When is wife-beating just a cultural issue?

The dangers of culture

No you haven’t misread the title of this blog post!  We have talked about how culture is much more than the food we eat and the clothes we wear. It profoundly affects the way we look at life and in turn the way we live. Everyone likes to think their cultural way of doing things is the best or even the only way. That brings us to the example of wife-beating.


Should it be a crime for a husband to beat his wife? Or is wife beating just a cultural issue? That’s not as crazy a question as you might think.

In the United Kingdom during the 1800s, a time of widespread professed Christian faith, wife beating was extremely common and only caused outrage if it was exceptionally brutal or endangered life. There was a widespread belief among ordinary people, both male and female, that it was every man’s ‘right’ to beat his wife so long as it was to ‘correct her’ if she did anything to annoy or upset him or refused to obey his orders.

In 1853 a British newspaper remarked that wife-beating was ‘being accepted as the habit of the nation’. The church by and large in England at the time saw nothing wrong with it. (For more on this see here).

That was the 1800s. How about more recently? I remember speaking with surprise and shock to some Punjabi Christian men and women in England in the late 1980s and 1990s and hearing how wife beating was an acceptable thing to do. The only question was how much pain and damage you caused……..

What is your culture?

When we think about culture we tend to think about the foods different people eat, how they eat that food as well as the clothes they wear. (For a fun quiz on food habits around the world see here). While that has a place, it is only the start.

Talking about culture is a bit like asking a fish, ‘What is water?’ Because the water is such a fundamental part of its existence, the fish hardly notices it is there – unless the water is taken away or changes for some reason.

by Snoron.com

by Snoron.com


Another way to put it is, culture is the lens through which we look at the world. They are the spectacles through which we interpret the world around us. Cultural patterns of behaviour and belief frequently impact our:
– Perceptions (what we see)
– Cognitions (what we think)
– Actions (what we do).

In other words culture is really important! It has a powerful impact on so much of our lives. We can hold onto our cultural beliefs with great tenacity and conviction, even in spite of evidence to the contrary showing it to be harmful. That is why challenging someone’s culture can evoke the same response as criticising someone’s mother. You may have mixed feelings about your mother; there may be some habits or idiosyncrasies about her that annoy you, but should anyone criticise your mother then all sorts of defences and emotions can quickly come to the surface!

One of my favourite authors, Tim Keller helpfully gives a working definition of culture as a ‘collective heart’ – ” a set of commanding commitments held and shared by a community of people…. it is the source of so many ….. deep aspirations, unspoken fears and inner conflicts….. It (shapes) their daily work, their romantic and family relationships, their attitudes toward sex, money, and power.”

So in other words, everyone has a culture, even if they choose to recognise it it or not.

Growing up in between Western and Asian culture this was a big issue for me……

Podcast #017: The last taboo subject?

Making sense of the end of life

Death may well be the last taboo subject in modern Western society. The comedian Woody Allen is humorously quoted as saying, “I’m not afraid of dying. I just don’t want to be there when it happens!” And yet while we try to put the topic out of our minds, a clear understanding of our mortality is so important in bringing clarity to our complex and at times challenging lives. As Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, said two years before he died, “Remembering I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life.”

Screen Shot 2016-04-30 at 10.16.34And how true that is! The death rate the last scientists checked was 100%!

In the great Hindu epic, the Mahabharata, one of the characters Yamaraja asks, “What is the most wonder-full thing in the world?” The answer he is given:

“Hundreds and thousands of living entities meet death at every moment, but a foolish living being nonetheless thinks himself deathless and does not prepare for death. This is the most wonder-full thing in this world.”

On today’s podcast we have the privilege of speaking to Professor John Wyatt. John is Professor of Neonatal Paediatrics at University College, London and a Senior Research Fellow at the Faraday Institute, Cambridge University. He is married to Celia and and they have three grown-up sons.


John has written extensively on the subject of medical ethics and his latest book is entitled, “Right To Die? Euthanasia, Assisted Suicide and End of Life Care.”

It is an important book that sensitively explores this difficult subject with both compassion and intellectual rigour.

