‘Spirited’ Mind and a Woman!

Results of researches have telling effect on ‘spirited’ minds. If the researches have their origin in the West, in the Americas, in particular, their findings and conclusions are looked at with even greater awe––seldom questioned. “If a pearl of wisdom comes from that half of the world, it must a gospel truth.” This sort of reverence to things western doesn’t really matter so long as it moulds social behaviour favourably in other parts of the world. Now look at this one, which caused a little tsunami in the bar next-door yesterday and swept one away.

The three had got together for a usual round of drinks. It was a ritual they followed once a week; and each of them had the tacit approval of their better halves for it. They had barely downed their first small when the banner scrolling past on the large 55-inch LED screen caught Kapil Malhotra’s eyes:

“Women Who are Stressed During Pregnancy More Likely to Have Girl Child, Claims Study.”

He couldn’t but draw the attention of the other two towards the screen. They turned their heads and were all ears. It was science news. The news caster said with a straight face: “A study by researchers led by Catherine Monk at New York-Presbyterian/ Columbia University Irving Medical Center has concluded that women with high physical (or physiological) stress gave birth to four boys for nine girls, a ratio of 4:9. In case of mental stress, the conception ration of boys to girls was 2:3. According to Ms Monk, wombs are an influential ‘first home’ for babies and conditions of the womb deeply impacted the sex and health of the foetus. Women who undergo stressful pregnancies are more likely to give birth to a female child rather than a male.” After a pause, she added, “The research brings out that traumatic events have been known to affect the male birth rates. President Kennedy’s assassination and 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York City were cited as examples. The research has re-iterated the age-old wisdom that trauma sometimes results in premature childbirths and discontinuance of pregnancies, in extreme cases. Therefore, providing moms-to-be with adequate care and understanding in the families and workplaces was important for healthy pregnancies.”

That triggered the ‘intellectual’ (if it can be called that) discussion that ensued.

Karan Juneja was the first to open his mouth, “I read in the Washington Post some years ago that overall, there are slightly more men than women in the world. According to 2015 estimates by the United Nations, there are 101.8 men for every 100 women, with the number of men rising gradually each year since 1960.”

He paused for a while till the other two absorbed what he had just said, and continued, “Does that mean that women are generally happy the world over and becoming happier by the day?”

It was time to order another drink. Each was for a ‘large’ this time, as the interest grew in the subject under discussion. Somewhere in the process, the ‘during pregnancy’ part of the research was left out. The correlation that lingered in the three minds now was between ‘women’s state of mind’ and the ‘sex of the babies.’ It was like: ‘Happy women give birth to boys; stressed women, to girls.’ Period.

For once, the three were on the same side, supporting each other with crumbs of wisdom. While the other two were munching peanut-masala and Uncle Chips and the barman was busy putting ice cubes in the third lot of drinks, Ajith Aiyar took time to quickly surf the net on his recently acquired One Plus Seven smartphone. He discovered that a map by the Pew Research Center with recent UN data suggested that men and women are distributed unequally around the globe. In former Soviet republics, for example, women outnumbered men. There are more men than women in Asia, Arab countries and Northern Africa.

So?

“Women in Russia and the former Soviet Republics are the most stressed in the world because in those countries, the sex ratio favours women. They are happier in Asia, Arab countries and Northern Africa,” Ajith put forward his point.

More wisdom flowed out as more single malt flowed in. By the time they parted at midnight, Karan, otherwise so eloquent had become unusually silent. Something was playing on his mind as his thoughts ran way ahead of his staggering feet. He had drawn an odd extra conclusion, and taken a decision, based on the evening’s discussion in the bar.

He surprised a sleepy Sheela with an unprecedented warm embrace when she opened the door for him. “What had brought about that change in Karan,” she wondered, as she adjusted the blanket over their year-old daughter sleeping blissfully in her cot.

Modi, Yoga & Pseudoscience

“To err is human; to forgive divine!”

But, can Prime Minister Narendra Modi be pardoned for a monumental mistake he has made because of which every Indian, regardless of his caste, creed, colour, sex or status is likely to pay heavily. It is a blunder, the ill effects of which will start manifesting sooner than later.

Shri Narendra Modi tried (mind the stress on the word, “tried”) to popularise Yoga in India. People gathered in large numbers and did it, at least once a year on a day reserved for the activity. Some did it to be seen on the TV screen; some to get the free Tee shirts and the Yoga mats––each had a reason, to do Yoga on the occasion. Lure of a day off from the office to be a part of the annually organised Yoga camp also motivated the office goers. Then there were secular people who thought that it was an effort to saffronise the Indian population. There were others who thought Surya Namaskar was a Hindu ritual. Of course, there was a small chunk of the population that took Modi and Yoga seriously.

