Thursday, September 17, 2009

Our Eid, Their Durga Puja

The religious demarcation does not leave as much an unfathomable impression on the aged mind as it does on a young soul. Being grown up, you make a choice and take a decision, but for the younger ones, who are yet to conceive the true essence of religion, it is baffling as well as sometimes heart breaking not being able to realize why Durga Puja is “their” festival where as Eid is “our”s.

All my close friends till date are from non-Muslim background & I never seemed to have questioned why. Neither had I any prejudice of considering their religion before making friends, nor my traditional parents ever forced me to be friend with “Muslims” only .They were my closest circle and they still are and I never found difference in religious beliefs making any interventions ever into that sacred territory.

But it was that time of the year, when the two biggest festival of both these religion, the Durga Puja & the Eid, were celebrated I used to find myself secluded from this known circle of mine. Neither did they do it intentionally, nor did I keep myself away. I was never fascinated about wearing new clothes during festival, but when they used to boast of their increasing count of Pujo’r Jama (Puja shopping), I wished the same for me, too. When I saw all their houses coming to live with pre-puja preparation, it was the usual day-in-day-out in our house. The gentle touch of the sweet breeze without the suffocating humidity from the previous rainy season, the blue sky above except a cluster of clouds scattered throughout, the huge puja mandaps being built and the roads being lit up to embrace the Mother Goddess, everything in the whole environment seemed to have gone for a facelift except my nearest vicinity being the usual same, everywhere I used to sense that pujo pujo gandho (I could not translate it into English, but here are the ingredients to make that "pujo pujo smell" in the comments section of this post ) , except no activity, no hustling bustling in and around our house.

Of all the four days, I missed the Ashtami the most. All the people used to gather at the pujo pandels to offer the Anjali to Debi Durga. While for the elders, it was devotion time, it was that unique golden opportunity of the year for the Gen Next. The boy would anxiously wait for her since morning and plan the timing for Anjali together (the girl will obviously come with her family, so the enactment had to be perfect with precious timing as if they just bumped into each other to sweep away any suspicion). Therefore, on the D-day, while all my friends would be rigorously working on their self made assignment, I would be trying my heart out to concentrate on my studies, just to distract myself from being left alone, just to brush off the despondency of not being able to offer my Anjali with her, not being able to contemplate that rare glimpse of her in those gorgeous sarees (Well…for those looking at me with a suspicious look, you know most of these were one-sided that time & today I don’t have slender idea of where she is & I am happily married, happy ha?).

Nabami night is the one, I would be earnestly looking forward, when all of us would go for our puja darshan. This was the only breather for me in those suffocating four days, when, I would be among them again and enjoy the festival, which is as much of mine as of theirs. We would roam around the town for Debi darshan with most of us eagerly looking for the "other" debi, the love of our life, how fabulous they look in their puja dresses, we would also keep an vigil so that we don’t get caught off guard by any of our teachers, and we would finally end our excursion by having an sumptuous meal in a restaurant (in those days we did not have cultures of eating at places every now and then and so we would look for this day to have a full meal outside, of our choice and most importantly sponsored by parents :D)

And when it was Eid for us, my day would start with praying Eid er Namaz at the nearby mosque in the morning, taking blessings from the elders and giving blessing to my younger sister too, a 100 rupee note,and then having delicious meals in friend's & neighbor's places. Somtime it also included various sports competition arranged by a local club. But amidst all these, I would still feel solitary, my celebration being incomplete and would be impatiently looking for the afternoon, when all my friends would visit our house. Then only, my Eid celebration would be in full swing. Without them, it would be just another day gone by.

Today, staying away from Kolkata I don't miss Durga Puja as much as I did then and I also don't miss Eid without my friends, for my very own circle has grown up with my wife, brother-in-law, nieces and likes. I have also realized friendship is not about meeting them day in day out, more importantly be there when they need. But the silent solitariness of those 4 days still scrape my inside, and the ineffable pain of missing those precious moments makes my heart tattered at times. My sacrosanct childhood questions my profane adulthood "Was I incomplete? And why was me different from my coevals"? Is it because the month long Puja'r chuti, the family vacation, the Rabindra Sangeet being played out at almost every Puja pandels, everything created an exuberance that wrapped the whole ambiance which Eid never did for me.Or is it because somewhere the thin underlying religious difference played its part, if I was to offer Anjali
with them and if they were to pray Eid er namaz with me, religion would have reached the pinnacle of divinity. If i had Muslim friends, would the celebration be different? Whatever it may be, the aged me never had an answer to the question of that effervescent child and I will never have the answer...

