Category Archives: India

Need of an age of consent to choose religion

I was born on a June 1st.  3 weeks later on June 21st I was baptized. Since then I have been writing ‘Christian’ in every column where it asked to quote ‘my’ religion. For a long time I accepted as it is, but my first and last retreat changed everything. I started having doubts about my own perception of being called a christian, coz I feel the only practicing christian I could ever think of  was Jesus Christ. All the rest which came were just labels.

But , how did my parent’s religion became mine ? When did ‘I’ choose to be a catholic ?. I don’t remember any such eventful day when I declared to the world that am going to practice a particular religion. Obviously, none does. As a societal norm every human born is an auto-convert, without his/her knowledge. However, this wouldn’t have been such an issue if people never discriminated others on the basis of their divine birth to a set of parents who happened to be believing in some faith. I mean, any of these custodians of so called divine religions can claim that they have ‘decided’ to follow it ?….they just ‘happened’ to be and there is nothing one to be proud of.

The point is, lets keep the kids away from this conditioning crap.

In India and in many other countries age of consent to marry is 21 and 18, respectively for boys and girls. This age was selected upon the logic that humans below those age are generally not capable of making such an important decision that has a serious impact on their life. But isn’t religion as important a decision as marriage is ?…isnt it something that can have a much more serious impact on their daily life forever ?…..isnt it fair that they are to be given an equal opportunity right to make such an important judgement ?

Imagine a world where kids are required to choose religion only after 18 years of age. They would’nt have to fill column for their religion in school or passport or identity cards. Instead they will be asked to fill in column for both parent’s religion. It also means none can force kids to wear religious symbols or outfits. There wont be any discrimination on kids in the name of their religion. No more boring sunday classes, no more listening to I_preach_but_I_dont_practice’ stuff.   They are absolutely free to read, learn, practice, experiment with any faith until they reach age of consent…after which the one they choose will become official OR they can choose not to be. In my opinion, any thing being forced on kids….be it physical, mental or emotional are to be equally considered as child abuse. Religious propaganda easily falls into that category.

As it is said, the only major hurdle for seeing the truth is the conditioned state of mind. Let us allow our kids to be free thinkers and not conditioned ones.

When I say no religion.. I mean no riots, no genocide, no war, no terrorism. Guess that would be some real freedom, some real democracy.

P.S: If its true that kids actually inherit their parents religion, then can religion be termed as a genetically transmitted disorder ? 😛

Would love to hear your thoughts on the arguement.

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A lost world

Muslim lady walking with her son dressed as Krishna after a competition at school

Found this photo in ‘Times of India’, 15th August edition. A befitting capture on the occasion of celebrating 63rd Independence day of India. At these times of communal distress and religious intolerance, image like this is a breather. However not sure how long we will be able to witness such.

I am a lover of truth, a worshipper of freedom, a celebrant at the altar of language and purity and tolerance.
– Stephen Fry

My tryst with faith : Part three – Living the Zen way

continued from Part two

This post is going to be excerpts from what OSHO has said about religion and Zen. I think he has articulated my thoughts so well, that it would be futile if I tried to put in my own words. OSHO is one of the most misinterpreted personalities ever existed. Majority of people know him only as sex-guru, and probably has read only that part of what he has said. In reality, he was a truly enlightened person and One of the very few who knew exactly what he was saying and he spoke sense.

Here OSHO speaks about dangers of religions and how Zen stands as a viable alternative to practice.

Religions are always postponing life: they are giving you beautiful illusions about life somewhere in the future, far away, beyond death. That is a strategy to divert and distract you from the realities of life. That is pure cowardice. It is also a rationalization so that you can be consoled: ’If life is miserable today there is nothing to be worried about, tomorrow everything is going to be well. In fact, to suffer life today is a preparation for enjoying life tomorrow, so the more you suffer the better.

There is no reason to complain, no reason to rebel, no reason to revolt against all those things which are causing misery.’ Religion protects the establishment and the vested interests. It is a very subtle strategy – so subtle that for thousands of years man has lived under its weight without ever becoming aware of what is being done to him. Karl Marx is almost right: that religion is nothing but opium for the people. It keeps you drugged, it keeps you hoping, waiting – and the tomorrow never comes. Desiring, fantasizing about life after death is a sheer waste of time, energy, and also it keeps you stupid.

