Friday, September 29, 2006


Shymkent, Kazakhstan: This industrial city is reeling after learning that at least 63 children have been infected with HIV through medical negligence many blame on corruption and the illicit sale of blood.

At least five infected toddlers have died after receiving injections or blood transfusions in hospitals in Shymkent, a city in Kazakhstan's most densely population region 1,000 miles south of the capital.

Valentina Skryabina, leader of the non-government group Nadezhnaya Opora, which works to prevent AIDS among drug addicts, is convinced the illegal sale of blood is the source of the HIV in Shymkent's hospitals.

''Blood is an article of trade.... Hospitals are offered blood, and not always through the (official) blood centre. People trade in blood like they do in human organs.''

Skryabina said addicts and the homeless have been accepted by the regional blood centre because they agreed to be paid less than the official rate of $47 for about a half-pint of blood.

''Was their blood properly checked? We are not sure,'' she said.

Officials say they cannot comment on Skryabina's allegations until their investigation is over. Authorities do say, however, that five blood donors who are suspected to be HIV-carriers weren't found at their registered addresses.

Parents in this city of 400,000 are trying to conduct their own investigation. They say regional health officials were aware of the outbreak in March, and have been trying to cover it up by pulling pages from the infected toddlers' treatment records to eliminate any mention of blood transfusions.

The parents allege that up to 40 HIV-infected children aged 3 and under have died, but the true cause of the deaths was being concealed or attributed to diseases such as cirrhosis. Authorities declined to comment on these allegations, too, pending the investigation.

Some 13,000 children who were possibly infected have yet to be tested. Adults, too, could be infected: so far, three mothers of infected toddlers have tested positive for HIV.

Lawmaker Satybaldy Ibragimov says nothing will improve until Kazakhstan roots out corruption, which penetrates even universities where future doctors are graded according to the amount of money they give professors - and later treat people based on their ability to pay.

President Nursultan Nazarbayev's government has taken tough action. The health minister and the regional governor were fired this month, and several top regional health officials, the head of the regional blood centre and several senior doctors are under criminal investigation.

New governor Omyrzak Shukeyev, former mayor of the capital Astana, called the situation in Shymkent's health care system ''a catastrophe.'' He ordered an appraisal of medical staff in the region to root out incompetent or corrupt staff.

Shukeyev, under orders from Nazarbayev to urgently resolve the crisis, pleaded with experts at an AIDS crisis meeting this week: ''I'm waiting like nothing else for a moment when you say that the virus has been contained.''

''We cannot give you a time frame. This is going to be a lingering epicentre of disease,'' replied Vyacheslav Dudnik, the region's new health chief.

Shukeyev said the government would restructure and modernize the region's medical institutions. Each infected toddler's family will be given about $800 - twice the average monthly salary - in compensation and all treatment will be paid for by the government.

The most immediate problem is the lack of local expertise on how to treat young children with the AIDS virus.

Four AIDS specialists from UNICEF and several experts from Russia have been asked to help. But for now, said Sagdat Masaurov, whose 18-month-old grandson is infected, ''nobody can tell us where to go, what to do and how.''

Officially, by the end of 2004 Kazakhstan had about 4,700 HIV/AIDS cases, but the real number is believed to be higher. In the first six months of this year, the country recorded 828 new HIV carriers and 70 AIDS patients, a 70 percent increase over 2005.

Parents carrying toddlers come in a steady flow to the rundown two-story AIDS centre in Shymkent for HIV tests.

In the centre's courtyard, anxious-looking parents with HIV-infected children await examinations by doctors. Children can be heard crying.

Eighteen-month old Baurzhan Alseitov sat in his mother's arms, a blank look on his face. His father, Kanat Alseitov, was afraid the child's listlessness indicated the virus was already sapping his little body.

''He was restless and cried all night. He doesn't want to walk anymore,'' the father said.

Courtesy: Sify
I really don't know what to say. Cannot imagine anything more sad right now.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Haathi mere Saathi?