Friday, September 11, 2009

My MOTO: Memories Forever

This is my personal opinion about one of the organization I had worked before and I have intentionally ommitted the name of the organization to avoid any
unnecessary controversy. I have used "MOTO" below whenever I need to refer to the organization.
I repeat this is my "personal opinion" & everyone is entitled to have their own and agree/disagree with me.

Hardly a couple of months back, with MOTO announcing the closure of one of its business division in Hyderabad, the journey finally came to an end. The journey, that started a decade ago in a tiny little corner of a rented house with very few employees, made MOTO-Hyderabad standing on its own feet on the Indian IT map. Over the years, it had created an identity of its own, shredded the image of being a younger sibling of MOTO-Bangalore, crafted an platform for so many success stories worldwide. The journey reached its pinnacle with the release of "MyRazr" (dummy name of a world famous mobile phone), when it almost become the #1 player in the mobile world.

But unfortunately of late, a combination of various reasons resulted in declining market share & the graph started descending. People had started to leave for better opportunity. There were those who tried to hang on till the very end, but some of them had to be practical, leave their emotional attachment aside and move on. But everyone, including the one who already left and the one still hopeful, prayed that MOTO should bounce back. The most surprising fact was that more than the one still being with MOTO, it was those who already left, wanted MOTO to return to its glory. They already had seen the world outside, the work culture, the relationship among people and so many other factors that they were quick to realize what made MOTO stand out from the rest of its contemporaries. Every now and then I used to receive those phone calls from my ex-colleagues eagerly waiting to know any sign of a good news. They were on their toes. just to be back to the old family. I could see the dreams of reuniting again in their eyes.

With the decision of MOTO shutting down one of its business division in Hyderabad center, these dreams are all shattered. Everyone has accepted the reality that the distant hope they had of going back to MOTO again, is no longer feasible. The far reaching effect of this lost hope is more than the immediate effect of some people losing their job. You loose a job today, you will hopefully find another one tomorrow, but it is painful to accept that you will hardly get those relationships where one is in hurry to catch the train to go home and his manager is doing his work sitting at his desk to meet the deadline or the one where you can ask for your manager's opinion about the organization that you are going for an interview next week or even the one, where an appraisal meeting went for 5 hours till the wee hours in the morning because the person being appraised had lot of issues to discuss other than his own assessment and the manager believed it was his responsibility to listen to all those issues first, whether or not they are relevant, can be discussed upon. MOTO is not the only organization in the world, where you find such instances, but such examples are very few and MOTO is one of the best among them.

There are not too many places in the world which teaches you that human beings are more important than the mere deliverables, that taking care of personal responsibilities is as equally important as taking care of professional assignments, that relationships are built over time with respect and trust irrespective of an individual's position in the organization. It is always believed that a base should be strong enough to build a monument and I am fortunate MOTO has given me that base both professionally and personally. And the same feeling is echoed by others, too some of them even are introspecting whether they took the right decision by leaving MOTO. I guess it was then rightly said that when something is not with you, then only you realize its actual worth.

Like every other good thing, this was to come to an end and may be so did it happen. But the name "MOTO" is etched into our hearts, those memories are still vivid in our minds and that very dream of reuniting again may be still alive in some eyes. Some dreams are too good to be realized, but still we should dream, who knows one day it might just materialize.

Note:I would specially request to all my MOTO ex-colleagues to share your experiences with MOTO. And stick to "MOTO" please, don't take the name while commenting :-)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Women Education: How much it can do alone?

I know this post is bit long, but I could not cut it short in spite of my best effort as I felt the message could not have been conveyed in a better way as two stories are involved here. So, if you have patience, please go ahead and share your opinion.
I was shocked from head to toe when I heard one of my relative got married to a girl (let's call her A)15 years younger to him.The boy was around 33 and the girl was hardly 18. Even though I was utterly ashamed, I did not say a word against this bizarre incident(bizarre to you and me but not across rural pan India) as they are my relatives but not close enough that it matters to me, so I just moved on.

Few days back,I read a post at
Chai Garam and opined that we should raise our voice against such incidents (though she was talking about a complete different incident). Since then, my conscience is being haunted day and night asking me whether I am guilty of not protesting, because these are the incidents where we, the educated and cultured ones are supposed to stand up and raise our voice.

Before you and me reach a quick conclusion here, hold that thoughts just for a second before I give little background about both the family involved here. The incident happened in a village in West Bengal. A was studying at 10th std, her father has a small scale business. The boy is a graduate, runs his own medicine shop (financially independent), has a very small family (which today people find worth considering before even considering the groom's educational/financial status), any sort of abuse on DIL is a distant dream, no question of being thrown away for giving birth to a daughter , so in a nutshell, in that environment he is considered to be a good eligible bachelor.

