|HER WORLD||Sunday, November 10, 2002, Chandigarh, India|
Vignettes Not a moral judgement Smell of success Not real life
Not a moral judgement
Smell of success
Not real life
"YOUR clothes conceal much of your beauty, but hide not the unbeautiful. If you are seeking safety and freedom in your garments, you will find a harness and a chain." Khalil Gibran in The Prophet.
But the editors of some family and women’s magazines in Kerala are convinced that the clothes are all about morality, freedom and empowerment. Your body is not a mass of flesh the beastly-eyed men can watch with lust. Nor a showpiece to attract the men other than your husband. So, wear a purdah while going on the streets," the editorial of the Aaraamam women’s magazine addresses the Muslim women. "Purdah is a modern dress for moral women," it concludes. Aaraamam, owned by the Girls Islamic organisation affiliated to Kerala chapter of the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, is published with the editorial support of the Malayalam daily Madhyamam. Like Aaraamam, there are more than 20 such publications, owned by religious groups, that largely target a female audience. According to a recent survey, conducted at the University of Calicut, 10 such women’s/ family magazines carried 143 reports/ features, 23 of them on covers, to promote the purdah after 1992. Aaraamam tops the list with 23 pro-purdah features in its credit.
Pudava, a monthly, controlled by Mujahid Girls Movement carried 19 articles while Poonkavanam and Sunni Afkar, owned by two orthodox sects of Sunni Muslims published 10 each. Mahila Chandrika from the house of the Chandrika group owned by the Indian Union Muslim League and Thejas fortnightly of the extremist National Development Front (NDF), two relative newcomers, carried three each purdah features in the last three years, the survey reveals. When Sunni Afkar brought out a women’s special annual issue last year, the topic was confined to the clothing of Muslim women. Thirteen out of 18 by-lined articles in the issue were on purdah.
The survey also revealed that the number of the Muslim women who use purdah in the five districts of the Malabar region increased from 3.5 per cent in 1990 to 32.5 in 2000. The northernmost and the most backward Kasargode district, where the community-oriented family magazines have the largest readership, tops in the graph. Purdah House, started 10 years back in S.M. Street, Kozhikode's commercial hub, set the wave in motion. "The sales, though very dull initially, improved. Gradually we decided to come out with designerwear burqas," says Rasool Gafoor, a former partner of Purdah House. Gafoor, who today owns the Crescent Group of Companies, manufactures these garments under the brand name Hoorulyn.
Apart from Purdah House, Hoorulyn sells at a number of outlets all over the state and in neighbouring Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. Crescent has its clientele abroad, too. Nearly 15 per cent of its Rs 5 crore turnover last year came from exports to the Gulf. Now, more than 20 companies manufactures burqas in Kerala. And all of them get their quota of feature support from these magazines, having a combined circulation of 5 lakh copies at the last count. Two years ago, India Today (Malayalam) on its cover profiled some budding Muslim businesswomen who dared the clergy, preferring common dress code in public. The family magazines lost no time and jumped into the field with replies and rejoinders. Aaraamam even featured on cover a counter-story detailing the lives of Muslim women who do small businesses in purdah. Even the secular credentials of the India Today and the correspondent were questioned.
Madhyamam alone, which has emerged the third largest newspaper in the state with six editions including one from the Gulf, organised two debates on the promotion of purdah, and published more than 50 letters to the editor in its columns defending the spread of the Arabian dress code.
"The editorial support and moral patronage from Muslim publications, especially the Madhyamam group, were immense help in spreading the message of purdah. The middle class Muslim women form a common target, our consumers and their readers," says Rasool Gafoor, of the Hoorulyn with gratitude. In his early advertisements, he had used newspaper pictures of purdah-clad Iranian women leading marches in the streets of Tehran. Women in purdah driving cars and operating computers, are some of the images the publications project. Till a few years ago, only the highly orthodox Sunni women wore the purdah in Kerala. Its new-found popularity is due partly to the realisation that it is more convenient than other attire. "Many find slipping into a burqa much simpler than the elaborate ritual of draping a sari. Cost is another factor. But most predominant factor is the editorial support given by the women publications and the patronage of the community organisations" says M.N. Karassery, noted writer and progressive critic on Muslim women’s issues. People like Karassery among the Muslims interpret the purdah-craze as a deliberate attempt on the part of fundamentalists to divest Muslim women of all progress. The conversion of the famous writer and poetess Kamala Das, alias Madhavi Kutty, to Islam three years back triggered another boom in the burqa market, as the publications devoted dozens of features on the celebrity in purdah. It was a virtual war to attract more and more buyers for new and newer brands of burqas. A number of such shops named after Surayya sprung up in several towns of Malabar after the famous author embraced Islam. These publications, in return, gained heavy volume of ad support from the burqa makers. The only way to reach the Muslim women is to advertise in these family magazines. "Their editorial support garnered credibility for our ads," says Rasool Gafoor, who spent more than Rs 25 lakh on advertising last year.