Laxmi, a 25 year old elephant died an unfortunate death on 22nd September, a Friday after a water tanker hit her on Wednesday. Although her death was due to the carelessness of the drunk driver, her death has brought into the forefront the pathetic conditions under which the elephants live in Mumbai.

This is Laxmi’s second accident that unfortunately proved to be the fatal one. However, Laxmi is not the only one going through the ordeal. There are more than ten elephants that live in miserable conditions in Mumbai. Away from their natural habitat, they survive in the city and earn their daily food by modelling in films, advertisements and by begging. They also play a very important role in various Hindu rituals all over the city.

Most animal activists are at loggerheads with all the elephant-owners in the city. There are about 7-8 elephants in the entire city of Mumbai which are owned by three people between them. Saba Shankar Pandey, one prominent elephant owner in the city believes that he is fulfilling a genuine need of the people by supplying elephants to them for various purposes. “They think we are inflicting cruelty on them. It would be cruel to restrict their movement. They don’t understand our rich sanskriti. Everyone is out to destroy our ancient culture” he said.

Amisha Shah of People for animals said, “The elephants love to walk but not on tar roads. Making them walk on tar roads in the hot afternoons is extremely tough for the elephants. This is not their natural habitat.” The elephants do not have single place for themselves in the city. The elephants sleep at any place in the night after begging all over the city.

Debashish Majumdar, Executive Secretary Thane SPCA said “Elephants live in captivity with insufficient space. Elephants are extremely intelligent animals with a strong sense of social order. Captive conditions fail to provide an interesting, stimulating and rewarding environment. They develop foot problems which are very rarely treated properly in captivity.”

Pandey claims that they spend a minimum of Rs 500 on each of the elephants they own. Imran (name changed to protect identity); a close associate of Pandey alleges that the elephants have to earn for their food everyday. He added, “The owners do not invest anything on the elephant’s well-being. The onus of the elephant’s well being is on the mahout. The elephants are given away to the mahout wherein the latter has to pay Rs 500 everyday to the owner. The rest of the money which is earned by begging is pocketed by the Mahout to take care of his and the elephant’s expenses.” The activists claim that one needs to spend almost Rs 1000 everyday on their food. The elephants need more than 150 kgs of food everyday and 40 gallons of water.

Most of the elephant-owners have procured their elephants from an annual elephant mela that is held in Sonpur in Bihar every year. They are also procured from a place near Nepal. The younger ones attract the maximum price. Currently, one elephant costs about 10-12 lakhs. Imran futher added, “Many villagers in Uttar Pradesh own elephants and keep them in their houses. Many owners purchase from them since it is a cheaper alternative.”

Dharmesh Solanki of People for Animals, Mumbai said “The licence for the ownership of wild animals is given by the respective state forest department. The owner of the elephant has to mention the state or region in which he wants to keep the animal while obtaining the licence. Each time he decides to take the animal to another state, the forest department has to be informed and requisite transit permission should be obtained. He has to give information about the place he is going, the route he will be taking the animal through, the number of days he will be stayingat a particular place etc. It is the duty of the wildlife officer of the state to enquire about the animal and also the duty of the owner to seek them and declare his animal.”

The laws including the Wildlife Protection Act-1972 prevent private ownership of all wild animals. An exception could be when permission is given by principal chief conservator of forests for a specific purpose for a limited amount of time subjected to the condition that the animals are kept as per the Central Zoo Authority guidelines. The other laws which ban the presence of a wild animal in the city are Bombay Police Act, Prevention of Cruelty towards Animals Act, Begging Prohibition Act.

N.G Jayasimha, Co-ordinator of Campaign and Legal Affairs, People for Ethical Treatment for Animals “It is generally noticed that most of the elephants in the city do not carry proper papers with them, and hence it is difficult to ascertain the ownership of the animal. According to the forest department (in their letter dated 23/08/2006) they have not issued any permission or granted any license to parade elephants in the city.”

The animal activists also used Right to Information to find out what the wild animals are doing in the city. Jaisimha said, “The forest department has admitted under RTI that they have not taken any action on the owners of elephants in Mumbai in an event of their accident or death. According to the Forest Department, there are only 4 elephants registered with them. But according to information available with PETA and other animal organizations, there are at least over 11 elephants in the city.”

