Monthly Archives: October 2013

(25)Why I Like To Be An Indian Citizen

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(Ref: My note dated 12thFeb.2013 on my FaceBook Timeline).

(Contd): Why I Like To Be An Indian Citizen

I must say, that notwithstanding the rather excessively traditional outlook of most Indians, and drawbacks like discrimination against women on that account in Indian Society, as also superstition, the major part of Indians are very simple, warm and affectionate, outgoing people, who are not too formal like the people in Western countries.

Therefore, I have seen that most old people who have lived in India for the major part of their life, prefer to return to India to spend the remaining part of their life here, after visiting the western countries on the persuasion of their children, rather than staying there to settle down permanently in the Ultramodern West!

For in the West, despite all its grandeur and modern facilities, they miss the charm of the simple and unassuming, heart-warming Bonhomie of the people in India, with whom they feel more At Home – Sweet Home !

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(24)The ‘Chaturvarnya’ ( Four- fold) Caste System of Hindu Society in India

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Introduction:
The Hindu Society in India is often misunderstood for its division into four castes, as a way to establish a status and power hierarchy within the Society.
However, the fact is that the four fold division was not created, but only defined or named as per the division that already existed in India, at the time when the Aryans arrived, on the basis of the work or profession being followed by the different sections of the society. It was not assigned newly by the Aryans onto any group.

To elaborate, the Aryans already had people following different professions,as per which they were given specific names and a code of conduct by the ancient Rishis, like Manu.

There was a group which was engaged in Priestly functions for the society,
Who were called ‘Brahmins’.

Another group comprised the Warriors, who were the Kings and called ‘Kshatriyas’ as their duty was to act as Kshatrap or Chhatra, to their subjects to protect them from other invading tribes.

The third group was the ‘Vaishyas’, or Commercial people, who were traders or merchants by profession.
Here, it is relevant to mention that there was also an analogous group of traders among the Dravidians, who had occupied the Indus Valley and part of India, before the advent of the Aryans. They were called ‘Panis’, from the Tamil Brahmi word for money ‘Panam’ (பணம்/ पणम). They were mostly Arabs and Babylonians who had come from the Middle East.

Lastly, there was a caste called the ‘Shudras’, which meant the common people, who were Dravidians. It is important to clarify that not all the
Shudras were Untouchables. Instead, there are two main classes among them,viz. (1) the Upper class Shudras, who were traders and artisans, and were not outcast or treated as Untouchables. They are the ones who were called ‘Dasas'( Dahae in Persian) by the Aryans in the old times, and are now categorized as the OBC , that is, Other Backward Castes, to distinguish them from the lower Scheduled Castes.
(2) the Lower class Shudras,termed ‘Dasyus’ earlier,were the pre- Dravidians or Aborigines of India. Some of them took to staying in forests and were called the Forest/Vanvasi Tribes or Adivasi Tribes. Now, they are also known as the Scheduled Tribes and Backward Tribes.

Those who stayed on in the cities were made to do Menial work as sweepers and scavengers. They were the ones who were the Untouchables, Backward or Scheduled Castes.

Yet, in the beginning the divisions of caste were not rigidly limited to birth within any caste, and there was opportunity for meritorious individuals of lower castes to get a place in a higher caste, as in the case of the low-caste boy Satyakaam, the son of a courtesan, who was accepted by the Rishi Parashar as a Brahmin disciple, because of his stark Truthfulness about his Low birth. Later, however, the right or merit of persons was decided by birth, which turned the system into a social evil, as it led to unfair debarring of worthy and deserving people of lower castes from competitions of prowess in the arts of warfare, like archery, or fighting with spears, etc. in order to make it the Monopoly of Brahmins and Kshatriyas.

This is clearly seen in the case of Karna, the valiant character of the ‘Mahabharata,’,who though actually a Kshatriya by birth, being the first son of Kunti, the mother of the Pandavas, was humiliatingly forbidden to take part in a competition of archery with Arjun, the favorite disciple of Guru Dronacharya, as he was brought up as their child by a couple of the Charioteer caste, who found him in a basket floating in a river, after he was abandoned by Kunti, the mother of the Pandavas, for having been born to her through the Surya God before her marriage, and thus mistakenly regarded as a ‘Sutputra’ ! Likewise, the story of the Forest tribal boy, Eklavya, the self-appointed disciple of Dronacharya, is also well known to all.

