The Hysteria (and atrocity) of Mob Justice

A few days ago, India was shocked to hear the news of a mob of 200-odd people in UP beating to death a man who was rumored to be consuming beef. While there are many different serious issues involved in this situation, including why the beef ban makes no sense, and how the temple was used for entirely ‘un-temple-like’ matters, this post is about the mob and its mentality, and the reasons behind this mentality, if any.

India is no stranger to the concept of a mob. From the time of our struggle for independence from the British, mob demonstrations, protests, meetings, and rallies have been quite common. In fact, these mob gatherings played a very important role in gaining us our independence – Dandi Yatra and Bharat Chhodo Andolan, for instance. However, these were mostly peaceful gatherings, condoning non-violence as a principle. The violent part of our freedom struggle, albeit very important as well, was commandeered by individuals rather than groups.

Thus, it is really strange to see that the mobs of today are far from peaceful. Just a few months ago, an angry mob lynched a rape suspect after breaking him out of a prison in Dimapur. Companies and companies of police forces could not control the mob. The matter lies under investigation while even the guilt of the murdered suspect is not yet established. However, the cruelty with which this suspect was murdered remains for all to be seen.

It saddens me deeply to see how people have stopped believing in the criminal justice system or law enforcement, in general. The humongous number of cases of rape, assault, and abduction; and the general lethargy in prosecuting them has triggered a long-due avalanche of public outrage in our country. People want justice, and they want it right now! But wait! Is any of it really true?

Yes, there is public outrage. But is it over matters that really concern the public? How was it any of those 200 people’s business to prevent the unfortunate man from eating beef? They had a right of opinion, yes; but who in the world gave them the right to enforce their opinion on someone, let alone physically confront them over it? If they had a problem with him eating beef, the most they should have done is filed a report at a police station, if at all that were possible. (I know, the anti-beef law is ridiculous and denying people their staple food while proudly wearing leather shoes and belts is as hypocritical as it can get,  but that merits a different blog post altogether. ) What gives them the right to kill someone? If the cow is sacred, isn’t a human life so too?

We have established that this killing makes no sense logically. Some people said to me that it is not a logical but a moral and sentimental issue. Educated people said this, no less. Again, the issue of how educated people fall prey to herd mentality or pandering merits another blog post. (And here I thought I had no topics to write about!) But for now, let’s see how this is (not) a moral and sentimental issue.

If we as a nation were that moral and sentimental, we would have stood up to the many issues that we face today. Take rape, for example. The Dimapur mob did kill a rape suspect when the outrage over numerous unsolved rape investigations was at its peak; but how many people from that mob regularly protest against inappropriate behavior in public places – the eves-teasing, the molestation, and overall unlawful intimidation? Oh and let’s not even open the can of worms called inappropriate behavior of domestic nature!

Don’t these so-called torch-bearers of moral conduct turn a blind eye towards countless “immoral” incidents that happen everyday around them, even when they are in groups?

I myself have been verbally abused in a crowded public bus, when a man whom I told not to lean on me launched a full-fledged  filthy-worded sledging attack on me. He even threatened me of dire consequences – while the many men and women around me just watched. Verbal abuse is bad enough, but how many of us even actually interfere in what we can clearly see is a physical or sexual attack? Where does this “moral mob” dissolve then?

When Government officials ask hundreds of people for a bribe, why don’t they unite and use the power of the mob to make the officials see the error in their ways? I remember when I was in Engineering college, public buses routinely refused to let us board until all the seats were filled because we, as students, paid concession fares. Hundreds of students hence traveled standing, but none, including me, had the will to collectively negotiate or reason with the individual buses or with the public transport authorities. This same universal set of students was however more than eager to stage a protest at the university against the rule of introducing uniform attire in colleges. The situations I have mentioned are nothing compared to the heinous crimes that are being committed by mobs, but the underlying problems are the same.

Do mobs only act when it is absolutely illegal to do so? Why is it that a large group of people will shut down an entire market on the day of a strike, but they will not be “moral” or “sentimental” about a poor lonesome fruit vendor who can only have enough money for dinner if he sells enough fruit in the day?

Clearly, a different type of sentiment is at play here.  Is it all politically motivated – someone actually pulls the strings and controls the mob after brainwashing them, while letting them believe that they are all in control? Do we as a society need to vent our frustration about the many problems of the world and take any easy route offered to us? Those easy routes mostly happen to be the wrong ones; but we have put out ourselves so much that we cannot retreat? Don’t at least some of us have a crisis of conscience while watching a fellow human being mercilessly beaten and back-off, or try to get others in our ‘united’ group to back off? Do none of these mob members take a moment to think about the consequences of their actions, both short and long term?

So many questions, I know! I am really baffled by all this ominous stuff. The truth is, I refuse to believe that human beings are inherently evil creatures. A few may lose their way, but as a society, we are bound by conscience to behave rationally, compassionately, and justly. At least I hope so. Wake up, fellow human beings! Social interaction or forming groups is what makes us human beings special. It is time to give a good, long thought to how we, as a group, should make each other better, and not worse. Let’s be a solid community,and not just a mob.

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The Birthday Blog Post

This was meant to be an actual birthday post, meaning it was supposed to be posted on my birthday, which was yesterday.  However, as most of my activities are these days, it had to be postponed. Thankfully, I can accredit it to my daughter, and not to my usual procrastination. 😀

20141029_004353Anyway, yesterday’s the day I turned 31, finally severing all my ties with my twenties. (No, I can no longer say that I was in my twenties  just until a few days ago! 😛 )

In other (more real) senses, too, this birthday was of quite some importance to me.

