Of Love and Marriage

Posted in humour with tags , , , , , , , , on October 16, 2011 by salaamreaders

Should a man get married? No, I am not being frivolous. This is, indeed, a serious question deserving the most profound respect and consideration. And the answer, my friends, was given by the venerable old man Socrates himself, and about three thousand years ago too. He said, and I quote, “By all means marry; if you get a good wife, you’ll be happy. If you get a bad one, you’ll become a philosopher.” Though his advice did not save him from becoming a philosopher, it might still save you considerable trouble, and more importantly, much avoidable expense!

But if you are still skeptical, you may wish to examine, instead, the question when should a man marry? Since I am a firm believer in learning from the experience and wisdom of the masters, I would urge you to do likewise. Sir Francis Bacon answered this question by saying that, “a young man not yet, an elder man not at all.” And which married man, after his ardour has been cooled by experience, could argue with that!

If you would still like to take the plunge, you may consider, at least, the question why should a man get married? For love, one might argue. But they say, love is the triumph of imagination over intelligence. And don’t forget Bacon who said, “That it is impossible to love, and be wise.” Would you rather be foolish than wise?

For sex, then? But on this, who but an American actress should have the last word? Zsa Zsa Gabor said, and I quote again, “I know nothing about sex because I was always married.” Think again!

So it is up to you my friends. Learn from the masters and stay happy or get married now and repent later at your leisure. Remember, Mae West, who said that “­­Marriage is a great institution, but I’m not ready for an institution yet.” As for me, I would rather get a dog than a wife because if a dog smells another dog on you, they don’t get mad. They just think it’s interesting!


The Strength of a Man

Posted in poetry with tags , , , on September 2, 2011 by salaamreaders


“The strength of a man isn’t in the weight he can lift.

It’s in the burdens he can carry”………

Oh, how absolutely lovely! I came across this poem, by a fortunate accident, while trawling the net. It is sweet, romantic and poignant. Ms Griffiths, the author, appears to have written it, I presume, for a Mr Hunt D. Rochon. If that be so, it is obvious from the feelings expressed, and how beautifully, that she thinks the world of him. He must be some man, and more, this Mr Rochon!

Here’s the complete poem:

The Strength of a Man

The strength of a man isn’t seen in the width of his shoulders.
It’s in the width of his arms that encircle you.

The strength of a man isn’t in the deep tone of his voice.
It’s in the gentle words he whispers.

The strength of a man isn’t how many buddies he has.
It’s how good a buddy he is with his kids.

The strength of a man isn’t in how respected he is at work.
It’s in how respected he is at home.

The strength of a man isn’t in how hard he hits.
It’s in how tender he touches.

The strength of a man isn’t in the hair on his chest.
It’s in his heart, that lies within his chest.

The strength of a man isn’t how many women he’s loved.
It’s in being true to one woman.

The strength of a man isn’t in the weight he can lift.
It’s in the burdens he can carry.

© July 15, 1999
Jacqueline Marie Griffiths
(written for Hunt D. Rochon)

Ms Griffiths appears to be an enigma, for she leaves no details about herself. From time to time, she visits sites carrying her poem and just leaves a message that her’s was a copyrighted work, which may be used so long as it was not for profit and not in bad taste. I am sharing this poem in the belief that she would not mind it. I wish we knew more about her and Mr. Rochon! But anyway, it’s wishing both of them the best.

No Full Stops in India

Posted in Books, India, Travel with tags , , on February 15, 2011 by salaamreaders

What do you make of an Englishman who has stayed most of his adult life in contemporary India? As a professional journalist with BBC, Mark Tully is in an unique position to meet a diverse set of people-from the politicians to the ‘aam junta’. His book-No Full Stops in India- is based on his impressions of people and places during his many journeys around the country.

He tells their stories as a sympathetic outsider who has been long enough in the country not to perpetuate any western myths about them. They are easy to read and relate to, as his style is simple and unencumbered without any literary flourishes or pretences. Some of them are about ordinary folks living ordinary lives like that of Ram Chander, his servant. Mark’s visit to his village to attend his daughter’s wedding became an event in their lives. Roop Kunwar’s life was equally non-descript until she became a sati. The narrative, about what her family and her community feel about the unfortunate happening and what the feminists make of the same, explains the disconnect between the ordinary folk and the western educated lot in the country.Some stories like that of Operation Black Thunder are about momentous events which come but once in a nation’s life but change it forever. The Kumbh Mela and the Rewriting of the Ramayan tell us of the simple beliefs of countless people for whom religion is a way of life despite much tall talk of secularism in the country. The Typhoon in Ahmedabad is about ordinary people coping with communal riots and yet believing that only a few of the ‘other side’ were driven to murder at the behest of the politicians. There are other equally engrossing stories.

