Letters from Readers
Deeply moving flash fiction
I’ve been reading Khabar magazine for years as you publish many well-written articles. So, I wasn’t surprised to read more quality content including one short story by Ajay Vishwanathan (“Flash Fiction: Slippers and Garlands”) in the January 2022 issue. This story was short but incredibly deep in its message, delivery and impact. It dove so beautifully into the fear of mortality and facing life without your spouse. I’ve seen it firsthand and could instantly connect with the words in the story. My best wishes to the talented writer who took me to another world in just a couple of pages. It is always a wonder how fiction writers think and operate!
Very well-researched cover story on domestic violence
I very much enjoyed reading Pooja Garg’s wellcrafted, well-researched and informative article in the January issue (“Cover Story: When Home is Not a Safe Haven”) on the very important and disturbing topic of domestic violence. Her report and the following short (“Understanding Domestic Abuse”) information kit deserves to be read by more people.
The disturbing trend of increased domestic violence during the pandemic, that has been covered in the report, is aptly termed shadow pandemic. It covers the life stories of the victims of domestic violence (DV), the various factors triggering DV, as also the laudable work done by various national and international agencies and non-profits across the U.S. including Georgia to help the DV victims. The report urges the community members to help DV victims by offering them emotional and moral support, respecting their privacy, and helping them meet their material and physical needs. I feel that the harsh, dilatory and politically motivated immigration laws ought to be changed to help the DV victims. Finally, I agree with the late eminent Indian feminist Kamla Bhasin’s quote in the concluding part of this outstanding write-up, “My body is my biology. But my gender is socially constructed. We are taught gendering by society—which roles should the daughter play versus the son. Nature doesn’t say who is superior, patriarchy does. We are born humans but are put in boxes of defined gender roles.”
As a community, we need to dismantle these boxes.
I cannot thank you enough for dedicating the first issue of 2022 to the subject of domestic violence. The writer, Pooja Garg, has done an excellent job of unveiling this important issue, often not discussed openly. The problem has skyrocketed during the Covid-19 pandemic. It is very sad to know about the percentage of skilled Indian women facing this issue. All the nonprofits mentioned in the article have been facing a tremendous responsibility of not only supporting these women but also of keeping them anonymous. I have been helping some of the ladies who have crossed my path.
I have seen a lot of families, both Indian and non- Indian, facing domestic violence. Supporting these women as well as providing them safe places and much needed support is great but may not be enough. Raising awareness is the first step towards breaking the cycle. Being a pediatrician, prevention is always on my mind. A question that has often disturbed me is how we can intervene to interrupt this abhorrent problem.
As noted in the article, it is an intergenerational challenge! Our deep-rooted patriarchal values allow it to continue. How does it start? If a child sees a father abusing their mother and the mother is not able to protect herself at the time or does not prevent it from happening in the future, pretty soon, it becomes accepted as a norm within the household. Children and other family members cannot just intervene to stop the physical abuse. Mostly they get hurt too or just get yelled at to stay away. The violence continues along with its intergenerational effect on mental health challenges.
Childhood Domestic Violence (CDV) is where a child witnesses domestic violence. The website cdv. org has a lot of resources for all of us to be made aware. There is a plethora of information about child abuse but only about 15 percent of the people are aware of CDV. The children growing up in such an environment have deep scars and major psychological issues. They can grow up with a victim mindset or a perpetrator mindset.
As I mentioned above, a lot of questions run through my mind:
- Should gender equality be part of the upbringing for every child where we do not cater to boys more than girls? That can mold the boys to be respectful of their sisters, female friends and ladies right from early childhood. It will also help in building better self-esteem for the girls, the future women.
- Should we encourage the boys to be able to share their feelings? Let’s not avoid that by statements such as “Big boys don’t cry!” Instead, we need to guide them that it is okay to feel sad but that should not make them hurt anyone or themselves. We need to help them channel their feelings, particularly anger, in non-hurtful ways by giving them some tools for self-awareness.
- Even in childhood fights, parents need to be watchful that the kids do not gang up against one child, whether male or female. If we witness anyone physically hurting someone, can we intervene promptly and nip the conflict from getting worse?
