IT IS THE ONLY DOOR WAY TO UNDERSTAND SOMEONE…

Me and my sister have our own worlds. We always had our respective friend circles and very little overlap. We talk, crack jokes, and have a lot of fun time. Irrespective of the comfort we have with each other, we seldom share important events of our lives. My mom talks for hours with her sisters, and always says that me and my sister don’t talk as much. My sister’s reply is an epic one, “Amma (Mom), we do not need to talk as often or as much as your sisters talk. Our bonding is stronger than your bonding with your sisters..”. Few months back when I went home, I noticed that my sister was dull. All her friends were getting married, so, she is left with very few with whom she can talk. I started chatting with her, send news articles sometimes or just listen to her complaints on my parents 🙂 She started to open up and share few things with me. I cannot replace all of her friends, but something is better than nothing.

There is a lot of power in communication, well, effective communication. Communication is not just about talking but listening too. I feel listening is more important than talking. I have been craving for someone who can listen and understand my feelings. The main problem I faced is there are many people who are just hearing to what I say. There are many who ask me questions for the sake of asking or for courtesy. For example, someone might ask me regarding my work. If my response is positive, they would say, “good“, if my response is not so positive then it would be, “every where it is like that” :-). Further to this there would be no more discussion about work. This is a very trivial example. For someone who cares, my expression of problem would make them check back on me. It is a rarity to find such people.

Imagine your kid waiting for you to return from work. He/she would have a lot to speak with you about how their day was. Their world is small and all they are asking for is some attention towards them. Unless we listen, we cannot understand how their thoughts are changing. The more we remember about them, the more they feel connected to us. Teeny tiny details of their friends are very important to them. Hearing is not at all sufficient when dealing with kids. 

I am constantly finding it difficult to express now a days because I am not sure if the other person is hearing or listening. There is always a thought if they are judging me. Some people do not let me complete my sentence and say, “I understand/know what you are talking about. You don’t have to explain it“. I wonder how they know what my feelings are. Feelings are distinct from person to person. To truly understand what the other person is talking about, we should have the patience to listen. 

This habit of interrupting or ignoring what other person has to say is not confined to personal space but also prevalent in professional spaces as well. Undermining what the other engineer has to say is a common phenomena I noticed at work place as well. Sometimes, it feels like plain arrogance which is making them immune to other people’s ideas. It can also be demeaning and demotivate anyone from expressing further.

Listening is an art. It is time consuming to listen but trust me it is a worthy investment. There are a lot of people yearning to be listened. It can be anyone around us. Having a listening ear towards their problems is all they need. Listening requires us to give undivided attention. Listening improves our compassion too. All of us cherish those friends who are there with us through thick and thin, and the only way to achieve that is to listen, listen and listen. 

Poor listening usually leads to problems in relationships. If we do not listen, the chances are two people would fall apart and eventually may not feel the need to talk. This can sometimes lead to separation or dissolving of otherwise good relationship. Effective communication is possible only if we listen. Without a self-centred agenda of biases, judgements, advises we would be extending our empathy when we listen. 

“It’s not at all hard to understand a person; it’s only hard to listen without bias.” 
― Criss Jami, Killosophy

LISTENING TO GOD

‘Listening to God’ – the title may seem a bit crazy or whimsical for some! Some others may think that it would be an article full of religious stuff. To help do away with your assumptions, let me assure you that listening to God is neither a crazy thought nor a religious supposition. It’s not a crazy thought because God does speak. It’s not a religious supposition because God has nothing to do with religion. Religions (there are uncountable many – and every other day new religions are born) are socio-cultural identities to which a sense of divinity has been pulled in to help make it sacred. God created no religion. He just created human beings and gave them the freedom to choose to follow Him or to look the other way. And, that is how we have different belief systems, ideologies and philosophies about God the world over.

Having cleared the air a bit, let me ask you – have you ever listened to God speak to you? I have. And, that’s what makes me write this article with confidence.

THE WAYS GOD DOESN’T ALWAYS SPEAK

  • God doesn’t always speak ‘what’ we would want Him to.

There are times we want God to intervene in our lives during tough situations. Desperate for a word of assurance from Him, we wish that He would speak a word of affirmation into our situation. But, it doesn’t always happen that way. That’s because God knows what is best for us in the infinity of His wisdom than what we desire with the finiteness of our longing. His ways are different from ours. His thoughts are different from ours.

  • God doesn’t always speak ‘when’ we would want Him to.

