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Thought and Reason

From London to Uttarakhand – Journey of a Social Entrepreneur

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Empower her, help her taste Independence!

Ever imagine giving up city life (in the heart of London!) and relocating to an isolated village deep in the hills, where even electricity and roads are a luxury? Not many people can do it. I certainly couldn’t! But one particular woman – Saritha Thomas – has made this arduous journey from London to Uttarakhand, with the sole intent of achieving independence and empowerment of rural communities! Who is this gutsy Social Entrepreneur, and what does she do? Read on to find out.

The beautiful community

Community Radio – a quick background

Radio was a part of my childhood (and perhaps yours too?) I remember our family tuning into radio every day, even during rushed school mornings. One niche area of radio is ‘Community Radio’ – radio fully owned and managed by the local community that it serves. In cities, Community Radio (CR) might not be popular, however in villages, CR assumes great significance. Villages and less empowered areas in India and across the world obviously do not have access to the mind-boggling medium that we call the Internet. Mobile networks are more prevalent in India, even in rural areas. This is where Community Radio stations can come handy. Villagers can create programs that address issues that directly impact them, not just entertain but also educate and thereby empower.

But where do they go to build their own radio station? Radio stations cost money, licensing procedure and other long-winded formalities. But once a Community Radio station is set up and is fully operational, the benefits to the community are both immediate and enormous!

Achieving Independence at the Grassroots level 66 years later!

This is what Saritha Thomas, Founder/Director of People’s Power Collective is trying to achieve through her NGO. With a fantastic background of 13 years in Radio (including the BBC), Saritha gave up her regular industry job, undertook a program at the School for Social Entrepreneurs (SSE) in London and subsequently founded People’s Power (Participatory Ownership Empowerment) Collective, a charity that works towards setting up a community owned radio station from scratch. Saritha’s aim is three-fold:

  • Stay on the field (Uttarakhand being her first project) with her team, undertake extensive ground-work in order to set up the radio station from scratch (including licensing, etc)
  • Train the local community in technical and functional aspects of running the radio station, including how to record and air programs, thereby helping them achieve true Independence
  • Empower the community by helping them find their voice!
Disappearing roads!

Saritha and team were infact on the field in Prithviraj Nagar, during the recent Uttarakhand disaster caused by unprecedented rains in June 2013. They were in the process of research and recording programs when rains battered the villages and caused massive devastation. Team PPC stayed on the field, and supported the community battle nature’s fury. One can’t help but think, if the Community Radio station was already in place, the villagers could have perhaps been forewarned about the calamity that was about to strike them. Or atleast have continuous and accurate information about the extent of damage and accessibility of relief camps!

A special salute on Independence Day

While Saritha and team help the community at Uttarakhand build their lives again, I would like to take this opportunity to salute my friend, this strong woman who has indeed sacrificed so much, so she can achieve her dreams for empowerment of communities in rural India.

Being an entrepreneur is not for the light-hearted. Being a social entrepreneur is an even bigger challenge as personal gains or profits are not the driving force here. What keeps the spirit of People’s Power Collective alive is the passion and commitment towards the cause of Empowerment and Independence itself. One can easily see how passionate Saritha is about her selfless dream to build a Community Radio station. I have worked with her closely over the last year, and can vouch for a fact she is incredibly passionate about what she is doing in Uttarakhand.

Saritha Thomas with the local community that will ultimately benefit from their own community radio station

What started off as a little idea in Saritha’s mind, has now taken shape and is throbbing and pulsating in a rural village, waiting to unleash its power across the community in a way they never imagined would impact them.

To put it simply, as Saritha says, People’s Power Collective is ‘helping 150000 people find a voice’. This community radio station project will generate employment in the local villages and will help build technical skills and confidence of even the vast illiterate sections of the community. Having their own radio station would mean they connect with each other in a more structured and effective way.

To me, this voice of empowerment is the sign of real Independence.

So here’s a special salute to the woman behind this lesser known cause. Here’s to an highly talented and admirable Social Entrepreneur – Saritha Thomas. More power to you, Saritha (People’s Power Collective).

Written for the Indiblogeshwaris Ladies Independence Special Contest in association with http://womenentrepreneursinindia.com/

Categories
Thought and Reason

Please Give 40000 families a voice!

Hola People,

First, listen to this AWESOME trailer of ‘Mountain Echoes’

And now, I’ll come to the point!!

Villages/rural areas in India are hardly connected the way we are. There is no question of Internet/Google/Facebook. They live in a ‘media dark’ area.

One really strong medium of communication is RADIO. It changes the way people live. Local radio stations, in particular, address local needs, local information/entertainment/education/etc. and bring about social change in many ways.

Lots of rural communities are incredibly passionate about making Community Radio happen, but are strapped by funds and lack of technical know-how.

My college friend, Saritha Thomas – who has a strong background in Radio – has set up a NPO called People’s P.ow.er Collective, that will help rural/isolated communities build and run their own Community Radio station.

In 2013 they will be building a Community Radio station FROM SCRATCH in Uttarakhand.

We are fundraising for this project, and ANY contribution from you would be awesome!!!!

Even the littlest amount that you can spare would go a long way. You will be helping 150000 people find a ‘voice’ that would influence their lives in a great way.

So please, please do contribute. Even the tiniest amount would do.

To donate from India: visit our page on Wishberry
To donate from UK/other countries: visit our page on Buzzbnk
And please, help spread the word. If you are a blogger and are reading this, then would you consider helping by adding a Widget in your blog?
Thank you SO much, folks!!!
Categories
Thought and Reason Incidents

Sizzling South Indian Mela(m)

It is always tricky to plan weekends here, thanks to the lovely British weather (by the way, I do like cold n grey weather!). The last weekend was thankfully sunny, though a little chill. That didn’t deter us from making a quick trip to see what the South Indian Melam (an initiative by ‘INDIA NOW’) was all about. Actually, blame the TV adverts for luring us to it! All those pictures of steaming hot dosais/vadai, and ofcourse the cultural events 🙂 (lest I sound too shallow ;-)) were so inviting!

