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Marriages and democracy September 12, 2008

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An interesting article by Ramesh Ramanathan who is co-founder of Janaagraha. Möbius Strip, much like its mathematical origins, blurs boundaries. It is about the continuum between the state, market and our society.
My parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary a few months ago.
They have a good marriage in many ways, but importantly, a balanced one. Balanced in the sense that my mother gets her way on many family issues. But it wasn’t like this when she got married. Theirs was an arranged marriage, in the classic Indian tradition, where the elders (read fathers) decide on one’s choice of life partner. When the news of the arrangement reached her, she had only two requests — not demands — of her father.

We Indians hold different views on public versus personal choices: political rights versus choice of a life partner
“The first”, she told me, with her usual smiling eyes, “was that I could finish my studies in music.” She was in her final year degree at Stella Maris in Madras, and was passionate about the subject.
“The second was that I didn’t want to pierce my nose!” she laughed at the seeming silliness of the request. But she was only 18 at the time.
She didn’t get either of her requests, unfortunately.
The practice of arranged marriages is common even today in India, where parents and elders decide the life partners for their children. Of course, many Indian families have moved to a form of “facilitated arranged marriage”, where the elders initiate the meetings, and then leave the actual decision to the potential partners. However, there still are hundreds of thousands of extreme arranged marriages, or “forced arranged marriages” in India, in which there is no choice available to the individuals concerned, often the woman.
I’m not going to dwell on the relative merits of these different forms of marriage. I want to focus instead on the extreme arranged marriage form where there is little or no choice, and look at it in a different context. What does this practice say about us as a democracy?
Given the nature of the term, there is no single definition for democracy. But the oracle of collective wisdom — Wikipedia — says, “‘Democracy’ is a form of government in which the supreme power is held completely by the people under a free electoral system.”
The stuff we learn in our civics books. But importantly, it goes on to state that there are “two principles that any definition of democracy include. The first principle is that all members of the society have equal access to power and the second that all members enjoy universally recognized freedoms and liberties.” Essentially, that each individual has the right to voice their minds on issues.
So, at the heart of the idea of democracy is the freedom to make choices. But when we talk of democracy and choices, we tend to confine these to “public” issues: should India sign the nuclear treaty, what should be the resolution in Singur, should we have reservations in our IITs? We hold different views on these issues. But we all agree that we have the right to express our view, and engage in constructive debate.
This is at the heart of democracy.
Over the past 60 years, Indians have shown that we are passionate about protecting these rights. Time and again we have shown that we cherish this concept called democracy and that we wouldn’t have it any other way, even if it means slowing our progress as a nation in material or economic terms.
So, how come we are so passionate about protecting our political rights — wanting to have a choice to make decisions about our roads and schools and hospitals — but so completely comfortable with giving up choice in the single biggest decision that impacts our lives — that of a life partner?
How come we hold different views on public versus personal choices?
Among the hundreds of blogs on arranged marriages, I found this interesting point made by a blogger called Shef:
“Arranged marriages can work and they can also fail. Love marriages can work and they can also fail. The point (is) the higher principle: Should people have a choice about who they marry? It’s a bit like democracy vs dictatorship — arranged marriages smack of ‘We know what’s best for you’. Sure, the results can be OK sometimes. But do those good days justify the system?” (To see the full thread, go to http://www.zackvision.com/weblog/2003/06/arranged-marriage.html)
There are clearly conflicts in the positions between arranged marriages and democratic choice. So, are we a schizophrenic society, in the sense that we live in compartmentalized worlds, comfortable with the contradictions in these positions?
Or, alternatively, should we see our grand adventure with democracy in a completely different light?
As a kind of escapist therapy to relieve the oppression that so many of us face in our daily lives. Maybe we see elections not as an expression of choice, but as periodic national healing sessions — the polling booth as counselling centre.

Beautiful Story… May 1, 2008

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Supposedly a true story from “somebody”….. Here it goes….

My wife called, ‘How long will you be poring over that newspaper? Will you come here and make your darling daughter eat her food?’

I tossed the paper away and rushed to the scene.My only daughter Sindu looked frightened.

Tears were welling up in her eyes. In front of her was a bowl filled to its brim with Curd Rice.
Sindu is a nice child, quite intelligent for her age. She has just turned eight.
She particularly detested Curd Rice. My mother and my wife are orthodox, and believe firmly in the ‘coolingeffects’ of Curd Rice! I cleared my
throat, and picked up the bowl. ‘Sindu, darling, why don’t you take a few mouthful of this Curd Rice?Just for Dad’s sake, dear. And, if you don’t,
your Mom will shout at me’I could sense my wife’s scowl behind my back.

