Archive | July, 2014

The right to be heard and easily offended

28 Jul

orange cabinet

I must certainly be getting old. Or, at least, my mind is or always has been living in a different era.

I’ve been observing the “younger generation” for some time now. By that, I mean adults aged 35 and under. I’ve watched how they interact with parents and how they respond to peers and others and how they behave in social situations. I don’t want to sound too condescending, patronising or dismissive of the younger generation as I’ve been part of that generation too and appreciate the invaluable contribution each generation brings to the community or society as a whole.

But: I have noticed how we interact, respond act and react has an effect on the next generation. I’m aware that we have a great deal more technology, information, access to social media, education, more awareness and knowledge of our Rights, various Discrimination Acts encompassed under the Equality Act 2010 and the Human Rights Act, legislation, regulations and so on and so forth. So, we appear to have more heightened sense of “awareness” and are more “mindful” if we appear to demonstrate prejudice, being too judgemental, too dismissive, too outspoken/opinionated or expressing our “freedom of speech”.

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However, in saying that, the subtle nuances of conversation, the subtexts or underlying meanings,  have been slowly eliminated or being eradicated. For the people under 35 that I have observed or witnessed or spoken to, in my experience, they appear to be querying, questioning all what is being said and done or what is being asked of them. This is all good and well as asking relevant, appropriate or pertinent questions adds to the knowledge and therefore we learn but it’s the manner in which it is being asked now which, to me, is the issue.

The heightened sensitivities, especially since 9/11 has given rise to a more powerful and potent dynamics of society; the “politics” of the community has changed drastically and is almost always under scrutiny. Alongside Islamophobia and other social phobias, those who are demanding their rights to speak or their voices to be heard appear to be creating a social monster.

It’s good to live in a world free of hate, but for example, is it right that we daren’t say something like “Hello, you look lovely today” for fear of being offensive, too personal or intrusive? Where do you draw the line? since compliments are offered and can provide or help build confidence and self esteem are they not? and criticisms, of the “constructive” variety, are they not there to help develop skills, talent and knowledge??

At this rate, is it any wonder people are becoming more insular, living in their own “bubbles” and stating “Not my story, not my circus, not my monkeys?”

Is it any wonder that, as we push forward into the 21st century, the “heightened sensitivities and easily offended” can cause and has created socio-political troubles, more anxiety and a fear of understanding, leading to more ignorance?

Is it any wonder that mind games are being played at work, within social media and within families?

Because to me, it seems, sometimes, those who shout the loudest are also the most dangerous.

Millenium point structure

 

The Learned Kat

The beats of the drum

24 Jul

As I spoke to my friends’ sister-in-law, I could hear the beats of a tabla ( a percussion instrument) being played in the background. It evoked strong memories of my mother, who used to play at numerous social gatherings, dinner parties, weddings and Mehndi nights. “Oh, Mrs ——! Why don’t you play?”  “Please Mrs —–, sing for us! Play the tabla!” The women would plead, implore and encourage mum by placing a spoon in her hand and pressing her clenched hand onto the table.  Mum would react with some reluctance at first, displaying modesty and humility. But the beats of the drum would easily sway mum to become absorbed in the sound of the music. Meditative, delightful and passionate. Sometimes, you would hear laughter. Other times, tears. But overall, a joyous occasion shared by women.

Photo: commissioned for a 40th wedding anniversary

Dad didn’t quite have the same “musicality” as mum . He did however, have a strong sense of verse and poetry. He would be sitting in another room, surrounded by men, his peers, long term friends and new acquaintances.   His reputation surpassed his knowledge. People would invite him to recite poetry, “ghazals” and verse, write articles, poems and provide awards, receive rewards of recognition and accomplishments. His words, strong and emotive, would reverberate around the room, halls and amongst the crowds. The tone of his voice resonated, the audience murmuring assent, applauding the sound of words, spoken with aplomb.

However, I chose to ignore, didn’t understand…

But now I cry, soft tears roll down my cheeks, memories strong for the love of my parents I long…

Love is like...

 

Respect for Elders

19 Jul

 

At the same occasion of the House blessing, something else was highlighted to me – that being, no matter how old we are, we still seem to bow down to the commands, requests and directives of our elders.

This feeling was compounded by my Sikh friend, aged 44 and a teacher at a Secondary/High school. He invited me into his home, I accepted. We were or are 2 people with common interests, independence and our own family units.

So, he called me in. He offered me a seat, which I accepted as I had already explained the physical symptoms of my back pain. But just when I was about to open the folding chair which was proffered, his older brother made an accusatory remark and commented that I should sit on the floor as a mark of respect to the Guru Granth Sahib (the Sikh Holy Scripture) and to the others who were present, sitting cross legged on the floor. I was embarrassed and without further ado, I complied to the bidding of the elder. I sat on the floor, albeit in an uneasy and uncomfortable fashion.

 

Afterwards, my friend asked : “When my brother asked you to sit down, did you feel like a child?”

“Yes”, I replied.

“I’m sorry,” he said “I felt so embarrassed for you. My brother does that to people.”

 

We agreed that it wasn’t so much his brothers approach , but the attitude or response we provided in return. Even though I’m 44, it’s only now, in the last 3 years that I’ve attempted to speak my mind, be outspoken and assertive towards my own siblings. I keep telling them that I;m not 12 or 126 anymore. I have my own life, issues and challenges to face without being treated further like a child.

My friend and I conceded that the relationships and boundaries we have with our own Elders is a challenge in itself and a cultural attitude which needs to be addressed and the cycle broken.

 

A Single Blessing

5 Jul

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I was invited to a housewarming party by a Sikh acquaintance. Well, actually, he’s not an “acquaintance”. He’s an old school friend but after our college years, we went our separate ways. We rekindled our friendship several years ago after bumping into each other on the street.

But I digress…The housewarming was really a low key event, and can only be described as a “blessing”. The holy Sikh scripture, the Guru Granth Sahib was placed on a low bookstand and we sat around it whilst verses were recited, chanted and absorbed.

It was embarrassing for me as I couldn’t understand the spoken word or even its meaning. I heard several words here and there that just about provide me with the general gist of the reading: it seemed that the recitations were about “bringing harmony, sweetness and peace” to the loves of those who live within and for those who visited the home.

Although I couldn’t understand, my spirits were lifted and felt a sense of belonging.

For all of 30 minutes, it offered up an opportunity to relax, meditate and reflect on past events. For me, not only was it a “blessing” for the house, but a blessing just to be invited to the occasion.

 

The Learned Kat