Saturday, 26 December 2009

A mentally-challenged rape victim copes with motherhood

The Supreme Court in its wisdom allowed a mentally challenged rape victim in Chandigarh to carry the foetus full term and she has given birth to a baby girl.

Meanwhile, it has been confirmed that the mother was raped by one of the security guards at Ashraya, a state run home for abadoned women, where the victim was living. The rapist, a married man and a father of two children, has been arrested.

Now what?

With the father behind bars and the mother mentally challegned, who is going to bring up the baby? What arrangements has the Supreme Court esnured so that the baby is brought up in a loving and caring atmosphere? What steps have been taken that the girl child would be safe from predators that prowl the state run home? Are the activists who pleaded against the High Court verdict that had called for the medical termination of the pregnancy spending time with the child? Or is this yet another case of misplaced human rights? Whose rights are we talking about?

Read here how the 19-year-old mother, said to be mentally challenged is coping. It is sad, very very sad, what the State has done to her.

Earlier post- 
A disturbing judgment

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Corruption and India

A scandal of this proportion and there has been no outcry from Delhites. Are we so dead as citizens that we cannot even protest and demand action against the employees who robbed us and the politicians who let the system come to this pass?
It shows the extent to which we fail as citizens and forgo our right for effective governance.
One would have thought a scandal of this proportion where over 22,000 ghost employees have been drawing salaries for God knows how many years, would have led to some protest, a demand that the men who cheated us be dismissed, but nothing has happened. Not a whimper from Delhi's residents and the many residents' associations and citizens groups and the NGOs that populate the Capital city. Apart from a newspaper report or two, the citizens seem unconcerned.
We have got so used to the filth and malaise around, that like sewer rats it has become a vital part of ourselves. We cannot imagine, it is completely beyond our psyche to visualise a corruption-free government department. By not protesting about this scandal, by not demanding that action be taken against the scoundrels, we open ourselves to more such loot. And where is our moral police, so quick to jump at women who go to bars, so quick to even bash them up, so quick to pull down artist's works, or demand ban on movies they feel corrupt human minds?
Where are they? Why don't they protest? Don't they think this corruption and filth spells doom for India? Or as sewer rats it has become our life?

And now this- MCD staffers get salary six times in two months!
Earlier posts - Ghost employees of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi
The most corrput Municipal Corporation of Delhi

Happy to post 15 months later that the Indian public is reacting to corruption and How!

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Mera India Bridge the Gap workshop - Help build a healthy and a prosperous India

If you are between the ages of 18 and 35 years and reside in Delhi, here is an opportunity to attend a very special workshop --

Mera India, Bridge the Gap
invites you to a workshop
Transforming ideas into action
The building of a prosperous and a healthy India
On December 12, 2009 (Saturday)
9.30 am onwards to conclude with Lunch
(to be held in Delhi, you will be informed of the venue)

The workshop will inform how youth can work towards an India that is free of poverty and hunger, is healthy and informed and where women and men enjoy an equal status.

Please confirm your participation asap as there are a limited number of seats. There is no entry or participation fee. Participation certificates will be awarded.

The workshop follows the Mera India Bridge the Gap contest where the young participants had advocated for youth playing a more active role in nation building and meeting the Millennium Development Goals.

So if you are interested, do drop us a line at

We look forward to working together.

Bridge the Gap Team

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Shocking scandal - over 22,000 bogus MCD staffers

It is finally out - the Municicpal Corporation of Delhi has 22,853 ghost employees! The Times of India in its report, has stated that the Indian taxpayer has been paying Rs 204 crore a year for these employees every year. And for how many years has this practice been in existence? You could easily say it has been for decades. As residents of Delhi, India's Capital city, we see piled up garbage even in posh localities like South Extension and Greater Kailash and prime office complexes like Nehru Place. The situation in other loclities is worse. On paper there are sweepers allocated for every street, every block. In reality, ghosts never sweep, they only pocket money. So streets remain unswept for months, corruption is rife in all its departments, and as residents we have seen that nothing moves without palm grease. The manner in which these babus control our lives and mess it up has to be experienced to be believed.
Who would you say is responsible for the state of things? The babus or the netas? That is the bureaucrats or the politicians?
And are we, as Delhites, as Indians, going to keep quiet after this information, thanks to the biometric system, is known to us? Or are we going to lend our voice to see that the ghosts are banished once and for all. And that some action is taken against those who let them in, fattened and nurtured them. The citizens must speak up, in fact YELL and demand action. For otherwise the powers that be might never hear us.

earlier post

And now, you have to read this story in Hindustan Times. Of the tricks the employees are now resorting to so that they do not have to use the biometric system.

An NGO files a public interest litigation, so now finally we may know the full truth.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

An inspiring story - The youngest headmaster in the world

The story about Babar Ali, born to poor illiterate parents in West Bengal, is really heartening. See the what this 16-year-old has done. How he is using all that he has to change the lives of children who may never be able to go to school.

The story will make you happy and also bring tears to your eyes. It holds a lesson for all of us. Are we doing enough to change the condition of those less fortunate than us?

Thank god, we have people like Babar Ali in the world.

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Journey in magenta

There are so many things about India that bother me. And in this blog I keep ranting about them. There are also many things that I absolutely love about this land. One of them is the colour that one finds here. Nowhere else in the world have I seen colour in its undiluted beauty, the way one does here. Nowhere else have I seen women wear it the way they do here.
One of my earliest memories of the sheer abundance of colour, like there was no getting away from it were the boungainvillea bushes behind my school. The dusty rolling stretch with its little tufts of grass was used for races and march past practice, both which I dreaded in summer, but the purple pink bunches beckoned me and drove me into plucking the bracts and then blowing them in the summer wind.
The hotter it gets in India, the more vibrant are the hues -- the water melon, the gulmohar, the Rajasthani ghagras. They are there right in your face, no subtlety here, but its display is in pure unadultered form. I love the gorgeous silky skeins of the Gujarati embroidery and the tiny mirrors that sparkle in their midst. I absolutely adore the midnight blue and the emerald greens of the Kanjeevaram silks with the gorgeous orange or red borders...
The bougainvillea always takes me on a big colour journey. The bougainvillea bush in my neighbour's garden was bunched with the most vibrant shades of pomegrante red. Every morning I rushed to my window to admire it till the rains robbed it of its colour. Today it is just plain green.

The most gorgeous three hours I have ever spent in my life were at Bangaluru's Lalbagh one afternoon, feasting on the most ecstatic colours of the bougainvillea in shades I could have never imagined. From creamy white, to golden yellow, to a sunset rust, and of course, the magenta. In one bush, the magenta merged with white, in another the strawberry red flirted with cream, and the yellow decided to have orange tipped bracts. Then they went on a strange medley, three shades in one bush... an enterprising gardner had mixed and matched. I loved it all so much that I had to sit down on a bench to savour it till dusk fell and I was forced to leave the bounty of colour.

Today, while putting order to my cupbaord I came across a set of two French chiffon dupattas that belonged to my mother. They used to be musty white... I had loved the texture, reminded me of the bracts that I had blown in the wind. My mother let me stitch them up into a sari and get them dyed into magenta pink. I then designed a green, magenta and white... And I wore the outfit with the flourish of a teenager... Now when I looked at it after so many years, I understood, my romance with the colour....and where it all began.....The colour took me on to this great mind journey that started in my childhood. And it had me making that computer drawing that you see....

I wish my readers would share the colours that they love and which inspire them....

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Assauging Indian fears about higher education in Australia

Finally there seems to be some action on the Australian front. With external affairs minister S M Krishna’s visit to Australia, the Indian government has shown that it cares about the fate of its youngsters who landed on the Australian shores for higher education. Read about Krishna's interview to The Australian -,25197,25906785-5013871,00.html

Krishna is the first senior minister to go to Australia following the spate of attacks on Indian students. The incidents drove the students to protest on the streets in a foreign country to highlight the rising incidents of violence against them. These incidents have been termed as racial by the Indian students who were attacked, but have been downplayed by the Australian authorities as 'opportunistic violence'.

