February 27, 2015

Republic Day!

“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will” – Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre

Well, tomorrow is Republic Day and it really is an important day. I certainly wasn’t around way back in 1970, to know personally what it must’ve been like to live in a country still under the rule of another.

But I do know it feels better to be in control than to be controlled. And we won that right on Republic Day to make our own decisions without second guessing by a Crown. It’s like an ultimate version of becoming an adult.
My favourite hero in WI history was Toussaint L’Ouverture.  To have a man – born a slave – take on the full might of one of the greatest European powers of the day, for the right to be free, was awe inspiring. He was indeed an “Opening”: the eventual independence of Haiti showed the path that every other colony had to walk.

So on Republic Day at least, we should make a point of being proud to be Guyanese. On that day we commemorate the earlier rebellion of our own Cuffy, in our own Berbice, for that same struggle to be free. I know some people try to raise some Guyanese pride on Republic Day, but unfortunately for most, it’s just about the Mashramani parade.

Granted, everyone has different ways of celebrating, of showing joy. Some people express themselves by parading down the streets in various states of undress in honour of Republic Day. Other people have more demure gatherings to celebrate the day.
But the problematic thing about it all is that most people don’t parade because of national pride. They parade to dress up (or undress) in costumes and ride on floats. Because it’s all about Mashramani – the celebration.

We’ve gotten so caught up with the celebration festivities, that we’ve completely forgotten why we’re celebrating in the first place. Who thinks of the meaning of Cuffy or Toussaint in the definition of what ‘freedom’ means?
One of the aspects of being free means that we’re a democracy – we can elect our own Government. I know I’m thrilled that I’m finally 18, so I can vote in the next election. Even though I just get one vote out of the thousands that are cast on Election’s Day, it still makes me feel like I have a say in who’ll be in charge of running our country.

And I’ll be thinking long and hard about which party has the best interests of the country at the top of their agenda before I cast my vote. Oil’s on the way…who’s going to introduce a petroleum engineering degree? A healthy nation’s a productive nation – which party will implement the best healthcare programme for the country?

Our kids are the future of our country and they need to have a sound education to ensure that they can have successful careers to continue the development of Guyana.
We still have so few scholarships that kids have to write over 20 subjects at CXC to try to grapple for either the regional prize or the two scholarships that Guyana gives out. Why aren’t we giving out scholarships to children for the different streams, example Science, Arts and Business?

That’ll encourage children to be the best in their chosen field, instead of having to spread themselves too thin to write subjects from all of the streams.
I’ll definitely be voting for whoever addresses the many issues that are currently plaguing our education system.

So don’t just wait until it’s close to elections time to think about whom you’re voting for- that’s when everyone will be standing on their soapbox making grand promises for a bright and shiny, new and improved Guyana.
Look at their actions during the year – what Bills are they pushing for in Parliament? Are they the type of people you’d want representing you?
We’re a Republic now, Guyana. We have the right to vote for who governs our country. So let’s think long and hard and make the decision that’ll be best for our country and our future.

Happy Republic Day!

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Where’s the love at?

“You can’t blame gravity for falling in love”–  Albert Einstein

Yesterday, florists and confectioners probably tripled or even quadrupled their sales as people rushed to buy last minute „Valentine’s“ for their loved ones. Whether it’s a card or a simple rose or diamond earrings, practically everyone does something to show the special people of the opposite sex in their life that they care on February 14.
But why only on February the 14? It’s just a date chosen in honour of St Valentine who became associated with romantic love back in the 14th century. Weren’t people «falling into love» before then??