Even the mainstream family
magazines like Vanitha of Malayala Manorama and Grihashobha
of the Mathrubhumi group, chipped in by propagating a ‘nice-girls-wear-burqa’
line. In Kerala, particularly in the Malabar area of the state, purdah
is a recent phenomenon. A decade ago or so, a woman in purdah was a rare
sight on the streets of Malabar. Now they can be found everywhere; in
colleges, markets and super bazaars. Observers are unable to pinpoint
the reason for the spread of the purdah in such a short time. They
attribute it to the demolition of the Babri Masjid and the subsequent
tendency of the community members to become introverted, looking at a
revival of Islam. The high visibility of the RSS-backed revival of Hindu
customs and rituals has had its impact on Muslims. As more and more
women come under the spell of the purdah, the progressive among them
view it in a different light. To them the cloak conceals a religious
chauvinism that spells danger to Muslim womanhood. "Clerics and
orthodox organisations want Muslim women to be confined to their
traditional roles in the kitchen and bedroom. The purdah provides an
effective weapon to restrict their progress," says V.P. Suhara,
president of the Nissah, the Progressive Muslim Women's Forum.
"These publications are run by the same outfits," she adds.
SEVERAL years ago, a tornado demolished Ajay and Preeti’s home. He responded by drinking and withdrawing. She developed a phobia about storms and blamed Ajay for not ‘being there’ when she needed him. Within a year they were divorced.
About the same time, Sunil and Renu watched their house burn to the ground and then spent five stressful months living in a motel room, with their three children. Today, their marriage is stronger than ever.
What made the difference? Although people get married for better or worse, ‘worse’ is what tests a relationship. Hard times can make a husband and wife closer than ever — or can rip a relationship apart. Unfortunately, in times of trouble, it’s easy to undermine your marriage and jeopardise a crucial source of strength.
When something bad happens most women instinctively look for someone to hold responsible. And it’s their spouse who is likely to be standing right in their line of vision. "When they marry", observes marriage counsellor Jasneet Sidhu, "they get a readily available scapegoat". But a psychiatrist says, "There’s no way to win against spouse. Either both win or they lose".
Often couples find it helpful to think of the problem as something outside their relationship. Many experts agree that when one person suffers from a serious illness, the couple does better if both treat the disease as a third party they can gang upon. Instead of saying ‘my’ cancer they talk about ‘the’ cancer. Then they can feel united against a common enemy. Joining together for a mutual purpose is one of the best ways to keep a marriage intact during a crisis. When a person does have a larger share of responsibility for a problem, both spouses need to acknowledge that burden. According to Jasneet Sidhu, "In a crisis, a spouse doesn’t need a cheerleader. We feel closest not to the people who constantly tell us how wonderful we are and love us anyway. During rough times, that sense of being loved despite our mistakes is crucial."
When spouses don’t tell each other how they feel, it’s as if there’s an elephant in the room that never gets talked about. Communication, however, cannot be coerced. Often a predicament pushes couples into an all-too-familiar rut: she thinks he doesn’t have feelings because he won’t talk about them; he thinks she’s too emotional because she won’t talk about anything else.
Before putting pressure on your spouse to talk about feelings and instead of interpreting silence as indifference — remember that sometimes talking is simply too painful. In such cases, couples might seek out groups of people who have been through similar experiences. One man whose wife was raped withdrew angrily from her. After he joined a group for partners of rape victims, he began to understand that his response was a defence against his own sense of helplessness. Then he was able to share his feelings with his wife.
