, if the husband has been sexually active with another partner, irrespective of the gender, then the wife is at risk for sexually transmitted diseases. The first thing she should do, is meet her doctor, check herself and her husband up and make sure she is safe from STDs. This will take care of her physical health. What about her mental health? This sense of betrayal may scar her emotionally. The wife would benefit from consulting a mental health professional then.

ps: copy pasted from INBOX 1305

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Changing Genders

Ms X is one of those regular girls we’d meet anywhere in India, she was tall, dusky, pretty and smart. And she hated being a woman. She felt her gender gave her no advantages. “How I wish I had been a man! Then I could have gone anywhere, anytime, no questions asked. I’d have so much freedom. No one would stare at my breasts or try to harass me. No periods to worry about! And best of all, I will not need to pretend to be subordinate to men! I can be their equal!”

Girls like Ms X are so common, it is a fact the most women today would have preferred to be a boy rather than be a girl. But the curious fact is, nowadays more and more boys have started wanting to become girls.

As for example Mr Y. He is a tall, athletic and well made young man. He is intelligent, broad-minded, artistic and quite gentle. One would think girls would just love to spend time with him. But the sad twist is, he does not like to spend time with girls. Mr Y thinks he himself is a girl and likes to spend time with macho men.

From his childhood Y had always preferred to play with girls’ dolls; he liked playing with crockery, wearing frilly dresses, long hair and lots of make-up. His mother had found his play-preferences very amusing. She even helped him dress up like a girl and had taken his photographs in frilly costumes. None of those who later saw the picture could guess that the girl in the picture was actually a boy; he looked so girlish. And Y was so proud of that.

His father would for the most part ignore the son’s antics. Those days that he actually noticed his son’s effeminate tendencies, father got really angry and scolded him for behaving like a hijra. Little Y never knew what that word meant. But in his heart, he longed to become a girl. Somehow he felt it was just not right for him to be a male.

When he turned 14 years, Y started developing hair over his face. He hated that. He wanted to have a flawless skin with no whiskers. He carefully kept shaving his whiskers, and when he was sure his mother would not notice, he even shaved his eyebrows into beautiful arches.

By 16 his penis had become bigger and thicker, and his testes had grown big. His voice was beginning to get hoarse and his facial hair started to grow coarse. Y hated all of this. Particularly his penis. Somehow it felt very alien. It just did not seem right. For inside his mind, Y always thought of himself as a beautiful girl. A girl whom men would fall in love with, hold gently and make passionate love to. But this penis thing was a stark reminder that he was not a female. And Y wanted to remove it from his body. It simply did not belong there!

Y also started feeling the pangs of first love. He began to feel strongly attracted to a brawny senior in school. He fervently hoped the boy would let his gaze fall on him. But the boy he so much was in love with, did not take Y seriously. He thought Y was weird. A Hijra. Somebody to laugh at, poke fun at and bully mercilessly.
The boys in school seemed to realize that Y was different. They started teasing him, pinching his private parts and treated him like a girl. Some teachers even called Y home, “to just spend time with, dancing and having fun.”

Y did not like being the butt of every one’s jokes. He did not like being treated like a sex toy. He wanted to be taken seriously. Treated with dignity. But his effeminate movements and graceful gestures made others ridicule him. Even the girls laughed at him.

Y did not like going to the men’s bathroom, he felt so shy pulling his pants down in the presence of other boys. And the other boys boo’ed him so much on seeing the only masculine part of his body. Y would have preferred to go to the girl’s bathroom, he felt he belonged there. But the girls believed he was a boy, they never let him even change clothes in Ladies Room during school dramas.

It was during one such drama that Y met Z. Z was a boy, but he believed he was a girl. He dressed up like a girl, talked like one and even made gestures like a sensuous dancer. Y felt intensely drawn towards Z. He voluntarily approached Z and said, “I never thought I would meet someone who is so much like me!”

Like kindred spirits, Y and Z became thick friends. It was from Z that Y learned that he could stop growing in to a man. By taking shots of female hormones.
Y was excited on hearing that he could reverse his masculinity and become a female. “You mean I can have breasts! Like the women!”

Y had always wanted to be buxom and sexy. In fact he had on several occasions used padded brassieres and worn women’s clothes. He had even gone out in public dressed like a girl and to his great happiness, found that he could very well pass off as a girl. As long as he spoke softly and took care to apply layers of foundation on his jaws, he would easily pull off a “girl appearance”

That he could go in public dressed like a female, made him want to do that permanently. He lost in patience with the “boy’s clothes”. He found that the pretence of behaving like a boy was so taxing. He felt liberated when he was dressed like a female. He wanted that feeling forever, he wanted to convert to a full female.

Z told him that to become a full female, he had to undergo Nirvana. Nirvana was a surgery in which a man’s testes and penis would be removed. With the testes gone, his body would no longer secrete male hormones. Then all he had to do was take female hormones to get that rounded appearance of a woman. Laser treatment would help remove all unnecessary hair. Padded brassieres and knickers would make him get that hour-glass shape that he so longed to have.

Y felt very enthused on hearing this. He wanted to undergo the Nirvana surgery. But the surgery could only be done after taking psychiatric opinions. That made him meet a psychiatrist.

Y explained to the psychiatrist that he had since childhood, always felt that he had been mistakenly born with a wrong body. He felt very feminine inside, but his body forced him to be a male. He did not like that. He wanted to change his body so that it would match his mind. He wanted to become a full female.

Since Y strongly believed that he had a mind-body gender mismatch, there were only two ways to resolve the problem. One would be to change his mind, so that his body would then match. Two would be to change the body to match his mind.

Although to an outsider, it would seem that changing the mind to suit one’s body is the more acceptable solution to this problem, for people like Y it is not even thinkable. Because people like Y suffer from a strange condition called Gender Identity Disorder.

We are all born with sex chromosomes. These are a pair of chromosomes. If one is born with 2X chromosomes we call that individual biological Female Sex. If someone is born with one X and one Y chromosome then that person is biologically of the Male Sex.

But this is only a genetic definition. Society gives individuals another choice, an individual can identify oneself with the female gender or the male gender. Gender is a social role; it depends on how society expects a man or woman to behave.
If a society allows its men to wear make up and jewelry and dress in colourful costumes, as for example the ancient Egyptian society, then it would seem masculine for a girl to wear makeup. If a society only allows its females to dress up sensuously, and wear dramatic makeup, then it would seem that wearing make-up is feminine behavior.

Masculine and feminine behavior has a lot to do with social conditioning. If a society repeatedly keeps telling that cooking is a woman’s job, then it would seem effeminate for a man to cook. Whereas if the same society keeps saying that engineering is a man’s job then the very job would seem masculine.
Make-up, clothing, jewelry, cooking or engineering have no actual gender meanings. But it is the society that allots gender- specifications to these neutral entities.
What role one chooses depends on one’s gender identity; whether they think of themselves as male or female.

In the past people used to believe that genetic sex is destiny. If you were born with 2 X chromosomes, you were a female, no other choices were allowed. But now, we know that in spite of our genes, there does exist a choice. Some individuals choose to identify themselves with the opposite gender; they dress up like the opposite gender and like to have sex with the same sex.

Until recently, it was never understood why some people chose to identity with the opposite gender. But now, we have some information. Very interesting one at that. At formation, all babies are originally female, irrespective of their chromosomes. For the first 6 weeks of life inside the uterus, all babies are female. If the child happens to have a Y chromosome in its genetic makeup, then this child’s body forms organs called the Testes. These testes secrete a hormone called testosterone. This hormone then converts the baby’s body into a male. It travels all through the baby’s body and rewires every cell from its original female form to a male form. This entire process is called Masculinization.

Most importantly, the testosterone rewires the brain of the little baby and upgrades it into a masculinized Male Brain. Rarely in some cases, the testosterone fails to masculinize the baby’s brain. In these children, the brain remains female as it was originally, whereas the body changes to male -complete with the testes and penis.
Because the brain and the mind are female, this child though born with a male’s genitals, thinks of itself as a female. Hence this child prefers all feminine activities, prefers playing with girls and dressing up like them. But when it comes to sexual orientation, they are attracted to males, because in their minds they remain female forever.

Since the mind is female, it is nearly impossible to change it to male later on in life. It would be much easier to change the body to female. And that is why many individuals with Gender Identity Disorder prefer to undergo Sexual Reassignment Surgery and convert their bodies into the female form.

But converting oneself into the female form is not without adverse effects. For one, after such a conversion, the body loses the ability to secrete testosterone. Sudden dip in the testosterone levels may make the individual feel tired, weak and depressed. Of course, over time the body adapts itself to the lack of testosterone, but it takes weeks to months before this transition can take place.

Apart from that, becoming a female makes this individual vulnerable to all the social evils that threaten women. This Nirvanized female is now open to sexual harassment, eve teasing, partner abuse, relationship betrayal and all kinds of other ills that have for long plagued women. The realization that being a woman is not easy after all can make most transgender individuals feel disillusioned and exploited.

This may finally help them understand why those biological women born with 2 X chromosomes and all those voluptuous curves hate their gender roles so much. But a free society allows its citizens choices. If any individual chooses to change his/her gender, it can be done. But like all else, every action has its own consequences. If the individual is ready to face the consequences, then science is ready to help them achieve their dreams.

