Will spouses accept marital failure?

Ritu Kamra Kumar

THE Supreme Court decision to quash the archaic adultery law has made this taboo topic a subject of hot discussion. The verdict asserted that women are not the property of men and patriarchal dictates can’t govern marital relationships. The court has given way for living together as a way of life. Assertive and authoritative women of today have become very clear about their desires and drives yet the fact is adultery is mostly kept under wraps.

The apex court struck down as unconstitutional the 158-year-old law which punished a man for having sex with another man’s wife, assuming the woman to be a victim of adultery, with no sexual autonomy of her own. The ruling is an unequivocal assertion of progressive gender equation.

Interestingly, as the old law was quashed, I was teaching Nathanial Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter to my students. It made me think how art and life converge! Infidelity has been a constant theme in literature; Anna Karenina, Madam Bovary, Doctor Zhivago, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, all novels present central protagonists trapped in loveless marriages, who commit adultery and are little remorseful. Of all these novels, it is The Scarlet Letter which testifies adultery in various ways, with its heroine, Hester Prynne, made to wear a red letter ‘A’ on her bosom as punishment. She decorates the letter with golden thread and gradually her philanthropy transforms ‘A’ for adultery to ‘A’ for angel. Hester was a feminist ahead of her times.

Many contemporary Indian writers such as Anita Nair, Shobhaa De, Sujata Parashar, etc., have dealt with infidelity which is so rampant in our society, as clandestine lovers keep thriving in mutual love. Many Bollywood movies dared to dwell on the subject — Arth, Astitiva, Silisla, Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna — but most portrayed the partner in black shades, thus putting the onus on failure of relationship to indulge in adultery, justifying the cheating.

However, the harsh reality is that there are enough social trends to show the ever-present existence of extramarital affairs. In fact, there are dating apps for married people now. Gleeden, a French company, made its India foray in 2014, and according to a June 2018 report, the app has 2.8 lakh users in the country.

But the question is, why do people cheat, and are we heading towards a moral wasteland? Is infidelity the ultimate betrayal? What difference will the quashing of the adultery law make?

The law can’t punish cheating spouses, but a woman’s consent is as vital as a man’s. While India has eventually recognised the sexual autonomy of women by decriminalising adultery, a million dollar question remains unanswered: Will Indian spouses be brave enough and generous enough to accept marital failure?

Source Link: https://www.tribuneindia.com

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When ‘saver’ loosens purse strings

Saurabh Malik

Sharmaji was never known for his munificence. About a decade back, he had retired from the electricity department, but was still as powerful as ever in his dealings. In fact, he had earned himself a bad name for haggling with almost everyone he dealt with. The neighbours were now used to hearing him bargain boisterously with vegetable vendors, and even shoemakers he caught hold of every now and then to get his wornout brown suede shoes repaired.

So when Sharmaji came to my house one fine morning with a cheque book in hand, I was taken by surprise. I was struggling hard to wash my scratched and battered vintage-looking car before the water supply went off. The sponge was still soaked in soap, when the tap-tap-tap of Sharmaji’s rickety walking stick announced his unceremonious arrival, even before I could see his frail frame resting against the newly painted wall of my house.

His weather-beaten, sun-baked face was looking older than usual, with anxiety apparently escalating the depth of furrows on his darkened forehead. His silvery hair needed a cut and the harsh stubs on the face gave him an unkempt appearance. I could make out from the constant shifting of his eyes that he had something on his mind.

Pulling the cheque book out of his off-white kurta with his wobbly right hand, Sharmaji forced a smile before saying, ‘Here’s something for the Kerala flood victims. But before I hand over the cheque to you, I have a condition.’Of course, he would not do anything without a proviso. He even purchased vegetables on the condition of getting coriander free. Rumours suggest he even married on the stipulation of getting a scooter. Those were the days when the waiting period could drive you to despair. Come on Sharmaji, spill the beans!

‘Well, I do not want my name to appear anywhere. The Tribune has always been active in helping out sufferers, be it the J&K flood victims, or the people of Uttarakhand. Only your aunty knows I have never hesitated. But I do not want any credit for it.’

