Little Angels

There are many times in one’s life when they are humbled and made to realise how lucky and how thankful they should be. I had one such moment last Wednesday when I decided to help my 2nd sister out. My 2nd sister is a teacher at a Special Needs school which looks towards caring for children with Autism. I meant to write this entry sooner but with 4 deadlines looming closer, I had to put my dear blog aside for awhile.

I don’t know very much of autistic children and all these other sites make it very medical so I thought, for whoever who actually still bothers reading this, I should explain autism in lay terms. Autism is a brain development disorder. Most people usually mistake it with down syndrome – but unlike down syndrome, autistic kids look very normal and their problems are mainly impairments in communication or behavior. I will explain this problem further when I relate my experience later. No one really knows how these kids becomes autistic and a clear cause is not really figured out and the only thing we really know is that its probably got to do with genes.

But, there are lots of autistic people who make it in life and who go on to lead rather normal lives with slight dysfunctions. Autism is really a behavioral issue but I simply cannot understand why some people out there make it out to be some kind of a disease.

Anyhow, my 2nd sister asked me to help her as she was bringing 8 of her kids to Little India as part of a Deepavali trip. Theirs was a recce trip to see if the kids would be able to tolerate such long hours in the sweltering sun and whether they would act up during the travel time in the MRT. These trips are usually organised to try to get the kids used to taking public transport and stuff so that they wouldn’t have difficulties later on when they leave the school and will be more likely to integrate better into mainstream society.

Anyhow, I decided to follow her since I wasn’t doing much bumming at home since I didn’t have dance class this week. I had to wake up at bloody 6.30 am but I guess at the end of the day it all felt really worth it.  My sister is moving to mainstream teaching next year so this was my only chance to actually get to see these kids.

I kept my sister company while she took the temperature of all the kids who were coming into school. Since these kids are a little more difficult and very dependent on a very structured life, they take their temperatures everyday because they wouldn’t want them to be unprepared and acting up in times of emergency. There are about 30-40 kids maximum in this school so they know all the kids by name and it was really an interesting experience watching each kid come in with his/her  little personality.

Some of the kids were so mischievous, trying to run out the moment the bus stopped, others sat on the floor and refused to get up(one as old as 15),  a few hated the feeling of the thermometer in their ears, some repeated words to themselves,  quite a few who were termed “highly functioning” would greet but they would insist on greeting every single teacher and must receive a greeting back, some however couldn’t even talk. Whatever it is, they all possessed things some of us can only dream of having – great energy, chirpiness and this certain thing I can’t quite put my finger on – some sort of a zest for life.

After that I sat in for my sister’s class since we were only leaving at 10 and there was this one boy from India – he was really adorable and my sister asked him, “Pallu Engey Poithu Anand?” (where did your tooth go, Anand?) and he replies excitedly “Vizhunthuthu!”(fall down!) And he kept coming to me and whispering something and running away. They are really amazing because they can sit and do one task for so long. When they focus, they really do focus. It was so exciting seeing them sing nursery rhymes though the words were garbled, they tried their levels to do all the actions. What saddened me was later when I realised that all these kids were probably the age of my youngest cousin who is currently in Primary 2 and they have difficulties grasping what he did when he was in pre-school.

It was heartwrenching to see children who have so much of a desire to learn be bound and punished for something that isn’t even their fault. But one thing is for sure, in their innocence lies this great beauty that none of us would ever have.

The trip to Tekka was not an easy one as one of the other boys from my sister’s colleague’s class started acting up. He banged the seats, the windows and kept repeating the “door closing” in a shrill voice.  People kept staring in disapproval and I really don’t blame them because these kids look so normal that they probably thought we were inefficient teachers unable to keep such a big boy calm. I guess that is the problem then, that they are perceived to be normal and simply brats when in fact they are acting up because they have no other way of expressing their dislike of a certain action or sound. Even the slightest sound can irritate them as they are highly sensitive to such things. It was so sad to see them and I felt like screaming at all these people who were looking on and telling them to use their brains to realise this wasn’t a normal kid, but I realised that I couldn’t blame them because if I hadn’t known better , I might have done that too.

While on the train, my sister received sad news of another boy who was from the previous Special School she was teaching at. His mum had kept in the room as a “time-out” because he had been doing some naughty things. This is a punishment that they use on these kids to show them that their behaviour is wrong and they are given time to reflect and also to digest that their actions were not acceptable. What the mother hadn’t realised though was that the grill was open, he tried to escape the room and passed away. It was heartbreaking to hear this and my heart really goes out to the mother because she’d never be able to deal with such guilt. For my sister and other teachers, hearing stories of such accidents has become fairly normal.

