Monday, December 30, 2013

Connecting The Dots...

Lines are effective means to bring sense into a system. To join distinct points and form shapes, Underscore to emphasize a point, dashed ones to demarcate relationships, arrowed lines to give a sense of direction and superscripts to wipe out a word, a meaning. Defining wonders with a simple dash, they go further in their humble quest; to move mountains and pave ways; to create geographies and change history. As much as they can join, they divide as well –marking boundaries and separating nations. Dividing regions and creating new states; sometimes leading to peace, and sometimes disrupting it.

While more often than not, you see a distinct emotion associate with a divide, there are times when you find both – a sense of happiness for some, moments of sadness for others. The separation of Telangana from Andhra Pradesh as a state is one such example.

Telangana - the “state” of “Telugu” speaking people from the pre-independence era. The region that never really accepted a merger with Rayalaseema and Seemandhra. Just as the “Marathi” speaking parts and “Kannada” speaking parts were merged with Maharashtra and Karnataka resp.; all the Telangana people wanted was to have their “own“ Telugu speaking region to be left alone as well. But that was not to be. On November 1st 1956 Andhra Pradesh was formed by merging Andhra State with Telangana.

Source: Wikipedia
The resistance for a merger might have had a basis back in the fifties, but the generations that form the pillars of the state today were born in united Andhra with little or no exposure to what might have transpired in the past. Despite the potential irrelevance in today’s context, it is worthy to note how an old sentiment has managed to implant itself through generations together without any earth shattering logic attached to it… Probably disappointment and discontent are such grave injuries that they don’t always heal; not even with time. Fifty years and some random uprisings later, the emotions are still strong; strong enough to fight; lethal enough to kill. 
After years of constant pressure and persevering revolt, the central government decided to draw the line; dividing the people and splitting the land they belong to. 

That one line has caused many a hunger strikes, given enough reason to adjourn the parliament proceedings and tear papers outside the assembly. A lot of emotions have surfaced; many that were buried for decades and others that took birth the day the line got drawn. The Seemandhra region has stood up in protest and their presence is not so minor that it could be ignored. Also what could not be ignored is the Sri Krishna report that gave a recommendation for a united Andhra after rounds and rounds of meetings with people from across the regions. Despite the widespread protest and well researched recommendations, the central government decided to go ahead with the division. There was no thought or planning that went into it; be it in terms of infrastructure usage, water distribution or anything else. Whether all three regions that makes up Andhra today (Telangana, Rayalaseema and Seemandhra) are mature and developed enough in terms of resources and services, employment, facilities and administration was not a matter of importance. All that was needed to be done was draw the line. 

There must have been a dozen odd reasons behind the move with vote banks probably topping the list, and regionalism following closely on the heels. While political gain does not make the eyelid bat, regionalism definitely makes the mind put its thinking cap on.

Divisions can be understood and accepted when there is a strong rationale to base them on. If there are enough dots for the line to connect, such that there are more unique characteristics than there are commonalities, a divide starts making sense. But when you see that racially, culturally as well as from a religious standpoint there are only similarities you realize that there really are no dots through which a line can be drawn. 

Culturally speaking both Telangana and the rest of Andhra represent the same beliefs and lifestyle, and follow similar customs. Telugu is the predominant language spoken, a sign of how different things stand today vis-à-vis the language-based divide that prevailed pre-Independence. Makes one wonder why anyone would want to tear a unified culture into two.

From a racial standpoint, they all began their journey from the same starting point. Just as most south Indians, they belong to the Dravidian race and share a common history. Nothing has changed so far, nor has any prospects to in the near future. Then why would one find difference amongst one’s own kin?

The most sensitive of all – Religion. Predominantly Hindus, with Muslims and Christians forming the minority, the philosophies are the same and so are the traditions and beliefs that form the basis of similarity in lifestyle across the regions. Keeping aside the Naxalite presence in some parts, the state is not known for any other extreme violence or communal act. Then why would anyone want to disrupt the harmony?

Finally, the people - The ones whose views and sentiment should count the most. When the Sri Krishna report was submitted it was clearly stated that a majority of the people do not want a division. Despite the dominant view from the people of the state, this decision was taken making the move seem more and more political in nature.

What destroys a perfectly reasonable brotherhood? One, which has coexisted and complemented each other? What makes “representatives” of one group to demand a different state only on the basis of geographical proximity and to harbor such negative thoughts?

No logical answer makes way to the mind; it does however seed a thought. If people who come from the same culture, religion and race cannot stay united what does it say about their sentiments towards the entire nation? Why should they have any sense of belonging to the country when they don’t with their own state? What if such feelings reside in the minds of communities across the rest of the country? What message does it give out to the rest of the nation and for that matter the world? Can Politics be such a significant motive that bifurcating a nation does not bear any importance? The thought races ahead and wonders, would it be a matter of time before such callous decisions would become the order of the day and disintegrate the largest democracy in the world? After all, Indian attitude have always been about peeping into the neighbour’s house and aping what the neighbour does. This move has already ignited demands for a divided Mahrashtra, West Bengal, Assam and Uttar Pradesh; Just another 25 odd states to go.The thought begins to grow.

It seems as if all people need to do is go on a hunger strike, raise their voices and swing a few lathis; the job gets done – A state gets divided. The geography of the nation changes for good and the lives and future of millions of individuals gets altered permanently. For no rhyme or reason, on the basis of political sentiment a decision gets taken. The impact it has on employment, infrastructure, financial funding, administration, pending projects and the economy remains unquestioned. Despite the absence of any logical dots, all that seems to be relevant is flicking the pen and drawing a line on the map… At what cost? Well, from all of this, one thing is crystal clear… that really does not matter. 

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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Expressions - a blog review

Dear Shachi,

Merry Christmas!

Here I am your blog elf, with a tiny package to be delivered. A package full of love for the virtual space you call your own… your blog!

To begin with, I must say, what struck me most is the tone of your writing. It is all that Christmas is about… warm, honest and straight from the heart. It makes one feel happy and good while reading what you write :-)

Being a mother of two would surely be a full time job, keeping you on your toes all the time. Yet you find time to update your blog regularly. Not many are able to consistently post and keep the printing press so well oiled all the time. Kudos to that!

