In better times: MK Kaushik with the Indian women's hockey team
Controversy is raging around the Indian women’s hockey team, as its chief coach MK Kaushik resigned after Ranjita Devi from Manipur leveled allegations of sexual harassment against him. Reading about this led me on to thinking about the many other reports we have read in recent times about Northeastern women complaining about sexual harassment.
I experienced quite a culture shock when I moved from Mumbai to Delhi about 7 years ago. Delhities came across as being much more brash, nosier and definitely more close minded that those in Mumbai; the men are creepy; and it was the first time I felt afraid because I am a woman.
As I extrapolate those feelings to Northeastern women, I can’t help but feel enraged at the injustice that is meted out to them every day. Just because they enjoy partying and sex isn’t taboo for them the way it is for Delhites — due to which they are labeled “fast” — they are the target of unwanted male attention. Where does it say that just because a woman enjoys partying she’s lose; or if sex before marriage is no big deal for her, it’s an open invitation for men to paw her?
Freedom Jam in Manipur
There is a huge cultural difference between North India and Northeastern India — where the former is close-minded and largely patriarchal, the latter is more open and more, if I may generalize, Westernized. It’s common for girls to be out late, for youngsters spend the evening jamming together or to put up rock shows. When they come to Delhi, they find that their normal sources of entertainment are non-existent. So they do the next best thing — they go partying. For them, it’s natural. But for the close-minded North Indian men, it comes as an open invitation to be lustful. D-I-S-G-U-T-I-N-G.
When the issue got heated a couple of years ago, the police commissioner actually issued guidelines to Northeastern girlst telling them that they must dress “conservatively” and refrain from wearing skirts. What were you trying to say Mr. Top Cop? That men can’t control their urges, or that you can do nothing to protect women? That was a huge controversy at its time, just as the allegations leveled against MK Kaushik are creating an uproar now. That the lid has been blown off by a Manipuri girl just goes to show how deep rooted the prejudices are against Northeastern women.
We talk a lot about the values that shape us as individuals, but have you ever thought about basing your life on quotes? If a quote or two were to define you as a person, what would they be, and what would they say about you? The question at Plinky prompts was “What is your favorite quote and why?” Instead of just listing my favorite quote, I did a little soul searching and came up with two that really define me… “There was never a night or a problem that could defeat sunrise or hope.” — Bern Williams
This quote has been my rock during all my dark times. There is a certain sense of faith in these words — just like day follows night so hope follows a problem; how can it be anything else?
There have been many times when I’ve repeated this quote over and over again to myself like a mantra…and it has always calmed me down and helped me to hope.
The other quote I absolutely love is: "Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, Champagne in one hand, strawberries in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming "WOO HOO – what a ride!" — unknown
What a pleasant departure this one is from the current fad of starving yourself to look thin, the race to become a size zero, of a negative body image and a denial of the sensuous pleasure in food. What happened to enjoying life, to living each moment fully? Instead we run around trapped in a negative body image forced upon us by fashion magazines, forgetting that it’s important to be fit not size zero (yes, there is a difference!); that we have one chance at life, and it’s a short one; that every pleasure denied is a pleasure wasted.
I recently had the opportunity to attend a lecture by Dr. Kiran Bedi, India’s first and highest ranking female Indian Police Service (IPS) officer. Her speech, aimed at career women, was one of the most inspirational that I have ever heard.
While we were waiting for Dr. Bedi to arrive, there was a current of excitement among the audience. And once she entered, her presence was almost tangible; she has this aura of energy and awe surrounding her, and the anticipation mounted.
Her hold over an audience was undeniable, as once she started talking there was not a murmur to be heard among the crowd. Since the lecture was aimed at women, she started by asking us what we really wanted to hear her speak about. She initially shared various strategies that she personally used to achieve all of her professional goals, and then opened the floor up to questions. It was an extremely inspirational and very interactive session, and though it’s hard to recreate that energy in words, I’ve attempted to capture the essence of her talk.