The trip in Tekka overall was a short one but guess what the kids had most fun doing? Eating thosai! All we had to do was put the various dips in the centre and pinch(I am so tempted to use the word “pichu” here) off the thosai into small portions and they were so happily eating it. It was really the highlight for me to see them having such fun and they were so clever. All we had to do was dip one portion into the sambar and the next minute, they experimented with the other dips. One of the boys was imitating how he uses a fork and even that brought a smile to the teacher’s face.

It’s these little things and gestures that we all take for granted. That we can eat normally, talk normally and lead such normal lifestyles. That we can lift our hands and when we talk our words aren’t garbled, that when we are upset we can express it with the right emotions. Never in my life did I feel that thankful.

There was one lady next to me though who was staring at the kids eating the thosai. She asked me then if they are normal and I explained to her that they aren’t. They asked me what autism means so I told my sister to explain instead since I’m not the topic expert. After knowing, the lady still went on to me about how her granddaughter who is 2 years old can eat on her own unlike these kids. I’m sorry but which part of intellectually disabled did she not understand????

And then there were the usual suspects in Tekka. I hate to point it out but they always manage to step on my toes with their behaviour. This time,  I cannot understand why its so hard to give way when you see little kids walking! Why do they have to be so insistent that they have to push through even little kids and nearly knock them down. That few seconds you spend giving way isn’t going to make you miss your daughter’s wedding and the baby shower 2 years later. (K bad analogy but you get what I mean).

Nevertheless, I learnt so much from these children. That I am so lucky and that I have a lot of things to be glad for. I felt very upset with God and wondered why he had to put these kids through such trauma. Then I realised that God loves them more than the rest of us and that’s why he made them into special angels to show the rest of us the true meaning of life. I urge you guys to try to volunteer with these kids or in fact in any of the other Special Schools. My sister’s school is organising a Deepavali concert so if any of you who read this are interested in helping out in some way or another please do let me know.

Hats off to the parents and wonderful teachers and staff who work at such schools and who go to such extents to make sure that these kids too get a shot at life and they manage to do this work with a fair amount of attachment and yet manage to make sure the cases remain detached from the rest of their lives. I know I would never be able to do that since I’d be so disillusioned with how these kids have been dealt out an unfair card to life. Thank you for doing what you do and making sure that they are treated rightfully too.

I really do hope you guys at some point in time have such a humbling experience too.

In Pursuit of The Real Crown

e-poster.jpg

http://www.missindiasingapore.com.sg/

This post is meant for all you beautiful girls. I know that many of you feel that beauty pageants aren’t your cup of tea and that you would rather do other things then spend your time parading onstage. However, the sad thing is that, if you pretty girls don’t come forward to participate in these pageants, we will never have a beauty queen truly deserving of the crown.

Thus, I really assure you that you girls should participate in these events. One such event is the very glamorous Miss India Singapore. I’ve been talking to one of the organisers of the pageant and she told me that there are suddenly many other beauty pageants cropping up in the name of being the official representative local Indian women. This is really sad because now people are doubtful and don’t really know which one’s the real pageant.

I did my own research and came to realise that last year, there was only ONE pageant, which is Miss Singapore India. Miss India Universal, Miss India Singapore Universe and Miss Singapore Indian Universe were pageants that only came along this year. Of course, its a good thing that more people want to have pageants but girls shouldn’t be fooled into thinking they are participating in the REAL pageant as they would then be misled and participate in the wrong pageants since they are all running concurrently.

So in order to help clarify, I’ve offered to put this entry up as I don’t think its fair to the organisers. This pageant ladies, is the real deal. I’ve had three friends participate in this pageant the year before and one of my friend’s sister even went on to clinching the crown. All of them walked away with something. If you think you’ve got what it takes to become the next Miss India Singapore and represent the nation at South Africa, I really think you should give it a shot.

I’ve been coaxing a number of my friends to do as such because its always the case of the not so pretty girls contending for the crown when the beauties with brains don’t bother participating. It would be nice if you ladies could actually give it a shot. There’s nothing to be worried about because the way I see it, you will definitely walk away with some prize, memorable experiences and life lessons. And you never know, you might end up being the Queen!

So these are the details and please do help spread the word around because there are only a few more days left to the auditions. The organiser I spoke to was really sweet and is really intent on making sure the crown only goes to the most deserving girl. I was looking at the links that link back to my blog as well as the comments and I realized most of you girls are prettier than previous crown winners, so why not give it a shot? Nothing to lose.