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

The Dumb Tamil Girl

Mrs X and Mr Y are both well educated and are well placed in their careers. They had been in love for over two years and after negotiating talks with their respective families, arranged for their marriage. After about three months of marriage, they landed up in a psychiatric clinic for marital consultation. The reason for consultation was, according to the wife, “He never understands me. I feel so sad. Sometimes I wonder why on earth I got married!” The husband’s r.f.c. was, “She never obeys me doctor. She thinks too much of herself. She has an attitude problem. She is not at all like the ideal Tamil wife. Unless she mends her ways, I think this marriage is going to end up in divorce…”
It is not like Mrs X and Mr Y are a rare couple. Nowadays, so many young couples come for consultations, from so many different backgrounds - all for the same reason. Wives are sad and feel unappreciated by the husbands and the husbands are irritated and grumpy as they feel slighted by their wife’s independent thinking. The reason: a gross mismatch in their expectations. Most wives expect a loving, understanding, modern man for a husband. A man who will appreciate her mind as much as he appreciates her body; a man who will respect her as a person and treat her with dignity. Reasonable as this sounds, these expectations directly clash with those of the husbands’.
Not all, but most men still expect a subservient, docile and timid wife who will obey her husband no matter what. A wife who will meekly follow her husband’s instructions without offering any suggestions of her own. In case the wife uses her mind a wee bit and gives an idea or offers a suggestion, some men feel affronted. And immediately try to cut the wife back to size by saying, “unakku romba thimir, that is why you are talking like this.” This immediately brings a gush of words and a rush of tears from the wife and there starts many a matrimonial malady!
For example, Mrs X had to book a train ticket to visit her parent’s place. She is twenty-eight years old. She has been reserving tickets on her own for years now and so without much ado, she logged on to the website and make an e-booking. When the tickets arrived by courier, the husband got furious, “How dare you book the ticket without my knowledge! Unakku rumba thimiraayiduchchi!” he started scolding her for that. The wife was stumped. What was so wrong about booking one’s own tickets?
Well, I asked Mr Y, what was so wrong about it? “There is nothing wrong doctor. But she should have first discussed that with me! Am I not the man of the house? If she goes on like this, taking decisions without first getting my permission, then what respect do I have?”
“Did she not tell you about her plans before hand?”
“She did, actually we decided on this trip a week ago. But I was under the impression that I’ll make the reservations. That is how it happens in my house. But this girl, she directly went ahead and got the tickets on her own! How dare she do that!”
“Does reserving one’s own ticket mean that the wife is disrespecting her husband?”
“Not in that sense, but yes, I feel disrespected. If she can do all the man’s work all on her own, then why does she need a husband. To me it seems like she is trying to act too smart and superior. My mother would never have done such a thing. It was always me or my father who would reserve tickets for her. I have never heard of any Tamil girl behaving like this, as if she knows everything.”
This idea of the Ideal Tamil Girl is the root cause for so many marital problems. And the sad part is, most men have no idea about the real Tamil Girl, they have never read the right books or spoken to the right people on this subject. All their knowledge comes from the media portrayals of women. And since most media representations show only a mythical version of the Tamil woman, the impossibly timid, shy, docile and imbecile girl, with no capacity to take her own decision, the average male believes that such women do exist in reality. From MGR who sang, “Even if the girl has studied English, this is how she must be in Tamil Nadu….” to later stars like Rajnikanth and Vijay, the matinee idols always keep spreading false ideas about the Tamil women. Which is not surprising, for all these men are not experts on Tamil Anthropology, how could they know about the Real Tamil Woman?
One only has to go through Tamil literature through the ages to have a glimpse of the Original Tamil Woman. From the Sangam literature of the second century AD to the Bakti literature of the eighth century to the modern literature of the last century, Tamil women have always been brave, intelligent and witty. Avvaiyar, the poetess not only sang beautiful poetry, but also was a peace maker who negotiated truce between battling kings of early Tamilnadu. Mangaiyarkkarasi, the elder sister of saint Appar was so well versed in the religious scriptures that she taught her brother the greatness of Saivism. Andal the young Vishnu devotee who sang the Thiruppaavai was an excellent poet. Kundavai Devi, the elder sister of Raja Raja Cholan was the woman behind his every success. Rani Velu Nachiyar, the Queen of Sivaganga went to war with the British. And Rani Mangamma ruled Madurai on her own. All these were the Real Tamil women, gutsy, brave and all with a mind of their own.
If these were the extraordinary women of Tamil Nadu, the ordinary women were no less smart. In every Tamil household, although to an outsider it seems that the man of the house is making the decisions and heading the family, we all know that it is the woman whose decisions finally win handsdown. Be it the illiterate village woman who saves up money without her alcoholic husband’s knowledge just to make sure that her children get to eat good food, or the city dweller who goes to a boring job just to make ends meet for her family, women have always been enterprising, intelligent and hard working.
And it is not by accident that women are so enterprising. The females have by default been designed to be better survivors. Because it is the female that brings forth life, unless she survives, life cannot exist. And so among all species of life on earth today, it is the female of the species that is better suited for survival than the male. For only if a woman knows to survive, any children born to her will survive.
That is the reason why women’s education has always been a priority in every governments. For only if a woman is educated and has up to date knowledge about her world, her children will have the benefit of better survival. It is a fact that only those countries that have a female high literacy rate have a good economy, the stock exchange rates in these countries are high. Whereas those countries with poor women’s literacy do not even feature on the stock market. The reason is obvious. Intelligent mothers rear intelligent children, intelligent children have new ideas that sell well, and so the stock markets surge!
Such being the case, it is quite sad that young men today, believe in the myth of the Dumb Tamil Girl and force their wives to play that impossible role. They want to control their wife’s every move and push them into dependant, subservient roles. Of course, it is not that these men are mean and hence they want boss over their wives. It is just that, the popular media depicts women as silly sizzies and just like many stereotypes that we learn from the media, men mistakenly believe that such dumb women make better wives.
This is completely untrue. Let me give you a real life example. Mrs Q was the just the stuff that Tamil songs sing about, extremely beautiful with oodles of accham, matam, naanam and payirpppu. Her husband told me outright, “I am sick and tired of her doctor, I do not want to live with her anymore!”
“Why do you say that?”
“She is so dumb doctor, that I have no peace of mind. She is always pestering me for everything. She cannot go to the shop and get the groceries on her own. I need to do that for her. She cannot hail an auto and take the children for a checkup. I have to do that. I am only one person. I have to go to work, take care of paying all bills, I must find time to take care of children, and then I also have to find time to run errands for her. Why can’t she use her brain and do her work on her own? This morning the child fell sick and has been wheezing for hours now. I had got her a cell phone and even taught her to use it. Neither did she take the child to the doctor on her own, nor did she call me! What can I do with a dumb idiot like this? What if I had lost my child! Please you make her alright doctor, otherwise my children are going to suffer because of her stupidity…”
This is the reality of the Dumb Tamil Girl. She may be a big massage to your ego. Her innocence and dependence can make a man feel smarter, bigger, braver and better. But the price one has to pay for this ego boost is lifelong loss of peace. And a breed of inadequately mothered dull children.
In the past, women were never educated. Even if they did go to school, the day they became a “big girl” they’d drop out. Soon after that they’d get married. They had no employment. They were completely dependent on their husbands for every one of their meals. That dependent role made them treat their husbands like their masters, not out of love, but of fear! The husbands might have enjoyed all the pampering they got from their subservient wives. But the quality of life of the last century Indians was very low. Children died by the millions just because of their mother’s ignorance. Even those children that survived led very low quality lives. India remained a poor country and its people were not very smart. They were invaded by foreigners one after the other. It was only after women’s education became a priority that the quality of life of Indians has improved. Today, what with governmental policies, job opportunities and improved economy, women are making big strides ahead in life. Unlike the women in the past, today’s women are more educated, can put their trained minds to good use, are quite independent and very efficient. The country has spent years of planning and implementation to put Indian women where they stand today.
All these efforts were just so that these women make smarter mothers and their children can build a stronger nation. This is the big picture. Once we understand that, we can escape petty egoistic thoughts about keeping the women under control and actually congratulate the wives who reserve their own tickets without nagging their husbands. We can appreciate the women for using their brains and giving their husbands good ideas. We can feel proud that within sixty years of independence we have uplifted our women from illiterate, helpless, easily exploited lots into self-thinking, smart beings who can herald a new era of Indian superpowerdom.
An intelligent man will always move with the times. Otherwise, like the dinosaurs that stopped evolving and just went extinct, men will get stuck back in time and get lost in their search for the mythical Dumb Tamil Girl who never exists in the real world.
Most men upgrade themselves quickly and learn to look at women as equals. They evolve into better beings and begin to appreciate their wives for their minds and feel proud of their achievements. These men who evolve and adapt to the changing times are the ones that are fit for survival.
But then, there are also some other men who still cling on to the past and keep saying, “My mother never did that, my mother never used that…I want my wife to be just like that ” The sad truth is, such men are just proving that they are unfit for survival….for survival is all about adapting to the changes that happen around us. All over the world, women are being uplifted, improved and updated. A fit man will adapt himself to suit these evolved women, and the human race will move ahead in evolutionary times. Those men who refuse to adapt and will not learn, will simply be left behind as losers.
Marriage is an ultimate test for survival. Those who are willing to adapt, learn new ways of behavior and move with the times survive and survive well. What about you?