Life is here now – there is no other life. Life knows no past, no future, it knows only the present.

Zen

  • Zen is living life in its totality, here, now.
  • It is one of the fundamental revolution.
  • It cuts the very roots of the so-called religious structure of the mind.
  • It is not religion, it is pure religiousness.
  • It is not oriented in the past, it is not inspired by the past – it has no goal in the future either
  • It is living your life passionately, intensely, ecstatically this very moment.
  • It is a jump into the very thick of life. And life surrounds you within and without. Don’t wait for the next moment, live it now.
  • It is the greatest flowering of human consciousness yet achieved.

Zen is not a religion, not an ideology, it is not a philosophy, it is living in an existential way, not in an intellectual way.

Source:

Zen: Zest, Zip, Zap and Zing – OSHO

Talks given from 27/12/80 am to 10/01/81,  English Discourse series

CSers biking to Mount Abu [photos]

Couchsurfers, Ahmedabad embarked on a 2 days bike trip to Mount Abu which is around 230km from Ahmedabad. Group consisted of Alex (from US), Mathieu (France), Bhavesh (Ahd.), Ujjwal (Ahd.), Sreejith (Kerala, nw in Ahd.), Jidhin (Kerala, nw in Ahd.), Leo (Kerala, nw in Ahd.) and Anil (Ahd.). Alex’s friend Sarah too joined us till Abu.
We had an awesome time biking, camping at a forest camp site and then going for 2 amazing treks in small hills out there. Looking out for more such journeys with fellow CSers. You guyz rock 🙂
 
Useful Information for travellers:
Onward Route we used: Ahmedabad –> Mehsana (thru highway) –> Modhera (Sun temple visit, thru inner roads) –> Patan (Stepwell visit, thru inner roads) –> Sidhipur (thru inner roads) –> Palanpur (thru highway) –> Abu road –> Mt. Abu.
 
On the way back: Mt. Abu –> Palanpur —> Ahmedabad (Straight highway, heavenly roads. Possible to complete in 4 hours at a stretch with short snack breaks)
 
Stay at: We erected tarps/tents at Official forest camp site (5km from town) and used sleeping bags to protect from rain. Got sleeping bags and other accessories from Forest officer, Mt. Abu (office near Sunset point).
Would advise to try out this than a hotel. Experience is mindblowing.
 
Trek : There is a small but amazing trek route trail near camp site. Just goto top of that hill and you will be welcomed by a beautiful lake. Take a dip there and just enjoy with few drinks. Awesome it is.
 
Also there is a beautiful trek route in the ‘crocodile lake’ point. Just head over to mountain on right side, assure you to have a good rocky trek trail.
 
Drinks: Mt. Abu is not really a drinker’s paradise contrary to perception. It is not so cheap compared to other states. Stock up drinks before you enter Mt. Abu city to get a comparatively cheap deal. Also do note that all shops are officially closed by 8pm. After that you will have to shell out 30% to get them from behind the doors.

My tryst with faith : Part two

continued from Part one

In this post am trying to articulate how I got fed up of organized religion and why finally I turned agnostic. This is a bit tricky as I never attempted before to stitch those bits and pieces together to trace a logical path to this whole thing.

Let me start with sharing some hypothesis’ which I always deliberated in my mind about ‘Why religion’ & ‘Why God’ ?. Am sure some of you would also have thought about this in similar fashion.

1) When you try to think or examine the root of all religions, you will reach at same starting point. Most were started as an off shoot of 1 person who by all means was powerful and was god send. Entire foundation is then built over this one holy concept. Now for time-being am going to assume that this concept is man-made. Then what happens ? Immediately your ‘religious identity’ will be wiped off. Coz you were told that you were born to  X & Y, who belonged to an XY religion whose forefathers belonged to an XY religion which originated from an AB person. The moment first person (here AB) becomes non-existent, the entire lineage loses its identity. Then the implication would be that, a ‘human’ is born to X & Y as opposed to ‘a hindu or ‘a christian’ is born. Who will then be the victims of these identity crisis ? It can’t be us. We will still be identifiable with our skillset or nature of work or something else. But a sect will become identity-less immediately. They are the custodians of these concepts, the so called Priests / Pujaris in each religion. It is in their best interest that ‘GOD’ should exist, else ‘Religions’ cant exist and subsequently they themselves can’t exist. Best way to protect this from not happening is to package it in such by which it instills fear in everyone’s mind and hence every unknown facts were attributed to an unknown entity and called it God.

