Rape, Ok?

In a decision that got me furious last year, Afghanistan legalized rape in a marriage! It negated the need for mutual sexual consent in a marriage, approved child marriage and restricted the right for a woman to leave the home!

This is by far one of the most outrageous laws that a country could dare pass! And to think that the Government actually agreed to this is a clear indication of their traditional and outrageous view of women as an object of pleasure and nothing else. And while they have the right to believe what they believe, to have the guts to actually legalize it, angers me!

The Afghan President Hamid Karzai used this law as a means to appease Islamic fundamentalists and win an election. And while I under (with a lot of pity) the depths to which politicians crawl in order to butter their blown up egos with the feeling of power, to what extent..? To degrade women to sex objects; to snatch life from innocent girls who have a right to ‘live’ and not just exists?!!

On a more unemotional note, it also shows exactly what Karzai and others like him are made of. It is an insight into the shallow levels of government that he and others in that parliament run and the level that they would stoop to gather a few extra votes.

I spit into the face of politics and their undemocratic self, I curse the powers who fail to use their minds but give in to their shallow insensitive need to be ‘in control’… and that too at any cost! Woe to you all!

Rohan Koshy

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Lessons from a surprise

surprise

On a Sunday evening, not too many weeks ago, I landed in Bangalore on work. It was my wedding anniversary but I had set that aside. Given my travel and the fact that my wife was in Delhi, nothing was planned. I checked into the guest house I was to stay in, and then went over for a walk. The idea was to finish my walk, have a shower, eat dinner and go to sleep. My walk was interrupted by a call from one of my colleagues asking me where I was. She was waiting for me at the guest house.

I walked back to the guest house to be greeted by an incredible sight. One of my senior colleagues was there along with her two small daughters. The little girls were holding a bouquet and some cake and another younger colleague was standing by with his bike and a Fab India shirt as a present so that we all could go out and have a wonderful meal at a restaurant.

I don’t often get surprised these days but that evening I was. Later on I learnt that my wife had helped plan it, and I am grateful to her and my two colleagues who gave up an evening so that my ordinary day had an extraordinary ending. God, working through my wife and colleagues surprised me that evening and forced me to acknowledge that though I often think that I have seen plenty and experienced a lot, I am still capable of being amazed by such unexpected gestures in ways that are celebratory and joyful and that I am not totally a cynic … not yet ! And I am as thankful for the experience as for the discovery of this fact.

Since then I am trying to open my eyes to the surprises and miracles that are all around and which I often don’t see. And they are everywhere; it is just that I had lost the interest to look and tuned my eyes off anything but the expected and the routine. I have found it in unusual places and ways – in gestures, in unexpected compliments, bank statements and of course, in many touching expressions of friendship and loyalty.

The last surprise that I had, came in the form of a talk – a theological reflection where the preacher asserted that God is not always in control of this world and its affairs – Satan, is the prince of the world and often it is he who is in control, and often it is his will that gets done on earth – as for instance in the very recent Tsunami in Japan. And yet, as I wrestle with the thought that God might not be sovereign in this world – a thought I have never thus far heard preached from any church, I nevertheless recognize for a fact that God does not meet all our expectations. But that does not mean that God is not present in our world and in our lives. But the manner of God’s presence is probably not the way we expect and it is in the discovery and the exploration of that presence, that perhaps we are most surprised and over awed. I learnt that afresh on the 20th of February this year.

Shantanu Dutta

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The Masterchef formula to win.

I was watching the television show ‘Masterchef USA’ the other day. The contestants were divided into two teams and each team had to make a signature burger for the truck drivers who stopped at the truck stop. The drivers would get to taste both burgers and then vote for the burger that they thought tasted the best. The team with 51 votes would win the competition.

Both teams had 30 mins to prepare the burger before the truckers began to arrive. Usually, the winner of the previous challenge is given the opportunity of choosing his own team of 4 chefs.

The previous winner who became the leader therefore choose 4 team members and formed a very strong team – the blue team. He had previously worked as a truck driver and therefore had a fair idea of what truckers want. He was also good at cooking meat.

At the start of the challenge, the blue team organised themselves. They had a strong leader and a strong team. The duties were delegated and they were focused on the task at hand. They had decided to make an All-American burger. This helped them to have quite a few burgers ready by the time the first bunch of truckers started coming in. Everything was going well for them.