Saturday, 31 May 2008

முதல் பெண்ணியவாதி

இன்றைய பெண்கள் ரொம்பவே கொடுத்து வைத்தவர்கள், நல்ல வாய்ப்புக்கள், வசதிகள், உரிமைகள், சமூக அந்தஸ்து என்று ஓரளவுக்கு மேன்மையாகவே இருக்கிறது அவர்கள் வாழ்க்கை தரம். ஆனால் இந்த வளம் எல்லாம் ஆகாயத்திலிருந்து தானாய் வந்து குதித்துவிடவில்லை. எத்தனையோ மனிதர்களின் தொடர் போராட்டம் மற்றும் பிரச்சாரத்தின் விளைவாய் தான் இன்றைய பெண்கள் கொஞசமேனும் தன்மானத்தோடு இருக்கமுடிகிறது.
இப்படி பெண்களுக்காக போராடியவர்களில் பல பேர் பெண்கள், இவர்கள் தங்களுக்காக தாங்களே குரல் கொடுத்துக்கொண்டவர்கள். ஆனால் தனக்காக என்று இல்லாமல், தான் ஒரு ஆணாக இருந்தபோதும் மிகதீவிரமாக பெண்களின் உரிமைக்காக் போராடிய ஒருவர் இருக்கிறார். அவர் தான் திரு ராமசாமி.
ஆனால் ராமசாமி என்றால் யார் என்று இன்று யாருக்கும் தெரிவதில்லை....சாதாரண மனிதர்களை தான் இயற்பெயரால் அழைப்போம். செயற்க்கரிய செய்த பெரும் மனிதர்களை பிரத்தியேக சிறப்பு பெயரால் தானே அழப்போம். இப்படி சிறப்பு பெயர் பயன்படுத்தியே பழகிவிட்டால் காலப்போக்கில் அன்னாரின் இயற்பெயரே மறந்துபோய், சிறப்புபெயரே நிரந்திரமாகி விடுகிறது. திருவாளர் ராமசாமியும் அப்படிப்பட்ட மஹான் தான். இயற்பெயரே மறந்துபோகும் அளவிற்கு பிரசித்தமான அவரது சிறப்பு பெயர் தான் தந்தை பெரியார்.
யோசித்து பார்த்தால், புத்தர், கிரிஸ்து, நபி, மஹாத்மா என்ற வரிசையில் தனக்கென்று ஒரு நிரந்தர சிறப்பு பெயர் பெற்றவர் பட்டியலில் தந்தை பெரியாரும் ஒருவர். மற்ற நால்வரை விட பெரியார் வித்தியாசமானவர், அவர்கள் எல்லாம் கடவுளின் பெயரால் பணியாற்றியவர்கள், பெரியாரோ கடவுளே இல்லை என்று பகிரங்கமாய் பிரச்சாரம் செய்த்தற்காக பிரசித்திபெற்றவர்.
ஆனால், இந்த பெரியார் என்ற மாமனிதனின் பாடல் பெறாத இன்னொரு முகம் ஒன்று உண்டு. இவர் தான் இந்தியாவின் முதலும், மிக மும்முரமுமான பெண்ணியவாதி.
இன்று ஆணுக்கு பெண் சம்ம் என்பது எல்லோராலும் ஒப்புக்கொள்ளப்பட்ட ஒரு சமூக கருத்து. இன்றைய பெண் ஆணுக்கு அடிமை இல்லை, அவளுக்குஆணை போலவே எல்லா சுத்ந்திரமும் உண்டு தான், இந்த பெண் விடுத்லை எல்லாம் சென்ற நூற்றாண்டில் பெரியார் முன் நட்த்திய பெரும் போராட்ட்த்தின் நேரடி விளைவு தான்.
கடந்த காலத்தின் கேவலங்களை ஒரு முறை நினைவு கூர்ந்தால்....அந்த காலத்தில் பெண்கள் பூப்பெய்வதற்கு முன்பே பாலிய விவாகம் செய்ய பட்டுவிடுவார்கள். இந்த குட்டி மாட்டுப்பெண்ணின் குட்டிக்கணவன், பாம்பு கடித்தோ, காலரா தாக்கியோ, வேறு எப்படியோ அல்பாஅயிசில் மாண்டுபோனான் என்றால், இந்த குட்டி விதவைக்கு எல்லா சம்பிரதாயங்களையும் செய்வித்து, அவளை அமங்களி ஆக்கி முடிந்தால் உடன் கட்டை ஏற்றி, கணவனின் சிதையில் தள்ளிவிடுவார்கள். அப்படி இல்லை என்றால், அந்த குட்டிப்பெண் தன் மித ஜீவனத்தை முழு பிரம்மச்சரியத்தில் கழித்திட வேண்டியது தான். இந்த குட்டி பெண்ணுக்கு மறு வாழ்வு, அடுத்த திருமணம் என்ற பேச்சுக்கே இடமில்லை. பெண்களின் உரிமை என்ற ஒன்றே அபச்சாரமான சொல்லாகத்தான் கருதப்பட்ட்து.
அமங்களியான் பெணின் கதி தான் இவ்வள்வு மோசம் என்று பார்த்தால், சுமங்களியாக இருந்த பெண்ளின் நிலையும் மட்டமாகவே இருந்த்து. அந்த காலத்து பெண்களுக்கு எத்தனையோ தடைகள் இருந்தன. அவர்கள் தனியே வெளியே செல்லக்கூடாது, கல்விகற்க்கூடாது, வேலைக்கு போக முடியாது, சுயமாய் சம்பாதிக்க முடியாது, சொத்துரிமை கிடையாது, சுயசம்பாதியத்திற்கு வழி இல்லை, சுயமாய் வாழ்க்கைதுணையை தெர்ந்தெடுக்கும் உரிமையும் கிடையாது. ஆக அவளுக்கு என்று எந்த சுதந்திரமும் கிடையாது. அவள் ஒரு தனி பிரஜையாகவே கருதப்படவில்லை. அவளின் அடையாளம் அப்பா, அண்ணன், கணவன், மகன், என்று ஒரு ஆணின் அடையாளதோடே எப்போதும் பிணைக்கப்பட்டிருந்த்து...காரண்ம், பெண்கள் எல்லாம் பலவீனமானவர்கள், அதனால் அவர்களுக்கு ஒரு ஆணின் பாதுகாப்பு எப்போதுமே அவசியம் என்கிற நம்பிக்கை இருந்து வந்த்து.
அந்த காலத்து ஆண்களும் பெண்களை பற்றி பெரிதும் யோசிக்கவே இல்லை. உண்மையை சொல்லப்போனால், பெண்கள் இப்படி இழி நிலையில் இருப்பது தான் நம் கலாச்சார பாரம்பரியம் என்று பெருமைப்பட்டுக்கொண்டார்கள்.
பாலியவிவாகம் தான் சரி, அப்போது தான் பெணின் கற்பு 100% தூய்மையாய் இருக்கும் என்று பாலகங்காதர திலகரை போன்ற தேசதலைவர்களும் நினைத்தார்கள்.
ஆனால் பெரியார் ரொம்பவே வித்தியமான மனிதர், மதமெனும் மாயவலையில் மாட்டிக்கொள்ளாத சுயசிந்தனையாளர் அவர். புதிதாய் யோசிக்க தெரிந்த புரட்சியாளர் என்பதனால், ஜாதி, மதம், நிறம், பாலினம், போன்ற மாயைகளை எல்லாம் தாண்டி முதிர்ந்த பகுத்தறிவு சிந்தனை கொண்ட ஞானி அவர். என்னதான் வைணவ சடங்குகள் வழிந்த குடும்பத்தை சேர்ந்த்தவராய் இருந்தாலும், வாய் கிழிய சர்வம் பிரம்ம மயம் என்று அத்வைதத்த்துவம் பேசிவிட்டு, அதே வாயால் ஜாதியின் பெயரால் பாரபட்சம் பேசும் பட்சோந்தித்தனத்தை சிறு வயதிலேயே சகித்துக்கொள்ள முடியாதவர் பெரியார்.
ஒரு சராசரி மனிதன் ஆகாயத்தில் பறக்கும் கலனை கற்ப்பனை கூட செய்யமுடியாத காலத்திலேயே ஹெலிகாப்டரை கண்டுபிடித்த லியோனார்டோ ட வின்சியை போல, பெரியாரும், தம் காலத்தை மிஞ்சும் யோசிக்கும் தீர்க்கத்சிந்தனையாளராக இருதார். ஒரு சமூகவிஞ்ஞானியாய், தம் சம்காலத்தவர் சிந்தித்துக்கூட பார்க்க் முடியாத பல புதுமையான வாழ்க்கை முறைகளை முன்வைத்தார். பெண் இயற்கையிலேயே ஆணின் ஆதிக்கத்திற்கு உட்பட்டவள் தான் என்று எல்லோரும் நம்பிக்கொண்டிருந்த காலத்திலேயே, பெண் எல்லா வித்த்திலும் ஆணுக்கு சரி நிகர் சமானம் என்று முதல் முதலில் பெண்ணியம் பேசியவ்ரே தந்தை பெரியார் தான். இந்த மகளிர் சமத்துவத்திற்காக் பல நூதன போராடங்களை மேற்கொண்டு, சமுக அமைப்புகளை எதிர்த்து தாக்கினார்.
அவர் காலத்தில் பெண் என்றால், அவள் உடல், அழகு, பிள்ளை பெறும் தன்மை, பணிவு, சமையல் திறன், கற்பு, ஆகியவையே போற்றுதலுக்கு உகந்தவை என கருதப்பட்டன. பெரியார் இந்த பட்டியலில் இருந்த எல்லாவற்றையும் சாடினார்.
ஆணுக்கு பெண் சம்ம் என்ற பின் பெண் மட்டும் தன் உடலை அழகுப்படுத்தி காட்டி ஆணின் அங்கீகாரத்திற்கு காத்திருக்க வேண்டியதில்லையே. எப்படி ஆண்கள் ஒரு காலத்தில் தாங்க்ள் அணிந்திருந்த கடுக்கன், குண்டலம், ஆகிய்வற்றை கழற்றிவிட்டு, குடுமிகளை வெட்டிக்கொண்டு, திலகம் அணிவதை நிறுத்திக்கொண்டு, இதற்காக், செலவிட்ட காலத்தை உருப்படியாக உபயோகிக்கிறார்களோ, அது போலவே பெண்களும் ஒப்பனைக்காக் செலவிடும் நேரத்தை கொஞசம் பிரயோஜனமாக பயன்படுத்தினால் மேல்; உடை, ஒப்பனை, ஜடை, அலங்காரம் போன்ற வெட்டி வேளைகளில் செலவிடும் நேரத்தை தங்கள் அறிவை மேம்படுத்த பயன்படுத்தினால் தான் பெண்கள் முன்னேற முடியும் என்றார் பெரியார். அதனால், ஆண்கள் அணிகளை துறந்த்தை போலவே பெண்களும் செய்ய வேண்டும், முழம் முழமாய், புடவையை சுற்றிக்கொண்டு தலைப்பு சரியாக இருக்கிறதா, கொசுவம் சரியாக இருக்கிறதா என்று சரி பார்ப்பதிலேயே நேரத்தை வீணடிப்பதை விட, பெண்கள் எல்லாம், ஆண்களை போல, மேலய நாட்டுப்பெண்களை போல, பேண்ட். சட்டை அணிந்துகொண்டு, முடியை வசதியாக கிராப்பு வெட்டிக்கொண்டு, பொட்டு வைக்கும் வெத்து வழக்கத்தை விடுத்து நிம்மதியாக இருக்கலாமே என்று ஐடியா சொன்னார் பெரியார்.
பெரியார் பல வெளி நாடுகளுக்கெல்லாம் போய், அங்குள்ள மனிதர்கள் வாழும் வித்த்தை பரிசீலனை செய்து பார்த்து, எது முன்னேற்றத்திற்கு உகந்த்து என்று சீர்தூக்கிப்பார்த்தவர். வளர்ந்த நாடுகளை சேர்ந்த பெண்கள் குட்டி முடியும், இலகு உடைகளையும் அணிவதனால், சவுகரியமாக உணர்வதை கவனித்த பெரியார், தன் துணைவி நாகம்மையையும் அவ்வாறே உடை அணிய சிபாரிசு செய்தார். 1930களிலேயே! பழையன கழித்து, பிரயோஜனமான புதுமைகளை ஸ்வீகரித்துக்கொள்வதில் ஆர்வமுள்ள முற்போக்கு சிந்தனையுள்ளவர் பெரியார்.
இது போலவே பிள்ளைபேறு பற்றியும், கீழ்படிதலை பற்றியும் பெரியார் மாறுபட்ட கருதுக்களை கொண்டிருந்தார். அவர் பெண்களை வெறும் குட்டிபோடும் யந்திரங்களாக பார்க்கவில்லை, அவர்க்ளை அறிவாளிகளாக பார்க்கவிரும்பினார். அதனால், ஆண்களை போலவே பெண்களூம் நன்றாக படிக்கவேண்டும் என்று ஊக்குவித்தார். இது பற்றி ‘பெண் ஏன் அடிமையானாள்?’ என்கிற் அவரது புத்தகத்தில், பெண்ணின் அறியாமை தான் அவளை அடிமைபடுத்துகிறது, ஆனால் அறிவு அவளை சுதந்திரப்படுத்தும், அதனால் பெண்களை கல்வி பெற்று, பகுத்தறிவோடு வாழ்வேண்டும் என்றார்.
