My Santuary

My thoughts run free here...

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Kural - Maxims on the Art of Living

Tamil literature is a vast subject that has hardly been properly dealt with and explored into by the world. If only we take a peek at the immense amount of knowledge and wisdom that is present in the Tamil literary works, we would be able to grasp the true potential of this untapped gold mine. In that attempt, we explore into the ancient, more than 2000-years-old literature called Thirukkural, which is a product of the Sangam period of the Tamil history.

The Sangam period (300 BC to 200 AD) constitutes an important chapter in the history of Southern India. During this period of time, Sangams (Academy or Association of Tamil poets) existed and flourished under the royal patronage of the Pandiyan Empire. The literary works compiled and presented during the first two Sangams were mostly lost and the only remaining work was the ancient literature known as Tolkappiyam. The third Sangam took place in Madurai and was attended by numerous Tamil poets, however, much of the works did not survive, except for a handful. These were compiled and categorized based on functionality and length. Thirukkural belonged to one of the compilation called Pathinenkizhkanakku (or 18 minor works), which mostly dealt with literature related to ethics and morality.

The Thirukkural (or the Kural) is a collection of 1330 couplets organized into 133 chapters. There are three broad sections presented in the Kural, namely Aram (righteousness or dharma), Porul (wealth or artha) and Inbam (love or kama). The Kural encompasses the totality of human life via these three sections, providing a comprehensive guideline to the art of living. The values, wisdom, knowledge and emotions embedded in the Kural are truly unparalleled, which begs the question of the true identity of its author. Truly the author, Thiruvalluvar, must have been a master of all sorts; dutiful son, faithful husband, disciplining father, spiritual guru, political strategist, true friend, exemplary philanthropist, excellent orator, and extremely knowledgeable.

The first part of the Kural, Aram (dharma), deals with various aspects of leading a righteous domestic life and ascetic life (if one chooses to do so). According to Valluvar, dharma is a simple and straightforward concept:

அழுக்காறு அவாவெகுளி இன்னாச்சொல் நான்கும்
இழுக்கா இயன்றது அறம் (35)
“Righteousness is all about removing the four flaws –
envy, desire, anger and harsh words.”

Removing the negativity within oneself and imbibing the positive values in one’s life is what dharma is all about. Love , compassion, use of pleasant words, having good conduct, forbearance and honesty are the positive qualities that one should cultivate and maintain in order to erase blemishes from one’s mind. Aside from providing us with the virtues associated with living a happy domestic life, Valluvar also describes the qualities to cultivate if one was to choose to take up asceticism. According to Valluvar, following an ascetic way of life is optional and even if one were to follow such a life style, one would still have to eliminate the blemishes of his mind and pursue the positive qualities mentioned above. Therefore, this section is testament to the position that Valluvar was most likely a Hindu, following the values and principles prescribed by the scriptures of Sanatana Dharma.

The second part of the Kural deals with Porul, or “wealth” as translated in English. During Valluvar’s time period, the type of government that was prevalent was monarchy. Therefore, the context of this section is to be considered as suitable for an emperor. For example, the first couplet of this section describes the qualities of a ruler:

படைகுடி கூழமைச்சு நட்பர ணாறும்
உடையா னரசரு ளேறு. (381)
“The military, citizenry, resources, advisers, friends and fortresses:
who owns these six is a lion amongst kings.”

Valluvar’s economic and political views are applicable even in the modern context today, probably in the form of management training, leadership workshops, human resource management training and so on. According to Valluvar, life is worth living and gathering wealth is essential for life:

செய்க பொருளைச் செறுநர் செருக்கறுக்கும்
எஃகதிற் கூரிய தில். (759)
“Accumulate wealth; it will destroy the arrogance of your
foes; there is no weapon sharper than that.”

Gathering wealth through honest and righteous means is strongly emphasized by Valluvar. In fact, Valluvar is very strong in his position regarding unrighteousness or adharma:

ஈன்றாள் பசிகாண்பாள் ஆயினும் செய்யற்க
சான்றோர் பழிக்கும் வினை. (656)
“One should not act in a way the wise men would condemn
even if one’s mother is starving.

