Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 5, Issue 39, Tuesday October 7, 2008



Dear Doctor,
Allow me to thank you for your column, which I believe helps a lot of people solve their issues. I face a problem, and I would request your valuable advice on how I can resolve the situation.

I was born in a family that had great respect for religion. We were not devout but my father and mother instilled religious and moral values in us. Celebrations and days like Shab-e-barat and Eid-e-Miladunnabi were observed with great importance.

My husband however is not religious. His atheistic reasoning does not act as hindrance to my beliefs but our young girl, now thirteen is keen to follow her father's reasoning rather than mine. She does not pray or take part in any religious occasions. What do I do? Please help. - Troubled

Thanks for your appreciation. You have mentioned a conflict that seems to haunt lot of couples who come from two different backgrounds with two different sets of core belief systems.

I'm confused by your statement that “my father and mother instilled religious and moral values in us”- are you concerned about your daughter's moral development or about having faith or just about following religious rituals?

Believers (followers of most organised religions) tend to develop their value system guided by their particular religion and those values are mostly regulated by terms like “sin”, “hell”, “heaven”, “divine punishment”, “divine blessing”, etc. Religion gives a general guideline to differentiate between right and wrong, good and bad and to set a moral standard in life that is generally healthy for self and others.

Faith on any such “higher power” allows people to surrender to an external locus of control and thereby accept human limitations over the unpredictability of life and Mother Nature. This in turn lifts some pressure from the individual and also sets the person free from taking all the responsibilities of his/her actions (e.g. “this is all God's will”).

Believers live their lives accepting their powerlessness and tend to empower themselves by being loyal to an invisible Almighty. As long as they are in the “good book of Allah”, they feel they are blessed in both lives. This facilitates a self-fulfilling prophecy leading to success and a positive attitude bringing peace to mind. Besides, mystery of spirituality and its impact on human mind/brain is still largely unknown or yet to unfold.

Following the religious rituals (halua-roti of Shabe-barat or spending the whole night in mosque on a special occasion, etc.) of the main religion of the land also helps people to fit in the mainstream society and give them a sense of belonging. Although we are already aware of the fact that religion can turn dangerous when it goes to wrong hands and is used for wrong purposes. The so-called 'warriors of God' in the name of religion (to establish the superiority of their version of “Higher power”), disrupts peace of mankind, destroys civilizations and kills lives.

Atheists or non-believers rely only on hard found evidences and refuse to have faith without any concrete evidence. To them, only “seeing is believing” and they prefer to retain all power within themselves (no external locus of control). This doesn't mean that they can't have any moral standards though. It is rather likely that the source of motivation for moral development in an atheist will be different from a believers' source of motivation (e.g. self-development or rational thoughts as opposed to heaven or hell, etc.).

I guess a spiritually awake religious person (not just ritualistically religious) and a moralistic atheist (having basic social and human values) will share some common universal moral values or won't really fall far from each other in that respect.

If your concern is only about saying prayers and taking part in religious occasions, then I believe you have to introduce her to a loving Allah (generous, merciful, kind, etc.) before you introduce her to an angry Allah. Spontaneous prayers generated from deep-seated love for the Creator should be the target. Prayer, as an act of thankfulness and an expression of gratitude for Allah's boundless bounties, can only come from the heart.

Introduce her to the fun part of religion (e.g. having new clothes on Eid or having delicious dishes on special occasions, etc.) before you introduce her to the stricter parts of it (e.g. saying prayer instead of watching the favourite TV shows). After all, she is a teenager, breaking rules and rebelling against the norm is the nature of her age. Religious rituals, if done correctly, can promote internal discipline, hygiene, etc. On the other hand, an overemphasis on religious rituals can also make a person obsessive-compulsive and self-righteous.

Besides, a thirteen-year-old girl is more likely to be ideologically influenced by the parent whom she is closer to. It is also about pleasing the parent and getting approval. It also depends on the family dynamics and the roles played by each member. It is not a good idea to force the child to take a side before she is grown up enough to make up her mind.

Moreover, it takes a lot of commitment and devotion to say prayers regularly (even for the believers, let alone the confused). If the message does not reach her from the right person at the right time in the right way, it is probably not going to work. I think it would be wise not to put too much pressure on her right now. Encourage her to keep that option open and revisit it later when she is more willing to do so.

People often start desperately looking for magical help under vulnerable life situations; religion can become a rescuer at that stage. Children/youth often experiment with different ideologies before they finally settle on something. Ideologies are still in a fluid state in the mind of a young teen. Just have patience and keep the door open for change and let her make the decision when time comes.

Is it okay to teach your children some money matters?
It never hurts to teach your children, pre-teens or teenagers some basic money matters. Give them a chequebook to balance or a debit card if your bank issues one for under 18 and for small children a piggy bank or savings boxes. This can help your child to be aware of savings and accustomed to banking matters.