பெண் என்பவள் அடக்க ஒடுக்கமாய் இருக்க வேண்டியவள் என்கிற போனதலைமுறை எதிர்பார்ப்பை எல்லாம் ஏளனம் செய்தார் பெரியார். தன் நம்பிக்கை இல்லாத கோழைதான் பெண்ணை அடக்கி தன் வீரத்தை காட்டிக்கொள்ள முயல்வான், மற்றபடி நிஜமான வீர ஆண்மகன், பெண்களிடம் கரிசனத்தோடு தான் நடந்துக்கொள்வான் என்றார்.
பெண்கள் சமயல் அறையிலேயே முடங்கிக்கிடப்பதை பற்றியும் பெரியாரிக்கு எதிர்ப்பு இருந்த்து. பெண்கள் அடுப்பூதிக்கொண்டு, சதா சமயலே கதி என்று இருப்பதினால் தான் அவர்க்ளது அறிவை உபயோகமாக பயன்படுத்த முடியாமல் போகிறது. அப்படி இல்லாமல், உணவுக்காக என்று தனி மையங்கள் அமைத்து, அங்கிருந்தே எல்லோருக்கும் உண்வு வழங்க ஏற்பாடு செய்துவிட்டால், சமையல் எனும் செக்கிலிருந்து விடுபட்டு, பெண்கள் தங்கள் அறிவை வளர்த்துக்கொள்ள வாய்ப்பு கிடைக்குமே என்று யோசனை தந்தார் தந்தை பெரியார்.
தமிழ் பெண்களின் உச்ச்க்கட்ட உண்ர்வான் கற்பை பற்றியும் பெரியார் தெளிவான கருத்துக்களை கொண்டிருந்தார். கற்பு நெறி என்பதெல்லாம், பெண்களை காலாகாலத்திற்கும் ஆணின் அடிமைகளாக்கும் பெரிய சதி. இந்த குறிகிய வட்ட்த்தை விட்டு பெண்கள் வெளியேறி சுயமரியாதையுடன் வாழவேண்டும் என்றார் பெரியார். இதற்காக சுயமரியாதை திருமணங்களை தோற்றுவித்தார். சாதாரண திருமணங்களில், பெண் வெறும் ஒரு பொருள் மாதிரி தகப்பனால் கன்னிகாதானம் செய்து தரப்பட்டு, கணவனிடம் ஒப்படைக்கபடுவாள். ஆணுக்கு பெண் சம்ம் என்ற நிலை வந்த பிறகு, பெண்னண தொரந்து ஏன் ஒரு பொருளாகவே நட்த்தவேண்டும்? தனக்கு பிடித்த துணைவனை தானே தேர்ந்தெடுக்கும் உரிமை அவளுக்கு இருக்க வேண்டுமே. அத்தோடு, அவளை தானமாக தருவதெல்லாம், பெண்ணை அவமான்ப்படுத்தும் செயல் என்பதால், ஆணும் பெண்ணும் சரி நிகராய் சம உரிமையுடன் ஒருவரை மற்றவர் இல்வாழ்க்கை துணையாய் ஒப்பந்தம் செய்துக்கொள்ளும் ஒரு அவுரவமான கண்ணியமான், நவீன திருமணத்தை அறிமுகப்படுத்தினார் பெரியார். இந்த முறையில் ஆணும் பெண்ணும் த்ங்கள் சுய அவுரவத்தை பாதுகாத்துக்கொள்ள முடிந்த்தால், இது சுயமரியாதை திருமணம் என்று பிரபளமானது. ஒன்றும் புரியாத, எப்படியும் பின் பற்றாத வேதங்களை எல்லாம் ஓதிக்கொண்டிருக்காமல், சுயமரியாதை முறையில் சமகாலமொழியில், எல்லோருக்கும் புரியும் விதத்தில் ஒப்பந்தம் செய்துக்கொண்டு இல்வாழ்க்கையில் இணைந்தார்கள் பலர். இன்று வரை தமிழ் படங்கள் எல்லாம் தாலி செண்டிமெண்டை பற்றி ஆஹா ஓஹோ என்று பிதற்றிக்கொண்டிருக்க, அன்றே பெரியார், கால் நடைகளுக்கு தான் ஓடிவிடக்கூடாதென்று ஒரு மூக்கனாங்கயிரு கட்டுவார்கள், பெண் என்ன விளங்கா, அவளுக்கு எதற்கு ஒரு கழுத்து கயிரு என்றார். அப்படியே கயிர் கட்டித்தான் ஆகவேண்டும் என்றால், ஆணும் பெணும் சம்ம் ஆகிவிட்ட காரண்த்தினால், பெண்ணுக்கு ஆண் தாலி கட்டுவதை போல, ஆணுக்கும் பெண் தாலி கட்டலாம், அல்லது, இருவருமே, தாலி கட்டும் அபத்த சடங்கை கைவிடலாம், என்றார்.
தாலி இன்றி, வேத மந்திரங்கள் இன்றி, திருமண்ம் செய்தால் அமங்களம் ஆகிவிடுமோ என்று பயந்தவர்கெல்லாம் சீதையையும், தமயந்தியையும், பாஞ்சாலியையும் உதாரணமாய் காட்டினார் பெரியார்.....இந்த பெண்கள் எல்லாம் சாஸ்திர ஸ்ம்பிரதாயப்படி மணம் முடித்தவர்கள் தாம், ஆனால் அதனால் அவர்கள் திருமணம் செழித்துவிடவில்லையே!. இந்த சுயமரியாதை திருமண்ங்கள் சட்ட படி செல்லுபடியாகுமா என்ற சிக்கலும் இருந்த்து. ஆனால் அறிஞர் அண்ணா தமிழகமுதல் அமைச்சரானதும் முதல் வேளையாக இந்த சுயமரியாதை திருமணத்தை சட்டபூர்வமாக்கிவிட்ட்தால், பெரியாரின் இந்த நவீன திருமணம் மிக பிரபலம் ஆனது. அறிவாளிகள் மத்தியில் இந்த திருமணம் அமோக வரவேற்பை பெற ஒரு புது சமுக புரட்சியை ஏற்படுத்தியது.
இத்தகைய சுயமரியாதை திருமணத்திற்கு பிறகும், ஒரு பெண்ணுக்கு தன் கண்வனை பிடிக்கவில்லை என்றால், வெறுமனே கல்லானாலும் கணவன் என்ற வெத்து செண்டிமெண்ட் பார்த்து தன் வாழ்வை வீண்டித்துக்கொள்ளாமல், அந்த விவாகத்தை ரத்து செய்து கொள்ளும் உரிமை பெண்களுக்கு இருக்கவேண்டும் என்று பெரிதும் போராடினார் பெரியார். அந்த காலத்தில் பெண்களுக்கு விவாகரத்து கோரும் உரிமையோ, மறுமணம் புரியும் உரிமையோ இல்லை. இதை எதிர்த்து பெரியார் பல காலம் பிரச்ச்சரம் செய்து, அந்த உரிமைகளையும் பெண்களுக்காக பெற்றுக்கொடுத்தார்.
அதுவும் தவிற கணவன், மனைவி என்ற சொற்களை பெரிதும் சாடினார் பெரியார். இருவரும் சரிசம்ம் என்ற பின், பெண்ணை மட்டும் மனையோடு கிடப்பவள் என்று அர்த்தப்படிகிற சொல்லால் அழைபதை அவர் விரும்பவில்லை. அதனால் தம்பதியினர் இருவருக்கும் பொதுவான விழிசொல்லாய், துணைவர், இணைவர் என்ற சம நிலை அர்த்தப்படுகிற பத்ங்களை பயன்படுத்த ஊக்குவித்தார். எதே போல எல்லா துறைகளிலும் மகளிர் அயராது உழைத்தார் பெரியார்..., சம உரிமை, சம வாய்ப்பு, சம கல்வி, சம ஊதியம், சம சொத்த்துரிமை என்ப்வை மட்டும் இன்றி, விபச்சார ஒழிப்பு, தேவதாசி முறை ஒழிப்பு, பெண்களின் துஷ்பிரயோக ஒழிப்பு என்று பல பல சமுதாய மாறுதல்களை ஏற்படுத்தினார்.
அவரது சிந்தனை தெளியும், தர்கத் திறனும், எல்லோரது கண்களையும் திற்ந்து மனதையும் விசாலமாக்க, படித்தவர்கள், புத்திசாலிகள் மத்த்தியில் பெருத்த வரவேற்பை பெற்றார் பெரியார். அவரத்து கரித்துக்களை பல மேதாவிகள் பின்பற்ற ஆரம்பிக்க, படி படியாக, அதுவே நாகரீகத்தின் உச்ச்க்கட்ட வெளிபாடானது. பெண்களை கண்ணியமாய் நட்த்துவதே நாகரீமானது.
பெரியாரின் நிழலில் பெண்கள் எல்லாம் புது தெம்பும் தெளிவும் பெற்று, தங்கள் சுயமரியாதையை உணர்ந்துக்கொண்டு விழிப்புற்றார்கள். பெரியாரும் பெண்களை ஊக்குவிக்கும் விதம்மாய், இந்தியாவிலேயே முதல் முறையாய், பெண்களின் மா நாடுகளை கூட்டினார். இப்படி 1936 ஆம் ஆண்டு அவர் கூட்டிய மா நாட்டில் தான், பெண்கள் எல்லாம் ஒன்று சேர்ந்து, தங்களின் முன்னேற்றத்திற்காக் பெரிதும் பாடுப்பட்ட அவருக்குத்து ‘பெரியார்’ என்ற சிறப்பு பெயரைச்சூட்டினர். அன்று முதல் திரு ஈ வே ராமசாமியாக இருந்தவர் தந்தை பெரியாராக மாறினார். இதே மனிதர் தான் ஜாதி ஒழிப்பு, தீண்டாமை ஒழிப்பு, ஹிந்தி எதிர்ப்பு, கடவுள் நிராகரிப்பு என்று பல பல சமூக சீர்திருத்தங்களை செய்திருந்தார்.....ஆனால், மகளிர் நலனுக்காக அவர் ஆற்றிய் சேவை தான், வெறும் ராம்சாமியாக இருந்தவரை தந்தை பெரியார் என்கிற மாம்னிதன் ஆக்கியது.
பெரியாரும் தான் இந்த பெரயருக்கு மிக பொருத்தமானவர் என்பதை நிறுபவித்தார். அவர் தோற்றுவித்த திராவிடர் கழகம் என்கிற சமூக நல அமைப்பை தன் துணைவி திருமதி மணியம்மையின் விட்டுச்சென்றார். அது வரை எந்த தலைவரும் தன் நிறுவனத்தின் பொருப்பை பெண்களிடம் ஒப்படைத்தாக சரித்திரமே இல்லை....ஒரு வேளை பெண்களால் பெரிய வகிக்கமுடியுமோ என்று மற்றவர்கள் சன்தேகப்பட்டார்களோ என்னவோ? ஆனால் பெரியாருக்கு பெண்ணின் திறன் மீது எந்த சந்தேகமும் இருக்கவில்லை. அவர் நம்பிக்கையை காப்பாற்றி, பெரியாரின் பெண்ணிய கருத்துக்களை அமல்படுத்தும் விதமாகவே, இந்தியாவின் முதல் முற்றிலும் பெண்களுக்கான பொறியியல் கல்லூரி தஞ்சை அருகே உள்ள வள்ளம் எனும் ஊரில் கிட்ட்தட்ட இருவது ஆண்டுகளுக்கு முன்பு துவக்கப்பட்ட்து. இந்த கல்லூரியில் படிக்கும் பெண்களுக்கெல்லாம் சீருடையே பேண்ட், சட்டை தான். யோசித்து பாருங்களேன், இன்று வரை தமிழ் கலாசாரத்தில் பெயரால், பெண்கள் கால்லூரிகளுக்கு பேண்ட் சட்டை போட்டுக்கொண்டே வரக்கூடாது என்று மெத்தப்படித்த பல்கலைகழக துணைவேந்தர்கள் எல்லாம் கரார் ஒடுக்குமுறை செய்வதை பார்த்தால் உடனே புரிகிறது, திரு ஈ வே ரா, உண்மையிலேயே தன் காலத்தை மிஞ்சிய மஹா முற்போக்குசிந்தனையாளர் தான்.
இந்த பெரிய மனிதருக்கு இன்றைய எல்லா பெண்களும் நன்றி சொல்லக்கடமை பட்டுள்ளோம், இன்று நாம் இந்த உயரதில் இருக்க காரணமே அவர் தான். பெண்களை அடக்குமுறை படுத்த முயலும் சாமான்ய ஆண்களுக்கு மத்தியில் பெண்களின் மேம்பாட்டிற்காக் போராடினாரே, அவர் தான் பெரியார். எப்பேற்பட்ட பெரியார்!