We reached the Mela venue by around 2 pm, and had originally planned to leave in a couple of hours, but ended staying till the very last show, which was a completely dhamakedaar performance by Shiamak Davar‘s team in London. (Will come to that later, as one sentence in passing simply doesn’t do justice to the amazing performance that it was!)

We were greeted with a mellifluous rendition of ‘Vaishnava Janato‘. Sadly, there was no encore 🙂 The compère Ms.Ambika, conducted a lovely little music exercise with all the children. There must have been atleast 20-30 participants, who sang along to Sa-Re-Ga-Ma with gusto.

It was a delight to hear, and an eye-opener too, about an art that we must not let die, but instead try to pass on to the future generations.

There were more performances – vocal, Bharatnatyam, etc. (I can’t review those as I’m not much of an art connoisseur) and an impressive ‘Kalari Payattu‘ performance too, that the boys were particularly interested in!

There weren’t as many ‘stalls’ as one expected. However, there was a great little massage offered at very reasonable prices. Another hot-dog/fries/coffee booth, that served awesome french-fries at delightful prices 😉

The stall for the ‘Save the Tiger‘ campaign, in my opinion, could have benefited with more prominence. The Diabetes UK team was strategically placed a few stalls away from the one with the droolworthy hot South Indian food 🙂

State Bank of India who were one of the Sponsors, held an exciting Raffle contest, with the prize being an iPad!!! Sadly, the winner of the raffle wasn’t around. Sigh!!! I wish…er.. never mind!)

Hot Dosai in the making… and different varieties of chutney to go with it… yummm…

Needless to say, the ‘food’ staff, hosted by Turmeric Spice (I hope I got the name right!), saw an endless queue 🙂 And it was well worth the wait. We ordered hot dosais and simple yet delicious lemon rice!

As they say, the best things in life come to those who wait! The last event was a Bollywood dance performance. I wasn’t expecting much, and the delay was putting me off.

However, when the troupe finally arrived, they took us by storm!!! The Shiamak Davar team in London pulled off a spectacular performance, making even the audience dance to the tunes of Chikni Chameli and Chammak Challo!

The compère /host, Rohan, did an OUTSTANDING job of drawing the audience into the performance.

Even the man behind the show, Mr.Manish Tiwari (Managing Director, Here&Now365) couldn’t escape grooving to the tunes of Chammak Challo 🙂

The audience learnt some easy steps, particularly some Shahrukh Khan motions, and the delightfully funny ‘nodding Indian head‘ 🙂 Team Shiamak had the entire audience spell-bound, and hungry for an encore (which again, they delivered beautifully).

We truly believed their quote – ‘Have Feet – Will Dance’. Add to that, they gave a gift voucher (‘free dance session’) for all the participants.

So, that was a truly scintillating finale to an exciting event.

Well done Team South Indian Melam 🙂 I think this was a good start, and do hope we see many more such events, that bring us closer to ‘home’ and help showcase our arts and culture.

Categories
Thought and Reason

Everyone needs a grandparent!

There’s no questioning it. Everyone needs a bit of pampering. A little love, much adoration 🙂 and even some unquestioned ‘authority’ that leads them to believe ‘they are the boss’. Who better for this role, than a grandparent?

We live miles (and miles!) away from home, but do head back once or twice a year. The bond between child and grandparent is simply beautiful. It does not matter that they have a 60-year-gap between them. It also doesn’t matter that they don’t always understand each other’s accent! Neither does it makes a difference whether they are communicating with each other or simply sitting in amiable silence, watching some crappy TV program.

Kids who receive absolute adoration from the grandparents are ‘blessed’ if you ask me! I think the admiration builds much confidence in them, and it lasts a lifetime. I remember reading these lines somewhere, sometime (but even Google isn’t able to retrieve it for me!): ‘if you have a heard a river in your childhood, it is likely that you will hear it all your life’. That’s the way it is when one is blessed with loving grandparents. I have had the fortune of having one adoring grandmum 🙂 Just thinking of her makes warms the cockles of my heart. Senility will catch up one day,and perhaps turn her into a nit-picking and grumpy lady 🙂 (I’m nearly there myself ;-)) but nevertheless, my love for her is just as unconditional as hers for me 🙂

Why is it that kids are relatively de-stressed with the grandparents around, as compared to the parents? Do we push them too much? Do we want them to be ‘perfect’ (despite not managing it ourselves?!) Or do we use their behaviour as a benchmark of our success as a parent?! Whatever be the reason, in general grandparents seem to share a better rapport with kids than do the parents. Their relationship is quite stress-free, with not much expectation or conditions from either side!

Let me also confess that I am a little envious of people who can leave the kids at the grandparents’ every now and then! Bringing up a child is quite a challenge. I would go so far as to say managing a career is easier than bringing up a child. Yes, every job is difficult, but the task of looking after a child beats them hands down! So if we have grandparents to sneak in and take the pressure off, that, is sheer heaven 🙂

Now that’s another fact that grandparents don’t always want to ‘look after’ the kids as their previous generations did! They enjoy doing this ‘part time’ 😉 but not as a full-time job, and I think they are right! Afterall, they have lived their entire life working really hard to bring us up and provide everything we needed! It ain’t quite fair to expect them to become full-time baby-sitters at this age. I wish more people realised it!! Having grandparents is a luxury that not many can afford!! So the ones that do, add this to your blessings 🙂 🙂

So here’s to all grandparents. No matter how loving/bitchy they are, or how generous/stingy they choose to be. And certainly, irrespective of whether they ‘look after’ our kids or ‘not’. Just ‘being there’ and ‘supporting our children’ is a blessing 🙂 whether we accept it or not.