One would have expected Australia to act fast following the violent attacks. Instead what happened, was strong criticism of the manner in which the Indians ‘behave’, playing loud music, talking loudly on the telephone, cooking with strong spices, keeping their rooms untidy, working late and travelling at night on trains ... as if these were reasons for them to be attacked with screwdrivers, have their eyes gouged and cars burnt. Surely, there is a “developed country” way to address such behaviours among the students! One that ensures that those who come to stay for a couple of years are sensitised on what is expected of them so that they do not offend their hosts. Now whose responsibility is it to ensure that? Of course, the Australian universities and educational institutes that line up in India and charge exorbitant fees.

As the media in India and Australia focussed on these attacks, the manner in which some private colleges had been duping the Indian students and promising permanent residency also came to light.

According to reports reaching here, some of these educational institutes have been found to be hole in the wall kind of places that have cheated the students, painting a rosy picture of the kind of training they would be given. But once the students land up there they find a paucity of qualified instructors and infrastructure. These institutes are worse, much worse, than many third rate institutions in India. At least here you and your family do not go bankrupt fianancing a third rate education.

The Australian government, rattled by the negative publicity that the attacks have brought, had sponsored a trip for some Indian journalists to see that it is not as bad as the Indian media painted it to be. Australia was not racist; they wanted the journalists to check the situation out for themselves. But all we got to see was the Australian PM Rudd holding forth on how he and his family liked Indian food, the same strong curry smelling fare, that some of his countrymen held against Indian youngsters. Wonder what happened to all the other stories that the journalists were to have done?

Following Krishna’s visit, the Australian government has announced that it would review and revamp its educational sector and promised that the overseas students would be safe.

But just as this announcement came in, the Chinese government issued an advisory to its students in Australia, following a brutal attack on four Chinese students in Gold Coast. While Krishna expressed his satisfaction with the assurances given to him by the Australian authorities, Indian student representatives had their reservations. They wanted more than mere assurances.

However, Indian students should be very careful in their selection of the institute after the horror stories that have emerged of unscrupulous education agents in Down Under. Here is a story of how a flight school in Sydney, Aerospace Aviation duped its students.

The best way to check about the worthiness of an institute is to do an independent follow up with some Indian students who have studied there. If the school does not provide you with particulars of its alumni, you can be sure that it has something to hide.

An Indian mother is very glad that she did not send her 17 year old daughter there for the culinary arts. The representative of the institute who had come to India for the recruitment drive was a smooth talking Indian settled in Australia, who wanted an immediate commitment. The hardsell was what cautioned the mother. It also made her wonder why the institute, headquartered in Switzerland, didn’t set up shop in India? A lot many students would then enrol, and the fees too would come down substantially.

It seems such a shame that Indians have to head elsewhere to pursue courses which can easily be offered here. The Human Resource Development minister, Kapil Sibal, seems very sincere about his job. Let us hope he can change the scenario for the Indian students, so that they can get vocational training at an affordable price in India itself.

To all those students looking at education in Australia or/and permanent residency, I recommend Cristopher Mitchell's blog. It shows the problems you can face as Indians in that country. There is also an earlier post on the Indian government advisory to students.

For an understanding of why things are the way they are between the two countries click here ..

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

A disturbing judgement

A 19-year-old mentally challenged woman whose mental age is described as nine was raped by an attendant in a shelter home in Chandigarh. A few weeks later, when she developed what has been reported as "some complications" it was realised that she was carrying. And the authorites approached the High Court to have her pregnancy terminated. The High Court was in favour of terminating the pregnancy.

Then some activists on the woman's behalf approached the Supreme Court to have a stay on the High Court order. They wanted the woman to give birth to a child. The Court was told that the woman was an orphan, and as she had no blood relative she should be allowed to keep the baby. The woman too, it was said, wanted to have the baby. The Supreme Court has stated that the woman be allowed to carry the child full term.

As a woman I am horrified.

First, the woman who is bearing the child needs looking after herself as she has the mental age of a nine year old child. The State has been found to be deficient in its care of the woman. One of the attendants of the home where she was kept raped her.

Now the judges want the woman to carry full term, bring into the world a baby who would neither have a father, nor a mother who could look after it. Who would then take care of the baby? The State that has been found to be lacking?

Second, the pregnancy follows a rape. Now, I do not know of any woman who would want to carry a child of a man who has raped her. One must realise that her feelings for the foetus have yet to be developed. But her feelings for the rapist exist. And these would be unhappy and torturous. Usually if matters are in a woman's hand, she gets rid of such a foetus at the first opportunity.

It is said the woman wants the baby. In this case, the woman is not in a position to decide what is in her best interest. She does not know was bringing up a child entails.  The decision has to be made for the woman.

Third, are the persons who are so vociferously fighting for the woman to carry the child, prepared to help the mother look after it? Are they ready to assume the responsibility for the child till he or she attains adulthood? If not, then they have no business to advocate that she carry the child full term. Why saddle the woman, who is herself a child, with the task of looking after a baby?

The court is reported to have cast aside the objection to the prospect of the mentally challenged girl delivering the baby when she is not able to take care of herself. “The nature has its own methodology,” it said. Now what does that mean? That nature by some magic is going to take care of the baby? I found this statement reported in the media about what the judges said, very horrifying.
Three years later the court pronounces its judgement on the rapist. It was found that the girl was gangraped. What makes it worse is that the people who the state had appointed to take care of abandoned and orphaned children had raped the girl in their care. And there were two women who allowed the men to exploit the girl. Horrifying!
The link to the article as it appeared in Indian Express

Rape and punishment

The National Commission for Women recently came up with a host of suggestions to deal with rape in the country. But it has recommended very short terms for rapists. I wonder why? Does the commission think that a rapist can be 'cured', or would regret his crime by spending a few years behind bars? Can a rapist be ever cured? However, that is a topic for another post.

The commission has suggested somewhat stiff punishment for men in uniform and those who hold responsible positions. In cases of a police official commiting a sexual assault on the premises of the police station where he is appointed, or if he assaults a woman or child under 16 years of age, the commission proposes he should be liable for a minimum punishment of 10 years and a maximum of life imprisonment. The staff or management of a hospital, remand home or a women's or children's institution committing such an act should be liable to punishment from five years to 10 years in jail and a fine, the commission has proposed. Five years, is really a very short term for rape, especially if the woman is under treatment in a hospital or under care of a remand home. And just five years for raping a child? This is no punishment for bodily harming and scaring her or his psyche for life. In fact, the punishment for raping a child should exceed that of raping a woman.

The commission has proposed a prison term for seven years for incest. Is that enough?

Whenever I write about rape, the situation of women in Saudi Arabia horrifies me no end. That is one of the countries where a rape victim is punished! Lashes and a jail term! This tragic incident happened not so long ago in Saudi Arabia. See what the woman's husband has to say about it -

In Pakistan till recently, the testimony of four pious (I wonder how they define that!) persons, sorry it should be MEN, was needed for a rape to be proved! Now where in the world would you find four eyewitnesses for rape? And what kind of men, and pious men at that, would they be, if they let the rape be committed and did nothing to prevent it?

See how the Afghan men reacted to a protest by Afghan women to the introduction of a new law – they spat and threw stones at them!

The law introduces some more restrictions on women -- it bars them from leaving their homes without the permission of their husbands and also legalises marital rape.

