Possession versus Appropriation

“It belong to dead cult, not for human being” (19).

     In the play Death and the King’s Horseman, Wole Soyinka explores the relationship of the dead ancestors with their living generations and future offsprings. This play is based on the life-style and culture of Yoruba city of Nigeria in 1964. At that time, Yoruba was under British Colonial, which serve as a vital role to drag the literary theme of the western African society—Indigenous versus foreign. There is a clash in interpreting Yoruba’s customs and traditions between the natives and the British. Hence, the concept of appropriation of other’s culture grasped by the British stands out to fight with the concept of cultural possession held by the Yourba’s people.

     What do you think, what could be the reason for Amusa to refuse talking about Elesin’s death with Pilkings when they were dressed in egungun costume? One of the reasons mentioned in the play is that the masquerade dress represented egungun men as “the reincarnated spirits of ancestors” (20).  Moreover, the dialogue mentioned above not only illustrates about Amusa’s fear of his ancestors’ power to subdue Yoruba people for violating the importance of dress, but also depicts the reality about appropriation.  In the play, Simon and Jane have used the sacred dress of Yoruba’s culture as an object for their entertainment. As Simon stated, “Well, I’ve got it on. And what’s more Jane and I have bet on it we’re taking first prize at the ball” (19). Hence, it is understandable that someone else’s culture or traditional equipments become a normal item to foreigners if they lack to understand its real meaning and significance. To take into an account, here Soyinka is not trying to show the cultural clash, but he wants us to realize the idea of taking away a sanctified thing and using for personal reasons especially when it is the things connected to someone’s culture.

     In the play, on one side, Amusa’s reactions demonstrate his anxieties regarding the misuse of his cultural dress connected to divinity, and, on the other side, the indifferent reaction shown by the foreign British. When Amusa saw Jane and Simon dancing in egungun dress, he “stiffens suddenly, his expression changes to one of disbelief and horror” (18).  It illustrates his concerns about the misusage of the costume. He was completely horrified because he knew the power possessed by that dress for conveying their ancestors’ warnings and messages. However, Simon and Jane are seemed to be relaxed because they take it as a normal dress which can be worn by anyone. Moreover, Simon confiscated the dress from the egungun men, and now, he claims to be his and uses it for personal reasons. This is a big gap between the indigenous and the foreigners in understanding the importance of one another’s culture and life-styles. Also, it describes the comprehension of others’ cultural values in two opposite ways, where, for Amusa, the cultural value is connected with upholding the ethical standards of his ancestors which is crucial to sustain his present and future living. Whereas, for Simon, the dress becomes a subject for amusement. Moreover, Simon isn’t concerned or unaware about the natives’ emotions connected with the costume.

      Therefore, taking possession to someone else’s property especially when it has religious and cultural value is similar as exploiting its importance. A person may take care of others society and people, what Simon does in the play, but if he violates their cultural identities, then he can never be able to adjust in that society to live a genial life.

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Belief and Determination uder Pressure

What would Digna do on witnessing the poor child suffering agony? Did her belief or her determination change?
A woman walked from place to place hoping to find magic that can cure the disease of a girl that has no blood connection with her. She ran from science to superstition. She asked help from don to doctors. Her belief seemed to be flexible; she seemed not to possess a specific or particular faith. However, whoever was in her situation could have acted like her. What should she do on witnessing her so-called daughter’s “body trembled and deep long moan[s], like a love call, ran through her” (70), and her body “shake[d] convulsively; …arched backward with superhuman force” (Ibid)?
The mother, Digna, was very religious; in fact, she “had the habit of talking with God” (11), she “lost herself in long prayer and confessions” (12). She devoted her time and health for God although she had to take care of her children and family without the help of her husband who usually went out for work. However, what did religions do to pay back her belief? What did God do to show His power? She didn’t see any symbols of God; what she saw was that “the Church was the friend of the rich and the foe of the poor” (63), what she noticed was that one religion considered the other as a rival. Hence, she was like a sheep without the shepherd. Inside her heart, she wondered whether her belief was an illusion or reality. And her faith seemed to be shaky.
As a result, she went to science with the hope to rescue the poor child from the torture of her malady. She hoped science could have a remedy to cure the child’s “English disease” (56).Yet in this country, somehow science was also not reliable. She asked help from a doctor, but what kind of treatment she received: “ignore [the child] and hope that when she grew out of adolescence she would also grow out of the attacks” (57). Hope. Yes, only hope. She went to him with a hope, and then she was asked to wait with a hope. If this hope wouldn’t be fulfilled, the child absolutely would continue suffering anguish until her demise.
What’s more, before obstacles, Digna was like a person downing in a deep river. She didn’t know what to believe in and what to do. Hence, she held on everything that she could think of. Somehow, she was like Callimo in “The Fortune Teller,” upon facing fear and confusion, his belief altered. He ran to the fortune teller. Similarly, Digna ran from the west to the east, from mountains to deltas with hopes to cure the poor child’s disease although these hopes were as small as a grain of sand in an ocean. For her, caring for Evangelina was no longer a responsibility, a mother’s duty. She could have given up, but she didn’t. She could have returned her to her real parents, but she didn’t. She loved the girl with all her heart and soul. She herself knew that she could never receive anything for her efforts, yet for her, health and smiles of her poor child was the most valuable award. And she contributed her entire life to achieve that award.