Your posts are all about family, friends and togetherness giving us a peek through the window into your own little world. Aptly titled, each of your blog posts are “Expressions” of moments, days or milestones in your life.

Here’s wishing you a beautiful Christmas (yet again :-)) and a wonderful 2014! Keep Blogging! And here’s more power to the pen!

Your Secret Blog Elf

This post is part of the "Secret Blog Elf" theme by Indiblogeshwaris to spread some festive cheer.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

This Is India Meri Jaan

The Aston Martin (or what remains of it) that crashed into two cars in Mumbai
Source: NDTV
What happens when you drive in an inebriated state and slam into another car? Make that two. What happens when the accident kills the innocent occupants of those cars? – The answer is simple isn't it? You get arrested and thrown behind bars. The media devours you down and runs campaigns to seek justice. An FIR gets filed against you that triggers off a court trial. The heinous crime that it is and the rash behaviour that you display, it is but obvious that you get the harshest of harsh punishment. 

But wait, what happens if you are the son of India’s richest man? Well, then you go scot-free. The media goes silent and the police become your shield. 

Why you ask? Because this is India meri jaan.

Yes, this is India. The country where the rich and powerful can get away with anything - Rape, Murder, Accidents, Hunting…. You name the crime; however merciless and unforgiving it might be; they get away. Each and every time. 

This is India; where on one hand the government campaigns to provide safety for women, wipe out corruption and eradicate crime to the extent possible but on the other allows the law and order to be twisted to meet the convenience of the elite class. 

This is India, the country where a film actor runs over five people sleeping on the footpath killing one and injuring the rest. The police put up a fragile case in the court and ensure it drags for over a decade. Ironically the same film actor then goes on to deliver hits after hits portraying roles of a police inspector.

This is India, where decisions on Sec. 377 are taken with speed and intensity while more pertinent and damaging cases such as rape and murder by the influential never see light of the day.

This is India, where a leading news channel hosts “25 Greatest Living Legends” function at Rashtrapati Bhavan and maintains a “diplomatic” stand when it comes to covering the news of an accident caused by the son of one of those very Lech “Legends”.

This is India, the land that boasts of diversities in its culture and its commitment to do away with casteism esp. in the administrative world on one side and then further widens the gap between socio-economic classes with its bias towards the rich.

This is India, where from centuries together pregnant women have been treated with utmost grace and respect in all sections of society; but the law goes mum when a rich kid tosses over a pregnant woman killing her and her child instantly.

This is India, where the rich do not think twice before using their drivers as scapegoats to save their sons and the police don’t blink twice before doctoring the FIRs to make the cases weak. 

This is India, where Arnab Goswami questions decisions ruthlessly and demolishes facades everyday; while  in the meantime the powerful and influential fourth estate gets bullied into taking down stories (check the URLs and then the page).

This is India, the nation that retaliates when one of its diplomats is treated in an undignified manner by the world’s most powerful country for a crime she has potentially committed. But drags its feet to rescue an Indian sailor  jailed in Togo, while his family awaits his return to cremate his baby.

This is India, where the authorities bow down to the rich and trample over the poor. 

This is India, where power, influence and money weigh a lot more than humanity, justice and fair treatment to all. 

This is India, the country we belong to, the land we call our home. 

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Monday, December 16, 2013

The Silence Of The Writer

For once Goa was in the news for all the wrong reasons. Amidst the swaying palms, sandy beaches and melting sunsets, gory news made way to the front page. News that made the scenic backdrop fade away.

Source: Jerry Pinto's page on Facebook
Eight years ago, a workshop was conducted by a group of veteran writers and editors native to this idyllic state.  Perching themselves on stools between bookshelves at a local bookstore, the Goa Writers Group (GWG) took birth. These monthly meets were an adaptation from the structure of New York based Two Bridges Writers Group where an original piece of work would be circulated prior to the meeting; at the meet the writers would offer a critique.  The group grew in size as well as shape. Along with critiquing literary offerings, workshops, writing challenges, presentations, debates and seminars got added to the list. The writers’ clan grew and even started playing host to renowned authors such as Orhan Pamuk and Amitav Ghosh. Sharing a camaraderie that was adding depth to the literary world, this group was setting a perfect example for fellow writers to follow. What more could one want? - Definitely not the scandal that brought about its sudden demise. 

Yes, a scandal. “Literati” and scandals are not words one usually finds in the same sentence yet there they were. A set of individuals strung together by their creativity and a “refined” outlook towards society engulfed in a despicable and undignified episode. An episode that replaces every ounce of respect with nothing but shame. 

So what ruined GWG? - One Writer’s weakness and his inability to control his fantasies. The moderator of the online mail group could not stop himself from harassing the women writers. As hard as it might seem to believe; he was caught condescending/bullying the writers and sending them abusive and sexually suggestive chat messages. 

When the harassed women got together, the jigsaw pieces fell in place, revealing an extremely horrific image. When questioned the group was abruptly dissolved and a new one formed with the same name, deleting all old records/archives that could point fingers at anyone. The women did not join. One would think the matter ended here; a harassment issue buried deep enough not to be raked again. It probably would have, had it not been for the Tejpal news that made headlines recently. 
Source: Jerry Pinto's Facebook Page

A journalist took a stand against the harassment she suffered at the hands of Tejpal, just like those women writers did from GWG. However there was one glaring difference as far as the latter were concerned. One particular male writer, a member of GWG and a close friend of the moderator who had ignored their request for support was now expressing solidarity to the Tehelka journalist. Jerry Pinto was blasted from all directions for his alleged hypocrisy. While in the GWG harassment case he had stood by his friend, the moderator, saying strong women cannot be harassed, here he was sympathizing with a victim going through a similar patch. In response to the questioning, Jerry did what most do – delete the messages and “unfriend” the women writers who questioned him.  His reaction was natural said he; however impulsive it might have seemed coming from a supposedly creative and professional writer.

