Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Honor Killing

John 8:7
7So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.


From the Hindu, March 31, 2010 Chandigarh: In a landmark judgment, a Haryana court on Tuesday awarded the death penalty to five persons and life sentence to one for murdering a couple on the diktats of a ‘khap panchayat’ (caste-based council) for marrying against societal norms in 2007.

What is a honor killing and what exactly is the honor that one is willing to kill for? Can we understand how someone else sees their honor, to the extent they are capable of snuffing out a life to preserve their honor at such costs; usually by also inflicting a high degree of pain. A honor killing is also called a customary killing (sanctioned by custom). We have heard of the call “pistols at dawn,” in books and in history. That too was one form of honor killing, as are blood feuds. The idea that ones honor has been tarnished, insult levied upon ones clan, on the family, to the village, or a group—leading to the assimilated notion that it is an affront to the group—in turn necessitating taking the dire step of killing ones own, is something quite anachronistic and incomprehensible; as furthermore is the thought that only upon the deed being done is the honor restored to the individual/s.

In May of 2007 in the Indian state of Haryana, Manoj eloped with Babli, and married outside their sub-caste (gotra). They had faced opposition from their elders and moved to Karmal. In the meanwhile the Banawala khap had ordered they be killed, and announced a fine of Rs. 25,000 on those maintaining toes with the couple. On June 15, 2007 they were killed in cold blood.

Five of Babli's relatives Suresh, Rajindar, Baru Ram, Satish and Gurdev have been sentenced to death. The khap chief Ganga Ram was awarded a life sentence. The driver Mandeep Singh face charges of kidnapping and conspiracy.

There are other documented cases but one in 1975, the death of the Saudi princess Masha’il was accepted as a honor killing, and made into a film by Antony Thomas, a reporter and director. “
Death of a Princess” is believed to be the true story of her death.

talk posted on Frontline(PBS), with journalist Antony Thomas.

Europe has known such practices since ancient times, and the penalty was stoning under Judeo-Christian law. Among the ancient Romans, the pater familias retained the right to kill an unmarried sexually active daughter or an adulterous wife.

In June 2005 Faten Habash was bludgeoned to death, and her father was arrested for her murder. Faten was a Palestinian Christian, a Catholic by faith and Muslim by culture in Palestinian society. She desired to marry a Muslim. In issues of honor a Bedouin mediator is traditionally brought in. Hassan Habash wept as he gave his word that she would not be harmed, and she would be free to marry the man she loved—all that asked was that she come


John 8:8-11
8And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground.
9And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.
10When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee.
11She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Being in contemporaneity, or Existing in the existential while balancing on pointe

The spirit is the compelling force from within that exudes to the outside. In one who settles or walks seeking a spiritual path, or regards a chosen path as being a course of action for ones spirituality—the spirit will manifest itself, although it does not simply materialize; nor does it show up to make the notion any more real. The notion has to be one of surrender, acceptance, a commitment.

Most of what we do is for ourselves. It could be our personal practices as in a Way which we practice. In time we begin to see, or must hope to see our practices as larger than ourselves, yet nothing more nor less than what we thought at first. When our eyes set themselves on something beautiful the muscles essentially relax although they pulse. All is movement. When and if we see the sublime, our body tautens, the sight evokes awe and fear, even if be a tinge of facing the unknown. In both these situations, or if one was blessed by such experiences the solitary would perhaps stay in equanimity. One cannot decide to be so. Ones being has become such or has to become such. To stay in equanimity is to stare at what time places in front of us, what it subjects us to. Not stare as in gawk, but stare as in commune, in realizing that you are a part of infinitude, and are ready to accept the charge handed to you, even if that means knowing that ones time will cease, and yet not cease. One may be a long way off from realizing this, but its is in our bones. My purpose is to hold hands, and in the rare case to break them, although I shy from the latter.