Mark has a theory about India. He believes that it “is a land dominated by foreign thinking.” Its ‘ruling elite’ have adopted western social, economic, scientific and political concepts in a bid to emulate their erstwhile colonial masters. They are looking for solutions to her problems without adapting western knowledge to her genius. The stories about the common man, however, prove that they are still rooted in their traditions and beliefs. Indian life is complex. It is not cut and dried according to any one formula.That is why he says that there are no full stops in India.

Though this book was first published in 1991, subsequent events have only underlined the accuracy of his diagnosis. We have, since then, embarked on a quest for a future based on the “trickle -down effect” of western economic philosophy which has widened the gulf between the richest and the poorest. It is, however, a moot issue whether we will be first overtaken by the wrath of the “have-nots” before the benefits trickle down to the last of them.

Jungle Lore-In Corbett’s Country

Posted in Books, Travel, Wild life with tags , , , , , on January 27, 2011 by salaamreaders

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The House of Blue Mangoes

Posted in Books, India with tags , on September 13, 2010 by salaamreaders

It is an interesting story, set in the late nineteenth-early twentieth century southern India, when the country was in the throes of a social and political upheaval. Power equations within the family were changing. The traditional village structures were crumbling with the deprived asserting themselves against the dominant castes. The British were being challenged by an increasingly assertive revolutionary-nationalist movement. It was, truly, a time of  momentous change.

It is against this backdrop that David Davidar weaves his story of three generations of Dorais- the traditional headmen of a village on the Coromandel Coast. Solomon, the grandfather- the archetypal headman- is confronted by an equally powerful rival. Inevitably, the clash of the titans leaves the village in ruins. It is left to his rather ‘effete’ son-Daniel- to don his mantle and repopulate the village while Aaron-the younger son, cast more in his mould, is caught up in the nationalist movement and dies as a result of torture in a British prison. Kannan- the grandson- estranges his father by marrying an Anglo-Indian girl and settles on a tea estate as a planter- a brown sahib. He, too, however cannot resist the call of his native soil and eventually returns to the village where his father had constructed a grand mansion- Neelam Illum or the house of blue mangoes.

The plot is simple. The characters, both Indian and British, appear real. Their relationships- of love, hate, rivalries, and politics- seem so familiar. The everyday incidents in their lives-births, marriages, feasts, deaths- happen in our lives too. The pace of the narrative is not frantic. Yet, the book is entertaining. Its effect lies in the extraordinary skill with which different strands of these lives have been woven into a coherent whole. The prose is charming and evocative. It vividly captures the beauty of the landscape and nuances of Indian life.

There is only one complaint that I have. The book could have been much shorter without compromising on its  value. Some of the incidents, for instance, the search for the best mangoes and the story about the man-eating tiger are wholly unnecessary. But, nevertheless, it is an engrossing story and recommended highly.

In Search of the Exotic and the Bizarre

Posted in Books, India, Travel with tags , , , , , , , on September 1, 2010 by salaamreaders

India has always drawn the foreigner to her shores. From Fa – Hien to William Dalrymple, many have made the journey, albeit for different reasons. But it has always been long and arduous-both literally and metaphorically. For India is neither easily nor quickly understood. Her reality is amazing but tenuous and her beliefs completely alien to the uninitiated. It is therefore not surprising that the sheer diversity of the Indian experience often makes the foreigner to focus attention on aspects which are in complete contrast to their own cultural sensibilities. All travelogues-whether of ancient, medieval or modern travellers- thus present India as a land very unlike their own-picturesque, exotic and often bizarre.

William Dalrymple is an acclaimed writer. His book, Nine Lives- In Search of the Sacred in Modern India,   is also a search for the exotic in modern India. The idea of the book occurred to him during a trek to Kedarnath where he met a naga sadhu who was formerly a ‘cosmopolitan’ corporate ‘high flyer’. The sheer incongruity of such a character in modern India set him in search of the place of spirituality in contemporary Indian society. His quest took him across India during which he discovered a Jain mataji or nun in Sravanbelgola, a dalit theyyam dancer in Kerala, a devdasi or a woman who is ‘dedicated’ to a goddess in Karnataka, a traditional Rajasthani singer or bhopa, a lady fakir at a sufi shrine in rural Sindh, a Tibetan lama or monk who was formerly a soldier, a south Indian sculptor, a Bengali lady tantric and a baul or Bengali folk singer. He does not tell us whether he just chanced upon them in his wanderings but one is left with a lingering feeling that the cast was carefully assembled to pander to a primarily Western readership.