According to Valluvar, gathering a vast amount of wealth is not an end in itself. It is only the means to achieve a noble purpose; sharing your wealth with the deserving and the needy. Beneficence is the purposing of earning and amassing money, and those who fail to share their food (or wealth) despite having more than enough are worse than beggars in Valluvar’s view:

இரத்தலி னின்னாது மன்ற நிரப்பிய
தாமே தமிய ருணல். (229)
“Amassing a lot of wealth and eating alone without sharing,
is worse than the act of asking for alms.”

The third and final part of the Kural deals with the subject matter of love or Inbam, including pre-marital love and post-marital love. It is presented in a story form as dialogues between a man and a woman who have fallen in love with each other. Upon the news of their love story spreading through clamour and gossip, the lovers get married. Immediately after the marriage, the husband leaves his newly wedded bride to fight a war, leading to the wife’s monologue on the pangs of separation from her husband. After the husband’s return, the lady feigns anger and pouts in order to induce a raise in her husband for leaving her to suffer alone from separation. Through pouting and feigning anger, both husband and wife enjoy conjugal union. Valluvar brilliantly expresses all the emotions of love, anxiety, separation, excitement and even pouting through exquisite poetry. Even in the section about “love”, Valluvar has based it on the principles of righteousness.

Some scholars posit that the final section of the Kural is a later day addition and that it was not really authored by Thiruvalluvar himself. If we were to remove the last part, then the Kural is left with exactly 108 chapters. Since the number “108” has certain auspicious significance, it does make sense to posit that the final section was only added on later. However, if we look into Tamil literature that arose during the Sangam Age, we will observe that there are significant number of works encompassing poetry and stories on the subject matter of love. Valluvar himself praises love in the following manner:

அன்பின் வழியது உயிர்நிலை அஃதிலார்க்கு
என்புதோல் போர்த்த உடம்பு. (80)
“Love is the quintessence of life; without it, a man is
but a frame of bones covered with skin.

Therefore, it would not be surprising if Valluvar himself has authored the final section of the Kural. Furthermore, if someone were to take up the Kural to read, especially a youngster, they might find the final section interesting. Having realized how beautifully Valluvar expresses the enjoyment of love and other emotions, might not one be interested enough to read the other sections within the Kural as well? If one wants to enjoy love in his life, he first needs to accumulate wealth. But if he wants the wealth to last, he needs to accumulate wealth in a righteous manner.  By way of presenting dharma, artha and kama, the Kural has very diligently and brilliantly embodied the pursuit of human goals.

If one were to compare the Kural to Manu Smriti or other similar scriptures on ethics and morality, it would not be justifiable. The Kural is over 2000 years old and it exhibits the unique traits and cultural values of the Tamil people during the Sangam period under the rule of the Pandiyans. Therefore, the Kural should not be compared to other scriptures, since it is not at all a scripture to begin with. If the Bhagavad Gita is a scripture presented by the God for man, and if the Thiruvasagam is a hymn written by man for the God, then the Thirukkural is a “scripture” written by man for man. In this sense, despite the Kural being referred to as “Divine” or “Thiru”, it is a literary masterpiece on morality composed by a man, Thiruvalluvar, for the betterment and happiness of all mankind, regardless of age, gender, race, religion, nationality and language.

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Saturday, January 28, 2017

A Fresh Start At Blogging

Writing is therapeutic. I've missed this therapy for a long time. I have taken a long break from blogging and writing things I care about. I wish to continue my blogging and so this will be my first blog entry of 2017, out of many more to come this year. 

The year has started off slowly, but we are already coming to the end of January 2017. Time flies when you don't really look at it. 

I left my job at Mazars and currently in the search for a new job. It is really a tough economic situation out there. I wish to find some work soon, because each day without work is one day wasted out of my life. I should be doing/helping/working on something of productive value. Being out of a job is frustrating, although I do get to work on things I've never had time to focus while I had been busy working previously. 

Writing is one such thing that I have missed doing. I have never been in the right frame of mind to sit down, slow down and then just type away. A new year has brought about new beginnings, along with it, some new resolutions as well. Now, I'm not going to list out my resolutions here. It is for me to know, and for no one to ever find out. Some things are best kept secret. Once it's out, it loses it's potency. So I'd rather keep my resolutions a secret :)

So here's to a Belated Happy New Year to All!! :)

And Gong Xi Fa Cai to my fellow Chinese friends!! :)

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Thursday, March 5, 2015

India's Daughter... BBC Documentary

The documentary that was aired in the spirit of commemorating the International Women's Day was nothing short of appropriate. It showcased the varying degrees of views held, ranging from the most conservative to the most liberal, amongst the men and women of India, with regards to the violence against women in India.

