Wednesday, 31 December 2014

My favourite photo of 2014: Women scientists celebrate at ISRO

My favourite photo of 2014:  Women scientists from the Indian Space Research Organisation celebrate after successfully putting spacecraft Mangalyaan into the Mars orbit.
Loved their smiles and shared their joy! We are told 20 per cent of the employees at the space research organisation are women. Forty-four year old Nandini Harinath, physicist and a mother of two, was the person who operated the spacecraft between Earth and Mars, as the deputy operations director of the mission.
To see an interesting contrast between NASA and ISRO, log into a post by Melanie Meadors at

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Mary Kom worth watching

Mary Kom another wonderful Bollywood film. Loved it! Its story line, its character portrayal, the settings...all commendable. Fine acting by  Priyanka as five times World Boxing Champion and Olympics winner M.C. Mary Kom, and Darshan Singh as Onler Kom, her husband. The film moves at great pace and before you know, it is the end. Over two hours of action and not a dull moment!

And what wonderful role models both Mary Kom and Onler make for our youngsters. Mary as a young woman who has taken up boxing, and her husband, as a supportive partner who offers to look after the babies while she trains to re-enter the boxing ring after pregnancy and childbirth, and gets ready to compete. I have not seen such inspiring figures, such powerful role models for our youngsters in a long long time. And ones that break the stereotypes for both men and women!

I am very dismayed to learn that the film has not yet been released in Manipur, Mary Kom's home state. There is a ban on Hindi films there by a militant group. And while the people of Manipur are travelling to neighbouring states to see the film, theatre owners in the state dare not screen the film and face the wrath of the militants. Also read that Onler is trying his best to get it released there. He has been in touch with the Chief Minister's office. Now imagine having to knock at the CM's door to have a film released about the national figure who has done her state and the country proud. What knots we tie ourselves in!

Then I hear, that there is some controversy over why the character of Mary Kom was not played by a Manipuri actress. It does not have to. In fact, it is good that it was played by a Punjabi from Meerut (if I am correct about Priyanka's origins). Cinema is an art form and no art form should be restricted or be restrictive. I thought Priyanka did justice to the role and so do Mary and Onler!

There is criticism and with reason about the north-east being left out from national mainstream. The rest of India knows so little about the north east. This is one film that is a giant step in changing that through the story of one of its best known face. I saw the hall full when I went to see it in Delhi. The audience largely youngsters, seemed to have loved it. Manipur should welcome the film. Screen it in schools and colleges as should the rest of India. It is not often that we get a film like this! Great job by its director, Omung Kumar and producer, Sanjay Leela Bhansali. 

Monday, 11 August 2014

We need more men like them

Well done! It is great that some Indian men have started voicing that Indian women have it bad because of Indian men! Watch this powerful video: India would be a great place for women if we had more men like them! Thank you guys!

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Violence is NOT Glamour!

I cant get over this! We must be really depraved if violence starts to inspire us. I am shocked and very saddened by this fashion shoot. I am giving you the link:

I refuse to put any of the photos from this shoot on my blog for they are all downright offensive.They stink! I enjoy fashion. I sincerely believe fashion has to be elegant, it has to be artistic, it has to appeal. But the way it is portrayed by the designer/photographer makes me want to throw up. Yuk!  And the man actually seems proud of his creation! He does not think he has done anything wrong.

This fashion shoot falls in the same category as the Ford ad, the Japanese rape game videos and their ilk that sink so low as to use violence on women for game, fashion and sale purposes. And I would go as far as to say that the creator of this shoot, some Shetye, is as bad as a rapist. Do you agree?

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Living with cancer in India

Number of cancer cases in India predicted to double in next 20 years

India reports about one million new cases of cancer every year. India is on the verge of a cancer epidemic, states a report in The Economic Times: 
I was one among the million cases last year. It was one late August evening in 2013, I learnt that I have cancer.  I had been feeling normal: I went to work, drove the car, carried heavy bags filled with groceries, was regular about my walks, could go through a long action-packed day with energy.. It was pain in the region of my left ovary for about three days that drove me to the gynaecologist, who after an examination sent me for an ultra sound test.

The technician at the ultrasound clinic announced it in a most matter of fact way: "You have a tumour." I was referred to an oncologist. And as I walked into the Cancer Centre, I knew my life had taken a sharp turn. Though I knew next to nothing about cancer, my heart was filled with dread. The word had such a sinister ring to it.

When I met the oncologist, I told him how scared I was walking into the Centre. He smiled and said, "What would you like us to do? Change the name?" I did not have an answer to that then. I do not have one today.

I used to skip articles on cancer, or change the channel when I came across a talk on the subject. I was fit and healthy and never imagined cancer could strike me. But today, I read everything on it that I come across. And in doing so, I realise that though modern medicine has advanced, there are many many areas for which it has no answers yet...I also realise how vulnerable we all are. Cancer can strike anytime...anyone. Even children.

