Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Welcome to the new Talibanistan - the erstwhile Hindustan!!

Welcome to our rechristened country - Talibanistan. We're carrying the baggage of the oldest religion and culture and hence we better abide by all the norms and regulations laid by our ancestors. Looks like our predecessors even decided whom to have sex with and whom to marry. So oldest form of pleasure known to mankind may not be a free stuff in India. At least there's some consolation that if you're not a Hindu then you have lesser restrictions and can choose from a bigger set of people to have sex with. Hindus have to find out if the girl (or guy - depending on your sex and orientation) is from the same Gotra or village!! Many more things may come up. Couples with many other commonalities (may be same state, or same district) may also be gradually disallowed to have sex legally!! And we've a US returned business grad, a scion of a big business house in India and a young politician justifying the need of a law for disallowing Hindus marrying someone you love even if he/she happens to be a 100th generation descendant of a common ancestor.

The people, in favor of passing a law against Hindus marrying within the same Gotra - the mythical lineage of people supposedly descending from the same ancient Aryan sage - point out vociferously to the genetic disorders resulting from inbreeding and marrying a cousin. My friend Vikas pointed me to the linked documents about inbreeding. That's correct. Inbreeding may lead to several disorders, but the probability of inbreeding reduces exponentially when the relation becomes distant. Even for 2nd cousin it's only 0.7%. So if separated by a few generations, the chance of inbreeding is almost zero. So the scientifically disallowing marriage within the same Gotra and same village stuff don't hold good.

And hey, we're talking about people descending from Kashyap, Bhrigu, Angiras, Kanva, Vashishtha etc, who themselves may not be historical characters or even if they are then they might have been alive at least 4000 years ago - going by the most latest dating of Rig Veda, putting it to 1500BC. People sometimes date Rig Veda to 3000BC or even more - so that makes these people alive some 5000 years back. C'mon, statistically the chance of inbreeding is ZERO among their descendants after so many years!!

Just some 100 years ago my and Trinita's great grand parents used to stay in the same village named Goila in what is now Bangladesh. My marriage would be now in rocks, not because I'm sleeping with some other girl, but because I have been sleeping with my 'sister' !! Shit - I'm incestuous.

Mukesh makes a few great points here:

The point is should people be allowed take law into their hands to punish what they perceive as incorrect ?

You can pass laws to administer it, e.g. in Karnataka cow slaughter is being banned. So now administration can legally enforce it (whether this is good or bad is a different issue. One man's meat is being made all men's poison !)

To prevent genetic defects we now have genetic coding/typing (Hope I got it right ! supposed to become big business in future !). Or will people be against it because it may bring out unpalatable truths ! (discovery that you have genes of some forefather, whose genes you should not be having !) In my community [Mukesh hails from Coorg], when some folks went for this, it created quite a furore. The reason being apprehension that the 'Islamic' part of genes in the community might pop up (Chengis Khan has the highest gene foot print in the world). After all our traditional dress does resemble the Omani traditional dress and Muthanna (My Kodava/Coorgi name) is a very popular name in Iraq ! Though my biggest concern is that the radicals in both the communities (Hindu and Muslim) may get together, arrive at a compromise and ban both beef and pork ! What no pandhi curry ? (The point is but than we eat pork !).

The sad part is that we lose the logic of the ritual and continue with the ritual even though it is no longer valid. E.g., some opinions I had heard was that Islam banned pork because pork is the meat which spoils quickest in desert conditions (The theory about pigs being un clean went out of the window with the mad cow disease and farmers using sewage water to grow "kothamari soppu"). Green is Islam's colour because in the desert there are hardly any plants/trees. So green is to be revered and preserved.

So while first cousin marriages (you can marry father's sisters' kids or mother's brothers' kids) and uncle niece (guys marrying their sister's daughter) are 'kosher' in certain communities in South India (any research here ?), you can get killed for being in the same village and getting married, up North!.

There is a big debate within my community about inter caste marriages (folks are married into all communities). While one opinion is that our population is dwindling because of this the contrary opinion is that the gene pool is getting stronger (unlike the Parsis, apparently). While folks are going ahead and doing what they want to do some of the fiercest opponents of inter caste marriages had to bite the dust and have turned around to become over night supporters of inter caste marriages when their kids married out of the community (including my uncle whose son married a Gujju behn !).

Yes. It is about politics, power and wealth and nothing else.

Actually why blame only the Jat Khaps who want to ban same-Gotra marriage among Hindus? Why not blame the TamBram guys? How many cases have you heard where an Aiyer is marrying an Ayenger? For that matter, have you checked the entries in the Indian matrimony sites? There are more fields for castes, Gotras, clan, lineage etc than education, hobbies etc. How many parents marry without checking horoscope?

