Category Archives: Culture

The concept of having multiple spouses

Recently, in a history of sorts, 3 people, who were in love with each other, got married, legally, in Brazil. Predictably, there has been some controversy. And if you come to know that there were two women who got married to a man, you’ll probably say, “O yeah, as if it doesn’t already happen.”

Yes, two women getting married to a man isn’t new. In fact, even more than one man marrying a single woman isn’t extraordinarily radical. Polyandry is an accepted form of domestic life in many cultures. The “new” in the above-mentioned incident is three people simultaneously becoming a “thruple”.

But what if multiple men got married to multiple women? For example, what if there are three husbands and two wives, or five wives and five husbands, or ten wives and seven husbands — any combination for that matter? They become a part of a single unit.

Of course every union has it’s pros and cons. Even the current combination of one man and one woman has its own set of woes and blisses.

Our society so far has functioned on the basis of either patriarchal or matriarchal system, mostly patriarchal. The prevalent norm is one husband and one wife. This arrangement is quite straightforward, especially when it comes to nurturing the offspring. When we have kids, they are a part of both the parents. Both parents jointly — in most of the cases — bring kids to this world. This creates a linear cultural and social hierarchy. There is also greater bonding between parents and children.

Between couples there is no ambiguity and there is no conflict of interest. Both work towards the overall betterment of the family.

Problems arise when there are multiple partners — conventionally, when there are multiple wives. Children from different wives are acrimonious towards each other. There is sometimes overt or covert animosity even among the wives. Conflict of interest is quite sharp, especially when either the stakes are high, or the resources are limited. Among poorer families scarce resources are consumed by more family members, causing problems to everybody.

Having multiple wives for a single husband sounds a bit archaic, especially if the decision is not as voluntary as mentioned above, and even if there are some positive aspects to it, I don’t think women get a fair deal out of this.

Multiple wives and multiple husbands, on the other hand, sounds more appealing and beneficial to all the parties involved. Of course it requires a higher level of intellectual maturity among all the spouses and even if one partner is not at parity with the rest the entire thing can fail.

For such multi-partner-multi-gender marriages all the involved parties will need to be on a similar wave length more than ever. They must know what they are getting into and what pros and cons they are going to face.

Since such marriages haven’t been experimented with — at least not openly — and there has been no qualified research and documentation on this form of wedding, it’s difficult to predict what exactly will be the outcome. But as our society opens up more and more — culturally as well as religiously — I think such marital arrangements will be common.

What our country needs is a social reboot

Yatha praja tatha raja.

Actually the saying is opposite, but since we live in “democratic” times, this is more apt. According to the traditional saying, it’s yatha raja tatha praja, which roughly translates to: the qualities of a king can also be found in those he rules. In India, the way our society is, so are our leaders. So the corruption among our politicians and administrators can be traced back to our society.

Corruption and immorality don’t easily repulse us. Although we are the land of Geeta, we believe less in karma and more in fate or fortuitousness. Instead of working hard for success and wealth, we try to please an assortment of gods by performing rituals and placing talismans and amulets at strategic places. After all fasting for a day, throwing garbage in already polluted rivers in the name of oblations or feeding a few beggars is a lot easier compared to toiling for years.

Similarly, greasing palms for getting work done is a done thing. In fact the situation has come to such a pass that now your work won’t be done unless you grease a few palms. Whether you are on the giving side or the taking side, it’s a part and parcel of day-to-day dealings.

There is no civic sense in the country. The moment you start admiring the Mercedes moving ahead of you, pop opens one of its doors, comes out a head, and a long streak of expectoration is splattered on the road. While you are recovering (if by chance you haven’t gotten used to such oral precipitations at public places) an autorickshaw stops by your side, the driver leans towards you, performs the same fete carried out by the guy in that Mercedes, and speeds ahead singing a Kishore Kumar song. If you want to witness democracy and socio-cultural equality in India, you’ll find it in the crystallizing mucous on the road.

What does it show? It shows you have no respect for people around you, you don’t care for the cleanliness of your city and you roads, and more alarming, you don’t care what people think of you, unless they know you.

We have ingrained insensitivity towards our fellow citizens. As long as I can get into the bus or the train, you can go to hell, or under the wheels of that very bus or train for all I care. Can I squeeze my bike into that gap and get ahead of this car? Sure, even if it ultimately contributes to the current traffic jam, why not? Everybody is doing it. I should probably break this queue and show these losers what a go-getter I am. How cool it will be to break this law and not get caught, and even if I get caught, how doubly cool it will be if I can threaten that policeman by calling up a relative with “good connections”. Why not throw the garbage on the road? How do I care as long as my own house is spic clean? Why should I interfere while those goons molest that girl, she has probably asked for it.