Belief and determination under pressure

What would Digna do on witnessing the poor child suffering agony? Did her belief or her determination change? A woman walked from place to place hoping to find magic that can cure the disease of a girl that has no blood connection with her. She ran from science to superstition. She asked help from don to doctors. Her belief seemed to be flexible; she seemed not to possess a specific or particular faith. However, whoever was in her situation could have acted like her. What should she do on witnessing her so-called daughter’s “body trembled and deep long moan[s], like a love call, ran through her” (70), and her body “shake[d] convulsively; …arched backward with superhuman force” (Ibid)?

 The mother, Digna, was very religious; in fact, she “had the habit of talking with God” (11), she “lost herself in long prayer and confessions” (12). She devoted her time and health for God although she had to take care of her children and family without the help of her husband who usually went out for work. However, what did religions do to pay back her belief? What did God do to show His power? She didn’t see any symbols of God; what she saw was that “the Church was the friend of the rich and the foe of the poor” (63), what she noticed was that one religion considered the other as a rival. Hence, she was like a sheep without the shepherd. Inside her heart, she wondered whether her belief was an illusion or reality. And her faith seemed to be shaky.

 As a result, she went to science with the hope to rescue the poor child from the torture of her malady. She hoped science could have a remedy to cure the child’s “English disease” (56).Yet in this country, somehow science was also not reliable. She asked help from a doctor, but what kind of treatment she received: “ignore [the child] and hope that when she grew out of adolescence she would also grow out of the attacks” (57). Hope. Yes, only hope. She went to him with a hope, and then she was asked to wait with a hope. If this hope wouldn’t be fulfilled, the child absolutely would continue suffering anguish until her demise.

What’s more, before obstacles, Digna was like a person downing in a deep river. She didn’t know what to believe in and what to do. Hence, she held on everything that she could think of. Somehow, she was like Callimo in “The Fortune Teller,” upon facing fear and confusion, his belief altered. He ran to the fortune teller. Similarly, Digna ran from the west to the east, from mountains to deltas with hopes to cure the poor child’s disease although these hopes were as small as a grain of sand in an ocean. For her, caring for Evangelina was no longer a responsibility, a mother’s duty. She could have given up, but she didn’t. She could have returned her to her real parents, but she didn’t. She loved the girl with all her heart and soul. She herself knew that she could never receive anything for her efforts, yet for her, health and smiles of her poor child was the most valuable award. And she contributed her entire life to achieve that award.

Innocent Victims

In the last part of chapter 17 of the autobiography Growing Up Untouchable in India, Vasant Moon mentions the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi from his perspective as an Indian Dalit. Despite the opposition of Baba Sahib Ambedkar to him, Moon, along with many other untouchables, regrets the loss of such a great man from the history of his country. However, the important fact about Dalits’ fear of the possibility of an Untouchable being the murderer of Gandhi and the unbelievable consequences that untouchable community might face in that case doesn’t leave Moon’s mind. He feels relieved upon hearing the murderer is a Brahman.