The world over there are few convictions for rape. I wonder why that is so? Is it because that often it is only men who man the judiciary? Or the fact that men can never really understand the trauma of rape? Of is it that we use different yardsticks for defining wrong and right for men and women? Or that in some countries the adherence to some warped male interpretation of religious text takes precedence over everything else? Whatever it is, there is no denying that around the world men get away lightly with rape.

Though India does not have such archaic laws, the rate of conviction in rape is abysmal. It is still very tough for a woman to come out openly and say she has been raped. And after she does that, little or no action is taken in majority of the cases. Insecurity, public censure, lack of support drives some women to take the extreme step – commit suicide.

Most horrifying is the way judges behave. Read about the way a Pakistani judge conducted the trial of a 13 year old girl who was gangraped -
Shouldn’t he be punished? Why does he get away with the wrong he does? Just because he is a judge?

In my earlier post I wished to share what women in different parts of the world feel the punishment should be. Though I did not get any response from a Pakistani or an Afghani woman, I am sure they too would advocate life imprisonment, if not death and castration.

There is a great schism between how women view rape and how the state reacts – in most countries in a very patriarchal fashion. Raping a child should be considered more serious than raping a woman. Is there any country in the world where this is being done?

Later posts: Rape and molestation, mindset and judgments
                  Another gangrape in Delhi, how will we act?

Some opinions from around the world. One of the posts states that in India rape is equated to murder. That is not true.
You must see this oneSociety elders decide five shoe smacks enough punishment for a rapist!

Can a rapist ever be cured? Read what is being said about it.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Is there something seriously wrong with the way we bring up boys?

Is there something seriously wrong with the way we bring up our boys? Why are there so many cases of men who rape children? And what does this say of us? This shocker of a story really saddened me - a child raped every other day in Tamil Nadu! Think of the poor little girls and the trauma they would have to carry with them all through their lives. Just why do we do this to our children?
And shouldn't there be some very stiff time-bound action against men who rape children?
At Blogcatalog, I had asked a group of female bloggers from around the world, what they thought should be the punishment for rape? Women from different parts of the world had one verdict - yes, we all think alike- and the punishment sought is life imprisonment. Some even said castration. It sure seems to be an apt punishment for men who rape children.
Remember what Lorena Bobbit did to her husband who raped her? It happened long ago. Watch as she tells Oprah. I am sure many girls who have been through the trauma would wish they could do that to the rapist.

Earlier posts -
The vile men of religion

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Obama checks out a girl

Don't they look like a couple of college boys?
It doesn't matter - you may have a Michelle or Carla by your side...
I loved the photo. It is one of those photos that brings an instant smile. The photographer was alert and fantastic at his job.
But of course, the media has to be condemned... now I see stories on the net that the photograph was doctored! Does the photo make the Americans uncomfortable? The speed with which the video appeared saying that the photo is lying ...excuse me, he wasn't looking at her behind, but watching his step, or ,or , or ... watch the video and decide... maybe he didn't mean to see her rear, it just appeared in his line of vision!
The video clears Obama, but poor Sarkozy is framed.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Another police excess

More on police brutality. This time from the eastern part of the country. A truck driver was shot dead by a policeman because he hit the police car! Cases like these show how those in power deal with common people. The incident shows their utter brutality towards defenceless persons who are not in a position to retaliate.

It is indeed sad that the police meant to protect people do just the opposite and become perpetrators of crime.

Do you think that the punishment for those in uniform, or those who hold posts of power and responsibility, should be stiffer than that slapped on ordinary persons who commit an offence?

Earlier posts
Cops as criminals
Haryana police needs better training

Friday, 3 July 2009

The ghost employees of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi

You must have heard of employees not showing up for work.
Even heard of employees that shirk work.
But have you ever heard of phantom employees? Employees that draw their salary every month but do not exist in human form? Well our Municipal Corporation of Delhi has thousands of such ghost employees.
But what is the number of the ghosts that inhabit the payment rolls of the corporation, no one knows, least of all the MCD.

The Times of India has been carrying a series of articles on the rot in the Municipal Corporation of Delhi, which Delhiwallahs have nicknamed the Most Corrupt Department - where things move only by palm grease.

This corporation we are informed has two kinds of employees - the permanent ones and the daily wagers. Many of them do not show up for work. The report says that thousands of them may not even exist, but their names appear on the rolls and these phantoms draw salary!!

No wonder I have not seen a safai karamchari ( the sweeper) ever on the lane on which my house stands... though MCD has assigned sweepers to every street. On record there are hundreds of these workers. So no surprise that you see Delhi's streets so piled up with filth and the municipal parks neglected. The gardeners too exist only on the salary rolls and are not seen in the parks. If they were you would not find them neglected and overgrown. If you see a well laid out park, you can be sure, the residents' association is taking care of it by hiring its own gardeners.

One estimate is that the phantom employees could number around 45,000. Though they never show up for work, they draw their salaries, milking the system dry of crores of rupees every month, according to these reports. The rot has been known to our political masters, the councillors who we elect. The paper says that the move to weed away these fictitious workers was opposed by these councillors and MCD staff way back in 2002.

And by the look of things, the councillors are once again trying to stop the enquiry, says the Times of India today.

The MCD needs to come clear on many fronts. The people of Delhi need to know --
The number of employees the corporation has
The total salary bill of these employees

How many of them are permanent and how many temporary
What is the need to have 'temporary' workers if there are posts that are still lying vacant (according to some reports)
The residents associations need to be given the names of the sweepers and gardeners assigned to their locality, so that a check can be kept on their attendance and to confirm that they do exist!

Earlier posts on the MCD -
The most corrrupt Municipal Corporation of Delhi
Where is my leader

A later post
Shocking scandal - Over 22,000 ghost employees in MCD

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Want to work for a better India?

Unnati Features and Women’s Feature Service are looking for dynamic young persons for an exciting short-term project that reaches out to young people

TWO POSTS (Based in Delhi)
The person, between 20 to 30 years old, should be -
* proficient in the use of web-based software for audio, video and data integration
* a good communicator in English and Hindi with an ability to address small and large groups
* able to interact personally with young people/students in particular
* available for the project from mid-July to mid-November to work on part-time basis
Postgraduate students/research scholars are welcome to apply. Salary will be based on ability and experience.

We also welcome volunteers with good communication skills interested in reaching out to colleges and youth groups in other parts of the country. Those selected will carry out the work in their respective towns and cities and be in touch with the project coordinator in Delhi by email. Remuneration will be based on tasks accomplished.

Please send your CV by July 7, 2009 to -

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Cops as criminals

Another of my favourite topics - of the way we train our police. Looking at how they behave with the public, their training needs to be overhauled.

Time and again we come across cases where the police become perpetrators of crime. The police record of the way they deal with women is terrible, and downright atrocious if they happen to be poor and illiterate.. Apart from being brutal, as noted in an earlier post, there have been cases of the police resorting to sexual harassment and even rape. The police stations in India are the most women unfriendly places. Women are reluctant to walk into police stations to seek help or lodge a complaint. For the demeanor and the manner in which the policemen in India behave with women is downright crude (for want of a more apt word).

Last week, on June 18 we learnt of how two policemen threw a pregnant woman and her three-year-old daughter off the running Mailani-Gonda passenger train near Lucknow, after she and her husband refused to bribe them for travelling without a ticket. The woman came under the wheels of the train and died. The little girl miraculously escaped.

The public is so fed up with the high handed ways of the police force that neighbours and relatives of the couple caught hold of the two cops and beat them up mercilessly. They are said to have suffered multiple injuries and had to be admitted to hospital.

