Monday 31 December 2012

You and I

This is by my friend Vikram Sheel Kumar, a doctor, entrepreneur and writer (he contributes to Forbes India and is a consulting editor for ForbesLife India, in response to Imagine, a piece I wrote a few days ago. continue:

Remember when ministers tendered their resignation at a slight challenge to their honour?

There was accountability. And honour. And respect.

Yes, we are all accountable for a society where beastly acts such as gang rape occur. But neither you nor I can make sure our buses are safe.

Neither you nor I can scare the sins out of people through a trusted and tough police force.

Neither you nor I can direct precious national funds to prevent the next rape instead of sending a critical patient offshore through sophomoric medical (and political) judgement.

Neither you nor I can speak a few words, on television, to the full nation to reinforce through humanity and humility that we remain the great civilization to which the world has turned for its spiritual depth and awakening, and we have just, perhaps, over the past couple decades, lost ourselves in the race for easy money, quick thrills, and our own personal Idol worship.

Neither you nor I can set policies that move the economy forward, so at 9pm men are thinking of what to wear at work the next day, not how the get the next high.

You and I can demand public accountability and safety, and pray our leaders find in their depth the honour, respect, trust, judgement and wisdom that justify their position of power in our nation. And if our prayers are not answered, we can take back the power by finding in our depth the honour, respect, trust, judgement and wisdom to exercise our own democratic prerogative.

Saturday 29 December 2012

For Anonymous

If you're in Delhi, there's a condolence meeting at Jantar Mantar at 11am.

For the rest of us:

This evening, around sunset.

If you're in Bombay, perhaps at the Gateway of India, our India Gate. Or Marine Drive, Azad Maidan, Shivaji Park, the amphitheatre at bandstand, the park near you, with your friends and neighbours.

If you're n other places, name your place to meet.

Here's what you could do.

Wear a white ribbon, or a white headband.

Bring a flower, any flower, but I suggest a rose or anything that has a thorn or two.

When you get there, use that thorn to draw a little blood from your thumb. Feel that little bit of pain. Think how much worse it was for The Girl, for the thousands of others like her who we have not heard of, may not ever hear of. Remember it. Use the white headband or ribbon to clean up that drop of blood.

Take the flower again. Pull off every petal, one by one. As you do, say to yourself, with each petal, we killed her, all of us, by never fighting the daily atrocities, by never saying, no, enough, I will not let this happen.

Crush the petals in your hand and release the fragrance. As you inhale it, say to yourself, this is where it ends. This is where I do all I can to stop it. Let the petals fall to the ground. (If you're near a river, or the sea, let the petals go into the water.) Throw the stalk in the nearest dustbin.

Sing together. Choose something you all know. Perhaps 'We shall overcome / Hum honge kamyaab' could be it. Sing it soft.

Disperse. Go home. And start changing our world.


Imagine, if you will, a world where women are not treated like possessions.

Imagine a time when bride prices are a forgotten term, when language professors will puzzle over the meaning of terms like "eve-teasing" and "honour killing" because their usage has no currency.

Imagine a time when anything that is fine for a boy to do is appropriate for a girl to do too.

Imagine a time when the only time we tell our mothers and wives and sisters and daughters what they should wear is when it is raining outside and they haven't noticed and are going out without their raincoats.

Imagine a time when film students will wonder how songs picturised around the glorification of sexual harassment ever found an audience, how the stars and the makers of those movies ever got rich and famous instead of ridiculed and scorned.

Imagine a polity where 'leaders' who make primitive sexist statements are hounded out of public life.

Imagine a society where rapists, not the raped, are shunned, disgraced and have their lives ruined.

Better still, imagine a time when rape is something that no longer happens.

Imagine being the generation that made it possible, by raising their voices, by being the change instead of demanding it, by being furious with the government (and rightly so) and the politicians (and rightly so) and the police (and rightly so), but also recognising that they, my generation and the ones before us, let it be possible for venal people to flourish and perpetuate these horrors, and by screaming out loud and long, enough!

We couldn't. You can. Imagine that.

Thursday 27 December 2012

Why you should send your visiting card to a PR spammer

An email to my office address. I've tried to preserve the formatting. Yes, it came in with all-underlined text. I've removed the company name. Do not miss the bit about "There are at least 10,000++ people on this email."

Dear all,

I have pleasure in sending you the link to the very first MHAP e-Christmas Card.

Read every line of my email dont miss it..

Its once a year that i have to thank you all for all the support you have bestowed upon me. Believe me without the support of the corporate and media and travel world i would not be able to reach and achieve my goals which i have.

If this email reaches you more than once here's a sincere apology as your name might be marked in my mailing list on different names but rest assured you are remembered and i have the "Gratitude" for you all which i should.

My address is attached below so please post/courier/drop me your visiting cards not on email but a hard copy of the card.

Now, why do i need the visiting cards...yes..I call the entire team to join me once a year for a luncheon and i would like to send out the invitations for it. No, dont rush after you are finished with your holidays and new year i shall have my party closer to Valentine's day..So send in your cards...I have a lucky my best relationship manager, my best friend, my best (loads and loads)of gifts... The industry has seen my get togethers in the past and they know it has been awesome.

So complete all your work and believe me you will have a network to connect with which no party or organisation can provide..There are at least 10,000++ people on this email who you will meet and connect with..So happy holidays compliments of the season and yes dont forget to Click Me! below and see the brands i am associated with my best wishes.
GOD BLESS YOU!! Stay Blessed!! you are in my PRAYERS...

[cheesy graphic of cask with the words 'click me superimposed on it]

Miss [Name removed]
Senior Management
[Company name removed, but it's a world-famous premium alcohol brand]

Tuesday 25 December 2012

Do they know it's Christmas?