Moon’s experience as a member of an oppressed minority is natural. In many societies, even the societies that consider themselves most civilized and tolerant to pluralism, minority groups are not treated fairly whenever there is a suspicion that a member of such groups might be guilty of an unforgivable crime such as raping a woman or committing mass murder. Until the source of crime is not confirmed, a great amount of fear shades over the minority communities. They are usually subject of unfair accusation or harassments. If the source of crime is confirmed to be a member, then the whole community waits for the upcoming revenge in fear.

Although not personally, but as an Afghan refugee I have witnessed a similar situation. I remember I went to primary school when the news about a chain murder with female victims became the first title of all the newspapers in Iran. The unknown murderer, know as “the bats of night,” was first assumed to be an Afghan. Though it was not proved by the officials,  even the press mentioned that and increased xenophobia against Afghan refugees in Iran. I heard most Afghan men in big cities avoided going out of their houses for several days due to the fear of being harassed, robbed, or beaten to death. My relatives reported that they took a woman with themselves when they wanted to go out of the house. My brother and my cousin in that time were in the capital city, and were arrested and sent to jail with no reason. They were beaten and forced to clean the jail by Iranian prisoners. My brother said it was very hard to bear such humiliation while being innocent. However, they preferred to swallow their pain rather than making the situation more complicated by arguing with the police. However, they were released shortly after. Later, the murderer’s identity was introduced as an Iranian man. In a relatively similar situation, many Muslim communities in western countries faced unfair treatment or even violence after 11th September attack.

With globalization accelerating migration and actualizing multi-cultural and multi-national societies, citizens’ social and religious tolerance toward minority groups should be reinforced by raising awareness among people. Mass media, educational institutions, and government officials can play a positive role by having an impartial approach to the issue.

A Tragedy Named Religion

This week we read a lot about women in the eyes of religion. As it was stated in The Phenomenon of Religion: A Thematic Approach written by Momen Moojan, religion have had both positive and negative effects on women’s lives. On one hand, religion has given women the right of ownership and good association with wisdom (442). On the other side, religion has suppressed women morally and socially (436-9).
It was one of my great concerns that why Islam, has given women less freedom or to say it better, less value. Since I have started to think of having a religion or thinking of a pattern for my lifestyle, I have been wondering about Islam, the religion, which is famous for its strictness and ignoring human rights. I used to hear it all the time that in Islam, it is discouraged to counsel with women or that women cannot hold the position of leadership since their logic and wisdom is less than men’s logic. I had heard a lot of disappointing ideas about Islam and the position of women from its point of view until I read Moojan’s book and his saying that one of the reasons for negative connotation of religion and women is men. According to Moojan, it was the selfishness of some men, who changed the concepts of some religions or twisted the texts as they wanted (433-4). Similarly, some Quran interpreters and their old and prejudiced viewpoints have played an important role to taint the face of Islam in front of humans.
Today that I was surfing on the internet looking for more information about the role of women in Islam that I found an article that made me more hopeful about religion, that here is Islam.MUhammad Fazlullah, in his article “Islam and Women’s Role” says that it is the misunderstandings and misinterpretations of the Quran and Islam that has deprived women from their rights in society and family.
In this article, Muhammad Fazlullah, had written about the surah 27:33 and 34 that God says about the land whose ruler is a woman. In this part, God not only doesn’t blame men for counseling with women but also he describes her cleverness and logical way of doing her work. Moreover, God has named one of the surahs by the name of Mary, Jesus’ Mother. Islam had been the religion of supporting women and not suppressing them. What Islam has stated in the Quran and what Muslims are following as the Quran’s orders are so confusing.

Religion is Patriarchy

      After reading the article “Religion and Gender,” I didn’t find any difference between religion and patriarchy. The main perception of a patriarchal belief is to make women submissive to men; similarly, all of the world’s major religions including Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, and Hinduism are based on patriarchal beliefs where women are considered to be inferior to men, and where women are symbolized by a body with no spirit.

