Sunday, May 16, 2010

From Thiruvalla to Bangalore: A trial of a horrific murder

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.

17 comments:

Fr Jerry said...

Jerry John Kurien writing in facebook on Sunday at 2:42 P.M.- A thought provoking article! The true fact is that we are very egoistic and as much as we self define our self as forward thinking individuals and being a part of the globalization, deep within we are still bound to follow traditions, traditions not for the good values that they represent but out of the fear what the community will say if you do ... See Morenot follow them.
In our community which i feel is still male dominated very easily the girl is accused if the martial relation does not work out...its sad! The church has lot to offer in terms of pre-martial counseling and so on but as u mentioned in your previous blog no one wants to slow down -no time, a three day counseling can be reduced to a 3hrs session if ur an NRI with special fines and Bishop's permission. Ultimately It is our mind set that is to be blamed and changed. Do not get married because the traditions wants you to do so but get married if your mature and responsible enough to rightly lead a family with values .
Akku

Fr Jerry said...

Thanks for the comment Jerry. It would help if youth members your age could also have an avenue to express yourself in the church. Till then I guess we will be stuck in this self imposed Syrian ego. (From facebook)

Fr Jerry said...

Reshma Susan Philips from facebook, Monday, 3:20 P.M. - I am so glad you penned your thoughts on this horrific incident. It was so shocking even for us so far away!
All is well with raising children to be winners, what about empowering them to stand up for themselves? Isn't that most important?
To voice their fears, to trust their judgments?
I hope that all my friends read this article and comment on it so we can do our share in spreading awareness against domestic abuse.

Fr Jerry said...

Thanks for commenting Reshma. I find it very alarming and unjust that women in Kerala have to bear the brunt of any thing that happens. Still can't digest the fact that people in Thiruvalla and all over Kerala find fault with the poor girl!

Fr Jerry said...

Reshma Susan Philips from facebook@ Monday, 3:30 p.m.- Isn't that so typical of a society's want to go after juicy details rather than look back at themselves and correct what needs correction?
What about us? we all went through the same school system?

Fr Jerry said...

Yes, we did. It is very unfortunate that these kind of comments are still made about girls in Kerala. Anyone who is bright and confident is seen as a threat and a character assasination is carried out. I suppose more than school, further studies and exposure in other places also moulded us.

Fr Jerry said...

Sneha Rebecca Mathew from facebook 6 hours ago- I seriously believe The Syrian Christian Church should take a firm step towards Pre-Marital counselling. Although some of the Churches offer counselling, most of the people are not aware of it.
Like how Achen said, enough time should be given to the couple to understand each other and also I believe, they should be made to understand the meaning of marriage in the Christian context- which most of the couples are unaware of!
Coming to Domestic Violence, I agree with you Chech. Children should learn/be taught to stand up for themselves and to trust their gut.
What happened to her and to the family is unthinkable! But yet it happened!

Fr Jerry said...

(From facebook 3 hours ago)Sneha: I feel that the church has to listen to people like you who have an opinion to put forward. After all you are the future of the church as well. It is unfortunate that there is no official space for young people to voice their opinion. At the same time what Reshma has done is to put forward her opinion and circulate it among her friends. This means that there are other ways of making our thoughts and opinions heard for those who are willing to take a step forward. This will eventually lead to preventing what happened in Bangalore.

Fr Jerry said...

Cissy George from facebook an hour ago- It is more of how you respect each other in a family and that shows in the society as well. We teach our kids to respect our elders, but we should also equally respect and guide the children according to the changing times.Parents should give children enough freedom to feel that home is a safe haven and can always rely on parents in times of trouble and decision making.We should be examples for our children on relationships. Often seen are those situations where we look at the financial and academic levels of the boy and girl and get them married in a week or two.They are total strangers to each other.Knowing each other is very crucial .Our churches need to wake up and do an analysis on these pot holes, rework on customs and methods to see if it is really applicable to the new generation, because the new kids need reasons and explanations. Its a joint effort and everyone has a role in making the society a better place to thrive..

Anonymous said...

Thanks for a fairer article! Someone has done a great media job smearing the girl & gathering sympathy for the guy, conveniently ignoring the fact that he just murdered her. If the murder was unintentional, then he's got serious anger management problems. That said, no one is perfect by self & only God knows what happened there. But it struck me deep when I visited Kerala & heard folks heaping blame on the girl & sympathy on the guy - thats like missing the headline on the newspaper! Can we get any more prejudiced?

Fr Jerry said...

That is indeed true. Sometimes I think what school the journos go through! This deep throated bias against women in Kerala is indeed more shocking than the murder.

Fr Jerry said...

Johncy Philip, Facebook, May 25, 2010, 7:04 P.M.- Hi Achen, I agree with your views having briefly known the family. I feel that the church should have been more involved in providing premarital councelling prior to the marriage. Probably, then this tragedy could have been avoided. It is interesting to note how the perpetrator gets all the sympathy while the victim all the blame. I hope and pray that the truth will be revealed some day and justice will take it course. God Bless.

Fr Jerry said...

Thanks for commenting Joncy. How true. The other day a friend of mine asked me whether I could substantiate what I wrote about the man. I asked him why he did not ask that question to the mainline media when they wrote about the woman! The plain truth for me is that we as a church have collectively failed. It would help to atleast help the girl rest in peace, instead of coming up with flimsy accusations.

Thomas said...

Hi Dear Acha,
I feel that people do not know how to resolve a conflict. I too sometimes find myself to be unable to handle conflicts.

We really need to teach ourselves how to handle conflicts because conflicts do occur in everybody's life. It is essential to teach our children how to solve conflicts.

Patience, non-violence, kindness, politeness and respect are needed to solve any conflict. If our church had taught these values then this murder would not have happened.
At least now, let us understand that values are the most important things in our lives and let's help each other to imbibe these values. Church should really begin to teach these values to our innocent people, who are trying to get some guidance in life.

JK said...

Dear Achan, 2 issues with marriages happening in Kerala. Most of them are arranged quite fast between people who are as busy. I wonder where is the time to even think about pre-marital counselling. To compound issues, most of our views about married life is got from the romantic scenes and dialogues of movies and serials.

Fr. Jerry Kurian said...

Thanks Thomas for the comment. Sorry for the very delayed response. I agree with you. We have to teach people values that we ourselves have gone far away from. What is happening now is a result of the erosion of values in the church.

Fr. Jerry Kurian said...

Jk- thanks. You are right. Marriages are fixed pretty fast. There is now a rule in the church that all prospective candidates have to undergo pre- marital counselling. It has some effect to say the least. This could be made more comprehensive and support to couples should also be continued. We were recently discussing about post marital counselling as well. Cultural differences, influence of media, presuppositions about men and women are all handled in pre-marital counselling sessions. But we have a long way to go and other issues have to be discussed as well.