Living at a day and age of instants – instant Maggie, instant Coffee, instant Soups – and at a time when data gets downloaded in seconds and nanoseconds, it is quite understandable to want quick-fix solutions to problems and shortcuts to success. It is also quite understandable to want God to speak to us instantly as soon as He is called out to. At times, He makes us wait – the delay leading many to conclude that ‘God doesn’t exist’. However, we need to understand that God is beyond time. With God a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.

  • God doesn’t always speak ‘where’ we would want Him to.

Most of us have this notion that God can be found in and would speak in serene tranquil surroundings, in seclusion, away from habitation – maybe on a lonely sea beach or a lofty mountain top. To get you right on this, God speaks to His handmade human beings at all places. He is Omnipresent. So, if you are thinking that you need to get away on a quiet vacation in order to have God speak to you, you are wrong. God can speak in the storms, in the tumult of crashing waves, in the whirlpool and in the wind. But, to be able to listen to Him, we need the silence of our hearts with our spirits attuned to Him.

  • God doesn’t always speak ‘how’ we would expect Him to.

Not every dream is from God. Not every vision is from God. Not every prophetic word is from God. Not every voice from within is from God. Not every counsel received from trusted loved ones or experienced wise ones, is from God. Not every seemingly evident sign is from God. So, beware that you do not mistakenly assume that the voices of the world, of your own desires and of the devil are from God, thereby preventing yourself to listen to the voice of God.

HOW THEN, DOES GOD SPEAK?

  • God speaks through His audible voice.

God is simply not a figment of human imagination. He is not a mere superpower, somewhere up in the high skies. He is a living entity. He is not a lifeless totem. And so, He speaks with an audible voice. Those who have heard Him speak describe His voice as thunderous, like the sound of many waters. At times, He speaks in silent whispers and at other times in a calm clear call.

  • God speaks through nature.

Nature is God’s footprint on earth. The myriad animals, birds, fishes, insects, trees, flowers, seas, oceans, mountains, sun, moon, stars all bear the stamp of God. They are silent witnesses to the existence of God and God speaks through them. Nature is not God. But, it bears the impression of its Creator.

  • God speaks through people.

While all human counsel is not from God, God does speak through people – at times through people known to us, at other times through complete strangers and sometimes through people whom we don’t seem to agree with.

  • God speaks through supernatural means.

Again, while all dreams, visions and signs are not from God, God does speak through these supernatural means. He has been using these means from ages of old and does so even today to reach out to people.

  • God speaks through His Word.

I believe in the Bible as the living Word of God. God has revealed Himself through His Word – not by the word of a human author/s. The word of God is alive and active, sharper than any double-edged sword and God speaks out loud and clear to all humanity through His word.

HOW CAN WE LISTEN TO GOD?

  • Tuning our spirits to God

When we tune our spirits Godwards, we train our ears to listen to God. A newborn baby knowing the difference between the mother’s voice and that of others, responds to that familiar voice while discarding others. With spirits tuned to God, His voice distinctly makes us listen to Him.

  • Having a spirit of discernment

If all counsel is not from God, but some are; if all supernatural means are not from God, but some are, how do we know for sure which to listen to? This is when a spirit of discernment is needed and this is something given by God Himself.

  • Spending time in the presence of nature

Nature speaks of the glories of God. Spend time in the quietness of nature and allow God to speak to you. Not the voice from within you, but the voice of God. You’ll hear Him!

  • Quietening our hearts and seeking to listen to Him

When we quieten our hearts and consciously seek to listen to Him, there is no way we would miss Him speak. Hearing may be accidental, but listening is always a conscious choice. If we choose to listen to God, we will definitely listen to Him.

  • Clearing the clutter

The digital age has made pep talks, motivational speeches and positive thinking lectures available at our fingertips. They do help pep us up for a while but pose as the biggest obstacles to desire to listen to God. So, while you feel motivated and pepped up by listening to experts, don’t allow those voices to cloud the voice of God – you’ll miss listening to the best motivator!

In this week, when we are writing about ‘Listening’, I chose to write about ‘Listening to God’ because this is the most important voice that every human being needs to listen to. And, this is the voice that goes unperceived the most leading to chaos in families, societies and the world over. I urge you to desire to listen to God speaking to you. When you do, you’ll know what I mean.

Stay tuned for articles this week that focus on the importance of listening in our day-to-day lives – in families, among friends, in workplaces and everywhere else!

MARITAL RAPE – BREACH OF FREEDOM TO CONSENT

Anita was taking time today to finish her chores before going to bed. She was dead tired, body sored due to menses. But she was also petrified anticipating the horrific sexual intercourse she was forced to go through daily, even during her menstrual cycle. She had sought refuge in her mother few days back, but was shocked when her mother asked her to comply quietly. “It’s the duty of the wife to please her husband, it’s custom dear” – this statement itself defies the so called “sanctity” of marriage.

