Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Jaycee Lee Dugard: A Trauma That Sparked Hope

One can hardly envisage Jaycee Lee Dugard’s dark somber past looking at her bright, unruffled face, and tranquil emotions. Appearing in an interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer, Jaycee exhibited incredible verve and optimism. Her insinuations for future appeared as clear and pleasant as a sunshiny sky. Sitting calmly with an immutable balance while talking about her past wounds, Jaycee not only looked magnificent, but also majestic. For someone whose life was wildly tangled as a child, Jaycee’s grandeur as an adult was indeed moving and inspirational. Her story dates back to 1991 when Jaycee’s life took an unexpected detour while she was just 11. Jaycee was kidnapped by a pedophile from a school bus stop near her home in South Lake Tahoe, California, and held captive for 18 long years.

As a child ensnared in a dungeon at her abuser’s backyard, Jaycee was subject to grave and unending sexual assault. Jaycee’s abuser, an ex-convict and a man in his late fifties was a sexual deviant and a chronic drug abuser. He mortified Jaycee with social isolation, and continual threats that ultimately led to a rebuttal of her true identity while she was under house arrest. In her predator’s sexual captivity, Jaycee at 13 and 15 was forced to bear two daughters with him. As a helpless child who was unknowingly nestled into motherhood, Jaycee saw a new meaning in her lost life with the birth of her two daughters. She says that her daughters brought her companionship during her imprisonment years with her captor. But in the midst of her solitude, and physical and mental cruciation, Jaycee never ceased to hope. While jailed to a circumstantial silence, Jaycee constantly dreamt of a reunion with her beloved mother though she was coached to forget her past and feel secure in her captor’s den than in the open air. In the lock and key of her abuser, Jaycee lived a chilling life until she was miraculously set free by an investigation sparked by the campus security of UC, Berkley.

Submerged into darkness like the unsinkable titanic, Jaycee narrated the deepest fears of her captive years on public television. She, however, seemed unfettered by her past and portrayed a persona of a cheerful, confident young woman who today is inspirited to resurrect her stolen years. It seemed that for Diane Sawyer interviewing Jaycee and listening to the unspeakable was nothing less than a phenomenon. One could see a stupendous Diane bedazzled with Jaycee’s strength and intentions of evolving out of trauma. For millions of onlookers Jaycee stood as an example of a lost child who had ultimately found her way home from a deadly maze. As a victim once, but a survivor today Jaycee certainly is a miracle of life. Her past represents a picture of woe that ultimately was destined to culminate in peace and joy. Most of all, her daunting account, her endurance, and the ability to embrace her past as it is and move beyond it indeed is a vestige of hope. Jaycee’s life is a journey of faith and holding on to the power of belief that even though life may appear as a rugged terrain, it does leave us with notable lessons. Jaycee’s story is not a reminiscence of her past, but a renaissance of victory and pride. 

Copyright (c) 2011 - present Dharbarkha.blogspot
Photo Courtesy: ABC News

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

If Education Was…

Benjamin Franklin once said, “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” The profundity of this thought reflects upon the significance of knowledge and self-expression. For centuries, education has been an uplifting attribute of self-awareness. Education leverages one’s personality, character, and moral consciousness. As a spearhead to extricate the self from dogmas and nuances of fear, education has been the handbook of insight that edifies positive behavior, indoctrinates intellectual expression, and stimulates self-exploration. But what happens when education is no more than a paper qualification? Or when an educated mind is stormed by pseudo effect that supersedes logic by bigotry and narrow-mindedness? Most people identify education with know-how and erudition, a mechanism that benefits them with employability and professional development. However, education is rarely taken as a supplement to enlightenment, open-mindedness, and refinement of the self. Had education been the core of mastery in life, man would have been much wiser and content than he is today. Negative thoughts, sulking behavior, greed, jealousy, anger and betrayal would thus have been replaced by joy, good nature, and peace of mind.

