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Archive for May, 2012

A closer look into polygamy

P.S: This piece is written purely as a  personal observation on personal impact of Polygamy on the lives of women concerned, without judging the theological, or general social implications of Polygamy.

I was raised by a father, who for some personal reasons intensely hated the idea of even teasing one’s wife for another ‘shaadi’. He insisted this was a sadistic joke.

And with this in the background I landed as a newlywed in a place where ‘other’ wife  was not only talked about with much thrill, but polygamy was quite often practiced in real.

Several times in the beginning I was snubbed for my disapproval of it, by the pious, for it being allowed and mentioned in Islam  in so many words- one, two, three or four.

One of the relatively polite friends explained; “See in their society, this is the norm, so they don’t mind. I know of co-wives living in absolute harmony. Since we are not used to this, we find it strange and get critical.” This coming from a non judgemental, desi friend born and bred in west, I had no reason to doubt.

For the first few years, as a stay home Mom of two little kids, all I heard was the men’s side of the story. In a very matter of fact, non threatening manner, my husband would tell me the juicy comments that were hurled at him. “Young, handsome man, with only one wife, look at me I’m 65, and have three.”

Age was no bar, and talking of multiple wives or of planning to take more was the favourite ‘boy-talk’, more so for those on the wrong side of age.

On replying to some random patient’s off the cuff marriage proposal, that he was married, my husband was preached, “So what, I am not asking you to divorce her. Allah has allowed you to keep up to four.”

Even while visiting parents for a long holiday relatives would question, “So might your husband not marry someone in your absence? It’s so common there.”

Thank God, insecurity never came close to me. Not because it could not happen, or that it was allowed in Islam but because, if he had to, my fears would not stop him.

As I joined back work, I incidentally landed to work in  a community where polygamy was more common, than not, especially for the middle aged and elderly men. They usually had two or three and few even had four wives. The eldest wife would be almost their age, as they generally married very young, but the others would be years or many times several decades younger to them.

However, the outlook of polygamy being acceptable by the women in that society, totally turned out to be a mere myth. Almost all women, whether unlettered or educated, housewives or working, young or old, urban or rural, who had other co wives were nowhere near normal in accepting the ‘other woman, or in many cases other women.

Except for one curious case, where the first wife had been through hell after her husband got the second. When he married the third, she came to me (being my patient), rejoicing, “The second one is screaming and crying. Now will she know what hell I went through when she came in?”
The third wife was almost as old as the daughter of the first wife, but they ended up being great friends, all conniving against the middle one.

Rest all of them, I knew were tragic sagas or epitomes of jealousy. The anger and jealousy corroded not just their individual selves, but their families too.

Complains of the other doing a ‘sahar’ ( black magic) was the most frequent. Curious, and unbelievable accusations were hurled by them at each other.

Once, a young lady in her early thirties came hysterical complaining that her womb and vagina were filled with worms after the younger one did ‘sahar’ on her. I took the history and she was most consistent in describing  the symptoms, and explaining them in explicit details.
“Why would she do this?” I asked
“Because she does not want me to get pregnant.”
On examination, when nothing positive came out, she rejoiced claiming that it was because before coming here, she had visited the Sheikh, who made for her dua and gave her something to eat. Instead of thanking me for finding nothing, she kept praising the sheikh for his instant miracle.

Was she lying? No

Was she insane?  No.

This was simply the manifestation of morbid jealousy, which usually occurs among the co-wives or suspicious wives. Her jealousy had induced the delusions of such sort in her mind.

( By definition: Morbid jealousy aka Othello Syndrome or Delusional jealousy, is a psychiatric disorder in which a person holds a strong delusional belief that their spouse or sexual partner is being unfaithful without having any, very little, or insignificant proof to back up their claim.)

For more strong hearted, there was always a tug of war as to who would grab the attention and money from her husband more. Unfortunately for them the attention meant the number of nights he spent with her as compared to the other co-wives.

Spying on each other was a routine, and they frequently inquired:

“The other one had an appointment with you yesterday. Is she pregnant?”
“Why was she here? Is there anything wrong with her?”

