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Christmas Tears

>> Tuesday, December 21, 2010

 "The rulers of this world are seldom friendly to the cause of God.”
J. C. Ryle

I was planning to write a simple Christmas greeting to my blogger friends. Then I came across this story, a story we forget in the middle of all the joy of Christmas. This was part of a sermon from the Keep Believing Ministries.

" This is the story of the man who tried to kill Christmas. It is strange and bizarre and doesn’t seem like it should be in the Bible. It doesn’t seem like we should read it during the Christmas season. It doesn’t sound right amid all the Christmas carols. It doesn’t look right surrounded by sparkling lights and candy canes. It takes all the joy away and leaves only sadness.

No, this is a story we would just as soon forget. It’s a story about the boys of Bethlehem. It’s a story about murder in the manger. History has labeled this event the Slaughter of the Innocents. It’s part of the Christmas story, tucked away toward the end of Matthew.
When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: ‘‘A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more” (Matthew 2:16-18) "

This is part of the scandal of Christmas. Whenever choirs do Christmas concerts, they don’t sing about this part of the story. No Christmas carols mention this tragic event. Yet it happened one night in Bethlehem. What Herod did to those baby boys is just as real as Mary giving birth to Jesus.Mary rejoicing, Rachel weeping. Christmas joy, Christmas tears—all wrapped up together.

Why is this shocking story recorded in the Bible? It must be true because the Bible records it as a sober historical fact, and it must be important or Matthew wouldn’t have mentioned, and that means there must be something here we need to think about. There are times in the Bible when you read something and it is so amazing or so unexpected or in this case so heartbreakingly cruel you ought to stop and ask, “What’s going on here?”
As we look at these verses we are struck with an enormous sense of evil. In fact it’s hard to find the right words to describe the act— barbaric, despicable, hideous, inhuman, and unspeakably cruel. It is an act worthy of Stalin, Hitler or Saddam Hussein .

A few years ago I had seen a column about an event that took place when the Nazi Adolph Eichmann—who helped plan the systematic destruction of millions of Jews and others in the Holocaust—was put on trial in Israel. A Jewish man by the name of Yehiel Dinur had survived the concentration camps and had testified against Eichmann (when he was tried in absentia) at the Nuremburg trials after World War II. Years later the Israeli Special Forces captured Eichmann in a daring raid in Argentina returned him to Israel to stand trial for his crimes. Dinur attended the 1961 trial as a witness. When he saw Eichmann in the courtroom Dinur began to sob uncontrollably. Soon he fainted and fell to the floor. Why? Was it hatred? Fear? Horrid memories? Speaking in an interview  on a TV show sometime later, Dinur explained that during the war he had feared Eichmann because he saw him as someone fundamentally different than he was. But now, seeing him stripped of all his Nazi glory, Dinur saw Eichmann for what he really was—just an ordinary man. “I was afraid about myself,” Dinur explained, “I saw that I am capable to do this. I am … exactly like he.” That is why he collapsed on the floor !

The truth can be summarized  in six terrifying words: “Eichmann is in all of us.”

This is in fact the central truth about human nature. Sin is in us—not just the temptation to sin, not just the propensity to sin, but sin itself dwells in us. We don’t like to hear this truth, which is why we don’t like to think about stories like the slaughter of the infants of Bethlehem. They force us to confront the truth about who we really are.

Christmas is a time for all to share and care. So let's not remain confined to our petty selves. Let us welcome with outstretched arms those unfortunate ones who have no one to fall back upon. Christmas is a good time; a kind, forgiving, generous, pleasant time; a time when men and women can open their hearts freely, forget the past , forgive each other and welcome the New Year with peaceful hearts.

Wishing you all the timeless treasures of Christmas…the warmth of home, the love of family and the company of good friends. Have a blessed Christmas!