Explanations were given and stood by, but it did nothing to wipe off the duplicity. It did however strengthen a feeling of cynicism as far as faith in mankind was concerned. This was the same person who had spoken some golden words on his Facebook page when Nirbhaya was brutally raped and abused in December 2012. Words that moved hearts and questioned the respect men have for women. Lines that made one believe that all was not wrong with the world; there were people like Jerry who did not let it down.  

Hypocrisy and avoiding confrontation is as much a crime as the harassment; coming from the “educated” and “intellectual” strata of society it further questions the action. Jerry is not the only one; Shoma Choudhury’s responses and actions in Tejpal’s case were equally disappointing.  Many such stories might be lying buried across workplaces and social gatherings alike…. Cans of worms waiting to strew open in the least expected places. One wonders if it is the absence of a conscience that leads to such a drastic disregard for dignity and respect.

If individuals who earn their credibility through their outlook and perspective towards life are capable of such hypocrisy; can one expect objective behavior from a bus driver or the office boy? None of the heinous crimes are justified, they never will be. However one does need to acknowledge the reality as well – crime is not limited to the act of abuse nor is it limited to the under privileged sections of society. Unjustified mindsets and a lack of conscience prevail in the “refined and elite” classes as well.

Regardless of the field of work, the education or apparent culture and development; trust and faith have become misnomers in the existing society. Yes, whether the masses like it or not this ambiguity is here to stay; because when people you look up to belie all expectations, that confidence dies a slow death; never to come back to life.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Live And Let Love

Beauty no longer lies in the eyes of the beholder; definitely not with Section 377 around. Maybe it would have, had the section not been revived again.

In 2009, the Delhi High Court on behalf of the Indian judicial system gave a verdict that emphasized one of the most fundamental rights of a human being – that to live and love. A group that is minor to all was being denied equal protection from the law and had their dignity abused.  Such behavior was a clear violation of articles 21, 14 and 15 of the constitution– rules that advocate privacy and dignity. Adhering to that very constitution, Section 377 was sent to the gallows – A moment of pride for the law, a moment of triumph for the Indian citizen. India had finally begun to progress in the truest sense of the word. It was a step into the future.

The LGBT Pride Flag
Source: Wikipedia
But then, the country decided to live up to its reputation – of doing more wrong than it could do right. A black flag soared high on December 11th 2013 as far as the general public was concerned. Justice Singhvi on his last day in office declared a verdict that brought section 377 back into action; criminalizing gay sex. India seemed to have gone back into the medieval times and civil liberties were thrown out of the window. The country was stunned and faith in the system had wavered.

Section 377 IPC’s definition is based on penalizing sexual acts that are “against the law of nature”. A case that was closed in 2009 was bought back to life by certain organizations and individuals who challenged the verdict on grounds such as “protecting cultural values of Indian society”,  “mental distress caused by the LGBT community” and ironically “welfare of the citizen, their rights, functioning of the state and the interest of the public at large”. (Read more here)

“Laws of nature” – a wonderful guise to hide behind; an even more effective guinea pig to pin the blame on. How does one define what is against the law of nature? How does one arrive at what invades the privacy and dignity of an individual?

Societies across the world have certain notions about how things should work; of what is natural and what is not. These beliefs have been developed over centuries and entrenched into the mind over generations. Different mindsets are what make the world, but the ability to live and let live is what sets it apart. This is precisely what is missing in the Indian context. Why do we shun something or someone that is different from what we do? From the way we live? More importantly, from the way we love?Why is it so tough to accept that their behaviour is natural to them; to the way they were built? What right do we have to cast people off just because they make a choice to live differently? Yes, isn’t it about the choices we make? Is that not a fundamental right of every individual? Then why not give them what belongs to them; their basic human rights?

Religious groups and organizations have long been against what they believe to be an act against nature. The fact that The Vatican (Pope) believes the sexuality of an individual is their own concern and as long as the person is good at heart, the church need not be concerned, is conveniently ignored.. Even more worthy of mention is the existence of LGBT behaviour in Hindu Mythology. Shikhandi, Brihannala and Mitra and Varuna (depicted in Vedic literature as Gods portraying affection and intimate friendship between males) are classic examples of such behaviour. But again these are ignored by the very groups that propagate religion and its philosophies. None of it seems to matter as far as these groups are concerned.

The views of these groups are listened to. Quietly and politely. The highest court of justice, that had seen no wrong in live-in relationships and children born out of marriage, was what mattered.

And the court stunned the world; yes not just poor Indians. By taking a decision that set back the judicial system by centuries, they stripped off the LGBT community of not only their human rights but also their identity. The decision forces those affected by it to once again live their life in the shadows and be subject to harassment, exploitation, cruelty and humiliation. Speaking of harassment, imagine what this equips the already merciless “law enforcement” representatives with.  This decision will only encourage untoward behaviour, questioning, bribery… the list can go on…only to sink lower and lower.

Amidst the uproar, there are two more disturbing facts about the Supreme Court’s verdict.

One – rendering the adherence of a High Court to the constitution as invalid; by doing so the SC has impeded the power of a High Court to take decisions as per the constitution of the country. What example does that set? Doesn’t it belittle the decision making power of the courts in question?
Two –Indian politicians and the self proclaimed god men that are in abundance in this country need but an excuse to exercise their influence over the hapless masses. What the verdict does is give implicit encouragement to those corrupt politicians who slam the topic and sham “Babas” who get another reason to spread their philosophy and cure.

These details do nothing to revive faith; all they do is further weaken it.

Section 377 IPC was written in 1860 by the British; life has evolved since then and so has lifestyle. Somewhere we thought we had moved on as well, but this verdict tells us what we did not want to hear; that we are frozen in time. The Brits have long since undone the rule in the UK but we stay put on it.

The section of society that has been affected by this ruling might be in the minority.In everyday life majority might prevail over them, but nothing ever should come in the way when it comes to their fundamental rights. This is one aspect where majority and minority are equal; and should always be.

