Saturday, October 24, 2009

Love Jihad: A need for acceptance and rehabilitation and not war mongering

Where war persists, love is not far behind or maybe it is the other way round!. A lot of us may have heard of jihad as a waging of war. But there is also an interpretation that it is practising religion in the midst of oppression and persecution. For those of us who are moulded by the utterances of the main line media, jihad is a negative connotation. It is an attack on freedom and the public space of people. I wonder whether this is the original intention of the word jihad. But this post is not about that. Rather it is about how we use love as a toned down means of aggression to bring people to our side.

The print and online media this month did a story on what they termed the ‘love jihad’ in Kerala and Karnataka. The story outlined how Muslim men trapped women from other religions, and married them as part of a larger design to add to the Muslim population in India. The case came to light when a couple of women filed a case in the courts of Kerala and there was a unusually high rate of registration of marriages. So much that the court has asked the government to do a preliminary enquiry. It has even led to a silent understanding between the VHP (Vishwa Hindu Parishad) and some Christian groups, to pass on information on such conversion attempts and prevent it. The problem should be grave as otherwise the VHP and Christian groups will never be found on the same side of the coin! The response from Muslim youth groups is that there is nothing unnatural about this as every religion has conversion. But is it acceptable to give money to men and tell them specifically to go behind women for a period of two weeks and get them to convert by luring them in the name of love?

The media and Hindu and Christian groups have so far been crying foul about this. But what no one brings to light is the plight of women! Be it war or love, women are seen as an object to be conquered. So from one religion to the other, they are conquered and subjected. Why is it that the woman has to always convert to the religion or denomination of the man and not vice versa? It then should be debated as to whether the problem is conversion or the freedom of women!

The other point to be debated is whether this goes on in other religions as well? The truth is that it does in small quantities. Whoever sees survival beyond truth, follows the teaching of using war or love to multiply the number of followers. Everything this way is fair in war and love! I have come across a similar phenomenon in certain new Christian denominations aka sects. In an effort to have a foothold in society, girls are lured into the sect and then told that their partner is a man, who of course belongs to the same sect! This the leader of the sect/denomination says is what God wants! The girl is thus torn away from her own cultural roots and beliefs.

The final point to be debated is why do girls fall into traps in the first place? Is it a lack of independence, feeling cared for, not being given respect? Obviously for the girls to be lured, a good enough trap should be in place. This could be anything. A bit of love and concern and maybe a bit of everything, put together with a flashy lifestyle. This is what lacks in many of our houses. Our women are not given the respect that is their due and right. In the vacuum, someone else provides this. Furthering this, have we thought about how it will be when these girls/women come back? What will be their status? A girl who has brought dishonour upon the family? A girl who went astray and has come back and therefore has to be looked after because there is no other alternative? Which girl would then come back?

I have come across a similar instance in my home church. A young girl similarly left her house. She is in touch with her father but won’t talk to her mother, because they are not on good terms. As far as I understood, she doesn’t mind coming back. But the church members have already started talking about her and how she has brought a bad name to the family and church. I couldn’t help but wonder how this girl could come back to a land of stigma, exclusion and judgement! Would girls like her be given legal advice and lawyers to argue their case? Which is why we should look at this phenomenon of the love jihad, which truly is not anything new but the same old story of women being treated as objects. This then is a time for acceptance and rehabilitation and not war mongering.

(Many thanks to Cissy George, my school mate, who provided the initial push and material on the 'Love Jihad' which was helpful and responsible for the writing of this post)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Language at it’s Kerala best!!!

In the previous post I did try to bring out the differences that one can face in a single language. Which is why people may not understand each other despite knowing the same language. These differences are cultural and group specific.

Kerala is a state in India which uses Malayalam as it’s official language. Obviously the use of a single language should not bring about much confusion. But the way Malayalam is spoken in different parts of Kerala is indeed confusing with people finding it difficult to understand each other.