Come,let us weep

>> Thursday, December 16, 2010

I get very emotional when I watch some movies. I often weep…more than in the movies. It is as if, I am waiting for reasons to weep. I cry when I feel happy and also when I feel sad. A good movie, a great film, a birthday card, I weep. Like Graham in ‘The Holiday’ says

“I am a great weeper”

Many animals yelp or cry out when they're in pain. But as far as scientists can tell, we humans seem to be the only species that shed tears for emotional reasons. Scientists who study evolution say crying probably conferred some benefit and did something to advance our species … because it's stayed with us. Tears can play an important role in communication, and the extraordinary thing is that tears don't just sms our state of mind to others…they can also evoke strong emotions in the people who witness them. Tears help reveal the truth. And that's because along with the tears, we've evolved a very special ability to interpret them.

Human emotion and psyche is a complex and mysterious thing. That's one reason I never try to criticize anyone for tearing up...all of us have varying triggers that elicit joy, despair, sadness, elation. There's nothing more complex than the human brain. We cry when we're happy...we cry when we're sad.

When I settle down sometimes to watch a movie, my wife asks me what the theme is, and then would warn me, ‘Now, if it is for you to cry, find someone else to sit with!

It is winter time here, the best time of the year for me. All the rest of the year, it is scorching heat here. I love it when it is cold and chilly. It is Christmas time and I thought this movie “The Holiday” suited the mood. And as usual, I wept at many scenes. Not out of sadness, but out of happiness.

It’s not a classic romantic comedy by any standards, but it still makes you smile more often than you want to admit. The story centers on two women: Iris (Kate Winslet), a British newspaper columnist hopelessly in love with a man about to marry someone else, and Amanda (Cameron Diaz), a highly successful Los Angeles career woman who just broke up with her latest cheating boyfriend. “The Holiday” is a tale of two women, two houses, and two love interests in two different countries.

Two couples meet and fall in love and you cheer them on. You sincerely wish the broken hearts got mended. The whole movie is love and broken hearts, but turns around positive. Right down to the two little girls who play Jude Law's children.. they steal the show and you would love them, pure innocence in their giggles. The music is sheer delight, there are lovely piano pieces.
"It was Shakespeare who also said "love is blind". Now that is something I know to be true. For some quite inexplicably, love fades; for others love is simply lost. But then of course love can also be found, even if just for the night. And then, there's another kind of love: the cruelest kind. The one that almost kills its victims. Its called unrequited love. Of that I am an expert!”

I was reminded of Padmarajan, when he said” unrequited love is an  aching pain in your heart”

“Most love stories are about people who fall in love with each other. But what about the rest of us? What about our stories, those of us who fall in love alone? We are the victims of the one sided affair. We are the cursed of the loved ones. We are the unloved ones, the walking wounded. The handicapped without the advantage of a great parking space! Yes, you are looking at one such individual. These years that I have been in love have been the darkest days of my life. All because I've been cursed by being in love with someone who does not and will not love me back.”

There are skillfully crafted moments of refreshing comedy as well as heartening scenes of blossoming romance.

I am off this weekend and planning to see some more movies, and weep.



>> Friday, December 10, 2010

Balachandran’s blog on his trip to Germany took me down the memory lanes.

It was way back in 1986 that I went to Germany for training on Ultrasound. The procedure was just coming up in India and many hospitals didn’t have the device. It was my first time abroad and I had the usual anxieties. Trier is a small town at the banks of the Moselle river.Quite honestly I didn’t know anything about Trier till I reached the place. This town has one heck of a long history behind it. It was founded by the Romans as “Augusta Treveorum” in 16 BC. Over 2000 years of history! Without doubt, it is Germany’s oldest city. Trier also boasts one of the most colorful markets in Europe with its outstanding ensemble of historical buildings.