This rigidity of the ‘ higher than thou’, and ‘touch me not’ attitude of upper castes designed to exclude deserving members of lower castes from
the privileges reserved for the higher castes, was a very unfortunate aspect of the Caste system, as it aimed at keeping the lower castes in the downtrodden position by denying them the right to get education and training to further their prospects, and to partake in contests against the higher castes. This highbrow outlook of the Upper castes also affected
their mutual relations adversely, leading to revolt against the oppression
in course of time, and to weakening of the solidarity of the Hindu Society. The case of Karna in Mahabharata, who developed hostility towards the Pandavas, and joined the Kauravas, because of their scornful attitude towards him, as the son of a charioteer( though he was actually a Kshatriya, which was not known to anyone but to Kunti and Krishna), is an example
in point.

However, after the independence of India, much has been done for the uplift of the Dalits or downtrodden castes by the Government of India, under the pioneership of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, himself a Dalit, who composed the Constitution of India, and by Gandhiji, to reduce the gap of status between them and the Upper castes, cleaner facilities and better, modern toilets devised to make their cleaning work less demeaning or obnoxious. They are also encouraged to study and take up more dignified jobs by the introduction of the system of Reservation for them in Government educational institutions and civil service. Some of them have also joined the Army.

On the other hand, the Upper castes too, have been forced by circumstances over the years, to adopt non-traditional professions.
For example, many Brahmins have turned to Trading , in place of Priesthood and Teaching of Vedas. A good number of Kshatriyas too have become Merchants, while Vaishyas are working as Teachers in schools and colleges.

In short, it is high time other communities and countries changed their view about the Caste system in Hindu Society, and prejudice towards it.

(22) If Only I Had A Magic Wand !

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If Only I Had A Magic Wand : PART- I

It is said about Gautam Buddha’s life, that in his early years as Prince Siddharth of
The Kingdom of Lumbini in Nepal, he was kept totally away from all the aspects of life that could cause sorrow, because a Seer had predicted to his father, King Shuddhodhan, that his son would become a Great Figure in his life, either as a Mighty Emperor, or as an Ascetic and a Renowned Prophet who would bring Spiritual Enlightenment into the World.

King Shuddhodhan naturally wanted his son to grow up to be an illustrious Conqueror, A ‘ Chakravarti’ King, not an Ascetic. So he made it a point to ensure that the Young Prince would not see anything that might make him sad and disillusioned with Life, and turn his mind away from Worldly Pleasures towards Renunciation. Thus all the Royal members of the Palace, as well as His officials and attendants were strictly instructed not to speak about, or letPrince Siddharth chance upon the sight of any kind of suffering, especially Infirmity, Illness or Death, but keep him surrounded by only good and joyous things and sights.

All his subjects of course, followed the King’s orders faithfully, and made every endeavor to keep the Prince happy all the time. In course of time, the King also got him married to a beautiful princess, Yashodhara, from whom he begot a son, who was named ‘Rahul’.

Everything went as per the King’s desire, and the time came for Prince Siddharth’s coronation, which the King was eager to do soon, and anoint him as the next King. However, one day, The Prince became weary of remaining confined to the Palace and its gardens all the time,and Urged Devdutt, his cousin,who was appointed to be his companion, to take him for a round of their Kingdom, as he felt he should see it before becoming the King. Devdutt, at first, tried his best to dissuade Siddharth from going out of the Palace precincts, as he had been warned not to allow the Prince to venture out before announcing to all the subjects not to let any sorrowful scene to come before him. But Siddharth was adamant and prevailed upon his companion to take him round the Kingdom capital.

As they went around in a carefully enclosed carriage, The Prince was, to begin with, delighted to see the world outside his palace. However, at one spot, he saw a poor, old man sitting in a corner.
His hair was all white, and his body and face were all skin and bones! The Prince had never seen an old person earlier, so he asked his companion who the man was, and why he was looking so emaciated and haggard. The latter told him,” He is an Old man”. The Prince asked again what
it meant, and he was told again that it is a late stage in life and that everyone becomes old sooner or later, with advancing age.The Prince became pensive, but asked to be taken further.

Some time later, he noticed a man lying on the side of the road, obviously unwell and in distress.He inquired again, and learnt that the man was ‘Sick’. On questioning what that was, he was informed that he was suffering from a disease, and that everyone falls prey to such indisposition of the body sometimes.Prince Siddharth became rather disappointed with what he had seen, but kept on moving ahead.