On the other hand, those who were not chosen formed the other team – the red team. They started out as the underdog. They had no leader, which meant that they had to choose their own leader or someone had to step up to the task. They also did not have any idea what sort of burger would appeal to the truckers. As they started out, they tried a recipe that ended up backfiring, and they had to redo the recipe. Therefore by the time the first trucker came in, they had prepared just one burger and had 99 more to go. The team was in mayhem!

Who would you expect to win this challenge? I am someone who loves having everything organised and therefore expected the blue team to win. They had a good start and everything seemed to be going well for them, so it was obvious to me that they would be the definite winners. However to my surprise, it was the red team that pulled through to win the competition

This got me thinking. How could the team that had the good start not win? Something was wrong. As I continued to think about it, I made a few observations. The Blue team had got into a comfort zone; they were not willing to adapt, even when they knew that the other team was winning. They felt that theirs was the better burger. They did not experiment, neither did they take risks. They were not open to change. Everyone did what they were told. They did not talk to the truckers to get their feedback. They only thought of their strengths and did not make allowances for their weaknesses.

The Red team, on the other hand, experimented, failed, learnt fast from their mistakes and each one of them kept at the challenge till the end. They interacted with the drivers at the tables and even served them more sauce (which was a winner for them).

These observations made me look at things from a work perspective. I realised that while it is good to be organized, it should not be at the cost of getting into a rut and not being open to change, risks or experiments. We, as an organization, work in a dynamic environment. It is therefore essential that as we get involved in our work, we should be willing to step up to the task at hand. If we don’t see something happening, each one of us should be willing to lead the others. We should interact with those on the field to understand the reality better and make changes accordingly. Challenges will come up in our work but we should adapt, endure and focus in order to win.

At the end of it all, I have also realised that a good beginning does not necessarily mean a successful end.

Divya Bunyan

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Finding Hope In Troubled Times

New avenues…
New initiatives …
New opportunities …
A whole new work environment –
Of positiveness and new energies;
Learning from mistakes,
Unlearning old ways,
And relearning new ways
To cope with dubious situations,
Structural changes, minimal funds, adaptation to new roles
Sure are hard to deal with
But persistence to do
And acceptance of all criticisms that follow
Can only make you stronger and better
And help us have
A fresh start –
A bright new horizon,
And hope for a better future.

Ferin Susan Raj

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The Ant

I did something I normally don’t do. I watched ants as they worked, this morning on my kitchen top! My interest in these creatures came from a recent sermon on the ‘ant’ which got me thinking.

Thousands of years ago, King Solomon, one of the wisest men to have lived, wrote: “Go to the ant, consider its ways and be wise”, so I decided I would try and consider the ways of an ant…

  • Ants are social insects; they are unable to live on their own and need to live in an organized community or colony and work together.
  • They have specific jobs and carry them out without having to be held accountable.
  • Ants are highly organized, very neat and tidy.
  • Ants are very hard working and have foresight.
  • If a worker ant has found a good source for food, it leaves a trail of scent so that the other ants in the colony can find the food.
  • Worker ants are given the responsibility of taking the rubbish from the nest and putting it into the rubbish dump.
  • Ants have the largest and most organized brain among all insects; each ant brain has 250,000 brain cells. A human brain has 10,000 million so a colony of 40,000 ants has collectively the same size brain as a human.
  • An ant’s brain may have the same processing power as a Macintosh II computer.

Ants to me have always been a bother, something we need to avoid and stay as far away from as possible. Persistent and almost having the ability to regenerate, they appear from nowhere and can ruin the best of food and storage. These tiny creatures have the ability to send us humans into panic mode just by appearing in large numbers! We learn quite quickly and sometimes painfully that we need to squash the ants before they destroy our food, wood, clothes or sting us.

Till this morning I never really looked at them as a source of learning or even associated the word ‘wise’ with them but as I watched, fascinated, a peculiar pattern emerged. I noticed something I had never seen before. The ants were on a mission. This was evident to even a “foolish” bystander! There was a line of ants going in one direction and another returning. The ones marching onward were following a very orderly line except for stopping at every returning ant to be communicated something!

As I continued to watch I was astounded at the order being followed without an obvious or evident leader! What were they communicating so diligently? Was it the fact that they had found food and were encouraging the others to keep at it? Were they warning them of enemies? Was it a greeting? Whatever it was, the message of focus, diligence, unity, and of community suddenly dawned on me. Here was a picture of community, not each for themselves but working together for each other.