The most important thing she mentioned was to create a mission statement for your life. This, she said, would help you to know what you want, what is important for you. If you’re a person who is focused on your career, for instance, you will need to design the rest of your life in such a way that you are able to focus on your work without being pulled in multiple directions or feeling guilty about not concentrating enough on your home and family. On the other hand, if your family is more important for you, then you know that you don’t really need to compare yourself with the other go-getters at work. Then you know that you need to find a job and a position where you can balance your work with your home, and you don’t set unattainable goals that then de-motivate you. So, creating a mission statement will help you to know what you want — and be true to that.
When she was asked about her career and how she moved up the ladder among the male dominated IPS cadre, she said the answer was “focus.” Focus on what you want and on doing what you have to do — the rest, like promotion, will come. When you are true to what you’re doing, and are focusing on getting what needs to get done, done, recognition is bound to follow.
Another important thing when in the corporate arena is to strengthen your home — that has to be your sanctuary. Then no matter what is happening on the outside, at home, where it matters, you can come back and be rejuvenated. Make friends with your mother-in-law; she can be your best support system, Dr. Bedi advised. If she believes in you and helps you, then you can go to work knowing that your home is well taken care of. But at the same time, she warned women against putting all of their finances into a joint account.”Keep a personal account. You never know what tomorrow will bring, and it’s important to be protected,” she advised.
Her greatest strength has been her own inner strength. “Strengthen yourself from the inside,” she advises. “Be of inner steel, strong and pure steel — be secure in what you are. The security has to come from within. If you are strong inside nothing can shake you. You can deal with anything. Tomorrow if people around you are not there, can you move on on your own? That is inner strength.”
It’s also important for you to be your own friend, she counsels. Just the way you ask a friend for advice, ask yourself for advice. Would you be comfortable choosing a certain path? Ask yourself that. Be in touch with who you are and be true to that, that’s one of the important life lessons she shared with us.
Dr. Bedi is also a firm believer in the power of the mind. “The mind is wonderful — it can enslave you and you can enslave it — depends on your thoughts, which can change,” she says. “Thoughts are powerful. When you’re thinking of something, you’ll get the right kind of books/music that will speak to you, that will help you move in the direction of your thoughts.” That’s why she advises people not to focus on their problems. Focus instead on finding solutions — you’ll get answers in a few hours…suddenly, unexpectedly. Work on your mind; change its pattern from negative to positive. The best way of dispelling negative thoughts is to read inspiring books, listen to inspiring music, meditate…It helps.
Filled with anecdotes from her own life, as well as the problems and solutions she gave to people through her television show Aap Ki Adalat, her lecture was uplifting and thought provoking. It left us with a sense of empowerment and a road map of suggestions that we could follow to be more in tune with ourselves and to be successful in every sphere of our lives.
I’m a huge football fan. HUGE. One of the things that I absolutely love about the game, apart from watching 22 hot men chase a ball across the field ;), is the joyous celebration by fans. Their chanting, cheering, moans, groans and funky costumes are what first drew me to the game. It was fascinating to my 10-year-old eyes. I would laugh and clap and cheer along with those fans, without, at that time, really understand what the game was all about. Of course, as I grew older, my father initiated me into the rules of the game, and since then, I’ve awaited the FIFA World Cup like a fanatic. While I do occasionally get my fix with the English Premier League, FA Cup, Euro Cup, etc., the World Cup is a totally different rush!
So, I’ve been counting the days to 11 June, and five days into World Cup fever, and my ears are begging for mercy…for relief…for deliverance…from the mind-numbing buzzing that is heard around the stadium — the sound of a million vuvzelas.
I think it takes away a lot from the game when you can’t hear cheering and chanting fans. And I really wonder how the fans at the stadium are able to stand the noise, and how in heaven’s name are the players able to concentrate on the game?
Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo was the latest World Cup star to voice unease about the trumpet, telling reporters that it affected players’ focus. ‘It is difficult for anyone on the pitch to concentrate,’ the Real Madrid star told a press conference. France captain Patrice Evra has blamed the noise for waking the team in their hotel and stopping the players from hearing each other on the pitch. And Argentina’s Lionel Messi complained they made it impossible for players to communicate on the pitch.
So, is there any chance of the vuvuzela being banned? Unfortunately, it appears not.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter, through a twitter posting, said:
“I have always said that Africa has a different rhythm, a different sound. I don’t see banning the music traditions of fans in their own country.”