Rant Warning:

On a related note, I find it annoying when people say going to India once or twice a year ‘is very lucky’.

Honestly, it is a choice! One chooses to either save money, buy property/jewellery/gadgets/etc and go on exotic holidays around the globe! Or one chooses to save every penny and travel 5000 miles to indulge one’s self in the familiar sights, sounds (read, cacophony!) and smells (er, anyone heard of Onyx?) of the home town. Now that calls for another post altogether!!

So all those lovely folks who say this to me again .. er.. please, please don’t!! Danke 🙂

Categories
Incidents Thought and Reason

Satyameva Jayate or SMS Jayate?

Picture this scene – A picture-perfect dutiful daughter-in-law decked in all her finery, casting pensive looks, while trying to outwit her wicked mother-in-law and bhabi-sa’s plots to entangle her in controversy. Add to it a jilted lover, a current husband (usually categorically abusive or passive and lovey-dovey!) and a motley collection of uncles/aunties, not to forget the endless fights and tears – Voila! You have an Indian television soap that is bound to rake in TRPs and some moolah for the next couple of years.

Now what hits Indian television with a breath of fresh air, nay, a powerful gust of wind is Aamir Khan‘s new programme ‘Satyameva Jayate‘ (meaning ‘Truth alone triumphs’). I don’t remember being ‘hooked onto’ television in a really long time. The last programme I watched religiously was ‘Hum Paanch‘! So one can imagine what a huge TV-serial-fan I am.

However, after hearing rave reviews on Facebook about ‘Satyameva Jayate’ and reading this particularly intriguing post by Raamesh, curiosity got the better of me, and I tuned into good ol’ Youtube to catch the first episode, that talked about female foeticide.

First of all, let’s give credit where it is due. Aamir and team have done a great job of

* Researching the topic on hand, gathering verified statistics about the gravity of the problem, and highlighting facts that hit you in the gut! For example, the fact that in some parts of India where female foeticide/infanticide has resulted in a very low sex ratio, women are being ‘bought’ to be wives and are being ‘shared’ and treated like a commodity by the men in the family!

* Getting real-life witnesses on board to come and share their experiences. Like Harish Iyer for example (who also featured in the very impactful and gut-wrenching CSA Campaign last year) who shared his painful past about child-abuse.

* And quite literally, doing a pious job of ‘trying’ to spread awareness about topics that are rarely discussed and often swept under the carpet. Yes, we are all quite aware of these issues (like female foeticide and child sexual abuse), but it is not a topic of everyday conversation. Neither do we take any aggressive action against it!

Edited to add: Take a look at this article that talks about the national child helpline being flooded with calls seeking help against abuse!

Kudos to the Satyameva Jayate team! I would any day have this on my TV, as compared to the barage of nonsense in the form of ‘family soaps’!

But what I found rather unsatisfactory about the programme was the ‘action items’.

The first two episodes have followed identical patterns. Aamir writes a petition to the government, Invites people to send SMSes to support the cause (proceeds go to charity), he solicits charitable contributions (again, this is matched by a big corporate, who ultimately get more publicity through the show!) And ofcourse, leaves us with an impactful dialogue about ‘change has to begin with YOU this MOMENT!’ 

I think this is a great start. But having said that, doesn’t this seem too lame and Bollywood-ish?

For instance, will the written petitions TRULY impact government policy? If yes, then Aamir and team, please – take a bow!

But if not, then it becomes a farcical piling on people’s collective emotions (more of guilt than of anything else!) and meagre monetary contribution that could easily be achieved from alternate means! For example, the Rs.3 crore that Aamir is rumoured to be charging per episode! Or perhaps a portion of the money that Reliance has pumped into IPL!!

The show makes it very easy for people to ‘contribute’ by sending an SMS. ‘Female foeticide’ / ‘child abuse’ –  no problem! One little SMS saying ‘YES’, and we have done our bit! We are also rid of guilt! Guilt of what crime??! Nobody knows. 🙄 Simply send that SMS and get back to party-ing!

I’m intrigued by this new wave of ‘SMS-Charity’ culture. To be fair, it is ‘some’ contribution to society in place of ‘nothing’. Not too bad, actually. But Imho, a barrage of SMSes may not successfully bring about social change! I think we need more solid action!

Also, it will be very interesting to find out if the money raised after each show is MEASURABLE?

On another note, I have no clue why Sri Devi gets a ‘standing ovation’ from the audience???!!! She is an actress, for God’s sake! Not a humanitarian!!! If anybody deserves a standing ovation, it is the ‘victims’ who dare to come out in the open and speak about their very painful experiences!!!

Ok, I am in technically no position to criticise the show. I haven’t sent that SMS saying ‘YES’ yet. And neither have I donated any money online.

But tell you what? These are my 2 cents on how one could make this show more impactful.

1) Get those Criminals!

Don’t interview only the victims. Get hold of the perpetrators of the crime! Instead of asking the victim to describe the abuse/his emotions, focus on the abuser instead. If he refuses to appear on the show, try to catch him in a separate sting operation. And no discreet black masks for the abusers, please! Question and shame him in front of the country, so that neither he nor abusers like him continue this horrendous crime of child abuse! Talk to convicted criminals and show what sort of punishment is meted out for such crimes. Instil Fear (in the minds of potential criminals) and Hope (in the minds of victims/their families). And if the punishment isn’t sufficient, then interview the Judge who issued the ruling and find out WHY he/she did not think such gross crimes deserved more severe punishment. In short, SHAME the criminals, NOT the victims.

I have written about this in my earlier post on Aruna Shanbaug. We (media and masses) insist on shaming the victims and making their life hell, instead of grabbing the criminals and ensuring they don’t repeat their crime!

Some really strong action like this would take the show from a lame-Bollywood-entertainer to serious investigative journalism and an agent of social change!