After going still further, the carriage stopped by the side of a lane. Prince Siddharth asked his charioteer who was driving the carriage, why he had brought the carriage to a halt. He did not know how to tell the Prince the reason, but just then a funeral procession passed by the side of their carriage, with some people carrying the bier of a dead body for cremation, and the people who were going with them were crying and moaning. At this sight, the Prince became very bewildered and upset. He had never seen a dead person till then, and so he wanted to know why the man (who was dead) was so still.The charioteer by now knew what the Prince was going through, but he had no choice except to tell Siddharth about ‘The Ultimate, Bitter, and Inevitable Truth – Death, The End Of Life’.On hearing this, the Prince asked Devdutt whether it happened to some people only, or to all, and was Inconsolably distressed on the ‘ Revelation’ that it was the definite and inescapable end of every life, high or low!

That night, Prince Siddharth could not bring himself to sleep, as the sight and knowledge of the condition of the three men left him shattered. He pondered over it throughout the night, and came to the decision that he would have to renounce the World and all it’s temporary luxuries,
To meditate and discover the path to attain emancipation from the cycle of Birth, Decay of the body by Old Age,and Death,and spread that knowledge to all Mankind!
So later that night,Prince Siddharth took a last look at his beloved wife and son, sleeping soundly,and slippedout of the Palace to walk away towards the Forest for a new beginning in life
– as Gautam Buddha,’The Enlightened’,And stayed in the Forest till he finally attained’ Nirvaan’, delivery from the cycle of Birth, Death and Rebirth!

The inevitability of Old Age, Sickness and Death has vexed Mankind since ages, for No one who has been Born in this world can escape the ultimate destiny of Aging and Death, but not everyone can renounce the world because there is so much suffering and fear of death in it at every step owing to the fragility and vulnerability of the body to accident, disease and death.

However,a lot can be done to alleviate the suffering through prevention or treatment of untimely physical and mental ailments of living beings with the help of the advances made by Medical Science, esp. in Rehabilitation Surgery and Cosmetology.

So an effort is being made by Humanity to work ‘Magic’ with the aid of the ‘Magic Wand’- Medical Science!

If Only I Had A Magic Wand : Part II

Much progress has been made in the field of Medicine and Surgery, to cure Disease, thanks to advances in Pharmacology, because of many illnesses which took a toll of life in earlier times such as Typhoid, Tuberculosis,etc., have become curable now.

New techniques in Surgery have enabled Physically Handicapped persons,Particularly by Ophthalmic, ENT, Orthopedic and Plastic Surgery, to perform some of the bodily functions like eyesight, hearing, speech, and locomotion lost through Illness or accident, or perhaps absent
from birth, by techniques like the use of artificial aids, such as prosthetic limbs and facial parts to supplement or replace un- or underdeveloped or amputated limbs, synthetic lenses and Retinal implants to correct eyesight, as also Cochlear Implants in the ears of the partially hearing-impaired, in addition to hearing aids, etc.Moreover, those who are deaf but not mute are also being taught to speak employing the touch method used by the teacher of Helen Keller.

Medical Progress like Reparative Operations like Angioplasty of blocked blood vessels by the use of synthetic stents, Cardiac By-Pass Surgery, and Installment of Pace Maker in the Heart, has become well- known to all, as it is already in practice.

Lately, research is being done to restore at least 50% vision to blind people by implanting light-sensitive tissue or synthetic material known as ‘Bionic Eye’ which is an Artificial Bionic Retinal Implant (with Electronically Powered Point, Light sensitive Template), connected to the Optic nerve, where by blind people with retinopathy and other optical damage or deficit, can see enough to recognise faces and big objects.

Attempt is also being made to produce new organs like Liver, Kidneys, and other types of Tissue by the growth of Stem cells from Foetal Embryos in Tissue Culture, for the replacement of grossly damaged tissue that cannot regenerate by itself, in place of transplant of vital organs, in serious cases like Liver and Kidney failure, which are life saving discoveries.

Another milestone is in the field of Genetic Research, whereby a breakthrough can be made in the Cure of Genetic Disorders like Down’s Syndrome,which is a type of Mental Retardation due to an extra 21st chromosome.

It is also claimed that cure of the dreaded condition of Amnesia,viz. Alzheimer’s Disease is also within view, as the cause of it is said to have been located recently.