And the environment I am talking about, "outside knowledge" is very much limited to their four walls, financial independence of a girl they have heard I guess but not realized certainly, importance of a girl's education they know but caught in the dilemma that over educating their child might jeopardize her chance of getting married because not too many educated groom they can find in their circle (And i know "the boy MUST be more educated and earn more than the girl" is a precondition prevailed across all societies over India ) and most importantly marrying off their girl to a family ensuring "roti, kapra aur makan" & "sukhi sansar" is their up most task in life. And regarding the compatibility factor you and me think about, the girl is brought up in an environment to have limited expectation, she is not probably familiar with the concept of personal space and therefore will not realize the absence of it, if any and physically age difference will not be much of a hindrance unless the boy is of Mike Tyson category in bed or has some hidden disease which even I am not aware of.

On the other side of the horizon, there is another story quite radically opposite to this one. The girl (let's call her B) had a Master's degree (now keep in mind that obtaining master's degree may be a cake walk for most of us, but it was not so for her, when her nearest school was 5 km away, the college she went was 20kms away and she had to walk a few kms, then on rickshaws, then on boats to cross a river and then finally catch a bus to her college, no private tuition to avail and this incident I am talking is more than a decade old) and not to forget B was reasonably good looking. But as destiny had it, she was married to a boy of 10th pass, in a village which is remotely located beyond our imagination. The reason? according to the matchmakers, there was no highly educated suitable boy for her in the nearby vicinity, her father being poor, couldn't afford dowry and to make matter worse, the girl was taller than average girl's height (she was 5'6"-5'7"). The parents were least interested to agree to the proposal, but had to give in, they had no other choice. I have heard from my mother that the girl's mother repented "Wish I had educated my daughter little less..." Whom do we blame here? What do we teach and to whom? The girl is happy with her family, no usual hassles in her family (consolation prize for her parents), but does she wish something else would have..? I never dared to ask her.

Keeping all these in the background, it is now time for me and you to think whether I did any wrong by not protesting against A's marriage. I am sure that she is married to a good family, even though she could not educate herself much. I am sure probabilistically she might not get too many better families as her in-laws. I know any time at any condition, living her life independently is not a choice for her , if required (bad marriage??). Even if the education could give her the courage, she might not accommodate the pain of being tabooed in the society (even if she has her parents on her side) and more importantly educating her more does increase the probability little of getting married to a better groom (as happened to B) , because as we all know family status matters. Would any of my educated modern bachelor friend (I am asking to all the single male blogger friends too,) marry to a girl of this category where she is educated enough, but lives in a village, social status is categorized to be lower middle class or so, her parents may not be educated at all and if I exclude all the educated bachelors for the sake of simplicity, a boy having the same parameters as this relative of mine but staying in urban Kolkata would want his sasural to be in a distant remote village!! And if I ask what B has got in life after putting so much of hard work, exhausting herself to the last drop of life she had inside? Her fate would have been anyway the same without the education. I am not authorized to judge both these marriages, but just for the sake of perspective, I personally feel that this 18 yr old 10th std girl is luckier than the lady holding a prestigious master's degree.

I am disturbed because I am confused and don't have a blatant answer to the question thrown by my conscience that what good has education done to B. How do we bring a complete mind set change of the overall society? It is a Herculean task and we, the intelligentsia have to take a collective responsibility to lead the way for the rest.

Buttt.....but, it is easier said than done. The other side of the spectrum, the people needing education has to come forward and how do we even do that first, forget about teaching something!! Think about this, every one of us a got a single life to live, naturally the mantra for them would be to live happily and not think much. So, the parents of A are happy to marry off their daughter to such a family. Now, why should they listen to you and me about importance of girl's education? And as I said before, in the current context (situation,society, their social status) educating their child more does not guarantee them a better and happier life, so why should they then take the risk (and they will always have examples of so many B's which they will throw at you and you don't have an answer). It is a choice for them between a secured present vs uncertain risky future, even if that might be better. Even people like you and me also sometime settle for secured establishment rather than taking risk wanting for betterment and when we take risk, we take calculated risk. These people does not even have the wisdom to calculate that risk factor.

And here comes the biggest challenge. No amount of public awareness through electronic/print media can do that. It is only through personal guidance & mentoring, we can achieve this. How can we living in urban city life can enlighten this large backward society scattered throughout India?

How do you suggest practical solution for this and what would have you done if you were the parent of either of these women ?
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