Thursday, July 05, 2007

At the risk of sounding ethnocentric...

...I'm appalled that such practices continue in any part of the world for any reason, whether it be religious, cultural, or economic. It's just wrong:

http://www.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/asiapcf/07/05/damon.india.widows/index.html

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

the people that practice this sort of barbarism probably cant even write their own names. it reminds me of the top gear episode where jerremy clarkson visits the US and goes to missisipi. he pulls into a gas station and talks to the locals. on his car he has the words NASCAR SUCKS. do you know what the locals do? they start throwing rock at him because they think he's gay and for hating nascar. they wanted to kill him for that.

Simone said...

It'd only be ethnocentric if you forgot to mention the horrible selfishness and carelessness Americans exhibit when leaving their parents to die in nursing homes, often at the hands of incompetent and abusive nurses. But why wax on that, it's happening in our own backyard but CNN doesn't want to cover it.

Plus, we need some distraction from all the innocent women and babies we're bombing the hell out of in Iraq...oh, oops, that was inappropriate. Let's focus on Third World countries and calling them uncivilized...it makes us feel better and morally just!

God bless America!

-Simone

Litsa Dremousis said...

To Anonymous: It's not a question of whether or not someone can write his or her name. Literacy is often determined by the geographical region and/or historical epoch into which a person happens to be born. (I Googled "Top Gear": sounds like a lively show.)

To Simone: Even a cursory reading of this blog leads one to notice that I often write about atrocities that are fueled by or occur w/in the U.S. And in this particular post, I make clear that I think the practice in question--the systemic ostracizing and impoverishment of widows--and such similar customs are wrong wherever they occur in the world. By definition, that includes the U.S.

Re your comments on Iraq, surely we agree that it's wrong for anyone to kill civilians, regardless of gender or age, and that civilians are not limited to "women and babies".

Furthermore, I think it's reductive to refer to India as "the Third World".

Thanks, both of you, for stopping by.

Anonymous said...

I invite you all to look at a study done about this subject, and then make your opinions:

http://www.griefandrenewal.com/widows_study.htm

Especially look at the tables at the bottom, including age demographics, locations, etc.

G said...

This is surely some one's way to get to the next level in CNN. Does not reflect the majority. I mean the 99.99% of widows. 15K out of 40Mil is less than 0.37%

And by the way, how many western families take care of their parents! Talk about the issues in own country rather than looking around to find sensitive topic around the world. Actual issue could be poverty.

If CNN is really worried about it, please do something about poverty instead ofencouraging wring war by own country.

Anonymous said...

I just saw that in the comments section for this article, CNN has published a comment by someone called Rajen Patel who says "Not to mention that not too long ago, the Hindu bastards forced their widows to be burned alive with their dead husbands". This is clearly inflammatory ( the whole tone of the comment is inflamatory and fundamentalist in nature) and comments like this can cause social disturbance. Given CNN's editorial policy that comments are moderated, the unedited publication of such comments casts a lot of doubt not only on CNN's motive in publishing this comment, but also on publishing this article as headline news in the first place - again I condemn that this practice occurs at all, but the original article's lack of statistics brings into question the wholesale generalization attempted by it, the author's motivation in writing the article, and CNN's motivation in publishing it.

Verma said...

The annoying thing about this article is that it makes it seem as if all Indian widows , irrespective of class, education, and location, are treated horribly. My entire extended family is from Punjab, and my cousins and I were always told that when our parents, father OR mother or both, became old, it was our duty to take them into our homes if necessary. My mother was incensed when she read the CNN article; she said that she'd never heard of any Punjabi widows being forced onto the streets. According to her, that would have been considered outrageous in Punjab. Unfortunately, CNN does seem to have somewhat of an anti-Hindu bias. I wrote a comment when there was only one other comment up, but it was never posted. Yet somehow this Rajen Patel can get away with saying that "folks can't take a dump in clean private facilities." Hmm...

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, I looked at the study you mentioned. It is informative about the socio-economic and demographic characteristics of the widows in Varanasi and Vrindavan. However, the study does not have a "control group" drawn from widows outside these cities (a sample drawn from all matropolitan cities in India for example), with the stattistics regarding their conditions and their socio-economic and demographic characteristics.

Anonymous 1

Anonymous said...

This article is grossly inaccurate. It is akin to saying Christians discard their parents soon after they are old enough to leave the house. Once they leave their house they never look back. Their parents are discarded like loose rubbish and left to rot in old folks homes. Maybe some one should do a story on that and sensationalize that aspect of their religion which says you have no duty towards your parent. In Hinduism parents have to be taken care of. It is an important aspect of our culture. I cant imagine how this story became front page news. Maybe it boils down to the fact that CNN has a number of pro Christian (based out of Atlanta) and evangelical editors. Notice all the glowing stories about Christianity. There are bad elements in all societies, check out the homeless on the streets of any major city in the US. Maybe some one should do a slanted story on how the religion prevalent in the US played a role in them becoming homeless. Get more objective news CNN and quit painting a whole religion with such a broad brush.