Our police trainers need to pay particular attention to the manner in which uniformed men should interact with the public. They need lessons on how to deal with law breakers, especially women, in a firm manner without getting physical. Some years ago I saw the police conduct a raid on a brothel on Brigade Road in Bangalore. The manner in which they were pulling out the sex workers from a building and pushing them into the police van was a terrible sight indeed. Most of the women appeared to be in their mid teens and with the brutal handling their clothes were torn. Some of them could not even cover themselves up properly. The policemen were dragging them by their hair, hitting them with lathis and shepherding them into the van while shouting filthy expletives. As happens in India a huge crowd had gathered to see what was going on and all the women looked really frigthened. They were facing a public humiliation of the worst kind. It doesn't need much imagination to know that the ordeal of these women would have continued into the police station.

Every other day, there are cases of women being raped by the police or security personnel. Increasingly one is seeing the public hit back, in the form of protests and demonstrations, so fed up are they of the way the men who should be protecting turn aggressors.

Look what happened in Kashmir following the rape and murder of two women in Shopian district allegedly by security forces.

In Bhopal recently, a 48-year-old woman, arrested in connection with a dowry case, alleged that four policemen raped her inside a police station in Betul district. The woman said she was forced to spend the night in the Amla police station because the police told her it was too late to go to Betul, after a court sent her to judicial custody. The victim alleged that the cops were drunk and had raped her at night. The next morning when she was taken to the Betul jail, she told the jailer about the incident. Her statement was recorded.

Probably, the cops think the women they harass won't complain and that emboldens them. Recently, sons of two policemen in Gujarat were apprehended for raping a teenage girl. The public thrashed the alleged culprits when they were brought to the hospital for a medical examination. While the crowd that thrashed them consisted mainly of men, one could see some women vent their anger against the culprits.

But the biggest shocker was yet to come. There is reason to believe that the culprits were involved in at least seven cases of rape, including one of a mentally challenged girl. The investigators have recovered clippings of the gangrapes from their phones and laptops. After all these alleged culprits are the sons of policemen!

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Advice for Indian students going to Australia

The attacks on Indian students in Australia go on unabated. Today, Hardik Bipinbhai Patel, a commercial cookery student at Melbourne University, was attacked and robbed. A group of Sri Lankans were attacked in Canberra. Yesterday, a student was beaten up in a mall in Adelaide.

By the Australian police own admission, there have been 1447 reported attacks on Indians last year. This year, the number is all set to rise. For finally, the Indians are reporting the attacks, which they might not have earlier.

Meanwhile the Indian government has come up with an advisory. It gives the Indian students some tips, which are reproduced here --

Before leaving for Australia
  • Be fully informed of all actual costs involved, as also of relevant rules governing work, housing and other aspects of living in Australia. You are strongly advised to do adequate research.
  • Study the official website of the Government of Australia for international students.
  • Make sure institution offering the course has good reputation, especially if it is private.
  • Go through website of educational institution and cross check if needed with the Education Officer at the Australian High Commission in Delhi or consulates in Mumbai and Chennai.
  • Make sure you have written agreement from the institution before paying any fees. This will be especially helpful in settling disputes if any.
After you arrive in Australia
  • Please register with Indian High Commission / Consulate as soon as possible.
  • Familiarise yourself with the student services offered by your educational institution, such as counselling services, help in finding suitable accommodation and jobs, assistance in improving your English etc.
  • Whatever accommodation you choose, remember it is your responsibility to maintain it and keep it clean.
  • Seek details about the security situation in and around your university and place of stay, as well as, local policing arrangements from the university authorities.
  • You should also contact local Indian associations and keep in touch with them.
The government means well. But these guidelines are not going to stop the attacks. One of the reasons we learn Indians are being attacked is because they are considered "passive", easy targets. They are not being attacked because their houses are not clean. The problem lies with the Australian society and is best tackled from their end.

The only advice to students still contemplating admission in a univeristy in Australia -- Get admission into a good university and stay on the campus. If you cannot, stay away from Australia. You will save your parents many sleepless, stomach churning nights and lakhs of rupees.

To read more on the subject -

Further developments

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

A mother-daughter relationship

CNN has a very touching story on how a woman in Tel Aviv, Israel, decided to give a new mattress to her mother as a surprise present, and threw out her old tattered mattress. When the mother realised what the daughter had done, which was the following morning, she told her that the old mattress that she had been using for decades contained over one million dollars - her entire life's savings. The daughter ran downstairs to find that the mattress had been taken away. The mother than told the daughter to "leave it".

This mother is truly admirable. She tells her daughter to 'leave it'. Forget it, in other words. The daughter must have been feeling so miserable. And the mother's response was keeping her daughter's feelings in mind. She did not want her to feel bad about it - so like a mother.

The report had me thinking. Would an Indian mother have responded the same way? Indian mothers undergo great sacrifices for their children. I feel an Indian woman could possibly respond in a similar way if it had been a son. But if it had been a daughter? What do you think?

The Israel mother explained her reaction as, "the heart is crying, but we could have been in a car accident or had terminal disease."

Do you think that her response is conditioned by the violence in the region?

I hope they find the mattress.

The incident also shows that all good intentions and deeds do not necessarily benefit the person for whom they are intended or done.

Monday, 25 May 2009

The most corrupt Municipal Corporation of Delhi

Finally a confirmation of what is already known, but little is done about.
The Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) is the most corrupt body in the country, possibly the world. A recent Right to Information query has confirmed widespread graft in the municipal corporation with as many as 4,400 corruption cases pending against about 3,400 employees, who range from peons to junior engineers. Strangely they are still employed and continuing with their money making rackets.

Try and get a housing plan passed. Or get a completion certificate for a building....and you will have to deal with these corrupt government officials. Nothing moves without greasing their palms. Refer to my story of how buildings that openly flout all norms and a great show was made of knocking down portions, stand today all patched up, mocking the citizens of Delhi. The corporation has allowed 3000 unauthorised colonies to spring up, violating Delhi's master plan. There are thousands of buildings which extend on to government land and this has been done in connivance of the junior engineers of the corporation, who are supposed to keep watch on the building activity in the city.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) dominates the civic body having secured 164 seats in the 272-member MCD House in 2007. The Congress, had made a similar sweep in the 2002 polls.
Both the dominant parties are responsible for the state of things in the Capital.

The recent parliamentary elections in which the Congress swept all the seats in the Capital, has jolted the MCD into action. Check out the following item -

Here is an old news item, but it tells you a lot of the attitude of those men and women responsible for overseeing the functioning of the corporation -

Saturday, 23 May 2009

The vile men of religion

God help us from these men of religion.
You find these sorts everywhere.
Two stories below – one from India and the other from Ireland!
Does anyone have any views on why men who claim to show us the path to God, resort to abusing children?

First, the story from India.
A court in Kerala has sentenced self-styled Godman Swami Amrithachaithanya alias Santhosh Madhavan to 16 years rigorous imprisonment for raping two minor girls. He ran an orphanage, giving scholarships to orphan girls. This served as a smokescreen for the child abuse he indulged in.
The second story is about the bishops who regularly abused children in Ireland.
The children were regularly abused in the religious schools in Ireland run by the Roman Catholic Church. A nine-year investigation by Ireland’s Commission to Inquire Into Child Abuse recently published its final results. The commission paints a horrible picture of these schools. “Sexual abuse was endemic in boys’ institutions,” states the Executive Summary of the report.

Why do these men of God do such things to children? Any answers?

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Haryana police needs better training

The Haryana police has once again lived up to its reputation - of being the most gender- insensitive police force in the country. There have been two reported cases in the last one year of women, who had been raped, driven to suicide when the police refused to register their complaint.

It is tough for a woman to come out in the open and say she has been raped. When she plucks up enough courage and comes forward only to find that the authorities who are supposed to help her, turn a deaf ear, she finds herself all alone with no recourse for action against the culprits. Moreover, she lives in the dreaded fear that her tormentors who have escaped punishment, would be emboldened to rape her again.