Air-dashing we will go
As soon as ma’am-ji says
O'er the states we go
On mantri discount fares!
Can you see my bling?
Don’t I look a sight?
What fun it is to be giving
Prime time news hour sound byte!

(Oi!) Single girls, single girls,
Why do you protest?
Now I’ll have to use the hose...
See? You’re getting wet.
Single girls, single girls,
Why you questions ask?
I answer with aasu gas,
And you forgot gas mask!

Now Rajpath is all wet
And all you people, young,
Are getting lathis on your butts
Ooh! I bet that stung!
Go home and watch TeeVee
We’ll hold special I Pee El
Go to malls, spend money!
Or go to bloody hell!

(Oi!) Single girls, single girls,
Why do you protest?
Now I’ll have to use the hose...
See? You’re getting wet.
Single girls, single girls,
Why you questions ask?
I answer with tear gas,
And you forgot gas mask!

Inspired by Deepanjana and her colleague Colleen, and Samit.

Sunday 23 December 2012

The problem is us

If you haven't been discomfited by a government form that demands a father's or husband's name, you're part of the problem.

If you think that a woman must change her name, first or second or both, when she marries, you're part of the problem.

If you are not ashamed of laws that treat women as if they were possessions of a man, or less than men in any way, you're part of the problem.

If you work for, or patronise, a company that insists a woman has no identity of her own, that she ceases to become part of her birth family once she is married, you're part of the problem.

If you think that ladies compartments in trains and ladies seats in busses are a solution, you're part of the problem.

If you think security cameras and banning sun-film on vehicles are a solution, you're part of the problem.

If your son can stay out late but not your daughter, if your daughter must be 'dropped home' but not your son, I know I'm being hard on you, and I would do the same in our cities, but you're part of the problem, as I am.

If you are not distressed by playgrounds where little boys run wild but where you don't see any little girls, by boys coming out to play cricket on the street during a bandh, but not girls, maybe you're not observant enough, or maybe you're part of the problem.

If you run an ad campaign that has hunky male film stars asking the world to 'be a man' and join him in protecting women, you're part of the problem.

If you think that getting men to think of all women as their mothers and sisters and daughters is a solution, perhaps you're not a problem, but I'm sorry, I think you're very wrong. It should be enough to think of them as fellow human beings, with rights of their own as valid and as important as yours.

If you think offering bangles to a man, or saying he should be wearing a sari, is an insult, you could be making a very subtle point about gender imbalance, in which case I'm sorry I didn't get it. Or you could be part of the problem.

If you call sexual harassment 'eve-teasing,' you're making a crime sound like boys-will-be-boys mischief, and that, I'm afraid, makes you part of the problem. If you think that 'outraging the modesty of a woman' does not smell strongly of woman-as-possession, then perhaps we have different sensibilities, but I'm inclined to think you're part of the problem.

If you think that chow mein or other foods result in uncontrollable libido, you're a lunatic and definitely part of the problem. If you think anything can result in uncontrollable libido, you're a very serious part of the problem and should be restrained for your own good and the good of all around you.

If you think the solution is giving young men child brides so that they can satisfy their lust, you're part of the problem.

If you think rape shames a woman, that her izzat has been stolen, that she is henceforth a "zinda laash," you're part of the problem.*

If your stock visual for rape stories is a woman with her face hidden, you're unimaginative, wrong, and yes, part of the problem.

If you think people having sexual intercourse, or even marrying, outside the religious, communal, economic or gender boundaries that you are comfortable with (and no, I don't include children and animals here) is against  your culture, you and your culture are part of the problem.

If you think that she shouldn't have been wearing those revealing clothes, because dressing that way is provocative; if you think that she shouldn't have been out that late, alone; if you think she was being 'adventurous' because she was returning from work at 2 a.m.; if you think rape happens because 'men and women interact with each other more freely'; if you think she invited trouble because she had a drink—or two, or three, or six—or because she smokes; if you think her being the only woman in a group of men was foolish; if you think her having had sexual intercourse with someone—or several someones—she's not married to makes it understandable that other men would think they can have sex with her against her will; if you think that her having sexual intercourse for money makes it okay to have sexual intercourse with her against her will; if you think her working at a bar is a reason why she will be targetted; if you think that her husband has a right to have sexual intercourse with her whether she wants to or not, you're part of the problem.

Yes, if you think there's any possible justification for rape, if you imply in any way that a woman is asking for it or provoking it, you're part of the problem.

And if your reaction to young people protesting a culture that makes rape commonplace is not standing up and saying, "We hear you, we're sorry that you're upset enough to come together like this, we're upset too, we're doing our best to stop this and our resolve is strengthened because we know we can count on your help," but instead you fire water cannons and tear gas shells at them, and then decide to lock down the area, you're not only part of the problem, we will lose faith in your ability to ever find a solution, because you are central to the problem.**

* Sentence rephrased after a suggestion from Harini Calamur

** Some very smart people I respect said, on Twitter, that this last paragraph took away from this post, referring, I guess, to the violence and vandalism that took place today. I must clarify that I was referring to what I had learned from reading about the situation yesterday, and leaning a lot on Nilanjana Roy's from-the-spot tweets and subsequent blogpost, and a chat with her on the phone last night. Which is that the mostly young people at Raisina Hill yesterday afternoon were not just protesting peacefully, but also actively stopping fellow protesters when they crossed the line. For example, telling each other not to throw back tear-gas shells, because that would give the police an excuse. Later yesterday, I know, and definitely today, various opportunistic ruffians and/or political parties descended on the protests, and things changed. I do not, by any means, seek to condone the violence that has now happened, and never will agree with violence as a means.