Marital rape befalls when a husband forces intercourse on wife either by threat or by taking advantage of her inability to consent. Then just like any other domestic violence why is marital rape not punishable by law in our country? Whether a stranger, a known person or a family member commits it, rape is RAPE!

Like Anita, many women go through marital rape naming the social and religious customs or so called obligation towards husband. Marriage has become a leeway to force sex in such cases. The role of wife in India is still perceived as a homemaker and having intercourse a “duty”. Apart from the fact that women in India still strive for self sufficiency that shoves many to live in physical and emotional distress.

Although rape has strict and specific laws enforced, the boundaries are blurred when it comes to marital sex. Despite many law commissions and new legislation such heinous act of coercion is not yet termed as criminal offence in India, the reason why it’s one of the most under reported crime.

Marital relationship’s so called “sacrosanct” status has become a taboo. Our society is unable to concede to grievous criminal offences occurring inside the boundaries of the institution of marriage. Marital rape is no less traumatic for the victim and to make matters worse, she has to cohabit with the abuser. It is a violation of the fundamental right to freedom of a human being. However many women still accept and justify this assault as deference. This ignorance makes it even more imperative to provide legal protection to women against marital rape.

Apart from judicial awakening we primarily need to generate awareness to curtail ignorance regarding this domestic coercion. “Amends begins at home”, we need to change the patriarchal social norms and teach our children to discern and differentiate between adjustment to situations and complying to offences. No one should accede to any form of abuse from anyone.

Most countries like Canada, Australia and South Africa have amended and abolished marital rape exemptions from the legal texts. It’s not only our legal but also social responsibility to come out of embedded cultural and religious stereotypes and bring changes in our social values. The legal system needs to eradicate the myth of “conjugal rights” in its books. Every step we take today towards changing the mindset will definitely diminish nescience and pave the path towards appreciating the fundamental right to freedom.

SPEAK UP FOR CHANGE!

It was a Sunday night when my frazzled house-help called me to tell me that she wouldn’t be coming to work… ever.

I was stunned. For any busy mother with too much on her plate, house-helps are more important than their own husbands. I frantically asked her why she had made this sudden decision because she loved working, I knew. She loved the independence and the money these odd jobs gave her.

She answered between sobs, “Didi, I can’t stay here while my husband is threatening my life. He won’t let me be. He’s lost it. He hits me and does drugs. And he doesn’t even care for the children anymore. What will become of my children if he kills me? I have no one here in the city. At least my people can support me in the gaon (countryside). That’s why I’m leaving.”

I knew what she was saying wasn’t a fabrication. Her husband had been very abusive, both mentally and physically, for over a year, going to the extent of making an attempt on her life last year! Heaven knew why she hadn’t bolted back then itself. I insisted that she see a lawyer for a divorce but she was afraid of her folks; ‘what will people say‘. When she didn’t do that I sent her to a doctor to dress the wound. It was superficial thankfully, but the attempt had shaken her to the core, as it would. The police had refused her help because let’s face it, the Police don’t do much in India unless you have connections (if you know what I mean). Sheer will, her children’s education and a helpful sister were the only reasons why she was staying on in the city even after the attempt, but that sister too had lately moved away, leaving her absolutely alone against the wrath of her terrorizing husband.

There was nothing I could do to help her or to make her stay. I was in no position to offer her a place to stay or another job. Even I felt that she would be safer in her gaon. But I did feel strongly that people like her are always trudged upon by the powers that be just because they don’t raise their voices. They never have. Which is why the oppression never ends.

This whole week on Candles Online we are discussing the topic of Raising Voices. For the remainder of the week, you shall have compelling arguments from contributors who encourage raising a voice against some form of oppression prevalent in our society. In this article, I shall be discussing raising a voice as citizens of a democracy.

I discussed above how people like my house-help suffer in silence because they chose to suffer instead of lashing out at their oppressors. But let me not generalize it for people like her, because it isn’t just ‘people like her’ who suffer in silence, but most of the population. Take for example the recent debacle over the movie Padmaavat, which I have written about here. It was shameful that a section of the Indian population was rioting over a harmless piece of fiction, but what was even more shameful was the way the general public was silent over it, except a few brave voices. Everyone knew that the rioting was unjustified, yet people who Tweet or post statuses about what they eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner, or are quick to add hashtags to be a part of the latest fad in the country, wouldn’t raise a voice for fear of incurring the ire of the rioters, while the authorities were, as usual, playing coy of stamping out the riots for ‘political reasons’.