Registration ends on 25th October’07. Auditions are on 27th October’07. The pageant is organised by Midas Touch Productions and this is the 17th running pageant. The winner gets a chance to represent Singapore in South Africa amidst other prizes.

You don’t have to worry about anything since there’s a committed team of photographer, makeup artiste(Sarah on my links, she does fantastic work) and choreographer and even a female DJ. Talk about girl power!!

1st Prize Worth $S6000.00
Cash $S2000.00
A flight to South Africa [20th Feb 08]
$1500.00 Treatment Vouchers from Pamoure Beauty & Wellness Pte. Ltd.
$1000.00 X-Clusive Birthday Party deals from blackjack
   
 
   
2nd Prize Worth $S2500.00
Cash $S1000.00
A flight to Bangkok
$500 Treatment Vouchers from Pamoure Beauty & Wellness Pte. Ltd.
$750.00 X-Clusive Birthday Party Deals from blacjack
   
   
3rd Prize Worth $S1500.00
Cash $S500.00
$500 Treatment Vouchers from Pamoure Beauty & Wellness Pte. Ltd.
$500 X-Clusive Birthday Party Deals from Blackjack
 
   

So what are you girls waiting for? Call them or click away right NOW!

30,000 hits and counting.

This post was due yesterday but apparently I was much too tired. Anyhow, I have officially passed my 30,000th reader on the new blog. Now this wouldn’t have been a difficult number to hit in the old blog since I blogged every other day and they were often laced with so much of controversy. However, its quite the feat since I’ve been at the new site from the 1st of May’2007 and its been quite an inspiring blog. For that I have to thank my readers who are always ever so faithful in reading me, some remembering some really “interesting” things I say, others having found some solace in my words. For those of you who read to make nasty comments about me, it’s really okay because at least I’ve left some kind of an impression on you guys too.

My blog has been my one avenue to rant,rave,cry,smile and share my life experiences and many interesting events with the world. I first started out a skeptic in 2004 and funnily I never stopped blogging. Blogging was my way of keeping things under control. I have always been better at writing than anything(though everyone says I talk a lot) and I don’t know how or when but slowly my blog caught attention and now I’ve managed to transform my personal space a little so that it’s not that much filled with angst and hopefully it manages to make some sense too(how sad that it takes me 3 years to get to making some sense).

There are probably a million detractors out there, but I don’t write for any of them. I write for the people who genuinely care. The people who actually want to get some insight. The ones who respect my opinions and what I have to say. I write for myself above all of that, because I know that I want to be able to look back at life and have something concrete to share.

I remember diaries and how incredibly embarrassing it is to look back at what we write 3 years down the road. I feel the same way when I look back at my blog on diaryland. I’m sure 3 years down the road, if this blog still survives, I will look back at this one and laugh as well. But its been a learning experience and I’ve had my share of ups and downs but I’m glad to have them all documented.

My blog means a lot to me and the people who understand me best know what it means to me. I remember an ex boyfriend who at the height of this blog’s controversy told me to stop bitching and to close down my blog. I was pretty outraged by the remark because never once had that thought crossed my mind. Till today, I would never so much as to consider closing this blog. Not until I completely go into oblivion because of workloads or loss of fingers I guess.

I also remember Kalpana from Pesuvom asking me if I’ve lost any friends due to my blog during the show. It’s hilarious because I’m not sure if people are threatened by the fact that I document my life but I am sure they are all wary of me. Its funny when people come to me and tell me they don’t want to appear on my blog. Not everything that happens to me ends up in my blog and I guess people realise that after being around me for awhile. And as much as I can be very brash and cold with my words, I am not always a forthright, piercing tongued person. I can be nice too (i’m still trying to convince my friends on this). I do know my boundaries and spilling the entire contents of my life on the Blogosphere is really not that smart an idea is it? On another hand, I’ve come to realise that people who cannot deal with my blog and my opinions are probably people I cannot get along with anyway so I guess I can do without them.

But to those of you who have praised me, encouraged me to keep writing and to keep doing what I do, Thank you. It would have not been possible to write if no one wanted to read but you guys did keep reading.

To the ones who check my blog everyday – mostly my closest friends, thank you for letting this be a way for us to keep contact and have a true insight to each others’ lives. To the ones who secretly read but not approach me, thank you and I respect your anonymity but it would really be nice to know who you guys are. To those of you who hate my guts, balls to you. Its okay if you think I write complete bullshit, but don’t write me off or my opinions off simply because you think I’m self-righteous, hypocritical or plain bitchy.

Anyway, this post was not meant to be very long. Thank You to everyone who has read my blog from 17-08-2004 to this very date and for many more years to come I hope. I appreciate the support and I will keep writing as long as people keep wanting to read.