That the police is insensitive to a woman's plight is to state the obvious. It also suffers from a great class bias. If the woman is from an economically poor strata of society, she has little chances of being heard. In all likelihood, she would be shooed away from the police station. There have been quite a number of cases of women being raped by the men in uniform, who were supposed to protect them.

In Haryana, the two women killed themselves when they found the police refused to listen to them in spite of them trying all means within their power to make themselves heard.

Alka and her husband, spent the past many months running around for justice. Failing in their effort, the couple who have two children below ten years old, consumed poison outside the office of the Inspector General of Police, Rohtak. While Alka died by the time she was taken to hospital, her husband lies critically ill.

According to media reports, Alka said she was gangraped by five men in Samalkha town in Karnal district last year. The police there did not register a case despite her complaint. She then met the IGP who forwarded her complaint to the Karnal district police chief. However, the case was later cancelled by the police who said that nothing could be found during investigations.
Senior Haryana police officials have refused to comment on Alka’s death.

In June last year, another young woman, Sarita, had consumed poison inside the Haryana police headquarters in Panchkula near Chandigarh, alleging that the police were not taking any action on two of its own personnel who had raped her inside a police station in Rohtak April last year.

 The action by Sarita and Alka and her husband, is a statement that a society that does not even hear them out is not worth living in.

These are just two cases that have come to the media's attention. There are bound to be many more cases, where women after failing to register complaints against their tormentors, just give up, picking up pieces of their lives as best as they can and living in constant dread of being bodily harmed and mentally tortured again. The culprits roam free, emboldened that they can target a woman.

Haryana is a state which has become synonymous with a desensitised police force. The selection of its personnel and their training need a urgent closer look and attention. Those who are in charge of selecting suitable men and women for the force, need to ensure that they pick the right candidates. Further, their training needs to be overhauled, so that the state raises a sensitised police force which women feel comfortable in approaching.

Monday, 27 April 2009

We save a few rupees, but they rake in crores

(A crore is 10 million or 100 lakhs)
A crore of rupees - Rs 1,00,00,000

It is downturn time. People have lost jobs. Many have had to do with a cut in their salaries. The poor always had it bad, but the middle class is feeling the squeeze. Housing loans need to be paid off; school fees too. On top of it the elections have added to the woes. Summer means a rise in the price of vegetables. But the price of staples like rice, atta (wheat flour) and dals (lentils) has risen by about five to ten rupees per kilo. Ditto with sugar. When I protest, my neighbourhood grocer looks at me pityingly and explains, "Madam, I am being forced to charge the high rates. I am getting the goods at a higher price. Don't you know the sugar lobby has financed the political parties to the tune of some crores? In return, they have been assured that they can sell sugar at any price they want.”

More hardship for the common people – India’s middle class who will eventually have to bear the cost of the elections. Our rich netas (leaders) will get elected to another five years of pure unadulterated money making spree.

Meanwhile, I bargain for a few rupees with the vegetable vendor. I check out the price of 10 kg of atta in four shops to see who will give me the best price. I save a few rupees.

The leaders will rake in crores. A study shows how their wealth has grown between two elections. L Rajagopal of the Congress party representing Vijayawada in Andhra Pradesh was worth Rs 9.6 crores in 2004 and now five years later he has declared Rs 299 crores as his assets! An increase of over 30 times!

There are many such candidates. Check out the following articles -
It is a good thing that the politicians are being asked to declare their assets and their educational qualifications. Check out the election commission site -

Of course we have no way of ensuring that what the leader has declared is all the assets he or she has. But we need to be told how they made the money and how much they have paid by way of tax. These figures should be available on the election commission website.

While the electorate is expected to pay its taxes, and penalties are stiff for late payment and evasion, our leaders evade them with impunity. In the state of Mizoram, none of the ten top candidates even possess a PAN card! Do we really want leaders like these- who have no regard for the law of the land? And shouldn’t we demand to know how the income tax authorities have proceeded against these worthies?

See how the assets of our political masters rose -

Check out how the residents of Vadodara are demanding their right to choose not to vote.

Is it any wonder then, why the middle class is so disenchanted of the politicians that it does not come out to vote. And the pundits on television keep asking why the elections do not enthuse the middle class and why it chooses to treat voting day as a holiday instead of joining the queue to vote a leader. If you do not take part in an election you have no right to grumble, say those working for election reforms. Fair enough! But what if the choice is choosing between a thug and a lesser thug? Then we should rather have the choice to register that none of the candidates meet our expectations and we choose not to vote. Like some people have in some constituencies.
And if in any constituency a certain percentage of voters say that they feel that none of the candidates are worth choosing, then the constituency should come under President’s rule. By having such a law, we would ensure that the political parties pick their candidates with care. For they would not like to see it go under President’s rule. We need such a law, and we need it quick. Otherwise, the fixers and the thugs will continue to occupy the seats of power.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Where is my leader?

Who am I going to vote for? The voting day is upon us and I have not been able to make up my mind. India’s problems are immense, the country is huge, its population is large. And governing it is no easy task. Granted. Over 60 years since Independence, and a substantial majority of Indians still go to bed hungry. Millions do not have a roof over their head that they can call home. Many more can’t read and write. But that is another story.

Here I wish to focus on my immediate neighbourhood in the capital city of Delhi and why it is so tough for me to find my leader.

I see corruption and callousness of the powers-that-be towards the common man. I see the power of money. It is used to bend the rule of the land, and in the bargain, the common man or woman is put through needless harassment of an unthinking system.

An example: Many buildings in my neighbourhood stand testimony to norms having been flouted, especially by the builders. Not only do they cover more than the stipulated area, they also rise much higher than what has been laid down.

If you want to buy a house, you will have to be really lucky to get one with a completion certificate; for most come without one. But the estate agent will assure you, “Don’t worry. You will not be harassed. Everything has been taken care of.” This means the pockets of those who matter have been adequately lined with money.

For decades people had encroached upon government land with impunity, added rooms and extensions not permissible by law, and operated commercial outfits from residential premises. Political masters chose to turn a blind eye, extracting money to let the matters rest. Even the poor cobbler on my street gave hafta (a sum of money paid every week) to the cops so that they would not drive him away from the pavement.

One day, the administration woke up. Some people were served demolition notices. Then the bulldozers arrived. I saw two brand new buildings that were being given the finishing touches being targeted. The builder of one building, and the owner of the other had deviated from the guidelines. Why did the municipal corporation pass the plan in the first place? And then why did it wait till the building was ready to take action?

But it had to act. Politicians of various hues had to score points. Delhi had to be made into a world- class city in time for the Commonwealth Games. So action had to be taken, or shown to have been taken. Some portions of the outer walls of the two buildings which faced the main road were knocked down. The way the bulldozer carefully selected where to hit, told a story of money having exchanged hands. The neighbourhood buzz had it that a few lakhs were given to the officers to be ‘considerate’, to inflict damage that could be rectified with the least possible expense.

The buildings stood with the holes for months. As if they were a testimony to an administration that acts. There was much hue and cry in the city. Many business establishments were shut down. Many people lost their jobs. People took out protest matches and went to court. The opposition made a din. Newspapers and television channels faithfully covered the demolitions. And then as happens in this land, things died down, just as suddenly.

The workers returned. Bricks were added to the gaping holes, a coat of plaster and a brush of paint and it looked as if nothing had ever happened. Only some people in the municipal corporation and their political masters got richer by a few lakhs.

The whole drama served no purpose. By the end of it no one was wiser. Who were the corrupt officers, who bended the rules and pocketed the money? We did not get to know. Would they ever be punished? Of course not. For then the corrupt politicians would be exposed. And the politician is a special breed, above the law.

Another example: I went vegetable shopping and parked my car in the same spot I have been parking over the past decade. Only, this time when I returned, my car was missing. A helpful soul announced: “Your car has been towed away!” Nonplussed, I headed for the police station. I was fined – Rs 600 for parking at a no-parking zone.