For one, I became a mom about 5 months ago, so it is my first birthday as one. My daughter does not understand it yet but years later she will see herself wishing me in photographs. Yes, I posed her to  hug me and pretended she was wishing me a happy birthday, I admit! 😛 😉

My last birthday was pretty disastrous, what with the morning sickness and stuff. So on this birthday, I was happy to actually eat my birthday cake. 😀 Chocolate, of course!

I have always been a big fan of birthdays; and while I agree that we all grow a little everyday, there’s something that changes on our birthdays every year. As a kid, I used to truly believe that what we wished while cutting our birthday cakes really came true.  As I grew up, I transferred my wish-fulfillment tactics to making resolutions. Needless to say, neither of them came to fruition. Well, at least most of the times. Still, I make resolutions on every birthday: most are just repeats of those made about 10 months ago, all still unfulfilled. And some, I try to incorporate based on my age. This year, as I myself have a child, I have resolved to reduce my childish streaks, at least a little. The child-likeness, albeit, I cannot camouflage. But the flashes of temper, the random indiscipline – they sure have to go out the door.

Apart from that, I have resolved to read more, on the new Kindle Paperwhite that hubby dearest gifted me on my birthday. :):) I used to be an ardent supporter of good old-fashioned paper books; but considering how my daughter devours anything that she can tear or wring, I fear for their safety. Hence, Kindle. At least until she finds a way to destroy that, too. 😛

Well, that’s it so far. Let me publish the post before I get interrupted again. Happy birthday to me! 😀 😀

Mesothelioma Awareness

Recently, I was contacted by  Heather Von St. James, a triumphant survivor of mesothelioma. She wanted me to spread a word about this rare form of cancer. I must admit, I had never heard of mesothelioma before.

Mesothelioma is dangerous, yet avoidable. It mainly occurs due to asbestos exposure. It has been cured in rare cases, like that of Heather. It was quite inspiring to read about her victory over it.

For information about Mesothelioma, please visit http://www.mesothelioma.com/

Also, stay away from asbestos!

A Brand New (Mother of a) Role! :)

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Literally!

Yes, I am happy to announce that exactly a month ago, I assumed one of the most important roles I will ever play in my life. I gave birth to this sweet little girl that you can see in the accompanying photograph, Ananya. Her arrival was nothing short of a mini-tsunami of change in my life, and Mayuresh’s.

From the moment we had a slight doubt that the little present (or future, should I say?) was on its way into our lives, nothing remained same as before.  Lifestyle, pastimes, physical condition, mental state, plans, priorities… you name it and 360 degrees turn it made!

9 months passed with much hullabaloo. Girls, if you are interested in knowing more about those 9 moths, you can read all about them, in detail, in my newest still-under-construction blog The Mommy Diaries. (For those who prefer saving and browsing through the blog later, the URL is http://amrutasmommydiaries.blogspot.com/.) I singled out girls because I am very sure boys will hardly be interested in knowing the nitty-gritties of pregnancy – a phase they will never experience first-hand! 😛 Anyway, the new blog is not yet fine-tuned and ready for public viewing, hence this subtle mention.

But as people had told me earlier, the real adventure was yet to begin. And it now finally has. After experiencing the first few days of overwhelming physical agony and mental ecstasy, my mind now has finally reached a point where there can be emotional upheaval.

And emotions indeed poured like cats and dogs! From what it really means to be a mom, to what I want to be able to teach my daughter… From how I can never be carefree again, to how I can prevent my life from being one-dimensional… So many and Oh so many thoughts have firmed their roots in my mind these days!

The confusion and the musings aside, this new role has also brought in a plethora of new experiences. Ananya is just a month old, and cannot smile purposely – I know; and yet when she coincidentally grins when I’m talking gibberish to her, I feel she is responding already, and we have this special connection. Such a comforting bubble it is! 🙂 Getting worried when she cries and happy when she clings to me, understanding her yells and wails (Oh yeah, it seems they have a different kind for every reason!), treating her like the most delicate thing on the planet, while hoping she will be really strong when she is older… I can ramble on and on about all these new experiences I am having, but then what would I write in later posts, if I do write them, that is!

Wish me luck for bringing up this cute little baby, and also for being able to keep writing this blog in spite of assuming this mother of a role. Well, who knows… it is said that when you are really busy doing something important, you find time to do all the things that you like doing. ‘Cause it is not the lack of time that prevents you from doing what you want to, but it is procrastination! The busier you get, the more efficient you become in handling things that you care about.

We’ll soon know if that is true! 😀

 

Jab Celsius and Fahrenheit met!

fahrenheit_celsiusI had heard about Chicago’s cold winters. I had survived a couple of them. But nothing could have made me imagine the kind of cold that would come in, jab Celsius and Fahrenheit met!

Yes, that’s right. For those of you who did not know (and that includes me, until recently) at -40 degrees Celsius,  the Fahrenheit scale of measurement catches up (or down, whichever way you like it).  I guess the world is so damned frozen by the time the scale hits -40, that Mr. Celsius and Mr. Fahrenheit no longer have the energy to diverge! Hahaha, just kidding! It is all purely mathematical, actually.