2) Bollywood-crazy country!

We are a cricket and Bollywood-crazy nation, and we have no qualms about it! I’m sure Sri Devi increases TRPs of the show, and the organizers must need it, so the show makes complete business sense (in addition to social sense!) But for heaven’s sake, rope in some useful people on the show – police, politicians, judiciary .. invite a top Judge for example. Someone who is in a position to actually influence change in the country! Or if inviting a Bollywood celebrity, atleast get him/her to contribute say, a portion of the crores of rupees from his/her next film, to the same charity that the show is patronising!

3) Charity begins at Home!

Sending one little SMS and raising money for charity is quite creative. But honestly, charity begins at home. I would rather have Aamir try to influence the minds of the immediate audience, so they commit to something small but local, for example, sponsoring private education of their maid’s child! Or perhaps, teaching their servant-maid to read/write English. You see, these are the little things that will help our country grow.

4) Replace lifeless writ petitions with real-life commitments!

Instead of merely writing a petition to the Government, invite senior politicians to the show and hand over the petition in front of the country. In short, try to get any form of commitment in front of the public eye! It may or may not manifest in public policy change. But hey! Its worth a shot!

So people, enough of my criticism and rant. I honestly feel that the show is a great initiative, and at the risk of sounding repetitive, I would any day have this show on my TV.

But having said that, please feel free to share – what YOU would do, if YOU were producing ‘Satyameva Jayate’?

Categories
Incidents Thought and Reason

Good boys don’t watch porn!

So the last couple of days have been eventful! India won against Sri Lanka. Voting began in Uttar Pradesh. And three ministers from Karnataka resigned, amidst accusations of watching pornography during when assembly was in full swing!

TV news channels aired footage of the ministers Laxman Savadi (Minister for co-operation),  CC Patil, (Minister for women and children), and Krishna Palemar (Minister for ports) using a mobile phone to watch a porn clip.

Excerpt from Mumbai Mirror:

‘The two ministers, who were sitting next to each other, had no inkling that television cameramen had taken position in the gallery right above them. Savadi, bored by the speeches, began fidgeting with his cell phone. As cameras zoomed in, it could be clearly seen that a porn clip was playing on his phone. Patil then leaned towards Savadi and got completely immersed in what was on show.The duo watched the clippings for almost 10 minutes, with Savadi holding the cell phone under the table. They looked up only after the day’s proceeding ended.’

On being caught red-handed, the ‘honourable’ ministers came up with a host of explanations…

1)      Savadi claimed he was watching an incident of rape of a woman, not ‘porn’, to “prepare for a discussion [in the assembly] on the ill-effects of a rave party” in the state recently. (Well! Really?! But why DURING the session?)

2)      Savadi also claims the clip was of a ‘foreign woman’ and NOT a Bhartiya nari (‘Indian woman’). (Right! He was not watching an ‘Indian woman’ so he has clearly not offended Indian culture!)

3)      ‘I am not a criminal. It was not my phone’. (Reminds me of the lame excuses kids use at school!!)

4)      ‘We are not so uncivilised as to watch porn films’ –  CC Patil, minister for women and children. (So, only uncivilised people watch porn?!)

So what is the outrage all about?

1)      Gross misconduct

Is the problem ONLY with watching porn? I don’t think so. Many people watch porn (Wiki says – ‘More than 70% of male internet users from 18 to 34 visit a pornographic site in a typical month’).

Watching porn does not mean you are a ‘bad person’. ‘Good boys’ also watch porn! But the point is, when and where do you watch it? The objection is neither on feminist nor religious grounds, but on code of conduct and accountability!

Each session of assembly costs money – the tax payer’s money. Take a look at this article that talks about Parliament assembly disruptions costing Rs.2 crore per day!

Assembly (or ANY place of work, for that matter), has a code of conduct, rules and some basic responsibilities. Whether the ministers were watching porn or not, the question still remains – why were they doing it when the house was in session?! Even if we were to be as gullible as one can possibly imagine, and believe, for a second, that the ministers were indeed watching a gang-rape in order to prepare for a discussion, there is NO EXCUSE for doing it during working hours!

2)      Hypocrisy

Isn’t it surprising that people having the power and authority and who claim to be ‘moral police’ themselves often contradict themselves by their actions? Let’s look at the following examples.

Does the name ‘Pramod Muthalik’ ring a bell? Members of the Sri Ram Sena group had threatened to punish or marry off any young couples found together on Valentine’s Day. They were also the same thugs who had beaten up girls ‘in a pub’.

While people in power advocate ‘upholding Indian culture’ they resort to gross physical violence without batting an eyelid!!

Remember the controversial ‘Slutwalk’? Many groups of people in India protested ‘against’ the movement for its use of the word ‘slut’ as well as the thought of ‘women dressing like sluts’. Apparently, the movement was not allowed to take place in Karnataka, because it was ‘against Indian culture’! Excerpt from Times of India: “The vice-president of a women’s organization in Malleswaram called me and said that if any women were seen in skimpy clothing during the Slutwalk, they would be beaten with brooms”

On one hand, authorities ban a movement against rape, and on the other, they vicariously do the same by watching porn?!

Interestingly, on the lines of what Andhra Pradesh top cop said, Minister C C Patil had recently assumed the role of moral policeman, advising women to ‘know how much skin they should cover!’ so they can avoid getting raped – “I personally don’t favour women wearing provocative clothes and always feel they need to be dignified in whatever they wear.”

 

Makes one wonder, was the woman in the clip dressed inappropriately, perhaps ‘arousing’ the curiosity of an otherwise ‘civilised’ man?!!!

 

Such incidents only prove one thing – the sleaze is in the mind of the criminal/perpetrator! Therefore, instead of pretending to respect women and Indian culture (and then watching porn during an assembly session!), perhaps they should focus on being sincere in their work, for starters!