We are, “a by-product,” as a good friend of mine says “of a lot of productivity”—of productive energy on the part of many others. The spirit is the shield and pointing towards salvation. This may come across as a very Semitic notion. I see it a little differently; as available to all. We must commit ourselves. Not to die, but an acceptance to what lies ahead and around; so in that sense committing to death. Much like being in the center of centers. You are not seeking death, but seeking your nature. Seeking who you are. Being one with the light as it shines upon you, as it awakens you, as it awakens us to awareness.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Three verses by Mumon from the Mumonkan

無門關, (Mandarin, Wúménguān)
無門関, (Japanese, Mumonkan)

The Mumonkan is a collection of 48 koans compiled in the early 13th century by Hui-k’ai
(無門慧開), the Chinese Zen master; known in Japanese as Mumon Ekai.

Case 23 Think Neither Good Nor Evil
You cannot describe it; you cannot picture it;
You cannot admire it; don't try to eat it raw.
Your true self has nowhere to hide;
When the world is destroyed, it is not destroyed.

Case 21 Ummon’s “Kanshiketsu”
Lightning flashing,
Sparks shooting;
A moment's blinking,
Missed forever,

Case 24 Faketsu’s Speech and Silence
He does not use a refined phrase;
Before speaking, he has already handed it over.
If you chatter on and on,
You will find you have lost your way.

Thoughts seeming from hearing about Leo Laurenco’s travails

From what was shared with me, it appears that Leo Laurenco was of an elegant disposition, contained the shastras, possibly an understanding of Arthshastra, and an ability to engage at a highly astute diplomatic level, although representing Portugal, the falling/fallen side—regarded as a foe. To begin with this must not have gone down well with our Indians (I am an Indian citizen and travel on an Indian passport). I believe that Nehru wanted to show the world the diplomatic stuff he was made of, and set out burnish his credentials with the African nations. The French did not play, had packed up and left. The Portuguese were around and there was calls from within to be set free so in that spirit, in such a setting, along with the accompanying incongruities of the oddity that Goa was, Goanity was / is—it was manna for Jawaharlal Nehru to showcase his statecraft. In the treatment meted out to the Goans as a whole, including those who saw and see themselves as its Freedom bearers JN basically fleshed out his thoughts, through his voracious votaries in governance. We later heard of Goans being “ajeeb”, to mean marvellous, fascinating, wonderful, strange, weird, queer and odd. That to me was indeed a compliment but the kind that one gives to a foe (later with bemusement at Goa and Goans—no less Indians on the scale of Indianess) who one does not understand. But we are not talking about the Romans in any form here. At India's hour of independence, we saw ourselves as defining our unique modernity—a deliverance; and everything that followed and continues to is part of that lineage—Indian modernity.

So the more I think, the more I realize that an indelible Indian modernity if we Indian's do care to know comes from Goa in a myriad of ways, by way of the artists AX Trinidade, Agnelo Fonseca, FN Souza, Bakibab Borkar, the poet Joseph Furtado, Brahmanand Sankhwalkar (a Brahma in the goalpost), Anthony de Mello (Brabourne Stadium, and CCI), Swapnil Asnodkar and Dilip Sardessai, Antao D’Souza (Pakistani cricketer), Uday Zambaulikar, our Goan scientists, our Mumbai tiatrists who may never seen respect from almost any government in Goa, our Goans tailors, our Goan teachers, our prostitutes (and dammit praise them too), Olympians who played for India and 
of course for Kenya, our Goan old men and women, Hindus, Muslims, and Christians—whether an empregad, the escrivão (my Grandpa at Pilar), the carteiro, or Ganga who boiled the rice; and whether one likes it or not Camoes too who incidentally was buried in the pobre pit. India lost a chance as in both the ability of the State to seek a model from within, instead of looking at befuddlement at an expressive people, as well as Indians who should have known better with all their analysis—Marxian included. There is an acknowledgement now, by way of a visible appetite to buy property and houses in Goa, and a little bit of time. For now.