Because I am minority..

Time and time again, I hear this baseless excuse passed out as a reason for having been treated “unfairly”. Firstly, I must make my stance very clear. I do not support racism of any sort. Be it majority towards minority or minority towards majority. I also do agree that we have a long long way to go in terms of achieving a truly racism-free society. However, I feel that being minority has somewhat become a convenient excuse for many to blame their personal inadequacies and grievances. The problem, I personally think has really been shift out of focus and sometimes I cannot help but feel that we are the masters of our own circumstances and we might be the cause for such “unfair treatment”.

Don’t get me wrong. As a minority, I myself have been subject to having little kids cringe their noses because I might be dirty, not want to hold my hand and partner me in Primary school because I was brown and even now sometimes I don’t get accorded certain respects because of my skin colour.

NUMBER ONE

However, what I wish to say that is we tend to take it a tad too far. Many a time, this minority status has become a good way to shift the blame.

Examples:

“I didn’t get to work there because they see my colour la!”

“I failed because the teacher doesn’t like me la. Racist!”

“Aiyah don’t even bother trying, confirm see colour one”

Yes I do admit that at times it can be rather frustrating being Indian/Malay in a country of Chinese majority but we often fail to see that we may not be getting certain opportunities not because of our colours or mother tongue but because of our flaws and race then is arbitrary.

Furthermore, I feel that it’s become somewhat of a “self-fulfilling prophecy”. The more we claim that we are going to be victimised because of our color, the more we will not put ourselves out there or worst, put ourselves out there while being shrouded in pessimism that we aren’t going to get opportunities anyway. Then what happens? We fail, not because of racist treatment or racial prejudices but because we go in expecting to fail.

I remember watching Sangae Muzhangu 2003 and this one scene still sticks clearly in my mind. One of the main actors will be going for an interview. He doesn’t realise that the uptight Chinese receptionist has already scolded two Chinese interviewees before he enters for not pressing the bell before entering. He does the same and gets a earful from her and she says, “you people ah! No manners.” He automatically assumes that was a racist statement and does not bother going in for the interview as he assumes he wouldn’t get it anyway.

Later on, an older Indian man enters and he presses the bell. The same receptionist serves him very politely.

The point to make really, is that its not always about skin colour. Yes some nasty incidents with a few racists before may colored (no pun intended) your perspectives and thus keep you wary from how you behave. But that doesn’t mean that everyone out there is racist. When did we start getting so paranoid? In most cases, I don’t even think its paranoia but actually that being minority allows us to easily shift the blame onto the system or onto quotas.

NUMBER TWO

Yes we may complain that TVmobile does not show any Indian dramas or that Chinese is sometimes spoken in public places must to our inconvenience. I get extremely frustrated at times too when I seem to get stuck in the midst of some big language barrier and no one seems to understand ENGLISH!

But I think we fail to forget that this is not really an issue of racism but a very clear case of popular vote. It only seems feasible for the language of the majority to be spoken. Imagine how long the Rally speech would be if the Prime Minister spoke it on his own in 4 different languages. Imagine how long your national anthem would be if you had to sing it in Malay, Chinese and then Tamil. In terms of TVmobile I think it boils down to the issue of profitability and lets face it, we really don’t make up much of a market.

This does not mean that investors and businesses should ignore our existence and continue to cater for a Chinese-only market. It simply means that we must also try to understand there are limitations to everything. Furthermore, we often seem to fail to look at other countries to realise that our country is no anomaly. In India, Hindi seems to be the language of dominance. Does that mean that the Chinese who live there(yes there are Chinese who live there) are being unfairly treated? Nope it simply means that its most feasible. Language was meant to help us communicate, not divide us.

NUMBER THREE

The more I think about it, I started to wonder who really is the racist. Yes, they might call us Brown or Apu-neh-nehs but at most times it’s really simply their very bad sense of humor. We on the other hand, tend to take very sensitively to the entire thing. Again, I am not encouraging such behaviour on their part, but similarly, I cannot understand why we think its okay to label people manjan but then take so adversely to being called apu-neh-neh or keling. Are we being selective in our sensitivity? I certainly hope not.

For most of it, I think this sensitivity is something that has been drilled into our heads since young. That we are the minority and that we have to be wary. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that because it was meant to teach us to look out for ourselves and our Indian brothers and sisters, but there is really a problem when you stop mixing with other races because you fear being discriminated.

Personally..