- Now that parents are working from home, they can be more mindful of the online activities that the children are engaged in. A lot of violent video games are available online which provoke violent thoughts.
- Once the domestic violence is brought to notice, should the names of the perpetrator be made public as in the case of DUI violators or sex offenders? What consequences does a perpetrator pay? Mostly they hire good lawyers and avoid domestic violence in their reports, put family pressure on the ladies, threaten them with even worse form of abuse to the extent that most women do not seek help.
- Should we have topics like this discussed openly in community forums?
- Should the schools be provided with guidelines to look for children who are CDV victims? They can get counseling at the school and in their communities to avoid the spread of mental health issues.
- Can the community support the nonprofits in this area more by sharing their time, talent and money?
- Can the resources for the victims of domestic violence be provided to all the Indian regional cultural groups along with their parent associations?
This is a lifelong mission! I fully support it. I hope other readers will too.
Varada Divgi, MD
As I read the article on domestic violence in your January issue, I wanted to share my thoughts.
Rabindranath Thakur famously said, “Men can only think. Women have a way of understanding without thinking. Woman was created out of God’s own fancy. Man, He had to hammer into shape.” A woman carries us for nine long months and brings us to this world. She continues to nurture us forever, bestowing us with love that is selfless. It is no wonder, then, that Bankim Chandra’s Vande Mataram (“I praise thee, Mother”) sees entire countries as mothers. We also see a protective Ma Durga killing Asura. It is well known today that early women joined men in hunting mastodons. It is also recognized that it is women who started agriculture in Mesopotamia some 5000 years ago. It is most likely that women made the earliest homes too.
Today also it is she who turns a house into a home. She tries her best to create heaven on earth. An abusive husband does not know what he misses out of life when he mistreats that person. We do not realize that there is a very heavy price to pay by way of economic and other areas of backwardness when they almost enslave women who form half of the population. Incidentally and sadly, abusing women by their husbands is a global phenomenon: one out of three women is abused.
Let us discuss ways to prevent this abuse. The article in Khabar speaks of many important points. I would like to add a few more. In schools, we are taught the three Rs of reading, writing and arithmetic. But we are not taught how to make a happy home and form healthy relationships. Such learning, along with finance management at home, would probably go a long way to prevent abuse of women and lead to happy lives.
Secondly, the prevention of abuse of women should not be left to women only. The vast majority of men are not abusive and are supportive of the cause. Starting with teaching in schools and colleges, men should be given an active role and included in all efforts towards abuse prevention.
Glorification of sexual violence shown in movies and other media as something fun followed by the portrayal of women falling for seemingly innocent tormentors in films and advertisements needs to be curtailed strongly.
Girls should be taught how to protect themselves through martial arts. Likewise, boys should also be taught all about homemaking like cooking, washing and cleaning. Why not! This way men will have a better appreciation of the burden that women carry.
Prevention is always better than cure. I have proposed only a few preventive steps. There must be more.
A.N. ‘Shen’ Sengupta
Brutal treatment of Uyghur by China
China has been accused of committing crimes against humanity and possibly genocide against the Uyghur population and other ethnic groups in the northwestern region of Xinjiang. Human rights groups believe China has detained more than one million Uyghurs over the past few years in a large network of what the state calls “re-education camps,” taken away their freedom, and sentenced thousands to prison terms which has culminated in an oppressive system of mass surveillance, detention and even forced sterilization of Uyghur women.
In 2017, President Xi Jinping issued an order saying all religions in China should be Chinese in orientation. Since then, human rights reports have been published showing Uyghurs being used as labor and their women being forcibly tortured, fooddeprived, sexually abused, and even sterilized to limit the growth of the group.
BBC has interviewed several first-hand victims from inside the re-education camps who explained that the state has set up an organized system of cruelty, torture and mass rape. Tursunay Ziawudun is one of the victims. Several Western countries have raised voices against these inhumane acts of the state but China has said that it had released everyone from its “re-education” camp system, though testimony from the region suggests many are still detained and many were transferred from camps to formal prisons.
President Xi Jinping should take back his order that all religions in China should be Chinese in orientation. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This basic human right includes freedom of religion, belief, worship, teaching practice and observance.
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