Friday, December 28, 2012

What more can I add?

No, this is not another moral lecture on the state of society. Nor is it an outburst, as a woman, at the heinous gangrape that happened in Delhi. These are just observations that come to my mind. My attitude is impassive. Because all the passion in the world has not and cannot change a thing. So why waste human emotion better put to use elsewhere.

The first thing that comes to my mind when i think of it is that the victim was just plain unlucky. Having one’s body literally ripped apart at the end of a fine Sunday for no fault of one’s own is sheer bad luck. What else would you call being helplessly manhandled by a group of men who not just rape but ram an iron rod into the body all the way to the intestines!! Just like that. Out of nowhere.

Some people have brought attention to the fact that the main culprit comes from the lower strata of society and has had a bad childhood. Is that a reason for us to soften towards him? Does that justify behaving like an animal and ripping another human apart? Should all people take it out on innocent women because society at large did them injustice? And there are probably a few million unprivileged people like him around. You do the math.

Like i said earlier, nothing has and will radically change. Anytime soon. Though i find certain facts very ironic in the light of the unsafe situation of women. Delhi is the power capital of the country. The leader of the ruling party is a woman and so is the Chief Minister. The latter proudly so for multiple tenures. She’s been around for over a decade now. And yet are we expecting a miracle from her when we expect her to have done something to alter the situation of women in her state?

Our prime minister himself, in his lip service of a speech, claimed to be the father of 3 daughters. How does the heart of a father of 3 girls not splinter into a thousand pieces every time the horrible and humiliating plight of others’ daughters comes to light? i think the man should be affected 3 times as much God forbidding it was one of his daughters! And yet, not just the father but even our Prime Minister, who is one of the people who can really make a difference, is devoid of any genuine emotion.

What’s even more ironic is that while all the power centered in Delhi has failed to take any action against the situation, the action on the protestors was prompt. As if they are at fault. Not one official or minister made an attempt to understand the intent behind the protest gathering - the govt’s lack of any action or emotion. Or tried to talk the crowds into peace. Instead they were treated like mobsters with tear gas and water cannons used on them. This is a blatant example of - if you have it, flaunt it. Power, in this case. It’s very brave of Delhiiites stand up in cold weather conditions and I am sure everyone having to work for a living! (unlike our ministers who seem to make a living just by being in power!)

Another thing that strikes me is that a lot of famous personalities are seen at award functions, polo events, charity functions. But none think it important to lend their voice and support to such a cause. Would the police treat the crowd as badly if the protestors included top Bollywood actors and actresses, top cricketers and sportspeople, veteran industrialists? But, again, none think it worth their time to put their weight behind the common man’s movement. This would definitely boost our chances of affecting the minds of our obtuse politicians. And gradually, maybe, some change in the law as well. But i guess most of these people are busy preparing for Page 3 worthy new year parties.

Also, ever since the news of the gangrape has been out, the newspapers are full of more such incidents. Every single page highlights other incidents of crime against women. i wonder if they think that this will add fodder to the ongoing debate or galvanise the nation/politicians into action. Who knows? Every news channel has debates on whether rapists should be awarded death penalty. i have always been irritated by mindless discussions on the idiot box, as has been the recent trend on TV in an attempt to fill in 24/7 slots of news channels. Yes, we are a democratic country and we have the right to speech. But to what purpose?

If we all agree that rapists should be given death penalty, will the law change? We all know about the queue of people waiting to get their death penalties. What’s the use lining up a few rapists in the queue! The biggest non-deterrent at the moment is knowing that a rapist can get away with the crime. One in a million cases catch the attention of the media and probably the culprits are thrown in jail. But I am sure all this will be forgotten very soon and it’ll be years before the culprits are presented in court and maybe punished. So i think death penalty or no, there has to be something that acts as a strong deterrent. The fear of a law executed under any circumstance that will make any wannabe rapist think twice before attempting to be one. Something like pulling off arms of thieves. Nothing less would do.

Apart from the law, it’s the society that needs changing. But i guess it’s easier to lecture about teaching young boys to respect girls around them in a society where in a majority of lower classes, men have all the privileges and given the first right over women in the family/community. It has to to with the whole mindset that believes a woman is born to be a mother, sister, daughter and her duty is to selflessly take care of everyone. Even women do not expect to be respected in return.

Another thing, i feel, that has a very big impact is the societal attitude towards sex. Despite Bollywood and internet bringing it all out in the open, there is a lot of secrecy especially in the class of society from there the Ram singhs emerge. Come on, it’s common knowledge that even our respected ministers have their share of fun at work on their phones! But seriously, like all else, even this attitude will take a long time to change. Maybe the urban societies are more open and experimental. Though there are still a lot of repressed men out there waiting for a defenseless body to dump their frustrations on!

The simple fact that we expect people to wait till they are married to lose their virginity says a lot about our attitude. Added to that is society’s unwillingness to discuss the issues of safe and responsible sex with adolescents, in particular. i am sure a lot of sexual frustration emanates from there. We’ll need to be making talking about intimacy a healthy discussion, away from the prurience and fantasy, mostly depicted in the media and elsewhere.

Forget access to hi-tech devices and internet connectivity, every ad on television commodifies woman. i strongly feel that this greatly reflects the society’s attitude towards a particular gender. Some ads explicitly depict making yourself sexually appealing to the other gender through the use of the advertised products. God help the urban youth which is even more exposed with 24/7 connectivity to the internet.