And the vuvuzela certainly is central to the football culture in South Africa, with fans comparing it to the chanting, singing — even the wave — done in other countries.
The darn instrument is also gaining a fan following in other parts of the world.
Football fans in Britain are buying vuvuzelas at a rate of one every two seconds. Sainsbury’s sold 22,000 red vuvuzelas in 12 hours before England’s game – one every two seconds. And online retailer Amazon said sales of the horn had increased by 1,000 per cent.
And for those who can’t get hold of a real vuvuzela, there are now virtual versions available at Apple’s iTunes store!
There are around 11 vuvuzela apps available from Apple’s App Store. One named ‘Vuvuzela 2010’ has been downloaded more than 750,000 times, and is currently the most popular free app in the entertainment category, while another, Virtual Vuvuzela, is the seventh most popular free sports app.
So though a large section of fans may complain about the instrument, it looks like the buzzing of the vuvuzela is here to stay.
…has to be the biggest cliché in recent times. It’s the phrase that is bandied about the most when anyone talks about a terrorist – be it “baby-faced” Ajmal Kasab, who was given the death sentence yesterday for the 26/11 attack on Mumbai, or Faisal Shahzad, who was arrested today for the failed bomb attempt in New York.
According to an eyewitness,
“I never doubted that he [Shahzad] could be a terrorist because he was a very normal looking guy. He was holding his passport and sitting there, we could never have doubted him because he looked so normal”
Why, I ask, should a terrorist not look normal? After all, a terrorist is a “normal” human being whose mind has been “abnormally” twisted by fanatical individuals. He wouldn’t be roaming the streets with horns and a devil’s forked tongue!
But things certainly are scary out there, ‘cause seemingly well-to-do individuals are being turned by the fanatical outpourings of a handful of individuals who twist religion and spew hatred for “the other,” with delusions of world-wide dominance, at the altar of which innocent souls are slaughtered.
Motherhood. It’s a scary proposition. And one that most people, even acquaintances, bring up in the normal course of a conversation. Especially when they find out you’ve been married 8 long years and still have no children to show for it. Then the questions fly fast and thick: Why not? Do you know what a big mistake you’re making? What’s the purpose of your life? What will you do when you grow old? Who are you earning all this money for?
Well, me, actually.
But I was supposed to want to have a baby. I was thirty-one years old. – Eat, Pray, Love – Elizabeth Gilbert
Don’t get me wrong — I like children — as long as they are not mine, and I can play with them for a short while before handing them over to their parents. But as I write this, I start to reflect, did I always think this way? The answer’s no.
I remember playing house as a little girl, remember asking mom to keep my favorite clothes safely for my baby. As I grew older, I started looking back at those times and laughing at myself. “There’s a long time still before I go down that road,” I used to think to myself. I thought I’d feel the maternal instincts start kicking in by the time I approached my 30s, once I’d settled down, lived life, and was ready to take on the responsibility of an innocent child. But as the years passed, and as I approached the Big 30, I realized that nothing of the sort was happening! Instead of “settling down” and wanting children, I became convinced that motherhood wasn’t for me — at least not yet.
…I did not want to be pregnant. I kept waiting to want to have a baby, but it didn’t happen. And I know what it feels like to want something, believe me. I well know what desire feels like. But it wasn’t there. Moreover, I couldn’t stop thinking about what my sister had said to me once, as she was breast-feeding her firstborn: “Having a baby is like getting a tattoo on your face. You really need to be certain it’s what you want before you commit.” – Eat, Pray, Love – Elizabeth Gilbert
The reasons to not have children are many — and at the individual level, they are all relevant — my reasons aren’t any better or worse than yours, they’re just uniquely mine. I have a lot of reasons for not wanting children: I’m absolutely petrified of the entire 9-month process, the labor pains, the birth, the post-natal depression; the thought of the responsibility freaks me out; I need my space…just the thought of having a small baby and then a growing child and adolescent around me all the time makes me feel suffocated; it’s a huge economic responsibility (or should I say liability?); and it totally crimps your freedom. That’s what I think, anyway.