Mimicry has been a cultural activity which is now a part of a genre which is entertaining and thought provoking. For entertainment purposes certain things are bloated out of proportion but never the less the point is driven home. One similar performance outlines the Thrissur (a town in Kerala) slang. (

The setting is a court room with the advocate examining a witness in a stab case. The witness gives his version of what happened… “Eecha kadayude kadai keri eecha navadi- therikkan nokunna machu ennu paranjapam chullanu kalichille- ee gadi oru boost ittu koduthille- appo matte gaddi oru bush ittu- oru jathi show ishta- gum ennu nenchil kittiyappol chullan madhillil veenu wall post aayille- ee chekkan chavarinaduthu paranjatha ee spot sheriyalla, skoot aakan nokan- avide, chullan skoot aayilla- ee gediye chindha padundo therichonnu, ellenkil medeyiyonnu- last-il pettiyinnu chuvannavanu pathiye vannu ara pacha thangiyappol chappada round vendannu kenji paranju eshta- oru kizhi kittiyappol avande arayil dushma veeshi andam kundam nokathe kuppiyeduthu pallayil otta keerangu keeri- panchayat pipe pottiyapole alle chora cheetiyathu.”

A bold but not accurate translation of this would be “one guy tried to act smart with another fellow and they traded words (beautifully put by using the words boost and bush)- it was a show off- the guy got it on his chest and flew to the wall (became a wall post on the wall)- we told the guy that this place is not good and so beat it (words used are spot sheriyalla and skoot) but he did not go- we told him not to fight a losing battle- but he took a bottle and stabbed the guy without a care- blood sprayed out as if from a panchayat (village) water pipe.”

For many in Kerala this won’t be a language that they will understand and yet it is Malayalam! And it is a way of speaking Malayalam with a special energy and bringing life to the language itself. This then is the concept of how a language is accepted by a people and eventually made their own. Indeed, language at it’s Kerala best!

Monday, October 5, 2009

The language of the dogs

Language is a way of expressing oneself using words and even actions. It is a cultural learning that we are put through, and eventually we will add on to our traditional learning with our own unique experiences. We have the official language that is thrust upon people and the un-official language which is a public outcry and protest. In India too we have Hindi, struggling to assert itself as the national language, English as the most used language across different states largely by default and maybe as a colonial hangover which has turned into an advantage for Indians, and many other languages hustling for space in the Indian sphere with slight similarities and differences at the same time.

There are unique and almost extinct languages which are spoken by small communities and which express meaning to specific groups while being completely strange to others. But what happens when we have classifications within a language which make it confusing to one and clear to the other? The English language despite being a colonial infusion into India, has been absorbed into the Indian fabric which has even made English dictionaries sit up and take notice and add new Indian English words to the latest versions of their dictionaries.

This difference and new way of talking the same language is not just a matter of accent and words used but the way some words are used and perceived. ‘Heh dude’ and ‘heh dog’ in the U.S. for instance would not strike a chord for a majority of Indians. This could have been one of the reasons why the Oscar winning “Slum Dog Millionaire” was seen derogatory by some in India for the use of the word dog, even though it was not meant to be derogatory.

Similarly, there will be sections of the population in India who would not battle an eyelid before saying, ‘what the f##k’, while others would find it inappropriate and in bad taste. We see here a total shift of language according to the perceived culture of a group of people. So even though we speak the same language we don’t understand one another!

This confusion in language can also be separated into a rich, fortunate group’s indulgence or the spontaneous expression of ordinary people who have made the language their own. Which is why I suspect that many heated discussions are due to small confusions. And when it is done in a small space with minimum words like on twitter, the confusion is bound to increase. Which is why it is not enough to learn a language but to learn a culture. Journalists cannot swoop down on single words but need to understand the culture setting in which it is made, thus expressing a new meaning. The language of the dogs then expresses a whole new meaning, a different culture, a whole new world, waiting to be explored.