{Imran who is a close associate of Pandey and quit working for him after he could not bear to see the elephants being tortured.}

It is extremely sad that in a city wherein the elephant headed god is revered and loved so much, there are elephants which live under such pathetic conditions in the city. The irony can be unnerving at times.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Caste communities on Orkut

Do check the clarifications below...

What do you guys think of the Orkut Communities where the common underlying purpose of their origin is CASTE? There are so many of them viz. Iyers, Brahmins, Iyengars, Panchals, Patels, etc. In India, surnames are the prime indicators of which section of the society one belongs to. Asking for one's surname is a rampant thing in Maharashtra. Whenever I am asked my name, people are never satisfied if I say my name is Shobha. Their immediate question would be, 'Shobha what?' thus emphasizing the need for a surname. This is one of the ways to identity the caste you belong to.

Personally, I am extremely uncomfortable being a part of such communities. For me, joining a community where the only thing I have in common with others is the fact we all belong to a SAME CASTE is something I am just not comfortable with. Sometimes I wonder what could be discussed in forums like these.... There can be interesting discussions based on understanding of certain rituals, festivals and lot of other stuff. But I still wonder, do we need a forum based on a certain CASTE for that? Can't people do it in any other way? Most of the discussions I have seen are sad {my personal opinion}

Even though Orkut represents just a small fraction of our society, it says so much about us. In an already polarised society like ours, it is sad that we resort to grouping together on the basis of CASTE, something that's an inherited factor of our life. It's funny that one tends to associate oneself with CASTE, something that we had never consiously decided to be a part of. In the backdrop of the whole reservation wrangle, such associations just show how deeply casteist our society is.

But I guess that communities like this will never cease to exist since CASTE is an identity factor for many. I feel such groupisms only are a subtle reflection of the casteist bent of our society. It's an irony that people group themselves by alienating themselves from the mainstream. However, I guess it's quite common. Technology only enhances the propogation of certain age old beliefs. While earlier one would have Kerala Samaj, Bohri Samaj, Protestant societies etc, now we have their online versions in Orkut. I have seen that strong bonds amongst the community provide great social security for the people. However, I wonder should social security be achieved at the cost of alienating onself from the mainstream?

Some clarifications:
  • I have mentioned in my post that Orkut is just a representation of our society in general. It is not THE SOCIETY :| Please credit me with some basic intelligence. Read the post carefully again....

  • Also, I personally find it stupid to have a community formed on the basis of CASTE. I personally feel that CASTE system should be redundant. Such groupings still reinforce the old superiority or inferiority complexes depending on which ever side one belongs to. If not directly, then subtly it definitely does. I don't think it is an issue to form a community based on lingustic lines. I don't think it reinforces any age old streotypes of superiority just on the basis of association to a particular language. However CASTE does. It reinforces all the sick, sad stereotypes which I personally don't think are relevant {or ideally should not be relevant} any more.

  • It does not bother me since I feel it is everyone has a right to make their own choices. However such communities amuse me to a great extent since I never had thought that I will see an Orkutised version of a Patel Samaj, or a Dalit Samaj etc. For me, my CASTE isn't my identity. Unfortunately for many others, it still is.

Monday, September 11, 2006


Don't you think it's a criminal coincidence that the Twin tower bombings and the Satyagraha movement started by by Mahatma Gandhi share the same date? It is sadder when 9/11 is remembered more because of the former than the latter....

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Blast Mania and a Thank you

Its the blast time again. This time in Malegaon, in Nashik district in Maharashtra. Damn man, I don't know if there would be any end to the terror travail. It just springs up from just about nowhere. Everyone is caught napping. The whole situation is so hopeless.

I remember when the serial blasts happened in Mumbai couple of months back, it was just absolute panic. Fortunately I was on the other side of the town and thus escaped the blasts. Otherwise being a regular commuter in trains, I could very well have been one of the casualities. Things were so bad that I was not able to get in touch with any of my friends, relatives since the phone lines were completely jammed. Thankfully none of my friends and acquaintances got hurt.