3)      New lows all the time!

For a country whose image has been severely tainted with scandals and scams, we seem to find new lows all the time!

BJP leader Manohar Parrikar has supposedly just said proclaimed:

“There are people all across the country who do worse things. Congress leaders have chopped women and burnt them in a tandoor…Then there was the Bhanwari Devi case (from Rajasthan). They (the three BJP ministers in Karnataka who resigned yesterday) were only watching and not doing it!!”

The three ministers are perhaps not the ‘first’ people to engage in this deplorable act, but they sure can be the last!

Why are our standards so low? In UK, ministers were forced to resign for over-claiming expenses. In India however, we live through a new scam each day! The 2G spectrum scam, Nira Radia tapes, Commonwealth games scam, Adarsh housing scam… the list is endless!!

AND YET, ALL IS FORGOTTEN.

We hit a new low each time. This is one such case!

The BIG question now is – What will India decide? Is resignation enough?

This link refers to the weaknesses of the cyber act, due to which the ministers CANNOT be booked by the cyber police!

Will the ministers receive any punishment at all? Or will they get away (as always), because as they claim, ‘good boys don’t watch porn’!!

Categories
Incidents Thought and Reason

Do fashionable girls invite rape?

Do fashionable girls invite rape?

IHM has written extensively about this topic, and there really isn’t much more than I can add. However, here are my two cents.

—–

In what seemed to be a re-enactment of the origins of the Slut Walk, Andhra Pradesh top cop Dinesh Reddy recently made a statement that ‘women who wear fashionable clothes provoke men, leading to increase in rape cases’. He indicated that modern and fashionable women are more prone to rape, BECAUSE of their inappropriate dressing. While many people were outraged, many others have applauded him on his courage!!

I lived in India for most of my life, and I can tell you for a fact, that EVEN IF YOU ARE COVERED FROM HEAD-TO-TOE you are still very much at the risk of being sexually abused.

For starters, how easy or difficult do you think it is for a woman to travel in a crowded bus without being touched inappropriately by a fellow passenger?! A young child, a teenager, a mother of two kids – nobody is spared. As long as one is a woman, she is likely to be molested at some point in time. Do you know how many middle-class woman living in Mumbai carry a sharp safety pin while travelling on a crowded local train? I was advised this ‘technique’ when I lived in Mumbai for a couple of months.

The groping, pinching and other lecherous behaviour that happens all the time, on our Indian roads and public transport is beyond a civilised person’s imagination!! To blame that sort of lecherous behaviour on the clothes of the victim sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it?

A potential rapist sees his victim as an object and nothing else. There are no statistics to prove that a woman wearing a modern dress is more likely to get raped as compared to a woman who is conservatively dressed.

This article (see link) talks about molestation statistics in our Capital city, New Delhi. Atleast one woman is molested EVERY DAY.

Are we really so naive as to believe that all those women who were molested or raped were dressed ‘inappropriately’ or ‘fashionably’?!

How about our villages? Those poor women are not dressed ‘fashionably’, and yet they suffer the humiliation and trauma of rape.

For a country that claims to treat women as ‘goddesses’, statistics surprisingly indicate an increasing amount of crime against women!!

Also, do read this shocking extract from http://www.thp.org/reports/indiawom.htm

‘In recent years, there has been an alarming rise in atrocities against women in India. Every 26 minutes a woman is molested. Every 34 minutes a rape takes place. Every 42 minutes a sexual harassment incident occurs. Every 43 minutes a woman is kidnapped. And every 93 minutes a woman is burnt to death over dowry.

One-quarter of the reported rapes involve girls under the age of 16 but the vast majority are never reported. Although the penalty is severe, convictions are rare.’

Let’s get to the ROOT of the problem.

This interesting link describing the various causes of rape

Every single reason for rape (lust/show of power/etc.) has entirely to do with the mindset of the rapist, and NOT the outfit of the victim.

The problem is not that girls are getting influenced by the West and/or are wearing fashionable clothes, thereby ‘provoking’ men.

Rape happens IRRESPECTIVE of the victim’s outfit and NOT BECAUSE of it.

If we take a step backward and analyse the situation, we find that our society is plagued by a strong ‘rape culture’.

Wiki defines this rape culture as:

‘a culture in which rape and sexual violence against women are common and in which prevalent attitudesnorms, practices, and media condone, normalize, excuse, or tolerate sexual violence against women.  Examples of behaviors commonly associated with rape culture include victim blaming, sexual objectification and rape apologism

As a society, we still tend to BLAME THE VICTIM. We believe that the victim is responsible, either directly or indirectly.

That way, we not only transfer the burden of rape on the woman, but also seek to excuse the rapist for his barbaric behaviour.

Statistics have not been able to prove the link between the victim’s outfits and incidence of rape. Please read an extract from this link ‘Through a Rapist’s Eyes’. Though this is applicable to the US, the underlying issue is very relevant to India too:

‘There is no data to suggest that a potential victim is at greater risk because of how she is dressed. Remember, 70-80% of assailants are known to their victim, so tactics of stranger rapists aren’t needed.’

More statistics only support the above statements by revealing that around 2/3rds of rape are committed by known persons rather than strangers!

Therefore, the point is – Rape is PREMEDITATED. To claim that a girl wore fashionable clothes, thereby provoking and INVITING rape is baseless.

And for those who really believe that covering ones’ self from head-to-toe protects you from rape, please do read this bold article.  Rape happens even with women who are completely covered behind a veil.

To be fair, I do understand that wearing revealing clothes might attract more attention in a country that is sexually repressed! But does that justify rape? NO. Rape is crime and you cannot simply BLAME the victim by the flimsy excuse that ‘she was wearing fashionable clothes’!