It could’ve been any other date or better yet, it doesn’t just have to be one date. Why can’t people show their love for the important in their lives every day? Or rather, why don’t they?
The persons you love should be important enough to you that you would have no problem with showing them that you love them every day – whether you want to show your love by just saying “I love you” or by showering them with gifts, it’s your prerogative.
Be spontaneous! Show your love every day in all of the little ways that count so much, much more than an elaborate show on Valentine’s Day.
And love itself comes in so many, many forms – you could love your mom, your dad, brother, friends, boyfriend, girlfriend and all of the other people on your life. Why should only romantic love be exalted?
But how many people consider all of those other people on Valentine’s Day? And if everyone did, there probably wouldn’t be enough flowers in the world to gift all of those people – so how are you going to show your love to all of them on Valentine’s Day?
You don’t have to – not if you showed them that you love them on the other 364 days of the calendar.
And that’s exactly what you should be doing. Let the people you care about always know and feel that you care about them. Sure, people aren’t perfect and someone is sure to step on your toes over time. But you don’t need to hold a grudge or put them in the doghouse – remember that you love them.
And I’m not saying you need to go around loving everyone because no matter how many pink sunglasses we wear, we can’t fool ourselves that the world is as rosy as we would like it to be. There are always people who we will find decidedly unlovable, and that’s OK.
You don’t need to love everyone and show everyone that you love them – that might be spreading yourself too thin (not to mention you also losing the plot of love being special and important).
You at least you ought to show the important people in your life, the ones you care deeply about that you love them because hey, if you love them that much, that shouldn’t be much of a problem – right?
But OK, even though you should be showing your love every day, it IS a nice gesture to go that extra mile on Valentine’s Day.
All hope isn’t lost, there’s still a lot of love left in the world. So where’s the love at? It’s everywhere – we just need to show it a bit more.

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Carnival in Trinidad

“Everything being a constant carnival, there is no carnival left” – Victor Hugo

From Victor Hugo’s comment above, you’d suppose he really knows Trinidad and Trinidadians. After a year and a half in Trinidad, I really think that the culture of Carnival has become the culture of Trinidad.

Ok…Ok…I might be guilty of exaggeration …but not by much! It has been said that of the 365 days in the year, Trinis celebrate Carnival for two days and spend the rest of the year preparing for it. Carnival’s going to be celebrated next Monday and Tuesday, and even in our very staid Med School, you can feel the excitement building to a crescendo which’ll soon explode.

But we all have to admit that Victor Hugo, the author of Les Miserables, knew a thing or two about man and society. The Carnival of Paris was the grandmother of all Carnivals and set the theme for those in New Orleans (Mardi Gras), Rio de Janeiro and of course, Trinidad.

So what’s with a French influence in Trinidad?? Aha! Once again I can justify taking Caribbean History at QC! After good old Toussaint launched the revolution that ended slavery in Haiti, a bunch of French planters fled to Trinidad and took their customs, including Carnival.

Today, they’re called the French Creole ― and still in the thick of Carnival 200 years later. In Paris, one of the characteristics of Carnival was the mixing of all classes in the streets in revelry, and in Trinidad, while slaves were banned from Carnival during slavery, this tradition of mixing gradually became accepted after the abolition of slavery.

I haven’t seen Carnival yet, but on my first trip to Trinidad ― to attend the CXC award ceremony in 2011, I had my first exposure to the preparation that goes into the extravaganza that we see in magazines and TV.

We visited a “camp” where the costumes were made and steelpans tunes were being tuned and practiced. And this was in December ― fully two months before Carnival was to be held! The costumes were so ornate and intricate that they really took my breath away! It really put our paltry efforts for Mashramani to shame.

From Christmas onwards, the Calypso tents and Soca competitions will be open to entertain massive crowds. The steelpan rivalries between bands will culminate in the massive Panorama competition. Over the radio and the TV, even in Med School you can’t escape the fact that “Carnival is (literally) in the air”.

From what I’ve been told and read, Carnival in Trinidad begins early on Monday morning – and we’re talking 04:00h here! ― with J’Ouvert. Folks will pour into the streets covered in mud, oil, paint or whatever you can smear over your body to represent the underworld of demons and devils.

