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Sunday, July 25, 1999

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Combating stress in our lives

APROPOS of Kuldip Dhiman’s article "Stress in office stress at home" (July 11), these days much is being written about stress and strain. In fact ‘stress’ is a very wide term and has its roots in tension, worry, strain, anxiety, failure, rivalry, fear, insecurity and nervousness. Some doctors believe that the cause of stress these days is the fact that people have had too much of life. Either they take too many worries upon themselves, or they are not able to take in stride the ordinary anxieties of life. When the stress is more than they can bear, they collapse just like the building which collapses when the stress of gales is too much to bear. Taking it easy at home and office is the only way to reduce stress and ward-off a nervous breakdown.

That golden virtue of ‘moderation’ induces us to keep our balance. It tells us when we are being busy bodies and it tells us when we are being too highstrung due to our emotions and worries. It is indeed the effective key that unwinds our nerves so that instead of suffering a breakdown, we sail along life’s course smoothly, sanely and efficiently. When we have the ability to laugh, when we see our own absurdities, how droll our ambitions are, how comical we are in all respects, we automatically become more sane, less self-centered, more humble, and stress-free.



Several eminent psycho-physical researches and social and industrial organisations have cautioned from time to time about the alarming rise in occupational stress that creates "emotional disturbances, peptic ulcers, heart trouble and irreversible situations in which workers get so incapacitated that thousands of man hours are lost in farms and factories, family ties are snapped and life becomes a synonym of unmitigated misery." India with its growing industrialisation and socio-economic disparities, has been singled out by medical scientists and psychiatrists as an acutely stress prone zone. Such focus on this country is legitimate and beneficial because our health planners as well as people affected by the stress factor are unaware of the escalation of various forms of psychoneurosis.

In the layman’s terms the upshot is that common causes of stress include long, repetitive and monotonous shift work, job overload, work underload, apprehension of physical and financial insecurity, a poor person-environment equation, inadequate caterer development prospects and strained relations at one’s place of work or at home. Our health managers and workers’ bodies should ensure that in all productive fields of activity as well as in personal life stress is recognised as a potential enemy of progress and development. It has emerged as an inhibitor of growth and adjustment and must be tackled promptly at the socio-physiological level.



In this fast changing world, nobody is free from stress. It is a social problem. Science and technology is advancing at a faster rate than our thinking. In other words we are advancing faster materially but slower emotionally. In sociological terms it is called cultural lag. With the advent of industrialisation, urbanisation took place. With more facilities and more incentives in cities, people started emigrating to the cities. Because of a high cost of living in cities their attention shifted from joint to nuclear families. These people remained attached to their old traditions and customs.

In urban life the role of women has also changed a lot. A new class of working women had emerged. Despite their financial contributions to the family, they are not given equal status. They are often over-burdened with work. They are expected to take care of everyone in the family. They are never considered human beings and nobody pay attention to their needs and ambitions. They should be cared for and loved by family members.

Most of us do not have a balanced picture of the prevailing socio-economic situation. It is very difficult to change the course of our lives. But we have to understand and adjust according to the changing socio-economic environment. We should discard old inconvenient customs and tradition and adopt new ones. Society, economy and polity are intimately connected with each other. In other words, every aspect of our life is related to other aspects. And hence change in one must bring change to the others.


Heart of darkness

This refers to Dr Usha Bande’s ‘the heart of darkness at snowy heights’ (July 11). Despite man’s unprecedented progress on the path of science and technology, at heart he remains ‘Lord of the flies.’ (as William Golding preferred to address man), full of barbarity, inhuman cruelty and shameful genocide. The frightful atrocities and genocide around us recall the worst phase of dark ages in human history. The conclusion of every war and battle has raised hopes of love, peace and brotherhood, which were against belied by the next phase of animosity and bloodshed.

It is ironical that the progress and prosperity and human life have moved together with inhuman violence, hostility and bloodshed. Hence it is no coincidence that while people like Gandhi, Marx, Vivekananda, Mother Teresa enlightened the human mind with spiritual awakening, man was killing his fellow beings by the millions. With the growth of technology, man has attained an unimaginable power of destruction and it would seem that he were digging his own grave and becoming his own mortician.

One cannot say whether this process of senseless and inglorious slaughter will stop, or whether the humiliation of defeat will perpetrate the injury of the vanquished and he would rise to take revenge, till the whole human race is wiped out from the face of this globe. One only hopes and wishes that man turns inward and removes the poison of hate and violence from his soul. Man’s future progress lies not in material achievements through technology, but in rousing his sleeping soul to human virtues and moral value of life, which have been ignored thus far.


Laws of Manu

In his column Time Off (July 11) Manohar Malgonkar has raised a question, "Was Manu really a villain?" No doubt caste system was already there before the Laws of Manu (Manusmriti) came into being. So, he is not the father of this system. He has ordained nothing about untouchability. Dr B.R. Ambedkar has maintained in his well-researched book The Untouchables that even the word untouchable is not found in the Manusmriti, as the practice of untouchability came into being a century later.

Then why is it that Manu is called a villain? Why did Ambedkar himself make a bonfire of Manusmriti in 1927? The answer to all such questions is very simple. Manu codified in his book the rules and rituals regarding caste system along with the superstitions, prejudices and beliefs prevailing in his contemporary society. This in itself was not that an objectionable step. But in the later times this codification played havoc with the Indian society, particularly with the shudras. The codification gave his work a new and high status. Subsequently it did not remain a mere record of the contemporary society but became an ideal for the society. And herein lies the why of his being called a villain.

It is debatable whether Manu himself was creating an ideal for society. But it is certain that his work has been projected as an ideal for centuries. This fact is both his strength and weakness. As this ideal was discriminatory against a vast majority of the people, they were naturally inclined to call him a villain.


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