I think this comment on Yahoo beautifully sums it up: ‘A rapist has a totally different mindset. It’s much more sinister, because he is actually serious about his plans. And to a real rapist, the outfit probably doesn’t matter much at all’

The need of the hour is not guidelines on Indian women’s Dress Code, but concentrated efforts to get out of this gross rape culture.

There is no such thing as a ‘right to rape’!! The quicker we realise it, the better for us to evolve into a truly civilised society!

Please, do share your thoughts on this.

Categories
Thought and Reason

The Virtual world – Virtual or Real?

With many of us living a parallel life ‘online’, one wonders if this throbbing, invisible world is really virtual anymore?

I remember reading a chapter on ‘the Internet’ when I was in school, and quietly dismissing it thinking it was too ‘theoretic ’. I could not have been more wrong!!

Right from my cute 8-year-old neighbour in Chennai till 70-year-old retired school teacher aunty, almost every single person I know is alive and kicking in the Virtual world (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtual_world).

Facebook FeverFacebook, Twitter, Google wave (and many more!)… ‘being online’ is not merely a part of life, but a basic necessity for many! Facebook discussions, for example, are so real that I often find myself pondering the entire day about a single thought floating around somewhere in virtual space. Some people go so far as to claim their life has improved with being able to instantly gratify their need for friendship! We are so involved with the online world that it begins to affect our day-to-day life. We do things, go to places so we can tell the world we have done it. We argue, we strive desperately to show we are right, we eagerly seek approval.. and all this from a community that we do not ‘see’ but only ‘read’.

Media Mania (pic courtesy Hindustan times)

There is this nagging urge to make a strong online presence. It could start off with a completely useless discussion on New Year resolutions that you know will not see the light of day! Or RT-ing anything that Big B, Junior B, or Beti B say (or gurgle, as the case may be). Or even reading a controversial article and throwing barbs at the authors hiding behind a shield of anonymity.

One thing is certain – no matter what form our online participation takes, it is certainly assuming gigantic proportions. Statistics indicate that many Facebook users spend more time on Facebook than face-to-face with friends.

Basically, we do not live in one single world any more. There is this invisible, pulsating virtual world all around us, drawing us deeper and deeper each day.

I wouldn’t say it is a vice, though. Let’s take a look at the incredible benefits of our virtual world:

  • Pretend to be friends with @SrBachchan and go ga-ga about Beti B’s name
  • Find love in chat-rooms (Sure, that makes a great story to tell your grandkids!)
  • Golu (Pic courtesy Wikipedia)

    Valiantly keep Indian culture alive. Especially all those lovely NRIs living in the ‘aasum You-Yes-Yay’ who post photos of exotic Golu and drool-worthy Paniyaram!

  • Say NO to dieting and exercise. I mean seriously! All you need is Photoshop. And tada!! You have a . Throw on a pair of dark glasses, Copy-Paste Santorini in the background, and notice how easy it is to get ‘liked’ without the Kolaveri of sweaty gymming.

    Instant makeover (Pic courtesy home-make-over dot info)
  • Keep a watch on the better-half! You wonder why his SMS reads ‘stuck in boring office party’, when he is simultaneously ‘tagged’ realtime with some hotties via ‘HTC Wild fire for FB’ 😉

Keep an eye on that teenage cousin who wears two-plaits and goes to a girls-school, and quietly tip off her mom when some weirdo with spikey hair comments ‘Dat Pic Lukng Hawt’. Whatever, dude!
Find out what your retired dad is upto these days (even if you don’t really want to). Dirty Picture at xyz Cinema with abc’. Gulp! Shouldn’t Zuckerberg think of introducing an upper age limit on FB users?

  • Free campaigning for events and functions. All you need is an IIT/IIM based story, and Voila! you are the next Chetan Bhagat, and FB is under a deluge of your ‘book launch’
  • Forge great friendships and even greater enemies!
  • And best of all, you get all this for FREE!

All the same, we suddenly have many lurking dangers!

  • Trading Facebook for Treadmill. Er.. not a great idea, really!
  • At the risk of an anti-climax, most of those porn videos that you think are ‘Chi..chi!’ and then click when nobody is watching, are actually spam and could contain viruses. What is worse, the bleddy link does not even play a video afterall!!
  • Attack by virtual trolls. There seem to be an increasing level of aggression and barbed attacks by anonymous trolls who trade subjectivity for offensiveness. Actually, getting to watch a fight for free should go under ‘merits’ of social media, but then, it isn’t always pleasant, is it?
  • Identity theft – This is more common than we think. When I saw my mum receiving FB notifications, I wondered how a lady who refused point-blank to turn on a computer, suddenly got so tech-savvy. Duh! Someone had stolen her ID!
  • Mc Merry!!! (Pic courtesy www dot overgroundonline dot com)

    There is just no privacy! You can’t lie to your organization or school. Like, for example, you cannot bunk school and go to Inox or McDonalds, because somebody is always watching.

  • And what is worse… those annoying/boring/nevertheless curious folks you desperately try to avoid in real life, keep such close watch on you, its like having a personal Bodyguard
  • And on a serious note, considering the amount of time and effort you invest into social media, you really cannot estimate the value of ‘return’. Unless you consider ‘3 hrs per day on FB = 5 kgs gain p.a’.

Evidently, all these merits and demerits of the virtual world are quite tangible. Increasing awareness, thoughtful discussions, resultant mood swings(!), friendships, enemities, losses (of time) and gains (of weight!) are all real.

Can we still confidently draw the line between the online world and the real one?

Do we know when exactly a Facebook campaign suddenly gains huge momentum, facilitating a mass-protest in a country (eg., Egypt protests organized through Facebook and microblogging site Twitter)?

Pip pip Pippaaaa! (Pic courtesy telegraph dot co dot uk)

Why! We even saw a bunch of ‘real’ people who witnessed the Royal wedding and promptly went on to create a Facebook page for ‘Pippa Middleton Ass Appreciation Society’. The page has 241,492 fans!