The A B C of Happiness!

The Alphabet of Happiness.
Everyone likes to be happy. But the problem is, no one knows exactly how to maintain our minds in the Happy state. What makes us happy? What does one need to do in order to remain happy? Well, it seems like a complicated question, but the basic alphabet of being happy is quite simple! Check it out for yourself and try out the A B C of happiness every day, then you’ll know how easy it is to be happy!
Attitude: Although we all live under the same sun, we do not all have the same horizon. Some of us have a positive attitude and that pushes us ahead in life, for attitude determines altitude. Those of us who grumble and crib will never be happy even in heaven! So let’s perk up our minds and always keep it positive. That is the very first step to happiness.
Bravery: Bravery is not the absence of fear. It is doing what it takes despite one’s fear. As we all know, fortune favours the brave. When you look back in life, you’ll probably regret all the things that you didn’t do…. So quit worrying and just go on doing what it takes to go forward.
Change: Life belongs to the living and he who lives must be prepared for changes. Embrace changes that enhance your survival, which will take you a long way in the road to happiness.
Discontent: Discontent is the first step in progress. Had the apes been content on the trees, man would not have conquered land. So don’t just stay content with your lot and get stagnant in life. Keep thinking of new improvements, each betterment will bring a fresh dose of happiness into your life.
Empathy: The best way to forget our problems is to listen to others’. So go ahead and offer empathy, listen to others, and understand their problems from their point of view. Then you’ll know how trivial your problems actually are. Empathy is a sure way to becoming happier and also wiser.
Faith: Hold on to some belief system, because beliefs give us a foundation to know our place in this world, to understand life and relax on that knowledge. Stand up for something or you’ll fall for anything.
Grit: The very fact that we are alive today means we come from a long line of survivors. One who is born in the fire, will not fade in the sun! It is in our genes to survive! All that remains is that we have the grit to endure and emerge the winner!
Hope: Hope is a short cut to happiness. When everything seems lost, remember the future remains. Even the worst of times, passes away and time heals every wound.
Imagination: The world’s best inventions were once only mere imaginations. To achieve the marvelous, it is precisely the unthinkable that must be thought of.
Joy: Happiness is the art of making a bouquet of the flowers within reach. Count your blessings, keep your face to the sun and enjoy the pleasure that simple things offer.
Kindness: Hands that help are holier than lips that pray. Helping others is a feel good factor, it makes us feel worthy and nice, by stimulating pleasure hormones in the brain.
Laughter is like the jam on the toast of life. It adds flavor, keeps it from being too hard and makes it easier to swallow. Cultivate a sense of humour, take life easy and be sportive, you’ll never be short of something to laugh at!
Mistakes: The more mistakes you make, the cleverer you get! One who cannot make a mistake cannot make anything worthwhile in life. So don’t worry about the mistakes in your life, they are like manure that enrich your life and make it more fertile. Make your mistakes useful by learning from it.
Novelty: Do not go where the path leads, rather go where there is no path and leave a trail. Originality is special, people always appreciate it…so go your way and do your thing, as long as it is useful to the society you’ll never go wrong!
Optimism: The soul would have no rainbow had the eyes no tears. Even the worst experience can teach us a lot, strengthen our minds and toughen our spirit. And nothing lasts forever, after every darkness there is light. That’s the law of nature. So be cheerful and look at the brighter side of life.
People: All human needs can be summed up in a few words: some food, some sun; Some work, some fun and SOMEONE! Being with positive people recharges your energy levels and brings back the zest for life. Find such people and plug onto their positive power!
Quietude: Once in a while, take a holiday from too much activity. Practice silence. At times, it is better to keep your mouth shut and let people wonder if you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt. The quieter you are, the more people will love to hear from you!
Restraint: One minute of anger denies you sixty seconds of happiness. Remember, when you are angry you lose more than your temper. Have a little self-control, that is what makes the humans superior to other species you know!
Self-confidence: You are god’s creation. Like everything else in this universe, you have a purpose and a right to be here. It does not matter what others think about you because deep down you should be sure of what you are.
Tolerance: At times, it is better to lose the battle in order to win the war. Just be tolerant of testing situations, learn to enjoy it, it adds to your sense of humour. Even if you decide to fight it out, pick battles big enough to matter and small enough to win. No point in expending one’s energies wastefully, is there?!
Unwind: All work and no play makes any one dull. After all we have only one life. So take time to live, the world has so much to give! Explore the world; discover your potential; cultivate a hobby, that’s the surest and shortest route to happiness!
Vocation: Mind unemployed is mind unenjoyed. Find a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life. The sense of purpose it gives you makes you feel important and nice, and most importantly very happy!
Will: Even the word impossible says I’m possible. Nothing is beyond the human will. Just apply it judiciously and you’ll always succeed at any task you set your mind to.
x-periment: You are infinite. You are capable of so many unheard miracles. Yet, you never know what you can do till you try. So try, experiment, expand yourself and discover the limits!
Yield: Sometimes, it is best to surrender to the situation and let life take its own course. For some defeats hold more triumph than victories. Blessed are you if your mind can bend, then it shall never be broken.
Zest: Some people make the world more special just by being in it, be one of them! Live life to the fullest, after all we have only one life!Live life to the fullest, after all we have only one life!Live life to the fullest, after all we have only one life!

