HONOUR-INTERPRETED AND MISINTEPRETED!
“Well, honor is the subject of my story
I cannot tell what you and other men
Think of this life; but for my single self,
I had as life not be as live to be
In awe of such a thing as myself”
[Cassius to Brutus in Julius Caesar Act I, Scene ii, Lines 92ff.]
In that Shakespearean play, viz. Julius Caesar, the cunning Cassius traps and hooks the honor loving Brutus by telling him that with Caesar playing a political Colossus in Rome, an honorable lifestyle is no longer possible and thinkable and hence the man must be dispatched to the next world at the earliest!!
Honorable lifestyle is popularly believed to mean a self-respecting mode of—i.e. one in which we both give respect and take respect and appreciation from others! But in the Indian context, individual and clannish vested interests have played havoc with this lexical meaning and all kinds of activities go by the name of “honorable acts”
The most elementary instance of this so called honorable activity is the Satyagraha, which Gandhi defined as “self-punishment undertaken ONLY in the presence of obvious and unmistakable gross injustice”. Today Satyagraha is not only abused but also purposely misused by being practiced or announced by political outfits for whatever they feel to be injustice—for even trifling incidents.
Another telling instance is the rampant use of the expression “Peedanam” in Malayalam, which at bottom means some kind of humiliation, say through open air stripping of a man or woman. Whereas the reality is that both men and women get abused at home by their own partners or by elders or neighbors, this term is overly used only for women, who are damn good at alleging that they have been humiliated even for quite silly incidents like being jostled in a crowd of people!
All kinds of activities are justified –or sought hard to be justified–on the grounds of individual or parental or family honor!
Both Harthal—a goon powered forcible locking up of all commercial establishments– and Bandh—which locks out the residents of a whole State or nation for a full day from even going out for pursuing their jobs– are connived at as having been undertaken purely for the sake of party honor!
Bride burning and bride murdering—Exploding Kerosene stoves are one technique for doing away young women that don’t yield fat dowry amounts — are also excused as something that needed to be done for the sake of honor of the in-laws!
At most temples, Hindu devotees if born male are constrained to half strip for the sake of keeping their honor in the presence of God–and ironically enough other women! We bow before our teachers to keep up our respect and as an honorable act. Quite often the Saas (the Mother in Law-Daughter in Law) conflicts get triggered off when the bahoo- a young daughter in law arrived through the marital route—doesn’t give the matron adequate honor!
Small children are threatened that they would be punished unless they wore clothes at all times for the sake of parental honor!
Well dear ones both seen and unseen, we Indians have both correctly and selfishly interpreted this term honor.
To WB Yeats true honor meant maintaining an aristocratic pride in giving or showing kindness without expecting anything in return!
In his poem TOWER he chanted:
Pride like that of the sun
When the headlong light is loose,
Or that of the fabulous Horn,
Or that of the hour
When all are dry,
Or that of the hour when the swan must fix his eye
Upon a fading gleam
And there to sing his last song!”
Honor killing, per se, needs a full paragraph by way of explanation and elucidation since it’s that peculiar Indian happening.
Numerous such murders-often too horrible to be described—have taken place across India primarily because we Indians are not used to thinking about ourselves except as members of some caste clan tribe or community! God knows that a citizen of a nation can have only a national identity and nothing else but we Indians simply don’t know or recognize this.
So, we turn into beasts of prey against our own children when they choose a life partner from another community or faith. And with the help of hard core goons and henchmen we manage to kill both our children and their life partners.
Thus the English word “Honor” has been dragged through all varieties of smelly mud and slush in our own self-interest!
Have a great day!