India is an amazing country. The people are patriotic, vibrant and not to mention, intelligent. However, because corruption has been deeply rooted in this Indian government, development has stagnated and this has disabled the progress that is supposed to have taken place by now. The sad part is that the government is not ready to take on the blame of this Nirbhaya rape incident, and so many other rape cases happening in this country. If only a leader took the responsibility, and made sure that all the rapists, including those members of parliament, are adequately punished and jailed for like, will this be a lesson to India.

The reason why Nirbhaya's case was so "earth-shattering" was not just the nature of the case, but largely because of the power and reach of the media. While this case is surely important, where was the media when there were brutal cases of rape happening all over India? Did the offenders get caught? Did the police fast-track those cases? Although I severely disagree with the defence lawyer's comment on burning his own daughter, I agree with his take on punishing your own necks first. Before going around blaming the society, one should look in the mirror first.

Although I agree education is the best solution for this change of mind-set about women to take place, I think it is more than that. Firstly, each and every family must be able to treat both the boy and girl in their homes with equality. Secondly, parents and teachers must also educate boys with basic moral values, including that of respecting their fellow human beings. Educating the girls alone is not important. Educating the boys seems to be more important, so that at least it has some neutralising effect on the boys growing up in a culture deeply rooted in treating women unfairly.

This documentary film has also captured the viewpoints of the rapist. Although it makes me angry to hear him talk and to see him, it also makes me wonder how the society has shaped his views about women and their status in the society. Seeing him, I can understand how much the society is also responsible for the state of Nirbhaya and many women like her in India.

One thing that is surely proven in this entire incident, is that the media is very powerful. It has the power to shape people's opinions and change their mindsets. If only the ever-so-popular India Cinema industry bore this in mind when shooting that item song again! This shows how much of a No.1 hypocrite these cinema celebrities are! On one hand they protest for cases like this, and on the other hand you see them dancing/shooting an item song in a racy Hindi movie!! People in India grow up around watching cinemas, as it is their only source of entertainment after a hard day's work. If such item songs are shown, how much respect does a women really deserve if she can be seen as someone who has no standards!

It is time to move on, and focus on the young generation, than to look back with shame. India has a huge responsibility on its shoulders. It has to educate and bring up its young to respect both men and women, with equality. It has to teach them a lesson, that such violence against any sex, be it male, female, or transgender/transexual, is not tolerated. Not anymore... Enough is enough.

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Saturday, May 31, 2014

What is the foundation of a great relationship?

What is the foundation of a great relationship? Sometimes I wonder what it is. Is it trust? But how do you build that trust with a person, let alone a total stranger? Is it physical chemistry? But even if it is, how long is that going to last?

It's friendship really. Only friendship could be the foundation of a wonderful relationship. Because with friendship, you develop the trust in the other person and by getting to know your friend, understanding also happens. There is this synchronization that two human beings go through, while spending time with each other. This synchronization is what makes us realise that after a period of friendship, the two minds start thinking alike. They are in sync with each other so much that trust and understanding comes naturally to them.

I came across this video recently and it amazed me. A guy admitting that he doesn't think of the girl he "really really really really really" likes in a sexual way:

I'm curious to know how true this is. Apparently, a lot of guys in the comments section agreed to this. It is interesting that a guy, who is programmed to think of every woman as a potential sexual conquest, could possibly "daydream about how to make her laugh".

Any thoughts? :)

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Monday, January 20, 2014

I have never felt this sure of life before. I feel really happy today for some reason, because there are some positive signs I see. I wish they stay that way, and slowly all things fall in place. 

For some good reason, certain things aren't happening in my life. And for some good reason, certain things are happening in my life. Whatever is happening, let it happen. Because I know God intends it to be for my good.

Many things I've gotten late in life. Maybe I have to wait for this to happen too. Yes, I'll wait. But dear God, please hurry and make it happen soon! 