All inhibitions are thrown into the wind as one gyrates or “wines” to the beat of Soca music. I’m sure that whenever I work up the courage to look at Carnival, I’ll be missing J’Ouvert. If for nothing else, that I love my early morning sleep too much!

Then comes “dayclean” and the J’Ouvert revellers are replaced by the massive bands “Playing Mas”. This is what most of us know as “Playing Carnival” ― the costumes, the “jump up” the “wining” and the general “carrying on” in which everything goes. It’s still a time when all classes and strata take the opportunity to mix and more than “mingle” ― as in old, merry Paris. Nowadays chutney music has joined Soca and Calypso.

But Tuesday is the real Carnival ― with the processions of the organized bands of masquerades doing their thing for the TV cameras and the judges.

Though I’m not planning on “Playing Carnival” this year, I’m definitely looking forward to the looong weekend!

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Hospital horrors

“The greatest mistake in the treatment of diseases is that there are physicians for the body and physicians for the soul – although the two cannot be separated” – Plato

Last week, in one of our classes, a couple of patients were invited to talk to us about the experiences they had in hospitals. One of the speakers was one of our very own classmates and the other two speakers were parents whose baby had to be admitted to a hospital.
And all I could think as they recounted their experiences was that the way they were treated was utterly appalling.
It was disappointing to hear about how they’d been treated at the hospitals, but unfortunately, in retrospect, it wasn’t altogether very surprising. Talk to anyone and chances are that they’ve got a bad hospital experience to tell you about.
They’ve been treated badly by the nurses, the doctors, the receptionists, or even security guards.
Most people admitted to the hospital are usually at their lowest point. They’re feeling sick, miserable and many times, confused about what’s going on with their body. Why would anyone go ahead and rub salt into their wounds when they’re already in agony?
We’re doing a course called “Professionalism, Ethics and Communication in Health” (PECH). It’s supposed to make us more aware about things like the importance of being empathetic towards our patient’s needs, of treating patients as people rather than their specific ailment and about being respectful towards the patient.
The protagonist from the TV series “House” obviously never took this class.
UWI has obviously been listening to patients and I think that it’s great that they’re trying to instil these values in us. Initially, I must confess that in the beginning, I used to fret a little about us not focusing on “the real medical stuff”. But as old Plato said, there’s more to healing than the body.
He would have been referring to the psychosomatic conundrums but the patients’ state of mind and their psychological equanimity are all important things to be aware of. The experiences many patients have in hospitals really highlight the need for such courses.
Having to go into a hospital is already usually an unpleasant experience for most people having to be poked, prodded and given horrible tasting medicine can’t be enjoyable. It wasn’t for me last year when I had some health issues.
So if you throw in unpleasant doctors and hospital staff into the mix, the whole process can become fairly traumatic.
But listening to the experiences of the patients in class, really made most of us think about what kind of doctors we wanted to be in the future. We were horrified by the things we were hearing.
One of the parents was a doctor herself, and she gave us some solid advice. She said that every six months, she took the time to check-in with herself and reflect whether she was giving her patients the type of care they deserved.
I think more doctors should reflect and do some sort of introspection. They need to put themselves into their patients’ shoes and think about how they would want to be treated if they were in that position. Bit of good advice.
I hope our batch of doctors don’t become so jaded that we forget all the things we’ve been learning in PECH when our time to interact with patients arrive.

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A healthy mind in a healthy body

