Sophie’s choice and a touch of Corneille

From the instant I found the strength to look deep into Manu‘s eyes and made him part of my morrows, I took the irrevocable decision of making the dreams of others mine. From that moment there was no coming back. That was also the day I felt the weight of a Damocles’s sword hanging above my head. That was because to make these dreams come true I would have to depend on others till the day I could attain what is known as sustainability. I assure you that I tried everything under the sun to reach that sustainability but failed. The Damocles sword inched closer and closer.

In the past years there have been times when the sword has almost fallen but was stopped in time as some miracle occurred and we were able to carry on unscathed. But a mail that dropped in my box yesterday gave the final push granting me a short reprieve to put my house in order. In this case it means closing some of our centres. Easy peasy some would say. But not for me.

Today I am faced with a Sophie’s choice. I need to send one or more of my children to the slaughter house. The Cartesian in me would say: look at the figure that will be withdrawn, look at the costs of each centre, assess the value of each programme and do the maths. If I do that, then the axe falls on the tiniest ones: the creche. Why is is that these Cornelian dilemmas where one is obliged to choose between two courses of action either of which having a detrimental effect on ourselves or on someone near and dear to us always affect the ones who have no voice. I cannot begin to imagine how these tiny tots aged between 2 and 5 will feel when they are told one fine morning that the three wheeler will never come to fetch them again. What have they done to deserve this. They do not even have a voice to say what they feel. No more singing and dancing; no more picnics in the parks, no more cartoons on the big TV no more joy or laughter.

The reason for this cut is that India is no more the flavour of the day. Rape cases and a negative international press has taken us off the tourism map. And of course there is donor fatigue. All this is understandable when you think with your head but when the heart jumps in then you are bound to say: what did these little kids do to deserve this.

I knew this day would come. I knew it from the moment I realised that Planet Why could never become a reality and that we would have to remain dependent on the generosity of others, a generosity that one cannot expect to be limitless. And yet these little children cost a bauble for many, less than a dinner in a starred restaurant.

Today I sit helpless and bewildered. Do I even have the right to pray for another miracle. Only time will tell. 

Off with their heads and other shenanigans

A few months ago, when a new party that promised to clean up our political system arrived upon, it sounded like a breath of fresh air. Sadly the air has become stale faster than one would have thought. It has become difficult if not impossible to defend this new kid on the block who now threatens to send media persons to jail if a probe found them guilty. It almost sounds like the Queen in Alice in Wonderland and her Off with their heads! Somehow this new political kid believes that chopping off heads will solve all India’s problems.

I began this blog a while back and then somehow stopped writing as I watched helplessly and with a tinge of sadness the shenanigans we are being treated to in this rather baffling election campaign.

A few months back the emergence of the AAP seemed God sent and we all went out to support them. They seemed like a breath of fresh air, an option we could honestly vote for. And more than that, we all felt, I certainly did, that they would provide a new force that could compel the well greased political parties to relook at themselves and clean their stables. The euphoria died too soon and we watched helplessly as hubris that seems to be in osmosis with power, hijacked the new face of Indian politics.

I wonder what brought this change? Dealing with corruption and ending it is no mean task and cannot be done in a day. It certainly cannot be done by sending every one to jail! Corruption has become second nature and almost a way of life. To root it out would necessitate finding the neck of this hydra headed monster whose numerous heads have to be killed one by one, till one finally gets at its vulnerable neck. Off with their heads is no panacea here.

For David to take on Goliath is a tough task that Goliath can only achieve with wisdom, restraint and above all cunning. as it is a matter of beating them in games they are masters at. In my humble opinion they fell into a well laid trap when they decided to form a Government without having the numbers and with the support of the very people they were seen to despise. In hindsight, they would have been better off not forming any government even if that meant another election. It was still honeymoon period and they would have come back with a bang. For the next 49 days I watched with woe the games the opponents played as they reeled out the rope that would ultimately hang them. They left a city that had entrusted its hopes rudderless. Promises made were forgotten and we will soon be paying the price as from April 1st – and this is no April Fool – our electricity bills will soar. I am now contemplating solar energy panels on my roof.

