தமிழ்த் தேசியம்

"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."

- Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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Journey Down Memory Lane To Reach 'tamiz Izam'
R.Shanmugalingam

Chapter 37

"Harmonious blend of tradition and modernity" seems to escape the grasp of some. There is a state of confusion as to what is good and what is not applicable to a changing world. This state of confusion is universal. Here in the United States, there is utter confusion as to the role of women. Tradition has it, the place of the woman is in the home.

Modernity has bailed out of this and given women the liberty to choose their way of life. Yet, when it comes to women outshining men in their chosen field, that transgresses men’s traditional monopoly, the clash is evident. In today’s election climate, men more than women have found an "Object of dissatisfaction." "Mrs. Clinton suffers slings and arrows of radio outrage."

An NBC poll puts 50% of men showed negative feeling towards Mrs. Clinton, as against 38% by women. I am not an expert on problems of gender gap, nor American way of life. The outrage so far seems to come from traditional male view and not on any specific conclusive evidence of wrong doing by Mrs. Clinton. My intuitive nature coupled with years of experience dealing with people helps me to notice the mental frame as shown by the facial and other forms of expressions. ‘akattinazaku mukattil terijum.’ "The face is the index of the mind." How many of those Clinton bashers were comfortable in the audience at the state of the Union address? A golden 12 minute free air time was used by Senator Dole to show his inner true color that gave away his otherwise guarded appearance of a man with grace and poise.

Taking a specific case of arranged marriage as opposed to the marriage of choice. I am deliberately avoiding the use of ‘love marriage.’ I would like to talk about me and my experience in the matter of matrimony. I was attracted to a lot of people, both men and women for various reasons. In my early years I was attracted to girls purely because they were different. There was nothing secretive or vulgar in being inquisitive about the opposite sex.

How many of us have played "house" when we were 4, 5 or 6 years old , may be even earlier or later than that? We chose partners either voluntarily or if there was somebody more authoritative, then partners were assigned to us. At that age I do not think it was for the welfare and to sustain married life of the "couple." It was the fancy and perhaps the ruse of the authority or the selfish motive to get her or his girl or boy of choice.

I know it because I used to be selected as the "Father" by an older girl, who happened to be the authority figure because it was in her home we played, and she was much older than most of us. In school it was fashionable to associate the name of a girl or boy. Sometimes the other party is aware of the interest and in most cases the interest is one sided. Many a school affair that could have been "calf love" continued for a long time and ended up in marriages. "Love at first sight" for me was "Lust at first sight" The attracting party was attractive to me physically.

How many ruses we have adopted to distract teachers from giving the days' lessons? I am reminded of an incident that happened in my Electrical Engineering class. The Lecturer was a feared man for his silent treatment. Students feared to cross his path. I knew of a friend of mine who drew a cartoon about his physical looks, who was two years my senior passed out one year after me. I do not still believe that lecturer was the cause, but I mentioned it to show that silent treatment can be dangerous. Any way we were discussing about like poles and unlike poles. That opened the window for us to introduce attraction for unlike poles and repulsion by like poles .

Attraction for women by men and vice versa. Gay matters were not that important those days, though that was a real bedroom or better boarding room bed or prison bed or army barracks bed matter. I was surprised why that was not an epidemic as some would like to call attraction between the same sexes. There was no permissive society then, and any pre-marital sex was an adventure and in some places more adventurous than climbing , Pidurutalagala,-the highest mountain in Sri Lanka, if my memory serves me well, and hence one would have expected a more active gay community, that was conspicuous by its absence.

Occasionally one hears of active ‘homos’ among religious custodians, who are subjected to celibacy, and the village idiot. My mother had a profound proverb, ‘kaLavum kaRRu maRa.’ "Experience is the best teacher." This form of gratification did not appeal to me. It was more an excursion with exertion in perversion in the desert going after the distant oasis for the flow of the drink. ‘VaLLuvar" has something to say about "Love":

So in the Electrical Engineering class, it was my turn to add to the discussion. I said, that we see thousands of beautiful women, and some even dress to look sexy, the urge to merge is sometimes very difficult to suppress. But our upbringing, character and the repercussions of an attempt to rape the woman, or even to approach her with a design to devour was out of the question. We have to reign in the animal in us.

The lecturer came out with his story. He saw a woman in "purdah" a dress worn by certain women covering from ankle to head with a slit or netting to breathe and to see without being seen. He was so attracted by the vision of a beautiful woman as seen from her ankle, he followed her to her home, and to his horror he found out she was the grandmother of the house. But I found out a truth in the statement, ‘Concealed beauty is more compelling than semi-nudity that is teasing.’ No wonder men exposed to such constant exposure fail to respond to the sexual needs of their women forcing extra-marital affairs, and men go to men and women to women, and the high rate of divorce, among other reasons. Valluvar has more for this:

Bond out of fond for one’s beauty or physical attributes , once developed into mutual respect and friendship develops into love and leads to a successful marriage. I developed that respect and friendship and now after 35 years of married life, amidst few circumstantial improprieties on my part, continues to grow. Now that we are "one for the two and two for the one," as the children are on their own and a welcome occasional visit is all that is possible, although it is probable we could all live together and continue with the traditional extended family system. It is not possible in this phase of our life’s struggle for survival.

The greatest satisfaction in this arranged and yet my choice and decision marriage is that no one was hurt. Probably a few were disappointed. I left the screening part to my parents, knowing fully well the decision was mine, and I am glad my parents also made a good choice. My older brother Mahendran missed this wonderful opportunity of giving my parents a part in assisting in deciding his future, who in their traditional desires and hopes wanted to participate. I gave up such hopes of tradition and gave my children a free hand, thus I did not allow tradition to interfere with modernity and that is one way of blending both harmoniously.

A major factor in arranged marriages was the dowry. The matrimonial market was at its peak and the going rate for professionals was in the laks. My father was a practical man. He had high hopes for his first born. He wanted to walk with pride among his peers, from the glory of his children. He has experienced his first disappointment, so naturally, the question of dowry was not the limiting factor in my case. The matter was left to the girl's party. I was a little surprised and asked my father about it because my mother has made arrangements to marry me to a doctor with a few laks.

He was speaking for the girl’s party. He said since Susila had no father I should not expect much in the way of dowry, and whatever that is earmarked for her will be acceptable. See the irony, a doctor had to pay to get a stud for life. Well in hind sight vision, I wonder that marriage would have lasted with my views on wealth, and life with a rich doctor who was also beautiful. I do not think that virtue of patience is the forte of rich beautiful ‘tamiz’ women. Wait a minute! Do not throw me out of the window! There are some and I know a very few with plenty of the thing called virtue of patience, but I know a lot many who belong to the former category, and some of them are single today, because their husbands predeceased them, or separated from them.

But if I was not careful enough to blend tradition with modernity in my marriage, I may not be writing about that to you all now. It would have been a different story or no story at all.

Why I almost brought my King sized Scandinavian Design bed to the main road is to emphasize the need to use our "top upper’ and evolve or design ways and means to make this a better world. Individuals will lead, or mis-lead, but, it is for us the creature with the sixth knowledge to act with vision for a better world. The base, the degenerate cannot do this, it needs vision. character, intense passion, pride, minimal sacrifice. Thiruvalluvar has another one for such a situation:

continued

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