Sindu softened a bit, and wiped her tears with the back of her hands.
‘OK, Dad. I will eat – not just a few mouthfuls, but the whole lotof this.
But, you should…’ Sindu hesitated.
‘Dad, if I eat this entire curd Rice, will you give me whatever I ask for?’

‘Oh sure, darling’.



I covered the pink soft hand extended by my daughter with mine, and clinched the deal. ‘Ask Mom also to give a similar promise’, my daughter
insisted. My wife slapped her hand on Sindu’s, muttering ‘Promise’, without any emotion.

Now I became a bit anxious. ‘Sindu dear, you shouldn’t insist on getting a computer or any such expensive items. Dad does not have that kind of money
right now. OK?’

‘No, Dad. I do not want anything expensive’. Slowly and painfully, she finished eating the whole quantity.
I was silently angry with my wife and my mother for forcing my child eat something that she detested.
After the ordeal was through, Sindu came to me with her eyes wide with expectation.
All our attention was on her.

‘Dad, I want to have my head shaved off, this Sunday!’ was her demand.

‘Atrocious!’ shouted my wife, ‘A girl child having her head shaved off?

‘Never in our family!’ my mother rasped.
‘She has been watching too much of television. Our culture is getting totally spoiled with these TV programs!’

‘Sindu darling, why don’t you ask for something else? We will be sad seeing you with a clean-shaven head.’

‘No, Dad. I do not want anything else’, Sindu said with finality.

‘Please, Sindu, why don’t you try to understand our feelings?’ I tried to plead with her.

‘Dad, you saw how difficult it was for me to eat that Curd Rice’. Sindu was in tears.

‘And you promised to grant me whatever I ask for. Now, you are going back on your words. Was it not you who told me the story of King Harishchandra,
and its moral that we should honor our promises no matter what?’

It was time for me to call the shots. ‘Our promise must be kept.’

‘Are you out your mind?’ chorused my mother and wife.

‘No. If we go back on our promises, she will never learn to honor her own. Sindu, your wish will be fulfilled.’

with her head clean-shaven, Sindu had a round-face, and her eyes looked big and beautiful.

On Monday morning, I dropped her at her school.
It was a sight to watch my hairless Sindu walking towards her classroom.
She turned around and waved.

I waved back with a smile.
Just then, a boy alighted from a car, and shouted, ‘Sinduja, please wait for me!’

What struck me was the hairless head of that boy.
‘May be, that is the in-stuff’, I thought.

‘Sir, your daughter Sinduja is great indeed!’
Without introducing herself, a lady got out of the car, and continued,’

That boy who is walking along with your daughter is my son Harish. he is suffering from… … leukemia.’ She paused to muffle her sobs.

‘Harish could not attend the school for the whole of the last month. He lost all his hair due to the side effects of the chemotherapy. He refused
to come back to school fearing the unintentional but cruel teasing of the schoolmates.’

Sinduja visited him last week, and promised him that she will take care of the teasing issue.But, I never imagined she would sacrifice her lovely hair
for the sake of my son! Sir, you and your wife are blessed to have such a noble soul as your daughter.’

I stood transfixed. And then, I wept.
‘My little Angel, you are teaching me how self-less real love is!’

*The happiest people on this planet are not those who live on their own terms but are those who change their terms for the ones whom they love..*

Love and Marriage April 30, 2008

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The child was a typical four-year-old girl – cute,
inquisitive, bright as a new penny.

When she expressed difficulty in grasping the concept
of marriage, her father decided to pull out his wedding
photo album, thinking visual images would help.

One page after another, he pointed out the bride
arriving at the church, the entrance, the wedding
ceremony, the recessional, the reception, etc.

“Now do you understand?” he asked.

“I think so,” she said, “is that when mommy came to
work for us?

21 Things To Remember.. September 20, 2007

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1. No one can ruin your day without YOUR permission.

2. Most people will be about as happy, as they decide to be.

3. Others can stop you temporarily, but only you can do it permanently.

4. Whatever you are willing to put up with, is exactly what you will have.

5. Success stops when you do.

6. When your ship comes in…. make sure you are willing to unload it.

7. You will never have it all together.

8. Life is a journey…not a destination. Enjoy the trip!

9. The biggest lie on the planet When I get what I want I will be happy.

10. The best way to escape your problem is to solve it.

11. I’ve learned that ultimately , ‘takers’ lose and ‘givers’ win.

12. Life’s precious moments don’t have value, unless they are shared.

13. If you don’t start, it’s certain you won’t arrive.

14. We often fear the thing we want the most.

15. He or she who laughs……lasts.

16. Yesterday was the deadline for all complaints.

17. Look for opportunities…not guarantees.

18. Life is what’s coming….not what was.

19. Success is getting up one more time.

20. Now is the most interesting time of all.

And Most of all……………

21. When things go wrong…..don’t go with them.

Based on a famous Panchatantra story…… June 28, 2007

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Once upon a time, there was a software engineer who used to develop
programs on his Pentium machine, sitting under a tree on the banks of a
river. He used to earn his bread by selling those programs in the Sunday

One day, while he was working, his machine tumbled off the table and fell
in the river. Encouraged by the Panchatantra story of his childhood (the
woodcutter and the axe), he started praying to the River Goddess.