Has David been seduced by hubris. It looks like it as one watches the AAP story enfold. One cannot begin to imagine what their plan is. The sagacious way would have been to remain a counterpoint to other well entrenched political parties. A kind of pressure group that would have compelled them to mend their ways. A waiting time that would have helped them develop the ruses and stratagems needed to slay all the heads of the corruption and poor governance Hydra. The hurried jump into national politics seems very premature and leaves us voters perplexed to say the least.

So what are we going to do come election day. My heart still tells me to give them a chance as it maybe a long time before an alternative comes our way. True one is a little worried about their programmes and strategies and most of all their ability to run a country as vast and complex as India, but if would be refreshing, again in my humble opinion, to have them form a substantial pressure group within the hallowed halls of Parliament to ensure that Parliament works and bills are passed. One would hope that it would also give them time to learn.

If not they, then who? That is a big question. What we have seen in the last weeks is a real masterpiece of the theatre of of absurd. Can one hold on to ideologies anymore? The answer is no. Every day we see people from one party joining their bitter rivals. It is almost the flavour of election 2014. Winnability is the key word, sleeping with the enemy is kosher and sulking is a new entrant. You do not get a ticket, you sulk and either crossover the other side or stand as an independent. Anything to spoil the game. Over the past weeks one has not heard any politician spell out its vision for India. Will they build new schools, new hospitals. No one knows. At present everyone is busy pulling out the other and the dirty department tricks is in full swing.

Everyone had shouted loud and clear about denying tickets to ‘corrupt’ candidates. It seems that the word corruption is interpreted in a very different manner by politicians. It is not a matter of perception but a convoluted set of legalese that is nothing short of absurd. Many of the people contesting are corrupt and no jargon can whitewash them. Yet they have found tickets with all political parties. Winnability again! It is also carpe diem for all relatives: son, daughters, brothers and all else. If the father is suspect let the son get a ticket, it is all in the family.

Do political parties think that a few glib slogans, page long advertisements and extended and dramatic commercials on the idiot box suffice to convince voters who are fully aware of the day-to-day live drama behind the scenes? What it all looks like is a bunch of unruly kids fighting for a share of the pie.

The latest act in this absurd and unending play was the induction of the leader of a rabid religious party whose 3 minutes of fame came courtesy a shameful attack on young people in a pub. The man was accepted then refused by one party and if that was not enough, the rival party induced a member of the same gang to boot him out hours later. It almost seemed orchestrated.

I would like to believe that the Indian electorate has come of age. I hope it comes out to vote with sagacity. But the question remains: who do we vote for this time.

Ethan and Meher a fairy tale

About a decade ago two beautiful children were born at about the same time, one somewhere in India and the other somewhere in the United States. One was a little boy and the other a little girl. One was named Ethan and the other Meher! No one would have ever thought that their paths would cross some day, as not only did thousands of miles across land and sea separate them but they belonged to very different worlds. You see in our time and age we put people in boxes often according to how rich and well off they are and if Ethan belonged to what one calls the privileged world, little Meher was from a very poor one. But there was someone, the one who lives upstairs, who was smiling as he had set a miracle in motion, a miracle that would take a decade to enfold.

The miracle in question could possibly have sprung because of a mistake – intended or inadvertent – that our man upstairs wanted to correct. Whilst Ethan’s life was set on course, Meher’s was not quite so. When she was just a baby her cot caught fire and she suffered terrible burns. Her face and head were badly burnt and her tiny fingers fused together. This meant she would never be able to lead a normal life and most of all never be able to hold a pencil. The doors of learning closed for her.

Ethan grew up and went to school but Meher played in the graveyard next to her home in the village and was made fun of by her peers because of her ungainly scars. That is when the man upstairs decided to set his miracle in motion. Meher was brought to Delhi and and the tiny hovel in which her family moved was located next to our centre. Her mother use to let Meher wander around and one day our coordinator saw her rummaging the garbage that lay around a sweet shop, looking for scraps to eat. Meher entered the project why world and life would never be the same.

A volunteer with a huge heart decided to take matters in hand. The rest is history. We all realised that the only salvation for this little girl was through education and the first thing to do was to give her her hands back. For that to happen her story had to be told and it was and somewhere thousands of miles away people got touched by her story and decided to make it theirs.