This historical event (well, in all of my 30 years of near-cognizance) happened on the 6th of January, a day when by the grace of Murphy, I had an unavoidable appointment outside my house. I have spent months and months sitting at home, and on the one day when I could have been glad for doing that, I had to drag myself out, wearing no less than 7 layers of warm clothing. Needless to say, I looked like a frozen elephant! 😛

To add to the woes, the extreme drop in temperature led to low air pressure in the car tires, forcing husband dearest to queue up at the air filling station and drag the air pipe (or whatever it is called) to all the tires while shivering bitterly.

Thankfully, none of our body parts fell off by the time we got back home. I wonder what the homeless people were doing, though… Poor them! Now the temperatures are slowly but steadily rising, thankfully again.

Here are some pictures of the terrible ‘polar vortex’ed city of Chicago and a few other places. See and enjoy the fact that you weren’t here, then. Those of you who were here, rue the same fact. 🙂

http://galleries.apps.chicagotribune.com/chi-ugc-weather-photos/

Happy New Year 2014!

Hi friends,

Before anything else, let me wish you a very happy new year! May the year bring plenty of health, happiness, success, fun, and laughter in your lives! 🙂Image

I know that a new year is just a statistical tool to help us keep track of time, and the Gregorian calendar (by which the 1st of January becomes the first day of the year) does not even mark the change in a season, but mere mortals (and procrastinating ones at that) like me do like to have landmarks and deadlines in life, to keep us on track. A new year serves that exact purpose. 🙂

So how was the last year for me? Well, bitter-sweet, like most other years. The year started in Orlando (ahh, the lovely, sunny land of Florida) and ended in Chicago (ohh the wretched land of snow). – which actually is poetic justice! 🙂

This time around, the new year celebration was rather subdued, although very comfy and cozy, with just me and my husband sipping sparkling pomegranate juice (yes, seriously) and munching on yummy, home-made Malai Kofta and naan. And thus, we also managed to wake up early in the morning the next day, which has been one of my new year targets and resolutions for many years now.

As for resolutions, this year too, I made the same old ones – lead a healthier lifestyle, read more, write more, obsess less, be less emotional and more practical, and so on. What remains to be seen is how soon and how often I break them! 😀

I am majorly concerned about writing, though. It is after all, my bread and butter. At least it used to be, and after this “break”, it will be so again. Just don’t want to lose my shine (if I had any in the first place; and if I did, then if any of it is left) by the time this break ends. Let us see. Only time will tell! Coincidentally, and on a totally unrelated note, that was the last book I read last year [Only Time Will Tell – John Grisham], and did not like it at all. Why I am writing this here? I don’t know – just want to write something. That’s a good sign, I guess… hehehe.

Anyways, here’s to more good signs, and good omens, and good deeds, and good news; and hopefully see you again soon.

Cheers! 🙂

Racism? How beneath our own race!!!

Here’s a transcript of an interview between a journalist and a typical young, educated, white-collared Indian.

Q: Do you think Indians, especially those of the younger generation, are racist?racism pic
A: No way, man! It is well-known all over the world – We don’t indulge in racism! We are all-embracing…
In fact, the only race we do believe in is the race for betterment, for success – financial, social, traditional, emotional, and cultural! (They don’t call us the Gen-Next for nothing!) Plus, our culture is the greatest of all, re! Look at all those stupid Americans and Australians… harassing not only Indians, but their own country men living there! We are not like them at all. We believe in “Live and Let Live”!

QWhat is racism, according to you?
A: Racism is being biased towards some races and discrimination and stuff.

QSo, you are saying that none of us treat people of other races differently?
A: Yeah, yeah, I know that those roadside boys keep whistling at foreign tourists and trying to pick them up. But they are just appreciating beauty – of what value is beauty if no one appreciates it?
And plus, most of these boys are outsiders – from the neighboring states and all, you know! They don’t stay in their limits sometimes; but they are like that only! We can’t teach them these things, right… yeh cheezein to khandaani hain! They speak their own strange languages, and don’t understand ours. But, however useless they are, they don’t do any real harm at all, so it is okay. And don’t even get me started on those originally from neighboring countries! Unka bhi to kuchh nahi ho sakta!

QSo it is only they who are inclined towards racism?
A: Well I can’t say that directly and be politically incorrect, right? I can tell you for sure that OUR community and state is awesome! We are all modern now! We even write “sub-caste no bar” in our matrimonial ads, for god’s sake!
Also, when my North Indian boss’s daughter wanted to marry a Southie, her family didn’t agree at first. Neither did her boyfriend’s. Different culture, different state, different lifestyle – how to adjust with all that, they both asked? Their point of view was correct in a way. Apne apne samaaj ke sab ladke-ladkiyan mar gaye the kya? But look at both their parents’ generosity and open-mindedness… after she ran away with her boyfriend and got married in court, they graciously welcomed the two of them back. Spent like a crore of rupees on the reception. Totally awesome, right!

Racism pic 2QWhat about our internal problems related to casteism?
A: Oh my God… what world are you living in? I am telling you everything’s changed now… Earlier people used to talk about untouchability and stuff. Now we don’t even get to see it anywhere! Well, may be in remote villages and all, but who lives in those anyways – not even a handful of people, I guess. We in the cities are much more modern now… what’s the harm in interacting with those other caste people, I say? It’s not as though they are going to come and live with us now!


Q
And what about discrimination against the “so-called” upper castes and lower castes, both? 
A: No, no, what upper castes and what lower castes? Everyone is just basically proud of their own caste and want the best for it – doesn’t mean we discriminate right? Sometimes things just happen… It’s India yaar!