The first wealth is health – Ralph Waldo Emerson

While Emerson’s homily may sound clichéd, like all clichés, it contains more than just a kernel of truth. Last year, around this time that truth came home to me with a vengeance.
Returning for my second semester, I’d gotten really, really sick: my blood count had fallen really low, I was running a high fever (with chills) – the whole works, really.
Needless to say, that put quite a damper on things. But (another cliché) it definitely taught me a lesson. I’d already known it was important to make sure I was getting all of my vitamins and having regular check-ups with the doctor and all those things – they drum that in pretty well, in school.
But there’s so much distance between knowing and actually doing something. I observed many other people who, like me, just weren’t bridging the gap between knowing and doing.
I realised how much we take our health for granted. We eat what we want, when we want, not caring about what the nutritional content of the food or our irregular eating times might be doing to our bodies.
Or we adopt a sedentary, couch potato lifestyle. And while we take in the car every 3000 miles for the oil and filter change, we don’t make regular check-ups with our doctor just to check that if the systems are OK. Until we get sick, that is.
But being healthy isn’t just about being physically healthy. The WHO defines health a “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”.
There might be interminable arguments by philosophers about where the mind might be located and its relationship with the body – the old mind-body conundrum. But there’s no question mental health is as important for normal-functioning as any of the other aspects of health.
There’s a definition of “mental health” that I like: “A state of well-being in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.”
Then what about social health…we are social beings, aren’t we? “No man (or woman is an island” and all that. Well that brings in our lifestyle choices. Do we want to keel over early from lung cancer?
Then by all means, keep chain-smoking those cigarettes. But secondary smoking is even deadlier to those around. So just quit! Smoking and drinking excessive amounts of alcohol are all lifestyle choices that you should say no to, if you (or those around you) want to stay healthy. And as a clincher, remember alcohol and domestic violence are highly correlated.
Other decisions you can make about your lifestyle are about the food you each. Eat smarter, eat healthier.
In Guyana, we’re at high risk for diseases like hypertension and diabetes. These diseases don’t have absolute cures, just ways to manage the illness. So let’s take preventative measures to prevent ourselves from getting these diseases.
We really should be focusing more on prevention, rather than just treatment, shouldn’t we. Even though that might lower my earnings potential when I graduate!!
And there are little everyday things that persons could be a little more aware of. Things like sneezing or coughing into a tissue. Germs, remember? The importance of washing your hands is something that cannot be stressed enough.
So as I’m heading into my second semester of Year 2, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I’ve been putting enough of my knowledge into practice to keep me healthy for the year ahead.

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No more zero days!

“I think we judge talent wrong. What do we see as talent? I think I have made the same mistake myself. We judge talent by people’s ability to strike a cricket ball. The sweetness, the timing. That’s the only thing we see as talent. Things like determination, courage, discipline, temperament, these are also talent”― Rahul Dravid.

I’ve already mentioned that I’d be using what’s left of my holidays to readjust my game-plan for 2015. After some introspection, I realised that one of the areas that I needed to work on was discipline.
I’m nowhere near as disciplined as I should be and I guess that’s why I have so much trouble with procrastination. So, I decided to read up on discipline and different ways that other people managed to stay disciplined.
I stumbled upon r/getdisciplined, a subreddit focused on people trying to get disciplined. And I read a comment by a user (u/ryans01) that was pretty incredible. They brought up a concept called “No more zero days”.
Basically they talked about not having anymore “zero days” ― days that you didn’t do a single thing towards your goals. So, if it’s 23:58 that night, and you didn’t manage to do anything―read one paragraph or do one push-up, whatever your goal is, do a little something towards achieving that goal.
Just don’t have anymore “zero days”. Those “non-zero” days will add up and gradually it’ll be easier to get up and do something.
Lots of people talk about the importance of motivation and getting motivated. And I used to think that I needed to get motivated before I can get something done. But the thing with motivation is that it’s based on you feeling like getting something done- and feelings can be so unreliable.
If something upsets you, or if you’re feeling a little rundown or in a bit of a bad mood, the chances that you’ll feel like getting through a Powerpoint on the Pituitary Gland instead of curling up in bed with an episode of 30 Rock are pretty slim.
I used to wait around for that feeling of motivation, but most times, I could never really muster enough of that feeling to actually get things done. And then the deadlines would inch nearer and nearer, and driven by panic and the desire to not fail, I would burst into a flurry of activity, getting things done at a manic pace, just in time to hand in the assignment.
But now I’ve realised that all this time, people have been putting the cart before the horse. Motivation isn’t the key ― action is. You need action to get motivated, not the opposite way around.
So what if you’re not feeling motivated? That’s fine. The key is to just make a start. Don’t look at the fact that you have 500 more pages to read through. Just say that you’ll read one sentence or just a paragraph. And more often than not, you’ll want to keep going.
And even if you don’t? At least you still chalk up another “non-zero day”.
It feels good to get things done, to know that you’re that much closer to achieving your goal. And the more you do, the more you’ll be inspired or motivated to keep going.
Here’s to no more zero days!