Friday, October 2, 2009

From Gandhi-giri to Goonda-giri

India is a place of the opposites embracing each other. The richest and the poorest have their own take of the much hyped government budgets, single God’s and multiple God’s are worshipped, parched lands are replaced by water soaked soil in a matter of a few kilometres and loud noise is challenged with a louder silence. Gandhi Jayanthi this year is placed in this context of opposites.

Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the nation did inspire a whole nation into freedom with a lesser known tool of ahimsa (non-violence). Today as we celebrate his birth we are caught up still between the confusion of violence and non-violence. Raj Thackery in his latest piece of news making has asked the producers of the Hindi movie “Wake up Sid” to apologise for the usage Bombay instead of Mumbai. Obviously the producers were quick to do the same in fear of the film release being stalled by a bunch of goons. It is amusing that no one asks for an apology from politicians for denying basic rights to the poor and powerless of this country!!!

Mayawati is also not doing the dalit cause any favour by spending public money to install thousands of statues all across Uttar Pradesh. There is a strong argument that these statues are a reminder of the resistance that the poor are putting up against the upper castes. But wouldn’t it be better to bring a better understanding of resistance by assisting people to have food on their plates and change their destiny?

Gandhiji dreamt of a single, united India. Many have pointed out that this was a hollow dream as this single united India would also mean keeping people at the same level they were. The scope for being what one wanted to be was perhaps eluding the ordinary people of this country. But one cannot forget the power of non-cooperation and non-violence. The freedom one gets by not doing and being silent.

But for some reason India today is a reflection of violence rather than non-violence, goonda-giri rather than Gandhi-giri. A rule of violence over and above peace. Pakistan is a constant irritation and Indians mistrust their neighbour and don’t see the country on equal terms. The hurry to inflate the India bubble, which is honestly outrageous, brings us into direct confrontation with China and we are deeply enraged with the so called incursions that China is undertaking in the North east part of India. Kashmir is a continuing cause of concern and violence is unleashed every now and then. A new threat in the form of naxals suggests that there is a growing un ease with the way India is conducting itself. Violence is being met by violence with heavy consequences.

I wonder then whether Gandhi Jayanthi is just another day, a holiday, a time to remember the Mahatma, who is maybe much talked about outside India rather than inside, with the U.S. president mentioning that he would have liked to dine with the Mahatma if given a chance. Is there a chance for peace in India? Are we boiling with a violence inside which makes us fight one another and those outside? Surely Gandhi is not going to answer that. We should!!!

Who is my friend?

Friends are a realistic constant that not only come next to family but in today’s world have replaced family, in some cases, as the number one shoulder one would select to cry on. The transformation has been swift and ruthless and we are reminded of the importance by the soap opera “Friends” telecasted and re-telecasted for years now in India. It is noteworthy to mention how friends become family and stand up for one another which is somewhat new in the Indian context.

But are we ready for this friend concept that is invading our lives and do we need to be more specific when we use the word friend? Our real lives have more or less been replaced by our surreal lives which are not projected to an audience but have taken over the life we are used to. Now even though many would question who or what is real, the fact remains that we have been shifted to a virtual world. This world is very much like the world we live in save for a few problems of identity and privacy.

So the friends culture which is burning it’s sole with protracted re-runs can make a virtual entry and skate board into the visions of online netizens. But what is it that we come across today? Orkut and facebook along with other social networking sites are facilitating the sending of hundreds of thousands of friend’s requests to each other. I get a minimum of three almost everyday. People I don’t know, people I can’t even see a picture of, people who don’t write a message as to who they are (suggesting I might know them), but still asking me to accept them as their friend. What do I do? Do I go on an accepting spree?, do I say no?, do I make sure I know the person?

In my case I am almost forced into accepting requests because of the nature of the job I am into. But I can’t help but think of others who have to accept requests and then realise that it could be their teacher, or parent, or a stalker wishing to intrude into their lives. It’s good to make friends and have a lot of friends as long as one knows who the friend is!