We did not see this coming (And I don’t mean Pippa Middleton).

We did not realise when or how the virtual world became an integral part of the real one. When being ‘online’ changed from a one-off indulgence to a gnawing daily necessity! When the power of the online world began to threaten that of the real one. Or when thoughts floating around online started influencing mind-sets in the physical world.

What do you think? Is the Virtual world really virtual anymore? Or is it so real that it poses social and even political dangers to society?

Pic courtesy: Wikipedia

Perhaps we should ask Kapil Sibal!

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Cross-posted on the nri dot com)

 

Categories
Food and recipe Health n Fitness

Calling all lovers.. er.. ‘curry’ lovers!

There are lots of things different here in the UK as compared to India.

Like for example, many of us (Indian parents/grandparents) pride ourselves in saying our children are ‘Oh soooo naughtyyyy….’ whereas here ‘naughty’ indicates the kid is ‘bad’!

And when I say ‘tea’ I really mean the sweet, hot liquid with milk.. tea! Not the ‘London’ version of tea that means a nice evening snack (that tea is a part of!)

Or for example, ‘curry’, which to me, means vegetables, diced/chopped/etc, tempered with mustard seeds and seasoned with regular, mundane spices and not a thick gravy flavoured with cream or coconut milk! Which by the way, reminds me of what a local tour operator once said… ‘Britain’s favourite food isn’t Fish n Chips, but ‘Chicken Curry’!

So here is a dish, that we absolutely LOVE! With a Japanese/Chinese flavour, this is a one-course dish, scrumptious, filling, healthy (well, in part!) and absolutely droolicious.

Its actually a signature dish of Wagamama, called ‘Yasai Katsu Curry’ (Fried vegetables curry with rice). Obviously this is the ‘vegetarian’ version (actually, ‘eggetarian’ as you do need a little bit of egg to coat the veggies in). However, you could easily replace the veggies with slices of chicken and it would taste just as good (my non-vegetarian friends would claim it tastes even better!) The curry here refers to a Japanese style of curry. Wiki says it all!

First, let me post a picture.. to see if it tempts you!!

Did you like this, did you? Did you?

Ok, so I hope I have your very kind (stomach-growling) attention now!

Before I very generously share this magic recipe with you, let me give you an estimate of how much time this dish takes, to make. Er.. around an hour (more, if you make all the ingredients from scratch, and less, if you decide to play smart like I did, and buy some of it from the store).

The trick, really, is to get all the ingredients ready before-hand, and then the actually cooking/serving is actually quite quick.

I can guarantee you, the effort is really worth it, considering this is a one-pot meal, that your folks are going to LOVE!

So, for the ingredients.

We actually have FOUR sets of components here.

1) For the main Yasai Katsu:

(a) Vegetables like Brinjal (aubergine), Butternut squash and Sweet potato work best. Just slice them. This really depends on how you want your veggies. Wagamama serves thick slices, whereas I like em thin 😉 so I sliced a brinjal into 0.5 thickness.

(b) Half a cup of ordinary white flour with a pinch of salt

Crisp bread crumbs mixture

(c) Two full cups of a mixture of crumbs (Bread crumbs and plain salt crackers (I used Melba Toasts) ground into fine crumbs, to add a crisp texture to the veggies)

(d) One egg, beaten lightly.

You could add your choice of spices to any of these, really. I just added some salt to the flour, and some more salt, coriander powder and tumeric powder (Tee hee… an Indian cook after all!) to the bread crumbs mixture. But make it the way you like it. If you like your food spicy, then go for it!

2) The side: Now you could serve either crunchy vegetables or a side salad. I chose the veggies, simple because I had no salad at home 😉 Take your pick of colourful capsicum(peppers), baby-corn, mange-tout… vegetables that will suit a quick stir-fry.

Mmmm... stir-fried crunchy vegetables!

3) White rice. You could either use plain ponni rice/sona masoori rice or basmati rice. It tastes good either way. Wagamama serves this dish with some yummy sticky white rice, that I have NO clue how to make. So I faithfully stuck to our aromatic basmati 🙂

4) And lastly, the curry sauce. Now, Google says it is to be prepared this way.

Onion, garlic, ginger, tomato, turmeric powder, cumin powder, coriander powder – Fry it all, simmer with a little water for about 15 mins, cool it, and grind it with a little more water. Simmer again for about 15 mins.

Now, how do you cook this delicious meal? Really , truly simple!

Step 1: Cook your rice. I washed 1 cup of basmati rice, added 2 cups of water to it, and chucked the bowl into the microwave, first for 10 mins, then a quick stir, and another 7 minutes.

Step 2: Now, while your rice is getting cooked, take a couple of minutes to grind the bread and the crackers together to get a fine bread-crumbs mixture. Beat an egg, and keep it aside. Keep the flour ready. Start heating up the oil. Don’t slice your brinjal until it is time to fry them.

The Yasai and Katsu stuff

Step 3: Get your curry sauce organized. I’ll be honest. I didn’t make the curry sauce myself. Just bought a pack of ‘curry sauce powder’ from the supermarket and added it to boiling water. Voila!! A nice, thick, sticky curry sauce.

Side aside

Step 4: Roughly chop your side vegetables into 1-inch pieces. Heat one teaspoon of mild/medium olive oil (for health reasons… well, don’t ask me why I insist on olive oil, when the bleddy veggies are going to be deep-fried!!), and throw the veggies in. Stir-fry on high heat for about 3 mins and take them off the pan. Puhlees, for heaven’s sake, don’t cook them soggy!