It took some time before I learnt the flawless trick of how to evade such questions without offending them.

A friendly patient, recently divorced, in a conversation requested: “Look for me a Pakistani man.”
Before I could even think out an answer she continued, “How about your husband”.
Although this one was purely uttered in humour, for them such talk was not a taboo.

What I personally observed was that as a direct result of polygamy, marital discord, domestic abuse and divorces were frequent too.

A husband talking to another woman was generally taken with suspicion. Many of them were even paranoid.

However, they had a reason to, since deciding to take a second or a third wife was as easy as deciding to buy another car on top of the old one. All it required was certain amount of money to pay as dower to the father of the bride.

It even had its economic toll, when one man with average wage was to fend for a family larger than normal, and even when he had surplus money, instead of improving the plight of the home, he would prefer to   finance another wedding for himself.

Many smart women manipulated the situation by never letting their husband have enough money to even think of a second one.

Broadly speaking it kept the women constantly in a hyper vigil, anxious state. This certainly took its toll on the children too. They got entangled in the cross politics at home, and many of them, especially girls  grew up disliking their fathers, and hating step mothers. Jealousies corroded the families and individual values.

Once, on discussing about our family life, keeping our savings in a common pool, for a future project, one of the colleagues, who was herself a second wife remarked:

“I wish I was from a culture like yours, where I lived with my husband as a cooperative wife and not as a spend thrift, or as a guard, constantly on high alert. I wouldn’t care even if I was from a poor country like Pakistan.”


Full moon, fertility and faith.

Just yesterday, a friend’s friend requested me to give her some advice over the telephone, about her plans of extending her family. In her early thirties, she has been married for over four years, but now wanted to conceive.

Like any usual gynecologist would, I asked a few questions, and advised the need to just stop any contraception. “That’s all”.

She asked about the appropriate time for conception. Obviously, it had to be “The time you ovulate”, I said almost instantly.
It felt, as if this wasn’t all she wanted to hear from me. After a few seconds of pause from both sides she asked; “Do you know tomorrow is full moon.”

“Okay, maybe, I have no idea. I do not follow the moon sizes, except when just by chance when I happen to see it. Am neither a poet, nor a mystic to follow it”, I joked.
She didn’t find it funny, remained silent over the phone longer. When on a repeat “Hello” she asked, “What is your opinion about Lunar fertility”.

“What? Lunar fertility? Can you please explain?”

“ I have heard, this weekend will be the Full Flower Moon of the year also called as Mother’s Moon. It is going to be the closest to Earth, so the largest moon of the year. Hence, there shall be the highest chances for fertility.” she informed.

“Oh ! I am not sure of that fertility thing.” I did not want to misguide her.

“See, this is coinciding with the time of the spring, where the warming of temperature leads to germination of seeds, and bulbs buried underneath the ground.  Isn’t that an example from nature, of the time for increased fertility.” 

“Well spring comes every year at the same time.” I wasn’t impressed.

“Don’t you know that our menstrual cycles follow as 28 day Lunar calendar, not Solar. And also the fact that scientists have discovered that as the moon waxes, the oestrogen levels rise, peaking at the full moon. And along with it also rises the libido, hence a nature’s way of procreation. It peaks at midnight.” She was so sure.

“Yes, high energies of the full moon, cause tides to rise, but it also creates tides of insomnia in the human beings, leading it to be the ideal time to procreate. I didn’t know this.”  I tried to crack a joke again, but she was still too serious to take it.

And then, as if to make me feel even more miserable about the poverty of my  knowledge, she mentioned the name of a physician, Dr Eugen Jonas who had interest in Astrology/ Astronomy ( she wasn’t sure) and hence led to discover the correlation between fertility and full moon.

“He was a doctor like you, not a naturopath.” She retorted.

I begged my ignorance to her, with a promise to explore further, “Strange, but about  Lunar  fertility I never ever heard a mention in my entire professional life”.

“No, no there is. These scientists deliberately distort facts to hide such Laws of Nature.”