Do join us for this discussion where we explore:

  • Why dying well is something we all need to think about, even though we instinctively want to avoid the subject.
  • How valuable is a human life, especially a life that cannot reach its full potential?
  • Are some people’s lives so painful and full of suffering that they are not worth living?
  • We naturally assume that doctors, nurses and health professionals are caring and compassionate, and have our best interests at heart when it comes to these complex issues. Why is it not as straight forward as that?
  • What are lessons we learn from history about assisted suicide, assisted dying, eugenics and euthanasia?
  • Those who advocate for euthanasia and assisted dying talk less about pain reduction and more about choice and control. Why is that?
  • Why is it important to talk about these issues not just in a theoretical way, but with tears in our eyes?
  • How the United Kingdom is a world leader in end of life and palliative care.
  • How contrary to popular perception, becoming dependent on others and getting old are not necessarily evil or bad things.
  • Why, as is commonly expressed, dying suddenly in your sleep with no warning may not be the best way to die at all.
  • How does the Bible look at suicide and suffering that reaches the point of despair?
  • How does the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ speak to these issues?
  • In the light of all this what does it mean to die well?


What thoughts, comments and reflections does this important subject raise for you?


Podcast #014 Filthy Rich

The property tycoon who struck real gold

Manoj Raithatha is a man who does not live life in small measures. He has been an English teacher, a BAFTA award winning and Emmy-nominated TV writer and a successful property entrepreneur – so successful in fact that his business at its height in 2007 was turning over £70 million a year and in 2005 he was able to buy 220 off plan appartments for £30 million. However, his life changed dramatically after the financial crisis of 2008. Also in that same year his 2 year old son became critically ill.

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Manoj has written an autobiography entitled “Filthy Rich: The Property Tycoon Who Struck Real Gold.”

Do join us on this podcast conversation with Manoj as we discuss his life along with the consequences that led to – the good, the bad and the ugly.

It is a story that spans generations; British, African and Asian cultures as well as radically changing world views.

We look at how financial success and spirituality have been competing areas of focus in his life. It was coming to the end of his own resources, financial, emotional and spiritual that opened him up to what really matters in life.

Manoj’s publishing community at Instant Apostle is here.

A podcast and further articles on money are here.

A podcast and articles on finding true success are here.

What questions, thoughts and reflections does Manoj’s life story raise for you?

Podcast #008 Bahrisons

Chronicle of a Bookshop

In the Khan Market area of Delhi is a thriving and busy bookshop called Bahrisons. It has been running since 1953 and is now based in the most expensive retail location in India (and in the top 30 for the world). But it has certainly not always been like that.

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On this podcast I have the privilege of interviewing Anuj Bahari (pictured above) about his father Balraj Bahari Malhotra and the story behind the bookshop. Its a story that goes all the way back to the partition of India in 1947. It’s also a story about the importance of relationships of trust, entrepreneurship and calculated risk taking.

Do join us as we discuss the story behind the bookshop and life lessons in handling the challenges of starting and maintaining a business in a city that has evolved and changed dramatically over the last 70 years.

The following is a quote from the book, “Bahrisons: Chronicle of a Bookshop” by Anuj Bahri and Debbie Smith that traces Balraj Bahri’s journey. Writing about 1947 and the partition of India:

“Within 24 hours the fate of millions had altered and there was no way back. Friends, those we thought of as brothers, life long neighbours refused to look us in the eyes and ask us to stay and live together as we had always done.

I was not a bookseller then, just a young man of 19 who had thoughts of doing something a little different with my life, if only in a small way. I wanted to try something other than working the land or going into service, the traditional occupations of my family in the past. An engineer perhaps or a school teacher, but the owner of a successful bookshop in an alien city – not in my wildest dreams.”

The story reminds me of a quote from Thoreau that describes in a mysterious way how Providence can work in someone’s life:

“If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams and endeavours to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. He will pass an invisible boundary; new universal and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him; and he will live within the licence of a higher order of beings.”

You may also find of interest:

Podcast #005 Delhi. Capital: A Portrait of 21st century Delhi

Do you work to live or live to work?

7 Lessons from a passport.

4 simple questions to ask yourself to develop confidence.