2) Next is about thinking religion as ‘Founded by God’. This is under the impression that God is a Megalomaniac. She is the one, the omnipresent and she created the universe. She also created some creatures called them humans so that she can enjoy seeing them living, making love, kicking,  fighting and killing each other. If they dont kill each other, she is gonna weed them out anyways as she likes variety in life and no repetition of faces. Being a Megalomaniac, she wants everyone to worship her. Wants to remember her name every day/hour/minute/second. If those creatures fall into trouble she want them to call her name so loud and so continuous that ‘if’ she happens to hear it, their needs will be met. If not they live and die, she wont give a damn. May be she will give a damn and punish them for not remembering her. Thts wht the scripture says after all… On the judgement day, frying the left sided people in a hot oil pan.

Now dont you think this is the nastiest a God could get ?. I mean, if I were God, I would leave heaven and runaway to some remote jungle. Imagine, you make people call your name 24×7 just coz you wanna feel good and those poor souls are doing that as they are shit scared of you. Cant be worst.

3) Last is the most common justification given by people who dont wanna sound superstitious and want a logic for everything. i.e Organized religion makes humans disciplined. So according to them, seeing the immoral, unethical, unorganized life of our fore forefathers a genius devised a tool called religion and attributed its power to a non-existent entity called God. Some smart people might have devised it to scare people off doing crimes, to bring some order into their lives. Sounds good and logical. To an extent I believe this too. But if it is so, how come they allow some sect of people to exploit this. How did such a noble concept got slipped into wrong hands and it started creating different castes, barriers, superstitious rituals in the society ?. There should have been someone who knew this whole idea and who would have tried to stop it ?

But all said and done, I believe organized religion has many benefits. I am not so naive to think that entire world will become enlightened enough to behave normally without the fear-factor. So definitely it works for a majority, but there is also a minority who behave morally, ethically and lead a disciplined life devoid of fearing the omnipresent. At least I believe so. Morality based on fear seems a crude concept to me.

Truth remains that none has a clue. All are hypothesis and none are validated. To our misfortune, none has come back from heaven/hell to tell about the story there. So lets stay ignorant.

I absolutely have no qualms with any of these concepts. If I consider religion as a legal commercial activity or a business and if people are confidently willing to invest both time and money in that business looking at prospective substantial returns, a person like me should not have any problem with that.

As in case with most businesses only people who run the show has any actual idea about its working and all other shareholders out there are only interested in its returns and nothing more. Fair enough. But my problem starts when that ‘business’ is being exploited as a platform for selfish motives, just coz it provides a good camouflage. 

I wouldn’t have had any problem with religions if they had functioned fairly to everyone.

I wouldn’t have had any problem with religions if it were not used for vote bank politics.

I wouldn’t have had any problem with religions if it were not used to amass insane amounts of money. (and not used ‘just’ for the needed)

I wouldn’t have had any problem with religions if people hadn’t use it to kill others to attain power.

I wouldn’t have had any problem with religions if its authorities had expelled the wrong doers amongst themselves with immediate effect.

I wouldn’t have had any problem with religions if they hadn’t allowed a sect of people to use its name as a reason for killing people from other religions.

I wouldn’t have had any problem with religions if they acted more like an NGO and less like an ‘Inc.’

To a great extent all religions goofed up. They screwed up life on earth in a big way. On whatever noble concept where they founded, as  of now organized religion is doing more harm than good. On one hand they proclaim themselves pro-life and on other hand they give freedom to some fanatics insiders to take non-believer’s lives. On one hand they proclaim they are the custodians of chastity and on other hand they themselves pry on little kids & women to quench their pervert repressed thirst. On one hand they say stop war, dont kill and on other hand they will do anything to protect ‘their brand’, and if it takes some lives, they will call them martyrs.