He sets about ‘bringing the lives of the people I have met to the fore and placing their stories firmly centre stage’ as ‘the people I met were so extraordinary, and their own stories and voices so strong.’ He hoped ‘to avoid many of the clichés about Mystic India that blight so much of Western writing on Indian religion’ by just providing a ‘frame’  and ‘with each of the characters telling his or her own story.’ Unfortunately, he only ends up reinforcing the very stereotypes that he had hoped to avoid.

One may very well ask what makes these characters eligible for being included in this book. Are they unconventional? Yes-for they are a minority; and no, they are all a part of a long-standing tradition familiar to Indians. In fact, they are simply incongruous in modern India, a dying breed, exotic and bizarre at the same time. And that is why they are in the book.

The clichés about India abound in descriptions of the practice of sallekhana or death by starvation among the Jains and how Hari Das, the theyyam dancer is possessed and transformed into the god Vishnu. The same are perpetrated by references to women ‘married’ to a god and forced to prostitute themselves. The author reinforces them further by descriptions of a ‘huge, dark-skinned, red-clad woman of between fifty and sixty, dancing with an enormous wooden club’ at a sufi shrine and of a lady tantric sitting ‘amid smoking funerals of the cremation ground’ and exhorting him to ‘first find the right corpse’ before he drank from a skull. He pontificates on erotico-mystical rites including ‘oral ingestion of sexual fluids’, ‘forbidden substances and practices-alcohal, ganja and ritualized sex, sometimes with menstruating women’ and animal sacrifices in which the body ‘lay writhing on the ground.’

No doubt, the stories of these people would appear compelling to Dalrymple’s Western readers but to Indians neither the cast nor the setting is unfamiliar. This book is meant for the firangi, a good read before embarking on their own quest of the ‘mystical’. We don’t need a five-page glossary to understand aarti and agarbatti!

Better Safe than Sorry?

Posted in India, Law with tags on February 5, 2010 by salaamreaders

With our sexual mores changing significantly in the past few years, sex outside marriage has gained certain social acceptance. Incidents of live-in relationships, pre-marital sex and adultery appear commonplace now. Behaviour once considered socially undesirable, even deviant, is increasingly being thought of as ‘cool’. But beware, the Delhi High court does not approve and if their recent ruling is any thing to go by, promiscuous men may even land in jail. They just have to fall foul of their girl friends! Here’s how.

It has been reported, that, the court has ruled recently that sex outside marriage amounted to rape. It denied anticipatory bail to a man for this reason. The bare facts of the case were, that, a man engaged to a woman had repeated consensual sexual intercourse with her. When he refused to marry her, she filed a police case alleging rape. The court held, that, sex on the basis of a false promise of marriage amounted to rape. Normally, the Indian law defines rape as sexual intercourse when it is:- 

i)          Against the will of the woman;

ii)         Without her consent;

iii)         With her consent, if she has been put under fear of death or hurt;

iv)        With her consent when the man knows that he is not her husband but she believes he is;

v)         With her consent, if it is obtained under unsoundness of her mind or intoxication etc; and

vi)        With her consent if she is less than sixteen years of age.  

Even consensual sex, therefore, is rape under the last four conditions. Now, the court has added another category-when consent is obtained on a false promise of marriage-when it will be considered as an incident of rape. The new expanded meaning has been taken, ostensibly, for protecting innocent girls from victimization and exploitation by unscrupulous and mischievous persons who take undue advantage by promising marriage with them. 

Normally, the accused in a rape case is required to prove his innocence, as the victim’s statement is taken to be true. This is so as it is generally believed, that, no Indian woman would level false charges for fear of social ridicule. In the present case, since the two were engaged, it was not difficult to draw an inference, that, she might have consented because they were in any case to be married. But it may be difficult in other cases to prove whether a false promise was held out or not. If a woman, therefore, alleges rape on this ground, the boy friend may land in serious trouble.

So if you would rather be safe and not sorry-ABSTAIN.

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