My blog was completely inactive during that period. One of the reasons being, I was extremely caught up with work that I had no time for anything else. During those months, I rarely frequented even my own blog leave alone other regulars. I had almost forgotten what my blog looked like. Well, now the blogging bug has bit me again and I was going through the comment boxes of my previous posts when I chanced upon this message....

Anonymous said...

Hello Shobha,

I just wanted to let you know that someone in London( i do not know the name) was worried for you after the bombay blasts. They had given this link on and enquired if you were safe.Please contact them.


When I read it, I was completely puzzled. Some of the UK bloggers whom I know of are Jag, Chakra and Dubukku. I immediately went to the site to check who might have wanted to get in touch with me. I surfed through some of the comments and found out that it was jag who was worried about me. I found this...

and this....

I remember Jag and Dubukku had left behind a comment on my blog inquiring if I am safe. I remember having responded in couple of days. However, I did not know that he had also made inquiries at the Mumbai help blog. {They have removed the comments on the blog wherein people have confirmed the whereabouts of their friends. However, I looked around for its cache and managed to grab a screenshot.} I would never have known that he had made inquiries had it not been for the stranger who left the above message.

To be frank,I am overwhelmed. I discovered this just a few days back. I did not know that there were people living miles away from where I live inquiring if I am safe. Though we have been around for just couple of years,my interaction with them is restricted to just comments on each other's blogs.Thanks Jag. Thanks Dubukku for making the effort. They needn't have done that, but they went ahead and did it nevertheless. It was really sweet of you guys to do that. You really made my day. I will never forget this gesture. I guess this is what Blogging has given me. So much goodwill, so much love and so many friends. Thank you.

P.S. While chatting with one of my colleagues, I wondered aloud about the exact motive of the blasts in Malegaon. He said, "Well if Lashkar E Taiba is caught involved as the popular perception goes, I guess they are trying to tell the world that they are secular terrorists, they kill people of all relegions." :|

Friday, September 08, 2006

Freaky coincidences

One of my favourite cousins got married recently. She lives in Sydney, Australia. Due to some personal reasons she got married in Australia itself. Many of us in India could not attend her marriage due to various reasons. Now Australia is a new place for my cousin and her family. Therefore my Attai and Athimber thought it would be a cool idea to seek help from the local tamil association of Sydney. The association members were immensely co operative and helped them out in successfully conducting a small and a simple marriage ceremony.

I was casually narrating this incident to Vidya. Vidya in turn told her mother about my cousin's marriage. To my utter surprise, she told me that her mother knew the couple in question. Now this is weird since my cousin and Vidya don't know each other at all. This is how the conversation went...

V: I told my mother about your cousin's marriage and she seems to be aware of the whole thing.

S: Eh? How can she be aware of it?

V: Well, my family is also the member of the local Tamil association. Some of the members had contacted my mother asking her if she could arrange for the catering for the marriage.

S: Wow...

V: yea...she asked me...'That's a Palakkad girl who got married right?'

S: OH MY GOD.....then what happened? Did she attend the marriage?

V: No ya, she couldn't. On that there was no one to drive mom to the marriage venue. She was all ready to arrange the food for the marriage provided there was some private transport that could be arranged. Ultimately, she couldn't go.

Now don't you think this is freaky? Miles away from where I live, my cousin gets married and my friend who doesn't know anything about my cousin, almost becomes a part of her marriage without even knowing that the couple in question are my relatives. is a friggin small place.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Reminder to myself

Subah ka bhoola shaam ko ghar laut-tha hain toh use bhoola nahi kehte....

