Under this topic we invite you to submit your articles and suggestions for Social Change in our Community. Let us remind ourselves what is undesirable and need to be replaced.
From time immemorial the institution of marriage and death has been woven into religious and cultural practices of all peoples. These events are therefore celebrated in a mixture of religious, cultural and social framework.
Marriage and death are two major events for a family. Death is inevitable and every one of us has suffered the departure of someone near and dear. Marriage, it occurs so regularly that even if one has not married, has not escaped the involvement in someone else’s. This universal social phenomena is common to all countries and cultures and each culture has laid down its own modes and codes of conduct.
Within an accepted framework a family in any community will celebrate the event according to the depth of its pockets, and what is perceived by them to be expected by the society they live in. It is when the accepted norm is consistantly exceeded that the social reformers agitate to limit the excesses. Quite often the attempt is futile and rarely succeed for any length of time.
This is because, being a predominantly social event, human ego raises its ugly head. The conflicting claims of each one in the family and relations needs to be satisfied and therefore compromises are at the highest common denominator.Periodically, however, it necessary to examine our present practices to see if there are any easier, less costly and more satisfying methods of achieveing the same result.
Some eighteen years ago the then social reformers, using the Mandhata Samaj platform issued a code of practice after much discussion on the above two topics. They sincerely wished that the community will abide by the advice given.
I have touched upon the excellent advice then given on just one topic – marriage – with a view to restarting the debate and changing course.
We all seem to have something to say on the subject and this is my contribution to the debate.
Let us begin at the begining.
Even in the most sophisticated society this has always been necessary. We do it at the weddings and engagement parties we attend. (No prize for guessing why our weddings are so well attended). I would however like to see more opportunities for our youngsters to get to know one another better, publicly, and make their own informed decisions. Our society however will deny such opportunities until we as parents and our young men in particular accept and readily embrace the fact that our young ladies are not made the victim of an abortive getting to know affair.
Once both the parties have agreed to join together in matrimony the complex process of joining them together begins.
The Engagement Ceremony:
This is where each party visits the other and make their intention public in a short ceremony in the presence of a few relations by the exchange of a ring for the groom and a small chain for the bride. For all practical purposes one hour at each place is ample. GorThana is distributed to all present to signify the start of a sweet relationship.
In this country there is a third element – the requirement for the marriage to be registered.
If properly planned all three aspects can be very easily accommodated on the same day, however far the parties live.
(Let both parties get together in a small hall for the ceremonies and registration and sneh samelan meal. Both parties must share the costs of hall hire etc.). Only the very closest relatives and a few friends need take part.
The purpose of engagement ceremony is to make the new relationship public. With our community grapevine network so
effecient, surely there is no need to rent a crowd.
Preparation for the big day:
The date of the marriage is fixed usually about three to four months hence. This should be time enough to send out invitations, arrange the necessary shopping and organise the hundred and one things to be taken care of, so that the day of marriage is a plesant, stressfree and a joyous day for all those closely involved. But is it? Let’s be honest? Could you do it a bit differently if you were managing it.
Let me offer a few suggestions.
Printers nowadays don’t stock simple or cheap cards. It is however quite easy to design your own simple but elegent card. Quite often the invitation card turn out to be the most expensive item compared to the facilities, services, and timing. Also why trek thousands of miles to deliver the invitations? And we don’t even deliver them personally. We burden our relations or friends. Is postman any different? And do we really have those thousand relations and friends?
If we seriously answer the last question, we immediately raise the standard of our facilities, service and timing to the enjoyment of all.
There are now excellent commercial suppliers who will cook to our own prescription. The total cost of ‘home’ cooking when you consider the stress and strain of buying and preparing the ingredients, procuring the utensils, marshalling the reluctant helpers, the ‘saving’ is illusiory. Freed from this task we can pay more attention to other important matters. For example, the method of serving the food. It is more dignified to employ the buffet method than to keep our guests waiting for hours and possibly suffer a compulsory fast. How about the youngsters teaching us a thing or two that they may have learnt elsewhere. Please do take the lead. I suggest an expenditure of extra 5p on a stiffer plate. Half of our guests will gladly serve themselves and eat standing up in the company of their friends.
If you must consult a brahmin for Shubh Muharat then let’s stick to it. The usual delay compared to all quoted times, and especially the delay nowadays of an hour or an hour and a half for the bride to arrive is thoroughly annoying for all present and surely the Shubh Muharat must have gone sour by then.
Video and Photography:
They do make us look stupid. And what do they give us at end of the day. These thoroughly unimaginative fools give us a video film taken from one single spot. Did you survive to the end?
Marriage or Market:
Our weddings have increasingly become a matchmaker’s market. No one seem to have any respect or feeling for the serious business conducted in the Mandap. Surely there is room for being silent for atleast fifteen minutes of the ceremony. Let us not forget that we have been invited to grace the auspicious occassion and bless the newly wed couple.
For what they are worth I have written what a lot of you have been saying for a long time. The older generation, including myself, does not seem to have the courage to practice even a little of the above.
The ball is therefore in the court of the youngsters, especially those who are getting married now. Do they have the courage to experiment new ideas, or would they continue to be led blindly and thoughtlessly.
Keshavlal J Patel.
I wrote the article below in 1995. I can not claim that it had any impact, yet I am inclined to think looking back that over the last fifteen years or so many of our NRIs have thought it wise to move to Char Rasta and other parts of Navsari to build their homes rather than create tension in the family. (KJP)
WE AND OUR VILLAGES
Like so many other people my feelings for my village in India is fairly deep because I was born there. We have our roots there. For a vast majority of you, your parents were born there. We therefore share our common roots in our villages. Except for short visits however, we all have lived away from our ancestral home. For the older generation the memory of that home and village brings back the nostalgia of the bygone years.