His assertion took me by surprise. Of all the people, Sharmaji parting with money, and that too for nothing! Pocketing the cheque, I made some vague promise about doing the needful.

I pondered what made a saver part with his money. Was it the universality of the tragedy that gives us the jitters of its recurrence with us as victims, or was it a deep sense of empathy for those suffering, thousands of miles away?

Source Link: https://www.tribuneindia.com

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Pitaji wrote, so students won’t suffer

DC Sharma

One often hears of a century made in cricket or a golden jubilee in the film industry. But rarely does one hear about the golden jubilee of a book. The year was 1993. Almost all prestigious dailies carried the news about the release of the golden jubilee edition by the first Indian author of chemistry books. He was BS Bahl, whose Essentials of Physical Chemistry brought him even international name and fame.

I couldn’t help writing to this doyen of Indian academics, who was once my teacher and later my boss. Such an achievement of writing and rewriting at the age of 82! His instant response stunned me: ‘I’ve done nothing special. If Tennyson could write his magnificent poem Crossing the Bar at 83, and Newton could intensively experiment at 85, why not me? People count a man’s years only when nothing else has to be counted about him!’

He was kind and would reply to everyone’s letter, irrespective of his age and status. Though I had heard a lot about him, I had seen him for the first time in 1969 in his office when I had gone to seek admission to MA in English at DAV College, Jalandhar. Many students would call him ‘Pitaji’. I would wonder why.

Once my farmer-father could not send the fee to me in time. Fearing my name would be struck off, I wrote an application for extension of date and went to his office. He enquired about me and my parents, and granted sanction. As I was leaving, the office clerk called me back: ‘Your fee has been paid.’ ‘Who paid it, Sir?’ I asked in wonder. ‘Pitaji has sent it through the peon just now.’

Born in 1912, he had joined as a lecturer in chemistry at a tender age of 20. He was pained knowing how students could not buy foreign editions of chemistry books. So, he wrote one book after another, till his 13 chemistry books routed out the English editions. He would sacrifice his comforts, leave his young wife and children at his residence, and go to Pehalgam (J&K) to write books.

He showed remarkable results at DAV College, Amritsar, as its founder principal. Thus, he was offered DAV College, Jalandhar, when Principal Suraj Bhan became the VC of PU, Chandigarh. He was such a punctual administrator that in Jalandhar, people would set their watches seeing him come to work. A keen observer of human sentiments, he had read well the pain on my face when he ordered me to join as HoD (English) at DAV College, Kangra. His words still ring in my ears: ‘We will pay you more. I know good teachers are costly. But it would be more costly if we send a weak teacher there….’

His autobiography, The Vertical Man, was a grand success. He spent his last days at KB DAV-7, Chandigarh, the school he built in the memory of his wife. When he breathed his last at the age of 102 in 2014, the length and breadth of his funeral procession would cover many pages of newspapers.

Source Link: https://www.tribuneindia.com

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Only 4 real photos of Bhagat Singh

Chaman Lal

Though many pictures of Shaheed Bhagat Singh are in the public domain, not all are real. The most common picture is an imaginary painting of the martyr, which is not even close to his real photograph. This ‘painting’ picture was popularised by the media after the 1970s, when religion-based politics started influencing Indian politics, of which Punjab became a tragic target during the Khalistan movement.

Till 1970s, the most popular picture of Bhagat Singh was a photograph with a hat, which was clicked on April 3, 1929 — five days before he and BK Dutt hurled bombs in the Central Assembly, now called Indian Parliament, in Delhi. Bhagat Singh and Dutt got clicked from a Kashmiri Gate photographer, whose evidence is recorded in the Assembly bomb case proceedings. This picture still continues to be most popular outside Punjab.