I have had a lot of friends and family tell me that I’m making a mistake, that I’ll regret my decision later in life, that I’m being selfish. I’ve answered them in a lot of different ways, but this excerpt from Elizabeth Gilbert’s memoir Eat, Pray, Love sums up my thoughts really well:
I still can’t say whether I will ever want children…I can only say how I feel now — grateful to be on my own. I also know that I won’t go forth and have children just in case I might regret missing it later in life; I don’t think this is a strong enough motivation to bring more babies onto the earth. Thought I suppose people do reproduce sometimes for that reason — for insurance against later regret. I think people have children for all manner of reasons — sometimes out of a pure desire to create an heir, sometimes without thinking about it in any particular way. Not all the reasons to have children are the same, and not all of them are necessarily unselfish. Not all the reasons not to have children are the same, either, though. Nor are all those reasons necessarily selfish.
I may live to regret my decision, then again, I may not.
I love children, but what if I don’t have any? What kind of person does that make me? – Eat, Pray, Love – Elizabeth Gilbert
I’d say it makes me a stronger person that those who give in to the pressure to have children, even if they secretly may not want any. It’s just easier to follow the mould and do what’s “expected” of you than to take a stand on a sensitive issue like this one and stick to your guns.
What gives me courage, though, is what my father-in-law said when we told him we were thinking of not having children. “That’s a very good decision, if you can stick to it. Most people end up bowing down to family pressure. If you can stand up to it, and stay firm with your decision, it will be one of the best decisions you have taken. Just remember to have a purpose for your life. For most people, it’s children. If you can rise above that, you’ll need another purpose, so give that some thought.”
A bomb blast destroyed one of Pune’s famous landmark’s on 13 February 2010 — The German Bakery at Koregaon Park, which is just about a kilometer away from my home. Luckily, my family is safe, though my mom gave me a huge scare since she wouldn’t pick up either her mobile or land line. Turns out she was enjoying a ghazal recital at The Residency Club when the blast happened, but I was shit scared and panicking, even though I knew that the chances of her being around that area were very slim.
This is really a sad day for Pune, which has always been a peaceful and peace loving city that has never been affected by communal tensions or riots.
My prayers are with the families of those who were killed and injured in the blast.
I came across this set of really cool articles in Open magazine, a relatively new weekly news magazine, that talk about reasons why Bombay hates Delhi, which is countered by why Delhi hates Bombay, and both these articles are then countered by the rest vs. Delhi and Bombay! Pretty interesting reading this.
I especially loved the one on why Bombay hates Delhi — maybe because I myself come from that side of the country — a lot of points made me say: “Yes! That is so true!” Sample this:
Space is not compressed here. Everything is far from everything else. There are real gardens where you do not see the exit when you stand at the entrance…Homes have corridors, and they are called corridors, not half-bedrooms. Yet, Delhi has a bestial smallness of purpose.
And a narrow mind — especially Delhi men!
Those men there who drive the long phallic cars, sometimes holding a beer bottle in one hand, there is something uncontrollable about them…What is the swagger about? What is the great pride in driving your father’s BMW, what is the glory in being a sperm? And what is the great achievement in stepping on the accelerator? It is merely automobile engineering—press harder on the pedal and the car will move faster. Why do you think a girl will mate with you for that?
Probably because of their “don’t you know who my father is” mentality. Power is everything here, with almost every second person claiming to be related or acquainted with a politician or a high-ranking police officer.
Delhi as a centre of power is an inheritance, a historical habit. An unbearable consequence of this is the proximity of easy funds for various alleged intellectual pursuits which has enabled it to appropriate the status of intellectual centre.
There is much weight attached to the imagined sophistication of talk, of gas. It is a city of talkers. There is always The Discussion…[there is] a meaningless aspect of Delhi’s fiery intellectuality, and also laid bare the crucial difference between intellectuality, which is borrowed conviction, and intelligence, which is creativity, innovation and original analysis…Delhi [suffers from a] mental condition which is incurable—a fake intensity, a fraudulent concern for ‘issues’, the grand stand.
