One cannot fathom the dissection of a murder after it is committed. Everyone is an expert and they offer expert opinions on everything under the sun. The Bangalore murder of a 24 year old woman from Thiruvalla came as a shock to all. The reasons were several. One, how a strain occurred between a couple who were married for barely a week? How could a murder be committed within minutes of the couple arriving in Bangalore and being left by the boy’s parents just to get breakfast? Weren’t there tell tale signs that something was wrong? Didn’t the parents or other family members see any signs of an impending tragedy? How was this wedding arranged? Weren’t the facts implored and the couple given enough time to get to know each other?
There are two versions flashing around in the public post mortem. One is that the girl was too “forward” (meaning smart and confident on a positive note and ruffling a few traditional feathers on a negative note) for the boy and therefore this was a murder waiting to happen! One should think about this statement in slow motion to let the damage of this to sink in. Interestingly, the ammachi’s (grandma’s) and aunty’s (middle aged mom’s) are the ones who are spreading this version of the story. It is very sad that when the girl’s family will be looking for some solace all it is going to get are these behind the back comments from friends and near strangers, all claiming to know everything there is to be known. The other version is of the boy and that he had psychological issues even before the wedding. This is the opinion of few of the people in Bhopal who knew the boy’s family. What was an open secret for people who knew him remained a mystery to everyone else. Does this mean that Syrian Christians hide behind their history and tradition while in reality they face a host of important issues which they are not willing to discuss?
For me what is shocking is not the murder as such but the utter disregard for the two families and those involved. Kerala’s Christian population in its effort to move as far as possible from the tragedy is blaming everyone apart from itself. Priests, bishops, culture changes and even globalisation are blamed. Very convenient, considering that it sends everything back to its normal path and eases people into their comfortable existence. But this habit of time and again asking the wrong questions should be done away with and more relevant answers should be sought for relevant questions. Obviously the church has to discuss the question of what should be followed before a couple gets married. This includes offering pre marital counselling, taking a proactive interest in the wedding, giving an opportunity for the couple to speak and understand each other and for a couple to decide whether they like each other before they get married. But this is possible only with the help of the people in the church. Take for instance how a synod directive on how marriages should be conducted will be treated by the people. Some will be seen as unpractical, some against culture and some against family traditions and practices. Church members will then reject such directives.
The church population in Kerala has been quick to pinpoint the cause of the murder even before the investigation and the court trial. The media has reported based on hear say rather than investigative journalism. The usual reasons found were ‘the girl had a better salary’, ‘she was not happy with the wedding’, ‘she taunted her husband’, and ‘she refused physical intimacy’. All this suggests that the girl had murder written all over her face. What a travesty of facts. Fortunately rare voices begged to differ saying that the deceased girl was a confident young woman. Does this mean that by blaming the girl we can keep our Syrian-ness intact? We are definitely going to be found wanting on this front.
This being the case, what is the step forward? Are we willing to accept that the Christian population in Kerala is following one official faith but living another practical life? Are we willing to discuss the fact that both women and men should be given the space to take their own decisions and live their lives with respect and dignity? Do we have the courage to bring to the table the fact that the Syrian community has serious issues and we should be open about it rather than being closed and reserved? Does the church have an option of providing help for those who are going to get married, need help after marriage and want help in talking to and understanding each other at any point in their married life? Let us talk about these things and leave the bereaved families alone for the time being.