Moreover, violence, carnage, and abuse would have been infinitesimal currents in the life’s oceanic expanse had education been the force behind life’s flow. But the truth is that it is not. Perhaps it is one reason why many educated professionals live a duplicitous life where they perpetually craft ill means to put down others. For instance, many cases of dowry harassment and assault in India involve in-laws who are educated professionals, but have still made their daughter-in law’s life a living hell. Being educated and belonging to respectful families, these in-laws forget to be loving and respectful to their son’s or brother’s wife. They apparently forget that education does not teach them to suppress someone’s belief system, curtail their aspirations, or command their life. In such unfortunate and indeed unexpected circumstances, delicate relationships go haywire. Education also does not preach double standards where there are contradictory principles set for family members, such as privileges for the daughter and boundaries for the daughter in-law. The situation worsens in cases where an educated sister-in-law (who is a year younger to the daughter in law) acts as the second mother-in-law with her list of pretentious demands. The relationship decays when the same sister-in-law (aka junior mother-in-law) with her obsessive personality meddles in the day-to-day affairs of the married couple. The sister-in-law’s excessive intrusion of the married couple’s privacy puts the couple’s life on the edge. What then is the purpose of being educated if we do not learn to be progressive in our thoughts, or learn to be less self-indulgent and give time to new relationships? It’s like bringing a budding flower from someone else’s garden to replant it in your soil and expecting it to grow without any nurturance. The same flower may survive thinly for a couple of days in your garden, but without love and open air it would ultimately perish. Having the depth to understand such sensitivities in relationships is not just a matter of degree, but a matter of maturity and mindset. 

Copyright (c) 2011 - present Dharbarkha.blogspot
Photo Courtesy: Myspace

Thursday, July 14, 2011

It’s Dowry, Not Gender

With recent heed to the brutal crime of female infanticide, and the plans for imposing stringent regulations against the offenders of such crime, Indian government may also need to fasten its anti-dowry laws under section 498A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). The dowry system in India has been a cultural relic that over the years has proved to be pagan and covetous. As a hedonistic practice, dowry has made marriage in India a predatory tradition indeed. Eons ago, dowry was a custom that ensured economic security of the bride, and was not overwhelming for her parents. Today, however, it is an inundated obligation that leads to a massacre of innocent souls who are entrapped and pushed into a burning pot. Often, girls’ education, including the costs associated with her professional standing is a financial responsibility of the parents in India. Dowry though is an expense over and above this. Also, both rural and urban parents aspire to accomplish their responsibilities towards the girl child amiably. However, parent’s socio-economic statuses and the uncouth social and cultural pressures in society play a significant role against this endeavor. A majority of parents who are working class or are in the rural areas with least economic feasibilities can thus only fulfill bare necessities.

The fear, threat, and demand for dowry are so massive that a bridegroom’s family can easily chaff the grains from the grass while looking for a match for their boy. What counts as a suitable match for their ‘boy’ is a list beyond a girl’s character, values, or her professional education. It instead has to do a lot with her parent’s economic background, their bank balance, and ownership of property. Demand for dowry gets double in cases where the groom has a sister of marriageable age. There are requisitions and expectations that include expenses for the groom’s sister’s marriage reception besides marriage accommodation and travel expenses. This all is a collective burden on a bride’s helpless parents. Ironically, most gold digger in-laws are those who have daughter(s), and most dowry demands are initiated by mother-in-laws who have been someone’s daughters themselves. Insufficient dowry is also a prominent cause for family feud post marriage. In cases where the in-laws are not satisfied with the overall marital transaction, they continuously harass the daughter-in-law for dowry. However, if the daughter-in-law is not submissive enough to the pretentious and imposing demands of the in-laws, she is finally type casted as the ‘black sheep.’ Dowry is also an antecedent to domestic violence in India. Some of the Indian states with dowry as a rising criminal offense are Uttar Pradesh (UP), Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh (AP), Kerala, and Punjab. 

In addition, there are innumerable cases of dowry deaths and harassment that go unheard and unnoticed because of a patriarchal society that favors sons over daughters besides a failing law that hardly prohibits the lustful practice of dowry. Unfortunately, dowry is a social evil that mainly victimizes and traumatizes a girl, including her parents. In India, girls who are dowry survivors rarely have a strong social support system and anti-dowry laws are barely a blazing agenda among the political parties as well. Also, there isn’t enough political picketing against dowry and thus many poor and urban Indian families wish that they never bear a daughter. Dowry is a big devil that costs an exorbitant price for being a girl and for having a gender that is so ruthlessly knocked off in the womb or slayed at birth. Saving India’s unborn daughters from the clutches of a social evil like dowry would thus be a tribute to its lost and slain daughters.   

