Islamic Voice A Monthly English Magazine

Jamadi Thani / Rajab 1425 H July 2004
Volume 17-07 No : 211
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Silence of the Self
It's MBA now, IAS later!
Studying under the Starry Night

Silence of the Self

Emotional bankruptcy and loneliness are emerging as the major health risk among Muslims today.
Rather than connecting to people, a large chunk of Muslims today prefer to live in isolation.

By M. Hanif Lakdawala

* Shamim Akhtar, 18, who scored above 90 per cent in the S. S. C examination, failed to get even a first class in the H.S.C exams. Shamim got upset as both his parents are working and have no time to spare for him. This disturbed him emotionally and led to loss of concentration.

* Danish Patel 58, an industrialist, is suffering from nervous breakdown after his youngest son’s wedding. Today all his six children are married and living separately. The feeling of loneliness led to the nervous breakdown.

Mother Teresa struck a chord in of every heart and in every corner of the word when she said that “dying is not as terrible as dying alone with no one bothering one way or another”. We come into our life, tied literally to another human being by the slick rope of the umbilical cord”.

But in the urban areas, today’s mechanical life style is taking a heavy toll. Emotional bankruptcy and loneliness are emerging as the major health risk. People are becoming so tuned to cosmetic lifestyle that emotions, feelings, caring, sharing and love for the fellow humans are gradually diminishing. The plight of working mothers is the worst, running between creche and office, living at the mercy of servants and neighbours. The feelings of guilt, of neglecting their children, among the working mothers, has an adverse impact on both their psyche and physiques.

Studies done over two decades involving more than 37,000 people show that social isolation- the sense that you have nobody with whom you can share your private feelings or have close contact- doubles the chances of sickness or death.

“Isolation itself”, a report in the Journal of Behavioural Medicine concludes, “is significant to mortality rates as smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity and lack of physical exercise.” Indeed, smoking increases mortality risk of a factor of just 1.6, while social isolation does by a factor of 2.0, making it a greater health risk”, the report said.

Our behaviour patterns in the 20th century, notes Desmond Morris in the Naked Ape, have undergone radical evolutionary changes over an extremely short period of time. We have learnt, for instance to live with increased noise, increased pollution, smaller spaces and longer lives. We have learnt therefore to co-exist in close proximity with millions of our own kind without feeling too much unease.

Rauf Ahmed, a chemical engineer has voluntarily opted for transfer to a remote area. Having lived in Mumbai for 15 years, Rauf feels that there is a feeling of vacuum inside him. He was not depressed, he was not dysfunctional, he was just not sure that he needed the city any more. “For me, the city and almost everyone in it had become such a cipher in my calculations that I just didn’t have any feelings or attachment with it,” the 37 year old Rauf said meditatively. “May be I could have found some kind of connection with the outside world if I had chosen to live somewhere in the wide open- mountains, forests, beaches, closer to nature” he said.

Sociologist, George Simmel said we would atomise internally and fall into “ an unthinkable mental condition” if we tried to respond individually and emotionally to everyone with whom we came into contact. In ‘The Metropolis and Mental Life, Simmel writes that “Feelings of isolation are rarely as decisive and intense when one actually finds oneself alone as they are when one is a stranger among many physically close persons, at a party, on a train, or in a city”.

Sociologists were worried about it long before Rauf and many others began opting out without withdrawing into the silence of the self or the hills. They knew that our social glue, human relationship, was weakening. German sociologist Max Waber pointed out that people in urban societies could not know their neighbours as well as people in traditional rural societies.

Freny Mahendra who has for the last 27 years been with “Samaritans”, a hotline for the suicidal and despairing, says there has been a distinct rise in emotional trauma cases in Mumbai. “Quite a few of the psychotic or neurotic people belong to the middle and lower middle class income brackets. The higher income groups usually call in when all else, including expensive shrinks, have failed. There are 7-8 calls a day on the hotline and 6-7 walk-ins at the day-care centre,” says Mahendra adding that more women, as compared to men, come forward.