QRecently there has been news of certain politicians being violent towards out-of-state vendors and businessmen. Do you approve of such tactics?
A: See, tell me this – India is such a huge country, and a highly developing one at that! Even if we don’t allow people from other states to work in ours, they will surely get jobs in their own. Then why do they want to force the people in our state to seek employment elsewhere by filling up all our jobs? As for violence, it is unfortunate; but again, kya karein, it is inevitable sometimes.

QBut don’t you think India is a free country and we can all live and work wherever we want in India?
A: Yeah, we are a free country; but that’s why we all need to stay happy in our own zones, na! If no one is happy how will our country be united? And we are so liberal now…even the different castes are not constricted about employment and work. Our society allows Brahmins to run a business, Kshatriyas to become professors, Vaishyas to do blue-collared jobs and even Kshudras to enroll in armed forces… all these people are allowed to do things they aren’t supposed to – how much more liberal can we be, man! To maintain a balance, we need to have some boundaries, right. Without those, we will be like those Americans and Hippies and stuff.

Q: Okay, and what do you have to say about name-calling? Like in USA, calling African-American people Negros is considered politically incorrect as well as outright offensive. But here, people often use racially offensive nicknames. You just used the word ‘Southie’ in a previous answer.
AArrey, those Americans create an issue out of everything. We just do the name-calling as a joke, man. Plus, it is the easiest way of referring to them. And don’t victimize them okay, they also have nicknames for our state and community. It’s just tit for tat. Now take the software analogy only… in our own company, we call those who test testers, those who code developers, and so on. Similarly, we have names for those from different states and with small eyes, dark skin, dim wits, tendency to show off, miserly traits, oily hair, gauche accents, country of origin, and so on. What’s racist about that!

QOkay then, any parting thoughts on this whole issue of racism?
A: Well, I just want to say that we are not racists at all. No, no, indulging in racism is far, far beneath our glorious race, dude!

[Also published on TheFrustratedIndian blog]]

Kai Po Che? – The decline of traditional sports and games in India

[This is my first post featured on the TheFrustratedIndian website]

So, what is your favourite game, I asked my neighbourhood children at a party in India. “Angry Birds”, said a 7 years old boy. “I love cricket”, said another 14-years old girl. “To watch, I mean, you know… IPL and stuff… it’s so exciting”, she added. With a lot of exclamation marks in my mind, I decided that they are just children and don’t really think before answering.

But then I thought, even if they were adults, would their answers have been any different? Do we ourselves have had any experience playing sports other than cricket, badminton, and table tennis?

Sure, most of us recently watched and lauded the recently released film Kai Po Che. A few years ago, we also went gaga over the Dheel de de re Bhaiyya song from the movie Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam.

But how many of us have ever actually said Kai Po Che the way it is supposed to be said, that is, while flying kites? I say with major exceptions of some population of Gujarat, none. For that matter, how many of us have recently uttered the words “Kabaddi kabaddi” or “lagori“?

Well, yes, I am being a little too optimistic in expecting all readers to even have heard about these sports; so let me start by listing some of the most ‘used-to-be-popular’ traditional sports of India.

 

Kabaddi

 Played in India from mythical times and given a national status as early as 1918, Kabaddi has fetched us every possible gold medal at all Asian Games and world championships ever held. Yet, I last remember to have played it only in school, more than a decade ago. And none of the “urban” now-in-school people I know seem to have ever played it. Now, Kabaddi is as athletic and technical a sport as any of the modern ones, sans the need for a big ground or any equipment. What it lacks, I guess, is the glamour.

Kho kho

 This game has been known in India since the beginning of the Mahabharata era. It used to be a rather popular game in schools and during evening play-sessions. Not any longer, it seems. Again, this game is as athletic and tactical as games can get.

Gilli danda

 This game is believed to be the origin of games such as cricket and baseball, although this hasn’t been ever proven, or for the matter, contested. In this game, a player bounces a gilli (a small cylindrical wooden object with pointed edges), of the ground by hitting it once with a danda (a wooden stick), and then hits the air-borne gilli to send it as far as they can.

Lagori/pitthu/lingorcha

 This game of breaking a mound of seven stones with a ball, and rearranging the mound before the opposing team finds the ball, was played by girls and boys alike, all over India. I haven’t seen any kids playing this game of late, though I have seen its version being played as a team building activity in a couple of corporate team building sessions, which is quite heartening.

Kanche/gotya/marbles

 Though this one doesn’t really qualify as a sport, it used to be widely played in India. It is said to improve players’ aim and their ability to concentrate. Also, collecting the marbles won from other players was considered a bonus (or the main attraction? 😛 )

Kite-flying

And finally, Kite-flying! Although this sport is believed to have originated in the Indian subcontinent, it is much more popular in other countries now. There are a handful of professional kite-flying tournaments in India, too (with lots of foreign participants), but at the local level, there’s hardly any soaring high!

 

If outdoor sports aren’t your favourite, there are several other indoor games too (that are going in to oblivion these days, of course): Spinning top (lattu), Indian Ludo (Pachisi/Dyut/Saripaat), Sagargote/ Gajge, Hide-n-seek (Lukka Chhipi), and so on.

All these games are extremely interesting, and it’s a pity hardly anybody plays them anymore. (Although I am glad that certain traditional sports such as Bull-fighting, Cock-fighting and Hunting have diminished!)

