Hi -

Galling as it might seem, it looks to me (as clear as daylight) that reasonable folks are fast disappearing from the face of this earth. Don't get me wrong; blokes are still nice and respectable - it's just that they don't see reason anymore. Even when it's incredibly clear to me what's right and what's wrong, I just can't seem to convince them.

Consider, for example, basketball. NBA, to be more specific. Now, it's clear to anyone with an iota of reason that the Houston Rockets are the best team in the universe. You and I see that as an indisputable fact, an undeniable truth. Yet, just try and tell that to some of these folks. They'll bring up the name of this team from up north - now, I forget the name - yes, the Chicago Bulls. They'll say the Bulls are the best. Isn't it ridiculous? True, they won a game or two more, but isn't that a result of sheer chance?

There was a time when we all got along together, agreeing with one another's opinions, always saying "Yup!" or "Umm ... yes," or "Yessir!" or something to that effect. Point is, we all respected one another; we all saw reason. Unfortunately, time has changed. We can no longer agree with what clearly is right. Why, if I went out there and shouted, "Dowry is a social evil!" I'm no longer sure everyone will agree with me. In fact, I'm willing to bet my old car that there'll be some fellow lurking in there who'll come up from behind and give me a good old-fashioned boink on my head.

If I sound incredible, please do go ahead and read this article. It's by Sidhartha Mohanty, a writer of considerable flair and skill who has contributed handsomely to Ornet in the past, by way of both articles and editorial prose. In this admittedly off-beat piece, he goes ahead and corroborates my assertion.

With my best regards for this weekend,

Amitabh Mishra June 28, 1996

Contributor's Self-Introduction

Name:		Sidhartha Mohanty 
Email:		smohanty@ece.uc.edu, or
	        sidhartha_mohanty@lucent.com (highly UNRELIABLE! - editor's note)

Education: Montfort School (Kansbahal, a small town near Rourkela).
           (Schooling, till 10th)
           Government College, Rourkela.
           (+2, Science)
           BITS, Pilani (1988-92).
           (B.E. in EEE)
           University of Cincinnati (1992-94).
           (M.S. in Computer Engg.)

Work:      AT&T Bell Laboratories, Allentown, PA.
           (Dec 1994 -- present)

Hobbies:   Music, Reading, Cricket. I am crazy about watching
Cricket. I miss it a lot. The only consolation (though a very
minor one), is watching other games like Basketball.

Disclaimer: This article in no way reflects the opinions and beliefs of the writer or the Weekend Thoughts team. If it matches your own then we are glad. If it does not then welcome to this new world where people are learning to be more patient with differences in opinion.

What good can it be

I am from a small town in Orissa, called Kansbahal, located 22 kms from the Steel city of Rourkela. A small, quaint industrial town which I felt was always the best place on the earth. So what is new? - Everyone thinks that his or her home-town is heaven! This small town is built around a manufacturing division of the industrial giant Larsen and Toubro limited. We always thought that this was kind of a retreat for the top management of the company. Whenever they got bored of the noise and confusion of the big cities they came over to this pretty little town to relax. Unfortunately for them and fortunately for the people of the town they did not stay for long. This small town was a perfect example of how people from every state of the country and practising diverse religions could stay and work together without any ill feelings. People celebrated Christmas, Diwali, Id, Guru Nanak's Birthday, together without any feelings of caste of religion. Bengalis celebrated Utkala Diwas, Malayalees celebrated Kali Puja. This was the ultimate example of harmony.

I think I was around 13 or 14 years old at that time. As part of the annual Utkala Diwas celebrations the local committee Utkala Jyoti had organized a Debate competition for the students of local schools. This was the time of the year when you take part in a lot of fun events and enjoy the week-long celebrations for Utkala Diwas, dramas in a number of Indian languages, orchestas, dances, and also a lots of prizes to be won from the various competitions like essay, debate, quiz, etc.. As a young boy nothing gives you more pride than receiving an award from the Chief Guest on the stage with a huge audience clapping for you. Your knees also do feel wobbly at that time. ;-)

Anyway, the topic for the debate competition was: "Dowry." I was one of the participants and I was a very poor public speaker. Some of the other participants were "gurus" in this field. I was thinking: "Why did I participate? Now I am going to be embarassed in front of so many people! Forget winning." But since I was already there, unfortunately I could not run away! So the competition started and I was relieved to find out that I would be the second last speaker that day. I thought to myself, "Everyone will be bored by the time I speak and I will just speak for a minute and get lost." But I had to collect my thoughts to come up with enough material for talking for a min. Okay - I thought of a few points, dowry is bad, brides get harrassed, etc., etc. But guess what? - by the time the second speaker was done, all my points had been repeated 10-15 times already. Now what do I do? There are 4-5 more to speak and by the time my turn comes this topic would be beaten to death and the only thing I will have to say is "I share the opinion of all the speakers before me, thank you!" I thought for a minute and then I thought, "Everyone is speaking against Dowry, why don't I speak for Dowry!" Wow, what a brain-wave!! So I started thinking..... Here are my thoughts....

Why is dowry an evil? Its an evil because people have misused it. It was never meant to be this way. I think the concept of dowry started when the girl's family gave monetary help to the bride-groom to help him start a business, or improve an existing business which would result in an improved life-style for their daughter. I would also say that this is small compensation for all the cosmetics, jewelery, saris, etc., she will buy using the poor husband's hard- earned money. Say you are thinking of starting a business and require money. Would you rather go to the bank and pay a hefty 15% interest or take the money your father-in-law can give you, interest-free, repayable if you like. Wow! you don't have to have an MBA to make this decision. It's that simple, it is a cash flow in the form of an investment with the marginal benefit of an improvement in life-style of your daughter. What more can parents do for their children?

The MBA part, cash flow parts I just added now. But you can imagine the reaction of the audience when they heard someone telling something which no one wanted to hear. ;-) It was late afternoon and after hearing the same old arguments about dowry being an evil from 6-7 people everyone had almost dozed off. Now everyone was back into action. My competitors started laughing. What - is this guy mad or something? No, I had unconventional yet convincing arguments that dowry was not evil, it were the people who made it the evil beast. The same is true about caste, religion. A child born into this world knows not the difference between a Brahmin or a Karana, a Hindu or a Muslim. We teach him/her as he/she grows up. Everyone wishes and hopes for a perfect world. Yet this life and world is so imperfect, but it is we the people of this world who make it the way it is. This is the only message I wanted to convey.

And the funny thing was that once I finished my speech there was just one more speaker left. He was my class-mate, Sardarji Ravinder. And he also decided, what the hell, I will also speak for dowry. ;-) And as luck would have it, we won the first two prizes in the competition. Luckily for us we did not have a strong speaker after us for the rebuttal. For I can hear his starting lines: "Brinjals Rs 15 a kg for sale, tomatoes Rs. 5 a kg for sale, rice Rs 10 a kg for sale, Sidhartha and Ravinder, eligible bachelors Rs 50,000 for sale. ;-))) Is that all an individual is worth? Naah.. How do we calculate one's net worth? Probably this can be a thesis topic for an MBA. ;-)))

Gandhiji's 3 monkeys advise you to talk no evil, see no evil, hear no evil. So don't give or take or encourage this evil called Dowry. Unfortunately, misuse robs humanity of another wonderful business resource. ;-)

Your comments are always welcome...

Sidhartha Mohanty

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