Discrimination in Religion

Since this blog entry is the last entry that I am writing this term, I would like to share my final thoughts about the article that I recently read.

We learnt about the article, “Religion and Gender,” written by Moojan Momen that particularly highlights the position and role of women in religion. With ample number of examples and exhaustive descriptions about the beliefs and thoughts of different religions towards gender, this article provides the idea that women have been discriminated in the aspect of religion as well. Before learning the article, I have never thought that religion could be so discriminating regarding gender. According to the article, almost in all the religions such as Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, and Hinduism, women are considered evils and the root cause of all sins (437-8). After having read the article, I came to realize that religion also practices gender discrimination, which I hadn’t thought before.

I follow Hinduism, a polytheistic religion, in which people worship many gods and goddess. Although there are many devotees of goddess, the main and supreme power is believed to be possessed by the male gods. Moreover, in the hierarchy of religion — priests are given more importance, and usually the religious leaders are men. Besides, religion has also played a vital role to augment the prevailing disparity in gender. Associating men with spirit and women with mere body, religion apparently brings partiality between genders. In my religion as well, women are considered to devote their lives to their husbands and never go against them. In the past, suttee pratha, in which women had to sacrifice their lives in the burning pyre with their husbands, was common in Hinduism. Although it is banned now, it can be said that religion actually sanctioned violence against women. In addition, sons are given priority over daughters to perform any kind of funeral- ritual rights and sons are also given right to inherit the power and property.

Talking about discrimination in religion, I would like to share my experience that had once disappointed me. In my religion, girls are not allowed to perform any ritual rites, or even participate in any kind of occasions and festivals when they are undergoing menstruation cycle. Once I had to face same problem during one of my favorite festivals named Tihar because I was having menstruation. This disappointed me a lot as I was not allowed to enjoy my festival as others did. I thought that my religion has been unfair. It was not my mistake, so why should I have to be “punished”? Why do my brothers not have any restrictions? These kinds of questions rose in my mind. However, I was pacified by my mother, telling me that it is the fate of every Hindu girl.

Thus, these are some views about my religion which I consider to be discriminative.

Hairstyles in Nepal

After reading the article, “Symbolism of Hairstyles in Korea and Japan,” by Na-Young Choi, I came to know the social and physical importance of hairstyles in Japanese and Korean societies. The writer talks about significance of hairstyles: firstly, hair holds some magical meaning; secondly, hair expresses sigh of beauty; thirdly, hair helps to identify the marital status of women, and lastly, hair signifies the social status of the person. Encountering these values about hairstyles, I would like to present some similar beliefs and practices regarding hairstyles in Nepalese community.

Since the past, our elders have taught us not to be careless about our hair. If we cut our hair or if our hair falls then we should spit three times and then throw it. It sounds superstitious, but it is believed that our hair can be easily used by witches to perform black magic which may harm our lives. However, it is just a belief and is still practiced today.

Similar to the Japanese and Korean traditions, hair expresses a sigh of beauty in Nepalese culture. Generally, long, black, and thick hair is considered an asset of women; therefore, women prefer long hair than shorter one. Moreover, it is a bad sigh for girls to cut their hair short. On the other hand, men are considered to be smart and disciplined if they have short and well-combed hair. Long-haired boys are thought to be rowdy and ill-mannered.

Talking about the marital status, hair also helps to differentiate amongst the married and unmarried women. Most of the Nepalese married women tie their hair well instead of keeping it loose and messy because their hairstyles reflect their character in the family. It is also believed that women who are good at keeping their hair well-organized can maintain happy family lives. Indeed, on marriage, a bride’s hair is decorated with an attractive and peculiar style known as juro to adore her beauty. On the other hand, an unmarried girl can be easily distinguished by her pony tail or braids on both sides tied with ribbons.

Finally, hairstyle also depicts social status of the Nepalese. Straightening, coloring, and curling hair are very expensive, and these are usually done by people of affluent societies. While stylish haircuts and dead-lock are in trend amongst rich youths, simple and sober hairstyles reflect the moderate community adolescents.

In addition, shaving one’s hair signifies sorrow and defeat. In Nepalese culture, people usually shave their hair bald to show respect and grief for the deceased family member. Besides, it also symbolizes loss or defeat if someone loses a challenge or war.

Hence, these were some practices and beliefs regarding hairstyles in Nepalese community.

Secret Lies

Everyone, at one point of his or her life might have told lies. Either very big or very small, lies are lies, and they are morally wrong; however, the essay, “The Truth of Telling Lies,” by Judith Viorst talks about those lies which we have encountered at one stage of our lives. I would like to share a story and ask whether telling a lie is better than telling a truth.