“Why would they hide? In fact it would help them?”

“I don’t know, but since you people all are so against ‘alternate medicine’ you people don’t trust.” She continued, “Don’t you see, even after full use of contraception, there are failure rates of each contraceptive.”

“Yes it is. But that is because of the erratic hormone levels, we have in the body, and also on the improper use of contraception”.

“You know what?”, She dropped another bombshell of myth. “My Naturopath even told me that in the ancient times all women menstruated in sync after the full moon waned, if they did not conceive in the peak of full moon hormones. But now due to artificial lights in the houses, it has disturbed the whole cycle. “

“Yes I know Moon especially full moon has been associated with a lot of poetry in our Urdu language, relating it to  woman, her beauty and radiance, but never imagined it with fertility or procreation”. I tried to reason.

“See the whole idea of  woman  being eulogized as moon, and why not as sun, or stars. In India, when women  fast for their husbands on  Karwa Chauth,  before they break the fast they watch the reflection of moon in their steel thalis ( plates). This reflection of moonlight, increases their levels of female hormones, and makes them look more beautiful in front of their husbands. There is always wisdom behind such practices.” The firmness in her conviction was screaming across the telephone reciever.

I had no knowledge or information, to flout her claim.

She suggested, “There are so many sites, which talk about it. And even those passion crimes, agitated behaviors,  etc increase in the full moon”.

“You mean the men also increase their male hormone levels on full moon? Because all this could be due to the exaggerated male hormones, Androgens, which  in excess are also associated with aggression.”

“Yes, yes.  I don’t know exactly what is Androgen, but haven’t you heard of the stories from Europe, not just India, of  ‘werewolves’ and their relationship to full moon?”

“Oh but they are all myths”.

“No. And researches have proven the increase of births, conceptions and even crimes of passion…..”, again quoting the same doctor.

Jokes apart, I was flabbergasted at the flood of information she  gave me. I had no clue to any of that information, what so ever.

Of course, I was aware of  the havoc the high tides create at the sea shore, owing to  the gravitational pull of full  moon. And have been  a witness of  what  mesmerizing eye-treat it is, to sight the symbol of love Taj Mahal,  in full moon. And even had the fortune to experience live,  the ecstasy of sniffing  the aromatic gardens of Saffron fields in full bloom, during  full moon in Kashmir. (This is an age old tradition in Sopore, Kashmir to visit the Saffron Gardens when their flowers bloom, in full moon, usually in November).

I promised her that I will look up on the net, and search, before telling her more. And before she hung up she announced:

“And by the way, my Naturopath is a European immigrant. And there is plenty of belief in Europe too about this”.

Almost immediately, I looked up on the net and found some links to sites which claim such assertions, and hardly any which refuted them.

Interestingly, one of the sites mentioned Maria Celeste , Galileo’s daughter:
“Writing to her father on 24 – 26 Feb. 1633 (Galileo was then in Rome to be interrogated and tried for heresy) Maria Celeste noted “The vines in the garden will set nicely now that the Moon is right” – and, if we check theory – the Moon was full on 24 Feb. 1633.
[From `Galileo’s Daughter – A Drama of Science, Faith and Love’ by Dava Sobel – ISBN 1-85702-712-4]

And then mentions in the footnote:
[Ironically, Galileo himself rejected all folk-lore about the Moon, as `old wives’ tales. Which was why he failed to solve the connected mysteries of `tides’ and therefore of `gravity’ itself.] “

( Link: )

Half a day later, I called her up, and told her of having seen the sites:

“Yes, I could see them, but I still trust my knowledge of Gynecology. But,  good for you then, you do not need a gynecologist’s advise, when you believe that the nature is the best gynecologist.”

She laughed and said, “Yes, I have tremendous faith on Naturopathy, and my Naturopath,  is an excellent one. No doctor can beat his knowledge.”
She hung up.

Her faith in the hearsay, and my knowledge from  my books, could not budge each other even an iota from our beliefs.

I kept pondering over the power of faith, for a long time…

Picture: Super Moon or Mother’s Moon clicked at midnight, on the night between May 5 & 6, 2012, in Mississauga, Canada.


