December 21, 2013

The Aaya is not the solution

Families have always had to deal with this choice - should women stay at home and care for the children or they go to work and leave the kids with caretakers?

With the emerging concerns of women's liberation as is so often labelled within this modern social revolution, the dynamic is to entice women to step out of the home. The push is so purposeful and the urge to comply so enticing that it may often even go unawares against the grain of a person’s deeper heartfelt thinking. It’s a matter of everyone going along with the globalizing trend that is sweeping the new generational thinking - sometimes with the fear of being alienated if we don't comply and get on the band wagon.

From the point of view of the plight of the future family and the child it raises, let's then look at what happens to the child left at home. We need to realize that that the little human being we leave in the house is not a small adult, but is an evolving being. That little being will be influenced by the environment in which it is nurtured. So naturally it will follow the nature of force with which it is left as the sources of influence. Unfortunately, such influences as the grand parents or other relatives who lived with us in extended family systems is no more; and even if grandparents are live-ins nowadays, they have no say because increasingly, the new households they inhabit don’t belong to them. Instead, in our nuclear families, the nurturing force is the foreign Aaya in the house as both parents spend their time in the office or work environment. I wonder how many parents think about the plight they are putting their children into! Do we think that such children left in aaya-care will imbibe the true values of character and responsibility we want to give our children?

Whenever I take up this topic, the quick retort I seem to hear and see is a defensiveness that voices the argument or logic of the liberation movement. We must really think deep about how we choose to manoeuvre the mental make-up of our children if we are to nurture a caring community of the future. Unfortunately, we seem to care more about making perfect the moment and the physical outside of the child as we move ever deeper into the throes of a materialistic society. Please be aware that a child brought up in psychological neglect cannot be expected to be a responsible citizen of the future.

In this modern day of communication revolution can we better mediate our living and workplace choices that will allow our home to be more parent-friendly and our children to have close at hand, thoughtful parents and wise grandparents rather than foreign aayas as the source of character building? Let’s remember that when our children turn out bad we have only ourselves to blame. We cannot blame our children or even the aayas.  

December 18, 2013

Morning musings

A morning walk in the brisk chill of a sunny Carolina winter, and I see a caution sign planted in the manicured green along the pathway, “Pet waste spreads disease - fine 20-200 dollars! Please clean up after your pet and keep on leash!” To me this was great reflection of a sense of community responsibility. Yet another thought too sprang up in my mind as my morning walks usually do as I commune with nature. Why keep pets in the first place? Yes, it’s an opportunity to show our love. But why do it to an animal? Don't we have enough human beings needing love? Maybe many think they don't have the opportunity to do so and therefore show it to an animal. But then how many have thought deeply on this urge to show love and not have sought the many ways one could do that for human beings in need? Or is it that here too our selfishness gets the better of us unawares? Is it that we want to keep our investments of love under our control - albeit having the dog or cat or other with us, so that our investment is “protected”? When the cat or dog gets lost by any chance, do we feel sad and distraught because we have lost our investment? Why can't it be that this loss is not seen as a loss, that this investment in another is seen as something done for the good of a sentient being? Why can't we give more to society as a show of love? Is it that this same scenario of selfishness plays out even when we give out our benevolence in cash or kind to humanity; that this giving may turn out in a way that what I give maybe used in a wrong way? Many such excuses as ego-nudging go on unfettered. 

I would say here that it is not our concern when we truly give with our heart behind the giving. Whatever the other does with what we give is for that person's Dharma to dictate. Our calling by God is to give and hope to make a difference in this world. We cannot make the world the ideal world that we want it to be, and in fact we may never even know if that ideal world we have in our mental picture should be the ideal world for everyone. Ultimately it is God that will enable us to find that ideal that we may not even know. Our job is to just keep giving and keep our trust in that Providential Source. 

December 9, 2013

Bonded in democracy

Democracies in developing nations seem to keep up the vestiges of bondage in one way or the other. Take for example those who are dependent on public service jobs for their subsistence. Scores of people fit this category especially in smaller nations. When their position is under threat of loss, the mental agony of uncertainty can be excruciating. Where can they go to find the means to eat and look after their families? This stress is worse in those with increased family responsibilities or their age hiking beyond the middle age. Loss of a job means only the painful safety of a few month savings as bolster at best. Most times those who don't own their own abodes but are renters face the fear of loss of this security also. Thus out goes what holds our self-respect and human dignity. So what is the solution for this state of affairs?