I dream. I feel. I see. I give. I admire. I smile. I blush. I cry. I laugh. I love. All in silence. All in the hope that He understands what I am going through. All in the hope that He will never let me down.

(This post will be a meaningless blabber for most of you. But I expect none of you to understand it. Only I do. And maybe God does too.)
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Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Start of yet another new year...

Although I feel so out of touch from blogging, I suddenly felt the urge of blogging today. Especially since today is the start of yet another new year. 

For me, 2013 has given me some life-changing moments. First and foremost of all, was my graduation from Macquarie. My dad moving to Dubai for work and spending most of his time away from us. Landing my first full-time job through the goodness in the people I've met so far. Meeting some wonderful people at work, who would probably end up becoming my life-long friends if I continue to work in this company. It's been an amazing journey the past year. I can only think of thanking God for all that He has given me, both sadness and happiness. I feel so blessed to be in this place right now and I'll be thankful to God always.

Can be seen as both sunset (the end of 2013) and sunrise (the beginning of 2014)
Certain moments in life are best kept to oneself because their beauty lies in their secret that is known only to one person in the world. Such was my last day of 2013, spent with wonderful people. I had a great day and ended it off with some food and booze :) 

I wish 2014 would bring in wonderful moments too, whether it be rain or shine. The beauty of life lies in staying in the moment and soaking up all the goodness that life can offer. So my motto for 2014 would be to enjoy and be in the moment. "Don't think too much, just do it!"

I wish that I would get to spend more time with nature in 2014. I hope more opportunities for travelling will pop up. 

I wish that 2014 will bring in more people into my life. New relationships forged, friendships made and maybe love, if God has any plans for me in that department, yes I would very much welcome that ;) 

In essence, I wish that 2014 will bring in excellent tidings for all and may great things happen in this year! Unlike other years in the past, this year feels very pleasant and positive. I hope these wishes do come true...

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Saturday, October 5, 2013

First job, well into 3 months :)

It's official! I'm not a regular blogger anymore. And yet, I felt like blogging today. Because I want to remember this moment in my life. It's been an interesting journey in life and right now, I'm at the best place in my life. 

I finally have a job that I absolutely love! That too, in my first job itself! I'm lucky to have gotten such great bosses and colleagues :) They have my back and I'm glad to support them as well. It's been a long wait, but the wait was worth it. Somehow, destiny had a plan for me regarding my job and finally she has rewarded me for all the times I suffered without a proper standing in life. This is a small start in life, but I'm sure it'll lead on to more successes. 

One stepping stone at a time... I wish I had the future scribled under my purview. But it is nowhere to be seen. This is the only support system I have that is driving my life and making it meaningful. I only wish I had another special soul to share it with and make that soul a part of my life too.
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Thursday, February 14, 2013

'Kadal' - Movie Review

The movie 'Kadal' was an unparalleled beauty that, in my humble opinion, the Tamil Cinema Industry has ever seen. Just like certain new inventions that would first be rejected and pushed aside by the large public, and then finally accepted as a norm, 'Kadal' is one such movie that surpasses its time and maturity of the audience! Therefore, I am not sure if the Cinema Industry deserves such a genius movie maker like Mani Ratnam.

For those of you out there who are yet to watch this movie, the story of 'Kadal' is about the goodness in humanity and its evolution. It is sad when people simply classify it as another typical film that portrays the fight between the 'good' and the 'evil', and fail to understand the subtle message delivered by MR through this beautiful masterpiece called 'Kadal'. 

The casting was amazing. MR has brought back Arvind Swamy from his long "hiatus"! Many of you might have seen a picture of Arvind going bald and fat. But here he is, back to acting and he looks great in this movie, just like where he left off in his last movie! Arjun fits the role of a 'satan' perfectly, acting as a villain after a long time. This time we see him in a role that is quite different from all other roles he has done till now as a mass hero! Gautam and Thulasi were each also perfect for their debut roles as Thomas and Beatrice. Throughout the movie, we can actually see both the characters growing and evolving, so too our understanding of the characters in this movie.

Apart from casting, we also have to look at the excellent cinematography by Rajiv Menon. He has did it again and it's something that you have to see in the big screens to appreciate its beauty! 