A series of corrective surgeries done by a kind doctor and lots of chess games made the miracle a reality. Meher could go to school and she did. Today she is in Class IV and top of her class. A few days ago I met Ethan for the first time. A beautiful picture landed on my screen. I was informed that this young man had been instrumental in collecting the funds for her school fees. I was moved to tears but not a surprised as one would have thought because I know that children see with their hearts instinctively till adults mess around with them. Blessed are those whose parents also see with their hearts.

Meher saw Ethan’s picture and wrote him a letter. I hope and pray that these two children meet some day. I know that they hold the key to many more miracles. Who said fairy tales do not exist.

Happy birthday Popples

Wednesday was Popples’s birthday. He is 12 now. How time flies. This was his first birthday in his new school and unlike his other school, birthdays are celebrated with style here. Something we did not know. Utpal had called me last week and given me a list of things he wanted me to bring: a cake baked by Shamika, fruit juices, sweets to give his pals and of course his present. What he forgot to tell us was that we had to reach before the day boarders left so that we could all celebrate together. I thought that we could only meet him after school hours. I was told that he was in tears as he wanted to take all his friends to the ‘party room’ he had ‘booked’. I felt like a rat and kicked myself hard. Next year I would be there an hour before time.

We reached as school was over so his day boarder friends were leaving. We had nevertheless ensured that he was given sweets to distribute. We finally got to see him and he stood out as in this school kids are allowed to wear home clothes on their birthdays. One more point to remember: next birthday I will make sure he gets new clothes to wear!

After a big hug he told us about the party room and the fact that he had to go and get the key and we should follow his pals who would guide us. We gathered all our wares and followed meekly. I was a little worried as I did not know if we had enough to eat but mercifully the school has a lovely canteen run by a set of resourceful ladies. Mamaji who had accompanied us was commandeered to go to the canteen and pick up whatever we could. The loot was 15 hot dogs and 14 patties all yum. The key and lady in charge were found and the room opened. It had a long table and many chairs and though the lights were dim, our enthusiasm made up for all the shortcomings. We were a merry band with Utpal the perfect host. His little pals were settled. They came not only from far corners of India but form Afghanistan and the Maldives. Quite an international gathering. The cake was brought out, candles lit and happy birthday sung with fervour. The cake was cut amidst song and laughter.

Then Utpal told me that they wanted to dance so we needed to go outside. We did and Utpal danced while Nawab, his Afghan pal sang. It was a memorable experience that brought tears to my eyes. Then everyone danced to the sound of a cell phone. We would have wanted to stay longer but could not and left the boys in a happy mood.

I was moved and happy. God bless my darling Popples.

How can you quit being a woman

Dear India Women, you are condemned to play second fiddle as your  biological and natural constraints preclude you from attaining certain goals. These words are not mine but those of our Air Chief who believes that these ‘constraints’ is what makes it impossible for us women become fighter pilots and go into combat mode. The reason is, and again it is not my opinion but his, that flying fighter planes is concerned, it’s a very challenging job. Women are by nature not physically suited for flying fighters for long hours, especially when they are pregnant or have other health problems. I must quickly state that this does not apply to women from the US, Russia, Turkey, Malaysia, Srilanka, Bangladesh et al. This is only for us Indian women. Are we biologically different to our sisters in other lands. 

This is absurd and ridiculous but so in sync with our patriarchal society. We are not even accorded with having the minimum amount of common sense to understand the demands of such jobs before we decide to go for them. No, like in all matters, a man will decide how we feel, how strong we are, what are our biological limitations and so on. And we must demurely accept their diktats. That is called PATRIARCHY and we women are bound to live under its tyranny.

Who are men to understand our biological and natural constraints. Does any man know what menstruation feels like, what menstrual cramps or labour pain are? An dear Air Chief if you think that a flying job is challenging than what would you say about the job that is thrust at us just because we are women. I mean housewife though I find the term derogatory and would prefer to call it home management. And what about motherhood when you become and are held responsible for a life you create, nurture and tend to till death does you part. Have you not, like so many fathers, quipped ‘your child’ when faced with a challenging situation. You are only there for the good times and strangely absent for the difficult ones. The wonderful job every woman has to fulfil is that of a cook, cleaner, wife, mother, partner, sexual gratifier, hostess, doctor, psychologist, teacher, finance manager, human resource manager and many more. Who do you run to when you have a problem at your work? Who do you go to when you feel insecure and inadequate? And you expect quite merrily that one woman, yes just one single woman does all that with a smile and with no room for error. Have you ever wondered who she runs to? I wish every man could walk into a woman shoes for just a day, maybe that would earn us their respect. Being a woman is challenging.