On this page I will post links to articles and sites that I find informative and useful. Though there is a lot being written about the subject abroad, I will restrict myself to the scene in India. If you have landed on this page looking for some information, I hope you will not be disappointed. Do comment and share links to useful sites. 

What causes cancer?  Discovering the answers
Low vitamin D levels in body linked to cancer, heart disease
Number of cancer cases in India predicted to double in next 20 years

Punjab is becoming a hotspot of cancer cases in India. Is the culprit high pesticide use?  

Cancer drugs

Govt mulls cancer drug patent waiver


For women in Navi Mumbai - Reflect and connect 

Pets and cancer

Dogs can smell out cancer!

Dress well, it helps!

Look good with no hair -

See this - a new fashion statement for those suffering hair loss from chemotherapy. Henna, bindis and jewellery - a very Indian look. Click here for the amazing lovely look!

Monday, 14 April 2014

Condone rape, mar the development of society

The recent statements by two Samajwadi Party leaders, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Abu Azmi on rape are a direct slap on the face of the Indian women.

The Indian Constitution has given Indian women an equal status. But Mulayam declared on April 10, as India was getting ready to go to polls, that it was unfair to award death penalty to rapists for their 'mistake'. Mulayam, who has been chief minister of Uttar Pradesh and the defence minister of India, is the leader of Samajwadi Party that is currently ruling in the state. Speaking at a election rally in the town of Moradabad, he promised to bring about changes in the tough anti-rape law if his party comes to power in the 2014 general elections. Read the full story here. It was his terming rape as ‘a mistake committed by boys’ that had women fuming.

Abu Azmi went a step further. He called for punishing a woman who is raped! He is reported to have said the following when a reporter asked him for a solution to the problem of rapes: "Solution is this: any woman if, whether married or unmarried, goes along with a man, with or without her consent, should be hanged. Both should be hanged. It shouldn't be allowed even if a woman goes by consent." For more on Azmi's comment, click on the link. Later, after facing the ire of women’s organisations and some political parties, he retracted. By that time his son had come out with a statement citing a generation gap between senior members of the party and others who were of the view that a rapist deserved strict punishment. But that was a little too late. The message of what the leaders stand for had been made loud and clear.

When rape is termed a 'mistake' by boys and men, it completely negates the enormity of the crime that is known to scar a woman for life. At the same time, the blame is put squarely on the woman for the crime. Mulayam Singh Yadav epitomises this mindset that treats girls and women as second class citizens, as commodities and puts boys and men at a pedestal, worthy of special treatment.

With their utterances, Azmi and Mulayam join a chain of men in positions of power, whose statements keep the women subjugated and shackled in a society that is already heavily biased against the woman. In fact, these statements can be said to lead to greater violence against the female of the species, not just physical and mental, but that which stifles her very existence: rising number of female foetuses being aborted, neglect of the female child, poor literacy and education levels, poor participation in the organised workforce.

Statements like these negate the work of many individuals and organisations which have been trying very hard to bring about a change in the status of Indian women. When a common person finds a leader endorsing such a view, he is only emboldened, and once again the notion that a woman can be treated any way one wants, reverberates through the society.

The woman has traditionally been blamed for the violence on her. Rape has been used to keep women subjugated, ensuring that they do not step out of the many restrictions imposed on them: of dress, of behaviour, of their place in society, of being second to men. It was after decades of silence and inaction that the rape law was made stringent. It was a gang rape of horrific proportions in a bus moving on the roads of South Delhi, the most affluent of India’s neighbourhoods, that shook the nation and finally saw a lax law getting some teeth.

Before that, India had seen some of the most inane judgments on rape. A former Chief Justice was quoted as stating that a victim should be allowed to marry the rapist, a throwback to some medieval practice. The Bombay High Court actually reduced punishment for a man convicted of sodomising a 10-month-old girl baby, accepting his contention that he lost control over himself as he was living away from his family! Click here for the full story. Panchayats have let off rapists with punishments like five shoe smacks, and small fines, sending a message that rape is not a big crime.

And now, we have these statements by men from a party dominant and in power in one of the most backward states in the country: Uttar Pradesh. The state performs poorly on all social indicators like maternal mortality, child sex ratio, age at marriage, nutrition for women, life expectancy, education and workforce participation, and a rising crime graph.

It is important for women to feel secure in the knowledge that they matter, that any injustice done to them will be dealt with, that they are not second class citizens but enjoy the same status as men in the country, in society and in their families. Only then will there be progress.

You might like to read an earlier article by me in The Tribune -

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

India is FINALLY changing

Queen: One of the best Hindi films I have even seen. No melodrama, no dancing around trees, no bizarre clothes, no overdressed painted heroine and best of all a hero who is no hero! The film has never a dull moment, plenty of laughs, touches your heart and makes you feel good. It is the first film of Kangana Ranaut that I have watched. She has put up a great convincing act of a middle class Punjabi girl discovering herself. Lisa Hayden looks stunning and does her role so well. Rajkumar Rao, the anti-hero is superb. I could not believe that I was watching a convincing Hindi film FINALLY!  And that a film like this can draw the crowds! WOW! And how! 