Trier Hospital

Porta Nigra.The Roman Gate

Just after I reached, the winter started, and along with it, snow fall. The temperature was minus 10. I would spend the evenings at the hospital guest house; sipping the fine liquor the director had gifted me, watching the flecks of snow forming sheets of white carpet all around. Trier is close to Luxemberg and incidentally, is the birth place of Karl Marx. The hospital was run by monks of the Barmherzigen order.( Krankenhaus der Barmherzigen Bruder ,Trier Bruderhaus) My introduction letter had mentioned that I was working as a consultant in a big hospital in India (Elsewhere in the world, you have to put up many years of experience to become a consultant. It is common practice in India to place the title “Consultant”, just after someone finished a post graduate degree or even diploma!)
Prof. Yamus was one of the pioneers in the field of Ultrasound. I met him at his office. I knocked at his door and entered and started off with the usual” Good morning, Sir”.
And he replied, “My name is Yamus, not Sir.” Obviously, he had no idea what this sir business meant.
There is no sir business elsewhere, unless it is some kind of honor conferred up on you .Everyone in the department, from the attendant to the director called him just Mr.Yamus.  He was in his fifties at that time. Having used to calling everyone at the Medical College sir, sir, it was new experience to me. They gave me all the respect a consultant deserved. At one time Yamus mentioned, “I am surprised, at this young age you could become a consultant”. He had no idea that “consultant” was a self declared title in India. When I was leaving the hospital, he took me to his personal library, and said, “Thomas, take any book you find useful”.

I used to have breakfast at the hospital canteen (it was free for me !  ) I always noticed a graceful looking elderly man in his sixties who would come to the canteen at the same time. It was winter time and he would come immaculately dressed, and would take time in removing his hat, coat and muffler and hang them at the proper hangers, and would then take a table for his breakfast. Whoever would come there, he would offer a polite  “Guten Morgen”. I thought he was one of the senior professors or so at the hospital. One day while at lunch, I asked a colleague, in which department this gentleman worked and she said “Aah..,Mr. Merckel, he is our cleaner”.
This is how they are different and that is why I think they are better people.. They haven’t made a class difference. They respect mutually. And every job is given the respect it deserves. I would say, the cleaner is one of the most important persons in the hospital. Without him, the hospital would become a junk yard of fragmented organs and remains. But, would everyone take it? If not treat them as equals, at least we can stop insulting and abusing them for no reasons.

Over years we have accumulated so much of unhealthy practices we are proud of. We have been taught to respect elders and teachers, it is good as well, but that shouldn't just boil down to calling them Sir. These days students have no hesitation to f...the teachers after calling them  Sir,Sir.

And talking about   f…ing business, I learned that it was, after all, not such a bad term, from one of my colleagues whom I respect most. He would say “Aah … fuck” when ever something goes wrong in the ward. If he sees a patient deteriorating, or a bad lab result, he would  say “Ooh..Shit or.. ..Fuck”.To me,it was just a sign of his commitment to his patients, and there was no easier way to express the desperation.

He was one of the honest and disciplined persons I have ever worked with. He set good examples for me in profession and I have learned from him. Coming from him, I knew he meant no obscenity. But in India, we don’t talk about that business. It is not allowed to f…, leave alone talking about it in public. These are things we are supposed to carry in our perverted minds. We really mean fuck when we say that!
(I didn’t mean to write a blog on f….But it so happened and just came. Honestly I don’t think there is anything obscene in the word, it is the way we use it. After all, we hear it a hundred times in any English movie)



Down Dark Alleys

>> Thursday, December 2, 2010

The weekly news roundup was  full of the  scam and of the unholy nexus between our media, politicians and corporate mafias. It was hard to believe many young, apparently innocuous looking women reporters were at the helm of the dirty games. In the middle of all this, was this news item which caught my attention.

India will soon have its first law to deal exclusively with child sexual abuse cases. The provisional draft of the bill, titled ‘Sexual Offences Against Children Bill, 2010', seeks to substitute the word ‘rape' with technical terms and cover several forms of abuse of both boys and girls, which now remain grey areas in the absence of a specific legislation. The proposed legislation calls for setting up of special courts, special prosecutors and child friendly courts. The information was given to the media by the Union Minister for law,  Veerappa Moili, last week.

