on why it is the environment we should change

In this post, I disagreed with Michelle’s claim, in her very inspiring story, that getting out of poverty is a choice. She has maintained that her story is about America only. Whether that is the case, I leave it for Americans to weigh in.

Shelldigger friend talked of grit. Well there is some research that argues it is the environment that we need to change for most of the people to improve their situation. It doesn’t discount those individual cases of success, but for most people, the environment must be addressed.

song of the ankle rings

by Eric Alagan

Eric manages to use an earthquake and superstition to exact revenge. But I go ahead of myself.

This book is about the merchant classes. Not that kings don’t make an appearance, they do and they are disappointing. They are feeble. Unjust and cruel, just like most kings we read about. No, the merchant class is not any better.

A brief description of the main characters is given below. In the case of the Pandyan court, I have dealt with the court as an individual though I promise nothing is lost. There is everything horrible happening in that court. And the same can be said of the Arakans. The author does not differentiate them so much to cover a big spectrum of behavior or character. The men are strong. The women are fat. All of them are charitable and generous.

Kovalan, the son of a prosperous merchant has only one thing going for him, he is upright. His business ventures don’t do well even his marriage suffers, first from three miscarriages, then folly and finally death. I don’t know how a man with his right senses would leave his woman to go live with another for two years and expect the wife will just be waiting.

Madhavi! What should I say about her or her folk? Sly. Conniving. Ambitious. And maybe cruel.

Kannagi. Here, Eric, you didn’t do justice. Her character wasn’t well developed. She is so passive until the end when she acts bravely to avenge her good husband, Kovalan.

Anandan! The carefree, and I would, for lack of a better word, loose, brother to Kannagi. He never saw a woman he didn’t want to bed. Was unkind to their house servants. Only drew the line at Madhavi and any woman he considered pure. An astute business man and a good friend too.

Savaali, the Silent One and all the Arakans. Now, these are my heroes. The problems of nuclear families, this is my child, is not a problem to them. The parentage of the child is not definite and the whole community is involved in their upbringing. They have received a bad rap for crimes they have not committed but come out on top of the pack as being very upright and gentle fellows.

The Pandyan court. A place of injustice. It would interest Machiavelli. It is here where the final drama is enacted. The place where Kovalan is redeemed or rather redeems himself but dies ( the question for the previous post) and Kannagi exacts vengeance. When her husband is killed unjustly on the orders of the king and following the treachery of the Royal Jeweler, she forces an audience with the king during a state reception of Roman guests (and here Eric employs superstition to full effect). An earthquake that he alluded to earlier erupts, and it is during this earthquake, well after she has accused the king, proved the innocence of her husband and the guilt of the jeweler that she sets fire to the curtains and the palace is engulfed in fire. Savaali comes to the rescue and upon her death, the story is retold until she becomes a goddess.

Well, the story is well told. Eric brings about the issue of Sati practice among Indian widows. Faithfulness in marriage but contrasts it immediately with the Arakan freedom. The place of women in traditional society and even present is all discussed.

The style is easy. I like short paragraphs and Eric uses them well. The narration is good though once in a while you might forget who is the speaker. I had this problem, especially in the beginning. And I think with the death of Kovalan, our author took liberties because he has Kovalan telling us what happens to his head after it has been severed from his body by the executioner.

Thank you Eric for an autographed copy of the book and for weaving a beautiful yearn.

On poverty

Not so long ago, I was reading this post by Michele and it got me going back to my notes on urban poverty and I may have a few things to say. But before we dwell on her post, there are few things we should get out of the way.

First, in a paper by ConeXión Mosaico, they write that the way we define poverty and ‘success’ – either implicitly or explicitly – says a lot about our worldview framework and view of cultural change and also influences how we relate to the poor and plays a major role in determining the solutions we use in our attempts to alleviate poverty.

The European commission in 1984 defined the poor as

the poor shall be taken to mean persons, families and groups
of persons whose resources (material, cultural and social)
are so limited as to exclude them from the minimum
acceptable way of life in the Member State in which they

In this paper, the key point they argued was that since poverty is relative, multi-dimensional and changed over time,
“it is scientifically impossible to determine an accurate, uniquely valid poverty line: i.e. a financial threshold below which a person is defined as being poor”.

The point here is, there is a difficulty in defining & measuring poverty and with this difficulty even how to address it becomes a challenge. The World Bank claims to have two goals,

To end extreme poverty and promote shared prosperity in a sustainable way

but have helped spread poverty in the global south through their policies.

I am not saying Michelle’s family were not poor. Far from me to say that. My problem is with her insistence that being poor or getting out of it is a matter choice. She writes

That’s why I say poverty is a choice. You may not choose how you grow up. But once grown you certainly choose the life you want. You choose your goals and you make the plan on how to achieve.

And while I am happy for her that she and her family have done well for themselves, many poor households do not have much to move on. I mean, they had a car to start with. They could move around. Research also show that children who grow up in households where parents went to school even briefly fare better compared to where no parent has had any schooling.

I also find this

So can we stop blaming our parents, society, schools, and everything else for our current situation and instead make a plan on how to change it.

disagreeable. If you had a crappy education, broke parents and a society that doesn’t give a damn where there are structural barriers that make life a nightmare, one can’t be blamed for their poverty. We as a society will be abdicating our duty to others if this is how we viewed life.

And as I said in the beginning of this post, how we define poverty affects also how response to it.

I don’t think anyone chooses to be poor. And here am not talking about those religious fanatics who go around begging for alms in the nae of forsaking property and material wealth. No. Not those ones.


Open comments post

I am presently reading the song of the ankle rings by Eric who sometimes comments here and because it is an interesting book, I will be posting intermittently.

This post is for you to just say whatever you have been meaning to tell me. Like say where you think I have been unreasonable & you felt maybe I would take offence 😁.

Or you can just chat about whatever. I promise to join in.

Fire away, friends.

Mother’s Day

You see I grew up in the village and so many things that happen in the cities did not generally get to the village. For example Mothers Day. Now that I have internet, I see it started in 1908 by Ann Jarvis in the US of A( Wikipedia).

12 years ago, my mother died and some days may pass when I don’t think of her, like when I am so broke, but I miss her deeply. As I have written before elsewhere, she was my teacher in more ways than one. A great teacher at that.

I miss you mum.

So on this day, I send gratitude to all those great mums who have and continue to take care of their children. Those who hug them. Who feed them. Teach them and all.

Let’s hope that all those mothers who drown their children, harass them or beat them may be transformed to show greater love.

Happy mother’s Day to all our moms.