Podcast #005 Delhi

Capital: A Portrait of 21st Century Delhi

I have been travelling to Delhi on a regular basis since I was a child. In the last 25 years or so I have gone almost yearly, sometimes even more often. During that time I have personally seen the city go through enormous transformation, some of it welcome but a lot of it disturbing. It was for these reasons I was fascinated when the book “Capital: A Portrait of 21st Century Delhi” was released in 2014.
The 5 minute video below gives a glimpse of the book with the author Rana Dasgupta.

In this podcast I have the privilege of interviewing Rana about his book and the changes that Delhi has experienced and is continuing to go through.

Rana is a globally acclaimed author:

“Rana Dasgupta is the most unexpected and original Indian writer of his generation.” (Salman Rushdie)

“An astonishing tour de force by a major writer at the peak of his powers.” (William Dalrymple)

“Lyrical and haunting.” (International New York Times)

What is unique about the book is how Rana weaves together the history of Delhi with conversations with such a variety of people. In many ways it is quite a bleak book showing how greed and rampant materialism is tearing away at the heart of society. But it is a story that needs to be told, not least because, as Rana assets, ‘Delhi is a prophecy of the world we may well find ourselves living in the coming years’.

Do join us as we discuss:

  • Rana’s Asian-British- American identity.
  • How Delhi for centuries, from the time of the Moguls, has been discarding its past and continually keeps moving on.
  • The exponential acceleration of change since the liberalisation of the economy in 1991.
  • How the title of the book refers both to the political status of the city it chronicles and to the avalanche of money changing its character.
  • The rise of decadence, drug abuse, sexual licentiousness, marital breakdown and the impact on the extended family system

The 2015 edition the book has been renamed “Capital: The Eruption of Delhi”.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the book are those of the author. Also the language and stories used in parts of the book some may find disturbing and offensive. 

You also might be interested in:

The Power of Connecting with Your Past (for a lighter feel-good video and discussion of the impact of globalisation in India and Pakistan)

A Long Way Home (how technology re-united a family)

The Power of Human Connection


How much money do you actually need?

CAN MONEY BUY HAPPINESS? How much money do you need?
Public domain image, royalty free stock photo from www.public-domain-image.comDon’t worry I am not asking you for any money!
It seems such a ridiculous question to ask, but there is more to the question of money and happiness than might at first be apparent.

Books, internet articles and advertising come at us in every direction about making more money or finding ways to increase our wealth. We live in a world that bombards us with information, tools and tricks to make more money.

And yet the vast majority of us have had very little in the way of formal education about how to manage personal finances or wisely steward the material resources we have been given.
If I could ask you the question, how much money do you need to be happy, I can almost guarantee your answer…… 

Just press the continue button and scroll down a little bit further!


The lies we tell ourselves about joy

Our hearts are hungry for joy. We think it is our circumstances that need changing, but joy goes well beyond our circumstances as this powerful and joy-filled video illustrates:

As children we looked to all sorts of things for joy fulfilment. I gave some examples from my own life in the previous post.

The other huge area where this expresses itself is with romantic love. For me as a teenager growing up in an all boys school in England that was a huge subject to deal with. And it still is for anyone growing up.
As the poem says:

Walking with God through Pain and Suffering Part 1

The recent tragic loss of my dear friend Abhishek (Bunty) in the last few weeks has personally brought me face to face with the reality of suffering in life.

The 7 minute video below is an interview with the author and teacher Tim Keller in the week that he himself lost his mother. The video is taken from an American morning chat show. The discussion of Keller’s book helpfully builds on this important subject. For a subject that is so serious, it is actually remarkably uplifting. (I am afraid you will have to endure 30 seconds of commercials before you get to the interview, but it is worth the wait!)

Let’s think about the points being made in more detail.

4 Life Lessons I have Learnt from my Dad

My Dad recently turned 80. We organised a celebration party for him, inviting a number of old friends and relatives who have been a part of my parents’ lives in England over the last few decades. It was a wonderfully special time. In the last couple of years Dad had not been in good health, but we are very grateful that his bypass surgery has been successful and given him a new lease of life.


With that in mind, this is a short life history of my Dad along with the lessons I have learnt from him.