So, what made us turn a blind eye towards these sports/games? I suppose the advent of the originally colonial game of Cricket would be a common answer. But no, it is not just that – internet addiction, increased homework, and above all, unavailability of empty grounds to play are also important factors contributing towards the decline.

But think about this: none of these reasons are unavoidable, we can work around them. Especially as we always complain about how sedentary our lifestyles are; how addicted the younger generation is to the likes of Xbox, iPad, and the internet; and how even the snazziest of the gyms are always full, playing all or some of these games to alert our bodies and our minds can ease a lot of our complaints. And we will be happy for keeping our culture alive. 🙂

 

What do you readers think about this? Are you ready to say the real Kai Po Che sometime soon? Do let us know. 🙂

[All images courtesy: Wikipedia (1,2,3,4,5,6)]

My first snowy accident!

Yeah, so I have never before driven in snow.

Yeah, so I should not be over-smart and offer to drive my husband to places…

Yeah, so I should not try to swerve the car as soon as I see the turn for the destination.

Yeah, so I should not brake hard when there is significant snow accumulation on the road…

Yeah, so I should not panic and start screaming and crying when the car hits the curb and climbs on to the walkway.

Yeah, so I should not be over-smart (again) and insist to walk back home, while the poor husband parks the car safely…

Yeah, so I also shouldn’t start walking quickly in order to escape the heavy snow shower…

Yeah, so…. <thuddd>

Snoooowwww

Yeah, so after all this I should know whether to laugh or to cry, and I don’t because it was all pretty funny and sad! 😐

Women empowerment begins with women’s efforts first! (And we can do it!)

For the past few days, the media has been abuzz with protests from various different groups about the increasing violence against women.  While the vote is split between those who want capital punishment and those who don’t; while people argue about whether or not death meant the end of woes for the brave girl; while the guy-bashing is at its prime; a thought still hounds me…

What are we, as women, doing to fight against this violence and this terror? Is it enough to light candles? Is it enough to discuss furiously among ourselves? Is it enough to teach our male relatives to behave themselves? No, it isn’t, (although the last one is very, very important)! Is it also not our own responsibility to work towards preventing such things? And NO, by this I don’t mean that we should urge women to quit stepping out in the night or wearing what they like. That is not even the last thing I would ever dream of telling women to do. I am talking about how we need to change our mind-set. Because the fact of the matter is, we may scream our lungs out about how men should change their mentality, or how they should be punished if they don’t; but nothing is going to change until we change ourselves! Just like charity begins at home, women empowerment MUST begin with women.  Here are a few pointers that I think will help us to begin with:

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1. Treat other women with respect

Unless and until we start respecting our own clan, nobody else is going to respect us. There goes a saying in Hindi “ek aurat hi doosri aurat ki sabse badi dushman hoti hai:” (A woman herself is another woman’s biggest enemy), and I think it is very true. How many cases have we heard wherein a woman tortures her daughter-in-law, or vice versa? How many times does a woman favour her sons over her daughters? Are there girls who think they can disobey their mothers all they like, but not their fathers?  Oh plenty! We need to stop taking our own clan for granted.

Stop being jealous of women, just because they are women! We are all human beings; we all can co-exist peacefully and happily. We don’t fret as much if a male co-worker out-performs us, but let a female co-worker do so, and we immediately start pointing fingers, if you know what I mean. Why?

Some people, women included, believe that there are only 2 kinds of women – the good ones or the seedhi saadhi bharatiya naaris and the bad ones or the westernized sluts. And I want to tell all such people that they are disillusioned. We are on our way to becoming one global village, and whether eastern or western, whether seedhi-saadhi or tedhi-medhi, all women deserve to be respected. For that matter, even if the woman is a prostitute or a porn actress or whoever else, she does not deserve to be raped. No one does!

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2. Stop joking about crimes against women

I have actually fought with several of my friends about this: I strongly object to rape jokes in movies or in print. According to me, such jokes are not only not-funny, but are also extremely insulting to all women. One cannot make fun of another woman’s agony, and certainly not if it is as damaging as a rape. In fact, any joke that disrespects a woman only plants a seed of overall disrespect towards women. Some of my friends argue that such jokes are only meant for innocent laughs. But I’m sorry, I think there is neither anything innocent about them, nor can their negative impact be ignored!

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3. Learn a self-defence technique or two

We HAVE to learn to defend ourselves when there is any sort of a physical attack.

Apart from several self-defense moves, there is Karate, kickboxing, and several other fun-to-learn sports that can help you defend yourselves. If physical resistance  isn’t your thing, try keeping a pepper spray handy. And in case you don’t have any of these things, try verbal self-defense. Be ready to firmly tell the man to stop or to alert the people around you.  Be prepared to do anything to not resign to what you are being subjected to.

One of the biggest excuses I have heard women give for tolerating crimes against them is “How much can we resist?  Men are by nature physically stronger than us.” Although I know that is technically true, and I don’t advocate violence; this doesn’t mean that we should not put up a fight. I believe that if an attacker has the slightest doubt that the victim will resist, a large part of his resolve will evaporate. In fact even if you are never subjected to any attack (and I sincerely hope you never are), knowing that you will be able to defend yourself in case you are, will give you a lot of self-confidence.

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4. Do not depend on men for day-to-day things

My best friend Maya and I, even when we were young teenagers, always wondered why we make a taboo of certain areas that are “dangerous for women”, and don’t go there alone, for example on the streets of Gurgaon or Noida, after dark.  We always take a male “protector” with us.