I think the problem is there in all places in some form. Unless we put a check, we're no better than the Talibans.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Rabindra Jayanti

I don't know if Rabindra Jayanti, the birth day of Tagore, can be classified into one of those 'Happy' days - like New Year, Diwali, Christmas etc. - when people wish happiness and good luck to each other. In fact not many birthdays are considered 'Happy' days. Jesus is very lucky. His might be the only birthday that gets the maximum 'happy' and 'merry' wishes. Our Lord Krishna comes to a distant second, at least in India, because few people do wish each other on Janmashtami, if not in the same way they do on Christmas. Nevertheless the online greeting cards portals have brought back some heritage and cultural feelings among us and they remind us from time to time to wish each other on many of these 'happy' days. In India most of the 'happy' days are religious or social - Happy Diwali, Happy Dussera, Happy Holi et al. Lately the various relations day, like Happy Mothers' Day, Happy Fathers' Day, Happy Husband Day, Happy Lovers Day etc have become quite popular and I'm sure the portals and the florists make quite a good amount of money in these occasions.

Somehow I find it a bit ironical why the birth days of real people in flesh and blood never attain the status of one of those Happy Days. Have you ever heard of wishing each other a Happy Gandhi Jayanti or for that matter a Happy Rabindra Jayanti? Gandhi and Tagore are perhaps among the most important personalities who have shaped the modern India. Above all both of them taught us to love each other. Without a Gandhi India would have been a Pakistan by now and without a Tagore Bangladesh would have been the same. Pakistan is doubly unlucky that they lack both Tagore and Gandhi and Bangladesh at least has Tagore to keep them away from becoming a Pakistan too soon. It's India alone who has survived in the subcontinent amidst all her folly and feigns, trouble and pains, terror and reigns. We still love to stay together, we still love not to pounce upon others at the first possible opportunity, we still take pride in our culture but welcome people and cultures from round the world. We uphold the tradition of thousands of years but still have a very modern spiritual and cultural outlook. Our post colonial indigenous education system, much of which is inspired by Tagore's ideas and the political backbone, much of which is still based on Gandhi's thoughts are perhaps the two major factors that have kept us distinguished from our neighbors. Religious intolerance and fanaticism is still not that alarming that it can fill venom in the blood of every Indian.

So can't the birth day of Tagore and Gandhi be one of those 'happy' days.

Tagore is one of the persons whom I love and learn to love in a new way each time at all phases of my life - the time I first fell in love, the time when I feel dejected and rejected, the time I see success and also the time I fail miserably - there's something always that soothes me and this grand old bearded man seems to be always with me. I'm never alone even if I'm stuck in the loneliest corner of the world, I'm never extravagant even if I'm wrapped with all the wealth of the world, I'm never sad even if the whole world leaves me, I'm never hopeless even if nothing happens as expected. Rabindranath is there always at my disposal. His songs keep me enriched, his words keep me awake and his thoughts drive me always. For me his 150th birthday today surely one of the 'happiest' days where I'd like to wish happiness to everyone I love.

After a very long time I was watching the movie Kabuliwala in one of the Bengali channels. I'd forgotten many of the scenes and sequences. That's why I enjoyed again watching it so much. No doubt that's one of the finest movies made in any Indian language. At the end of the movie one thought just dawned in me - whatever may the rest of the world think about Afghanistan, but the Bengalis will always have a totally different picture of the fierceful by still not dreaded, very rough and tough but still so loving Afghans - all thanks to Tagore's depiction of a country and its people in such a poignant way. It's irony that in the course of just 100 years have become the most dreaded nation in the world.

Rabindranath's elder brother Satyendranath Tagore was perhaps the first Indian to pass the ICS exam. He was posted in what's now Dakshin Kannada district or Karnataka, the area around Karwar which includes the beautiful Kali river. It was during his official tenure that his youngest brother Rabindranath used to visit him during the 1870s. Rabindranath was in his teens then. Looks like he was awed by the serene and virgin beauty of the Western Ghats and specially the shores of the rivulet Kali. People who have visited those areas would understand how serene those places might have been some 150 years ago. There's no doubt that a poet and a nature lover would fall in love with this place. KSTDC still acknowledges Tagore's love for these places and they have a resort run by Jungle Lodges on Kali river at a place called Dandeli. In fact I came to know of these trivia only from a KSTDC pamphlet where they very proudly advertised how much Tagore loved these places. They also claimed that Tagore wrote his first drama (perhaps Rajarshi) on the banks of Kali/Dandeli rivers. Next if you go to Karwar, you can see that there are multiple places named after Tagore. That's also because Tagore used to frequent Karwar a lot and considered the beaches on Karwar best in India. No wonder, Jungle Lodges have one of their best resorts on an island on Kali river near the mouth in Karwar. Also if you've seen the Karwar beach, just south of Goa, it's indeed one of the finest beaches in India.
Perhaps the most interesting connection with Bangalore is that Tagore started one of his best, and my favorite, novels Shesher Kabita, here. The story goes like this - he was visiting Bangalore along with P C Mahalanabis and the later's wife Rani Mahalanabis, both very close to Tagore. PC Mahalanabis founded ISI in Calcutta much later. Rani and few of her friends were quite young in 1930s, perhaps in their twenties, and all of them requested the old septuagenarian Tagore to write something interesting for the youngsters like them. Tagore took the challenge and started telling them a story about two very romantic people Amit and Labanya, who met literally accidentally on the hills of Shillong. After a short while the story became quite interesting and that's when they requested Tagore to make a novel out of it!!

Well, I think Bangalore still keeps up to the reputation of being a city of youngsters!!