Boy: Doctor, I have relentless pain in my head. I feel like someone is hammering me. Please, help me.

Doctor: I am sorry, but the report says you are suffering from brain tumor.

Boy: What? It can’t be true. Are you joking?

Doctor: No, my dear. You are in the second stage, and that is why you have been feeling those headaches. I’ll prescribe you some medicine, please take those.

Boy: Will I be cured by those medicines?

Doctor: I cannot assure you, but it will help you get relieved from your pain.

Boy: No, doctor. I don’t need those medicines which cannot cure me. I am the only son of my father. My mother died when I was a child. Since then, my father is my world. His dreams are connected with me. I have come far from my city to study, and I cannot let him down.

Doctor: But you need to take these medicines.

Boy: Why doctor? God is so unfair. Today my father needs me. He has a weak heart and often becomes sick .He dreams that I will take over his business and be a successful man. Now, God is taking me away from him. I want you to promise me not to tell anyone about my disease.

Doctor: Ok! However, you have to come weekly to visit me because I have to examine you.
Boy: Ok.
Since then, he decided not to disclose his secret. Whenever he visited his house, he would act normal. Although his doctor forbade him to eat meat, he would never deny his father’s cooking. When his pain became severe, he would lock him in his room and would not come out until he felt relaxed. His condition was getting worst as he started bleeding from his mouth. Once while he was at home, he started having the ominous symptoms again. This time he could not resist and felt unconscious in front of his father. When he was taken to the doctor, they found that he was fighting against death at the final stage of tumor. His father’s heart was broken into pieces.

So friends, I would like to ask you all, was the boy’s lie acceptable? What would you do if you were in his situation?

Concepts of time in Nepal

The essay “The Anthropology of Manners” written by Edward T. Hall associates the ideas of time and proximity as cultural aspects and shows how these ideas vary with respect to different cultures and societies. While reading the essay, I came to know about the perceptions of time and space according to people of different cultures and countries, which engrossed me to share some of the concepts particularly about time in Nepal.

Whenever we talk about being punctual or present on the required time, we relate this idea with one’s culture. However, it is not always about culture; it is also about the current situations and advancements of a particular place. This idea explicitly relates with the perception of time in Nepal. Since Nepal is not well-developed in infrastructures and lacks political stability, it is difficult for people to be on time everywhere. Therefore, time is flexible in Nepal in comparison to other developed and rich nations, where every single minute is taken seriously and being five minutes late becomes a crucial matter. In Nepal, if a person fails to come within five to fifteen minutes, she or he is not considered strictly late, and their excuses of heavy traffics and strikes will be taken into consideration. People travel by local motors or walk on foot to reach their destinations, and strikes and problems of load shedding (blackouts) are becoming common, so being fifteen minutes late is not a big issue in Nepal.

Moreover, being late or early depends upon the position you are in. Similar to what Hall describes in the essay, in Nepal also, one should not keep his or her boss or a celebrity waiting because this becomes a matter of disrespect and insincerity. On the other hand, it is normal to wait for a boss or leader for long hours to meet them.

According to religious point of view, time is taken very seriously in Nepal. Since most of the Nepalese are religious-minded, they are strict on performing the religious rituals on required time. In most of the ceremonies such as marriage, puja, and other rituals, priests assign a specific time period to commence the rituals, which is believed to be lucky and fruitful for the individuals and families. If they fail to perform the ceremony on time, it would be a bad luck for them. Hence, time is a valuable aspect in terms of religion.

Moreover, time is also taken strictly in schools and private offices. Students are required to attend their schools and colleges on time. If they are late, they are likely to be punished or detained for their classes. In addition, important business deals and meetings are supposed to be done on time, so business personnel should be punctual.

Thus, these were some ideas about time in Nepal.

The Community Where I Grew Up

I grew up in a small community of my hometown, Dharan. Dharan is divided into 18 wards irrespective of any religious or social biases. I belong to ward no.1, which is also called Purano-bazzar or Prithivi-path. Many years ago, our ancestors had settled down here; since then, my family has become a part of this community. Some people living around us are our relatives because we share a common background. There are no concrete walls or boundaries to divide the different wards, but the cooperation and involvement of the families organize to form our own community.

Most people, including my family, inherited our land from our ancestors; therefore, we have our own houses and do not need to rent. There is a long, pitched road ranging from north to south that separates the two rows of houses on the left and right. Besides the main road, there are two alleys which lead to other parts of the town. Some of the houses are rather old and made up of wood and mud; however, there are two to three storied concrete buildings behind these wooden houses where people actually live in. The old, mud houses are still strong enough to reside on; that is why it is rented for cheap cost. Most of these houses are attached in such a way that their rooftops and backyards are very close.