Now, it is not that I have never asked my male friends or colleagues to drop me home or elsewhere at night. I have done it several times, and I admit my weakness. But just think about this: if I knew there would be 20 other girls travelling alone at that time on that route, I wouldn’t have been scared to go alone; in fact, I wouldn’t have been alone at all!

Similarly, if 100s of girls can travel on Gurgaon streets with their respective male companions, they can travel there without them too… because face the facts – there are 10 perverts out there, and 100s of us! If we are all united and stand up for each other, there isn’t much we need to be afraid of.

Learn to drive. Carry only as much baggage as you can lift yourselves. Stop unnecessarily boosting male egos – it is one thing to do it because a person cares for you and another thing because that person is a ‘man’!

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5. Do not blame yourself for any crime against you, blame yourself for tolerating such crimes

Always remember that no matter what, a man has no right to touch you without your permission. So do not ever feel that this happened to you because “I used to smile at my company cab driver” or “I went alone to a discotheque” or “I wore shorts in a lonely neighborhood  or  “I fought with an auto-rickshaw driver for change” or anything else.

Rape is not the only crime against women; there are several others of lesser heinousness… crimes that I’m sure all of us have faced, and most of us have tolerated without a word. Eve teasing, pinching and groping at public places, vulgar actions and display of obscenities, name-calling, dowry-torture, etc. etc. Remember, no one has any right to even verbally abuse you, or pass lewd comments on you or harass you any other way. We are not to be blamed for these misdeeds.

If we have anything to be blamed for, it is for taking these crimes in our stride. It is for our overall lack of empathy towards other women who face such crimes. It is for hiding the crimes of male relatives or friends. So please, fight against these crimes without fear.

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6. STOP giving excuses such as practicality or tradition for your support to male chauvinism

Many men, some of them my own friends, justify dowries by saying things like “It’s our tradition”, “ it is a return of investment – of dowries we paid in our sisters’ weddings”, and even audacious things like “ghar aayi laxmi ko kabhi na nahin bolte “(an old Indian saying – never refuse the wealth that approaches you – it’s bad luck). The worst part is many of my female friends think it is fine to give a dowry as long as your family can afford it. I feel nothing but pity towards these friends.

Even today, when I hear a woman saying she is “extra-happy” because she gave birth to a boy, I am scandalized. If I ask her whether she would have had an abortion in case of a girl, she furiously denies; says it’s only because her family will be happy that she wished for a boy. She insists that she or her family are not killers. What she does not realize is that there is hardly any difference. As it is said, it all starts with a thought. If she is willing to wish for a baby boy due to a little societal pressure, goodness knows what she will do if she is subjected to too much of it.

Stop belittling yourself, whether you earn money, or not. When you are in a family, it is your emotional support that counts. And if you still don’t believe me, ask women who earn much more than their husbands about whether they face domination.

Stand up for yourself! You are yourself before being someone’s daughter, wife, or mother. Fulfill your responsibility towards yourself first. Say no to anything that is insulting to you as a woman – gender bias at home, eve teasing, rape, sexual harassment, kanyadaan (yes, it is high time we recognize that we are not anybody’s property to be given away, not even our fathers’!), dowry, female foeticide, overall male domination, and so on… the list is really very long!

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7. Help and empathize with those who face sexual crime

If a woman is raped, it is not her fault. Welcome her back into her own world, respect her and her experiences, and ease her back into her normal life. Yes, the trial for justice will take some time, but don’t do injustice to her by secluding her or even pitying her. She is still as much a woman as you are. Always remember that!

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There is a lot more that I could write on this topic; the above list is not at all comprehensive; but that would make this post too long for its own good. Hence, let me stop here, for now. I am sure that if we start with these little things; we can do our part in changing this world.

I know many people, both men and women alike, are not going to like this post. Nevertheless, I believe that if we want to see change, we are going to have to be bold and change ourselves.

Before ending my post, I would like to remind all women, that men are not our enemies. I am sure there are as many great men out there as there are bad or weak ones. So while being a feminist, do not be a chauvinist. The idea is to fight oppression, not to oppress in return.

Please do let me know what you think about this post – and let me know any other ideas that you have.

Remember:

We are NOT a weak or an inferior sex!

We are not ‘property’!

We never ‘ask for it’!

We cannot wait for others to fight our battle!

We must treat every woman’s battle as our own – because it could happen to us someday!

I so love The Hindu ads! TOI – are you listening?

I have been reading The Times of India ever since I was a child. In fact, back then, it was considered imperative to read the TOI to improve your English. I lived in Goa, and all we had access to was the Mumbai edition of TOI which hit the stands in Goa only in the afternoons, which meant that the newspaper delivery guy delivered the TOI a day late.  Yet, we unfailingly read the day-old newspaper everyday. Later, my parents also began paying the newspaper delivery guy, who lived right next to our house, to deliver the newspaper to us on his way back home.  Our school teachers used to encourage us to go beyond the front page and sports pages of the newspaper, and to explore the editorial page, and understand the different views expressed there.

Now what is the connection between the title of this post and the first paragraph, you ask? Well, you’ll soon find out… But before that, take a look at today’s web TOI:

Web TOI - look at the highlighted parts.