You take our multi-tasking for granted. We work without leave or absence even when we are ill and hurting. We cannot quit our job. How does one quit being a woman when you are reminded everyday that you just that a woman. I forgot to mention that above all that I have stated women are also working and contributing to the family kitty. So we too have a 9 to 5  job but cannot come and demand a meal or a cuppa when we come back tired after a hard day at work. So looks like our biological and natural constraints are not constraints after all but quite the opposite. We must be having helluva body and spirit to manage all that after all!

And no one lets us forget that we are a woman. Each time we step out of the house we are ogled at, pinched or abused in some way or the other. We may not by nature not physically suited for flying fighters but it seems we are good fodder for abuse, abuse of all kinds, insidious or open. We are also a good commodity to trade and of course rape material as we ‘invite’ rape by the way we dress, talk, look even if we are three and half year old. 

You think I am talking a load of c***.  Read this article about trafficking where women are sold, yes sold, to vegetable processing units @ 100 rs, a soap bar and a bottle of oil a month! That is what we are worth a soap bar and a bottle of oil and yet we survive and help others. That is what a woman is all about a survivor, no matter what you throw at her face.

I am proud of being a woman and if I were to be born again I would want to be a woman.

So you can keep your cockpit, ours is far more challenging!


Food security

My husband informed me yesterday that he has to go to Manipur next month. I was thrilled as this means that he is back to normal, or a new normal as they say, after a harrowing battle with lymphoma. My only worry was: what will he eat, as part of his recovery has been a well balanced and near organic diet. Last month he had visited Calcutta many times and after much thought we had zeroed in on fish as the best alternative for him. I know nothing about Manipuri food but what I know is that I am weary and suspicious about him eating food that has travelled miles and miles and food that has been subjected to a cold chain as we in India have still not fathomed the basic tenets of refrigeration and cold storage. I know how difficult is is for me to explain to my staff that one cannot defrost and re-frost with alacrity. Thus I decided to find out, bless be Google, what the locals in Manipur ate, feeling a tad ashamed at my near to nil knowledge of foods of the North East. I am glad this opportunity came by.

If you Google for foods from Manipur you are faced with exotic names you do not recognise: Ngari, Iromba, Chamfoot, Morok! A little further reading reveals what these are: fermented fish and lots of local herbs. Manipuris like their food spicy hot. The staple diet of Manipur consists of rice, large varieties of leafy vegetables (of both aquatic and terrestrial) and fishes. Manipuris typically raise vegetables in a kitchen garden and rear fishes in small ponds around their house. Since the vegetables are either grown at home or obtained from local markets the cuisines are very seasonal, each season having its own special vegetables and preparations. They hardly use any oil and the food is near organic.  It should be cause to celebrate only I do not see my husband eating fish with bones or vegetables that seemed simply boiled with herbs. I wish he did as it would be a perfect diet for him. Must try and find out a way out.

It is sad that we do not know anything about local cuisines around our land as these are the ones that are healthy and nutritious. Globalisation has ensured the slow death of local food. An interesting article in a magazine entitled the culture of eating right, unravels the richness of tribal cuisine in India, where over, hold your breath, 1582 food kinds were on display and 972 of them for uncultivated. Organic in its purest form! How silly we look with our limited grocery bag that looks pathetically the same week after week, month after month. The festival was a celebration of traditional food cultures linked to age-old farming practices that not only provide these tribes nutritional security, but also protects and conserves nature’s bounty.

This is real food security, one that has withstood the test of time and is in sharp contrast with the Food security the Government wants to dole out and that is limited to 5 paltry kilos of rice, wheat or millet. As a tribal rightly said: “We don’t need your food security system, the more ration shops you open in our villages, the more you force us to abandon our own food security system so painstakingly built by our forefathers.” I wish law makers understood this, but they are so high on hubris that they want to be God and Nature at the same time. Sadly it does not work that way. By taking away traditions, we are going against nature in a shameless way.