Then there is ARR's music to accompany the genius cinematography! Many reviews have claimed the music to be not of ARR's usual quality. But I think it has surpassed his usual quality. I've always felt that ARR's music is an acquired taste and once acquired, you will never let go of it. His songs will be constantly be on repeat mode in your iPod for several days. That's the beauty of his music! 

What captures you the most at first is "Moongil Thottam" and then "Nenjukulle". Then comes "Magudi" to thrill you and make your hairs stand. After a few times listening, you will similarly be encaptured by "Elay Keechan" and "Adiye". And then as a grand finale, you will be mesmerised by "Anbin Vaasale"... I simply don't understand why some people would call this music as being not up to the usual standards of ARR! 

MR has captured the beautiful accent of the Tamil fishermen and their lifestyle. I really love the open-ended scenes in the movie, where much is left to your imagination and understanding, than just stating the obvious! In other movies, we often see dummy characters placed within a movie just so to praise the protagonist and claim that he is the strongest! But in 'Kadal', such messages reach the audience automatically without verbal declarations. This is what I like in this movie.

Ok, now coming to the downside of 'Kadal'. There are parts of this movie where it seems to not make much sense. For example, why should Father Sam care for Berchmans in hiding? Why didn't he call his "Church assistant" for help instead of calling the village woman? These are certainly a few loopholes, less obviously manipulated to twist the storyline in MR's favour! 

I certainly thought that the filming of the "Adiye" song could have been better. The whole sequence of the song seemed to have been filmed as if it were a stage performance. If Beatrice was to be portrayed as a child-like character, why did she look so serious in this song sequence, I fail to understand this!

Other than these two points, I fail to find any other faults in this movie. I would defintely give it 4 out 5 stars. I praise MR for his courage and perseverence, when it comes to making movies like 'Raavan' and 'Kadal'. People often tend to criticise him for lifting stories from ancient epics like Ramayanam, Mahabharatha and this time, from the Bible. But just think about it carefully. In Hollywood, films are made based on comics, fairytales, and gospel stories too. One example was Avatar, the story of which resembled Pocahontas. 

'Kadal' is a film that doesn't insult the intelligence of the audience. It was taken with the intention to convey a message greater than just a story sequence of the "good versus the evil, good triumphs over evil". It is a story about the goodness as guided by God and of the goodness guided by humanity. This message is conveyed at the climax, where even Father Sam succumbs to give up in his quest for goodness, while Thomas triumphs in finding the goodness in humanity and saving Berchmans, simply because his daughter was the sole reason for showing him that there is goodness in humanity.

I am not an avid MR fan. But I feel that he is a key person responsible for bringing the Tamil Film Industry to another whole new level! There are no cocky love scenes in this movie. There are no kuthu songs in this movie. There is "hero" or "heroine" in this movie as all characters play important roles. There is no obscenity in this movie. In total, it is a movie that doesn't taint your mind, but leaves you feeling more human at the end of this movie!

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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Indra Vizha a.k.a. St. Valentine's Day!

Is there really such a thing called 'love'? Or is it just another human construct? Well, let's just put aside these intellectual arguments about the existence of 'love' and just celebrate it shall we? :)

The 14th of February of every year is celebrated as St. Valentine's Day, as he was the sole proponent of 'love' and 'marriage' in an empire, which banned marital relations and unions of couples. He conducted marriages of many couples underground without the knowledge of the ruling empire, who then later sentenced him to death on the 14th of February! After the fall of the empire, all was forgotten except the deeds of Saint Valentine, whose death day was forever commemorated as St. Valentine's Day! 

Despite the religious background of the Saint, we can find similar festivals celebrating the unions of lovers in other cultures too, especially in Hinduism! 

Too often in India amongst the so-called saintly "gurus", accusations are thrown at "St. Valentine's Day" as being the propellent for erosion of Indian tradition. But very few people are aware of the fact that in our same Indian tradition, there were many festivals that celebrated love.

One such festival was called "Indra Vizha", also referred to as Vasantha Vizha (i.e. Spring Festival). It was a time of the year where many youngsters, both men and women, held competitions, danced, sang, and celebrated the festival by expressing their love and feelings to their lovers! Many young men and women courted each other during this festival, which was celebrated for 28 days!!

There are references to such festivals during the Chola period and even way back! One can find such references in Tamil literature treatises, maybe even in the Puranas. 