Does using credit card save money?
With several banks coming up with both international and local credit cards, it could help you save. With credit cards, after receipt of statement you would be better able to budget your expenses because you have a trail of your expenses. Also issuers of credit cards nowadays are offering various schemes like rewards programs, instalments payment on purchases through credit card at zero interest, etc. Discuss the benefits of using your credit card with your banker.

How do I choose a financial professional?
Choosing a financial professional is an important task, however in our country it is still not very common. Usually people do their own financial planning. If you do come across a financial planner ensure the individual is referred by friends or business associates. The candidate should be interviewed by you over phone or in person. Please ensure your questions are answered properly and matches your needs. You need to be cautious since you will be sharing your financial information with this person and putting your future financial well being in his/her hands.

How do you plan a retirement?
One should plan retirement. However, it's not any easy task. You will need to figure out how much money to save for retirement. Like many people, you may have no idea. You need to figure out where you are now and what you will need to save to meet your retirement needs. You could also review investment opportunities prevailing in our country at the moment.

A different Eid

Once upon a time there lived a man whom I never got to know. He was young and brave and exactly my age when he was killed. Murdered during the 71 war, fighting for his Bangladesh along with his younger brother. This man is my boro chacha, my eldest uncle my father's oldest brother.

As my birth was much later than 71, I only heard stories of my two uncles who gave their lives during the liberation war in a tea garden in Sylhet called Malnichora. There bodies were never found. The tragedy of their deaths always remained with my family and I got to understand 71 as a young child through that sorrowful feeling that lingered many years after their deaths around our household.

I saw their photos, my boro chacha and his smile. My father, the youngest of all the brothers, was the closest to him and because of my father whom I admired more than anyone I also became a great fan of my boro chacha. The way my family spoke of him made me even sadder that I never got to know such a creative, jolly and amazing man. His handsome face made me proud, his stories made me want to get to know him better. I tried to find similarities of him with others I knew around, but nothing lived up to the expectations I had set for my forever-lost uncle who will always remain an unattainable wonder to me.

Once upon a time there lived another man whom I did get to know. He was a friend I made while my years of living in Washington DC. Our homes are ten minutes from each other and he is always a common face among all our friendly weekly hangouts. Last week he was kind enough to give me a ride to an Eid gathering where we were planning to eat tons of delicious food made by aunties and stare at their pretty daughters fishing for husbands.

On the way to the party we picked up my friend's mother who was also attending the gathering. Though my friend and I have known each other for two years I had never met his mother before. To maintain the Bengali pattern I chit-chatted with my friend's mom who was a sweet lady with a gracious smile. Our conversation went from my jamdani sari, to goriyahaat in Kolkata, to both of our ancestors houses in Pak Circus and Ripon street. At that point my friend's mother asked my father's name. When I mentioned my last name she looked back and with a curious voice wanted to know who I was to Shawkat Nawaz.

Shawkat Nawaz is the man whom I never got to know…the one that was killed during the war, my boro chacha. I mentioned that to my friend's mother. Her voice quivered, she exclaimed my boro chacha was one of her and her husband's closest friends, that she still misses him, that she can't still accept his death and that his laugh is still vivid in her mind, she can still hear him when she closes her eyes. She last saw boro chacha on 7 March 1971 during Sheikh Mujibar Rahman's speech at the racecourse. Chacha was killed on 6 April, almost exactly a month after that.

It was the morning of Eid. And after celebrating Eid in a rather unceremonious manners for the last fourteen years in USA I had no expectations from that day. Yet this time I got the most unexpected surprise. Both of us held each other before parting that day, we each had a tear in our eyes. The world works in such a circular and mysterious way. All these surprises and feelings stored in our hearts, in our palms, maybe not in each corner but definitely in between.

I am still getting over this uncanny connection, lives gone, but senses still left behind through others…the blood that run in my veins is a part of my boro chacha and the memories my friend's mother shared were created by him…together I want to complete at least a part of him that was left undone…someday…somehow…

By The Way

To sprout or not to sprout

Sprouts are an excellent source of antioxidants, vitamins A, B, C and E, calcium, potassium, magnesium, iron, selenium and zinc. They are filling and low in calories, light and easy to digest. Sprouts in food increases valuable amino acid (protein) content. The sprouted seeds of legumes, such as lentils, peanuts and soya beans contain complete protein.

Most seeds, grains, pulses, legumes and nuts can be sprouted. Popular sprouts are alfalfa, kidney beans, chickpeas and fenugreek seeds. Grains can be consumed as you would a "vegetable" when you sprout them; examples are wheat, barley and rye grains.

Raw sprouts taste crisp, slightly sweet and crunchy, and are not only a wonderful addition to salads but can also be added to sandwiches, soups, vegetables, stews and other dishes.

Experiment with sprouts -- you can lightly steam, stir-fry or cook them, or use them as garnishes or condiments.

Fresh sprouts have a wonderful, clean aroma -- they should be crisp and tender. When purchasing sprouts, look for firm stalks with green leaves.

As sprouts age, they discolour. Examine the roots and leaves -- if they are brown or dry, discard them.



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