Google tells me that ants are social insects made to live in communities; my genes tell me that we are no different! If these pint size creatures can maintain order, be united and communicate the way they do with an almost single-mindedness of purpose, what are we doing? We live today with an unspoken rule of each for themselves! A fight for survival, where the winner takes all while the loser has a fall, a ‘me and my household’ mentality. Where has our sense of community vanished? What will it take for me to be like the ant?

Watching the ants made me think about my own “community”, mostly my family, friends, work colleagues and perhaps my neighbours. Would I be willing to share my source of sustenance freely so all of us would have enough, and not just me? Would I be ready to communicate the treasure I have found so that my community may benefits? Do I store up during good times, not just for myself, but for all around me, so that I demonstrate foresight?

The things that we consider the least and most insignificant are sometimes our greatest motivators. To me, this morning has been about the “ant”. And in learning from the ant, I discovered that our inspirations in life don’t always come “king size”. My community sadly is such a tiny one, limited to me and my own, and even though we are social creatures, we have and continue to effectively destroy our communities in the need to self preserve!

The wisdom I gained is to learn from the ant, not only about its ways but also about its work and most importantly about its maker. God has remarkably included a similar makeup in that that we are both social creatures who were created to be in communities!

Anita Kanaiya

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The Real Underprivileged

(picture courtesy: Arindam Mohanty)

I went on one of my crazy trips recently. Stuck without access to my computer, I was forced to stare out of the window and watch the everyday hustle of the rural village folks and urban slum dwellers.

My mind wandered, with nothing else to do, and I suddenly realised that I couldn’t get my eyes off the village and slum folks. I realised that I deep down on some level, I actually envied them a little.

I wondered for a moment whether I would like to be in their shoes, but knew that I wouldn’t last. I was a superficial urban being, having grown up in the cities and been a victim (as I liked to believe) of the ‘negative’ influence of western media. I couldn’t possibly give up my computer, mobile phone, broadband internet and other superficial joys like KFC and coffee houses that sucked up my money with a sadistic joy, like most capitalist establishments do. I was spoilt and could never live without those ‘fancy treats’, but these village folks could or maybe had to.

As I continued to stare shamelessly at the kids who scrambled around the country side, I realised that while we urban beings sigh with sympathy for the poor, they actually enjoy some things that we don’t and may never experience.

1. The simple pleasures of life

For us today, fun has become directly proportional to the amount of cash spent. And as our greedy desires want more, we remain unsatisfied creatures. We do not value what we have and never will, but instead spend our lives consumed by the demon of ‘want’.

I recently bought myself a vanilla ice cream cup and enjoyed it. I enjoyed it because it was after ages that I was relishing something simple. I had for a long time not considered the joy that the simpliest of ice cream flavours can give. After all, with flavours like Rocky Mountain, Chocolate Chip, Double Chocolate Chip, Triple Chocolate Chip and Bangalore’s deadly Death by Chocolate floating around, one would look at you weirdly if you asked for a simple plain-looking vanilla cup. (Even this argument of mine actually shows how urbanely spoilt I actually am).

The simple things are often the things that provide an individual with real happiness. (Watch a child play with a random stick on the road and you’ll know what I’m talking about.) And we don’t have it, but the simple village and slum folks do.

2. A community

Another element that we lack in our supposed sophisticated urban circle is a community.

I have spent most of my life in Delhi and Pune, and in both those cities, one generally does not know their next door neighbour. We do not mix but instead turn our noses up at one another in distrust and suspicion.

I have heard of many instances in villages, when a child’s parents pass away and the village brings the child up as one of their own. That same child would have a whole different story if born in an urban set up.

I think the keyword here is ‘belonging’. I have never felt like I belonged anywhere. And for that reason often hesitate when asked where I’m from. But if you ask a person from a village where he is from, he would respond without a moments hesitation, even if he has migrated to the city.

Such is the feeling of belonging that exists in their community; a joy that many of us KFC crunching urbans would never understand.

The joy of simple things and the feeling of belonging, i.e. inclusion, are some of the principles on which Oasis function, and as a young fish driven to this new pond by that sigh of sympathy, I can only chuckle in amusement at how the supposedly “under privileged” people probably look at me and sigh. “Poor guy, he doesn’t belong,” they’d say!

Rohan Koshy

This blog was also used in the February 2011 edition of our Online Newsletter. If you would like to subscribe to the newsletter, contact us at rohan.koshy@oasisindia.org.