Now many people justify this by saying, ‘an act of a single person cant be taken as representative of the entire community’. Humans remains as humans and we cant expect them to behave ideally every time. But let me ask, will a snowflake in an avalanche ever be responsible ? This is precisely how it is being exploited. People who are nothing when they are alone, create groups so that they can do whatever they want to in the name of that group.

I was not sure if I were doing the right thing, but I wanted to get out of this madness and look at it as an outsider. That’s what am doing right now. Observing it as an outsider, jumping in whenever I think I can make a contribution, criticizing without bias whenever I feel things are not moving in right direction. It feels great, surprisingly light and freedom to be on your own. No more reporting to clouds or thanking the unknown.

Atheism is equally fanatic and it is dangerous. People who proclaim there is no god will never be able to prove it. It is about proving 0 is actually 0, you cant do that. In pursuit of doing it, they unknowingly become fanatic. I dont want to be part of it, hence I stay agnostic. It’s a beautiful word, a – gnostic (knowledge), unaware of knowledge. You declare you are unaware of anything and just live your life. The advantage of this approach is that you are never blind ‘to faith’ or ‘against faith’. You keep your eyes & ears open for others to convince you that you were wrong.

Am waiting for that day, just like that 🙂

I purposefully haven’t touched the topics of ‘Zen, Osho and Zeitgeist’. This itself got into many pages and hence am stopping here.

Will share in coming posts about how the vacuum created by non-belief was filled in by Zen.

Thanks for taking the pain to read. Appreciate it.

P.S: Using She instead of He, is coz am just bored of people addressing God as He. Why cant ‘it’ be She ?… She= Creation, He=Destruction..ryt ?

My tryst with faith : Part one

This is an attempt to record my own thought process on faith at this point of my life. Posting it as a blog to get some more clarity from you, readers.

In the matter of faith, I always used to be in extremes. Upto 18 years, I never even had an iota of doubt about the existence of the omnipresent. Yes, there were conflicts in my mind, there were things which I never got answer for, but it was all after taking that one point as ‘implied’. As any church going christian I also used to have a rosary on my neck and I always kissed it, prayed to Mother Mary before embarking on any important work.

There used to be time when I used to attend church holy masses on a daily basis and then one day (around 11 years) I joined the Altar boys at church. I used to believe, I was amongst the chosen ones and always did each work trusted upon me with due diligence and care. Always when the part in the holy mass came, where it says ‘Now let your prayers raise upto God’ , I used to think of the most important ‘needs’ (read prayers here) exactly at that minute imagining that those would actually raise upto God at that point in time. I was blind, totally succumbed to faith. I had so much belief in them. Never ever it crossed in my mind that there could be a chance of God being non-existent. It was next to impossible in my little mind. Being an altar boy made me closer to Bible. I easily covered a major part of new testament in those days and I found those narrations very vivid and interesting. During those days, dad also brought home colored books of Mahabharatha, Ramayana and Eliad. Got so hooked into those, that I read them over and over again. Now when I look back, I remember to having found striking similarities in the stories and narrations in between all these books. But somehow I never took them seriously and brushed aside as mere coincidences. Imagine the surprise I had when I saw those striking similarities being explained by Zeitgeist after so many years.

Unlike many other states in India, Kerala is a place where religions co-exist with harmony, literally. People dont stay in separate places based on their religious identity, neither there is any kind of discrimination based on that. May be that’s why for about 18 years, I was blissfully ignorant about the whole issue of religions. Living in Delhi for few years and then in Ahmedabad for past 3 years, make me realize every passing day that am different here. Yea, there is no direct discrimination but it is not like how I used to feel back in Kerala.