Body language is often more eloquent than talk. One woman whose husband was reluctant to discuss her miscarriage found that when he held her, she could feel the caring that he couldn’t express in words. When husbands and wives are able to talk to each other, they are often shocked at how differently they see things. The same event may make one person angry, another depressed, another hurt as frightened.
Unfortunately, a response that’s unlike your own may seem inappropriate to you. One woman who spent weeks in the hospital tending a seriously sick child felt distant from her husband. "He was going along with ‘business as usual,’ while I was a wreck thinking about how we might lose this child", she says. In such situations, it’s necessary to talk about your perceptions and give each other the benefit of doubt. The woman discovered that her husband felt he had to keep things normal precisely because she was so upset. What she perceived as indifference was actually his way of showing support.
It’s, better to be flexible and kind to each other. Awareness of a spouse’s perspective may make it easier to handle the inevitable changes that an emergency forces on everyday life, such as the reshuffling of routine responsibilities. The hard part is thinking of these new tasks as a challenge rather than a burden. One woman who had cancer became too weak to go out, so her husband took over all the shopping. Rather than being annoyed, he took satisfaction in performing a necessary service, and he gained a new appreciation for his wife’s activities.
Flexibility also extends to emotions. Its all too easy for couples to become rigid in their emotional roles — he always complains; that she’s always stoic. Such "typecasting" can be crippling in a crisis. In one family, where the teenage son had been assessed, the parents were polarised: Dad was the disciplinarian. Mum the comforter. Rather than collaborating as parents, they had evolved into opposite positions. Both resented it. The mother wasn’t getting respect from the child and the father wasn’t getting affection.
In fact, both partners need freedom to express a wide range of emotions, and may find themselves trading points of view. One day, he’ll rail against the injustice of his company’s closing while she is reassuring. The next, she may worry about paying the bills while he is comforting. The important thing is that over time, each is counsellor and the consoled.
Finally, spouses who endure tough times say how much they love each other often. But it is the worst time to assume the other person knows how you feel because partners in healthy marriages actually express their positive feelings more often when circumstances are difficult. Sometimes, while emphasising their positive feelings about each other, these spouses also down play their negative ones. Thus, couples have to realise that the problem is not ‘us’, but the situation. Although a quarrel may bring temporary distraction from the real predicament, it also wears down goodwill.
Obviously, you shouldn’t
wait for a crisis to work on these skills. In good times, forgiveness,
openness, acceptance, flexibility and kindness will enrich your
relationship. In bad times, they will keep your marriage strong just
when you need it most.
AN Indian school is into training young girls by imparting special knowledge about how to become perfect daughter-in-laws, in an effort to reduce the increasing divorce rate.
According to the figures given by the school authorities, more than 400 young girls have so far successfully completed the three-month course at the Manju Sanskar Kendra, Bhopal. The girls learn Sri Sukhmani Sahib, Sri Japji Sahib and other religious verses in Gurbani classes.
A note on the Web site claims that most of the girls have learnt these verses by heart and can recite them correctly. It starts with a saying "Gods dwell in where woman is worshipped". But only those women are worshipped, only for those women, respect automatically flows out from heart, who are cultured, have good manners and have respect for elders and love for the young. If a woman is full of samskaras, the entire family becomes literate, as it is only a mother, who can instil good samskaras in her children right from their early childhood. The note further reads that with a view to make today’s adolescent girls worthy wives, able mothers and respected family members, the Kendra has been set up. In this centre, girls are taught samskaras based on our great Indian culture, religious books like the Bhagavadgita, the Guru Granth Sahib and moral stories.
According to Mahesh Dayaramani of Manju Sanskar Kendra, the classes start early in the morning and run for half an hour daily. The minimum age of aspirant should be 15-16 years. Duration of the course is two to three months. There is no hostel facility but for foreign students the authorities claim to make appropriate accommodation arrangements. He said that girls from many countries have visited the centre and also attended classes but no foreigner has ever completed the course. He further says the education here is free of cost and the real fees in only concentration and dedication. In a reply to a query that why aren’t similar courses designed for mothers-in-law, Dayaramani said that till so far they do not have any such course but he would submit the suggestion to the senior authorities and they would definitely try for the same.