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Notions of justice and revenge

revenge
Many Christians are appalled at the recent Supreme Court decision to uphold the verdict of the Orissa High Court on Dara Singh – the man responsible for the murder of missionary Graham Staines and his sons. The Supreme Court declined to accept the plea of the CBI to enhance the punishment of Dara Singh and sentence him to death. A lot of Christians that I met, feel that this is not justice. They feel that Dara Singh ought to be hanged. Any other alternative is not consistent with justice, they said. The Supreme Court felt differently and decided that life imprisonment would meet the ends of justice. Since then, I have been thinking a lot about what constitutes justice and what constitutes revenge. For in the Bible, we find that Justice is close to the heart of God (Deuteronomy 16 v 20 and others) but the notion of revenge is repugnant to Him (Romans 12 v 19).

From a biblical perspective, however, justice and revenge are not synonyms. In the Bible, “justice” translates Hebrew and Greek words that mean “setting things right” and “restoring social equilibrium.” These involve justice, order and reconciliation. In biblical terms, justice is closely related to forgiveness, not to revenge. The Apostle Paul wrote that “God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them.” In other words, God already has forgiven the entire world. In the Bible, “forgive” means “release,” just as it sometimes is used today. In the death and resurrection of Jesus, God has released the world from the necessity of hatred, violence, inhumane actions and death.

We have a responsibility to help perpetrators of violence see that God loves them and offers them alternatives. Human governments are not Christian. Their understanding of justice is rooted in the conditions of the fall. Their tendency is to define justice as revenge, to combat violence with violence. It is unrealistic to expect anything other than this. But Christians who join a call to be vindictive and speak in the vocabulary of many fundamentalist and revenge seeking groups active in the world, are no longer mirroring the nature and image of God.

We have a responsibility to remind human governments of their responsibility for justice, to warn that violence in and of itself perpetuates violence, and to plead for mercy for the guilty even though the guilty showed no mercy to their victims. The church has a responsibility to find ways, in the midst of the violence, to work for reconciliation and forgiveness – the components of genuine justice. If there was ever anything that would demonstrate beyond a doubt that Christianity was unnatural and counter-intuitive, it would be the verse from Romans 12 cited above. There is nothing normal about it. There is nothing reflexive to human nature about it. Being unnatural does not mean that it is not desirable, just not the way people reflexively tend to be. God instructs us here to be the opposite of what our human nature naturally leads us toward. He instructs us, in the words of our theme this morning, to work at overcoming evil.

Another principle, the next listed in the text, is, “Never pay back evil for evil to anyone.” This seems to fly in the face of the Old Testament justice principle of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. Of course, that Old Testament principle was defining civic justice – such as is handed down by a court of law. Our text is describing something else. It is not “justice”. It is godly and God-like conduct. It is patient and forbearing just as God has always been with us. By means of this approach to evil, we blunt the power of evil to spread through us and by means of us by refusing to play the game of evil. We don’t feed the sense of justification for evil when it attacks us, and we don’t give another just cause to strike at us. We also come to understand, or could, the patience and graciousness of God. He forgives, bears with us, and works for our blessing and benefit, in spite of our sin against Him. Our patience and never paying back evil for evil will give us a taste – a dim and poor taste, but a taste – of the enormity, depth, and true nature of God’s patience and forgiveness towards us.

That patience and forgiveness will not stop evil from attacking. It will simply show that evil to be all the more wicked because it attacks where there is no retaliation, and seeks to harm those who refuse to respond in kind. We will as a matter of fact promised by Jesus endure evil against ourselves from time to time. As Christians, we are to patiently endure, trust God to strengthen us, defend us, and bring us safely through, and like God, forgive those who sin against us. We overcome one of the goals of the evil one when we refuse to return evil for evil; we don’t allow ourselves to become a source of further evil, and we are protected from corruption by the evil that befalls us by declining to live according to the rules of evil.

Now we know that there are people who do things that are wrong and they are all around us. Scripture says, “vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord.” I believe that rests in God’s hands; I believe it is God who is the One who knows all things. His timing is perfect; He knows what goes on; He knows how to repay; He knows how to forgive, and will forgive. He knows how to soothe things over. So, we have the plan of God for our lives in brief before us. “Do not be overcome by evil; overcome evil with good.” It is one of those plans that make no sense to us, except in Christ and by His grace and blessing. It is contrary to our nature and to the human way of thinking — and frankly it is way beyond our ability, all by ourselves.

So let’s put things in God’s hands; let’s realize that even for our own good, when we are offended, or we’re sinned against, we’re far better off if we just forgive the other person.

Shantanu Dutta

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