I was never taught that I am part of a minority or that there are certain stereotypes attached to being Indian. I did grow up being confused why I was of a different colour but as many insensitive people I met, I met extremely wonderful people too. I grew up with Chinese and Malay kids who would of course poke fun at how I was so much darker but they were also the ones who were first to take up offers to come over for Deepavali. The ones who used to go ga-ga over photographs of me in traditional Indian wear. The ones who embraced my murukku more than the Indian kids. The ones who used to cheer for me when we performed Indian dances in the hall while the other Indian girls looked at us performers scornfully.

I wonder then. Who really are the racists? Sure enough there are black sheep in every race. But really, who are we lying to? Ourselves?

So why don’t we for a start quit complaining and start doing something about it. Fair enough awareness doesn’t grow in a day. But if today, you start talking to those Chinese/Malay kids in your class and start telling them things about your religion and race.(i.e: why you don’t eat beef, why you wear a bindhi, that we don’t only dance around trees in Indian dance), you are doing both yourself and future generations a favor.

Don’t blame them for their ignorance. Blame your own because you were supposed to teach them and guide them. It is your race and again, if you don’t show them the right way to respect us or that you are worthy of respect, you can never ever expect them to actually think of you as anything else but apu-neh-neh(gosh i hate this word!).

Lastly,

It really is up to us to break the stereotypes that are fixated in their minds. You cannot expect them to not think of us rowdy drunkards if that is all that they see. If every Chinese person we see is eating kway teow, we are bound to think that Chinese only eat kway teow right?(such a bad example I know but its the best I can do at the moment). So maybe if they start seeing Indians around them who actually care enough about their society, who go out there to do service to the people, who study hard, who don’t simply drink and wreak havoc but actually try to make something out of their lives, it will be different. If they see Indians topping their class (expat Indians don’t count here because most locals can tell the difference), putting up great performances, doing on par with them, they will start realising that we aren’t as different as them and who knows, one day down the road, we might actually be stereotyped as something positive?

Here are excerpts from blogs written by people whom are non minority and are young. When I googled for racism, almost all the search results returned were written by people who were non minority and all of them frowned upon racism and admitted it was wrong.

“It’s just plain unfair to think of certain races as inherently being more lazy, more unpatriotic, more prone to causing social problems etc. It’s always easier to demonise others because that makes self-reflection unnecessary. By casting others as the problem, we escape from having to consider whether we are problematic. Face it, for whatever labels that are cast on non-chinese Singaporeans, I bet to my last dollar that you will find many Chinese Singaporeans that fit the label exactly. Before Chinese Singaporeans think badly of other races in Singapore, they ought to make sure that they have the moral authority to do so.

I had the benefit of being in the minority when I went to the UK for 3 weeks in 2004. When I was there, I truly understand how it feels to be in the minority. You are always conscious of yourself because you look different from most people around you. It gave me an invaluable lesson. I think that most Chinese Singaporeans should go spend some time in a place where they are the minority and see how it feels. Nothing teaches better than actual experience.”

Extracted from : http://aaron-ng.info/blog/racism-in-singapore.html

“Yes, I agree unequivocally that there is racism in Singapore.  I first realized this explicitly in 1998 when I participated in my church walkathon.  I remember the week before that event, my pastor announced to us that he has warned the MRT staff that there will be a huge crowd of people arriving at Marina Bay MRT station in the morning of the event.  I was among the crowd of people who had to move at a snail’s pace from the train exit to the booths in order to leave the station.  As I was edging towards the ticket booths, I notice many MRT staff, a few with loud-hailers, giving directions on which way we should proceed.  

    It then suddenly hit me, what a contrast their attitude was towards us, compared to the Indian workers at Bugis MRT station on Sundays!  The MRT staff were smiling at us, making conversations and so on and so forth.  If you visit Bugis station on Sundays, you will see that many Indians spend their day off in the popular haunt, Serangoon Road.  There would be some mobile railings segregating them from the rest of us, and the way the MRT staff shout at them or the expression in their faces, I was surprised to see that they were smiling at us now.  

    Actually, it is quite obvious why there is a different treatment towards us.  The MRT staff identify with us, almost all of us being Chinese.  Even among some of my university friends, I heard many racists complains about the smell coming out of the Indians.  I guess that walkathon was to me what Damascus was to Paul, my scales were finally removed from my eyes.

Extracted from: http://www.geocities.com/kelvintan73/articles/racism.htm

“There is a audio recording circulating the Internet in which two Chinese Singaporean men are poking fun at an Indian Muslim food stallholder by insisting on ordering pork, despite the stallholder repeatedly telling them he serves only halal food.

I was furious when I heard it. It isn’t funny at all. It’s not just extremely insensitive to Indians and Muslims. It is downright racist.