Coming back to the point of the unhelpful Police, have any of you lost a phone, or a vehicle and have been turned out by the Police with the statement, “Lodge an FIR, and then we’ll see”? Or have you heard that a rape or an assault victim, especially a woman, has been taunted by the Police, “If you dress like that, or roam around at that hour, its bound to happen”? Or have you ever faced a wall of stone when you approached the Police about your grievances against a political big-wig? And how many of you have taken action against such latent oppression?

The Police are not the only authority or institution that feeds on the fear or worse still, the apathy of the public to get away with it. Every authority, when it does not have the ‘check’ of a watchful public, becomes a dictatorship, even a democracy like ours that is ostensibly of the people, for the people and by the people.

Forget about the government and other authorities, sections of our population face oppression and maltreatment at the hands of those who wield power over them in some way – like my house-help who couldn’t speak up about her oppression for months because of her husband or her in-laws who forced her into silence in the name of saving the marriage. Or abused children who can’t speak up about the heinous acts done to them because of fear of retaliation and ridicule from their families.

You may say, and your point would be valid, that no good has ever come from raising voices against oppression; you would only be beating yourself down while the powers that be will be quick to dismiss you, maybe even kill you! Some of you may say that ‘the system’ won’t allow any changes. Yes, maybe in the short-term it won’t, but in the long-term, it will. You and I may not be able to see that change, but at least our children will because we dared to do it. 

History has taught us that changes come only when a voice is raised against oppression –

The bans on Sati, child marriage, untouchability, apartheid, and the right of women to vote, to study in general schools and colleges, and to own property, these changes all came about because someone dared to say ‘no’.

Having seen what it is like to be in a Democracy, I think it is time that we stopped relying on the power of our votes alone to bring about changes. All political parties, all elected candidates, all oppressive factions of societies suffer from selective amnesia after they come to power. They may write off their promises to us, giving an excuse of authoritative encumbrances or may just shrug us off like dust on their shoulders after they’ve received our votes. The easiest medium of change is raising a voice because it brings immediate attention to an existing grievance. No one achieved anything by staying silent in the face of oppression. Even Mahatma Gandhi’s Civil Disobedience and Satyagraha movements relied on silent disobedience against the oppression of the British.

We are born free and the same powers that gave the oppressor their voices gave us a voice too. We have the additional right to freedom of thought and expression granted by a Constitution that claims to belong to its people.

Speak up for change!

Let your oppression be known.

Your voice makes this society, this nation.

Make it matter. 

 

Image Source: Ninocare at Pixabay.

 

Quote of the day

I evoke my conscience to raise my voice against the prevailing injustice.

THE BEAUTIFUL PAINTED STORKS

The chirping of numerous birds at a time, always spells melody to my ears. It generates a feeling of reverence and awe in my heart for the Creator who has created them all. Though I long to observe their movements, it is almost never possible as they hardly stay put at one place for long.

To my delight, I had the luxury of observing many different birds in their natural habitat, a few months ago. As I entered Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary (also known as Keoladeo National park – located in Rajasthan, India), the cool morning air resonated with the mixed chirping and screeching of various birds. It was a feast for the ears to begin with and later for the eyes as well!

The Painted Stork was the chief attraction for me. The Painted Stork (Mycteria leucocephala) is a large wading bird in the stork family. It is found in the wetlands of the plains of tropical Asia south of the Himalayas in South Asia and extending into Southeast Asia, mainly in India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, China, Myanmar, Thailand, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Vietnam and Cambodia.

IMG_4636

The Painted Storks are called so because of their distinctive pink tertial (flight) feathers of the wing. They have big yellow beaks with down-curved tips. They forage in flocks in shallow waters along rivers or lakes and are found mostly on freshwater wetlands.

Three special features of the Painted Stork:

  1. After a period of courtship, the male and female painted storks build their nest together. Such a united effort to build their home – doesn’t it sound amazing!
  2. Both the parent storks take responsibility in feeding the young storks. No gender stereotyped-roles! Shared responsibility in bringing up the little ones.
  3. Though the painted storks live upto 28 years, they lose their voice just after 18 months. The maximum sound that comes from them after that is a harsh croaking or low moaning. Still, these voiceless birds don’t stop communicating!

IMG_4632

One noteworthy lesson to glean from these lovely birds is their attempt to communicate, notwithstanding their natural impediment of losing their voice early in life. This made me think that we human beings having the powerful gift of speech, so often stop communicating with people around us – out of choice or reason. And, this creates gaps in relationships.

Obstacles in the course of our lives are myriad. However, to learn to move ahead in spite of these obstacles is what makes life progressive. The Painted Storks teach us a lesson in that!

(As of today, the Painted Storks find themselves in the Near Threatened Category of the IUCN.)