A Poverty of Common Sense

As-Salaam Wa Alaikum Wa Rahmatullahi Wa Barakatahu,

When one begins to live in India, one becomes well acquainted and eventually come to terms with its local customs, practices, traditions, and even highly prevalent social and cultural
injustices.

As history has shown, neither education, nor intelligence has ever been a panacea for Ignorance (capitalized here as it is the disease known as Ignorance). Whether it is a self-imbibed, or a force-fed generational tonic, prejudices of a social, religious, or racial nature are often bitter but accepted truths on a universal level. Yes, true for all. (If anyone believes it doesn’t apply to him or her, unless you are Western European, your ancestors HAVE been colonized at one stage or another. )

The Caste system, as you may or may not know, in India, is either a birthright to rule, or a sentence to grovel, depending on which tier you figure into. Not only is it still very much alive, it is the rubric by which the majority of Indians live and function by, day to day. From marriage proposals to choosing the ‘right’ candidate for a job to admission seats in professional schools, it is an undeniable reality. It even manifests to the extent of radicalism, such as the violent rejection of low caste presence in a community as exemplified by the burning of Dalit homes in the Belkhed region, Akola less than a month back -(“The Riots and Wrongs of Caste”)

If anything can be said about India and Indians, it is that they are not apologetic about it nor do they sweep it under the rug as a dirty little secret and pretend it doesn’t exist. Things like that usually have a way of rearing their ugly head, or are coaxed out by uncontrolled phenomena, like,…oh I don’t know, Hurricanes? The Tragedy Queen, Katrina-the single most economically devastating natural disaster in US history was also an eye opener and a 101 in how the US govt. conducts itself with the many racial and social sub-classes that thrive on its soil. Apparently, haste is waste when it comes to “pandering” to the American Untouchables(May God forgive Us). But I digress. Unfortunately, when social corruption is rampant and unabashed, cognizance of impending fascism becomes trickier, bigotry is peddled as patriotism, and human rights’ violations can become national policy.

Recently I wrote a blog(Aftershocks) on my experience with a patient, a mother, who’s inability to accept her baby’s gender insulted my sense of decency as a human being and I was called out on being too harsh in my criticism, to the point of being an unsympathetic doctor. Maybe I neglected to mention it, but it was not simply intuition talking. The fact was, when asked, she did indeed vocalize her disappointment about it being a girl. Post partum or peri-natal depression, is a clinical depression, diagnosed as a mood disorder in which feelings of sadness, loss, anger, or frustration persist during or within a year of the pregnancy. These symptoms peak between postpartum days 3 and 5, and typically resolve spontaneously within 24 to 72 hours. At the other end of the spectrum is the truly devastating puerperal psychosis. This particular disorder, although a legitimate syndrome, was a far cry from the incident I narrated. When working with psychiatric illnesses, the realm is intangible, and so nothing absolute can definitively be purported, but something tells me a direct statement from the mother precludes this discussion. At another similar situation, I overheard a mother lamenting the dark hue of her baby’s skin.

“This can’t be my baby! Yeh to bahut “kaala”hai!(He’s too dark!) What am I to do?!”

Is this also post-partum depression? Or is it safe to say that this is an unjust and ludicrous reaction? Only in the west do we make apologies for and victimize blatant ignorance. We must recognize our role as human beings, and the rights others have on us as a result. What could I have done for the newborn of the female persuasion who was treated with such contempt? Corrupt law enforcement and the virtual non-entity of competent social organizations is not only discouraging, it is a cul-de-sac of despair that every Indian has accepted as a pervasive daily reality. What I did do is make earnest dua for her and Insh’allah it will be answered.

Extreme gender issues like female infanticide and foeticide are also a far cry from being forgotten brutalities. The uses of the Ultrasound in pregnancy can range from a crucial diagnostic tool or as a sniper in the application of sex-selective abortion.(Missing girls of Morena – Frontline, Oct.7, 2005) I am as unapologetic of my hatred of this as is India in its persevering silence in the face of such frank antipathy.

What is to be done? These issues need to be addressed coherently and passionately. But before this happens, keep in mind, Americans had their Revolutionary War in the late 18th century, and the Civil Rights movement snailed its way forward only in the 1960’s. Today, India is still a nation whose socio-political spheres are in continuous upheaval, regardless of it’s steady and rapidly growing economy. Considering as a nation, India kicked off the shackles of British Colonialism not 60 yrs ago and is still struggling to balance it’s legs after a Polio-like paralysis for a 100 years, it will obviously take some time for socio-political reform. This is a lengthy discussion, and cannot be contained nor given its due credence in a paragraph or even 10. However, sufficed it to say, it will take nothing short of a unified effort of like-minded intellectuals and activists(or both if possible)* influencing the political strata, warping the polemic of centuries’ old addiction to perverse tradition, and mass cooperation after consolidation of these ‘self-evident truths’ for these issues to be addressed productively. However, as any addict on the road to reform will tell you, the first step is to recognize you have a problem. In the time it takes for us to make that “Giant Leap for Mankind”, I fear the suffering will shamefully continue.

I love India. The nobility of our people, the allure of our cuisine, the richness of our cultural heritage, (almost) all of it. The degenerate practices and downright wickedness being carried out by those claiming to be true citizens of this beautiful nation is dragging this country into a reproachable state, and humiliating even the most enthusiastic of its patriots. It must be condemned. ). That being said, it is very easy for Non-Indians or even Indians who haven’t had any practical exposure to their country, to sit on high and point their oblivious fingers at the woes of a ‘third-world democracy’ and talk about how de-evolved they all are. I’d rather these individuals learn the ground-level situation firsthand and then base a just critique on the matter. This is what is known as an informed opinion. Anything else just translates into fickle foolishness, guilty of the same ignorance that spawned all these despicable customs in the first place.#

#- Please feel free to draw parallels.

Insh’allah, I pray that those without knowledge of all the facts will not rush to judge before passing the blame of judgement on to others. Dialogue with the intention of harnessing relevant and purposeful knowledge (minus the purpose of debasing peers and contemporaries) is always encouraged and is a much a healthier alternative to derisive debates. Insh’allah may Allah give us the capacity and the strength to right wrongs wherever we see them and if we are unable to right them, help us to make the intention in our hearts. Ya Allah, we pray that you help us to always side with the oppressed against the oppressor. Ameen. There is no Might or Power except in Allah.

As-Salaam Wa Alaykum Wa Rahamtullahi Wa Barakatahu
May Peace and Blessing and the Mercy of Allah be upon You

*”An intellectual who is not an activist is a waste of space.

-Oscar Wilde

4 thoughts on “A Poverty of Common Sense

  1. Excellent post, masha’Allah.

    I fear those of us who have high expectations from this world, must bear with the general human tendency of cultural inertia. If people don’t have an urgent reason to reflect or change, they simply won’t. Until natural disasters provide an existential jolt.

    ‘Common sense’/human decency is indeed facing a famine. I hope this post will provide ‘food for thought’ – if not action.

  2. Salaam

    Good post! I liked the part where you talked about knowing the ground situation first. There’s a lot of good in India; a lot more possible. There’s a lot of evil in India; and a lot more possible. Are we going to fight, or are we going to condemn and stand by?

    Thanks for linking me!

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