Full-time blogger Xiaxue posted it on her blog and remarked that it was “super funny”. Her post alone attracted over 260 comments, most of which agreed with her.

It turns out the recording was staged — the “Indian” character was actually a Chinese guy and the recording was done at his house. This according to the girlfriend of one of the men who recorded it. However, this does not detract from the gravity of this offensive recording.

Coming hot on the heels of the British reality show Celebrity Big Brother in which the participants racially abused Indian actress Shilpa Shetty, this clip and its response has revealed an even uglier side of Singapore. At least in the UK, the participants were roundly criticised by the public. Here in Singapore, most Chinese (including the makers of the podcast) don’t even realise that it is wrong. It makes me wonder if our façade about being a model of “tolerance” and “racial harmony” is a farce.

Chinese Singaporeans really need to engage in some serious introspection about our racist attitudes towards minorities. I have often heard comments from Chinese Singaporeans that “there is no racism in Singapore”, unlike in Australia and the UK. Who are they to make such judgments? Those of us in the majority race would never know what it is like to be a minority in your own land, unless they have lived in as a minority before.


“Chinese speaking environment” preferred

Another thing I’ve noticed recently is how job recruitment ads have evolved. Previously, they used to say “Mandarin speaker required”. Now the wording of choice is “Chinese speaking environment”, with the hope that non-Chinese will shy away from even applying in the first place. We all know that this is just another way for some companies to avoid employing minorities. Just look at these ads and judge for yourselves.

http://www.jobcyclone.com/job_desc.php?d=7383

http://www.bestjobs.com.sg/bt-jobd-unitedpersonnel-314512.htm

http://sg.jobstreet.com/jobs/2006/2/r/20/723622.htm

One of them, Zeal Infotech, asked for a Java programmer who is preferably “able to speak Mandarin” as the candidate “will be working in a Chinese-speaking environment with Chinese Singapore Citizens and PRs, or with Singapore PR invitation letters”! [read: We welcome all Chinese, even if you’re a foreigner, but non-Chinese Singaporeans should think twice before applying.]

This shameful state of affairs has got to stop NOW if Singapore is to become a developed society. It begins in the home. Parents need to realise that every casual generalisation about a certain race leaves a lasting impression on their children, many of whom carry their “inherited” racism for a lifetime without even realising it. But where parenting has failed in this aspect, the education system needs to revise its curriculum to not just preach “tolerance” (which leaves room for people to be racist behind closed doors or under the cloak of anonymity), but inculcate a genuine revulsion for all forms of racism — including employment bias and racist jokes.”

 Extracted from: http://singaporepatriot.blogspot.com/2007/02/no-pork-podcast-proves-racism-is-alive.html

 Amazing isn’t it. If we really feel so strongly for such issues, why aren’t we the ones blogging about it or at least discussing it on a more serious pedestal? Why do we choose to complain and then conveniently forget it when it is the very people we blame for discriminating us that remember and talk about it even if it means they might be criticised for talking about something they have no experience dealing with.

Its time for us to open our eyes and realize that to break the cycle, we got to make a new cycle.  

Enlighten..

There are many things in my life I am extremely proud of and take great pride in. My family, my friends and the ones very dear to my heart.

Beyond that, there are a few things that I hold very close to my heart:

1.My Nationality

2.My Gender

3.My Race

4. My Religion

5.My Language

and lastly,

6.Dance

If I ever feel that these things are undermined, I am quite unlikely to be a very happy woman.

Now to my point. Today I attended an Indian Cultural Society show at a local polytechnic. I was certainly impressed with the amount of talent and effort I saw. Needless to say, the dances really rocked the stage and there was so much of potential. There were however, some things that really perturbed me, that i found distasteful and things I really wish would never be repeated again at any show for that matter.

NUMBER ONE
Firstly, I truly feel there’s a lack of understanding that culture(i don’t use the word race because the word culture was used at today’s programme) ,language and religion are three very different things. Indians need not always be Hindus nor always speak Tamil. It so happens that in Singapore, we see this phenomenon where most Indians fall under this demographics, but it is important to understand that this is not always the case. Indians can belong to any religion, and can speak any language that is spoken within their geographical boundaries. Culture and Race are different from Language and Religion. Therefore, when a society decides to devote their objective to preserving Indian Culture, they are in fact all encompassing. This means that, firstly when you are asked to put up a dance with some cultural slant, you do not automatically assume that it must have religious undertones. Cultural value is not defined by religion. Therefore, the safest way to understand this definition would be to look at it this way: If i put up this dance, does it reflect generally what Indian society is about(it is not possible to reflect every part of Indian society since we are so diverse,but at least to do some justice). Will Indians regardless of being Hindu/Muslim/Christian/Catholic/Buddhist/Atheist/Etc understand and be aware that such traditions exist in Indian culture? Will people who do not speak Tamil but are Indians be aware of these?