Talking about the people living in my community – mostly Newars and Brahmins are the inhabitants of the society, while there are also some Chettries and Rais, two of the warrior castes in Nepalese history, residing in the same community. All these people follow the same religion; therefore, they celebrate common festivals and occasions. The community’s people come from a middleclass background, so they are service holders. Generally, adults are breadwinners of the family, so they go to work in offices, hospitals, schools, and factories. Not only adult men but also women work outside to add income to the family. They leave their children home with the older adults, who are unable to earn money for the family, but a reliable support for teaching good morals to the kids, and guarding the house.

Small children are the heart of any community. They bring life to the silent locality; similarly, the children in my community form their own friends groups and play on the streets. They climb on bhogate and mango trees on the front yards and play hide and seek on the straw huts. Usually, they get scolded by the elders for making a lot of noise and are chased away from the houses. There is a school named Holy Garden Academy, which has become a family school because almost all the children from Purano-bazzar go to that school.

Unlike children, youths hesitate to roam around the houses. They stick to one place and gather together to have fun. In fact, there is a flat, yellow colored building, with steps in front of the main gate, between the rows of houses, where these boys often meet. These boys are cooperative and socially active. They have their own club, which organizes entertainment programmes in the community during the festivals of Dashain and Tihar. If any problems arise in the community, these youths come together and help the people in need. For example, if a woman in a family gets pregnant and she has to be taken to the hospital for delivery, these boys help the family in making arrangements for admitting the woman to the hospital. Moreover, they stay in the hospital during late nights in order to provide food and medicine for the patient in case of an emergency. In addition, these youths are altruistic enough to assist the needy people, whose belongings have been stolen or houses have been caught on fire.

Besides Nepali people, a large portion of the inhabitants are the Indian migrants referred as “Madhesis”. These people had migrated to Nepal for work and settlement many ages ago. Madhesi people rent the houses’ of the local people and have begun to settle down in the community as the members of the society. They usually earn their living working on shops or selling fruits, sweets, and chatpates on the streets. Since they are poor, they are often treated as the minority. Mostly they are called as Chatpate Bhaiyas, chatpate selling brothers. Especially, Ashok Bhaiya’s chatpate is famous in our town. It is so delicious that almost everyone from the community likes to taste it once a day. Due to the growing popularity, he increased his rates from Rs. 5 per plate to Rs.20. Other Madhesi people also began to raise their standard of living by continuously working hard. Once these people did not have enough money to afford two rooms for their family, but now they have earned enough to rent three extra rooms for their work supplies.

During Saturdays and public holidays, people are free and are mostly engaged in household chores. In late mornings, we can hear Biru bhaiya’s wife yelling at her crying son, who refused to take a bath. People of the community utilize their holiday for cleaning up their houses, so leaves and dirt in the backyards are burnt. Women on their rooftops guard the grains and vegetables kept for drying in the sun from the monkeys. Monkeys are the mess of the society; they destroy the garden flowers and eat away anything kept outside. Therefore, monkeys are also a factor of torture to the community. Jipu dai (brother) belongs to a low caste family and is a drunkard, so he is often asked by the community to help them in taking the sacks of rice to the mill and paint the houses, for which he gets money to buy alcohol.

On hot summer nights, elders gather outside to feel the cool breeze and spend ample time talking about politics and society matters. On the other hand, women, during the day ask their daughters or daughter-in-laws to dye their hair and use free time to gossip with other women. Moreover, visiting temples are common on the holidays when women get up early in the morning, prepare the puja materials, dress up in red attire, and go to the nearby Lord Shiva’s and Lord Krishna’s temples.

Hence, there are different kinds of people residing in my community who have unique attributes. They all share a common place, yet have varied tastes and inclinations. However, all of them have been living together for ages and are familiar with one another’s background and status. As a whole, my community is a great example of cooperation and harmony.

My own Rainy days

The chapter “Heat and Rain” in Vasant Moon’s autobiography Growing Up Untouchables in India talks about Moon’s childhood experiences during the summer and monsoon season in his village. He beautifully writes about people’s activities and their lifestyles during these days. After reading the chapter, I could not stop thinking about my own community and my experiences, especially during rainy seasons.