“There is no such board on the street. And I have been parking there for years,” I told the cop.
“Well, now you can’t park there,” he said.
“Where do I park then?”
“On the opposite side of the road.”
“When did you change the rule?” I ask.
“A week ago.”
“But I have seen no board announcing that,” I pleaded.
“We can’t be putting up boards on every street,” he retorted.
An old man arrived. Panting and puffing, he came looking for his car. Another Rs 600…and on it went. At least five persons paid up in the half an hour I spent there.

Who could I complain to at this arbitrary functioning of the police? Where is my neta?

Oh! Who do I vote for?

Friday, 10 April 2009

The essence of nostalgic post

What does this old skeletal of a building mean to me? Though its essential character has been ripped out, the place holds for me some of the most pleasant memories of a childhood. Of fun and games, care and friendship and discovery of the essence of India.

It was my grandmother's home and I visited it regularly ...almost every fortnight, sometimes staying over during vacations. It stands on one of the most bustling streets of Old Delhi called Chandani Chowk.

Once it was filled with people, relatives and friends, old and young. Sounds of laughter would reverberate through it; an aroma of delicious food would hang over it. It would sit in so well in the cacophony of life in that busy history-rich street. My grandmother, Bibiji, ruled over it like a true matriarch. Its main door was always open. Anyone was free to go up, and many did; members of the extended family, neighbours, beggars who needed alms, the local politicians collecting funds. Everyone was welcome. And people would flock to meet that one woman who gave the building such life and vibrancy. The building lost it all with her death. I couldn't get myself to visit it for decades.

Recently, a relative came visiting from London and I took him to discover Old Delhi. We had to pass the house and what I had changed beyond recognition. Its character had gone, it had been peeled away. It seemed as if the owner was going to give it a brand new look. Iron girders had been installed. The lovely green painted iron pillars were no more and railing of the balconies that ran along its length, could only be seen in parts. If you click on the photo you can see portions of the beautiful railing, in the building which was built about 200 years ago.

My grandmother had rented the first, second and third floors of this building in 1947, soon after the Partition of India into India and Pakistan. The family was fleeing from Lahore, the city that had been home for generations. My mother, who was in her teens, narrates how war cries between the Hindus and Muslims would rent the air and they would see Hindu houses being set on fire. Some women she knew had been kidnapped and raped by the Muslims. She would blame it on the power hungry political leaders who had betrayed their people, ruined the perfect camaraderie between two communities that had together fought for freedom from the British. My grandparents being Hindus decided it was best that they leave Muslim dominated Lahore, which had become part of Pakistan, and set up home in Delhi. So one terrible day as blood cries rented the air, my grandmother left with a band of six children and some members of the extended family for Delhi. My grandfather stayed on behind to wind up the business and died a year later.

Grandmother's first task on landing in Delhi was to find a place to stay. Her eldest son located the building, we were told. I think the fact that it housed two chemist shops on the ground floor attracted the family to it. My grandfather ran a chemist shop in Lahore - Beli Ram and Sons. It was one of the biggest and the best known.

It was from this building that I discovered the rich secular fabric of India. On this road stand Gurdwara Sis Ganj Sahib (a Sikh worshipping house), the Gauri Shankar mandir (a Hindu temple), the Sri Digamber Jain mandir (a Jain temple) and the Sunheri masjid (the Muslim prayer house). On the opposite side is a little church said to be the oldest Baptist Christian church in northern India.

My grandmother would sit on a charpoy pulled out into the balcony and I would stand, my head a little higher than the railing, as she would point out the sights. We would watch the religious processions pass below and she would tell me what they signified. This little street showed that different religions can cohabit, as long as each respects the other. And like monocultures which harm the earth, mono-religions, weaken the secular fabric of a nation. India gives people the right to pray, to worship any way they want, any God they may chose. Indians respect different religions, and participate in each others festivals. You may choose to question aspects of your religion or you may faithfully follow; the choice is yours. That is the essence of India that I grew up with. I marvel to this day that my grandmother bore no grudges. She would welcome with open arms any friends from Pakistan who came over.
While four of my cousins who lived in the house, studied in a convent school, one of them went to an adjoining school for girls run by the Jain nuns. The blue board in the photo announces the school. If you click on the photo you can read its name. So great was the influence of this school on her, that she grew up to be a pure vegetarian in a meat-eating family.

Bibiji kept an open house. Family and friends could drop in any time and be treated to a hot meal. Many women, pushed out by their families, sought refuge with her. A bed would be provided and the person could stay as long as he or she wanted. Some would spend a day pouring their heart out to her, complaining about abusive husbands and sons, while others would come to recuperate from an illness or seek her guidance on relationship and matrimonial matters.

She would sit crosslegged on her charpoy, dressed in white, her snow white hair pulled into a neat bun. Three other charpoys occupied the room and each had its respective corner. A visiting daughter and her children, or an abandoned woman seeking refuge would occupy the other charpoys.

On one corner of the room were her Gods. It was in her that I discovered my first feminist. At a time when it was taboo to touch the gods or visit the temple if you were having periods, she refused to toe the beliefs blindly. If God thinks women pollute he would not have made them, she would tell us.

While the first floor served as an office for my uncle, the second floor were the living quarters - housing two bedrooms and a store. The third floor had the kitchen, the servant's room, a spare room used to store the many charpoys and bed rolls ready to be rolled out for guests as they came in. Sleeping on the terrace on crisp white linen under the star-spangled sky exhanging ghost stories with cousins is an experience I have never been able to duplicate.

The rooms in the two-century-old building were divided by wooden planks burnished a rich brown. The floor was of uneven kotah stone blocks joined together by cement. For the children it was a readymade hopscotch floor and we used it to our advantage. The high ceilings kept the place cool in summer. The house had no wardrobes. Clothes, bedding, linen would be kept in big steel trunks. One piled on top of the other in the second-floor store. A small steel almirah housed my grandmother's most prized possession -- a range of the yummiest pickles made by her. We were forbidden to touch it. She didn't want our dirty hands diving into the stone jars to sample the aromatic stuff. Instead, each day she would dish out a small amount into a porcelain cup for consumption. When she was not looking the cousins would sneak into the room, but the almirah made such a clatter while opening that she would get alerted and we would receive a dressing down.
Even the birds and animals felt at home in this house. A flock of pigeons would live on the ledges around the building. One or two brave birds would venture in to occupy the wooden ledge in her room. The neighbourhood cats would walk in and out with impunity. Saucers of milk would be placed for them at one end of the long balcony, while the pigeons got fistfuls of grain every morning from her. It was here that I saw a cat hunt a pigeon. And one dark stormy night encountered two gleamy green eyes next to my bed and let out a scream that shook the whole household upright and they came running to find out what had happened. But Bibiji, on her charpoy opposite mine, just turned over her side and told me, '"Go back to sleep, it is just the black cat. You have scared her away."

She was the ever indulgent grandmother. She knew the favourite foods of each of her grandchildren, and as and when he or she arrived, a servant would be dispatched to bring the goodies. It was here that I dug my teeth into the valewale samose, gorged on the juicy fruit chat, was introduced to chilled rabri and rose-flavoured and kesar-badam kulfi. The famous sweet shop - Ghantewala is right opposite this building. and when we left for home, she would get a box of the most delicious Indian sweets packed for us as a parting gift.

It was at her place that I ate the best cooked mutton ever. And the sumptuous tandoori chicken. Though she rarely stepped out of her house, she knew where the best was available.