     This article makes me think, is god really biased? Sometimes, I also think, is god a male? Why do god’s rules always try to suppress women? In Islam, a perfect woman has to obey her husband and perform household chores; in Hinduism, women can never be the owner of their father’s property; in Buddhism, women are considered as impure than men, and in Christianity, women’s have no voice even in the church. How ridiculous it is! All these religious doctrines are designed to dominant women. I become very frustrated thinking all of these things. Religious is a sensitive part of a culture. Personally, I have a strong faith in my religion, but reading and thinking of all these things, my mind fills with confusion. I am afraid thinking that women are not even considered as human beings; it seems that humanness is only associated with men.

       However, I’ve got my answer from the feminist study of religion. How can it be possible that every religion undermines women’s positions? Yes, it’s possible because years after years only the men have interpreted the religious doctrines. No woman has ever tried to analyze about religions, but they have only been practicing religious rituals without even thinking what they are doing. Therefore, the men misinterpreted the religious principles to establish their patriarchal beliefs. Thus, women are being dominant by men in the society. Today, we see in every step of life, patriarchy tries to constrict women development giving references from religions. Therefore, god is not biased nor a male, but the men interpreters are biased who make women gullible. It’s the time to come forward to analyze our own religions, thereby establishing them as the epitomes of equality in the world. All educated women should study their own religious doctrines to delete the lies and establish the truths in the society.

 

 

 

 

 

Pigeon and Freedom

What should be one’s limit of freedom? Can we draw a line of
limit for freedom though? Is it possible?

Consciously and subconsciously we all get freedom. Some
people can get more freedom than others, but if we abuse our level of freedom,
then what will happen?

In the chapter 15 of the autobiography Growing Up Untouchables in India, Vasant Moon metaphorically shows what
will be the consequence if one get excessive freedom. He uses pigeons as a
metaphor that when they cross their limit of flying up on the sky they have
been attacked by a falcon. Here falcon is the metaphor for destructive consequence
of getting over-freedom.

I remember one memory of mine. Once I told my father to give
me some money. He gave me some more money than what amount I actually want. I asked
my father why he gave me some more money. In reply, he just told me to keep
that money. If I needed that money later, I would spend it. I asked my father
why you trusted me whether there was a possibility to spend that money for
nothing. My father just told me that “I know. You won’t do it.” I realized that
my father draw a limit of spending the money by showing his trust toward me. However,
his trust is hidden. If I do not ask, I will never realize it in that way. However,
many friends of mine were given an unnecessary amount of allowance in daily
basis and they just waste that money to eat in restaurant or something like
that. They had freedom of spending that money, and they just did it without any
pragmatic sense. Later their parents understood the fact and decrease the
allowance. It made them angry with their parents because it was an interruption
to spend their money with freedom.

Furthermore, in our country, some parents give their
children unnecessary freedom to stay outside till late-night. They even know
what their sons are doing. After some months, they just notice that their sons
become drug-addicted. It is the destructive consequence of giving limitless
freedom.

I have been deeply moved by the incident that described in
that autobiography. It just simply portrays that what consequence probably will
be if one get freedom and misuse it. This is a lesson for all of us.

Shamans can cure illness!

In “The Social Symbolism of Healing in Nepal,” Stacy Leigh Pigg mentions that there are local healers in Nepalese communities known as phukne manchhe. They are believed to be able to take away ghosts, evil eyes, spirits, and shades, which sabotage people and cause sickness. He also mentions that there are some ritual specialists, dhami or dhami-jhankri, in eastern Nepal. They become possessed by spirits and are able to find out causes of sickness or any kind of suffering. They make protective amulets, in which people believe doubtlessly and feel themselves secured (23). This is absolutely true. I too have an experience of visiting a shaman for the sake of my uncle’s health.  

 

Five years before, my uncle felt so sick that even doctors had no expectation of his livelihood. He was made to return home so that he could spend his last days with the family. However, we decided to take him to a dhami. Therefore, I, along with my aunt, took my uncle to a shaman in a neighboring village early morning next day as there would be a ridiculously long line of people seeking cure for illnesses. When I was staying there, I could see the shaman moving a broom up and down of patients’ bodies and murmuring some mantras. Every time he would say that the sickness was either because of evil eyes or because of ghosts, and he would make the patients drink special water, jal, and carry an amulet to their bodies. The same process was repeated with my uncle too, and the shaman told us that the sickness was because of an evil eye. He advised us to do different pujas in the name of various Gods and Goddesses, and we felt obliged to do so just for the sake of my uncle’s health. I was feeling so ridiculous doing this and that. However, my uncle began to feel better after couple of weeks. We were so happy to see him walking independently but of course slowly. Nevertheless, I did not allow him to discontinue his medication. Thus, shamans have divine power, and have capacity to heal up some sorts of illnesses – particularly illnesses related to divine power.