There is a ray of hope; the Parliament. If the Legislature decides on deleting the outdated section 377 from the IPC, it can reverse the verdict. On one hand the deciding body is filled with politicians who have only looked down upon the LGBT and on the other you have those who have openly claimed the verdict to be flawed. The Congress has spoken about bringing an ordinance in the verdict but in whose favour the scale tips, is yet to be seen. However one thing is crystal clear, if the judgment stays, all it will do is blotch India’s reputation and international standing for good.

This is the country where rapes, harassment, religious impositions and corruption are the order of the day. This is also the country that awards Nelson Mandela the “Bharat Ratna” and declares a state mourning for him – for a man who fought for his people and their civil rights. Boastful of its diversity in caste, creed and religion, this is the country that consistently contradicts itself and denies its people of their basic rights; making them wonder if they truly belong.
A concoction of confusion, inconsistencies and a mixed definition of ideologies and beliefs, this is a country that has one leg firmly rooted in the past and the other trying to step into the future...rather unconvincingly. 

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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Baby’s Choice

Ga Ga Gurgle Gurgle Goo Goo,
Blabbered the apple of everyone’s eye
Mischief gleamed through the eyes so blue
Loved and Adored by bright lit smiles

Which uncle would be the lucky one?
To get to cuddle the bundle of joy
Itched every hand and yearned every heart
To win the fortunate babysitter’s part

Uncle Dan or Uncle Sam
Who would it be?
To hum tunes and sing lullabies
And get drenched in his pee

The twinkling eyes took them both in
Tiny little fingers felt their chins
Uncle Dan made him break into a smile
While Uncle Sam triggered a cry

In a matter of seconds the decision was taken
The tiny tot had made its claim
Needless to say Uncle Dan was clean shaven
Uncle Sam had his smelly stubble to blame

This post is a part of the Protest Against Smelly Stubble Activity in association with BlogAdda.
Tagging  Tom
Tagged by   Anita 

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Monday, December 09, 2013

Media (Un)Defined

Rare are the ones who come into this world with an obsession for justice and truth. But privileged are those who grasp the opportunity to do the world some good, to do themselves some good. Armed with a passion and longing for fairness, they strive, within the boundaries of investigative journalism to sketch a beautiful portrait, on a grey and mucky canvas, a portrait filled with bravery and courage to do the “right” thing.

But what happens when the picture goes hazy and blotches make way onto the canvas? The ink blurs and the muck and grey don’t seem to get camouflaged anymore? … Brows get raised and the eyes roll, questioning the integrity of the boastful passion, wondering what the definitions of “Justice” and “Truth” truly are.

A few years ago, a model turned celebrity barmaid was shot down at a socialite’s party. The shooter, the son of an MLA was acquitted despite there being enough evidence to prove him guilty. The Court’s decision cast a dark shadow on the very premise that it stands on – Justice. The acquittal shocked the country and triggered off a momentous outcry from the common man. What tilted the game was the support that came in the form of media. The case was reopened and the power of media ensured that justice prevailed.

With time, Journalism has got equipped with a power and influence that is second to none. But the realist does not hesitate to wonder – Is there a “what’s in it for me?” attitude that could probably be the underlying factor for such courageous journalism? Could the high from taking a politician down be high enough to be the ultimate goal?

Jessica Lal’s family got their fair due. Journalism was soaring in the success of the moment; its power to do the “right” thing.  Unknowingly the case made the masses begin to resort to the Media for redressal rather than the Police. 

A few years later along came the case of Aarushi and the Talwar family. A gruesome murder that left the country shocked once again. Killed in her own bed, she was but 14 years old. Suspicion mounted on the live-in cook Hemraj and his friends but all of it was washed off once Hemraj’s body was found. What followed has till date left everyone flummoxed. Rajesh and Nupur Talwar, Aarushi’s parents were arrested on charges of both the murders. Purely based on circumstantial evidence which has been questioned by all, the court trial saga that ensued seemed everything but fair. Parents charged with the murder of their own offspring, could it get any more agonizing than this? An investigation dominated by suspected loopholes and unconvincing evidence presented by the authorities; the verdict was long in the making. The CBI seemed to be out on a vengeance, almost as if they had a personal vendetta to serve. In all the mayhem what stuck out like a sore thumb was the absence of investigative journalism. Unlike the Jessical Lal case where the Media stepped in when it smelt a fishy verdict, this time around they seemed to have stayed away.

Journalists were omnipresent, there was no doubt. The case was in their spotlight, which was very clear. Then what was amiss? That spark the common man saw with Jessica Lal’s case was missing. The Media fished every bait thrown out and devoured them down with extra salt and pepper each time. The general public inclining towards the same verdict seemed to add fuel to the reporting. Rather than give the case an objective look, the focus seemed to be on glorifying the juicy conclusion.  Each piece of evidence was sensationalized, every aspect of the victim and the accused was smothered across print and TV alike. Every behavior interpreted. Not even the family would have known them as much as the Media proclaimed they did.

The law declared the parents guilty and the order demanded capital punishment. It seemed like the system had staged a huge conspiracy. Finally lifetime imprisonment was the sentence announced to a stunned audience. A single tear rolled down the cheek, was this for real? Nobody cried foul; sections of the Media did spend some moments scrutinizing the verdict but not enough to stay afloat and be heard; it definitely did not gather the popular voice the way it did for Jessica. Somewhere along the line the investigation from the journalism seemed to have gone missing.

What went wrong? On one hand there was a case that inspired a passion for justice, on the other one that makes the head hang in shame. Why has the same passion not stirred for Aarushi? What worked for Jessica but not the Talwars?

Conflicting reactions makes one wonder if the action taken is only in the best interest of what suits the media house; it sure does make the “What’s in it for me” attitude seem to be for real. Was Jessica an opportunity to put down a Politician? Are the Talwars the scapegoat for sensationalizing news? What triggers such contradictory responses?

Journalism and Media seems to be undergoing a change. As they get more and more familiar with Power and Influence, a single stroke of their pen or a moment captured on the reel can make or break reputations and careers. Business tycoons and politicians are seen courting the Media; that’s the kind of muscle the Fourth Estate wields today.