It is difficult yes, but that is what Indian culture is about. If you decide to something, you should do it right. Assuming that stories of your religion are what defines Indian culture, reflects an immature understanding of what culture is. Religion and language can affect a culture(as Hinduism and Tamil have affected being Indian), but they do not define it. Thus, instead of zoning into stories that are about religion and language, why not stick to dances about celebrations we have as Indians(again we are diverse and it makes it difficult to find a very specific celebration which is common but at least you can have something that is unique to being Indian, not Tamil or Malayalee or Hindu or Catholic.) In this manner, I feel that the organisers should have been clearer with the instructions to the teams(though i understand there was a clause in the rules that said no religious undertones). Nevertheless, I can even understand if the teams were not able to grasp this and did do a story that was based more on specific religion.

Religion is a system of faith/belief & worship of a controlling power, which is usually superhuman. Culture is formed up of the knowledge we acquire as we grow up in a certain social group.

http://changingpictures.wordpress.com/2007/01/07/religion-vs-culture/What upset me further was this.

NUMBER TWO
I cannot for the life of me tolerate blasphemy in any form. If you decide to do something that might be sensitive, do not make a mockery out of it. This point will continue in my third annoyance but for now this is my piece. There are certain ways we have portrayed certain Gods to be and certain beliefs we have over time. Its not wrong for people to want to change our principles of these things but you have to understand that these beliefs were created over time and are important to people. Therefore, if you show Drowpathi as a sexy mama who shakes her hips and walks and the Pandavas as wooing her by holding her close to them and hugging her and touching her feet and stuff, you are really not being very sensitive. I can understand that people must want to have a lot of creative license but there are so many other positive ways of approaching this story in a creative way, why sensationalise it?

We have never been a culture of sensationalism. Look back in time and see every story you can find with reference to this and you will understand the beauty of subtleity. Even Ravanan, when he abducts Seetha, doesn’t do it by carrying her away(as many people often portray). He doesn’t even touch her. Instead he carries by lifting the ground around her. We often look at him as this villain who was out for Seetha’s skin, but if one read the story well enough(the original version at least), you’d realise that it was because Seetha reminded him of his mother(if i’m not wrong) that he fell in love with her. He didn’t have a lust for her. Similarly the Pandavas, they never touched Drowpathi, even when she became their wife, she was always treated with such chivalry. Imagine the horror then when you have to see such chivalry be displayed as public displays of affection by the Pandavas towards Drowpathi. Imagine how much scarier it is when you see her shaking her hips and being aggressive towards the Pandavas. It puts the entire story in a different light.

Similarly when people display the Shivan-Parvathi story as one of a fight for who is better. The point of their little tiff (Shivan Illaiyael Shakthi Illai -Which means, Without Shivan,there is no Shakthi, to which Shakthi’d retort the same thing,vice versa), was not to show us there is some war between either power. Nope, it is for us to understand that neither power can exist against each other, they are to exist as one for in their union lies all beauty.

I can only feel for anyone who might have started their fast for Theemithi who had to see Drowpathi portrayed the way she was today.

Again, I have nothing against the people who performed any of these items because the dance was simply excellent and costumes were wonderful and the dancers were so talented. But, we must all learn to think and be a lot more sensitive when we choose to portray topics that are so touchy. I was offended, as a Hindu and I am not even that pious.

NUMBER THREE

This probably pissed me off the most in the entire night. There was a fashion parade segment and schools were asked to portray a scene of some Indian cultural value and there were supposed to be costumes and props and miming. Imagine my excitement when I hear that one of the groups has decided on portraying the Aravani culture.

For those of you who are not aware, Aravanis are a group of people in India, who worship Kutandar Aravan. These people are mainly transgendered or transexual. Many of them are hermaphrodites(people born with both male and female sexual organs). There are also Hijras within this group of people(boys made to be eunuchs as a sacrifice to God. I might be wrong on this so don’t quote me, not as politically correct a term as Aravani). Anyway, they are a society of people who display more grace than most women, who have devoted their lives to God. They are all mainly men who have become women. They partake in dance, prayers and lead a very alternative(and to us maybe even shocking lifestyle).

One of the prayers they partake in is when they offer themselves as brides to the Lord Kutandar Aravan. They will tie the nuptial knot and according to legend, he will be hanged by the break of dawn the next day, thus making them widowed. They will then go through the very painful rites of removing their nuptial knots, losing their flowers and breaking their bangles.