At present, cases of sexual offences against children are being tried under the Indian Penal Code, which does not take into consideration the age of the victim. With such offences attracting only such sections that deal with rape, unnatural offences and outraging the modesty of a woman, many sexual offences against children, especially those against boys, were not getting a focused trial, it was felt.

It is a long-hidden issue that India is finally beginning to wrestle with. The scale of abuse, according to a  National study, is far worse than anybody had thought. (Ministry of Women and Child Development : "Study on Child Abuse: India 2007) It reports that 69 per cent of all Indian children are victims of physical, mental or emotional abuse, with New Delhi’s children facing an astounding abuse rate of 83.12 percent.

The survey, which involved interviews with 12,447 children, also highlighted that, it is usually family members (89 percent) who perpetrate such crimes and that more boys face physical abuse (72.61) than girls (65 per cent). Overall, Indian children were found to be victims of a slew of sexual crimes … rape, sodomy, exposure to pornographic material, fondling, forcible kissing and sexual advances, among others. The study also noted that child sexual abuse in India begins as early as five, ratchets up dramatically during pre-pubescence and peaks at 12 to 16 years. Ironically, 71 per cent of sexual assault cases in India go unreported.

This means, the chances are, every other child you see on the road is a victim to some kind of sexual abuse. Hard to believe?

India is home to more than 375 million children, comprising nearly 40 percent of our population,  the  largest number of minors in any country in the world. Despite its ethos of non-violence, tolerance, spirituality and a new emerging  trillion-dollar economy, India hosts the world's largest number of sexually abused children, at a far higher rate than any other country. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), one in every four girls and one in every seven boys in the world are sexually abused, hardly encouraging, but still far below India’s totals.

Worse, child abuse is one of the least documented violations in the country,  records author Grace Poore in the book, The Children We Sacrifice, which deals with the wide prevalence of child sexual abuse in India.
The reasons are manifold. In India, much like the rest of Asia, children are expected to respect and obey authority figures such as teachers, religious guides, and principals and not question their actions. Rebellion is perceived as a sign of a bad upbringing. This sensibility perpetuates a culture of abuse by encouraging sexual predators.

Also, Indian adults often exercise a very  tight hold over their children,  demanding  complete and unquestioned  obedience. A culture of silence and shame  also  swirls  around cases of sexual violence against children. Unsurprisingly,  the  notion  of  shame is the single largest culprit in perpetuating sexual violence against India’s children.

Apart from the legal dimension, child sexual abuse has serious psychological and emotional elements. Worldwide  surveys point out that such  abuse  negatively impacts  a child’s physical, emotional  and  mental well-being, leading to severe behavioral and psychiatric disorders. Suicidal tendencies and drug abuse are common long-term effects.

A   WHO  survey  also points out that there is an unambiguous behavioral and  emotional pattern  in  the abused. Usually the  child  hardly  talks about the incident. And, even if he or she does, no one takes  it seriously. That in turn  triggers feelings of self doubt and guilt, exacerbating  the child’s feeling that  it is his or her fault. As the child matures, compulsive   behavior reinforces this guilt.  Small wonder, that  many adult sexual problems, according to  psychoanalysts, trace their  roots to childhood abuse.

Where,  then, does the solution lie? Educating and enlightening kids about such issues, helping them  distinguish  between “good” and “bad” touch, is a partial answer. Children also ought to be  made  aware of impulsive decisions they may make under pressure from teachers, bullies and abusers. Sex education in schools is also productive. The Netherlands, a country  where teenage  pregnancy rates plummeted  from 60 per cent to about 25 per cent through aggressive sex information campaigns in schools, is an example. But attempts to introduce sex education in to our curriculum has faced strong objections from many quarters.

With child sexual abuse attracting so much scrutiny and public debate, the government has the added impetus to adopt strong and unequivocal measures to contain such crimes. For a country with nearly 40 per cent of its populace comprised of children, such measures are overdue.


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