 

That time, I drew a deduction that medicines cure body illness, and shamans cure spiritual illnesses. Therefore, the combination doctors and shamans foster human health.

A Letter from Bangladesh

Dear Nazneen,

My dear wife, I hope you are doing well in your work and having a good time with my daughters. Finally, I reach in my own village and I am well. I can’t explain how I am feeling after returning my mother land. Everything has been changed. Streets, cities and people are totally amended. However, one thing doesn’t change which is love of my relatives. Here everyone welcome me warmly. For them, I am a man of esteem. You know, they all are asking me about you, Shahana and Bibi. Today I have lots of fun. I walk through the paddy fields, gossip with my old friends and swim in the river with little children as I did in my childhood.

I want to tell you that I know you love Karim. I didn’t tell you, but I noticed pleasure in your eyes when you look at Karim. Your love for him makes you indifferent about me. At first I think I’ll bring you in Bangladesh, so you can forget him. However, then I think that is not fair. Till now I never let you speak up your own hopes; only throw my decisions on you which is not right. It is time to live your own life.

I think, I am not a good husband and never express my love to you. I understand that because of our age gap, a wall creates between us. Therefore, even though we live together, we never come closer to each other. This experience teaches me a good lesson. Now, I have decided not to marry off my daughters at an early age. They will choose their own husbands.

Nazneen, you need to know that you are not an ordinary village girl; you are a gift of god. I apologize for realizing it so lately. Your heart has strength to take your own decisions and your eyes have confidence to accomplish your desires accurately. Now I am an old man and done with my life, but you have your whole life. Nazneen, you are free from all pressure. You can do whatever you wish for. Even you can marry Karim if you want.

ALastly, give my love to my daughters and no need of coming here. If you would like to stay there, you can. I will visit you when I get time.

Your Chanu

 

A Protest in My Previous School

          The last few chapters of the autobiography Growing Up Untouchable in India talks about the violence and protests that happened in India. In those chapters, Moon described about the movements and fights between Hindus and Mahars. He also said that many houses were destroyed due to the riot. Moreover, very few students went to schools, so some schools were closed. While reading these chapters, I remembered a protest that happened in my previous school. The protest was very violent, and many things were destroyed. Our schools also closed in the protest. I want to share that incident with you.

          I was studying in a governmental residential school, and I was in ninth standard. At that time all senior boys of the school wanted to make some changes in the school policy. For example, they didn’t like food of dining hall, so they want better food etc. However, the changes could not happen because of some reasons and teachers’ ignorance. Therefore, in the month of August in 2007, all boys started to make plans for the strike. On an evening, few of the radical boys threw stones in windows of teacher’s residence, and broke some benches of the classrooms. As time elapsed, the number of protesters increased. Around ten p.m. at night, they all assemble at the boys’ basket ball ground and started to scream and throw stone on windows. Because my house was situated in the second floor, so they couldn’t able to do harm to the windows of that house. Still, we were really scared. At that night, not any girls went to take dinner in the dining hall; however, at midnight, our house mistress took us to dining hall. When we were going to take food, some boys tried to throw stones on us, but, fortunately, no one of us got injured. After a while, when situation reached into an absolutely unbearable condition, our principal sir called to the police. Around 400 military officers came to protect the school and to alleviate the anger of the boys. However, they couldn’t make them quiet, so one of the members of the police fired three times in air. We are watching everything from the windows. By hearing the sound of bullet, some girls of standard six started to cry, so we make them understand that nothing was going to happen. However, the boys were really very adamant, and the firing in the air didn’t work on them. Laslty, somehow, they went to their house. In the morning, media people also came to our school along with some civil officers. At that time, the school was not look like a school. A number of police and media people were roaming around the campus. Those days are really very critical days for the school. It destroyed the environment of study because all teachers were very furious and didn’t want to take classes.