With his conviction Modi found a definitely bigger market for Yoga in the West. People in the US and Europe took to Yoga more seriously. China has also accepted Yoga in a big way. Even the Saudis have no qualms about doing the Surya Namaskar. ††

Yoga se Hoga

The UN even declared June 21 as the World Yoga Day. Credit must go to Shri Modi for popularising Yoga all over the world. And that’s where he has faltered.

It is simple science. When we breathe we take in air and consume the oxygen contained in the air. Almost all of Yogic exercises are based on modulating breathing. When people do Yoga they take in more air (read “oxygen”). Their organs, the brain in particular benefits from the excess oxygen it gets. Now how does that matter?

Elementary!

Like water on this planet, oxygen in the atmosphere is limited. If some people take in more of it, those who don’t do Yoga would be (naturally) deprived of their legitimate share of the life giving substance. In fact, by the time they would get out of their beds in the morning, probably the Yogis would have consumed most of the oxygen. Such people (who don’t do Yoga) would suffer from Hypoxia (relative lack of oxygen) and respiratory diseases. Air pollution will make their condition worse.

Survival of the Yoga Practitioner

I don’t want to paint a doomsday scenario. Suffice it to say that, looking at the trend, the US, Europe, Saudi Arabia, China and some other countries will take away most of the atmospheric oxygen; other countries, including India will be deprived of the same. Wars over oxygen can’t be ruled out. There is only one consolation that people in Pakistan have not accepted Yoga. Needless to say a people less inclined to doing Yoga will tend to suffer unless treaties are signed to limit the number of people in each country doing Yoga. I don’t see that happening any time soon. Thus popularising Yoga around the world before ensuring its popularity in India has been a monumental mistake.

Sometime in the future each man will have to fight for his share of oxygen. Only the fittest will survive. There is little choice but to embrace Yoga. I have done it.

[This article is inspired by the same science, which teaches us that river water that is used to generate electricity is rendered useless for irrigation.]   

Cooking the Goose of the Gender

It is important to make sure that one doesn’t offend people by inadvertently using language that might be considered sexist. In these times of #MeToo, it is even more important to mind one’s P’s and Q’s. For several decades now, many words and well-accepted expressions have come to be seen as discriminatory––discriminatory against women, in particular. It could be because of the nature of job being done mainly by men in the bygone days e.g. businessman, postman and fireman etc. Some other words give a distinctly different identity to women than their male equivalent (e.g. actor/actress; mayor/ mayoress, steward/stewardess, heir/ heiress, hero/ heroine, manager/ manageress). Some of these words, while giving the women a different identity have, over a period of time, come to convey a somewhat different status for them.

Feminists and well-meaning people on either side of the gender divide have been trying hard to remove the bias in the language. So now we have words like chairperson or chair (instead of chairman), head teacher (instead of headmaster/ headmistress). Mrs, for a married woman is passé; Ms is the right form to use. It is also customary now to use a term, which was previously used exclusively for men to refer to both men and women. For example, authoress, poetess and actress, have been replaced by author, poet and actor. The more conscious of the English language users have begun using human race or humankind instead of mankind. And until acceptable words/ terms are coined, words like princess, tigress, lioness, abbess, duchess, usherette, seamstress and seductress etc. will remain in use. One is less likely to take offence.

We do not mind using he/ she, him/ her and his/ her any number of times in our correspondence to remain gender neutral. Here are some examples:

  • He/ She (the candidate) must report at the reception by 10 am.
  • The HR department will inform him/ her about the likely dates.
  • A scholar is expected to submit his/ her report in a month.
  • The student can seek advice from his/ her

While the linguists and the feminists have been striving to achieve gender neutrality, people are exercising their right to cook the goose of the gender. I know of a lady from the Hindi heartland of India who prefers to use the male verbs (in Hindi) for herself e.g. करता हूँ, खाता हूँ, जाता हूँ,… etc.

Mrs Indira Gandhi didn’t like to be called ‘Madam’. Legend has it that once when she was on a state visit to the US, the American President wanted to know (through the then Indian Ambassador, Mr BK Nehru) how to call her, “Madam Prime Minister or Prime Minister?” She said, “Tell the President I don’t care what he calls me; he can call me Mr Prime Minister or just Prime Minister. But tell him also that my colleagues call me Sir.”

TOI Gender IMG_9170
Cooking the Goose of the Gender

Are the editorial staff of the Times of India following in the footsteps of Mrs Gandhi’s colleagues?