Many a times it so happens that in pursuit of the so-called important things in life, hobbies become the first casualty. I have missed blogging about so many wonderful things due to some stupid reasons which were hitherto considered extremely important. I am not making the same mistake now. I would be posting in couple of days. Cheers :D

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Bloggie Birthday

Hey hey hey....My blog is three today. I never thought that I will actually continue blogging for three years. It's been a cool experience. I have loved every bit of it and I intend to continue blogging for a long time to come :D This is fun :D

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Being judgemental

I have always thought of myself as a non-judgemental person. I take my own sweet time to form opinions, they are not instant. However, few days back it just hit me how I have been judgemental in subtle ways, in ways I have not necessarily thought earlier. It hit me hard. I have always thought being judgemental is one of the most saddest trait one can possess. It hit me hard to realise that I have been judgemental too. Worst was when i realised that I have judged my loved ones. It's not a nice feeling.

I have been thinking a lot about this lately. I just realise how I have altered some decisions due to the constant pressure of being judged. Also, sometimes there is a small fear of being judged lurking around in the backgroundwhich prevents you from being completely open even to your closest friends. It's not a nice feeling. Damn....

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Rains n me

Finally the rains have hit Mumbai a good 15 days earlier. Cool, I like it. I was anyways getting roasted in the heat. I tell you, reporting in the hot sun is no cakewalk. It is extremely draining physically. However the irony is, reporting in rains is not an easy thing either. I like to be a homebody especially during monsoons. I love sitting by the window sill watching kids play, splish splashing in the puddles. I love to sit by the window sill with a hot cup of coffee and just watching the rains lashing the surface.

Couple of days back I enjoyed a rainy day. It was just perfect, just the way I had wanted. I stood by the window sill and enjoyed the rains alongwith my filter kaapi made by Amma {best thing it is}. Then I slept in the afternoon. Now, sleeping in the afternoon curled up inside a blanket, when its raining heavily outside with the fan turned on in full speed is an awesomest thing. I loved my afternoon siesta :D Then I woke up and was chatting with my friend with FM radio in the background...ALL Kishore Kumar Numbers.....WOWIEE :D I loveeeeeeeeee it. Then I went for a walk when it was drizzling outside. By the time I came back home, it started pouring cats and dogs. My friend ran off upstairs to the terrace. I followed her only to see her blissfully getting wet in the rains. Usually I don't like getting wet in rains. But something spurred me to get drenched completely.

Well to say i loved getting wet in rains would be an understatement. It was so much fun. Majja Came :D :D

Recently I attended a Bhajan recital by the famous Manjapra Mohan. I love his bhajan troupe. They are just so amazing. Their sessions can be absolutely electrifying to say the least. Amidst the performance, I noticed a small kid clapping her hands. What was amazing was, the kid was all of 6-8 months old and it was actually enjoying the music and the rhythm. Usually small kids do not like noise and start crying soon. However this child continued clapping for couple of hours completely in tune with the rhythm. Great music sense at such a young age....WOW

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

An interesting read....

Eyes, Ears And Minds Closed
Why is India's middle class so hostile to the empowerment of the poor?

This column is not being written to defend Arjun Singh, nor the new quota regime, nor any formula/mechanism to implement reservations. That debate has been so polarised and distorted that any intervention which does not take one or the other side is destined to fall on deaf ears. No. My purpose is to point out that the passion-charged street power and the virulent rhetoric against reservations should be seen as part of a larger, disturbing pattern. India's smug, selfish, self-centred, satiated middle class, fattened on the fruits of the booming economy, is positively hostile to any policy which sets out to empower the poor. Over 900 million of our citizens live on less than Rs 90 a day. Of this, 300 million live on less than Rs 45 a day. Meanwhile, 200 million privileged have decided that these citizens must remain roughly where they are-or wait till the enormous wealth the rich, the ultra rich and the nouveau rich are accumulating trickles down. This is an obscenity. No fancy economic formulation can hide this appalling reality of India 2006.

Take the employment guarantee scheme or selling cheap grain to BPL card-holders or the Right to Information Act (which allows the marginalised to check corruption in moneys spent in their name) or increasing subsidies for essential commodities used by the aam aadmi. You need to jog your memory only lightly to recollect the outrage of the haves at these schemes. They said India would be ruined, the finances of the nation would collapse if "utopian" proposals were implemented. The poor are poor because they are lazy, worthless, unenterprising, incapable of availing existing opportunities. Of course, I caricature the argument and the mentality. But only slightly.

