‘One’s class, wealth, position, power or education doesn’t make one wise, refined, reformed, humble or emancipated. These virtues are precious gifts from nature. One can’t buy, learn or acquire them. Material detachment and humility may be two of the doorways to receive them from nature. Despite this philosophical realisation, a practical question arises, “If educated and influential families don’t take the lead as social reformers, then who will?”
Recently, the author came to know that a young daughter of one of his cousins, settled in the US, will soon be engaged to a young man from her community, also settled in the US. Both families are known to be well-educated and prominent in Kashmir. The girl and the boy were both born in the US. Both are known to be academically bright and professionally trained.
The girl, with tertiary education in medical sciences, is also a columnist and a bright socio-political reformist. Her both parents are medical doctors; her father is a successful medical consultant. Her maternal grandmother (who happens be a daughter of a reputed headmaster of his time in Kashmir) is a retired high school headmistress and an educational administrator. And her maternal grandfather is a retired chief engineer and known to be an influential social reformer.
The girl’s paternal grandfather was a high court judge.
The boy also comes from a similar illustrious background.
The girl’s maternal grandparents, who had firmly resisted travelling overseas during the past one decade or so, despite receiving numerous, desperate, requests from their children to visit them, have surprisingly announced this time that they will visit the US to attend the all-important engagement ceremony. What is more surprising is that, despite being wife of a social reformer, the girl’s maternal grandmother is known to have recently gifted the boy’s grandparents with 100 specially baked breads, understood to costing about twice the average monthly salary in the subcontinent, and other gifts, including gold ornaments, despite receiving some verbal resistance from the recipients.
The author was puzzled about the behaviour of the girl’s maternal grandmother. He asked her, “Is your granddaughter uneducated or defective in any shape or form?” To that, she replied in negative. The author persisted, “Then what was the need for you to prevail upon your husband’s social reformist position and appease the boy’s family with those gifts?” To that, she replied honestly, “I would not have done it if we were boy’s grandparents. In social terms, there is a lot of difference between a boy and a girl. Our society has not yet progressed to a level where they will be perceived equally. The boy’s relatives (other than his immediate family) will have some (traditional) expectations from us, so we had to come up to their (implicit) expectations.”
Undoubtedly, the aforementioned social ground reality has been a huge disappointment for the author. The following questions are worth pondering:
- If educated and influential families don’t lead the way in reforming their communities, then who will?
- Is social reform meant only for others? Should the social reformists not practice social reform before they preach them to others?
- How long will a girl be seen less than a boy?
- Why have not all the rich and educated people made the real human progress?
- Why don’t wealth and education make all people wise?
Many other questions can also arise but one thing can be concluded beyond doubt. That is, humans have still a very long way to achieve real progress and emancipation.” … Bill K Koul (30 July 19)