Modern democracies seem the solution even as we continue to say that even with its faults, there is no better one for governance available.  Perhaps that is why we in Maldives also decided to opt for it. Yet, that element of domination we want dispelled from it seems still there for keeps.  We are provided the ‘shelter’ of parties or such loyalty just like in the past when there were godfathers in society who safeguarded our 'safety' for a price. New fabrications of democracy ensure only too well this safety by the purchase of our allegiance of obedience in so many ways. Yet in the fluid environment of political intrigue that lines the edifice of our democratic life, the anchor of such support is fleeting even though seemingly certain. Given the emotions of a moment -- today's supporter maybe tomorrow’s adversary. But the hapless member -follower needs this thread of a tether and lays his life and human dignity on this flimsy hope of gifts his subordination will bring. When this hope is shattered as is often, he moves to the shadows of others who will give him that momentary shelter of security he yearns, and this iteration of a charade proceeds in an unending cycle of political titillation. So goes the play of security and freedom in our minds in democracy.

This story is not unfamiliar to our fledgling democratic experience in Maldives either.  Our populace most of whom look to the public sector for employment and mental security are mired in this uncertainty. The inherent mercurial nature of politics cannot give sustainable succor to our insecure minds as long as the causes of our insecurity are not addressed. 

The solution has to be a turn for compassion in democracy. Fortunately, our smaller communities can exercise this attitude even though the larger ones may not be able to so quickly. In these early days of our democratic experience we should vigorously attempt to give the basics of security to our people such as secure housing, pension schemes and health care to still our anxiety of old age when we can work no more to earn, the relevant quality of education for our children or the access to loans to allay the remaining insecurities in our lives.  When compassion is exercised in the giving, responsibilities can also be evoked from the receiver much more easily. Short of this, our democracies can only be empty shells under which we live out our lives in the irony of bondage.

December 7, 2013

Icons are forever

A legend has departed. Mr Nelson Mandela will be remembered for transforming the political and moral path of Africa and the world. It is bewildering to behold in this day and age how one soul can do so much to lift the moral fabric of our lives by the show of role-modelling. His struggle for liberation from the yoke of human domination that societies fabricate was the genesis of his early political activism. But I am most touched by his courage of forgiveness; of his ability for laying down his bitterness towards those who perpetrated his persecution and took away close to three decades of his life to incarceration. And still continued tirelessly the emphasis for national reconciliation. He did not seek avenge for his losses, but instead exercised compassion. Yes, periodically, Providence thrusts such icons into our midst like lighthouses that should illuminate the darkness of our lives to keep us from treacherous corals. We pray for more of such souls to grace our terrestrial path. 

We need to learn from such lives of forgiveness to make our nation too free of division and conflict and embrace tolerance and social harmony.  

December 5, 2013

The value of a smile

The girl at the memo counter kept her eyes on her work as she reach out her hand to take the prescription for an x-ray that I held in my extended hand. "The ID card!" She said, her eyes still focused on the keyboard of her computer into which she was punching in the information. Soon she had a print-out that she handed over to me -- still her eyes not meeting mine nor any expression of even a whiff of a smile that could impress me as a patient or customer. I wait for just another moment hoping to see that hint of a smile light up her face -- for I wanted so much to see that it is the human touch that makes for quality of care -- not the physical facilities in an institution as most would want to think. Alas! That smile never emerged.

This episode could be counted at many of our counters, in travel offices, hospitals, government offices, and many other service spots. What's the value of a smile? It matters the world of good -- for spreading kindness, good will and compassion. Alas! In our country we have lost much of that touch as we lean strong into the ways of development and competition and big egos, leaving behind not even as vestiges the good of neighborliness and sharing that our forefathers had left for us. But the contradiction is that in this new age of the business and personality ethic, smiles are much of today's fare, even though plastic. Are we losing both worlds?

Can we do something to revive these? A smile doesn't cost us anything and yet we are reluctant to give it.