Sunday, May 13, 2012

Aamir's Sathyameva Jayathe - Episode 1

Sathyameva Jayathe HAS indeed captured the nation's attention and today was Episode 2 but I had already started writing a post last Sunday. Let me complete that before I write about Episode 2.

Like any ardent Aamir Khan fan I waited for the show and I was taken aback to find out that it was just another "Talk Show" kind of a thing. "Sathyameva Jayathe" is too powerful a title and I was only wondering why such a title for a show as this. The show could have simply been titled "The Aamir Khan show".

Basically it is just another import from the U.S. Oprah has been doing this for years. We now have an Indian version of it. We are going to be seeing a lot of crying in the audience and we are all going to be buying it. Actually I didn't because in India (unlike in the U.S.) you don't need to actually watch a show as this to see all the evil. It is just outside your home. Who can forget the horrible episode in recent times of Neha Afreen, the three month old girl child that died in a hospital in Bangalore. Almost beaten and bitten to death by her father she died in hospital unable to recover from the brutality meted out to her. Her story was covered extensively. However I do appreciate Aamir's concern for the "ills"in our society and what he intends to do about it. Suriya (the host of the Tamil version of Kaun Banega Karorpathi, again another import from the U.S. based "Who wants to be a millionnaire") should learn from the way Aamir deals with his subjects. His reactions and contrite tears are more acceptable than Suriya's told-to-behave-style in "Neengalum Agalam Koteswaran".

Now for the first episode, on female foeticide and abortions. The reports were good, the statistics good, but how to eradicate this problem? This is where Aamir and his team missed out on a single most important thing, "the root-cause of the problem". I am actually surprised that he and his team didn't consider that. No one is going to stop abortions in this country by writing to Chief Ministers, the Prime Minister, President or the Medical Council. By the way in rural areas in North India they have people (ladies designated for this) who kill girl children after they are born. To some extent the horror can be mitigated if the perpetrators of the crime are put in jail, their medical licenses removed etc., but as I wrote earlier that alone is not going to solve the problem of female foeticide. In fact if the "real" problems were addressed then we even don't need to be running after the perpertrators of the crime. The crime itself will cease to exist. Having said that the solution is also not going to be very simple either.

The root-cause of the problem can be determined by asking, "Why are girl children not desired?" and the first answers that comes to mind to this question are the "Dowry" and the "Sharing of the family-wealth" issues. Aamir and his team should have highlighted and investigated this aspect more than anything else. This is where the root-cause of the problem is. In most societies in India the girl child is considered a burden because when the girl is married her parents (and even relatives, brothers) etc have to bear the brunt of "funding" her or in other words her husband and in some cases her husband's folks too. So she is considererd a burden carrying away the family fortune to her "in-laws". Sons on the other hand are considered bringers of wealth through marriage. I have a friend who told us that she like other girls in her community (an affluent community down South) are considered a burden and very little is done for their good. I have just made it brief. A full discussion will involve more posts. Therefore to tackle the female foeticide problem we need to tackle the "dowry problem" first. Other reasons for not having the female child are less intimidating as the "dowry problem".

So is the Indian girl doomed. No! Aamir and his team should realize that in India societies exist where things have been put in place in such a way that "Dowry" is discouraged. Take the case of the Malayali Nairs. The Nairs are Matriarchs and a lot of importance and value is given to the Nair women. The daughters and sons born to a Malayali Nair woman inherit the mother's Tharavadu (dynasty to put it loosely) name, even though their father would hail from another Tharavadu (the father's mother's tharvadu). A wonderful concept thought about so early by our forefathers becasue even scientifically we all inherit the mitochondrial DNA only from the mother. The beauty during the family wealth partition process is that the house is inevitably given to the girl or the wealth distributed among the girls equally if there are more than one girl. This in fact discourages the boy from asking for dowry from his bride. Sons are anyway going to be married to girls who get homes or wealth from the latters' families and so there is no need to give sons anything (again here there is no hard and fast rule that they shouldn't be getting anything, the sole decision lies with the parents). But whether the sons are given anything, the girl inevitably IS given the house or other wealth.

At college I had a Somalian friend who would tell us how in their muslim communities the groom has to pay the bride dowry to get married to her and that there were women who divorce multiple times to gather wealth that way. In China too, grooms need to pay dowry to their wives to get married. In recent times The Hindu carried an article how Chinese women have become too dear to pay dowry that it has become difficult to get a bride.

Aamir has already met the Chief Minister of Rajasthan to expedite processes that look into these crimes as his sting team actually captured surreptitiously footage of doctors assisting in female foeticides. One lady doctor even had the audacity telling the interviewers to dump the child in some open area or a farm. But my concern is that the "root of the problem"needs to be addressed.

So this is my review of Episode 1 in brief. I have lots to write about Episode 2 and that will be in another post, coming soon.

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