This ignorance or purposeful carelessness about religions came crumbling to ground after attending a Jesus Youth retreat (my first and only retreat). It was a new experience and to say the least it was nice. I remember it so clearly coz on that fateful day Tsunami struck Kerala taking many lives. The very next day I got to hear many first hand testimonials from people who had miraculous escapes from clutches of death. Everyone praising God’s plans and his secret selections. (wish there were some of the dead too, so that we could hear the other side of story :P). Same day I was given the option to attend a ‘Grace counselling’ (meeting with a divine person). He was a man in his late 40’s who sat with a ‘divine’ look in his face. Without me uttering a single word, he narrated my entire family history, some of my personal problems (which I never shared) and asked me to open random pages to read random passages which he claimed would contain answers to my problems. To my surprise, some of them actually were bang on. I was impressed. But it didnt last long. I narrated my interests in sitting inside old temples (just coz I love the peacefulness out there), how I visited Guruvayoor temple twice and totally loved the experience.At Kerala, my home is near to a temple. For 19 years, I woke up in the morning listening to ‘Gayatri Mantra’. I got used to it so much so that, waking up without hearing it used to make me restless. I just love it. But he was not amused hearing it. He told me not to visit temple again because 1) Temple is for Hindus and not for christians. (sad but true in Kerala as non-hindus are not allowed inside) 2) The salvation is only through Christ, need not enquire it anywhere else. I ignored 1st point, but got stuck with second. Hence I asked him, what about my best friend who is a hindu, does it mean, he would never get salvation ? I was being very naive, but he was smart. According to him, my best friend will find Jesus one day and attain salvation. To be frank I found it BullShit. It sounded bizarre to me.

I knew he was bluffing, so I left that day itself and had the same conversation with my uncle (who is a priest, a theologist and an amazing human being). He cleared my doubts saying, those are just tricks by so called ‘retreat mongers’ and never heed to it. Those are just 1 amongst thousands, and ignoring them is important.

That struck a chord with me, I started getting doubts about, Why so much confusion amongst authorities in religions ? Why so many different teachings ? Why so many conflicting interpretations ? Why people ‘market’ religion ? and finally the million dollar question, Is there a God or is it too a man-made concept ?

I left it there. Was too busy with my college that I hardly did any soul searching. But it had an impact on me. I started taking my religious life lightly. Missing a sunday mass was no more over-burdening. I was slowly moving away from being religious, still being spiritual. As someone said, was realizing that ‘Religion is a bureaucracy between man and god which I didnt need’. It took me years to actually understand that ‘Religions are driven by clear economical & political motives and there is no place for God in them’.

These thoughts were cemented by 3 types of speeches I got to encounter.

1) During my brief stint in Kochi, I used to live in some interior streets in dark pockets out there. My very first face-off with fanaticism started from there. Every friday evening a ‘mullah’ used to come and address the muslim brethren in that area, in the name of giving spiritual discourse. But it was more of spiritual bashing of other religions and less to do with God. Though people were very sensitive & careful about such ‘mullahs’ and never invited them again, but this used to continue still.

2) After a stand off between government and church in Kerala on some educational institute issue, every sunday masses in our locality were used as a platform to propagate church’s stupid, illogical and insensitive ideologies to cover up their misproportions of funds. They were literally using their religious strength to muster and play vote bank politics. I got to face fanaticism from a different perspective.

3) Third was my daily encounters with various shades of fanaticism in Gujarat. Problem here is that it is taken for granted. Nobody really cares if Modi or someone from RSS makes a speech filled with inflammatory words. Religion is so ingrained to people’s minds here that literally anybody can play with it and political parties just make use of it, be it BJP or Congress.

Inspite of losing confidence in religions, I continued praying. For me prayers were never a burden and I found solace in them after I was told that prayers are not about asking for your needs, but to have a conversation with God. That was the end of praying for ‘getting more marks in exam’ or ‘asking for a car as gift’ type prayers. Though it was more of a monologue with god and never a dialogue, I believed that one day heaven will open up and god will talk to me. (Oh yea, i actually thought 😀 ). Life went on without me crediting or debiting any of the happenings in my life with God. She remained as a ‘feel-good’ concept in my mind and I never bothered to tinker with it.

It stayed dormant in my mind and I took it in its stride. Coming to Ahmedabad made it active. Not because there is such a dis-harmony between religions exist here, but it made me think about why such an incident took place in an otherwise fantabulous place. Ahmedabad is truly one of the best places I’ve lived in my life and that is mostly to do with the people who resides here. They are smart, cooperative and very receptive to people from outside (unlike many other states). Yet 2002 riots happened here. For me its a matter of concern, and I wanted some convincing answers. Am not getting into those right now, as that is not topic of discussion today.