One understands India is an economic superpower challenging China, it is experiencing unprecedented growth rates, its middle class can buy Danish bacon and Spanish olives at the neighbourhood store. Conspicuous consumption reigns. But nine hundred million people must wait for market forces to somehow touch their lives. Sheer callousness apart, these 900 million people have something called the vote. And they use it extremely craftily. In 2004, they threw out a government which considered itself invincible. Forget the ethics, forget conscience, any political party which panders to the prejudices of India's fickle middle class is committing electoral suicide.

Remember, the poor will not go away. You cannot tuck them away in Kalahandi or Bastar. They will haunt India's affluent in Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore and Chennai at traffic lights, in unregulated slums, in shopping malls, outside five-star hotels. They will join Maoists and threaten the Indian state while slitting the throats of rich farmers. The 'Red Corridor' is an ominous development. Any moderately sane middle-class person must ask himself why the wretched of the earth increasingly decide to take up arms against a vastly better-armed and organised force in a war they know they are bound to lose. Better to die fighting than to die of hunger.

Doubtless, there are many infirmities in the proposal to allot 27 per cent seats to OBCs. The percentage may be too high, some wrong people may avail of the benefit, a few genuinely deserving might be unfairly penalised, implementation could throw up anomalies. It will not be painless. But you have to live in a state of permanent denial, you have to keep your eyes, ears and mind closed to avoid the fact that poverty and extreme poverty in India are closely linked to caste, closely linked to historical discrimination.

Let us take the crux of the reservation rejectionist's thesis. We're told that quotas and academic excellence are fundamentally incompatible. You can't have both.Added to the above is the rider that corporate India's "global competitive edge" will vanish. In other words, there is the firm assumption that affirmative action (AA), which in India takes the form of quotas (voluntary or mandatory), will produce second-class students.

In the hysteria generated, with assistance from a conflict-hungry media, this assumption has become gospel truth with the honourable but publicity-smart members of the Knowledge Commission lending their weight to the flawed thesis. In Harvard, Princeton and Yale, institutions at whose altar the rejectionists worship, the experience of AA has been hugely positive with no dilution of academic standards (see Outlook cover story Two Faces of Reservation, May 29).

Consider the story of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala where mandatory quotas ranging from 69.5 per cent to 49.5 per cent have been in place since decades without social turbulence. Are we to assume that engineers, doctors, mbas from these southern states are substandard?

If notions of compassion and equity are alien to the rejectionists, perhaps the spectre of Maoists rampaging through pockets of urban India might help focus minds on the grotesquely unjust society superpower India is spawning. It could be the fire next time!

(Vinod Mehta is Editor of Outlook magazine)

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Wanted HELP

Hello everyone...

Ok, I need some help. I want to know if there is any free audio blogging service available? Is there any service akin to Google Video or You tube for audio files like Mp3? Is there any free service through which I can stream music on my blog? I am on a lookout for a free service like Audioblog. I am absolutely lost here. Can anybody help me out here? Thanks :)

Friday, April 14, 2006


Ok, this whole Reservation thing has been playing in my mind for quite a while now. Well, like most of the times, I am quite confused. It is such an vast topic with so many complexities that it is difficult for me to primarily have a stand.

The first thing that I am absolutely boggled about it, why is there a need to increase the quota levels in the institutions? Aren't the existing levels of quota sufficient? The main reason why reservations were introduced was to integrate the backward classes of the society with the mainstream society. Over a passge of time, Reservations were supposed to be written off. However, rather than achieving the set goal, what's the purpose in increasing the quota levels? Beats me completely.

To a certain extent, I do support reservations since I have seen the caste discrimination upclose. I understand how deep caste prejudices are. I had visited the tsunami affected villages for a month in tamil Nadu. Even a natural disaster like Tsunami couldn't break the traditional caste barriers. It was disgusting. Despite losing everything in the Tsunami, caste discrimination did not go away. Dalits did not get relief because they were Dalits even post- Tsunami. When a natural disaster like Tsunami cannot break caste prejudices nothing can. I understand that. However increasing reservation levels is definitely overdoing it. Since over the course of time, the level of reservations have to decrease.