Similar to India, as described by Moon in his autobiography, Nepal also has monsoon season that follows the summer. Moon describes that in the scorching days of summer, people in his village felt lazy and tired. They were not seen working in the fields, but rather seen relaxing outside under the shade of trees to feel the cool breeze. Similarly, my community people dislike summer days; they like to work less during summer in comparison to other seasons. They feel tired soon and lack enthusiasm to do their work. However, as the monsoon days approach, each drop of rain acts as a new hope and aspiration to them. Being tired of working in the hot days of summer, they feel pleasure when they see dark clouds in the sky. Rainfall makes people feel calm and peaceful. During rainy days, they prefer staying at home and gossiping with the family members, which by chance bring every member together, who would be otherwise busy at their work.

Talking about my own experiences, I often found my community more beautiful and refreshing during rainy days than other days. Rain would wash away the dirt and make the surrounding fresh and clean. I could still imagine the scene when small children danced and played outside in the rain, while their mothers shouted at them to come inside home so that they did not catch fever. Moreover, rainy days used to be always fun days for me and my brother. We would make paper boats and sail them on the small, narrow gutter of my house. He would stay in one end of the gutter and sail those paper boats, while I would wait for those boats on the other end. In the afternoon, my mother would make pakodas for tea, and the best moment of the rainy days was to savor those delicious pakodas and watch the rainfall outside. Besides, seeing small ducklings float on the water-filled ditches used to be a tranquilizing experience for me. Hence, I used to enjoy rainy days in my community.

The Fearless Heroes of the Untouchables

While reading the chapter “Fearless” in Vasant Moon’s Growing Up Untouchable in India, I encountered some characters, which, I thought, should be bestowed as “fearless heroes”. As Moon describes in his novel, the Mahars were downtrodden to do low-leveled work. They were disgraced and labeled “untouchables” or “scavengers” (16). These people had lost their own identity. They had no value in the Indian community. Even if everybody was born free and had equal right to freedom, the Mahars were the unlucky ones. They were born “untouchables” and were treated as minority groups. For these people, it was difficult to raise voices against the Brahmins or Hindus, who were powerful and reputed in the society. Therefore, the characters such as Laxamnrao Ogale, Ghadale, and Dasharath Patil could be considered as the fearless personalities within a Mahar community, who fought for the restoration of rights of the Mahars.
All of the above characters were Mahar leaders. They all worked to help the Mahar, who were exploited during those times. However, one of these characters is Dasharath Patil, who actually contributed his life and property for the Mahars. In spite of being affluent, he was not a vain person. In fact, he used up his property and belongings to help poor Mahars, who were assigned to carry dead corpses of animals, and work as servants in Brahmins’ houses. After he summoned for reform in 1930, the social mobility of the Mahars was restricted which brought difficulties in living their life. Therefore, Patil as a benefactor started a market in his own land and bought goods with his own money. Moreover, he did not stop helping the Mahars after coming out of the dangerous nagfani forest (12). He provided those boycotted Mahars with jobs and security. Hence, his fearless activities in the period of cultural hazard in India acknowledged Patil as Bhim, a brave, fearless character in Hindus holy book, Mahabharat.
Besides Dasharath, who was a political and social brave figure, Maniram was also literally a fearless character, who Moon describes in this chapter. Although he did not bring any reforms for the Mahars, his fierce character helped to sustain honor of his caste. He was the only brave wrestler in Mahar community who dared to fight against the popular wrestling community of the nearby village. Even if got defeated, he would retaliate by finding ways to fight and make his enemies succumb.

Thus, these fearless characters described in the chapter were actually the heroes of the Mahar community.

My response to”The Road Not Taken”

“The Road Not Taken” is a beautiful poem by Robert Frost. The use of the natural environment in order to explain the mood of the speaker is praiseworthy. Moreover, this poem is relevant to most people’s lives because it presents a dilemma while making a decision that almost everyone has faced once in their lifetime.

In the poem, the speaker stands in front of the two divided roads; he becomes confused which one to take. These roads bewilder him; similarly, I can remember the day when I had to face a similar situation. On that day I was talking to my father, after having failed to get a scholarship in Institute of Medicine, in Nepal. My father was continuously querying about my decisions for my career. Since I was successively failing on every endeavor I took, I was gradually getting despaired. I had only two options left: either to return home and contrive for my next step or to keep on trying for the upcoming entrance exams. It was difficult for me to choose either choice because I was away from my home in order to achieve my goals, and I would be ashamed if I returned fruitless. Nevertheless, I thought a lot about it and I felt it was not prudent enough to waste my time seeking opportunities in only one field. Therefore, I chose to return to my home, where I had ample amount of time contriving about my future plans. Meanwhile, I too filled out an application and gave a try for a scholarship in a completely new subject, Liberal Arts, when I was at home. After staying some days at home and revitalizing myself with the evocative and inspiring speeches from my family, I went back to the capital city for tossing my luck one more time. However, who knew that my decision to go back home would be fruitful until I luckily got a scholarship to study in AUW. That was a difficult decision to make; nevertheless, it was a good one.

