Thursday, October 3, 2013
(A Short Story)
I was in Kerala recently and came across an interesting news item in the front page of a local newspaper. All Muslim groups in Kerala had submitted a joint petition to the Indian Supreme Court requesting that the minimum marriage age for women be reduced from the current 18 years (to what age, was not specified), as per the ancient muslim ‘Sharia law’. As can be expected this raised a storm of controversy with TV channels and the social media getting very worked up. All kinds of opinions were being aired and it was getting me very confused.
Luckily I have a good friend who knows everything – in fact we call him ‘know all’. (He does depend on Google and always goes around with a phone or tablet in one hand – squinting with one eye on the screen while talking to you. Not that I have not tried to do the same but any search I try in Google results in millions of hits! I wonder when the folks at Google will be able to give you only what you are searching for). I got back to the U.S the following week and called my friend over to update him of these developments and get his advice.
My friend looked very thoughtful – ‘it does raise a lot of interesting possibilities’ he said. ‘Do they say why they want this’?
‘That is not very clear’ I replied. ‘But I think it is mainly to protect the women – the more you wait to get the girls married off, the more chances that they may not be able to control their natural urges’.
‘That is true’ agreed by friend. ‘I have also read that it is getting very dangerous in India for women to move around, without getting molested’.
‘But’ he continued, ‘they are asking this change of law only for the Muslims – right?’
‘Yes’, I replied – ‘that is why I can’t figure out why every one is so upset about this’. ‘Is this something we should fight against?’
‘Well’ said my friend ‘It is very difficult to fight against religion based demands – you will be criticized for being ‘anti-muslim’. It would be better to go with the flow. Why don’t you take advantage of the situation? Demand something based on your religion!
‘Wow!’, I was amazed at his brilliance. ‘That is very smart’.
‘I was born a Hindu – and our Hindu law goes thousands of years back’. Meanwhile my friend was squinting furiously at his screen.
‘Let me see – you used to have Child Marriage – getting the girls married off when they were 6 or 7….’
I was now getting very interested. Kids tuition bills are very high nowadays.
‘Wait – there are many strange things in your religion – caste system, untouchability – and here is something even more strange’ continued my friend - ‘you guys used to have something called ‘Sati’ or ‘Suttee’ – widows jumping into the funeral fire of their husbands and committing suicide!’
‘Yes ‘, I agreed. ‘I remember – very cruel custom; it was originally meant to protect the women from invaders – you know India kept being invaded by many foreigners. Sati was later abolished by the British – who were also invaders.’
‘Protecting the women is off course very important.’ My friend commented.
I was now silent – a number of thoughts were rushing through my mind. I had been a little worried recently about how young my wife looked while I was looking and feeling much older. I could hear my wife in the kitchen – cooking my dinner. Though she had a full time job, she also took care of the cooking and all household chores. What would happen to her when I died? Who will protect her?.
‘What are you thinking’ my friend asked.
‘I think I want my Hindu law back’ I said. ‘We Hindus need to protect our women!’
I felt proud to be a Hindu.
The noise from the kitchen was getting louder. I wondered whether my wife had overheard our discussions. ‘What is up my dear? Anything wrong?’ I shouted to my wife. ‘Dinner is ready, dear’ she shouted back from the kitchen. ‘I have made some special chicken curry for you – with some new herbs from Kerala’.
My friend quickly got up to leave. He was looking rather pensive as well. ‘Hey! – Not staying for dinner? ‘ I asked? ‘No – I need to go’ he mumbled. I walked him to the door. Just before stepping out, he turned back and whispered in my ear – ‘Watch out – I have read that some Kerala herbs are poisonous.’.
‘Ha, ha’ I laughed. ‘That is a good joke’. Why would my wife ever poison me? I saw my friend out and walked to the dining room with utmost confidence.