It was from here, that I discovered the richness of the Indian arts. At Dariba - the lane that houses the gold and silver jewellery shops - my mother traded her old jewels for new ones and bought my sister and me our first set of gold earrings. We would walk the Kinari bazar looking for intricate borders and sequins to attach to dupattas. It was in one of the gullies (narrow lanes) that I discovered a nondescript bangle shop which had the most exciting bangles I have seen. I flaunted them in college and the girls hounded me to know where I got them from.

It is here that I got introduced to Bollywood. My parents were no movie buffs, but my unmarried aunt would aim to catch the first show of each movie as it was released. And if I happened to be in Chandni Chowk on a Friday, I would get to see it with her. There were a choice of film theatres. A couple survive to this day.

Chandni Chowk, translates into a moonlit square. It is said a canal once ran down the entire length of the street with Red Fort on one end and Fatehpuri masjid on the other. History tells us that the Mughal king, Shah Jehan's daughter, Jahanara, took an active interest in the landscaping of the area. She had a market set around a square pool and on moonlit nights the waters turned a magical silver and hence the place got its name. The canal was gone much before my grandmother set up her house here...

I head for the main door of the building, hoping to run up the steep staircase, like I did as a teenager. A panwala sits on the platform in front of it, like his father had done decades ago. Only the man does not know who I am. His father would greet me with a 'namste beti' (greeting to you daughter) and put a cardamom and some meethi supari (sweetened betel nut) into my open palm. The double panelled door is bolted. A big lock hangs from the latch. In this age of terrorism, you cannot keep open the door of even a bare building. Time changes...but I feverently hope the essence of India would live forever.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

extremists frighten us into silence

Another case of rowdy censorship. This one comes from Norway.

This was to be a blog on India. But one of my pet themes is human expression and how society seeks to control it. Expression gets curtailed, free speech is banned by a few among us who are loud enough to shout and violent enough to stomp, tear, destroy and even kill. All this as the majority of us just stand and watch, and remain silent.
Increasingly these shouters are getting more vocal, much louder and they frighten us into submission. With threats of violence, and vandalalim and plain murder.
And what is happening? The movie maker shifts base, the artist pulls down his work, the writer is banned. It is happening all over the world and with a frigthening regularity and frequency. Yes, we are becomong a lot less tolerant. We are unable to take criticism. We are unable to debate or frame fitting replies to something we do not like, or hold a contrary view to, in a civilised manner. When someone writes something, and we think it is wrong, why can't the argument be put forth in a civilised manner. Another article or a book, perhaps? Another set of paintings depcting the contrary view? Why do we have to throw stones, burn property and kill?
Last month, a Norwegian Library was forced to pull down posters of "anti-extremist Islamic Art" after vandalism and complaints by a small group of Muslims (three women we are told) who vandalised some works, and the library was forced to pull them down.
The posters were done by Ahmed Mashhouri, a Muslim artist and refugee from Iran. Ahmed and his wife were human rights activists in Iran and knew what people can do in the name of religion as they had experienced at first hand the cruelty of the Muslim fanatics.
The posters were up for only a few hours before the women got at them. This is what I call rowdy censorship and falls in the same category as the one that drove Deepa Mehta away from India for the filming of her film on widows, that drove Bangladeshi author Tasleema to exile first from her home country and for the second time from India, the country where she had sought refuge.
It is what frigthened a Mumbai gallery from exhibiting a painting which depicts nothing more than what our ancient scupltures do . Links to some of the stories are provided below.
The poster from the top is from Ahmed Mashhouri's collection.
In fact, I found the recent video of the public flogging of a girl in Swat valley of Pakistan, which was widely circulated, very very disturbing. The poster in fact, seems a watered down version in comparison of what some fanatics among us do to women in the name of religion.
I wonder if those who protested at the Norwegian library will raise their voice against the public flogging of a teenaged girl in Swat? Will those who bayed for the head of the Danish cartoonist, speak up against the flogging? And demand that those who did it be punished for their very unislamic act. Will the men who flogged her be brought to book?

For more on the posters -
Gateway Pundit: Artist Told to Remove Anti-Islam Display After Muslims Attack Exhibition

Articles on this blog -

Rowdy censorship and Deepa Mehta's film -Water

Have a cry

Friday, 3 April 2009

What kind of a religion is this?

What kind of a religion is it that allows such merciless flogging of a woman? Can watch it here -
The video of a 17-year-old girl being flogged in the Swat Valley is very shocking. Reminded me of the Muthalik goons in Mangalore. Even they beat up women.

There was national outrage in India. And women came together to demand action against the creeps. Does anyone know what has happened to them? The media these days can only report on the elections. Are Muthalik's men in jail? Or are they out? When will justice be meted out to them?

I was very happy to see condemnation by Pakistanis to the flogging. Here is the link to the way they have reacted - Check out another reaction at
Will the voices become vocal and strong for the government to reverse its pact with the Taliban powers that be? Have my doubts.

I loved the pink chaddi campaign in India. At least here, the women and men could try and shame the goons. It was action by the public, to show Muthalik and his ilk what we thought of them.

Okay, so the Swat society decided the woman had to be punished for something that is a crime in their eyes. A large group of men stood and just watched. Her brother was among those who participated in flogging her. But what about the man she was with? Is it okay for him to step out of the house with a woman not his wife? Will not the same punishment be meted out to him?
Now, how can one even ask a question like this!

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

If you want to be healthy learn to express

These slides contain tips from a Brazilian doctor, Drauzio Varella, to keep you healthy.The mind has a lot to do with your state of health. If you are happy, you will be healthy, you feel so good and energised. The feeling is wonderful. But if you are depressed, everything seems to go wrong with your body. I am no doctor but I have seen it work in my life. The happiest years of my life have also been the healthiest...
These slides were sent to me by a friend who was a budding sportswoman and in the prime of her life met with an accident that left her paralysed.
She is a woman of immense courage and great wisdom. Ten minutes in her company and the statements she makes get you thinking about life. Why are we here? What is our role on Mother Earth? Why was I born?
What I have learnt from her is how to keep your spirits high in the face of immense hardship. And find meaning and happiness in life....
And for that, it is so important that one learns to express...Being able to talk, write, paint your feelings make you healthier. It is true. Try it.

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Crime and Punishment

Incest can't be punished in India. The incestuous fathers will have to be tried for rape. By not having laws to deal with particular crimes, is a society's way of choosing not to see the crime. For at the root of it all is the so called sanctity of the family. An Indian family. And it raises uncomfortable questions and the society would rather not accost them. So pretend it does not exist.

It is the same with the media. If the media takes note of an issue it is an issue. If it chooses to ignore it, it becomes a non issue. There are so many non issues for the media today. For it chooses not to talk about them.

Friday, 27 March 2009

Is the internet the new age shrink, guru and what have you

There is something about the internet. The anonymity that it offers to those who wish to remain so, and still seek out information, advice, or even give info and advice....

A young woman sexually exploited by her father, mother! and a former neighbour for nine long years, finally broke her silence and came out in the open telling her uncle about her ordeal. What made her do it was a friend on the net, who advised her to break free. Kudos to the friend. The journalists still do not have his name; all that we know is that he is a married man and gave her some very sound advice.

The 21-year-old could not tell anyone of her ordeal…suffering in silence… We learn that she did not study beyond  Class 10 as her father did not let her continue with her education. But as he needed her to help him with his number plate design business, he taught her how to work the computer.

And she found a friend online, who we are informed she has never met. When her parents (her mother was an active accomplice) pushed her younger sister into having sex with their once-upon-a time neighbour Rathod, the older girl was very upset. She did not want her young sister to go through the misery she had been through for all these years. She told her friend on line who advised her to come out. And she did.

The story has a sequel. Seeing the coverage of the sordid tale set in Mumbai on the television, a college girl in Amritsar, sexually abused by her father (incidentally a political leader!!) took courage and went to the police.