Thanks to liberalisation and a changing value system, life has thrown up new challenges. More often than not the inability to cope manifests itself in mental disorders, says experts. So instead of saying ‘I m scared all the time, people prefer to say I suffer palpitations’. Dr Amresh Srivastava of Prerana counseling cell says that a report last year showed that relationships were the main problem affecting the people. “Next come poverty, unemployment and inability to pay back loans.”

According to psychiatrist, Dr Alan D’souza, stress suffered by one member of the family invariably affects others who also display behavioural changes. “Stress in the work place is increasing all the time and when brought home, it affects relationships with the spouse and kids.

This is often the cause of relationships breaking down.” “General stress at work has a multiplying effect,” says Dr. Vimla Nadkarni, head of the medical and psychiatry social work department at Tata Institute of Social Science (TISS). She adds, “children at a vulnerable age bear the brunt in such situations. The number of help line and awareness groups is only a reflection of increasing social isolation.

Individuals living in today’s mass society acquire what Simmel calls the ‘blase attitude ‘ which involves antipathy, repulsion, and unmerciful, matter- of -fact ness and utmost particularisation. M. Francis Abrabham in modern sociological theory writes, “prevailing techno” “Culture has upset man’s balance with nature, failed to respond to real human needs and to draw out the best in the individual but has kept individual from interacting with one another a full, as emotional human beings”.

There seems to be a general consensus that the root of psychic conflict and personal disorganisation, of the malady of the maladjusted and the marginal, reside in the prevalent cultural and role conflict operative in society, rather than in a personality’s inner psychic dynamics. Since the individual has no way of restraining his unlisted propensities, this must be done by some force exterior to him. Only a moral force can regulate social desires.

Emile Durkheim, in the Division of Labour in Society, writes, ‘ man’s capacity for feeling is in itself an unsatiable and bottomless abyss Durkheim views the collective order as the only legitimate moral force that can effectively restrain the social or moral needs.

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People Track

It's MBA now, IAS later!

Hyderabad: Syeeda Tehseen Quadri is the only Muslim girl who got selected by the prestigious Indian Institute of Management (Ahmedabad) for its Post Graduate program in Management for the year 2004 after she secured 99.28 percentile in CAT. She was also offered a seat in IIT, XLRI(Bangalore) and IIM Calcutta.

Tehseen, a former student of Nasr School holds a Bachelor’s degree in Electronics and Communication from Osmania University, Hyderabad.. She was earlier rewarded a complete fee waiver by Mufakkham Jah College of Engg and Technology as she had stood first in the girls minority category in the entrance exam for Engineering.

Tehseen’s father, Syed Sajid Muzzafar an MA in Islamic Studies from Osmania University says he has been flooded with phone calls from friends and relatives congratulating him for his daughter’s success. Her mother Abida Begum, an M.A. in Political Science from Osmania University works as an Office Superintendent in railways. When asked about her future ambitions, Tehseen says two years down the line after completing her MBA, her aim is to get into civil services and become an IAS officer. Tehseen owes her success to Almighty Allah and her parents who she says always encouraged and guided her.

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Studying under the Starry Night

Mumbai: Afroze Banu (74 per cent) from Mumbai’s Antop Hill slums, who topped the night school (girls) category, stood second on the night-school merit list.

Daughter of a taxi driver Afroze and her five siblings, live in a 15-by-10 feet tenement in the Sheikh Mistry slums. The small house, which is accessible through small dark alleys, has been rented by them at Rs 1,500 per month. In fact, Afroze’s sister who got a first class in her SSC dropped out after a month in college, as the family could not bear the expenses associated with the college education. The only reason Afroze studied in a night school is because there is no day Urdu school in her area. No wonder then, her school, situated nearby, has an attendance of 80 per cent girls. Out of 600 students, 470 are girls, which is a record of sorts, says headmaster Irshad Ahmed of the Social Group Urdu High School where Afroze studied.

Generally night schools are attended by boys who work during the day. The parents of the girls studying at Social Group Urdu High School ensured that there are no roadside romeos around. Ironically, Afroze may not continue her education. Her mother Farida explains that Afroze is afraid to go to college as she will have to wear new clothes, good sandals and she knows we cannot afford all this.

Reported by Seema Saleem in Hyderabad and M. Hanif in Mumbai.

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