Ritu Sharma, a 30-year-old educationist, was surprised to hear about such an institute. She said it was absurd that someone could get her daughter trained for becoming a perfect daughter-in-law. How can you say that she will make a mistake after marriage and not anyone else in the family? Why can’t her sister-in-law, mother-in-law, brother-in-law or anybody else in the new family make mistakes that can lead to a divorce?
Prem Kumar, 60 years old, a housewife and a mother-in-law of two daughters-in-law is pleased to hear about such an institute. She says that she is happy with her daughters-in-law. Talking about the school, she says that if by giving education we could stop divorces then such an education should be a must for all and not only for girls. She further adds that divorces are not the result of mistakes of daughter-in-law but everyone, including the parents.
Poonam, a 23-year-old student who is in search of a suitable life partner, says that one must go to meet the families of the 4000 girls who have completed the perfect daughter-in-law course and enquire about how perfect they are after the training. As far as the question is about her joining the course, she says that she would happily join such a school if her husband along with his family also came there for the course.
Ayaldas Hemnani, chief trainer, says that there is so much materialism and egoism that one doesn’t see beyond oneself.
whose daughter-in-law passed out the school, said to a web site that
she was very happy with her daughter-in-law. She said that she was
happy with whatever she had learnt including how to take care of
elders and youngsters in the family. She said that her daughter-in-law
had won everyone over by her amiability.
WOMEN are attracted to more masculine-looking men at the most fertile time of their menstrual cycle, psychologists have shown.
During the less fertile times, they choose men with more feminine-looking faces. These are seen as kinder and more co-operative, but less strong and healthy genetically.
A controversial implication of the new research is that, in evolutionary terms, it is natural for a woman to be unfaithful in order to secure both the best genes and the best career for her children.
This is because a less masculine-looking man may be a better long-term partner, but the strongest, healthiest children would be produced by a quick fling with a more masculine-looking man.
Not a moral judgement
However, the head of the laboratory at St Andrews University where the research was done, Professor David Perrett, told BBC News Online: "This suggestion is a possibility, but we don't know how behaviour is affected by the preferences we see. We're assuming that preferences for different faces are affecting the choices women make."
"But whatever is best in an evolutionary sense is not necessarily the moral thing to do socially. We are not advocating any particular strategy," he said.
More masculine faces have squarer shapes, heavier, straighter eyebrows and thinner lips
The study was carried out by researchers in Scotland and Japan. They asked women to select the one face from a range that they were most attracted to as a partner for a short-term sexual relationship.
They found that in the most fertile week of their menstrual cycle, women preferred more masculine faces. However, the choice of face did not vary for women using an oral contraceptive or those asked to choose the most attractive face for a long-term relationship.
Smell of success
The results are supported by previous research which showed that a male hormone smells unpleasant to women, except in the week of fertility. Also, the smells of more symmetrical, and therefore more attractive, men are preferred by women but again only in that week.
Men who look more masculine have higher levels of male hormones and also show a better ability to fight off disease. This makes them attractive as potential mates because their children will inherit this useful characteristic.
Professor Perrett believes that preferences for certain types of faces will have an effect on the partners people choose: "We keep finding very strong links between the appearance of males and their perceived personality. People reckon they can judge personality from the way others look."
"And as long as those links are there, I think preferences will be a profound influence on choice," he said.
He also points out that there are real links between face form and behaviour. For example, a study has shown that more masculine-looking US servicemen are more likely to get divorced and be violent towards their partners.
Not real life
However, Dr Paula Nicolson, a psychologist at the University of Sheffield, thinks this kind should not be seen as applicable to everyday relationships. She will deliver a lecture next month to the British Psychological Society's conference called "Evolutionary psychology is not the answer to everything."
"The research uses experimental methodology which accounts for extraneous variables and for social context. So they find the essence of human nature, which in this case is to do with mating behaviour," she told BBC News Online.
"But this methodology is also a weakness because this is not actually how people live - decisions about choice of partner are made on a whole range of issues. I think the effect of facial preferences is probably lost in today's social context. It is important to look at human biology in a basic sense but even most biologists would admit that biology is not that clear-cut."
The study is published in the journal Nature. The initial research was carried out through BBC Tomorrow's World Magazine, co-ordinated by Damian Carrington.