It is still sinking in that India is changing.

And then there is this ad. What a shaadi (marriage)! Bridal jewellery being sold by a woman getting remarried. Hold! The bride has a child. Wait! the bride has a GIRL child. I  loved the ad - courageous, bold and yet, very Indian!

Congratulations to Vikas Bahl for a pathbreaking film and to Gauri Shinde for a great ad!

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Surviving and enjoying Delhi: A guide for foreign women travellers to India

15 safety tips for foreign women travellers to India - From a woman who grew up and lives in Delhi, one of the most hostile cities for women 

Recent cases of rape and harassment of female tourists are scaring women from visiting India. Tourist numbers have fallen, more so of women travelling alone. Do not let these instances put you off from visiting and discovering India. 

India is a country like no other – unique, culturally rich, with strong religious roots, philosophically overpowering, with hoary traditions, a medley of colours, smells, many culinary traditions, a rich cultural heritage, exquisite dances, many musical forms, stunning sculptures, gorgeous textiles, rich embroideries, skilled crafts…. 

Delhi, its capital is equally exciting. It is a city like no other. It has great old monuments, dating back thousands of years. It is a city that lives history. Every day. History is part of Delhi life: Old Fort, Qutub Minar, Red Fort, Humayun’s Tomb, Lodhi Gardens, Mughal Gardens (if you come at the right season to see them in their glory), India Gate, Rashtrapati Bhavan…. It has some great bazaars and markets where you can spend hours shopping or just looking at the wares….Chandni Chowk, Dariba Kalaan, Sarojini Nagar, Janpath, Lajpat Nagar ….. And if you can stomach it, sample Delhi’s culinary traditions at Paranthewale Galli, Old Delhi, Pandara Road market …
Discovering Delhi                 Photo by Naveen Sarma  Protected by copyright
Discovering Delhi          Photo by Naveen Sarma Protected by copyright

All this can be yours to discover and enjoy provided you follow some safety precautions: 

1. While walking on the pavements, do not make eye contact with a stranger. Ditto at a restaurant. Men here could mistake it for an invitation. And then you could have a louse making your life miserable. 

2. While walking, chose the side where you can see the traffic come in your direction. Do not walk in the direction of the flow of the traffic. There have been instances of women being pulled into vehicles. As long as you can see what is coming in front of you, you can be on your guard. 

3. People here do stare. On the roads and public places you will encounter men who have little or no education and are not exposed much to foreigners. So someone who dresses differently attracts attention. Preferably wear trousers, long skirts or an Indian dress like a salwar kameez. Do not display your legs or wear deep necklines. Men here can’t handle them! Though this dress code is no guarantee that you will not be pawed or groped, you will certainly attract less attention to yourself. And with it less of the leering men. 

4. Do not ask strangers, especially single men or a group of men, for directions. It is best to seek out a family group or a cop in that order of preference. 

5. Avoid walking on deserted, badly lit stretches. Or taking an auto or taxi through one. Always keep to the main road, avoid bylanes. Keep a map handy. And the name, address and telephone numbers of the place you are staying in and of local contacts you may have. 

6. In case you find someone stalking you, seek out a group of women, or a family group and tell them about it. Women will understand your problem. Indian families do go out of their way to help. But do seek out young and smart women. Older women steeped in tradition, could be just too shy to respond or may not speak English. 

7. In case someone touches you inappropriately, yell and attract attention. Carry and use a pepper spray. Do not be scared of using your voice. It is your best defence. Most of the time you will find the creep sauntering away. 

8. You may even have strange men coming up to you and saying hello. Do not feel compelled to reply. Do what Indian women would do – Ignore them. Pretend you never heard and carry on with what you were doing. And if a strange man waves at you, please do not wave back. You may be inviting unwanted attention. 

9. When you check into a hotel room, do ensure that all door and window bolts are in working order. You should be able to lock yourself in. See that the windows are barred, to rule out any intruder entry. Your door should have a safely chain or a peephole. 

10. In a hotel room, keep the door open when a waiter or house staff enters. Station yourself near the door till the attendant has finished the job he has come for. 

11. Do not accept food from strangers. It could be laced with drugs. 

12. Always note down the number of the autorickshaw or taxi you use. And pass it on to a local contact loudly so that the driver hears it. 

13. Do not share the front seat of the taxi or auto with the driver. It is not done in India. Use the back passenger seat. By sharing the driver’s seat you send out a wrong signal. 

14. Be selective and discerning about taking up invitations to people’s homes while trying to make friends. Meet and get to know your new friends in a public place. 

15. Do not give the impression of being too friendly or approachable. It is better to be aloof and safe. If you find a hotel staff member or the owner getting too friendly move out to another hotel. 

Some of my friends and I have decided to offer local guide services to women travelling alone or in small groups to discover Delhi. In case you are interested you could get in touch with me at - . 

Alexis Lai,a journalist at’s Hong Kong bureau has this to say about her travels in India - Should solo female travelers avoid India?
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