Thus, there is no end to the possibilities in which human suffering can be lessened.

However, it is seen that not much has been done for those unfortunate people who are not handicapped or disabled,or ill, but whose Face and looks are disfigured, either on account of skin conditions (like untreatable Vitiligo,I.e. Leucoderma or other pigmentation disorders like hyperpigmented patches on the face, or hairiness of the face and body of some women); burn injuries, accidents due to chemicals, and nowadays, last but not the least, deliberate acid attacks for revenge!

Though these people may not suffer from much functional disability, unless a vital organ like an eye or a ear is damaged, they experience a lot of social embarassment and emotional distress because of their disfigured appearance, which has an isolating effect on them.In other words, their problem is of a cosmetic nature, more than a health problem.

It is these people who can be helped considerably by the provision of Cosmetic Aids, devised to hide or camouflage the unaesthetic looking parts or patches on the face and other exposed parts of the body, so that the affected people can move about with less embarrassment or self-consciousness in society,      and at their place of work.

A) Taking the case of Vitiligo or Leucoderma, that is, patchy or white patches causing discoloration of the skin, Durable Skin dyes like Mehndi and Alita, but of the natural skin color, if possible to produce, may help to camouflage discoloured patches of the skin of the face, neck, and the exposed parts, and they can be applied from time to time when the original coating fades.

B) Face Masks made on the same principle as Hair Wigs, made of firm, absorbent and porous material with openings for the eyes, and mouth, and a pocket like hollow space for fitting the nose, in skin color, and the original face painted or printed on it, should be manufactured for covering the face of burn and acid-scarred victims while going out, if the burnt skin cannot be replaced by cosmetic surgery. For skin dyes may not hold on fast,or evenly onto the scarred skin of these patients.

(Till then, seeing the trend of Sachin Tendulkar’s and Narendra Modi’s fans donning masks of their favorite personage, I ‘ve got an idea that people whose face is burnt or disfigured due to go whatever reason, should be permitted and encouraged to go about, wearing a mask resembling their own original face for ready recognition, and other people should also be persuaded to accept them with the mask without ridiculing them).Another idea I have is for help to the Hearing Impaired. At the moment, they need interpreters of their sign language to communicate with others. Perhaps, it may be possible to make use of the advances in Technology to dispense of the need for human interpreters by devising electronic aids which can take their place, by somehow translating written words, in phonetic form, as though spoken by a human interpreter, by typing words on a gadget (as one does on a cellphone or Tablet to send a message) , which would be converted into and transmitted as an audio message; or it could be like a mini hand piano which would vocalize desired words linked with its keys with the help of a dictionary.( For example, suppose the person wishes to say Apple, the gadget should produce the word in an audio form on a key or button on the body of the instrument being pressed). Or else, in the case of those who are hearing impaired but having normal vocal cords, they may be able to produce words vocally by the use of an instrument similar to a mouth organ, but designed to produce words instead of music by blowing through it in a certain way.                     Now, that type of gadget is at hand, called the ‘Digital Glove’, manufactured by  a Pune Student, Abhijit Kathwate, which is a glove like apparatus, operated with sensors for the five fingers,and a palmsized controller made of Hardware, whereby simple hand movements and gestures are translated into simple signs for words. It is very inexpensive too, just for ₹5500, and hence afford-able to most people, as well as easy to use. If Blind people can now put their thoughts across, thanks to the invention of Braille for the blind to read and write, then why can’t the deaf-mute be helped also with the developed Technology?

Hence, though a lot of improvement has already occurred in the health status and longevity of Humanity due to Medical Research from the time of Gautam Buddha, there is scope for further betterment of the life of the handicapped by research in the field of Cosmetic aids and surgery, and Electronics.

The MORAL is, the solution to worldly suffering does not lie in running away from the world due to fear of the liability of the body to suffering.
The better principle is to try to reduce the incidence and severity of it with the help of the ‘Magic Wand’, Medical Science!

[ I wish it would be possible to find some effective remedy for the restoration of the Honour(आबरू)of rape victims too, so that they could become free of the stigma of rape, as well as of their emotional scars, and mental illness, but that is essentially a social problem, which cannot be solved by means of reparative surgery like Hymenorraphy alone.
Only society and social welfare workers can alleviate if not eradicate, if only they had sympathy for women!]