While one struggles with the dilemma of defining the “Right” vis-à-vis the “Wrong”, another picture of Journalism is surfacing –One that further messes the canvas; damaging it beyond repair.They are, despite all odds considered to be a “protective” force that attempts to bring in discipline into the society. But when the Protector turns wild, faith gets fractured for good.

Tarun Tejpal, a name synonymous with sting operations and “perseverance” for justice, stamped all over it and brushed it under the carpet with his “misinterpretation” of a situation and so called bad judgment. Sexual abuse by a media person shattered the very core of the field’s philosophy. To further cover it up and declare yourself as “framed” revealed another dent in the already cracked façade that most of the Media world seem to have been living under for ages. If that wasn’t enough, the incident tumbled out quite a few bones from the Tehelka cupboard –Fishy funding, dubious share sales and a rag to riches story.

The disgraceful saga that is unfolding today symbolizes the handicap that Authority and Influence brings along - Lust… for Power, Money,Fame and now Sex. It was all that the pen and the camera pursued, only to find it taking up residence in their own house.

Three incidents; each disclosing a different facet of inhumane behavior. The media reacted to each differently – supporting justice for Jessica, being just a messenger of the system for the Talwars and engulfing itself in shame as far as Tehelka was concerned.

One gave some hope; the other two are not letting it live.

The readers are but mute spectators, watching the game from the sidelines. As the rules of the game keep changing, confusion clouds their minds and they wonder where it will all lead; what will be the game changer and how the outcome will get decided. A win or a loss, it does not really matter as long it is in the spirit of justice and the definition of right stays just that... right.

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Thursday, December 05, 2013

Memories In A Bottle

Dear Friend,

Sitting cozy in the armchair, I feast on Pride and Prejudice between sips of an icy cold cranberry breezer. Our favourite book and drink, what more reason do I need to miss our times together? … An orange haze streaks through the window brightening up the twin armchair next to mine, the one that you occupied when you were around. The books we read and the topics we discussed changed every time but the armchair and breezers were our constant companions.

We loved Alcopops didn’t we? Esp. if they were fruit wine based. I remember how much we hesitated before we tried one. Cranberry was the first flavor we tried and we were hooked for life. Despite the different flavours out there on the shelves, it used to always be cranberry that found its way into our shopping cart.
I guess the colour was what attracted us most to this drink when we first bought those bottles. Not to mention the thought of cranberries! ... And that odd yet so delicious combination of bitter and sweet that played havoc when the berry melted into the mouth. One sip of the drink and those sensations have begun to play again.

As I take another sip, it opens a floodgate to memories of Christmas and Thanksgiving. That divine sauce we made out of that tiny fruit or the warmth it added to the Christmas decorations each time we strung them with popcorn on the tree. The turkey would never have tasted that scrumptious without the sauce now, would it? And oh those pies! It used to be fun devouring them down and wiping off those untidy crumbs from our faces.

No wonder we fell in love with this flavor; there were too many wonderful memories associated with it. And now I can never let it go, because it symbolizes fun times and those beautiful moments that we shared in the past.

It’s been a decade since you moved to the Big Apple, never to come back. Yes, we do talk over the phone and catch up over mail and will always stay best of friends. With time however, our lives have changed and the time we spent together has been permanently locked away to be just a precious memory.
But then a day comes by when I see a Cranberry breezer and all those memories flash by making me reminisce the time we spent together… just like it did today.

Those were the days my friend
I thought they would never end
But with a Cranberry Breezer in hand
Sometimes I relive them again.
Missing you

Your Friend… Forever

This post is written for Breezer "Catch the flavour" contest hosted by Indiblogger in association with Bacardi

Monday, December 02, 2013


Source: Wikipedia
The noise has finally begun to die down. The entire nation was gripped with a fever for the last few weeks- Sachin Tendulkar’s retirement from all forms of cricket. Everything else was forgotten, all that people could think of was that a cricketing legend whose career spun over twenty four years was calling it a day. A star performer through most of the two decades that he was on the field, the little master was proclaimed to be no less than a god. No wonder India cried; tears ran down every cheek, woeful messages flooded Facebook and Twitter and tissue sales went up.  The day the last Test match began, roads were deserted and life came to standstill across the country.

Everything else was forgotten; including a world championship that was silently taking place at The Hyatt in Chennai at the very same time. A rather soft spoken, bespectacled and intelligent looking gentleman was defending his world championship title. A man with an unassuming persona who stayed away from the glitz and glamour success brought him for over two decades. He became his country’s first ever Grandmaster at the tender age of 19 and held championships after championships in a sport that very few of his countrymen could foray into.

A wonder that never ceased, he rose to fame with his king, queen, bishop and the knights. Making the front page from time to time but often pushed into the shadows by a cricket crazy nation. Like all other sports, his never stayed in the limelight for long either.  His is a tale that legends are made of, but not in his homeland. Here he was, defending a championship on home ground and yet not many seemed to notice. The lone star shining across the checkered sky was almost forgotten.

He might have been checkmated out of his title, but he will continue to be one of the greatest the game has ever produced. If only his country noticed him as much as he deserved...It’s a pity Viswanathan Anand’s game was not cricket.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Rising from the Ashes

It took two blazing buses and over fifty passengers being charred to death to wake the Karnataka RTO up and make them at the very least begin to yawn.  For decades private buses have been plying on Indian roads with untrained drivers at the helm. Sporting licenses with suspicious origins and driving buses which probably have never made a trip to the RTO for registration; these drivers have been anything but professional when it comes to driving. Refurbishing buses from the scrap yard and violating every single rule in the book, these accidents were waiting to happen.

The RTOs have conveniently ignored these monsters on the roads; until now that is. With two back-to-back fires within a fortnight of each other they have had no choice but to sit up and make an attempt at getting their act together. It is not an easy task that lays ahead of them, training drivers and bringing in discipline but then a stitch in time might have minimized the need for such an activity in the first place.