The two instances show the power of modern communication tools. Subjects which were kept hidden, to be brushed under the carpet or in dark family closets, can now be brought out into the open, debated and discussed. If it had not been for the net and the TV, the girls would probably never have been able to speak against the beasts they had as their fathers.

The stories of incest are now appearing on the front pages of newspapers. I remember while doing a study on women and their portrayal in the media a good nine years ago, I came across a shocking news item - A judge in India actually gave a reprieve to a rapist, for he felt that the man was needed at home as he had daughters who were of marriageable age and his presence was necessary for their marriages to be arranged! And there was no public outcry against this insane decision. Not a word appeared in the papers against this mad judge. I wondered at the horror of it all. Wouldn’t the girls have been better off with the rapist father behind bars?

But such subjects were rarely discussed those days.

When Anuja Gupta, set up RAHI Foundation to help victims of incest around the same time, many of us marvelled at her for taking on such a tough task. How would she reach the victims? Or would they come to her?

Anuja’s organisation has been helping many young and old women who have survived incest. She was the one who told me, “Do not call them victims, they are survivors….”

We can only applaud the two young women survivors for speaking out against incest. It must have been terribly hard… The internet made it possible.

After all that courage that it takes for a girl to speak out, the support structures are so inadequate. This is an example of how the police and our law deals with such cases, making it all the more tough for girls to speak out.

Friday, 20 March 2009

Bye, Bye Tanchoi

I saw the most gorgeous saree a quarter of a century ago in a plush New Delhi silk house. Finely woven silver grey threads spread themselves
effortlessly in a delicate floral, mind-capturing jaal design over rich maroon. I reached out to feel its rich texture, truly mesmerised. It was my introduction to the royal Tanchoi, the special woven silk from Uttar Pradesh. Soon a mother-daughter duo was by my side. I knew they coveted the saree from the look in their eyes. The mother announced "We will take it." "I was looking at it first," I announced. "Sisterji", said the salesman, "I have so many other sarees... See this one, this one..." I dug into my purse to pay him and said, "But I want this one." It cost about a thousand rupees. I found, to my horror, that I was falling short. "Here, you keep this money. I will be back tomorrow with the rest and take the saree," I told him. "We will pay you all the amount right now," said the duo thrusting the money into his hands. I wasn't letting go of it that easily. We soon marched to the owner and he agreed to keep the saree for me.

I still love the way it falls and feels 25 years down the line, with its sheer elegance and style. I marvel at the craftsman or woman who would have woven the magic, his or her heightened sense of design and colour, whenever i catch a glimpse of it in my cupboard. I found fakes in Sarojini Nagar market two years ago and knew then that the wonder saree fabric was in trouble. The shopkeeper informed me that the mechanised form was from China. I found a reputed saree house from South India, whose name is synonymous with the best of silk, stacking the fakes in its new upmarket South Delhi showroom and realised just how serious the trouble was. Oh what a fall! Were there no takers for the original? Something a friend said made me weep. She had recently returned from Varanasi, having met people who once worked the magic in gossamer silk threads, the master weavers. The mechanised fakes have spelt doom. Who will spend thousands now, when the machine-made variety is available for a mere fraction? The weavers have turned rickshaw-pullers. It has taken just a couple of years to reduce a centuries-old flourishing, artistic industry into nothingness. Will it be bye, bye, Tanchoi forever? Will no fiscal or other packages come to its rescue? Those hands that steer the rickshaw must get back to the loom.

The article first appeared in the March 20,2009 edition of the TImes of India.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Four women in search of a future

Creativity killed, Talent murdered, Growth stunted
By Shree Venkatram

This is the story of four brilliant students: Shivani, Tara, Tanvi and Anita, who passed out of school in 2004. Their names have been changed, for their story is being told without their permission. They are all at the exciting age of 21 years, getting ready to claim the world. Unfortunately, something has gone terribly wrong.

Shivani was the head girl of her school. Bright, extremely creative, she scored well in her school exams and got into a leading college, counted among the top ten in India. She became an active member of the college’s dramatic society, then its secretary and in the final year was its President. She wrote, produced and directed plays, winning acclaim at inter -college festivals. She received an invitation to perform one of her plays in Pakistan.

She spent a summer vacation equipping young people in the slums of Delhi to bring out wall newspapers. She worked with them on their writing skills and taught them how to draw and paint. She spent another holiday brightening up the lives of little children in a slum. Every day for two months, in the gruelling heat of Delhi summer, she jumped over the garbage heaps and drains to put the children, a few years younger than herself, through rehearsals to produce a lively play, that gave the parents and the community an evening of colour, joy and laughter.

She was keen to build on her creative talent, and applied for a post-graduate degree course in mass communications specialising in film making at a university in Delhi. Her name did not figure even on the list of those called for a first-round interview. India had said “No” to a person of her calibre. She is now preparing for CAT (Common Admission Test) conducted by the Indian Institutes of Management. She might get in, chances are she might not, for her aptitude lies elsewhere. But one thing is definite: A budding film maker has been stymied, throttled.

Tara went to one of India’s best schools and made it to a leading college. Her results have been brilliant. She writes lyrics, composes music and plays in an all-girl band. Highly motivated and creative, she brought out a campus newspaper, conceptualising it, putting it together, seeking ads and then selling it, along with a bunch of students.

She too had sought admission to the same course in mass communications. She too failed to make it. I do not have her reaction, but the people who know her are dumbfounded. Why are such brilliant students failing to secure seats to institutes of higher learning? Have reservations taken over to such an extent that promising students are being turned away?

Tanvi had set her heart on medicine. A conscientious student, she had scored well in school. So keen was she on pursuing medicine that she took a year off to prepare for the Pre-Medical entrance examination. While other girls her age caught the latest films, hung around with friends, and took vacations, she sat through special classes and took the medical entrance exam. India denied her a seat. But many aspirants, way down in the list from her, made it. Two of them were her classmates. She says while in school she was not even aware that they belonged to a ‘backward category’. Their parents were high-ranking bureaucrats and politicians. The children owned the latest gadgets, wore branded clothes and came to school in chauffer driven cars.

She lost a year, but what is worse, she lost the belief that hard work gets you what you want. She learnt that modern day India sacrifices merit. Embittered and disgusted, at the age of 18 she sought admission to a regular BA course.

While still in school, Anita volunteered her Friday evenings and Saturdays to teach at a neighbouring school for disadvantaged children. In college, she spent time with an NGO working for women in mental trauma. She entered an international competition and her entry, based on the work she had done, got selected. At the age of 19, she had the distinction of being published in the leading medical journal of the world. She coordinated the women’s development cell of her college and got interested in pursuing a course in development studies. She applied to two prominent British universities well known for their development studies course, and a leading Indian institute that began a course in development studies this year. The British universities gave her admission. But her parents, neither rich nor in politics, could not afford the fees. The Indian institute said “No” to her. Disheartened, she entered another stream. India has lost a caring individual who wanted to learn and work in the field of development.

Where do we go from here? Are we going to let talent waste like this? Are we going to let our politicians lead us this way?

Wake up India! Let us not do this to our best talent, to our most creative youngsters. Let us not kill hopes, but nurture them. Let us set up more quality institutes of higher learning. Though there are many fly by night institutes proclaiming to teach mass communications and charging exorbitant fees, why is it that we have only a couple of quality institutes? And what logic is there for reserving seats in courses that build on creativity? Can creativity ever be reserved?

Isn’t it ironical that 60 years after Independence we continue to look West to deliver our people from poverty and want? What kind of education policies do we have that we have not been able to set up departments of development studies in all our universities? Why are there only one or two institutes offering a postgraduate course in development studies with almost 50 per cent of the seats being reserved?
India needs to assiduously build its pool of talent. It needs to nurture its young socially committed youngsters. And it needs to do so very badly.

The article first appeared in the Indian Express.
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