Another Link:

OsteoArthritis ~the wear and tear joint disease

Osteoarthritis (OA) is the commonest form of arthritis that occurs as a result of wear and tear of the joint.
As the protective cushion over the bones within the joints, called cartilage, gets worn out gradually, the symptoms get worse. The joints begin to crackle, get stiff, then pain and ultimately cause limited mobility.

Note: This is different from Rheumatoid Arthritis, which occurs in young age, and is less common, but more severe.

Which Joints?

It can occur in any joint, but the most commonly affected are those joints that are used the most- of hands, lower back, knees and hip.

What happens to the joints?

In knee joint:

In the spine:

What can a damaged joint do?
From stiffness, the joints progress to pain off and on, then more lasting pain, ultimately leading to limitation of joint movement, and restricted mobility. The damaged joint can cause blockage of blood supply to the joints, bleeding in the joint or permanent bone impairment.

Although there are pain killers, acupuncture, physiotherapy which can reduce pain, or even surgical procedures like joint replacements, which can improve joint function, but it is the wisest to slow the wear and tear ahead of time.

Risks that are associated with increased wear and tear osteoarthritis are:

Older age.
Gender: Women are more likely to develop osteoarthritis, though it isn’t clear why.
Bone deformities: Some people are born with malformed joints or defective cartilage, which can increase the risk of osteoarthritis.
Joint injuries:Injuries from sports or from an accident, hasten the wear and tear, and hence OA.
Obesity: It is common sense that heavier the weight, faster and worse is the wear and tear.
Sedentary lifestyle as the more the activity, the more nourished is the cartilage.
Occupational: Jobs that cause repetitive stress of a particular joint also increase the wear and tear-like the joints of hands in typists, computer users, knees n those who stand for long like the policemen, etc.
Other diseases.: Diabetes, underactive Thyroid, Gout or Paget’s disease of bone can increase the wear and tear OA.

How can we slow down the wear and tear of joints?

OA is not inevitable with old age one follows a healthy life style. However,  cannot avoid age related wear and tear, but one can certainly minimize the damage caused by misuse of our joints.

You can be a best friend of your joints if you:

1 – Maintain Your Ideal Body Weight : A force of 3-6 times a person’s body weight is exerted across the knee while walking e.g.being 10 pounds overweight increases the force on the knee by 30-60 lbs with each step taken while walking. The force across the hip is, at most, 3 times the body weight. Losing weight reduces stress on the joints substantially.

2 – Exercise Regularly and Participate in Regular Physical Activity For optimal joint health, it’s recommended that people perform 30 minutes of moderately strenuous exercise at least 5 days a week. It’s an established fact that regular exercise has health benefits

3 – Protect Your Joints: There are several joint protection principles, which if followed, will help to conserve energy and preserve joint function. The advice is quite simple, but you must be mindful of proper movements and recognize body signals (e.g., pain). Good posture and proper body mechanics is important.
Check the various Joint protection techniques

4 – Avoid Repetitive Stress on the Joints: Signs of repetitive stress include too many uninterrupted repetitions of an activity or motion, unnatural or awkward motions, overexertion, incorrect posture, and muscle fatigue. Unfortunately most of them are occupational and hard to avoid. Hence one has to create innovative ways to avoid them.
{Clue: Search on internet prevention of joint stress specific to your occupation}.

5 – Listen to Your Pain: This recommendation seems so obvious, yet people don’t always do it. Learning to view pain as a signal that you are overdoing it and that it’s time to rest requires conscious effort. Balancing rest and activity is optimal for healthy joints. It’s part of self-management to learn not to overuse your joints and to learn not to push past your limits. Consider that the pain is like a stop sign.

6 – Avoid Injury to Joints: Previous joint injury is recognized as a common cause of osteoarthritis. In joints burdened by improper alignment due to injury, articular cartilage wears away and osteoarthritis can begin to develop. Avoid injury if at all possible — and if you do injure a joint, seek treatment immediately.

Myths about OsteoArthritis:


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