Most of us have been here in UK for over 40 years and are well settled with many in their third and forth generation away from our villages. And yet we have maintained our close knit family ties. It seems to me however that these ties are more apparent than real. This is especially the case with brothers and sisters closer to the roots. In a number of cases these brothers are not even on speaking terms or a very lukewarm relationship indeed. This has affected later generations also.
In this article I want to examine what I consider to be the main cause and explore the way back to a loving relationship.
I consider the main cause of the rift is our ancestral property -the house and a piece of the farmland or at least the share in them. Our parents or the grandparents have a share which eventually passes on to us. Our sense of our roots is so acute that it is not the market value of the property that matters but the sense of belonging. If that share is lost or given up we feel we don’t belong. Our roots have been cut. I personally have no experience of that deep feeling but it must be very acute because I have known and heard of brothers who because of this unresolved problem have become sworn enemies.
During the last five to ten years the situation has deteriorated. This, I think, is because a great number of us have made fairly good financial progress and are now freer to think of our village connections. The old and neglected house need costly alterations, additions and repairs or complete rebuilding. In all cases the old house in our village is not extensive enough to house us all independently. Quite often not even the two brothers. An amicable agreement therefore has to be reached with the claimants for an equitable division or joint reconstruction.
Not all of us in our extended family who have claim to the ancestral property are in that happy financial position at the same time to defray the costs. In cases where the division is easier, each party can time the work at their own convenience. It is where no amicable agreement is reached that relationships starts to go sour and reach a point of complete breakdown. Sad to say we now have many such cases.
It is sad, very sad indeed that such minor share, thousands of miles away should cause such bitterness among our family.
Is there some way we can resolve this situation?
There is no way we can resolve this problem if all the parties involved are not prepared to discuss, be flexible, be charitable, and are prepared to change slightly the attitude in our belief that our roots are in a particular spot rather than in our Gam. If we remember that in terms of monetary value of our share the total property quite often is worth no more than a few months salary and that in terms of roots at a particular house that the claimants were not born in that house but most probably were born in their maternal uncle’s house, the problem become easier to resolve.
There is another aspect, which if we truthfully admit, the resolution of this dilemma becomes easy. This is to seriously consider the chances of anyone in the family, old or young, returning to the village for permanent or even long term settlement. Experience suggests that after all these many years of absence, and having settled here and thrown away our immigrant bags, our link with India is more cultural than physical. The bond however is still strong, especially for the older members. For emotional and psychological reasons therefore a house if not the farm is the link which for practical purposes, may not last into the later generation. For all intents and purposes a holiday home that satisfy our deep seated desire to belong.
Those who could not resolve the family inheritence differences, left the problem in a limbo, and in frustration, went head on their own and built a new home often away from the village without giving up their share. The relationship continues to sour.
In the meantime the old house remain neglected, deteriorate and become a health hazard to the neighbours. Any one now visiting a village will observe that a number of the houses in each street are empty and falling apart.
Nature takes over. The old passes on and the young may not or will not take interest. The squatters take over and the problem resolved. In years to come one of the young, inspired to find his roots, takes a rickshaw, gazes for a while at the house and turns back.
That is the final solution, even for the houses being built today. Surely, we must take more responsibility for our social obligations. By holding on to unoccupied houses and untilled farmland, we are contributing to the poverty of our motherland.
The homelessness and landlessness problem has become more acute in all our villages and a source of unhappiness in very many extended families here. I beg all the cousins in this situation to examine the problem, compare the costs of continued bad feelings and do your best to settle rather that leave it to nature.
The resolution of this problem calls for decision by responsible men/women in each frustrated family. Please let it be you. Take the initiative. The ball is in your court.
Keshavlal J Patel.
House Rules for Personal Development
It is said that there are three kinds of people in the world: those who make things happen, those who watch what happens, and those who wonder what happened. Most of us are skilled in a certain thing and make things happen in that narrow field. Outside of that when faced with real-world dilemmas and decisions, we mostly watch and wonder.
And this is how most of us live our lives by accident – stumbling into relationships, wandering into careers, searching for meaning, hoping and praying that we will get lucky in love, find our fortune, and stay healthy. That’s the way we live and end our lives until we learn to live on purpose.
Recently I came across a list of Rules – call them universal laws or guiding principles. These are lessons distilled from the school of life and provide reliable strategies for living on purpose.
One needs both reason and faith for purposeful living. Reason provides clear goals, while faith teaches us to trust the process of our lives. The Taoist and our own yogic sages remind us that flexibility overcomes rigidity. Just as a rushing stream flows around obstacles, so must our purposes adapt to the changing tides of life. Living on purpose and acting on principle we become like bamboo stick- strong and supple – yielding to the forces we encounter, but then snapping back on track.
I list below the Rules. You may add from your own experience;
- Earth is a school and daily life is our classroom
- Our teachers appear in many forms
- We learn best through direct experience
- Failures are the stepping stones to success
- Lessons reappear until we learn them
- If we don’t learn easy lessons, they get harder
- Consequences teach better than concepts
- Only action brings ideas to life
- We can control efforts, not outcomes
- Timing is everything
- What goes around comes around
- Little things can make big difference
- Play to your strengths
- To transform your life, change your expectations
- Judge with compassion
- Simplicity has power
- Life develops what it demands
- Every choice leads to wisdom
- God helps those who help themselves
- We each have inner guidance
- Balancing the body is the first spiritual practice
- Life moves in cycles, all things change
- Life is a series of moments
- Be gentle with your self, trust the process of life
- Kindness completes our lives, we are in it together
Keshavlal J Patel