Lastly, one thing for sure is that soon all this will be forgotten. Like we forgot the rape and  murder of a call center employee in Bangalore. The rape in Dhaula Kuan. The rape in a suburban train in Mumbai. The rape of a dalit in a village. Till the next time another girl is put through unspeakable physical and emotional violence, yet again.

In the quite moments of the day, my mind goes back to the body lying in a hospital. There is a void in her abdomen. Her intestines gone forever. She has struggled to stay alive for days. The life of her family will never be the same again. The national consciousness, that has awakened for a while now, will soon go back into slumber as probably she will lose her battle with life!

Monday, December 24, 2012

8 feel good things that are free of cost

With a deluge of ipods, ipads, smartphones, information centers, the idiot box, social networking sites and the race to make money that’ll last a lifetime, we forget that the world’s best things are absolutely free. We don’t need to earn a zillion bucks and be able to afford every distracting thing technology made to keep ourselves happy! Simple things around us can be put to use to meet our end - be it physical or mental well-being! i realized that i don’t use even some of the basic ones to make myself, and others around me, happy!

Here’s my list -

1. Smile: Sounds stupid. But i realised that i used to see the same people come to my gym. i recognized their faces but they never smiled and i too didn’t attempt it. That set me thinking. i am sure it’s ok to smile at people who you see more often than strangers on the street. One, a smile definitely makes one feel good. (Try it! Remember to smile often and you will see your mood drastically improve every time you do! And what more - a happy mind keeps you looking young!!) Two, who knows i might have struck conversations and made friends, all beginning with a smile!

2. Talk to people: The next thing i noticed is that i did smile at a few familiar faces but stopped at that. i thought man, and woman, is a social animal. i guess there should be no harm in exchanging a couple of sentences. Think of people you’ve been bumping into at your office escalators and train stations for months but never had a word. Go ahead and talk to them. It’s free!

3. Get out in the morning: One of the best mood boosting activities is to get out for a walk in the morning before the traffic builds up. Could be just outside your house or a park nearby. i always thought it impossible to step out of my street without having to combat a million vehicles honking away to glory! But when i stepped out, for various reasons, anytime before 7am - i was surprised at how tame and friendly outdoors appeared! And it definitely made me feel happy and nice about getting my share of fresh air. i also realised that it is for no reason that our ancestors insisted we should rise early. Because somehow being up early generally lifts the mood and makes you active.

4. Sing or move to music: Again, sounds stupid! But play your favourite song and move your body. If someone like me with 2 left feet suggests this, i am sure it’ll make dancers feel that much better. It doesn’t matter how you look because no one’s watching you in your room (or say, the kitchen while cooking). Imagine that you are Michael Jackson or Govinda. It’ll only make a difference to your happiness and feel good levels! Also, singing along the crazy lyrics or humming along the soulful ones also help! So what if we aren’t exactly Sonu Nigam! In our own world, we are!

5. Take the stairs: Well, this little freebie is to keep us fit. Take the stairs wherever possible. i had my heart rate up about 4 times just changing trains in Delhi Metro by doing this! i know this is nothing like a full fledged workout and a lot of times we are in a hurry or too lazy to do it. And many times our mind argues against it by convincing us that it wouldn’t make too much of a difference. i am sure it does make a difference to our body than not taking stairs at all!

6. Read a book: Maybe you already do. On a regular basis. If you don’t have the time to, make deliberate effort to set out a slot to read an engaging book, depending on your interests. i am sure you spent money on a lot of books hoping to read them someday! There’s nothing like losing oneself in the world of characters to forget a long days woes.

7. Talk to your neighbour: Log out of Facebook and get real. Walk up to your neighbour’s and make a sincere effort at getting to know them (if you don’t already, that it). You can pick a different one in your building every week, you may already know them but it must have been ages since you went down to the old aunty and said Hi. To you it might be just a visit, but to someone else it might be someone’s precious time!

8. Call a friend: Once again get off the internet and speak to a real person. You might have a zillion friends online but when was the last time you actually made an attempt to speak to one of them in real time? This isn’t exactly free because of call charges but i am sure it can be easily accommodated by cutting down several useless messages we send each day. Even better is to try and find an old friend on one of your networking sites and  get in touch. It’s surprising how we start off with school friends from where we left off no holds barred! i have found myself smiling for days after finding school friends and talking to them thinking of childhood memories and days spent with them.

i have tried out a few of these and intend to try out a few others. You may go ahead with some and see if it makes a difference to your worldview! Please share here if it did!

Friday, December 7, 2012

English Vinglish

No, this is not a movie review. It's too late for that. This is about the lessons that stay with you (esp if you are a woman and they should even if you are a man!) long after you have watched the movie.

1. It is ok to not have a particular skill even if the rest of the world thinks that it is crucial.

2. Any skill is worth being respected, even if it is cooking, which is generally perceived as a mundane household chore.

3. Any age is good enough to learn a new skill. There is nothing to be ashamed of the attempt.

4. Respect for life partners in a marriage should be independent of what one's good at or weak in.

5. And finally, any woman who isn't "working" but is "just" a "housewife"  is worthy of equal respect for the simple reason that she is the only person who puts others' comfort ahead of her own. (WE all would notice if we stopped for a moment and took notice)

This might look like just another one of those oh-women-are-so-great-and-should-be-respected post. But I can imagine people who have watched the movie nodding in agreement with what I have said here. And people who haven't yet should get a DVD, when it is out to understand what I have said. It is never too late to look at things differently!