During the martyr’s birth centenary celebrations in 2007, Prof Jagmohan Singh, son of Bibi Amar Kaur, the younger sister of Bhagat Singh, and another nephew Abhey Singh Sandhu, researchers MJS Waraich and I printed cards of the four real photos of the martyr and distributed them across India to create awareness. I wrote to the Central and Punjab governments to only use the real photographs, even if one with a turban. It had some impact; for few years, they used the white turban photo in government advertisements. However, over the past four-five years, they have again started using the painting-based picture. It is unfortunate as no other national leader’s face has ever been distorted by using his or her painting-based pictures. Only Bhagat Singh, Udham Singh and Kartar Singh Sarabha are shown in imagined pictures, as their real photographs do not suit sectarian politicians and parties. It reminds one of a bizarre incident recently, when the Yogi government in Uttar Pradesh painted Ambedkar’s statue in saffron, and in reaction, the BSP repainted it in blue!

Our respected national icons should not be subjected to such conduct. Bhagat Singh looks more handsome in his white kurta-pyjama-turban picture than imposed imaginary yellow and saffron colours with a pistol in his hand. He always wore a white khadi turban and kurta-pyjama, as confirmed by his family members.

One of these photographs was published by The Tribune on the front page during the hunger strike of the revolutionaries in Lahore jail.

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After Rafale, French solution to Ayodhya!

Commodore MB Kunte (retd)

Eileen Savdie, a Mormon from Utah, made Paris her home after marriage. In the early 1960s she spent two years with my wife Anuradha in the University of Sorbonne.

After three decades, Eileen was visiting us, enroute to Australia, and was overwhelmed with her first look at India, despite the dismal brush with the visa people and Air India. She was fascinated by the bindi and wore one all the time she was here. ‘If I had meant it as a method of contact with people, I couldn’t have done better,’ she wrote back from Perth. ‘I’ll never forget those children, the way they cracked up when they had a look at my face and yelled a ‘huloooooo’ at me. Children never smile or wave at me. They did in India. Thank you for that magical little packet. Great piece of makeup that thing!’

The Ayodhya strife was brewing that December and had exploded in the two days between Eileen’s departure and the scheduled arrival of her grand nephew. But David got stuck in Bangkok because nobody could fly into that ‘angry country of yours’, Eileen yelled at us on the phone. So agitated was she that on returning to Paris she wrote at length suggesting a French solution for Ayodhya. ‘An Indian client of mine said to me that a long time ago it was a Hindu temple. It was brought down and a mosque was built on the site. Wouldn’t it be a wonderful idea to build a combined temple-mosque in Ayodhya that would symbolise cohabitation and friendship between religions?’

Eileen added, ‘We have an ecumenical project here that will have no crosses, no paintings, no symbolism. Your building, like the multi-cultural theme enshrined in the architecture of your President’s Palace, could have both Hindu and Muslim symbolism, and that could be used by each group for three days a week and the seventh would be for maintenance by both groups working to preserve something they built jointly. I think having multi-religious symbolism would be a more dramatic message than ‘le freak’ that’s supposed to be built here in Paris without any at all.

‘What do you think? There must be money in India for such a project? Who would be financing the temple? Surely there are plenty of Muslims and Hindus that could be convinced that a massive inspiring symbol of cohabitation and the sister/brotherhood of humankind would be less costly than tearing each other’s building down and building another? And imagine the tourists it would draw!

‘And would it not remind the Indians themselves of Gandhi’s philosophy and efforts towards unity in diversity? One of his quotations could be engraved on a monument, perhaps a statue of him?

‘Do write how things develop in India. Your ever loving ancienne comrade de chamber — Eileen’.

Is it possible that, in memory of the Father of the Nation, the ‘angry people’ will bury the hatchet one day and synthesise a dream concept to soothe all passions?

Source Link: https://www.tribuneindia.com

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Pigeon must awake, there’s danger ahead

Latika Sehajpal

We humans are like the pigeon, which sits on a high-tension wire, thinking it is safe. It believes it is the lucky one and no harm will come to it. In how we perceive the environment, its use, conservation and preservation, we are like that pigeon. We build houses on mountains, cutting them to build resorts and roads, and expect landslides and flash floods to never occur. We do illegal sand mining, change the course of rivers and expect them to never die, or the ecology to never wither. We build infrastructure in floodplains, and pray there are no floods. We build cement cities, and then, rue the effects of global warming. We dump plastic waste in nullahs, khads and rivers, and expect fish meat to be nutritious.