Of course, there has to be a counter to this rather dim view of Delhi, though I must admit that I thought it wasn’t as convincing. Starting with a debate of fame vs. power, the article then meandered to Bombay being a city of dreamers…
In this city of people looking up without looking around, dreams are what matter. It is evident. The stock market, ad industry and Bollywood—whichever way you stack them, they make for too little reality.
…and then dissed Bombay for holding candlelight vigils, which, by the way, are now de rigueur in Delhi too!
When reality does sink in, all of Bombay responds as only Bombay can. Scented candles and designer dresses make for a procession of the fifteen thousand. Affronted as they are with the politicians and politics of this country, they ‘decide’ to teach the rest of us how things should be done.
The article touched upon the casteism, which sadly, is rising in Bombay, but the reason for the rise is power — political power. It’s a brilliant strategy if you think about it, but then, that is an altogether different discussion.
And then, there is the rest vs. Delhi and Bombay — one of the most hilarious, ironic articles I’ve read in recent times.
The article starts with a tongue-lashing on Delhi and Bomabay having to “kowtow kowtow to the fickle ways of the Bombay and Delhi weather,” and goes on to slam the efficient public transport in the two cities.
I utterly abhor the temerity of auto drivers from Bombay who, without exception, consider me unworthy of charging whatever grabs their fancy. What’s worse, they choose to take the high ground by being scrupulously honest about the whole business of taking me for a ride…Whatever happened to good old things like indecency and respecting what the customer can be ripped off for. It’s what I’ve come to expect and grown comfortably used to in Chennai. Why shock me senseless with your conscientious ways?
Delhi’s metro isn’t spared either!
For starters, what’s so great about offering an efficient and clean Metro Rail service when one can be pampered by the timeless pleasures of waiting for one to materialise and, in the meantime, making do with a service that’s considered frequent only by people who haven’t seen much better. Efficiency, I tell you—so over-rated and so unnecessary.
And then you come to the heart of the article — love.
Speaking of love, the thing about it, it’s easy to dish out in copious quantities when the recipient is a less fortunate soul, or city, worthy of pity.
And since Delhi and Bombay are not…Though,
Scratch the surface and you’ll find few people really hate Delhi, Bombay or the people from these great cities. What they are is jealous. And that’s what they hate. Happily, it’s okay to feel this way. I call it the ‘Australia syndrome’. Meaning what? Meaning this. So long as Australia were well-nigh unbeatable at cricket, it was eminently more comforting to hate them…Beatings apart, what’s not to hate about a country that’s so beautiful, so sunny, so clean, so spacious, so prosperous, so efficient, so livable (mostly) and, worst of all, possesses a cricket team so goddamn hard-to-beat? Naturally, the only option one had, since one couldn’t surpass them at anything important, was to hate them. Call them self-centered. Arrogant. Uncouth. Loud. And the like. Echoes how the rest of India feels about Bombay and Delhi, doesn’t it? Case closed.
Watching Michael Jackson’s memorial service brought tears to my eyes. The troubled King of Pop has left an indelible mark on human history. His fame was unparalleled, as was his decline. Those who pointed fingers at him and blamed him did not realize that Michael never really grew up. He was a boy-man, a modern day Peter Pan. His music….the lives that he touched….the humanitarian work that he did….will live on as a lasting legacy behind him.
Let me leave you with the hauntingly beautiful poem that Dr. Maya Angelou wrote for Michael Jackson, which was read out by Queen Latifah at his memorial service.
We Had Him by Maya Angelou Beloveds, now we know that we know nothing, now that our bright and shining star can slip away from our fingertips like a puff of summer wind.
Without notice, our dear love can escape our doting embrace. Sing our songs among the stars and walk our dances across the face of the moon.
In the instant that Michael is gone, we know nothing. No clocks can tell time. No oceans can rush our tides with the abrupt absence of our treasure.
Though we are many, each of us is achingly alone, piercingly alone.
Only when we confess our confusion can we remember that he was a gift to us and we did have him.
He came to us from the creator, trailing creativity in abundance.
Despite the anguish, his life was sheathed in mother love, family love, and survived and did more than that.
He thrived with passion and compassion, humor and style. We had him whether we know who he was or did not know, he was ours and we were his.
We had him, beautiful, delighting our eyes.
His hat, aslant over his brow, and took a pose on his toes for all of us.