The amends seem to have begun- driving refresher courses and videos that show safety procedures very similar to the air hostess jig we get to see on flights. The RTO assures that within a stipulated time period private travel operators will begin to adopt these measures. Meanwhile they will do their bit by mandating a driving course along with medical emergency trainings for drivers seeking new licenses with them.

Safety procedure videos onboard bus sounds fine enough. All the drivers need to do is play the CD before they begin their nightly dose of Bollywood/Kollywood/Sandalwood dramas. What about those buses which have no screen to boast about? The RTO has covered that ground as well. In the absence of video, the tour operators are being mandated to conduct a manual demonstration. Now that would be a sight to see wouldn't it? Imagine those hefty khaki clad conductors/drivers with sleeves rolled up and a beedi sticking out of their mouths.  Next picture these very menacing looking fellas trying on the life jackets and seat belts and swirling and swishing around pointing out the emergency exits. All that would be missing is a dash of red lipstick and an hour glass figure.

As funny as that picture might seem, will the customers care for it or the videos in any way? Whether these processes are adhered to or not, will customers raise an objection? Buses ply in rural as much as they do in urban areas, how many passengers from smaller towns and villages will be aware of such mandates?

To lend authenticity to the initiative, the RTO has announced a tie up with Ashok Leyland, Tata and Volvo to conduct refresher courses. In an initial exercise, drivers were taught about defensive driving, safety requirements, and how to operate the emergency exit among other things. Speaking of mandatory driving courses and medical emergency trainings, it is indeed a concept much welcomed and one that should have been introduced eons ago if not earlier. The question is whether it will hold any value and have any impact now.

How much of a difference will these courses make to the driver’s conscience? How many of these private bus drivers actually approach the RTOs personally for the license? Of the few who do, how many will not creep a few notes into the officers pocket and whistle their way out? While these steps are being taken, how will they be measured? Karnataka alone boasts of a fleet of over 8000 government buses. There is an equal or greater number of private buses out there that drive on interstate as well as intrastate routes, how will the office be able to monitor the adherence to the rules and the impact they cause?

So the RTO must be quite happy with the press announcement. Conjuring two “revolutionary” measures out of thin air is no mean joke. While they party and rejoice, there is (yet) another question that bothers the worried mind – what about controls on the cargo that these buses carry each day? The amount of baggage they carry other than that belonging to passengers is humongous and tends to take a toll on the infrastructure available to carry the load. Or is that not supposed to be dangerous enough to cause disasters that can kill?
Pessimist as it might sound, these are questions that exist and continue to remain unanswered.

Not to be left out from the limelight, travel portal has decided to pitch in as well.  The CEO claims that each travel operator seeking to register with the portal undergoes a background check on aspects such as the availability of an emergency exit and a first aid box. Unless they meet Redbus’s qualification criteria they will not be allowed on board. Users are also being urged to leave reviews and ratings on how their journey had been; if the driver was rash etc. Taking it a step forward Redbus now intends to track the driving speeds through GPS enabled phones belonging to the passengers. On paper it does sound too good to be true but once those journeys begin will the bus operators allow such monitoring to happen?

Karnataka RTO seems to have finally woken up, but have the rest of the RTOs across the country? Private bus operators are in large numbers all across and flout rules everywhere. A bus inferno can happen anywhere just as it did here.

Regardless of whether the action taken by Karnataka will create an impact or not, it would be meaningless in the larger scheme of things if other RTOs do not learn their lesson and begin taking such measures proactively. Equally hollow it would be if the very drivers in question did not take the initiatives seriously and begin to lead a new life as far as driving on the roads is concerned. 

The value of life in this populous country has always been suspect. Despite the pessimism which questions the sustainability of any initiative taken to protect life, the steps are always welcomed with open arms with the hope that things will work out for the better and optimism will rise out of the ashes of such incidents... 
If only it would.

Top post on, the community of Indian Bloggers

Sunday, November 24, 2013

A Lesson From Life

Sarita was elated. Her students had performed extremely well in the mid terms. Hours of revision and practice seemed to have paid off.  Feeling satisfied she glanced through the student list not at all surprised by the name that showed right at the top. Radha had excelled beyond her expectations… yet again, scoring full marks in almost all subjects. It was tough to expect anything but the best from this girl, she thought. She wasn't alone; every teacher that taught the 7th standard held a high opinion of Radha. She was the apple of every teacher’s eye.

It was a year since Sarita had joined the school as a Maths and Science teacher. Her first class as class teacher of “7th A” had left a lasting impression on her mind and a reason to look forward to her teaching career. Radha had stood out right from the word go. Smart and immaculately dressed, she was a model student. Excellent in studies and extra-curricular activities, her IQ kept all teachers on the toes. A scholarship winner, she not only scored well but also motivated her class mates to do better. To cut a long story short, she was the all rounder every school yearned to have. For the first time in her twenty year career, Sarita had developed a soft corner for a student.

The school bell rang, shaking her out of her thoughts. It was time to announce the results to the students. She picked up the report cards and walked into the classroom, making the noise turn into pin drop silence. Sarita looked around and broke into a broad smile, making the class heave a sigh of relief. “The results mustn't be that bad”… the same thought ran across everybody’s minds. The announcement of who had topped the class came as no surprise to them; instead they screamed their voices hoarse and clapped till their hands hurt when Radha went up to collect her report. She was a quiet girl who kept to herself but was loved by everybody.

With the exam tension now a matter of the past, students had begun to let loose with the sports day events. Class races, drills, march past and pyramids were the focus of everyone’s attention and studies had taken a back seat. Radha excelled once again, winning the class race, the Long Jump and the Javelin throw. This time she raised the bar with surprise wins in High Jump and Shot Put as well.

Convinced that she was witnessing perfection at the age of 12, Sarita marveled at her abilities and decided she would nominate Radha for an international Science symposium to be held in Chicago USA. After the Sports Day fever had died out, she called Radha to the staff room after school hours and said “Radha, you have been performing extremely well in both studies as well as outdoor activities. You must have heard of the Science Symposium being held in Chicago, I want you to participate. I will work with you through this project; I am sure we will win. There is nobody other than you who can win this for us”. Expectantly she waited for Radha’s response and was taken aback when she got none. After what seemed like eternity Radha spoke up slowly “ Maam, I appreciate the confidence you have shown in me however I don’t think I can take this up”.  She sighed and without any warning ran out of the staff room.