Our un-ecological actions go on and on. We shirk our responsibilities towards nature and expect it to bless us with abundant resources.

Several international conventions like Bonn, Rotterdam, CITES and CMS have been working for the conservation of environment, but it has not percolated down to the grassroots. Else why would developed countries continue with coal emissions? Why is the green action climate fund empty? Or, here in India, why swachhta has to be an abhiyan? It should be a part of life.

Perhaps the concept of a welfare state has made us totally dependent on the government for providing and provisioning everything. We do not want to stop using plastic, but we want the administration to take care of all garbage, whether flung across a valley or littered in nullahs. We do not want to pay our taxes fully (India’s tax to GDP ratio is about 4 per cent), which can be used to fund the expensive R&D to build cleaner technologies. But we want low-cost technological solutions to green problems. We strive less to keep public transport and public facilities clean, and then, make that an excuse to use private transport and seek private facilities everywhere, taking the carbon footprint a thousand notches higher!

Why, even after so much research and awareness about ecology and need to be environmentally conscious, our greed knows no bounds? Why do we exploit our resources like we are the last generation? Why do we hoard land and water to become rich while communities out there are languishing in inhuman ghettos? If epidemics originate from such ghettos, they will reach us too!

Population is out of control. The earth’s carrying capacity has remained a topic for books and examinations. Campaigns regarding this are many in the social dimension, but is the urgency of the issue understood? The pigeon in us is not only resting on dangerous ground, but also has its eyes closed, thinking the cat is away. It is time to open the eyes and see: disasters await if we do not change our way of life.

Source Link: https://www.tribuneindia.com

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Tale of two trees & the weight of hopes

Rana Preet Gill

There was a banyan and a peepal tree and their friendship endured hundreds of years, I was told. I used to go to my village every summer and would find them deep into kinship as the long roots of the trees got entangled with each other. Some roots, instead of going downward, had travelled horizontally, as if only to find a way into each other’s arms. There was something about the giant trees that made me nestle in their shade for comfort and warmth.

The village folklore spoke of a propitious turn of events invoked by blessings to those who prayed to these trees. There were vermillion threads draped around the two that grew in numbers. The red threads might have faked an ethereal glow and looked esoteric, but it took a part of their natural beauty away. Some days, colourful clothes would be tied around them to fulfil the wishes of those who wanted to be heard and given a patience audience by the tree gods. But perhaps none asked the trees what they wanted.

They say you cannot question faith that dictates the fulfilment of wishes. Every year blind faith let them asphyxiate the trees by pouring oil in the roots, strangulating them by the burden of extinguished hopes. They were making the trees wearier by letting them carry a million dreams and desires on their ever-gasping roots for fresh air. And slowly the peepal started shrivelling away. It did not tell them it cannot carry the burden of the fulfilment of their wishes. It only shed its leaves that never appeared again and shrunk its roots which failed to get nourishment amid the mad scramble faith evoked.

Now whenever I go, I only see the façade of a tree bereft of any life, waiting to fall down. Someone started seeing it as a hazard and pointed it to the people with power in their hands, who ordered it to be cut down. Along with the threads and the colourful clothes, they shorned a million hopes that clung to the last vestiges of the dying trees for their own resuscitation.

But it was too late, for the tree was chomped off and only a stump was left that indicated its presence. Now the banyan stood alone, weary, bearing the other half of the dreams and hopes. But some noble soul prophesised that it would not stand the exaggerated expectations and would collapse soon under their weight.

They had to bundle off their faith and direct it someplace else. They removed the threads and ornamentation and decided not to let the banyan befall the same fate. They started pouring water in its roots, and not oil. Now it stands tall and free of all the melodrama and overbearing pleas. They left it alone only to build a shrine at the far corner of the village.

The banyan lost its sanctity, but it is not complaining at the loss of attention. It is finally breathing and leading a peaceful life.

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