Thursday, 27 March 2008


Are you married? Then you would have encountered at least some degree of the menace called Motherinlawism. Motherinlawism is such a common occurrence all over the world that most teleserials in most countries harp about it. A casual conversation with any woman will eventually lead to lamentations about how cruel a woman the mother-in-law is and all the atrocities that she unfeelingly commits.

From simply finding faults with the daughter-in-law to outright murder, mothers-in-law especially in India are known for all their bizarre behaviour. And it is not even that uncommon. Almost all of us have seen or heard of at least one such mother-in-law who seems to behave as if her only mission is to make life miserable for the daughter-in-law. But the point to ponder is why does this mother-in-law character behave so mean? She is also but human, then what makes her behave so odd?
Let’s just take a random look at various mothers-in-law and scan through their behaviour patterns…MIL X loves her son very much. When the new daughter-in-law walked home, she ‘forgot’ to take the arthi that was part of their religious custom. she watched every single move of the DIL and criticized her for each and every thing….she snubbed, slighted and scathed the girl at every turn and when the girl’s face crumpled in sadness, she even complained to her son that his wife was being rude and making faces at her. She felt the girl was no match to her wonderful son and cribbed no end to everyone about darling son’s misfortune in marrying this bad specimen of womanhood. She feared this girl would not feed her son properly; that she would give away his shoes and ties to her male relatives; that the girl would try to dominate her son and ruin his life. The son got so influenced by his mother’s whisperings that he began to suspect his wife of some foul play and began to ill treat her. As expected the marriage landed in some hot soup.
MIL Y was one another doting mom who loved her son. Although her son was well past his thirties, in his mother’s eyes, he was still a baby. She always fretted over him, feeding him, caressing him and generally keeping the umbilical cord completely intact. She was so fond of him that she could not bear the thought of sharing him with another woman. Therefore the son’s wedding got ‘delayed’ as the mom could just not find ‘the perfect girl’ for her oh so fabulous son. But the relatives were constantly worrying about the son’s advancing age and kept making snide remarks about the boy’s long unwed state and what that could potentially imply. And the son urged the mom to find a girl for him, ‘if only to take care of his parents in their old age’. After much reluctance the mother complied and let the boy get married to a girl of her choice. But she just could not stand the sight of the girl. Every single thing that the girl said or did irritated the MIL no end. To add to her worries, the son started being affectionate with his wife, and that was something the mother could not stomach at all. She started falling sick, breaking into tears, accusing the son of forgetting dear mother who had ‘sacrificed a lot and suffered so much to make him the man was today ’and going behind a bloody upstart who no doubt was only after his money’. The mother’s constant lamentation wore the son out. He started feeling guilty about being with his wife. And each time his mother accused him of being ungrateful, he quarreled with his wife for no good reason. When the girl tried to explain her side of the story the MIL pronounced her to be argumentative. That made the son angrier with his wife and he began battering her. Naturally the marriage broke and the MIL expressed relief that she had saved her son from the clutches of “that arrogant girl.”
MIL Z is another such loving mother, who thought the world of her son. Her son was a successful professional and she was very proud that it had been her hand that had rocked his cradle. Since she rated him very high in terms of his worth she expected the ‘lucky girl’ who would marry her son to bring a fabulous dowry, worthy of her darling son. The daughter-in-law came with a modest dowry. Since there were no other takers for her son, who for all his academic success was not much of a looker, the MIL grudgingly accepted the girl into the family. But she made sure that her son never slept with “girl who was fit to be only his servant”. She kept the couple separated for the most part and made sure she was physically present when the couple was together. She categorically told the girl, “he is very busy with work, do not expect him to fuss over you…” and kept tabs on the couple. She poisoned the son’s mind, telling him constantly that the wife was not to be trusted, that she had married him in spite of his looks only for the sake of his money, and that she would pilfer all his possessions and pass it on to her parents. The son became so paranoid of his own wife that he started reading her dairy, checking her purse and tracking her e mails to know what she was up to. Not surprisingly the marriage was on the rocks.
With this random sample of MILs X, Y and Z it is obvious these women love their sons way too much. And there is no greater tyranny than love. For these mothers expect from their sons not just some ‘love me back,’ but dutifulness, security and gratitude in exchange for all that she does for him. Now that is where the problem starts.
Any mammalian mother on the face of the earth toils a lot for its offspring. For that matter all human mothers all over the world struggle through a variety of hardship to bring up their children and give them the best possible life. Admirable though her parenting is, in genetic terms there is nothing selfless about a mother’s toils. In fact all the efforts she puts in raising her children are purely selfish at the gene level. For only if her children survive, will her own genes thrive and spread. And so it makes complete genetic sense that the mother toils hard to provide for her kids. She is doing it to spread her own genes. But the son cannot spread his mother’s genes all on his own. He needs a sexual partner.
If only the son could mate with his own mother, her goal will be fulfilled, they get to spread their genes and she gets to keep a firm hold on her darling son. But nature, society, law and tradition do not permit the mother-son mating. Because, such incestuous in-breeding can pool together diseased genes. So it makes better genetic sense that the son out breeds with an unrelated woman with a different set of genes.
Had this son been just a daughter, the mother would not have worried so much. She would happily get the daughter married to a man with a different set of genes and breathe a sigh of relief, because the daughter is not a beneficial investment. Until quite recently daughters were not well favored because they were economically a very unwise “no returns” investment. Daughters had no traditional mandate to provide for their parents. Although in terms of genetic sense, daughters also spread her genes, the son is a much better investment because he not only spreads genes but also has the traditional responsibility of providing for his parents.
Today we live in a modern world where women have their own properties and income. But until very recently women all over the world had had no right to hold property or income. That made women helpless and dependant on their men for their financial need and the security that it gave. First it was the father, then it was the husband and finally it would be the son. So the son is not only a gene-spread vehicle, he is also a retirement plan, an insurance for old age financial care. And so it is that mothers are more attached to their sons. And they loathe sharing this son with another woman. Especially because this newcomer would share the son’s resources, but without contributing to the making of the same. That makes the mother feel a deep sense of injustice. As one mother-in-law picturesquely put it, “I planted that tree and my daughter-in-law enjoys its fruits, how unfair!”
Also the wife character has two special extra powers over the son. She could provide the two most important things that a mother can never compete in – sexual companionship and baby making. Sex being a powerful bonding ritual, it makes the partners feel committed to each other. Once the partners get thus bonded, the son might side his wife and that makes the mother feel insecure and jittery. And so, the same mothers who feel so relieved to see the daughters leading a happy sex life, feel irritated and disgruntled to see their daughters-in-law reveling in sexual fulfillment. For a sexually content daughter could potentially bring home the resources of her doting husband, that is an economic gain. Not to mention the genetic gain of spreading some genes in the process. But if the daughter in law is sexually active, then it is a potential loss in the economics department, although the genes may be spreading in the process.
Above and beyond all these dynamics, if the mother in question had to herself the attention of her own doting husband, who continues to support her emotionally and financially, then this lady does not mind her son’s closeness with his wife. Her positive experience with her husband makes her benevolent and magnanimous; she would then not consider the daughter-in-law a threat to her survival. And such mothers-in-law turn out to be angels and fairy god mothers.
But those ladies, who have had the misfortune of being married to poor providers and emotionally callous husbands, turn to their sons for support. And when this son marries and brings home a wife, the mother feels insecure. An insecure mind knows no reasoning. It turns possessive, jealous and malicious; it tries to wrestle the son away from the wife and would stoop to any level to achieve its goal. This leads to Motherinlawism and macabre crimes against daughters-in-law.
In a way, Motherinlawism is actually a kind of test for survival, to check the smartness of the son. A smart son, who understands the workings of his mother’s mind, will try to fulfill his filial duties, without compromising his own genetic spread. He would reassure his mother that he will forever be there for her, make sure he keeps her financially secure and give her emotional support and moral courage. With his mother’s anxieties thus assuaged, the smart son would then proceed with the purpose of his life, by spreading his genes and making sure he has a harmonious relationship with his wife. By balancing both these roles, the son proves he is fit for survival and sure enough, his genes spread.
But sadly, if the son is not smart enough, he could get entangled in the mess of Motherinlawism and end up being a loser. If he leans too much towards his mother, he would make a wonderful son but a terrible husband and a miserable father. If he leans too much towards his wife, he would fail in his duty as a son and set a very bad example for his own children. This imbalance proves the son is not quite fit for survival and in most cases, his genes do not spread. In the end, as always, it all depends on how smart the man is and how deftly he handles situations. Nature though is impartial and neutral; it only lets the best genes survive.

Friday, 7 March 2008

Father Great Man!