There is something that we practice and that is called
taddhi par, to be exiled. The Konknni words for yonder/ boundary would be "todi/xim/mer" poltodi vashimar?! To be sent/banished into exile on the other bank (and no boatman may bring him back). It is a fascinans perhaps / truly a belief—considering that we as a people had regard for kala pani and underwent purification rituals upon returning to India. These are deep concepts although not much thought is given to them. In this vein what must it have been for Leo Laurenco to be born and raised in Goa, yet denied entry to Goa. Perhaps there was a legal instrument attached. I often wonder about such things although we are small fry. But when one looks within the minds eye, one sees a dark roiling of kala pani, an animosity that one does not know from where it comes, and whether we are in its path.

I also believe that the censoring of his book not been taken advantage of by the opposition political parties can possibly mean that the entanglements run deep.

This may be something that someone like Pavan K. Varma, would do a good job at uncovering. I am sure there are many others who have the resources to write even a superb fictional account, if not an analysis with all caveats of course; particularly when we are prone to soreness. The rewards could be stupendous.

I will keep an eye on this subject, as time goes. Publishing such memories is certainly worth it. They should be done if at all in the interests of us as a people with an autonomous mind, giving praise and cognition to other strands that course through our beings, ALTHOUGH MANY OF US ARE INDIAN CITIZENS PROPER; in the same way in which the children of freedom fighters are Portuguese citizens, others are citizens or Green card holders (I am) of the U.S.A., and other counties. The book, or memoires should never be republished to stick it to India. Forget engaging with that uber mindset of India, one must not do battle with it and it is not worth it. It is a dark mind that now has some of the best minds on board. This will change but we are not at that stage yet, nor will we be even five generations hence.

Take heart, Dhir gheyat. Write, even if be in a diary. Write it for your grandchildren. Even if you are hurt, try writing without attacking anyone. We have to becalm our minds. Attempt equanimity. That is something one can learn in Indian thought. Something that very few practice. Please try to do so—not necessarily bleed all over, but stay calm.

I also wish to say to the Leo Laurenco family that I hope you managed to sustain your spirits in Portugal and remained tall. In Christian spirit and our countervailing Dharma, I hope that you did not think too ill of Goans, the Goa of your mind, and the India of you banishment.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Loot of Indian artifacts; Goan too and also those of the mind

From India it was the Amravati marbles (200 B.C - 250 A.D., earlier referred to as the Elliot marbles) among other artifacts. Some of the most comprehensive and celebrated sculpture in the British Museum are the Buddhist limestone reliefs from Amravati.

Read, on

The Hindu, Feb 11, MMX:
In 1830, some of these marble slabs were taken to decorate a market square at Masulipatam and in 1854 they were brought to Madras Museum, along with the other pieces excavated by Walter Elliot, Commissioner of Guntur. In 1859, many of them were shipped to British Museum, London. They were popularly known as Eliot marbles, after Walter Elliot. Later, about 180 marble pieces were excavated from Amaravati and added to the Madras collection.

Again, from the Hindu via;
Who owns antiquity by A. Srivathsan.

If one looks at Nepal, its an absolute horror to learn how statues were hacked in temples in the Kathmandu valley. Read,
Lain Singh Bandel. In their case all the temples were active/in use places of worship.

The thing is, as those western societies were evolving they were looking out for themselves—collecting stuff, etc. If one looks at the connoted and denoted meanings they collected “everything.” There was deep collusion between the colonialists and our Gnyani classes and well as assorted subservients, who I presume permitted themselves to be convinced that it was productive to “sell asunder,” and/or to do their bidding. Basically those mawkish sibilants are still with us, and will continue to be for some more time.