A single traditional plant has multiples uses and no waste. He is is just one example:  Kusum koli leaves are used for fodder, its fruits eaten raw, the plant is used as firewood and oil is extracted from the seeds. The seed oil serves as a mosquito repellent and also treats certain skin diseases. So you have food for humans and animals, fuel for cooking and medicine. There are hundreds of such examples. If you read the whole article you will understand what true Food security means. How can 5 kilos of rice replace what the forest gives. It is impossible to view food security without a proper understanding of our traditional food systems and feeling a sense of pride in them. The short cut and thoughtless approach aimed at gaining votes has to be abandoned. The fast food frenzy has to be denounced, the dangers of genetically modified food need to be assessed.

We need to imbibe the wonderful knowledge of tribal traditions and embrace them. 1582 kinds of foods cannot be shunned and cast away. We, and I include myself in the we, are quick to adopt and even champion foods coming from ancient traditions of other lands like quinoa and chia seeds and shitake mushrooms and pay exorbitant prices for them but unwilling to look at the foods of our own ancient traditions. What if I were to tell you that Kanglayen, a mushroom found in Manipur is shitake mushroom. I am sure that there is a cornucopia of super foods waiting to be discovered and I intend to do so.

What can be more organic than a meal of vegetables grown in your backyard and fish from your pond! And look at the picture above, each bowl is a different food. I wonder if the best 5* Michelin chef could conjure such a plate.

No piece cake!

To be born in today’s India is no piece of cake. I have been watching with horror and sadness the terrible plight of parents whose are trying to get their children admitted in nursery classes in private schools this year. It is nothing short of a never ending nightmare both for what we may call ‘ordinary’ parents and those from humbler homes who want to avail of the 25% reservation in these classes. I remember when I first heard of this absurd solution to the stipulations of the Right to Education Act, I knew it would be more than a herculean task.

 A new court order has now stayed all procedures till March 24th following yet another petition challenging a previous order! The whole process looks like a play worthy of the best theatre of the absurd, a new version of Waiting for Godot with the protagonists being: an innocent toddler, harried parents and a clueless administration. Lots are drawn, then cancelled, to be drawn again with no one knowing which mother will knock at the courts of justice and break down in court following the results of the next draw. And as this saga goes on, the rule makers get tied in knots and more knots that would soon resemble an Arachnean web impossible to unravel.

One could watch all this with amused aloofness were it not for the thousands of children whose future lies in a little piece of paper in a box with all the odds stacked against it. How can a self respecting state, one who insists on being considered as a world power, not ensure access equitable education to all its children. In any supposedly civilised country a child should be able to get admission to a school it could walk to. That could be a reality if our Government decided once for all to model every school they run to the image of the central schools that are also run by them. The commercialisation of education is not a solution to Education for All. State run schools should be an option for every child, rich or poor. Sadly that is not the situation today and one does not have to be literate or ‘educated’ to understand that a child has a better chance in a school where there are 40 children in a class as compared to one that has 100+!

The 2014 – 2015 version of this absurd saga began in mid January. Guidelines on the (ill)famed 100 points system were issued. The new ‘neighbourhood’ criteria was extended from 6 to 8km! I thought neighbourhood was walking distance, but 8km would give you 70 points. Then there were points for siblings, girls and staff children, staff here being extended from parents to grandparents. 25% of the seats had to be reserved for disadvantaged children. Get the picture. Now in a country like India you can circumvent any issue so people get fake tenancy agreements and fake documents to avail of the 25% category. Slum parents are barely aware of this facility and even if they are, often do not have the documents needed. So it all looks like a joke.

But children cannot be treated with such contempt. Their future cannot be left to a draw of lots where there are 80 seats and 5000 applicants. And why are you disadvantaged if your a an only child, a first born or a boy!

It is time the law makers did something about education. Children cannot wait. With every day lost you jeopardize the future of an innocent child who remains helpless and lost.

Don’t lose faith…

Don’t lose faith in India were one of the last words my father said to me.Today I am finding it difficult to keep faith! It is no more a question of not losing faith but of not abandoning India. A quote from Racine’s play Phedra comes to mind: Tout m’afflige et me nuit, et conspire à me nuire, which translated would read: All afflicts and injures me, and conspires to my injury.
Phèdre, act I, scene III and would need to be reworded as: all afflicts and injures me and conspires to my losing faith. Every time you take a deep breath and try and try moving on that not losing faith journey you promised to travel to the very end, something hits you like a tons of brick. And that something flies at you from anywhere and everywhere. And it takes all your will power and effort and remembering the love you have for the one who set you and that journey to take another step and then another one. What you want to do is annihilate the reason, but you are not privy to the way Hydra is destroyed and you battle aimlessly with each head of the serpent as more and more grow relentlessly until the moment you feel that eliminating yourself might be easier, before you suddenly look desperately for a straw to latch on to and carry on.