The international woman’s day is observed on the 8th of March and provides us an opportunity to think about and thank all those die hard feminists who made this day a reality. Today, the women have the best of opportunities, the highest rights and the most respect in the society, but all this did not come on its own. The better situation that most women find themselves in today is all thanks to the sheer perseverance and activism of a few determined feminists. Most of these feminists were women, no wonder; they were the sufferers, so they took up their own cause. But the finest feminist in Indian history you’ll be surprised to know is not a female. He was a male and his name was Ramaswamy.

But nobody knows him by that name today. Ordinary people are known by their given names all their lives. Only the truly great souls have the rare honor of being known by their nom de plume. And this soubriquet then becomes so major an influence that people actually forget the person’s real name …..Ramaswamy was one of those great souls who eclipsed his own name and became known as Thanthai Periyar, Father Great Man.

Coming to think of it, after the Buddha, the Christ, the Nabi and the Mahatma, the only other man to be known by his own personal soubriquet is Periyar. And contrary to all these other men, Periyar was a self proclaimed atheist who publicly denounced the existence of God. It was for this daring anti-god campaign that he was very well known all over the world.

But there is yet another unsung facet to this Father Great Man…he was the most vociferous feminist of the last century. Today, we all live in a world where equal opportunities to women are a reality; women are no longer treated like vassals, at least in the educated societies. Yet, all the freedom that women enjoy today is directly a result of the activism that Periyar led in the last century.

To go back into the grueling past, women then were not allowed to study, they were married off when they were still little girls. Suppose, the child bride’s equally child-like husband got bitten by a snake or died of cholera, then the girl was subjected to all the rituals of widowhood and persuaded to perform ‘sati’, or was left to spend the rest of her life in austere celibacy. Remarriage of a widow was considered sacrilegious. Talk of rights for a woman was tantamount to blasphemy.

Even the women who escaped the pangs of widowhood were no better off. There were innumerable restrictions on every one of the women’s moves. She could not study, go out of the house unaccompanied, work and keep her own wages, or own property; she could not even choose her marriage partner. She had no rights whatsoever, she was not even recognized as a separate entity; her identity was fused with that of her male proprietor, the father, husband, brother or son. “..The lord in all his wisdom had created the women as the weaker sex, to be forever under the protection of the men folk…”or so these practices were justified.

The men of the last century considered all the toils of the woman to be part of the glorious Indian Heritage. So what if women were forced to jump into the funeral pyre of their husbands, was it not a sacred custom dripping with national pride! So what if the women are married off from their cradles…it keeps them 100% pure and agmark chaste, rationalized the leaders like Bal Gangadhar Tilak. Even Mahatma Gandhi for all his ahimsa, did not show much sympathy on the plight of the women, he felt all the suffering made them better beings.

But Periyar was an independent thinker – unsullied by religious trappings. He was a daring revolutionary and a relentless rationalist who believed in the equality of all humans, whatever their caste, creed, colour or sex. Although he himself had been raised in a family steeped in Vaishnavite rituals, the young Ramaswamy could not tolerate the hypocrisy of Hinduism that speaks of all souls being made of the same Paramaathma at one end, and snobbishly discriminates against them in the name of caste, religion and sex on the other.

Like Leonardo da Vinci who invented the first helicopter several centuries before the average human could even comprehend the idea of a flying vehicle, Periyar was a man much ahead of his own time. He was a social scientist, who thought up of new traditions of social living, way before anyone could even envisage it. At a time when the whole world considered the woman as the subordinate, Periyar began thinking of women as equal to the men, in all aspects.

And for this equality of women, Periyar fought brave battles and defied all prevailing conventions. During his time, the ideal woman was valued for her body, her beauty, her baby making ability, her obedience, her culinary skills and her Karpu. Periyar defied each and every one of these.

He believed that all things being equal a woman did not have to display her body all decked up and decorated, hoping for the male’s approval. Just as the men gave up beautification, ornaments and long hair, which had until a few centuries ago been the norm for Tamil men, Periyar urged the women to give up their beauty restraints. He was the first man ever in India to suggest that the Tamil women give up their long hair, big pottus and long-winding sarees. In his travels abroad, Periyar had noticed that women in other countries had their hair cut short and dressed in convenience clothes; he recommended the same to Indian women. He even urged his wife Nagammal to give up her nine yard saree and upgrade to trousers and shirts. He was such a progressive man, who had no patience for silly traditions that had no survival value.

Likewise Periyar did not set much store for baby making or obedience. He saw women as much more than mere gestational grails. He saw them as intelligent minds and encouraged them to study just like the men did. In his book, “Why women became slaves?” Periyar noted that ignorance makes the woman dependant on the man, but knowledge could give her power. He encouraged women to think logically for themselves with discretion (paguththarivu) rather than just blindly hang on to idiotic gender stereotypes, laid down by centuries of mindless automatic obedience.

He ridiculed the notion of “women being subordinate to the men” and explained that subjugating the female was only a weak man’s attempt to feel stronger than he actually was.

As for cooking, Periyar strongly believed that women should give up cooking all together, and families had better dine communally from a centralized kitchen. Thus freed from the morning-to-night grind of cooking, the women would have more time to develop their minds, he explained.

As for the grand sentiment of Tamil culture, Karpu, Periyar thought it was a clever ploy to put a leash around the woman’s neck and keep her subdued all her life. He encouraged women to come out of these narrow cultural constraints and propagated the “Self respect marriage”, in which, contrary to the traditional Kanyaadhaan marriage rituals, the girl would not be given away to the groom like a slave. Since the woman was equal to the man in all aspects, she could very well choose her own partner, marry him as an equal in a simple and dignified ceremony, where there is no hullabaloo of hypocritical vows which no one understands or intends to follow anyway.

While Tamil movies till today keep praising the Thali as the holy of holies, Periyar, felt it was another clever trick to rein in the woman, much like tying a controlling rope around the cattle’s necks. If the partners are really equal then how can it be that one of them alone ties a cord around the other’s neck? Either both would tie cords around each others’ necks or neither should….and thus, Periyar eliminated the Thali from the “self respect” weddings. Even without the thali, the mantras, and the other traditional rituals, such Self Respect Weddings are considered legal and binding in Tamil Nadu, all thanks to our Father Great Man and his political protégés who later became Chief Ministers of the state.

Even after such a self respect marriage, Periyar felt if the woman did not like her partner, she had every right to walk out of the marriage and live on her own or seek another companion. Periyar was such a visionary that he even protested against the use of the terms husband and wife, which he felt were demeaning to the womenfolk. Much like animal husbandry, husband is a term that denotes proprietorship, while the Tamil term for a wife, “manaivi” meant, “the one who manages the house” had a subordinate flavour to it. Therefore he preferred to use the term “thunaivar” meaning spouse and “innaivar” meaning equal partner.

Not only did he encourage women to get out of the Karpu shackles, he also fought for gender rights and equal opportunities. He made sure that women could take up studies and employment, hold property and keep separate income. He opposed atrocities such as culturally sanctioned prostitution, sexual abuse against women and oppression of women’s rights.

His logic so lucid and his reasoning so scientific, no one dared to oppose Periyar. In fact most of the cognoscenti looked up to him as the ultimate rational thinker and eagerly embraced his principles. Self Respect Marriage became the highest statement of intelligent living. Also it became highly fashionable to treat women as equals and it was considered extremely uncouth to discriminate against them.

Under Periyar’s all-powerful wings, the women slowly got on to their feet, realized their self worth and moved towards emancipation. He, for the first time in Indian history convened women’s conferences to discuss gender issues from 1936. The women felt so indebted to him for all the efforts he put to empowering them, that in one such women’s conference the Tamil scholar Neelambigai honoured him with the title “Periyar”. Since that day, the sobriquet stuck. The same man had battled against so many of the society’s evils, but it was for his championing the cause of the women folk that he ascended from an obscure Mr. E. V. Ramaswamy to the exalted title of “Father Great Man.”

And Periyar proved that he deserved such a high title by bequeathing his foundation, the Dravida Kazhagam, which is a non political social reformist organization, to his partner Mrs Maniammai. No other leader had ever transferred the onus of any organization to a lady, because probably deep in their minds they still doubted the woman’s ability to lead. But Periyar had no such doubts, he was sure of the woman’s abilities and left Mrs Maniammai to continue all his good work.

True to Periyar’s philosophies, the nation’s first ever engineering college exclusively for women was started in Vallam near Thanjavur, twenty years ago and the dress code for all the girls studying there is, trousers and shirts! Considering that even to this day, many vice chancellors in the state ban their girl students from wearing trousers to college in the name of Tamil Culture; it is a stark reminder that Mr E. V. Ramaswamy is indeed The Great Man, who could think much ahead of all other ordinary men.

And to this Father Great Man, we womenfolk owe many sincere thanks, for we are where we are today, all because of his great efforts. What a real Great Man! Wow, what a Periyar!

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

As Fate would have it

There was this conference that I attended in Budapest. After all the long winded scientific sessions, the organizers decided to give us the much desired break; they organized a city tour to see all the major landmarks.

We were taken around the popular Baths, soaking in the salty waters of Budapestian Baths is supposed to be healing we were told. We were taken to the historical City Square, where the history of Hungary is depicted as moments frozen into statues: the coming of the fierce half- mongoloid Magyars who conquered the country and laid the foundations of civilization there. We were taken to a rare monumental fort, rare because each part of the fort had been built in a distinct architectural style, some parts Gothic, some parts Baroque, some parts Moorish….it was there that we met Mr Fate.

Mr Fate was a large granite statue, with a hood, cloak and sinister look, depicted as sitting on a huge block of stone. He had a Golden Pen in his right hand and The Big Book of Deeds in his left. We were told touching the pen would give one oodles of good luck, but touching the Book, god forbid would lead to a lot of bad luck.