All this percolates into our political choices. Oh, this party promises caste based reservation. Good, now my kids don’t have to study and compete with those nincompoops perpetually having their noses in their books. And this one favors minorities? That politician is raking in millions — lucky dog! And above all, he belongs to my community. So proud he makes us. Development? Don’t be so elitist.

You can very well imagine what a ripe ground for corruption our country has become. It’s irrational to blame politicians and bureaucrats; after all they are not coming from abroad. They originate from our own, morally decrepit social fabric. You remove them, more will come.

So what our country needs is a social reboot. Rather than political and administrative reforms, we need social reforms. It’s not our politicians who are the problem. We are the problem.

Having a dialog with the Taliban is useless

The recent beheading of 17 people for participating in a dance party has again proven that the Taliban is not an ideological entity, it is a civilizational fault. Their brutalities have no parallel in the contemporary history. They don’t need a civil unrest, they don’t even need a war to behead people or stone them to death. You just have to differ with them. It doesn’t matter whether you are an Afghan or a foreigner, whether you are a brother or a stranger, or whether you are a mother, wife or daughter — do something they don’t approve of and you don’t just die, you die a horrible death. For them it’s our way or no way.

So even a semblance of a dialogue with them sends a wrong message not just to them, but also to their victims and their kin. When you try to talk to them in a sense you accept their existence, and to an extent, their way of life (if you call it a way of life). They no longer remain an aberration. They become just another warring side, which, in reality, they are not. It is a force from a darker history of our world that, unfortunately, has either survived, or have somehow, resurrected itself like an evil spirit.

I must correct myself: if you remember those Rocky movies (Sylvester Stallone) the US military used to abet the Talibanese to build up resistance against the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. So basically it’s a Frankenstein’s monster brought to life by the good old America.

The Taliban and its adherents have totally twisted Islam to suit their diabolical philosophy of zero tolerance. According to their Islam, there is no mercy for the nonconformists, there is no freedom for the women and art and entertainment are the pursuits of the kafirs and hence, deserve severest of exemplary punishments.

It’s basically a religious racket orchestrated and perpetrated to wield all-encompassing power over those under their control. Beheading people for dancing and other entertainments doesn’t mean strict Talibanis live very austere lives. Far from that; they rape and plunder with impunity. They abduct women and keep them as their sex slaves. They usurp properties . They carry out vindictive acts. Their chiefs live lavish lifestyles. The entire charade is maintained to allocate unquestionable power to a select few. You don’t deal with racketeers like warring parties. They are criminals that need to be smoked out and eliminated.

Does the killing of Osama bin Laden solve the problem of terrorism?

Just after it was declared that Osama bin Laden has been shot dead someone tweeted, “Good, now can I bring my shampoo when travelling by air?”

Although it was said in jest there are many who believe that the killing of Osama bin Laden is a big victory against terrorism. Hardly. It is a moral victory, of course, and a victory that has come too late. Right now in the world of terrorism bin Laden holds no significance. He had begun to turn into a relic. With public rising against dictators (most of them supported by the USA, ironically) all over the Arab world and with no support from Osama bin Laden and his ilk he has been relegated to insignificance. The last video he released was in 2007 .Understandly there haven’t been much hue and cry over his killing in the Arab world save for a few commisoratory demonstrations by fringe fanatical groups.

Big terrorist names only act as inspiration, the actual groups at the ground level mostly work independently due to logistical problems. Terrorist groups derive massive support from governments and secret agencies and they are basically tools in the hands of these governments and agencies (for example Pakistan, China and Sudan). So killing one leader here and another there isn’t going to make the problem of terrorism go away. There has to be an international consensus regarding how to deal with such regimes. Unless this is done no amount of terrorist-extermination is going to provide a solution and we will keep on living in the contemporary fearful atmosphere.

Since terrorism may exist in many forms we also need a clear definition of what exactly is terrorism so that it becomes easier to deal with them. Terrorism for one can be justified resistance for anotherr. For example there are many groups fighting against unjust governments and despotic rulers. Just because you’re taking up arms against an establishment or a government this shouldn’t turn you into an internationally certified terrorist. Take for instance Maoist insurgency in some parts of India. There is a known collusion between various mafias, industries and government agencies and they are perpetually exploiting local people, looting them, depriving them of their lands and resources and murdering them. When the law that is supposed to protect you begins to exploit you and there is no platform available to you where you can voice your dissent sometimes you have no option but to take up arms.

Having said that, I’m not saying that blowing up buildings and buses and killing people in the name of a justified struggle is excusable, I’m just trying to explain the difference between a resistance and an act of blowing up a building like the World Trade Center.