I cannot for the life of me remember what exactly is the impetus behind this tradition but from a logical point of view, I see it as their understanding of the sacred sanctity we call marriage. It is their only real chance at being a wife I guess and this entire ceremony is taken very very seriously.

*Updated, got this off a site. Links are below:

The temple festival at Koovagam, which is being celebrated from time immemorial with members of the third gender offering themselves as brides for Lord Koothandavar, who as per legend, wanted to get married before the day he was to be hanged. Since no woman came forward to marry a man who will be no more the next morning, Aravanan dressed up as a woman fulfilled the last wish of Koothandavar.

Nevertheless, we can tell that this is a very important ceremony and mocking their culture is equivalent to us laughing at gay people : You deserve to be shot. It is very evil,insensitive and rude. No one ever said that being straight is the way to live life. Hell even considering heterosexual people STRAIGHT is kind of an interesting thing, since who are we to decide what’s straight and what’s not.

Point is, it is not our lifestyles and different people have different beliefs. Leave them alone. If you want to portray them, do them justice. Do not, i repeat do NOT make a mockery out of them. And that is exactly what this certain group did.

The entire scene of the Aravanis celebrating, getting married, and later getting their thaalis removed was made into some big comedic scene. I can never understand why gay people, transgendered people and cross-dressers must be funny. It makes no sense. Nevertheless, it was not simply them who were making a mockery out of it, the audience was playing along too.

I was shocked and found it extremely painful when I saw girls laughing as the Aravanis were supposed to remove their thaalis and flowers and all. I mean, maybe it was visually very funny because of the way the guys made it look so idiotic but if you were aware of the significance, you would have found what they were doing extremely distasteful regardless of your sexual orientation. Indian widows go through this ceremony all the time. Do you see them laughing through it. When my mother was widowed, my sisters and I feared that they would make her go through that entire painful process. I know of friends who still remember the day their mothers had to undergo that and how they cannot get the ghastly images off their mind.

Is it still very funny now when you think about it? What was even more shocking, was that they were given the first prize. Shocking isn’t it? I don’t blame the ones who came up with this idea or the ones who laughed at this entire thing. I blame the ones who are apparently the “professional” ones who were supposed to educate the rest by not giving this group any kind of recognition. These people, as well as the rest who were there will go on to think that this is the right way to deal with the topic and that it is okay to make fun of such things.
I really don’t know who is to blame for such things. They may seem to be such trivial mistakes but these are things that slowly get embedded and tomorrow when our culture, religion,language or whatever it may be goes down the drain, we cannot run crying to anyone about it. The answer is in awareness. In trying to understand exactly what is our culture, what are our legacies, what are our achievements, why things exist the way they are and in dispelling popular myths and sensationalism to get the REAL story. This is our legacy and if we do not protect it and treat it the right way, who will?

I may sound a little hyper sensitive but I think I have all right to. I do not want to be one of those people who lament about the good old days when kids knew the correct stories and understood the significance of certain things. Therefore I urge all of you to start actively debating and talking about this. Share opinions, stories, experiences, myths and ASK for another opinion and we can all learn so much from each other and we will have so much to share with our children and they with theirs. It begins here, right now.

To end off, I leave you with an SMS a wise person sent me today when I complained about these very things to him.

“Actually people are confused really..Need a bit more education thats all. Hard to distinguish all three(language,religion and race) when they are really intertwined yet can exist independently as well. What they need to see is different combinations in existence around the world. Like when Indians in Africa have lost their language but still retain some form of culture or in the West where they may retain their language but lose their culture…”

“Correcting it is not easy. The people tasked to do it like media are too engrossed in either entertainment or the language. Whilst teachers are themselves not very aware of the difference or are told that they should not meddle in sensitive issues like religion in S’pore especially(secular state). Difficult situation.. And shows like these are not guided by seniors or they don’t have seniors matured enough to tell how to send the right message..”

“Thats why you must pay particular attention to your objectives as to what you want to convey to the audience. Ensure it has a value which is current to contemporary times as well”

Link on Aravani Culture:

http://androgyne.0catch.com/hijrax.htm

When you..

When you love someone, you should let them go. They may never fly back to you but that’s probably cos their wings are clipped by circumstance. I love you enough and more than anyone I have, so I am going to let you fly and whether or not you come back, you will always be the most beautiful dove I’ve met.

I have never been this faithful,this in love and this crazy over someone and I will admit it right here right now. But if it isn’t meant to be, it really simply isn’t meant to be.

Love,

Sunshine.