The Indian culture has never been against 'love' and 'marriage'. In fact, it has celebrated the sacred union of two souls! Otherwise, why would we have such elaborate marriage ceremonies that last for days?! Why would we have such festivals like the Indra Vizha?!

This year, I am going to make it a point not to wish anyone Happy Valentine's Day... Because it is not a day we are celebrating Valentine the Saint. But it is the day we celebrate 'love' that is the main ingredient for the survival of the species called Homo Sapiens!

How so, you ask? Amongst all the species in this world, humans and certain species of birds are the only ones who are capable of 'loving' each other. The feeling of attachment, care for the other and togetherness is what makes the "husband" and the "wife" of the species to stick together till they raise their offspring to maturity! So this feeling, which we have chosen to call 'love', is fundamental to the continued survival of our species. Without love, there will be no mankind. 

In Hinduism, the importance and joy of 'love' is illustrated in our ancient scriptures called 'Puranas'. Be it the way Sati courted Lord Shiva, or the way Lord Shiva courted the re-born Sati as Parvati, or the way Krishna eloped with Rukmini...

Our Gods did show us the feats they performed to win the hearts and hands their loved ones! So to summarise, 'love' is actually rampant in our culture! :) So it's time to celebrate 'love' and express your feelings to your loved ones!! :) 

So why did I decide not to wish anyone "Happy Valentine"? Well, I want it to be a special day that will only be celebrated with my soulmate. If I go around wishing it to everyone whom I care and love as a dear friend, then it wouldn't be a special day anymore. But that doesn't mean I wouldn't accept wishes of Valentine's Day from my friends. :) I only want to emphasize that if I were to wish Happy Valentine's Day to someone, then that person would definitely have a special place in my heart. 

P.S.: So let's just be clear here. In this post, I wasn't writing about the 'love' you have for your mum, dad, sister, brother, aunt, uncle, cousin, nephew, friend, best friend, BFF, boy who is a friend, or a girl who is a friend!!  
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Thursday, February 7, 2013

Young Criminals of India...

In Mumbai, a 16-year-old boy, together with his childhood friend, suffocates and kills his grandmother in order to get their hands on the money and gold  kept in their household, worth about Rs. 5.14 lakhs.

In Solapur of Maharashtra, a teenage construction worker rapes a 13-month-old baby.

In the Dahar village of the Panipat district, a young 14-year-old boy of Class VII, lures a 4-year-old girl to his house and rapes her. 

What happened to these juvenile delinquents of India after their conviction? Were they sent to correctional rehabs for character reform and psychiatric treatments? Were they reprimanded and punished rightfully? 

The answer is simply, NO!

Clearly, there needs to be a reform in the system and laws governing the conviction of juvenile delinquents in India. 

So why all of a sudden are we talking about juvenile delinquency in India?  Simply because the number of crimes committed by people as young as 16 to 18 years old have been increasing for the past few years.

There is also this false notion of blaming the society for turning such wonderful, innocent children into hardened criminals! Well, guess what? Only less than 10% of the total number of juvenile criminals are homeless and lack parental guidance. The rest? They are normal students/young workers like everybody else, who have families and friends. The case examples I gave in the beginning of this post prove this point. 

So what is the need for a reform now? At the moment, a person below 18 years of age is considered a minor. Therefore, if a person under 18 commits a crime, he/she can go scot free, without spending any jail term. They will be sent to correctional centres for rehabilitation and any psychiatric attention needed. 

This is what will happen to the juvenile in Nirbhaya's case as well. Sources say that this minor is the person who has committed the most heinous acts to the 23-year-old girl. So even if the 5 accused are sentenced to death, this 6th accused may only get 3-years of rehab! 

So is it time to change the law and make the age of criminal responsibility, 16? Or should the current system be further improved and sustained to ensure that juvenile delinquents get the maximum attention they need, so as to return to society, fully reformed? Or is it time to impose more severe punishment for juvenile delinquents, so that it would serve to be an effective deterrent?

In my opinion, I believe that 16-year-olds are capable of making their own decisions. In today's world, a 16-year-old knows as much as a 21-year-old (probably!) of yesterday's world! So it is definitely time to change the law. I hope that the Indian government takes appropriate steps to bring about this change of law. 

Easier said than done!

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