Of course there are arguments and counter arguments in every case as it already happens. There are apologists who don’t know where to draw a line and then there are “civilised” extremists who again, don’t know where to draw a line. There is no balanced analysis of the reasons why terrorism crops up. People often say that the very ideology of Islam breeds violent Jihad and terrorism but personally I don’t agree with this. There are murderers and fanatics in every religion. The recent peaceful protests in countries like Tunisia, Libya and Egypt have shown that Muslims don’t need support from Jihadi groups and professional terrorists to rise up against their governments.

It’s a pleasant development that Facebook played a more significant role than the al Qaeda.

Just as there are fringe fanatic groups in every religion there are also fringe fanatic groups among Muslims.

In order to contain and destroy terrorism the international community first of all needs to realise what actually breeds terrorism and what sort of support various terrorist organisations derive from established governments. There has to be a sincere effort. The way America has been turning a blind eye to Pakistani adventurism is appalling and it smells of some deep-rooted conspiracy, whatever may be the reason. So we need to get rid of such dualism and hypocrisy and come straight to the point. It took the Americans more than nine years to hunt down Osama bin Laden. It shouldn’t have taken them more than two months had the effort been sincere and realistic. Needless war and destruction has been imposed on multiple countries in the guise of finding him.

The Muslim community all over the world needs to be more vociferous against the violent elements amidst the community just as they have risen against their dictators. Being a terrorist shouldn’t be an act of valour and terrorists must be treated as criminals and hence families supporting them must face shame rather than incite awe. Whenever you want to glorify terrorism just think of Beslan (Russia) where they had taken 100s of schoolchildren hostages and forced them to take off their clothes or the innocent Jewish family butchered during 26/11 Mumbai attacks. It is very difficult to change a cultural ideology but community leaders must make a start somewhere; during Friday prayers every week they can exhort them to distance themselves from violent and terrorist elements. This is a long-term goal and may take many decades to show some results.

The short-term goals must be to employ a zero tolerance policy against countries abetting and supporting terrorist groups in the name of Jihad and freedom struggle. Indigenously the justice system must be made stronger and effective and if the United Nations need to but in then so be it. For instance if the Indian government doesn’t go into the root cause of the Maoist insurgency then the United Nations must interfere. When you start killing your own people then it is no longer a question of sovereignty and internal matter.

So it has to be a multi-pronged approach: strengthen domestic justice system and implement a zero tolerance policy against countries breeding terrorism. Only then the problem of terrorism can be solved.

Fighting corruption at personal and lower levels

How do we fight corruption at a personal level? As an inidividual it might be a lone battle, and you may end up gaining nothing and losing a lot. Take for instance getting a water connection at home or an electricity connection when setting up a new business; most of the times you cannot get the connections unless you pay a bribe to people who are responsible for providing the services at the local level. For practically everything you need to give a bribe. People claim that they had to give bribes even to obtain death certificates!

You may decide not to pay a bribe and take the matter up with higher authorities, but the problem is even people sitting there may also turn out to be corrupt and this litany of corruption may go right up till the top, wherever the top goes. You might end up never getting your work done just to set an example for other would-be “crusaders”. What is the solution than?

The problem is aggravated by the indifferent or even hostile attitude of neighbors, colleagues and even relatives. If you don’t get your work done because you haven’t paid a bribe it’s often you who would end up being termed as a fool. They will either laugh at you, or resent you for pricking at their conscience.

Why do the corrupt survive? They work together. In togetherness lies their safety and interest. They are always protecting each other and watching each other’s back. Unless there is some diehard whistleblower among them they either remain quite or become a part of the corrupt system.

On a lower level the only way you can tackle corruption is by getting people together. It might be an uphill task but it is definitely better than fighting a lone battle. Just like you there might be scores of other people who don’t want to pay a bribe just as a principal (not just to save money) but don’t know how to go about it alone. Whenever you’re visiting a place where you suspect a bribe will be demanded go with many people who too have the same need. Maybe there are 15 other people who need a water connection or electricity connection in your locality. Try to mobilize them.

At the outset it may sound like an overkill (just to get a water connection) but just imagine what you stand to lose if you continuously give in to corrupt officials. You don’t get proper roads, you get inferior quality amenities and even if somehow you are able to get water and electricity connections you are very well aware of the standard of these services. You may already be purchasing drinking water and power cuts may already have forced you to resort to using a generator or an inverter.

Form locality-based groups and organizations that can come to the assistance of those being pestered by corrupt officials. There are already many non-profit organizations working in this field and they can provide you with ample information and support if you look around.