It is even more frustrating when you know the way but also know that you can only do d**** all! I have given up news channels of late as I cannot bear the screeches and nonsensical bellows of politicians badgering their opponents and blowing their trumpets whilst 3 children die quietly very minute in a deafening silence. They die of malnutrition, poor health care and reasons that each of these aspiring Prime Ministers could solve if they had the heart to. I would not be able to stand in front of thousands and thousands of people I have let down and feed them dreams that never will never come true because no one wants them to.

I gall when those who have been in power for decades reel out their achievements without batting an eyelid. Come on do you wear visors when you step out of the comfort of the ivory towers you hide in or does one have to sell one’s soul, eyes, ears and all else to the devil when you don the mantle of politics? You do not have to leave the precinct of your city to see children begging, children working when they should be in school according to a legislation you voted with great fanfare. These kids are also Indians just like yours and have a right to free and quality education or is the street or a dark workshop the schools for children who live on the other side of an invisible but impregnable wall.

How do those who want to ‘rule’ courtesy the votes we give them not shudder at the 11 000 children that go missing every year. Do they not know that these children often become part of the sex trade. But true they are not your children but those of a nether world you only remember when you need a vote or a feel good sop that anyway does not reach anyone.

Parliament is made to legislate. It is not the market place it has been turned to. I wonder if these politicians realise that vulnerable people wait with bated breath of the very legislation that gather dust session after session while they squander tax money in playing to the gallery. The little boys in the picture are still waiting for the Disability Act that would have brought some relief in their lives.

I am sick of vote bank politics that entail aberrations like the (ill)famed kangaroos courts that order and execute death sentences should you dare love or dividing and dividing till there is nothing left to divide.

I would like to hear someone talk about education for all, about breaking the vertical glass barriers that separate us and them. I would someone to realise that it is education and education alone that can transform India and that means quality schools for every child, even the one that knocks at your car window each time you stop at a red light. We need to unite and not divide. We need schools to be level playing fields. We need my child and his child to study side by side.

It is easy to lose faith in India, but  more difficult to keep that faith. Yet one has.There is no option!

Woman’s day

 Today is woman’s day. I do not know why we celebrate one day in 365 as woman’s day! Does that mean that all others are man’s day? However I have my own take on this. In India is ranked as the 4th most dangerous country for women. The ranking was done based on six risks:  health threats, sexual violence, non-sexual violence, cultural or religious factors, lack of access to resources and trafficking. Among the G 20 countries, it is the worst. As worshipers of Goddesses this should make our heads hang in shame, but we do not. So at least today, which is woman’s day, let us do just that: hang our heads in shame for every woman in our country who suffers in silence and dignity the horrors she is subjected to.

From the time she is conceived, she is unwanted. Often her life ends in the womb and she is thrown away in some gutter or becomes part of hospital waste. Maybe the ones who go that way are spared the abuses they would be subjected to had they seen the light of day.

Every day we are faced with some terrible statistics regarding women. We seem to have become so inured to them that we barely flinch. You see these statistics do not concern our daughter, sister or friend. They seem to belong to some nether world we are unconcerned with. Maybe today is the day we should at least show concern about these horrifying figures and dare to peep into that nether world.

There was a TV programme yesterday evening on a film yet to be released: Lakshmi. One of the reasons for its delayed release is the concerns by the Indian Censor Board on the film’s subject and the content. You see it deals with human trafficking and child prostitution! Subjects you do not talk about as they disturb everything we want held as true. But trafficking exists. 44 000 children are abducted every year and 11 000 remain untraced. Some fight and survive like the heroine of this film. Today we should salute such women.

During the programme an activist, herself a survivor, made a valid  point however disturbing. It is time we looked at the demand and not the supply of this heinous and abhorrent trade. As she said, it is not enough to save a few, as is done now, but to cut the demand. She revealed that she the youngest girl she had ‘saved’ was three and a half years old. Yes there are men, some maybe even closer than we think, who want three and a half years old. And as long as there is a demand, there must be a supply. As the activist rightly said it is time to name and shame those who indulge in such horrors. But it makes good business sense does it not. I ask you today on this women’s day to make a pledge to go and see this film. Maybe it will open the eyes of your heart.