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The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

(This article may contain spoilers about the Hobbit movies [of course, I’ll try not to spoil anything, but I can never be quite certain]. So if you haven’t seen it [you should see it ASAP] you should probably stop reading now and continue on with your life.)
“Go back to your armchair, Master Baggins. And your books. Plant your tree. If everybody valued home like you did, the world would be a merry place” – Thorin Oakenshield.

Being the dedicated true believers we are, my family and I saw “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” at its first showing at the Princess Theatre. For the first time ever, after seeing a movie, I felt dazed, like I was floating in a dreamlike-state.
And let me tell you, I have seen a LOT of movies!! I had so many emotions that I couldn’t process. My feelings ran from euphoria to anguish and everything along that spectrum. I don’t think I’ve ever been as moved by characters as I was in this movie.
I hadn’t read Tolkien’s novel, The Hobbit. And that’s unusual for me. Usually I read the books and then I look at the movies. I’d read the Lord of the Rings trilogy when I was much younger and then saw the movies. And I loved the movies, but the books just weren’t my cup of tea.
I can appreciate Tolkien’s writing and his incredible world-building skills, but, I’ll tell you – it was a struggle to get through (more like plough through) his books. I think I just lost patience with the pages and pages of songs.
So I decided not to read the Hobbit. And when I heard about the movies coming out, I stood by my decision to not read the Hobbit, I decided to trust Peter Jackson and accept his pronouncement on the Hobbit as “canon”.
But of course, both books and movies have their pros and cons. With books you get so many details, especially with a writer like the Oxford Don, Tolkien, steeped as he was with Anglo-Saxon history.
In movies, those details flit past you so quickly with the faster pace telling the narrative visually, that the experience is more impressionistic.
Reading is a bit more of an immersive experience: imagining what the characters look like and sound like, and reading about this world almost exactly as the author intended. That doesn’t mean movies aren’t immersive in their own, but it’s more of the world the director creates.
And nowadays with their action and 3D and beautiful landscapes (CGI or otherwise); they really transport you into the new world.
Additionally there’s the musical score – one of my absolute favorite facets of movies. The musical score of a movie can sometimes make or break a movie for me. And for the Hobbit movies, the musical scoring was one of the best I’ve ever heard.
I realised that the dazed feeling I had after seeing the last Hobbit movie was the same feeling I usually get after finishing a really, really good book. When reading, I usually get completely sucked into the world I’m reading about, I get so caught up with the characters that it takes me a while to get readjusted to the real world. I feel like I’ve known the characters my whole life and I care about them like I would a real person.
I don’t normally get that feeling with movies or TV show – yeah, I care about the characters (sometimes too much), but I’ve never had that complete immersive experience. When I walked out from this movie, I felt dazed, like I was just in Middle-Earth and I had this acute sense of loss, like I’d just left several good friends behind.
This movie really showed me that movies can get you to care about characters as much as books can.
(As a side note, I think I did a good job of leaving out spoilers about the movie. So I strongly recommend going to see this final installment of the Hobbit trilogy.)
And happy (early) New Year!