On the Goan end, we got taken in at various levels considering that our overall understanding of even religion art and symbology (even at a devout level; forget artistic) is very scant. Until recently people would burn statues (marfim, ivory) when the heads would be broken etc. This means that there was something seriously screwed up with our mindsets. On top of it many believed those statues were made of wood with paint/plaster applied, and the knowledge that they were made of ivory (not wood) benefited quite a few others. Perhaps this was taught them—as Mervyn Maciel inquired about the
kurpa(grace) bit, in the Dev borem korum thread on Goanet. I believe certain ideas were inculcated into Goans. Basically dinned in, and there was a collusion between ecclesiastical authorities and the landed gentry. It turned exorcistical in that we were considered as being all sick, and had to be molded into something else. Various other groups aped the two top pillars in society as their understanding of things opportunistic were slowly solidified. To be filled with grace (kurpa) and making sure that people appeared innocent must have been one of it. It must have been good social engineering, but a lot (probably the whole nine yards) of this was manipulative.

In fact I heard that Goans who moved to Mumbai were scared of holding on to that card (forget what it is called) which could be useful in getting Portuguese citizenship. In fact people were convinced by others (Goans) what good is it, chuck it away. Some of those naysayers are now in Portugal after throwing a side punch at their simpler Christian brethren. Then our own priests went two steps ahead and shortened people's surnames in Mumbai. They could not wait and leave the old generation alone. They has to test their new found modernity in the big city.

Our priests have sold out a lot too, and they know who they are. So the machils, reliquaries, furniture, ciboriums are gone. I believe they are no longer getting the training in history, archirtecture, artifacts, etc. Even the presumed intelligent one who travel abroad for Youth conference this, and Abstinence Conference that, are full of something—for sure not
kurpa. People must be respected and cherished for their graciousness and egalitarianism, not for the ability to steal (at various levels). What is worse is that many of our god men (including priests) are absolute robbers. Please note the distinction between a thief and a robber. My way of seeing things is simple. Do what you must, and it that means “fancying a shag (all manners of this expression),” well OK—but understand what ones actions do/could do negatively to beliefs, families, marriages—and be comfortable in facing what comes your way.

Do not be Janus-faced.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“If you do a good job for others, you heal yourself at the same time, because a dose of joy is a spiritual cure.” --Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Irom Chanu Sharmila

The year is 2006. An ordinary November evening in Delhi. A slow, halting voice breaks into your consciousness. “How shall I explain? It is not a punishment, but my bounden duty…” A haunting phrase in a haunting voice, made slow with pain yet magnetic in its moral force. “My bounden duty.” What could be “bounden duty” in an India bursting with the excitements of its economic boom?

I have always been concerned as to how a State treats protests; any State, whether it may be the U.S. or India. Years ago my Diploma project was on Amnesty International. Only a few students and close friends saw it (I did not take part in the Diploma show); the issues that touched me was the level of brutality inflicted upon our fellowmen in the name of law and order, on prisoners — well, because they deserve it, or prisoners of conscience — because what right do they have to have an opinion to question the political framework or for that matter, machinations of state, and heaven forbid formulating consensus. We have no need for Chanakya (c. 350-283 BCE), leave alone a future Nana Phadnavis (1741-1800 CE). The larger congeries of citizens would rather lead an existence that is essentially illusory.

The story of Irom Chanu Sharmila is a thought for our awareness, for our times when most of us are concerned about — what we mistakenly see as the cake getting smaller, and so hasten to get what we perceive as our bounden share and more ever at any price to others, as indeed unwittingly to ourselves. But what is thankfully clear is that we still have Indians who are made of better stuff although our souls have hardened. In seeing them just perhaps we make think and feel a little differently.

For young Irom Sharmila, things came to a head on November 2, 2000. A day earlier, an insurgent group had bombed an Assam Rifles column. The enraged battalion retaliated by gunning down 10 innocent civilians at a bus-stand in Malom. The local papers published brutal pictures of the bodies the next day, including one of a 62-year old woman, Leisangbam Ibetomi, and 18-year old Sinam Chandramani, a 1988 National Child Bravery Award winner. Extraordinarily stirred, on November 4, Sharmila, then only 28, began her fast.

Irom Sharmila’s story should be part of Universal Folklore. In the tenth year of her epic fast, Shoma Chaudhury tells you why.