After coming here 2 things happened in my life. 1) I started reading more of OSHO (one of the most mis-interpreted genius in last century) compilations. 2) I happened to watch Zeitgeist. Both changed my view points forever and my perspectives became more wider. From being very religious to being only spiritual and then to stay as agnostic, it took many years.

Will share my experiences after that, in coming posts.

Liquor prohibition in Gujarat : a boon or bane?

Yet again another hooch tragedy in India, this time coming from a dry state and killing around 150 people, has triggered another controversial debate on ‘whether prohibition of liquor’ is the root cause for such human tragedies. Media has taken it as another battle and has been vociferously debating it ever since the tragedy took place. Just that everyone tends to ignore the fundamental issue by citing emotional reasons. Most who raise their voices against prohibition is not aware of the situation here or has not stayed to realize the freedom which we enjoy here.

Am just attempting to give a different perspective from my experience of living in a ‘Liquor state’ for 20 years and a dry state for past 3 years.

All through my childhood and youth I have lived in Kerala, a southern state in India which as per records has the highest per capita consumption of alcohol in the country (8.3 liters). By standards it even surpasses some of the European countries in per capita liquor consumption. It is also one of the highest revenue gro03hoochssers for the state through sales worth around Rs. 25 billion per annum, where liquor is sold through KSBC (Kerala state beverages corp.) outlets. Every major festival in this state increases the liquor sales upto a   staggering 26%. Now here is a state which has a free liquor policy since decades. But even Kerala is not free of hooch tragedies. Perhaps frequency wise it had even more hooch tragedies than any other states.

Here am not trying to debate whether alcohol is good for health or not. I love drinking occasionally and I don’t find anything ethically, morally or technically wrong with that. I believe alcohol is good, if taken in moderation. But let me point out some social issues caused by a ‘free liquor policy’ and which is often misused for excessive, irresponsible drinking.

72 percent of the 42,365 road accidents in Kerala- 2008 were because of drunken driving.

Now this may not be completely attributed to lack of prohibition, but a majority of those cases were a direct result of free availability of liquor. I work in the field of pre-hospital care and happen to interact with a lot of emergency care doctors. All of them unanimously confirm this by saying that a majority who reaches their hospital has caused accident under the influence of alcohol. 72% is not a joke. It is shocking.

Safety in public places

It is a non fact that in Kerala it is better to stay at home after 7.30pm, rather than venturing out alone, especially for women. Every nuke and corner, bus stands, railway stations, restaurants are crowded with drunk men. This too is fine if they behave normal after they drink. But that’s not the case as it is far too dangerous for a woman to walk in the streets at night alone, thanks to our civilized drunken society.

Family issues

Mostly daily wage workers are the real victims of any tragedy. With or without prohibition, they get liquor and this eats into their overall income. Just that these figures are 10 times higher in Kerala. Naturally this initiates family abuses, attacks on women thus triggering a range of societal issues.

Advent of notorious gangs

Having lived in Cochin close to 2 years, I’ve got to see the notorious gangs operating out there. Even police wont tread into some of these territories, as they are completely under the control of some goons. I personally know one such place near Thripoonithara, which is a den for such activities. Am not attributing these directly to prohibition policy, but it has an indirect link which has the police-goon nexus as the root cause. Below, I will explain how ‘prohibition’ has helped Gujarat tackle this very fundamental issue.

It is said that, Gujarat laid down a prohibition policy way back in 1950’s to follow Mahatma Gandhiji’s call for making liquor inaccessible to people so as to keep the fabric of society in tact. I dont think that as a strong logical reason to create such a law. But all said and done, PROHIBITION IN GUJARAT has worked and has been successful till date. Now let us see why ?

Some known facts:

  1. Prohibition in Gujarat doesnt mean liquor is not available. Unofficially it has one of the highest consumption rates in the country. Any type of Liquor is always available from bootleggers at a 20% 200% higher rate and they would home deliver it anytime, anywhere.
  2. A majority of people in Gujarat drinks. But they drink peacefully inside their home or farmhouse and never ever venture out in public and cause nuisance.
  3. Police and government indirectly support bootleggers.
  4. No major law and order situation arises out due to liquor consumption in the state.

Now let us consider the above mentioned issues which a ‘free liquor policy’ state faces and how it is different in Gujarat.