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“Feminism” today

“Feminism is the radical notion that women are human beings.” ― Cheris Kramarae

The idea of feminism has changed so much over the years. But somewhere along the way it seems to have morphed into something unrecognizable.
For some people, to be a feminist, you have to hate men and treat them all as “male chauvinist pigs”. And God forbid, you have “feminine” qualities! Sell out! The irony is that Gloria Steinem, one of the founders of the modern feminism movement (and of Ms Magazine) was about as “feminine” as you can get! And she’s still beautiful at 80.
But feminism isn’t against femininity. That girl who wants to paint her nails, take time to do her make-up and throw on a dress, isn’t less of a feminist than a girl who wears pantsuits and hates wearing makeup.
Feminists aren’t deluded that only women are sexualized by the media. Feminists don’t believe that society only pressures women. Feminists definitely don’t believe that all men are budding sexual predators.
It’s these faux-feminists that spout their man-hating diatribe that give actual feminists a bad name. That’s why there are blogs like “Women against Feminism” sprouting up.
A cursory scroll through some of the posts there shows that they don’t seem to be against actual feminism, they’re against the pseudo-feminism that’s being accepted as what feminism has become. Feminism is just saying that females should play a greater role in defining what “femininity” is all about.
Why should a woman who chooses to be a stay-at-home mom be treated as being less of a feminist than a woman who chooses to be a career woman? The whole point is CHOICE. That’s what feminism means to me – wanting EQUALITY OF CHOICE not wanting some utopian “equality”. Especially when to be “equal” is being equated with being “identical”.
Females can be equal in to males without being identical to males or their roles. All I want is to be free to choose to go to college and get a job or to be free to choose to get married early and start a family.
To me, when if I’m told that no, girls can’t be doctors – that’s when I have a problem. And the awesome thing is, at least in Guyanese society, I’ve never experienced that sort of discrimination. Not in my family …not in my village or in my school.
So I’m not about to fight for “equality” as “identity”. Because I’ve done biology, men and women aren’t built the same – men are better at some things and women are better at some things. Men and women are different and we have to begin to stress how to better deal with differences – rather than making everyone into one melange.
I could spend my whole life wishing for “equality”, and it’ll never happen. I’ll never be as strong as a man who’s my height, because I don’t have high levels of testosterone. I wouldn’t even know who/what to pick a fight with to sort that one out. Evolution?
But equality of choice – that’s doable and that’s what I want. And that’s not settling – that’s just being realistic. All I want is to be able to make my own choices and be able to follow them – whether I want to be a bodybuilder or an astronaut.
That’s what feminism is to me – not this spiel about how men are “pigs” and an empowered women equates to just a career woman.
I hate that in some circles the word feminism has become a sort of bad word with women jumping to point out, “Not that I’m a feminist or anything”.

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The power of Skype

“I just think we’re living in a time of massive, amazing change, like the Industrial Revolution on acid ” – Kelly Lynch.

I’m pretty sure that I’ve mentioned before that I use Skype a lot – and by a lot, I mean all day, every day. I could search through my old articles to confirm, but I’m in the midst of studying for finals and I am also too lazy to check.
But I’m 248 per cent certain that I have before because Skype pays me a lot of money to promote their product by mentioning them at least once a month in my articles. No that’s not true – that’s just my wishful thinking.
But seriously, this little app on my phone has been a godsend ever since I started Med School here in the land of Carnival. I’d like to point out that there is nothing Carnival-like about Med School – there’s a lot of frustration, anger, tears and the occasional excitement over holding a brain or a lung.
Those are the things they happen to conveniently leave out of their “Visit Trinidad” brochures, I’ve noticed.
But am I homesick? Yeah, I am – we’re a pretty close-knit family and while I was looking forward to finally getting out of the nest, there were lots of butterflies about how exactly I’d be able to fly on my own.
But Skype really pulled through for me and I could see and hear the rest of my family – it was kind of like I was back home – kind of. But yeah, we could trade “What did you do today” stories, my Mom could see I was keeping myself well-fed and I could feel that I hadn’t been banished to Siberia.
My Dad tells stories about him going over to New York to study in the early 70s – about how he would rush to the mailbox every afternoon when he came home to his apartment, praying for a letter from “home”.
It might take a month for a letter to be sent and the answer to be received. Skype has made those kinds of letters obsolete. My Mom can take me over to the living room and show me her latest obje d’art while I can show her how I’ve evolved into a domestic goddess – my room is now always spic and span (except during Finals Week). As you may know by now, I enjoy cooking (when I don’t have exams looming that is) and improvising new dishes. But what do I do when I want a reasonable facsimile of Mom’s home cooking? I just Skype her – and Mom can show me what she means by “a little of this and a handful of that”!
As a young person growing up in this age of the information and communications technology revolution, we take much of the change engendered for granted. And I’m sure we’re not appreciating the effect the gradual cumulative change all of this will have on our lives.
It’s like I read of the unnamed young man in “Miguel Street” going away by ship to London. Today, it’s just a hop, skip and jump away. Has London gotten nearer?
And with innovations like Skype, if you don’t want to hop, skip or jump…then with a touch of a button on Skype you’re in any other country where you know someone. Last week, returning from India, my Dad walked me around the lounge at New Delhi Airport!
All hail Skype*!
*Although come to think of it, I mostly use FaceTime now. What can I say? I’m fickle.