None of the abuses a woman has to suffer can happen without the help and connivance of other women. I am not just talking about the Madames of the prostitution dens. In every home women are abused by other women in some way or the other: the mother who prefers her son to her daughter, the mother-in-law who makes the life of her daughter-in-law hell, the women who gang up in the name of some misplaced sense of honour and shield a perpetrator with impunity while a child suffers in total bewilderment. To these women I simply ask: what if the victim was born out of your womb? Today I ask all women to stand up for women against the men who abuse them and to give up the code of silence they abide by.

And is it not time to scream out loud and clear that a woman is not responsible for the gender of the child, that the seed – be it male or female – comes from the man, and thus put a stop to the pain suffered by all women who cannot bear sons. How can they. God did not give them that role.

We need to stop thinking of women as a commodity and accept them being so treated.

Please make it a point to go and see Lakshmi to honour all the invisible women that suffer because of our deafening silence.

A land in election mode

So elections have been announced. Come to think of it we have been in election mode for quite some time. In the past weeks every time you switch on the idiot box, particularly in the day, you are likely to stumble upon some leader or the other addressing a rally in some part of the other of our country. The speeches, often delivered in screeching and strident voices courtesy I guess poor quality sound equipment are a cocktail of the same ingredients: bashing the adversary, enumerating one’s so called achievements, and wooing some section of society, normally the poor or some target group, though never quite spelling what they would do barring grandiose promises that one has heard ad nauseum.

I do not know what choices one really has. It seems that politics in India follow a similar cacophony no matter what your supposed ideologies are. Sleeping with the erstwhile enemy is common place. Pre election there is a torrid pre election alliance time which may or may not result in the sought marriage or engagement. The probability of a post election alliance does however remain on the back burner. And the alliances are of all shades and hues and follow now ideology whatsoever. The only common denominator is power!

Mudslinging, name calling and hitting below the belt is run-of-the-mill. It is all a game of oneupmanship. Blowing one’ s own bugle and badgering your opponent is the rule of the game. Then comes wooing the voter that includes a variety of gestures such as touching the feet of a poor elder, hugging or patting a child. Walking streets with a retinue of people hired at a daily wage, and a fanfare or drums playing forcefully while the candidate smiles with folded hands that unfold to wave at no one in particular is also an age long ‘tradition’. What is amusing is the sending of an advance party who hands out garlands to all and sundry so that they can ‘garland’ the candidate. It reminds you of yore days of kings and court jesters. Wonder if it cuts any ice with an electorate that is getting tired of these jaded ways.

Last time we voted for change, what we though was real change. But then the power bug I guess reared its ugly head and we as a city felt abandoned as our new heroes left us for greener pastures. Today we see them looking too much like the ones we were fed up with.

Yet we have to make a choice and to do sift the chaff from the wheat, if wheat there is. It is not easy to find one’s way under the din and clamour and work out what is best for us. It seems that creating the loudest vociferation is every one’s way of shielding their shortcomings and forcing us to lose our way. The recent happenings in Gujarat and the subsequent street fights are a good example of what I am trying to say. One party states it is trying to expose the claims of uber-development brandished by another. A member of the said party tries to explain the situation that ensued as best he can.

I do not know how many of us read an article by Mallika Sarabhai who in a quiet way gives us telling statistics about the development in this state that tell the real story.  She ends her article with these words:  But his model of development is Darwinian; the government will only support the fittest. Let the others perish. So, will the readers of this column see through this model of lies only if they belong to the 950 million poor, weak, unjustly treated? Is this the model for India?

What is happening is that we are all losing track of real issues and getting swayed by who shouts the loudest, who mesmerises the best, who dazzles the most, who promises the best sops. The real issues are forgotten and brushed under the carpet. The questions that need to be asked are lost in translation.  In a recent interview Delhi’s 49 days Chief Minister did make some very crucial points which again seemed to have been lost under his two coloured socks. He stressed that only quality education for all can usher the change we so want, and that it can only happen when all state run schools across the land impart equal and quality education. Unless that happens, nothing will change.

This is what the likes of me have been shouting forever.