Bewildered, Sarita wondered “what could be the problem? She is so smart, wonder what the problem is…”. Days went by and the incident was soon forgotten. It was the end of the term and the school picnic was round the corner. Each student had to contribute Rs 100 and parents had to provide a dish for the lunch. After making the announcement, Sarita was leaving the classroom when Radha walked up and said “Maam, I will not be able to come for the picnic, please excuse me”. No amount of cajoling could convince her; finally Sarita gave up and walked away with a disturbed mind that kept mulling over Radha’s behavior.

It was the weekend but nothing could relax Sarita’s mind. She kept thinking of Radha and her behavior. Unable to think straight, she decided to visit the beach, something she had not done in a long time. The waves crashing against the rocks had a calming effect on her; she doodled on the wet sands; Radha playing strongly on her mind. At a distance she could see the silhouette of a girl selling flowers to the women on the beach. “That girl looks to be the same age as my students and here she is selling flowers… what a life” she thought, turning back to face the endless blue that lay in front of her. Suddenly there was a tap on her shoulders and she heard a voice “Madam, will you buy my flowers? It is the last garland, if I sell this I can go home to do my homework”. The voice was familiar but she could not believe her ears. She turned around and stared into the eyes of her star student; the all rounder she was so proud off. With a gasp Radha ran away towards an older lady dressed in a patched Sari sitting with a basket of flowers. Together they briskly walked away into the growing darkness, not once looking back.

Tears welled in Sarita’s eyes as realization dawned and all her confusion from the past few months faded away. The scholarship, the denials to go for picnics… everything started to make sense. She stared at her student until she became but a dot in the crowd. She had raised the bar beyond studies and extracurricular activities... this time she raised the bar with her attitude for perfection in an otherwise imperfect life. 

This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda. This time the entry had to contain, ‘This time, she raised the bar…’

Thursday, November 21, 2013

An Active India… A Stronger India

There was a time when children played out in the open without any qualms of falling sick. They danced in the rains and splashed mud all around, building castles on the beach and playing “gilli-danda” or “lagori” on the streets. Childhood memories were made of laughter and mischief and not of common colds and flus. That was the time of our grandpas and grandmas, a time when immunity was at its high, not to be dithered by weather changes, mosquitoes and flies.

That was a time that is now steadily disappearing into the past; never to come back again.
As newer generations take birth, childhood is getting redefined. Evenings are made of iPad games and television shows while Cycling, Cricket and Football are being left behind. A slight drizzle or winds that howl now and then are reason enough for children to stay back at home glued to their screens. Add to it a healthy dose of fries and smileys and evenings turn from good to perfect for them. Happy and gay this armchair childhood might make them feel, but something will always stay amiss; something that is adding to the lines on every parent’s forehead today – Immunity and resistance to illnesses.

The slightest weather change or play in the rain leads to sneezes followed by high temperatures. Cold and Flu’s are on the rise; so are typhoid, hand, foot and mouth and the likes. If pollution gets added to this unhealthy mix consider your fate cemented for the downfall. Viruses and bacteria are growing in abundance, laughing away as their attacks get more vicious than ever. All we can do is sit back helplessly and watch as our younger generation fails to garner the immunity they require to keep these organisms at bay.

There are many factors contributing to this; most pertinent being a decreasing interest in outdoor activities and increasing effect of fast food and an imbalanced diet.

Healthier diet: pray what can that mean?
In earlier times, as soon as a child learnt to eat, they were introduced to fruits, nuts and vegetables along with the healthy doses of protein. Each meal was homemade and while sweets and savouries were loved as much, the wholesomeness in the meal was never forgotten. Given the hectic lifestyles we have today, time has become a precious commodity and the minutes spent in one’s kitchen a rare phenomenon. The helps and cooks do their bit, but the times when hot fresh food would be cooked in our kitchens for every meal are slowly on the decline. Come weekends and it is time to unwind and relax thus making eating out more convenient than at home. Evening snacks are about frozen “ready to fry” foods that never fail to sound yummy to the taste buds. Instant noodles were controlled in our diets by our parents but our love for them has ensured they stay on our children’s plate more often than they did on ours. Pizzas and burgers today count among favourite foods making them the easier option to satisfy the child’s hunger when in need. Pre-cooked and frozen foods, excessive intake of fried delicacies and increased consumption of outside meals are taking a toll on our immunity systems; imagine what they would do to that of a child’s? These need not be completely cut out, but a balance needs to be struck with nutritious food to boost immunity.

What a balanced diet ensures is that the right nutrients and supplements are provided to a child at the right time – at childhood. A child’s metabolism is extremely high and the diet can become effective only if it is channelized in the right direction – through activity and physical fitness.

Outdoor activities: why are they so important?
Early exposure to outdoor sports like our ancestors had, results in developing a robust immune system. The key word here being Early. In olden days getting wet in the monsoons while playing a game of “gully cricket” might have led to a couple of sneezes early on, but the child sprang up and went back to the game as if nothing had happened. Small bruises and cuts they might have got, bleed they would have but the child emerged with a body physically stronger. What made this possible? – The adaptability of the human body to weather and grime due to frequent exposure. After all it is well known that the physiology of a child is designed to recover faster and be more involved with their surroundings. Yes, as unusual as it might sound, if children get used to those rain drops and that sudden chill, chances are they will fall sick lesser. Last but not the least outdoor activities will imply a more active childhood developing into a habit of an active adult life. A habit for activity would in turn mean lesser tendency to lead a sedentary lifestyle in your later life. As a corollary that would mean minimal dependency on vitamin supplements to boost nutrition levels.

In addition to activity and diet, what lowers immunity is constant dependency on antibiotics and analgesics to fight ailments. They do achieve their objective and rid your body of the illness however it comes at a cost – your immunity. The stronger the antibiotic, the harsher it is on your immune system. Regaining back the lost immunity becomes a herculean task and as any doctor would put it; a healthy diet comes to the rescue. If the problem is addressed at its roots, strong medicines will not be required to address it and cause any further damage in the process.