Perhaps Gujarat is the only state in India where women can freely roam around in the streets ‘alone’ even at midnight without the fear of getting abused, assaulted, molested, kidnapped or even raped. Though its a strong claim, I stand by it. If someone asks me how Prohibition in Gujarat has helped Gujaratis, I would just say this one point. This is only because of ‘lack of liquor availability publicly’. You wont find someone venturing out from bars or home getting drunk and causing nuisance to general public. It has worked here.

Drunken driving and related accidents are not so low in Gujarat, coz most of the truck drivers consume country liquor which are cheaper and easily accessible. But these figures are no way close to how it is in other states. So relatively drunken driving is lower.  This is a direct effect of prohibition policy, as the drivers are cautious about paying the hefty fine if got caught drunken. More over, rather than taking such chances people in Gujarat always cross to near by states during weekend to have a ‘Spirited weekend’.

Now the last point to mention is how Prohibition has indirectly helped the police force and thus the Government. All over India, police force is underpaid. Their salaries are not sufficient to run a family and hence they resort to asking for bribes. It’s pretty much known fact that you cant get even a petty work done from Police without paying them bribe. It is same in Gujarat too, except for the fact that bribe is being paid by bootleggers. Unlike in other states police here are friendly with local public. As they are getting paid by bootleggers, they usually dont have to ask bribe from public. Also as an aftereffect,  Police are well aware of all the bootleggers operating in the state. This indirectly means, that they know the troublemakers well. So, it is very difficult for a ‘gang’ to operate in Gujarat without getting noticed or known by police. To an extent this work for the benefit of people, and which is visible as the number of such notorious gangs in the state are negligibly low.

Hooch tragedies can’t be attributed to prohibition. Even if there is no prohibition, the daily wage workers can’t afford IMFL or our dear Mallya’s KF beer. So the debates on lifting prohibition are just a farce and totally useless. It is almost impossible to enforce a ‘Prohibition policy’ in a free liquor state like Kerala. Coz people would go mad without alcohol, as they are so much used to it. At the same time, it is stupid to lift prohibition in a state  where it has worked for so many years.

I would request all these mongers to come and stay in Gujarat for atleast a month and then make a comment. Else, stay calm and drink in your territory. Let people in Gujarat make their own choices and live peacefully.

Best,

A well-wisher of Liquor and Peace.

Dowry: A social evil to be abolished in Kerala

If you look at the development index and Literacy rate of Kerala, it is one the most advanced states in India. Rich with natural resources and expatriate income keralites are also wealthy enough, despite the lack of industries operating there. You will hardly hear about someone who died of starvation in Kerala, compared to the situation in states like UP and Bihar.

Also despite the huge numbers of hindus, christians and muslims in the state, there is a strong sense of communal harmony which exists there. So naturally for outsiders Kerala model is something which could be emulated. No doubt this is possible, provided some of the ancient social evils which still exists in this place are abolished. This post is about one such social evil. Dowry.

History

The word dowry comes from the word ‘Dower’ which means a gift being given by Bride’s family to Groom. Dowry is an ancient system which was practiced widely in Europe and Asia even during BC period. The objective of dowry was to provide the groom a means of sustenance to take care of bride properly. So in simple terms dowry is a post paid bribe paid to Groom, not to harm the bride. Over a period of time, this entire theme got manipulated according to religious doctrines and as a result it became a tool for male dominance and female exploitation. It even was given a legal status, by depriving women from having a share in ancestral property.

Scenario in Kerala

Now lets look at how dowry is being practiced in Kerala. Dowry is not merely a sum in Kerala. It is a symbol of status, a valuation done according to your educational qualifications and wealth accrued, a symbol of showing bride’s wealth…it has many dimensions and the educated lot is prudent enough to give more and more ‘logical’ justifications to the same.

According to an exhaustive study conducted by an NGO called Jananeethi Dowry in Kerala is being offered by many ways such and the majority being:

  • Liquid cash
  • Property (house or land)
  • Ornaments (mostly Gold)
  • Vehicle
  • Fixed deposits

According to Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961,

"Any person who gives, takes or abets dowry is punishable with imprisonment of not less than five years and fine which shall not be less than 15,000 rupees or the value of the dowry, whichever is more."