This is the page showing today’s top news!  Start from the left panel – “Twitter’s censor move with eye on China“. Really? “Eye on China”? Is that a legitimate phrase in English, or is it just the translation of the Marathi  “चीन वर डोळा”? The last I had heard, “keeping an eye on someone” meant watching over them lest they do something they aren’t supposed to. Aren’t they instead supposed to write “Twitter’s censor move eyes China“?  Of course the sentence still makes little sense to me, but at least it is English! (Do correct me if I am wrong though.)

Let’s move on to the right – top. Madhuri gives some advise to SRK – and yes the national adviser’s words are almost never printed on the home page, but this – oh how can they miss printing this!

Just dip a little lower (pun intended) and slightly to the left. You will see “Katharina’s raunchy act“! Yeah sure, so what if they get the spelling wrong, so what if they use provocative words – they are giving the readers some hot news! And below that, some more “Other Stories” that basically tell the same tale… They are not a national pioneering newspaper, but a glossy gossip magazine…

You may have noticed that I have pasted the screen shot of only half of the home page – the bottom half had several such pieces of news and pictures that wouldn’t suit my sensibilities and those of this blog.

Anyway, the point is, I once looked up to this newspaper, and now, I can barely look at it without feeling annoyed – what with spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, and racial glitches (replacing the phrase ” South Indian” with “Southie”? – What is that!) that make me want to appeal to them, that if they can’t afford paying a proof reader, I would love to volunteer to do it for them! And I don’t even want to get started on the kind of hot news (read Bollywood gossip, Page 3 trivia on most pages, and so on) they publish! This is why, when they released an advertisement with soft intonations insulting the newspaper The Hindu (you can find it here ), I was mildly irritated. But The Hindu came up with their response – three even more fiery, in-your-face advertisement clips, which were fascinatingly accurate and bang-on target!

Here are the links:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xmXPBp7DpQw

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Eb-waHx-00&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X8_pqFRxk6A&feature=related

Now, I don’t know how effective these ads are, but I do hope they make the TOI people see some sense, and give us back the newspaper we loved so much a few years ago!

Inception! Fascinating! (No spoilers)

Have you ever been out wandering around the country, with lush green pastures and a cool blue sky to keep you company? Have you been so engrossed while watching the trees and birds and flowers that you lost your way but still did not panic, as you were simply happy taking in the calmness of your surroundings? After a long long while, has the feeling of being lost registered finally? Have you craved to get back, only to see a thunderstorm approaching you with all its ferocity? Have you hidden in the first hut you laid your eyes on, and breathed a sigh of relief? Have you then realized that the hut has several animal skins and skulls spread around it? And then have you heard strong rapping on the door and been frightened to death? And have you tried to scream, only to realize that…..

Your mom is trying to wake you up in the morning by banging on your bedroom door!!!

Yes, you guessed right. Welcome to the world of dreams, my friends. A world so charming, yet deceptive, so alive, yet unreal, or at least that’s what we are made to believe.

The movie, Inception, directed by Christopher Nolan, professes otherwise. It says, rather convincingly, that our dreams represent our sub-conscious, and our sub-conscious does affect our conscious decisions all the time! All the main characters in the movie are, so to speak, ‘dream merchants’, meant most literally. Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio, brilliant) and his gang specialize in entering people’s dreams to ‘extract’ information that is otherwise impossible to obtain. They do make good money out of it, but also face the dire consequences of meddling with the human subconscious. Cobb especially, has had to pay a very heavy price, rendering unfit his capabilities of designing the places in dreams.

Yes, so advanced is this occupation of extraction via dreams is that it needs an architect to design imaginary places wherein the dream will take place (you can’t use real places because then, your memories will meddle with your dreams), a chemist to appropriately sedate the one whose dreams are to be explored, a researcher and a few helpers, if any. The film is about Cobb, leading one such team, and trying not to extract but to plant an idea into a target’s mind – in return for his own redemption.

Christopher Nolan definitely does succeed in weaving an intricate yarn of a story, with threads spooling in multiple layers – yes, the extractors, or should I say inceptors, also generate dreams within dreams, so as to buy more time, or change some things in the dreams, and so on. Although it sounds confusing, not for one moment do you get bored, and you are always glued to the seat trying to put two and two together.

The most creditable thing about the movie is that, although it’s about dreams and inception, and stuff that mostly fits into the science fiction category, it does not waver from logic, or create situations just because it is science fiction!

Certain ideas are absolutely brilliant, such as having to carry a totem, or a self-made object while entering a dream, to help you distinguish between dreams and reality. Not only that, the totem has been brilliantly used in the climax sequence as well.

The direction is awesome, and the editing is crisp. The cast have supported the script extremely well. There is really nothing to complain about the movie!

If you are itching for an intelligent, well-made movie that will make you think, go for Inception.

If you are not, go for it nevertheless, it will provide some very good entertainment!

Signal: Green all the way! Go explore your dreams!!!

It’s time to take a stand! We are no longer the “third person”!!

A 14 year-old girl from Patil Estate slum got raped by fellow slum-dwellers last month. She was coming back home from work when the incident happened. After this incident, the slumdwellers have been afraid of sending their daughters to school…

What do you all have to say about this? “Oh yes, we hear about rape cases all the time!!”, or “Tch tch, how unfortunate!” , or “It’s a bad bad world out there!”, and even “Why did the girl venture outside ? Was she going to meet her boyfriend??”? Someone slightly angrier shall also say, “The rapist should be burnt alive, only then will people be afraid to do that!” Somebody apathetic will say, “oh, but what can we do, we are the Third Person, we can never fully comprehend or cure the situation!” In fact, I think even if all of us feel any of the other things mentioned above or not, we all shall invariably blurt the last one, “what can we do??”