This spiced up all our imagination; we thought Mr Fate would make a good subject for our group photo. All of us climbed onto Mr Fate, the superstitious of the lot all clinging to the Golden Pen and the indifferent among us just arranging ourselves wherever there was space. The photos were taken and the most superstitious among us, ‘touched and kissed’ the Golden Pen one last time and hopped off the statue, only to turn to look at me and say, “My God, Shalini, what have you done, look at you, sitting right on the bad Book…..god save you now!”

Only then I realized where I was seated…..on the left shoulder of Mr Fate, with my right hand carelessly dangling onto the Big Book of Deeds. I laughed and hopped out of my perch, but my companions would not let the matter rest, “Just be careful, will you….now that you have incurred Bad Luck” they chorused half jokingly and half fearfully.

I was determined not to let that daunt me….in this age of science and logic, the sentiment seemed quite silly. And so I put away the incident and went around the rest of Budapest, enjoying myself at the local fair, where Romanian girls sold exquisitely carved wooden curios and embroidered peasant tops. By the time I finished seeing the fair, I had actually forgotten the Fate incident.

The conference got over, we checked out of our hotel, boarded the bus to the airport, embarked the plane, changed flights at Frankfurt, watched an engrossing movie onflight, reached Mumbai, crossed over to the domestic terminal, boarded the flight to Chennai and finally landed in the long Immigration Queue. It took another hour for us to claim our baggage, and travel-weary I trudged to the Prepaid Taxi Counter with my luggage in tow. As I told the counter-walla my destination I pulled out my wallet from my back pocket…..only there was no wallet in my jeans.

I was taken aback, I fumbled some more….but no, there was no wallet there. I pulled out some money from another of my bags and with a worried wrinkle on my forehead, clambered on to the waiting taxi…..where did the wallet go? I had several thousands worth of Indian and foreign currency in it!

Once inside the taxi, I opened my entire luggage and searched for the wallet….no, it was not there! Obviously I had lost it, but where? I tried to recall all the places that I had been to in the last twenty four hours, and mentally tried to rewind every scene of my movement…trying to identify if the wallet had been with me at that moment or not.

I seemed to remember a sleepily eaten breakfast at Mumbai that morning, which meant I would have paid for it, out of the wallet of course… probably somewhere between Mumbai and Chennai I had lost the wallet, only then did the image of Mr Fate’s Big Book of Deeds suddenly flash into my mind! Was it true after all, the sentiment of the Bad Luck?

I could not decide…my mind seemed divided just then, one half was too busy worrying about the lost money, all the ways that I could have spent it usefully, all the things that I could have bought with it…and just feeling unhappy at having lost so much money….while the other half was analyzing the whole incident typical shrink-style: Mr Fate was only a statue. Good Luck and Bad Luck are mere beliefs. The Big Book of Deeds was not inherently evil; it was made of the same stone as the rest of the statue. Touching something cannot lead to something else that was not even remotely related to it…the cause and effect did not match at all. On a spiritual level, may be it was destined that the wallet be lost for some mystical reason….

Thus split in my thoughts I reached home. The therapist inside me decided the conflict was leading nowhere and asserted itself…. “No more pondering or worrying”, I told myself. Can’t let worry spoil my precious little brains! What’s the big deal, I lost some money, ok, let me face that and move ahead. It was after all only money, I could always make more to replace the lost notes. Thus self-therapized I went about my work as usual.

The nicest thing about Psychiatry is that we are so engrossed in solving much bigger and graver problems for others that personal problems just get automatically deleted in the process. Two days later, I had completely forgotten about the lost wallet and Mr Fate’s alleged conspiracy against me, when I received a call at work.

Absent mindedly I picked up the phone, some sweet-voiced girl from some Airlines was on the other line, asking my contact address. Some one wanting to fix an appointment I thought, preoccupied with the work at hand. She was saying, “We found your business card in a wallet….”

With the word wallet, my mind flew back to her in full attention, “Oh, yes, I’d lost a wallet, you found that?” I could not believe it.

“Yes, we found it on your flight seat….could you please make arrangements to collect it from me..” She proceeded to give me her contact details.

The next day, the wallet was back in my hands, complete with all the currency, credit cards, business cards and scratch pad notes that I had scribbled on….

My thoughts automatically went back to Budapest, Mr Fate and the book on his left hand….with the wallet safe in my hands, my mind was suddenly clear ….Bad luck? bah, all sentimental crap!

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

right switch wrong person

Right switch wrong person.

Let me not mention names, but there was this middle-aged lady who came for consultation with complaints of vague aches and pains all over her body, poor sleep, bouts of irritation and sudden crying and very sad mood for weeks together. She had tried attending religious discourses, chanting prayers and meditating in the name of God….nothing helped.

Her complaints were all in favour of Depression and so she was given a robust dose of psychotherapy and a short prescription of antidepressant medication. Like most people she responded to that magic combination and within three weeks her depression was all but gone.

Her sleep had become normal, her appetite was good, her mood was cheerful and most important of all, she had no pains anywhere in the body. But she started talking about new complaints….she had realised that she was being forgetful, absent minded, very sensitive to criticism and having rage reactions at the slightest provocation….all these had been there for so many years, but now that she realised something as gruelling as a depression could be healed within few weeks, she also wanted to do away with these other troublesome symptoms.

It was then that she was asked about any past history of abuse - physical, emotional or sexual. The lady gave a blank look and stared straight into the eyes of the psychiatrist. Within a split second her eyes glistened and tears filled up, her first question was, “Why do you ask that?”

The answer was simple…childhood emotional abuse is extremely common, female sexual abuse is even more common. Some women who have had such experiences later on develop certain kind of psychological problems…that may lead to problems in paying attention to things around them, increased reactivity to even minor things and an unbalanced emotional state.

When she was informed of all these, the lady nodded subtly and whispered, “Yes, doctor. There was this man, he used to teach me tuition….he taught me very well. I liked him. But one day, he…he touched me in the wrong places. I was only eight at that time! I knew it was wrong….but I did not stop him…”

She closed her eyes and the tears dropped off her cheeks, “It was all my fault doctor, how could I let him do that!” She opened her eyes, looked up with trembling nostrils and asked, “You think I am a bad person doctor? I let this man do this to me…what kind of a weird child I must have been! To tell you the truth doctor, I think I might have even enjoyed that man’s caresses…which makes me all the more a bad child”

This story that this lady so hesitantly told is not so rare. Many adult women often have such secret histories of sexual abuse and the quirkiest part is most of these women blame themselves for their abuse.

The human body is designed to feel pleasure when certain parts are touched. Each of such touch sensitive-pleasure eliciting area is called a sensate focus. The human body has many hundreds of such sensate foci.

These sensate foci are like switches, when touched they automatically produce a rush electric sparks that travel all along the nerves and register in the brain as pleasure sensations. Just like anything of high temperature is recognised as hot and something of very low temperature is recognised as cold, so too the human brain recognises touch on the sensate foci as pleasure; pure and simple brain physics that!

It is only because the human body is designed on these pure and simple physical laws that the human beings derive great pleasure from the mere mechanical act of copulation…. no other animal on the face of the planet enjoys the copulatory act so much. Only the humans do and that is because the human body operates though such sensate foci.

But the problem with this Switch for Pleasure kind of body design is, these switches send sensations of pleasure, irrespective of when, where, by whom and how they are touched. The touch could be accidental, by a human, by an object, by an animal, with the consent of the body-owner or even without the consent of the body-owner…still all these touches can produce a sensation of pleasure.

For that matter the switch may belong to the body of a young child, but when touched it still produces pleasure sensations. That is why even infant boys take a great fancy to tweaking their penises….for young and innocent though these babies are, they had accidentally discovered a sensate focus, touching it caused pleasure sensations and so most little toddlers learn the knack of amusing themselves by fidgeting with their penises.

So too does a child abusee feel pleasure when an abuser touches the sensate foci of its body. Now the question is: is the abusee at fault because he/she felt some pleasure by the acts of the abuser?

Let’s look at it this way. Child A does not know that item Z can cause a sensation of feeling cold. But adult B offers the child this item Z. Because the child A trusted Adult B, the child touches item Z, only to discover that it causes cold sensations…now is this child guilty of some sin?

Definitely not. It is unfair to expect a child to identify Z as COLD. And it is preposterous that an all-knowing adult should deliberately give this cold shock to this innocent child…so too is child sexual abuse. The child is unaware of the pleasure inducing properties of some parts of its body. The child is blissfully ignorant about the switches and the sensations. But the adult does. The adult also knows it is improper to touch the child in the wrong places. But this adult, even after knowing what he/she is doing is wrong, operates the child’s switches…then who is at fault, the child or the adult?

Of course it is the adult who is at fault! That is why societies all over the world view child sexual abuse as the cheapest and most lurid of crimes. And responsible societies make sure that preventive measures are taken to route out the menace all together. No society at any time during the long course of human history has ever blamed an abused child of bad behaviour.

This being the case, it is quite inappropriate that many adult women with past history of child sexual abuse blame themselves for the event. They suffer from misdirected sense of shame and guilt and feel they are somehow flawed and dirty. This negative self-perception and low self esteem causes anger and irritation. Such off-putting emotions crowd their minds and they are unable focus fully on the present tense.

Sounds tough eh? But the good news is, knowledge frees the mind from its fetters. Typically when all these women suffering from child sexual abuse related emotional problems understand that they are definitely not at fault, that they were only the victims of the wrong person operating the right switches at the wrong age, they recover remarkably well.

As for example the above-mentioned client. A few sessions and all her negative emotions had vanished. She no longer felt low and inadequate. She learned to overcome her silly childhood fears and self-doubts. She realised that she was no longer a victim, she was actually a survivor. And as always, knowledge gave her power. The sense of being in power gave her the poise and equanimity to handle life in peace.

But she still had one hang up, “I do not want any other child to suffer like me! What do we do to the men who abuse little children doctor?”

Men who abuse little kids and what we should do to them…. that’s a whole new story altogether.