Agility and Adaptability are two human abilities that begin to slow down with age. These characteristics are at their prime during childhood making it all the more crucial to give them the necessary boost at that age.

Immunity can always be injected through supplements however its longevity will depend on the continuous intake of those pills and syrups. If ingrained into the lifestyle right from the beginning, it will ensure a natural immune system to be developed within the body.

Recent surveys only add to the urgency to bring about a change. A grim outlook is not only limited to India but the rest of the globe as well. Today’s children are not as active and fit as their parents used to be and it is anything but a compliment to the latter. It cannot get any scarier than this.
It is a dire state of affairs but the grey cloud comes with a silver lining. Brands such as Dabur are doing their bit to help fortify the immune system from the core, in a natural (Ayurvedic) way as opposed to fighting through antibiotics... esp. with launching flavoured chyawanprash’s which can attract both young and the elder alike. As they continue to do their bit for the betterment of society, the first step to ensuring immunity must begin at home.

Parents need to give priority to their child’s health by taking a few lessons from the previous generations and in fact from their own. Guaranteeing a balanced diet and encouraging a mentally as well as physically active childhood will be the key to inculcate a robust immune system in the generations to come.

It is time to begin that journey now rather than pushing it off to later because ensuring a brighter tomorrow for our children is in nobody’s but our hands.

This post is written for Dabur Chyawanprash contest hosted by Indiblogger in association with Dabur

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Last Twenty Four Hours

He gazed at the staid looking building, gripping the cold steel handles unaffected by the howling winter winds. An ambulance had drawn up to the entrance; paramedics were rushing with an accident victim towards the hospital; the sight made memories flash by, painful reminders of the night he was brought in. He grimaced; those were the only memories he seemed to have of his entire life.

Robert jerked back to reality as another Ambulance sped up; it was going to be a busy Christmas at the hospital. He navigated around setting the wheels in motion only to crash right into a baby faced burly security guard who reached out instantly to steady his chair. Those worked out arms held him tight; flashing what seemed like a skull engraved on his forearm. He had seen that tattoo before! If only he could remember where. He looked up at the guard, in time to see him bow and tip his hat in reverence before disappearing back into the hospital. Just then he saw the man who claimed to be his brother, arrive to take him to the place that was supposed to be his home.

He was an amateur boxer they had said, sharing a room with his older brother – his only family. He was training for a local boxing event and had started on the jump rope that fateful day. As he jumped higher, the entire room had heard a cracking sound followed by an excruciating cry of pain. Sirens had rung out into the silent snowy night as the paramedics had rushed him to the hospital. He had been unconscious for over a month; when he did stir he had no inkling of any memory from his past.

He jerked out of his thoughts as the cab came to a screeching halt. Home had arrived, or so he was told.

The next morning rose bright and clear but his mind was clouded with confusion. How much ever he tried, he could not forget the tattoo he had seen the previous night. Pushing aside those thoughts he got ready for his appointment with a post trauma counselor. It took little over twenty minutes to reach the clinic. The cabbie helped him with his crutches and dropped him to the main door. He turned around to thank and pay the driver but he was already heading towards the cab. His forearm flashed in the glaring sun revealing an engraving as he got into the cab. With a quick salute he disappeared into the traffic without taking any fare. It was the same tattoo he had seen before. If only he could remember where.

Suddenly he realized he wasn’t alone; he looked around meeting the gaze of every stranger on the street. Wherever he looked people stared back at him. A butcher from across the street gave him a nod just as a bus passed by; its beefy conductor waving out. Both had their sleeves rolled up displaying that familiar sight again. He had seen that tattoo before! If only he could remember where.

He heard his name being called out; it was time for his appointment. The nurse helped him limp into the counselor’s office and settle down on the couch. Maybe he could speak to the counselor regarding the tattoo he thought. He was still trying to shake off the eerie feeling that had gripped him when the counselor walked in. Nothing in the world could prepare him for what lay in store next.

The counselor stopped in his tracks on seeing him. His jaws dropped and he seemed to lose his balance, turning to the couch arm to steady himself. He turned to face Robert and asked “Sir, what are you doing here?”  Robert was shocked on being addressed as Sir. This was the first time he was meeting the counselor and here he was behaving as if he already knew Robert; just like all those men he had come across since the time he left the hospital. He wondered if the counselor sported a tattoo as well just like others. He didn’t have to wait for too long to know.

The counselor was already rolling up his sleeves and flashing the skull at him. Like with the rest, He had seen that tattoo before! If only he could remember where.

Everything seemed to be in a haze for Robert. He closed his eyes trying to make sense of what was going on and then it struck him. He could ask the counselor; maybe he could throw some light on this mystery that seemed to be stalking him ever since his discharge from the hospital.

He turned to the counselor and asked “Do you know what this Tattoo is about? Why do you call me Sir?” With an incredulous look on his face the counselor replied “Sir, don’t you remember this? This is the symbol of our brotherhood, the boxing cult of which you are the boss”.

Cult?  Boss? Was this for real? Rob wondered. The counselor guessed what was going on in his mind, he swiftly moved forward and helped Rob face the mirror. Turning him around he made him look at the reflection of his shoulder. The skull face started back at him.

“There Sir, you are the only one to have our symbol engraved on your shoulder, you are the boss of the cult, a cult that is creating waves across the country” Said the counselor with a reverent look on his face.

Robert went pale and staggered. He was the ring leader of a network of boxers whose penchant for boxing made them play with their lives as a part of the cult. What had made him give birth to such an order… and why? A brotherhood that gave an adrenalin high but made one live life dangerously on the edge; why had he done it…. Why? His head began to throb as fragments of memories started to flash making him lose ground and disappear into oblivion.

The counselor caught hold of him as he fainted. The tattoo flashed yet again. The faces he had seen began to form a kaleidoscope in his mind. Finally the last twenty four hours seemed to make sense.  

This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.
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