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The maze builders were constantly busy. The maze walls built over the centuries were crumbling under the onslaught of time. It needed constant repair. They also needed to innovate ; chart twisted paths that led nowhere; build circular loops that bought one to the starting point again and again and design dead-ends that could be mistaken as safe havens. They were skilled men and it was no challenge to them. They built mazes that paralleled their twisted minds.Together they made a network of mazes and they marvelled at the power of their collective accomplishment.
They lived in the maze all their lives; that was what they knew. That was how their ancestors had lived. That was what their ancestors commanded them to be. Some commands were written down centuries ago and these were venerated. Some were not written yet passed on through the generations as tradition. Some commands were encoded in their DNA. No one knew why or how these commands came about. The maze builders didn’t care to ask “why?”. They interpreted the commands the way it suited their individual purposes. And they knew the way in and out, so they had the power.
Some maze builders decided to give up and live under open skies with no walls. They were called bad names and sneered at. “Not man enough”, the maze builders declared. Though some secretly wished their daughters and grand daughters live a life out there without walls with these “pussies”.
Now and then a daughter got lost in the maze.These same men, the fathers and brothers uncles and nephews ,those who contributed the bricks and the brawn ;Those who helped built the maze ;Those who helped sustain it, Wondered how to find her. They scratched their bald heads in bewilderment. They cried. They stood helpless. Powerless in spite of their intellect.
“Woman, How can I find my sister? How can I get her out of that maze? Where is the way in and where is the way out?”, a maze builder asked of the one who was always there for him. He opened his heart and showed how it bled for his sister trapped in someone else’s maze. She looked at him from where she was sitting, with her back against the wall, with compassion. Her heart bled too for his sister and all such lost. But she was too weary to think. There was no words of hope she could offer. No solution that she could think of. No action that she could do to at least save his sister, if not all. All she could do was to make comforting noises. His big tears dropped into the cement , which his hands kept mixing by habit. There was no need to add water….so much was his tears. He continued to work as he brainstormed a solution, picking up the bricks and building by rote. Soon his work was close to completion , but the solution was not.
He laid the last brick with the skill of a master’s hand that could work without any input from the brain. Thoughtlessly, you could say as his thoughts were elsewhere, with his lost sister. The blue print of the dead-end he designed fluttered in the wind. The woman, the one who listened to his worries, the one who comforted him , the one who was someone else’s daughter, sister , would now forever be trapped in the dead-end, with her back against the wall. His work was done.
As darkness descended over her as the last brick was laid; as she huddled to rest her weary legs after the run in the circular maze, a question arose in her foggy mind. “Why didn’t she, his sister, ask for help?”.
————-end of Allegory —————
The above is an allegory of the hypocrisy of men that still persists in our “society”, especially the Indian society. These men wish and encourage their daughters/grand daughters to be brave as “Jhansi Rani – a fearless queen who lead her country to battle” yet treat their life partners as lesser humans. They expect the women to fear them; worship them. With no thought to the example that they are setting and how their actions shapes the society that their own daughters end up living in.
I have witnessed personally these “powerful” men stand helplessly in front of a equally aggressive male, less than half their age, who is abusing their daughter/sister/niece. With all their alleged intellect and power they have been unable to even dream of a solution that doesn’t involve heartache for all the involved parties or some form of destruction. They continue with their aggressive behaviours towards women like animals ,that are incapable of change or evolution , if they are not pleased with the smallest innocuous thing. Yet they never take that tone with this aggressive male on larger issues and walk on egg-shells around him.
But what confounds me even more is the inability of these abused women to ask for help. I blame the ‘take whatever shit comes your way with patience and a smile only then your are an “ideal woman” ‘ mentality of this society where women are worshipped (and whipped) for their high tolerance to non-sense and patience.
The solution in the case of the maze-builders is simple, men: rip down the walls; women: scream for help. In real life, men: treat women as you want your daughters/sisters/nieces to be treated. Let all learn from your actions. And women , ask for help and do not tolerate non-sense… If not for you, for the future of your daughters.
It’s Diwali 2014….the ‘festival of lights’ for Hindus. The ‘light’ symbolizes, among many things, victory of good over evil; knowledge over ignorance.
For years I have scrambled, like many of my fellow Indian Immigrants in the US, to recreate the Diwali of our Indian childhood days, before and/or after working hours and all after-school sports activities. My efforts have always fallen short of expectations that others have that I should uphold the traditions of our culture. Traditions that dictate that on a school/work day I wake up early than usual to prepare specific set of “labor intensive and high fat/sugar delicacies” to offer the God(s)as ‘prasadam’ and somehow assemble the family bathed and dressed at 6:45 am for a two minute “mini pooja” before they disperse to catch the school bus. To me, my religion has been a source of stress, resentment and pain. Sometimes, just a meaningless chore.
The basic “chore” portion of the tradition of Diwali is to light lamps inside and outside the house. Make special delicacies to mark the occasion and share it with family and friends. These symbolic gestures usually satisfy the “tradition police” and they think this concludes their religious duties. The “fun” portion of the tradition is that we wear new clothes and burst fire-works. No one seems to go beyond the ‘chore’ and ‘fun’ into the ‘core’. The true meaning of Diwali – to reflect on the Almighty and illuminate our minds, and share that inner light with the world to light up someone’s way home and give back to society- is either lost or not enforced.
So I decided to break free from those invisible chain of disapproving words and looks to start a new tradition. If there is no room for my new tradition in my religion, I plan to start my own religion(a sub-sect maybe). That’s how serious I am. Have a cool name picked up: KISSism. Where KISS stands for ‘Keep it Simple Sweetheart’. In “KISSism” the only tradition will be that we demonstrate love, compassion, empathy, acceptance, gratitude and most importantly common sense every day. And on special occasions, like Diwali, take the time to collectively come together to reflect and replenish the soul, over food that is easily available, tasty and healthy. Have fun if possible. Also to spread cheer in the society we live in by giving back.
On Diwali day, we are going to wear our new clothes and go about our daily routine of school and work. In the evening after soccer practice and homework, when we are all relaxed and our minds open to contemplation, we are going to offer freshly baked vegan brownies to the God(s), along with fresh flowers from our garden as our ‘prasadam’. We are then going to sit down as a family and share our reflections on “light”, list the things we are grateful for and list the things we can do to better ourselves. This Saturday, we are going to drop off some food for at a local food drive for needy families. My Diwali plans are all set! My soul feels light with these achievable and meaningful goals!
Wish you all a stress free, pragmatic and light filled Diwali !