Also, if you have a couple of minutes to spare, do peel a carrot, and slice slivers of it, for garnishing. It adds that ‘special’ touch, you see 😉
Step 5: OK, now for the frying bit. By this time, you should have your rice, your curry and your side salad/veggies READY. So take those slices of brinjal (if you are using sweet potato/squash, please cook them in boiling water before frying them), coat them lightly in flour, dip them in the egg, and load them with the crumbs. Once you have about 3-4 ready, slide them gently into the hot oil. You know how to fry, don’t you? Just ensure it does not get burnt! And, drain excess oil onto tissue paper.
Step 6: Pile your plate and serve Hot Hot Hot!!!! Invert a cup of rice, arrange the fried veggies, add some side veggies, ladle the curry sauce, and garnish with carrot!! And.. Bon Apetit!!!
Mmmm.... Yasai Katsu Curry!

So, tell me, did you like it? Did you?

Categories
Thought and Reason Incidents Friday Frolic

Very Very Kolaveri!

There are currently two kinds of Indians. Those who have heard ‘Kolaveri’ and those who haven’t. Which category do you belong to?

I had face-un-booked myself last week but when I couldn’t abstain any more, I jumped right back into my account, and came across a link shared by a couple of blogger friends (Deeps and Vampire Brat, for instance). The title was ‘kolaveri’ and I opened it with very low expectations, as I am not that big a fan of Dhanush. But guess what? We have been listening to this very colloquial, crazy, silly song (in loop!!) for the last three days, with even my 5-year old singing it! I definitely did not see that coming!

First, click here to view the song on Youtube.

Second, tell me what you thought of it?

A small section of audience have expressed undisguised disgust at the song – for its poor lyrics, colloquial language, etc. and simply don’t understand what the hype is about!

Okay, I’m not ashamed to say I loved ‘Kolaveri’! It is perhaps even one of the worst songs ever, but it certainly is the most played song on my phone! It gets dangerous at times, though. Like yesterday, I was on the phone with my son’s school teacher, and there was this line ‘Cow-u cow-u … holy cow-u’ blasting away in the background. Ahem.. I might need to look for a new school soon. But, I digress (actually I don’t, but I like using that term ;-)). (Okay okay, I stole that line from Pixie’s post BUT to be fair, I did take her permission, mind it ;-))

Courtesy: Wiki

But hey!! What makes a song/film a hit? I saw a Hindi film called ‘Dhobi Ghat’ the other day, and loved it. It was serious, sensible and left an impression (not to mention stellar performances by Aamir Khan, Monica Dogra and cute Prateik Babbar). Now Ra One, in comparison made absolutely no sense whatsoever! However, as you might have rightly guessed, while Dhobi Ghat was a below-average-box-office-hit, Ra One despite not being critically acclaimed, was supposedly a ‘hit’ in India and a ‘superhit’ overseas (so sayeth the great Wiki!)

So what makes something like ‘Kolaveri’ a global rage? The video has apparently grossed 3 million views on Youtube, and more than 8 million shares on FB!

Well, to me, it is very simply, what I can connect with!

Kolaveri is a song that EVEN I can sing! Take any aspect of it.. words/tune/lyrics.. it is all so colloquial that even a layman can understand every nuance of the song and totally identify with it. To give a background, this is supposedly a light-hearted song sung by a young boy who has been jilted in love. Ah! What better reach to an audience than an average loser being dumped by a hot (and fair-skinned!) girl! The lyrics are very simple .. one need not break his/her head to understand the meaning of ‘white-skinu-girl, girl heartu-black.. eyes-u eyes-u meetu meetu, my future darku’! As for the tune, I loved it. The background score is fresh, and very cleverly infuses a trace of folk music into a trendy beat, making it a peppy number. Add to it an immensely talented bunch of young stars (Dhanush, Aishwarya Rajnikanth and Shruthi Hassan) that are evidently enjoying the foot-tapping number even during the recording, and one finds it hard to not like this song!!

(Sorry, Count Bratula, I had to choose that meanie picture of your Shruti 😉 Buhahahaha :mrgreen: :lol:)

More importantly, the world-wide success of this song (the latest video on FB is a group of Chinese dancers choreographing a dance to Kolaveri) has made me realise one thing. While perfection is great, being ‘real’ is far more attractive. Something that is technically perfect and outstanding, may not really be something I can relate to. For example, I simply do not enjoy authors who use ‘big words’. Blame it on my limited vocabulary, but I’d rather go for something simple, that I can enjoy.

Sushil Kumar wins KBC, courtesy: Rediff news

I suppose this is the reason why authors like Chetan Bhagat are so popular! (Allow me to hastily clarify that I am NOT a fan of his!!). I now understand why, Bhagat, despite being far from the best writer around, has certain mass appeal. At a tangent, another example would be the runaway hit programme Kaun Banega Crorepathi. The programme is not merely about ‘knowledge’ or ‘trivia’ but about the fact that an ORDINARY man or woman, like you or me, actually stands a chance at something so magnificent. It is also why chick-lit (I truly find the term demeaning) is extremely popular, despite scoring low on the literary count.

One could argue that art that is too colloquial actually lowers standards. That is true to a certain extent. But don’t our standards change as we evolve as a society itself? Modern art, chick-lit, colloquial songs like DK Bose and Kolaveri for example… these too, are a part of our culture now. While at one time, classical dance forms was what India was famous for, today Bollywood dance is a dance form by itself, and has many takers around the world!

These new, simplified forms of art, may or may not be the best. They may not be perfect. However, they are accessible to you and me.

The success of art, therefore is based on the ability of viewers to connect with it. So as times change, our standards change to an extent too.

As I see it, ‘perfection’ itself is over-rated. Anything less than perfect, is not so bad after all. On the other hand, it might even be more interesting!

Kolaveri, like many other things, is far from being perfect. And therein exactly, lies its appeal!

So, my dear soup-u – boys-u and girls-u, now-u you tell-u me, ‘why this kolaveri?’

(Cross-posted on www dot the-nri dot com)