Anonymous said...

I posted the same comments on CNN. Guess what, my comments (at 2.03PM) were not posted by CNN. No surprises there. Just proves my point.

Shubho said...

The insinuation that this is a common practice in Hindu society in India today is completely bogus and blatantly untrue. The story of the destitute widows of Varanasi is one of human tragedy. But the cruelty meted out to them is an exception, not a rule. It speaks more about the depraved mentality of the children and extended families of the victims who throw them out, than of Hindu society in general. THIS is the distinction that the CNN story conveniently avoids. It's like reporting a story on the murders of homeless on the streets of America's cities and leaving the story open-ended to show that that's how Christian America treats the poorest of its citizens. However, it is shameful that such a situation still exists in this day and age in India today, in however small a scale. Something needs to be very wrong with a society that can hand out such unbelievable cruelty to its elderly. That said, there is nothing more ironic than an American news organization lecturing Eastern societies on how to take care of the elderly! Coming from a country where there is no concept of 'respect', and where it is an accepted part of life to be put in a 'home' once you are past your use-by date, only to be visited once every two years by the same children that you once parented, it is a bit rich!!

Anonymous said...

Hi SF,
i admire your patience in replying to anonymous and simone, while i appreciate simone for trying to put things in perspective. The problem may be real, and it may have to be addressed right away. However, my issues with the article are as follows:
1. the article stayed as the top headline for three-quarters of a day, which is quite unusual even for a sensational newspiece on CNN
2. the article has hazy statistics. phrases like "many of whom" don't constitute journalism.
3. the reference to hinduism is not completely warranted.
4. that one point in the synopsys was "mother told by son to leave" or some such while summarizing an article depicting a religion of such size mirrors the (lack of) authenticity and integrity of the article.

I live in the US, I came home for lunch and I told my mom about this article and she laughed, saying her mom who happens to be a widow is living life as she pleases back in India. We respect our elders, and often we do not dare to raise our voices in front of them out of respect. In India and Hinduism in particular, these tenets are taught early in one's childhood;
matru devo bhava - mother is divine
pitru devo bhava - father is divine
acharya devo bhava - teacher is divine
athithi devo bhava - guest is divine

a majority of us do choose to follow these principles out of choice. Have a nice day.

abhishek said...

Yes, you are running a big risk there. Always check your facts even when you get them at CNN. I've written a critique of the CNN article at http://atmaav.blogspot.com.

Vikram said...

I dont know my fellow Indians are being so defensive about this article. The fact is that this journalist cared about these widows, went to them, talked to them and told their story. How many of us would do the same ? What are we doing for them ? Nothing. I dont really care about how Americans treat their parents, the point is that there are some parents in India who are not given the respect they deserve. If we ever can we should help them and make them feel better.

supro mukherjea said...

I am from India, a Hindu & past 60.
My mother wasn't thrown out after my father died. Never heard of a widow thrown out among anyone I have ever known in India, among family, relatives, friends, friends'friends.
No doubt it happens & it is a human tragedy. India has its share of jerks. Fail to see what this has to do with Hinduism.
Supro Mukherjea

Rupashree said...

It is very sad and shameful that our society allows this. But, the article certainly had a hidden agenda. There was no mention of respect given to parents in Hindu tradition and how widows have ruled India.
Sanskrit poem is as follows:
Matru Devo bhava-Mother is GOD
Pitru Devo Bhava- father is GOD
Acharya Devo Bhava- Teacher is GOD
Athithi Devo Bhava- Guest is GOD

I understand the fact that thousands of widows are abused like this, but most of the others are treated with respect in a family. This happens mostly in very poor families with a rotten mind set. In the name of tradition, this practice has been prevelant in certain sections of some parts of India.
Probably hindu parents are on the whole are treated with more respect by their kids than other parents belonging to other creeds.

Anonymous said...

vikram:
All Indians are not being defensive about the problem (atleast iam not). the problems exists and has to be acknowledged and remedied. My issue is in the way it was presented. The report reads more like a melodramatic novel, and it projects the insufficient statistics to color an entire society and religion. The author made sweeping generalizations about Hinduism which are apocryphal. To paint such a varied religion/tradition with one brush is untenable. i have read comments on blogs where people took the author's commentary on Hinduism on face value and condemned Hindus and Indians as barbarians. The influence of a powerful media outlet on a naive and research-lazy public should not be underestimated, or condoned when used improperly. The timing of the article, and the disproportionate prominence it was given on the front page provokes some thought.

Litsa Dremousis said...

Thank you, everyone, for an honest and thought-provoking discussion. I really appreciate the different points of view.

I think this is clear, but I posted the CNN article because suffering, wherever it occurs, cannot be alleviated until it is recognized.

All the best,
Litsa

Shubho said...

An excellent article which should put a lot of things in perspective:
"India: The Western press and their blanket statements" by Arthur Dudney.

http://www.sajaforum.org/2007/06/india-the-weste.html