Wake up guys, we are not, and never were the third persons! A crime as heinous as rape, is not a crime towards someone else, it is a crime towards the society, towards OUR society. Rape doesn’t just affect the rape victim, but it leaves a deep gash on many many others. Take the example of the Patil Estate rape, the poor girl was traumatised, at the same time, lots of other girls and their parents began to live under the constant fear of RAPE, so much that they even began forbidding their daughters from going to school! Tomorrow, if such a crime happens in your locality, you also will start being extra careful about your daughters/sisters or other female relatives!  And thereby spread the most dangerous thing in this world…fear!

It is this fear that actually makes rape an ‘unavoidable crime’ in our society, about which we claim to be able to do nothing. It is this fear that makes rape an ‘irrecoverable harm’, affecting the soul, mind and character, more than the body of the victim. It is this fear that prevents us from speaking and acting openly against this disgusting display of the so-called ‘power’ of men, and the vulnerability of women against all but one attacks – attack on their so-called vulnerability!!

This is the time to wake up and realize our responsibilities friends!  We need to protest!! Someone’s mother, daughter, sister, aunt, niece, friend, nanny, servant, teacher, and so on, gets raped, we read about it, express our ‘displeasurean disgust’ and go on with our lives. It’s high time we do more.

I am not saying that we all take law into our hands and trace and ‘punish’ the guilty. No we can’t do that, but we can do much more!! We can spread awareness about this issue, we can be brave and speak up about this issue, we can stop judging the heinousness of a rape attack on the basis of the victim’s ‘character’, we can encourage the women around us to be fearless, we can encourage the men around us to look at women with a sense of equality, we can educate our youngsters about how important respecting women is, we can stop being the viewers, and participate in eradicating violence against women, there are so many many things that we can do…

and we should do!!!!

Book Review: “2 states – The story of my marriage” (No Spoilers)

Just read the latest one by Chetan Bhagat!

And by his own standards, its a very nice book! Fairly gripping (I finished it in non-stop 5 hours), humorous, and easy-flowing, this book describes the life and times of a couple divided by a wide North-South chasm.

On the flipside, the book is written in a very simple manner, sometimes even reminding you of a mere diary entry. However, the heart and the soul is definitely in the right place!

I will not divulge the story here at all, but would just be content with saying that anyone and everyone, who’s been in love with a person of a different caste, will 100% relate to this book.

Go read it!

Verdict: Green

I’m back!! :-)

Okay, okay, i’ve been outta circuit for quite some time now, I agree….

Was just going through the grinds of life shall I say…and am still, but I am tired of making it an issue, and don’t plan to do so, any longer!!!

Yeah, so what “interesting” stuff was I doing while I wasn’t here? Well, reading, teaching, and watching movies!! Didn’t travel or trek much, thanks to the bad weather and bad health….uh oh…change the topic!!! :-))

Yeah, so let’s start with reading (i know a book review is long overdue!!).

After a loong time, I got out my copy of  Khaled Hosseni’s “The Kite Runner”. Read it in two nights flat, and my oh my, wasn’t it incredible!! The author managed to actually recreate the whole Afghanistan scene for the readers. The story, a unique tale of immaturity, faith, loyalty and a journey towards redemption, was so nicely unfolded in this book, that I got completely absorbed in that book, I even cried a couple of times!! And Hassan’s character, I think is one of the most well-writtn and yet unfathomable characters I’ve come across!! My heart goes out to the sheer innocent loyalty and, how should I put it, apnapan that he shows towards Amir, the protagonist. Ammazzing, divine, one of its kind!!

And since I liked The Kite Runner so much, I also got hold of A Thousand Splendid Suns, by the same author. This book tells the story of two women in Afghanistan, who are so unlike each other, and yet finally find solace in  standing up for each other. Engrossing and with its heart in the right place, all this book lacked, to be mentioned in the league of The Kite Runner was , ofcourse, Hassan!!

Then I also read Digital Fortress(nice, but very Sidney Sheldonesque), Bourne Ultimatum (good, but not my type really!!), and the Twilight Series!!! About the last one, It needs a sperate blog post to give it full justice!! :-)))

Currently I am reading The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran. This is also an ammmazingly insightful book, and I am already bowled over it. Just fathom these lines on freedom:

“You shall be free indeed when your days are not without a care nor your nights without a want and a grief,

But rather when these things girdle your life and yet you rise above them naked and unbound.”

Intriguing aren’t they?? I am already a big fan of this author!! Hopefully, when I am finished with reading the book, I will have much more to blog about it…

Then, movies, well it’s been mostly watching movies on DVD, because of the multiplex strike and the swine flue scare!! Nevertheless, I managed to catch up on a “critically-acclaimed” Marathi movie Gandh (Smell), which went right above my head and contained grey cells!! Also watched the suppper dupper hit marathi movie (again) Mi ShivajiRaje Bhosle Boltoy, which had some good intutive dialogue, but was average otherwise.

And last, but not at all the least, have been teaching: not just English Grammar this time, but also some interesting newly-learnt life-skills stuff. This too, deserves a seperate full-length blog post to make full justice to it.

Ahh, it already feels good having written so much…hopefully will be back soon with more!! Cya people!!