And we laughed and stomped our feet for him.
We were enchanted with his passion because he held nothing. He gave us all he had been given.
Today in Tokyo, beneath the Eiffel Tower, in Ghana’s Black Star Square.
In Johannesburg and Pittsburgh, in Birmingham, Alabama, and Birmingham, England
Slumdog Millionaire has raised the hackles of a vast section of the Indian society, with a large section of population up in arms at the portrayal of Indian slums in the movie, slamming director Danny Boyle’s realistic cinema saying “this isn’t a representation of true India.”
Well then, what is? It certainly is NOT Kiran Desai’s Inheritance of Loss. Nor is it Arvind Adiga’s White Tiger. Both of these writers have written about India for Western audiences. Desai paints first-time Indian visitors to foreign shores as poor desis who cannot wrap their heads around the biting London cold, nor use a western loo, nor adapt to their food. Her portrayal of middle class residents in India isn’t flattering either. In her world, Indians who enjoy English classical music, read English books, and enjoy continental food; whose interaction with the “slumdogs” is limited to their daily chats with their maids and watchman, are mere wannabes, who only want to ape the goras and live in a world totally detached from the realities of their poorer brethren.
Slumdog Millionaire, however, has none of those pretentions. All Indians are not portrayed as mere wannabes or totally devoid of adjustment skills. Instead, Boyle focuses on the journey of two slum children who lose their mother in the Hindu-Muslim riots that gripped Bombay. The movie then follows their trials and triumphs, as they move from one odd job to the next, escape a scheming “orphanage” owner who picks up street kids and forces them to beg, to selling odds and ends on trains, and finally landing up in Agra, where, through their fast-thinking and innocent looks, they manage to make enough money to live a comfortable life. Until, of course, they return to Bombay, where their paths diverge. One brother joins an underworld don; the other becomes an office boy at a BPO company, and through sheer luck, participates in a TV reality show Who Wants to be a Millionaire. His life, which we see in flashback through the movie, helps him answer all the questions on the show, and he walks away with a cool million bucks to his name.
In essence, it is a simple story of grit, determination and sheer luck — inspirational, actually. But the reason for it cooking up a hornet’s nest is because of Boyle’s authentic portrayal of slum life — the underbelly of India. It is this that is making us cringe.
True, there have been other Bollywood movies that have shown protagonists rising from the slum to become famous or notorious, depending on the movie —be it Satya, or Rangeela — but we didn’t protest against these movies because they didn’t become an international phenomenon. Nor did they show slums like Boyle did. Their slums were always glossed over; more fantasy than reality. And reality sure bites!
Yes, there is more to India than the Dharavi slums portrayed in Boyle’s movie. But then, Boyle did not portray Slumdog as the “definitive Indian movie.” He chose to tell an inspiring story, and he chose to make realistic cinema. And since that realistic cinema involved a rather unpleasant look at the slums, we just couldn’t digest it.
We could digest Suketu Mehta’s ‘Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found, though. His book was hailed as the best book on Bombay. And what did his book focus on? The Dharavi slums — on Hindus who burnt Muslims during the riots and the tales of both Hindus and Muslims; of how the riot changed the landscape of Dharavi, leading to a palpable divide between Hindus and Muslims; and on the life of Bombay bar girls. His visits to the slums were interspersed with visits to Hindi movie director Vidu Vinod Chopra’s house, during the time he was preparing for the shooting of Mission Kashmir. A slim section at the end was a commentary on the rich and famous giving up their riches to take sanyas. If his novel were a movie, it would be far, far more graphic than Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire.
But, there lies the irony. Mehta’s book was hailed as an exceptional piece of writing, maybe because the Pulitzer Prize and Kiriyama Prize are not as hyped, well-known and universally loved as the Oscars and Bafta in India. Boyle’s movie, though, has become a runaway hit, and what’s more, it’s sweeping of all the awards ceremonies. What this section of Indians cannot stand is the fact that the rest of the world is looking at India’s underbelly, and applauding a foreigner — a Britisher no less —- for portraying the abject poverty in which a vast majority of Indians still live, instead of catering to the middle class Indian’s concept of “India shining.”