The River Goddess wanted to test him and so appeared only after one month
of rigorous prayers. The engineer told her that he had lost his computer in
the river. As usual, the Goddess wanted to test his honesty.

She showed him a match box and asked, “Is this your computer ?”

Disappointed by the Goddess’ lack of computer awareness, the engineer
replied, “No.”

She next showed him a pocket-sized calculator and asked if that was his.

Annoyed, the engineer said “No, not at all!!”

Finally, she came up with his own Pentium machine and asked if it was his.

The engineer, left with no option, sighed and said “Yes.”

The River Goddess was happy with his honesty. She was about to give him all

three items, but before she could make the offer, the engineer asked her,
“Don’t you know that you’re supposed to show me some better computers
before bringing up my own ?”

The River Goddess, angered at this, replied, “I know that, you stupid idiot!
The first two things I showed you were the Trillennium and the Billennium,
the latest computers from IBM!” So saying, she disappeared with the

Moral: If you’re not up-to-date with technology trends, it is better keep
your mouth shut and let people think you’re a genius….!

The Best “Out-Of-Office” E-Mail Auto-Replies: June 25, 2007

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1: I am currently out at a job interview and will reply to you if I fail to get the position.

2: I’m not really out of the office. I’m just ignoring you.

3: You are receiving this automatic notification because I am out of the office. If I was in, chances are you wouldn’t have received anything at all.

4: Sorry to have missed you but I am at the doctors having my brain removed so that I may be promoted to management

5: I will be unable to delete all the unread, worthless emails you send me until I return from vacation on 4/18. Please be patient and your mail will be deleted in the order it was received.

6: Thank you for your email. Your credit card has been charged $5.99 for the first ten words and $1.99 for each additional word in your message.

7: The e-mail server is unable to verify your server connection and is unable to deliver this message. Please restart your computer and try sending again.’

( The beauty of this is that when you return, you can see how many in-duh-viduals did this over and over).

8: Thank you for your message, which has been added to a queuing system. You are currently in 352nd place, and can expect to receive a reply in approximately 19 weeks.

9: Hi. I’m thinking about what you’ve just sent me. Please wait by your PC for my response.

10: Hi! I’m busy negotiating the salary for my new job. Don’t bother to leave me any messages.

11: I’ve run away to join a different circus.


12: I will be out of the office for the next 2 weeks for medical reasons.
When I return, please refer to me as ‘ Loretta’ instead of ‘Steve ‘

Lessons of the heart May 18, 2007

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Love is not the latest ballad on the radio
It is the song of a lifetime

Love is not the rock on the finger of the girl you plan to marry
It is the size of the boulder you move to repair the marriage

Love is not the fairy tale that ends with happy ever after
It is the hand that wipes away the tears

Love is not in the spotlight
It is waiting in the shadows

Love is not winning the argument
It is listening with an open heart

Love is not flowers or candy
It is truth and honesty

Love is not the ease of the quest
It is the commitment to the relationship

Love is not expensive restaurants
It is the sacrifice made to feed a child

Love is not the dream come true
It is chasing nightmares away

Love is not the success of money
It is the failure to find fault

Love is not sweet nothings whispered in the ear
It is accepting the thoughts of others

Love is not the perfect picture
It is the flaw that makes us who we are.

Life May 15, 2007

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A Life Poem Life can seem ungrateful and not always kind.
Life can pull at your heartstrings and play with your mind…
Life can be blissful and happy and free…
Life can put beauty in the things that you see…
Life can place challenges right at your feet…
Life can make good of the hardships we meet…
Life can overwhelm you and make your head spin…
Life can reward those determined to win…
Life can be hurtful and not always fair…
Life can surround you with people who care…
Life clearly does offer its Up and its Downs…
Life’s days can bring you both smiles and frowns…
Life teaches us to take the good with the bad…
Life is a mixture of happy and sad…


Take the Life that you have and give it your best…
Think positive, be happy let God do the rest…
Take the challenges that life has laid at your feet…
Take pride and be thankful for each one you meet…
To yourself give forgiveness if you stumble and fall…
Take each day that is dealt you and give it your all…
Take the love that you’re given and return it with care…
Have faith that when needed it will always be there…
Take time to find the beauty in the things that you see…
Take life’s simple pleasures let them set your heart free…
The idea here is simply to even the score…
As you are met and faced with Life’s Tug of War