Of course, I definitely agree with the unfairness of it. I have seen students from the 'general category' going into depression because they couldn't get through a particular college but students who have scored much less than them, have gotten through easily. Trust me, it hurts, it hurts real bad. It is absolutely unfair on the child.

Let us first look into why the reservations were brought about in the first place. Reservations were a tool through which Dalits and other backward classes of the society could be assimilated in the mainstream. This link can provide for good reference.

We have reservations for the past 50 years, have we achieved what we have set out to achieve? No, absolutely not. Coz caste discriminations run high. But then why hasn't the set goal been achieved? Reservations was means to achieve an end. However, over the years, it has become a means to an end. This is like having painkillers in case of arthrities rather than opting for a full fledged treatment. Improving state of primary education, improving state of central govt schools, state, municipal schools is the key and not increasing the level in reservations wherein the government is just committing another error in a bid to rectify it's earlier error.

Politicians are to be blamed for it {nothing new to it} Therefore, if the goal hasn't been achieved, then there is a fundamental flaw in the system and it needs a rethink.

In the end, I still think it all boils down to an apathetic, under-performing State. If we had created an efficient and equal government school model, like the neighbourhood schools in the West, this entire debate may well have been irrelevant. Sure, the super-rich kids would have still gone to snotty private schools, but at least everyone else would have studied with some sense of parity and quality. Right now more than 60 students compete for a single IIT seat. Isn’t it our right to demand more premier engineering institutes rather than this mad scramble for a handful of seats, made yet more acrimonious by the politics of reservation?

says Barkha Dutt

Are there any alternatives to reservations? Is there any other way reservations can be implemented? other than strengthening the primary education system in the country, I cannot think of any thing else. What was the government doing for 50 long years? It is not that we don't have reservations. Why have more reservations is what I am confused about.

Economic backwardness can be a benchmark for reservation. However here to scholarships could be introduced for the students. See, reservations were introduced since the social environment for super academic performance would not be similar to the privileged and the under-privileged. Instead of improving the infrastructure, the Government is proposing is trying to increase the quota levels. What utter nonsense.....

It is so frustrating for someone like me to live in this country wherein caste equations are so dominant. I don't care a shit about caste or relegion. However, people like me are in absolute minority which is why we see such caste equations permeating in all sectors. Ok, even though I don't care about my caste, I am being made to realise, oh, I am from the general category. Even if I don't wanna remember it, the system makes sure that I am reminded of it everyday.

Lot of people have been saying that 95 per cent scoring ppl from general category can easily co exist with ppl scoring 65 per cent of a reserved category. No problems with that. However, I don't understand why a 65 per cent scoring person from the general category cannot be included in the list. Is everyone from the General category necessarily required to be academically brilliant everytime.....everyone, always as a rule? How can it be possible? it is so unfair. Where is the space for academically mediocre people from the general category then?

However, having seen the caste prejudices myself, I feel there should be some solution to help the genuinely deserving candidates from the backward classes to come up but not at the expense of the general category students. coz I know so many of the general category students who are economically backward and cannot afford the cost of education since there is no help for them. Where do such students go? Don't they have a right to survive in the society. How can we just assume that all the general category students are well off? Assuming that, economically backward students from general category are in a minority than the other backward classes in totality, doesn it mean, it's ok for the minority to suffer, just coz they are minority? Doesn't it seem contradictory?

Trivia: It is interesting how the caste system functions in this country. Like OBCs consider themselves to be upper caste in comparison to Dalits. There are 150 sub castes amongst Dalits themselves if I am not mistaken and they also practise discrimination amongst themselves. It's funny. It's sad.

Ideally I wouldn't prefer reservations. However, given the current scheme of things, I am not completely against the currently prevalent reservations. However, I am completely against increasing the quota levels since it is ridiculous and is no solution to the problem.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006


How I wish I could say NO to people like some persons I know! I wonder how some people say NO so easily! Inability to say NO can be an irritating quality. I hate it.