Mere demand for dowry is punishable in India and a person demanding dowry can get imprisonment of six months to two years and a fine of up to 10,000 rupees. Any agreement between the parties involved is void under the act.

Now you might be wondering despite all these laws, how dowry is being practiced in Kerala. This is being done through Marriage arrangers or ‘Broker’s as they are belovedly called. Majority of marriages in state are being fixed by these brokers. So neither the Groom’s side demand dowry directly, nor the bride’s side offer dowry directly. There are fixed market rate for the grooms and until the bride’s side agrees to it informally, brokers wont finalize the marriage.

For eg: Currently an MBBS doctor can fetch anywhere between 25-50 lacs rupees of dowry where as an engineer goes for 10-20 lacs on an average. (Only God knws hw this figures are reached, but in simple terms they denotes the amount spent on grooms education and the social security he provides to bride based on that)

Similarly if the bride is beautiful, educated and has a job then the dowry rate could also go down (as they can milk her income after she is married)

** this figures are indicative. Heard that as MBBS seats are expensive now, there are cases where groom demanded more than a crore rupees as dowry.

Repercussions of Dowry act are beyond imagination. As dowry prevails even in the lowest strata of society, mostly the entire earnings of a family is being spent as dowry. This even leads to girl child abortions, as people consider having a girl child as an additional burden. In many cases elder brother marry to get dowry so that he can pay it as dowry for her sister’s marriage. This is a vicious cycle and I wonder how people still practice it without giving any serious thought. During 90’s, there were a series of news stories on ‘Kitchen gas cylinder blasts’  and subsequent death of the bride in the family. Most of them were the acts of those grooms, due to the unpaid dowry amounts promised by Bride’s family. Read this to know more about atrocities committed on women in the name of dowry.

Now let us see the most common justifications given by educated class for giving dowry: (source: jananeethi study)

  • It is bride’s share in parental property
  • To setup a life of their own
  • As rightful expenditure for getting such a good alliance
  • To follow tradition

As mentioned, the most used reason for giving dowry is ‘It is bride’s share in parental property’. Now let us examine the hollowness of this claim. Imagine a women being given Rs. 20 lac in 2009 as dowry. As of now, by giving this amount ‘parents’ have paid off the share of property to her and she is not eligible to ask for any share in the property after her parents death. Now consider that on the year of her marriage, parents were around 50 years old. Looking at average life expectancy, they die by the age of 70. This means, after this 20 years their property will be divided to children, which has now been appreciated by atleast 100 times (5% appreciation per year, nt looking at compounded). So when the ancestral property is finally divided in the year of 2029, it might amount to several crores of rupees and it would entirely goto the sons (they do have a rightful sharem as mostly parents are being taken care of by sons, especially younger son). But this also makes that 20 lacs given to daughter as dowry in 2009 so miniscule compared to present value of property. A never ending fight and legal battle thus begin.

Am not sure how well I could articulate this, but practically this happens in almost every family in Kerala and is the root cause of enemity between siblings. (I can vouch for this as Ive seen this personally in my relatives).

So looking at these scenarios, does this prevailing dowry system provide any advantage to anyone involved ? It is mere money circulation without benefiting anyone in long term.

How can this be abolished ?

I believe Dowry cant be removed completely from society by using Law enforcement. We need another Rajarammohan Roy to abolish this social evil. Currently, religious leaders are the capable lot to enforce this. Most in the affluent class still practice dowry just to get along with the existing societal systems. No one has the courage to stand up against it. Because, by doing so they end up delaying their daughter’s marriage, as none would agree to marry her without dowry. So a combination of strict governmental laws and religious doctrines preventing giving or accepting dowry is the best way to eliminate this social evil. Am optimistic about this, seeing amazing initiatives like this.

Interesting fact is not all states in India are under dowry clutches. For eg: In most Gujarat communities, giving or accepting dowry is considered humiliating. May be we could also take some clues from them.

I purposefully didnt discuss many other supporting factors which fuel this dowry system, thinking I might just go overboard.

Would love to see your personal experiences and takes on Dowry in Kerala.

To know more, Download this amazing study report by Jananeethi on Dowry in Kerala.