As described in the poem, in the future, the speaker would be relieved that he had possibly made a decision that has changed his life. Like the poet, now I am flipping over the pages of my past and reassuring myself that the decision I had made once was a good one because it has led me here, in AUW, where I am sharing my experiences among the talented people from all around Asia.

My best character “Jing-Mei”

I found the novel, The Joy Luck Club, really interesting. Amy Tan beautifully describes about the plots, characters, and stories in the novel. There are altogether eight characters in the novel, but the one that fascinated me a lot was of Jing-Mei’s.

In the entire novel, Jing-Mei stands out from other daughters because she has a voice for her deceased mother and a remarkably eccentric story comparing to other daughters. The novel begins with Jing-Mei’s narration about the Joy Luck Club, started by her mother, Suyuan. In fact, the name of the novel and the first chapter narrated by Jing-Mei is similar, which hints Jing-Mei to be the protagonist of the novel. Unlike other daughters in the novel, Jing-Mei is an epitome of altruism. Her action of choosing a bad crab and allowing her mother to have a good one echoes that she is noble. Although her mother is dead, she seems to know her mother’s secrets and is more attached to her. Indeed, she is the only daughter in the novel who gets an opportunity to replace her mother’s place in the club. This shows that Amy Tan, the writer of the novel, herself acknowledges Jing-Mei to be the main character of the novel.
I liked Jing-Mei the most because her story is unique. In the first chapter, she talks about her mother, Suyuan’s story and tries to know her secrets. Suyuan had to leave her husband and two twin daughters before coming to America. Unfortunately, she dies before finding her daughters; therefore, Jing-Mei becomes responsible to search and bring them back. The first story maintains secret about what happens to the two babies and whether Jing-Mei will be able to meet them. Later, the story continues at the end, where the secrets are disclosed and Jing-Mei makes her journey to China to meet her sisters. Hence, the ending of the novel with Jing-Mei’s story provides a happy ending for the novel itself.

Besides, Jing-Mei is not married, so she does not have to endure any kind of problem of marriage. None of the daughters in the novel has a good relation with their husbands. They are either divorced or dissatisfied with their relation, while Jing-Mei is single and is happy with her life. All of the daughter’s marriage are distorted which shows similarity in their story as their story becomes repetitive and boring.

Finally, what values to be a daughter is to be able to fulfill one’s mother’s dream, which only Jing-Mei is able to accomplish. Unlike other daughters, she becomes successful to go to China, meet her sisters, and complete her mother’s “long cherished wish” (323). Since Jing-Mei exemplifies a good daughter, I liked her character the most.

Preference to Relationships 101

People have their own interpretations of love. Some people define love as a feeling, which is divine and limitless, while others think that love is a process that can be learnt in our family and society. However, have you ever thought, can love be taught in a classroom? After reading, “Relationships 101,” an article published in the Time Magazine in 2003, you can figure out whether love can be learned in a class or not.

This article is named after a course called “Relationship 101” that deals with the problems in the relations between men and women and provides prudent solutions to those problems. I think having these kinds of courses can help people to choose a compatible life partner. In the contemporary world, love has just become a fashion. Most of the teenagers in their school life are involved in relationships. They address one another as boyfriends or girlfriends. Being in relation is not bad, but being in an immature relationship might be problematic. In immature relationships, youths are more likely to date and have unsafe sex. Moreover, they will have more concentration in love than in studies, which might harm their education. Later, they begin to feel bore with one another and start to find defects in their partners which gradually changes their love into animosity. Nevertheless, they are unaware of the upcoming problems. Pre-marital sex can bring health as well as social problems to the youths in conservative societies, where morals about marriage and sex are absolute. Consequently, school drop-outs, abortion and suicide cases will be predominant where relationships between couples are weak and vulnerable. These hindrances are because of naïve love among the youths who think that love means staying together and dating each other several times.

Therefore, to avoid these problems courses like “Relationships 101” should be encouraged. They not only help youths to develop communication skills but also provide immense education on sex. These courses are flexible regarding gender roles and highly contrasting to the conservative values about pre-marital sex. Moreover, these courses teach us to be realistic rather than to be too optimistic in a relationship. In other words, these courses help individuals to know his or her standards and boundaries that help them to choose a suitable and understanding partner with whom they can live a happy life. Thus, this may increase better understandings about love, marriage, and relationships among individuals that may decrease problems resulted by vulnerable relationships.

Are you taking this course then?