Copyright (c) 2011 - present Dharbarkha.blogspot
Photo Courtesy:  Lakshmi Prabhala/acctitude

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Support A Mother, Save Her Daughters

Mitu Khurana is a doctor by profession and is also an activist by choice. But many know her as a mother who has tirelessly fought for the survival of her two daughters. Post marriage, Dr. Mitu Khurana’s life came to a halt when her in-laws constantly harassed her for dowry. Later on, Mitu’s in-laws in connivance with her husband who also is a doctor demanded that Mitu abort the two female fetuses that she was carrying. Mitu’s husband and her in-laws ruthlessly and relentlessly compelled Mitu to either kill her unborn babies or put them for adoption. During pregnancy, Mitu had been constantly victimized and terrorized to change her decision of bearing her two little daughters. After invariable humiliation, physical abuse, and debasement of her dignity, Dr. Mitu Khurana went public about her atrocities. She filed a case against her husband and in-laws under the PC-PNDT (Pre Conception & Pre natal Diagnostic Technique) act. Since then, Mitu Khurana’s case has glared much media publicity and her story has been a marked column in several newspapers and magazines in India. However, amid the blazing uproar in the Indian society against female infanticide and sex selective abortions, Mitu’s mayhem remains forgotten. Her turmoil and trepidation to protect her daughters awaits a firm resolution and hope not only from Indian law enforcement authorities and the judicial system, or from the people of India, but from anyone who pledges their allegiance to end a vehement crime, such as killing the girl child. 

Today, Mitu’s little daughters are nurtured in Mitu’s fervency with unconditional love. They are growing up in an environment where girls are not feared, but treated fair and embraced with a dream. As auspicious they may have been to Mitu’s fight for her right, the little girls are also opportune to be born to a mother who has devoted her life and courage to a fecund cause. Mitu’s daughters have gifted her with a belief that when life is stormed with the unknown, one’s timidity turns into tenacity. In this hurricane of emotions, Mitu’s daughters have become her sole anchors that firmly hold the harbor of her life. Mitu’s little girls have inspired her to survive a violent storm since the day the girls were conceived. From that moment, the little girls’ lives have intertwined with Mitu’s life and her endurance to evolve out of insanity and shenanigans of her in-laws and husband. However, Mitu yet again faces a threat, an intention full of deceit that may even be misleading the Indian judicial system. The court has awarded Mitu’s husband the visitation rights of the children whom he desperately desired to kill in the embryonic stage, and subsequent to their birth never showed any interest in parenting them. A visitation right to the father of the children may also encourage visits from Mitu’s in-laws who nearly beat her to death and starved her while she was carrying the babies. Media reports suggest that Mitu’s in-laws have neither shown interest in loving and accepting the little girls as their granddaughters, nor have they ever shown any kindness and respect for Mitu. If this is the grudge that Mitu’s in-laws and her husband still carry against Mitu and her daughters, then the jurisdiction may be putting Mitu’s daughters’ innocent lives into jeopardy and, thus making Mitu more vulnerable. 

It seems any contact of the little ones with their father and Mitu’s in-laws may expose the kids to the risk of emotional abandonment. It may even lead to the chances of child abuse or neglect. In the given scenario of the harassment that Mitu has been put through, the potential harm that was plotted against the kids while they were in the womb and after their birth, and the evidence of a forged ultrasound on Mitu during her pregnancy proves that little girls would be best served and protected in Mitu’s custody only. Mitu’s case is an ordeal that many Indian women face being born and raised into a patriarchal society. Her story, however, is an inspiration of beating all the odds that surround the enthusiasm of her little girls. Mitu is a hero whose story is yet another chapter in the lives of those women who have survived at the cost of greed, treachery, and abuse, all that a girl is thrust upon when she brings values, ideals, and education in her marriage instead of ‘dowry.’ If Mitu loses her battle, we shall all loose our fight against a social evil. Eventually we shall loose hope on a nation, which is of the people, by the people, and for the people. Mitu’s sacrifice for her daughters is priceless and her appeal is to all those people who see a Mitu in them who constantly tussles till the last hopeful breath. If Mitu fails in her endeavor to save her daughters, a nation would fail and that ultimately would be a miscarriage of justice. 

For further information on Dr. Mitu Khurana’s case, refer http://barbararaisbeck.wordpress.com/. If you read this post and believe that Mitu has not been served justice, please support her cause and back her up with picketing at your level and spread the word. Perhaps that would be a foundation to an action. 

Copyright (c) 2010 - present Dharbarkha.blogspot
Photo Courtesy:  trface/youtube