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Goddesses and violence against females

“There is no need to request You, Oh Durga,
To protect and save us.
For does the mother on whom children solely depend,
Ever need such a request?
And So our salutations to You;
So pray the Gods to You.”

As a Hindu young woman, who happens to worship God as female – in my case specifically Saraswati, in whom all knowledge reposes and emanates -  I’ve sometimes wondered how some Hindu men who also worship the Divine in her various female forms and incarnations, can inflict violence on females.
But of course, violence against women isn’t confined to Guyana and certainly not only to Hindus.
It’s just that since we Hindus are supposed to have elevated women to the ultimate Divinity, I was kind of hoping  our menfolk would’ve seen us as in a bit kinder light that those from other religions that insist that God is a man.
In Hinduism, by contrast, while God is ultimately beyond categories – including sex or gender – the conceived female aspects are actually endowed with the Shakti – or animating power.
In other words, the male manifestations are posited as completely inert without the female. Can’t do a thing!  So we have, for instance, the Creator Vishnu with his female counterpart Lakshmi. She’s the power behind whatever “creation” – or “projection” if you chose – that’s going on. One third of Hindus are “Shaktas” – whose major object of worship is the Mother in her various manifestations.
In all his human incarnations – whether as Ram or Krishna – Vishnu is accompanied by his Shakti. As Ram, for instance, his double is Sita. Bringing matters to the human level then, supposedly to provide a model for us to imitate.
When one marries, the woman is said to be “the Lakshmi of the house”. In offering prayers to the Divine, the male householder is incomplete and the offerings aren’t accepted if he’s not accompanied by his “Lakshmi”.
So what goes with all this wife beating and violence against females in our society?? Why hasn’t our elevation of women as Goddesses increased respect for women? Well for one, in the “modern” world, we have all accepted that “religion” is just one aspect of “life”.
Religion as a seamless, integral way of life is “old fashioned” and “backward. Traditional Hinduism, we are convinced, can’t be “modern”. So our menfolk worship the Mother of the temple in the temple and then knock around the Mother of the house in the house.
The view that the man is the owner of all he surveys – in reflection of the Fella with the grey beard who’s floating in the sky above looking down at us – undergirds what is called “patriarchy”.
In modern Hindu homes, unlike the original model of society in which the female was equal in her own domain, boys and men are still socialized to see females as “their own”. And in a capitalist society, this becomes translated as their “property”. And more to the point “sexual property”, which he “jealously” guards.
If we’re ever going to get rid of this mind numbing violence that’s inflicted daily on females, this structural power imbalance between males and females which starts in the home – ironically by mothers – must be eliminated.
What was it they said about “the hands that rock the cradle”? It can help to make “ruling the world” a bit more fair.
All hail the Devi!

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