Hmmm....Well, on the hindsight, I think this post of mine is kind of misleading. Well, when i say I cannot say NO, I should have added that I cannot say No to my loved ones. Otherwise, I can and I have easily said NO. However, when it comes to loved ones, saying No is tough.

Sunday, March 26, 2006


Buhahaha.....Hahahahahhaaaa....couldn't control my fits of laughter when i saw this....Hilarious stuff..

Image courtesy: MTV India

Friday, March 24, 2006


Well, I was on my way to post something else till I chanced upon Annie's post. The images are very interesting and many among them have moved me. This post is just an emotional reaction of mine regarding a picture I saw.

This one has seriously disturbed me. So what they are prostitutes, I don't think they deserve this....I know, it's their decision to work, I know. However, this line"One of the many prostitutes who work until the last day of their pregnancies." just brings a chill within me. I somehow don't feel that it is right. I think prostitutes should have maternity leave too :( Very depressing....

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Random musings

**Before I start writing my new post just wanted to inform that my previous post was not about the forward that I received. It was about the thought provoking response I received for that forward. So, please scroll down and make it a point to read it. **


I read this and I felt sad. I don't know Sowmya personally. Neither do i know her as a blogger. Though, I had seen her comments in various posts, I somehow never bothered to check her blog. However, when I read Chakra's post informing about her demise, I felt bad. You know, it is very weird to read a blog of a dead person :| It really is. I cannot imagine what the family would be going through. I know, death is inevitable, a harsh fact of life. However, I just wonder, how would it be for the family to go through her blog post her demise. Would it threaupatic for the family or would it prove to be a hindrance for them in 'moving on....'? It's a very weird situation. At the end of the day, I just pray god that her soul rests in peace.

Couple of days back I went to meet Mr S for one of my stories. I knew Mr S as I interacted with him earlier too. It was just that I was meeting him after a couple of months. I reached his house and I rang the bell. Mrs S answered the door.
Me: Hello, is Mr S at home?

Mrs S: [puzzled expression] Aaapan Kon? {Whose this?}

Me: Oh, I am Shobha. Remember I had met Mr S in connection with a story I had done earlier. Is he there? I wanted to talk to him regarding a story I am doing now.

Mrs S: Oh, tey vaarley {he expired} [ I should add that the way she informed me about his death was really weird. Her tone was as if she was informing me that he's not home. No melodrama, absolutely matter of fact. :|]

Me: WHAT?????? Oh shit... I am so sorry....

Mrs S then proceeded to give me the details while I stood there shell shocked. She explained to me about Mr S's death in a very matter of fact way. I apologised profusely and after few minutes left the place. This was a perfect "what is life?" moment. I mean, I just go to meet someone and I get informed that he died. He was a sweet man, a very active citizen. Damn it.... This was the last thing that I had expected. I swear weird things happen to me....Dear God, may his soul rest in peace too...

I am talking too much about death na....Ok, let me give you a cool news. Let me introduce my Pakistani buddy to all you guys for he has stepped his baby feet in the world of blogdom. He is one of my nicest friends, an absolute sweetheart. Ok world, drumrolls please.....

Welcome NOOR

Please guys, go and visit his blog. He is a very interesting person and an Indophile. I am sure none of you would be bored. You know, currently he's facing a weird problem. He cannot access his blog hosted by Blogger/Blogspot. This is because, post the Danish cartoons controversy, the Pakistani government had banned many webjournal sites including blogger. Read more here Though he can write entries, edit them, he cannot view them in his blog. An optimist that he is, he feels it would be a temporary glitch. Anyways, visit his blog, it would make an enjoyable read.

P.S. In a very weird way....Noor's latest post also talks about death :|

Friday, March 17, 2006

Response to the Tribute FWD

Couple of weeks back I received this mail as a forward. {Please read the response to the forward below}

Late Mr. Surjan Singh Bhandari

N.S.G. Commando

During The Attack on Akshardham temple on 24th September 2002 this Brave Man fought the greatest battle of his life. Yes he was the N.S.G. Commando Late Mr. Surjan Singh , who sacrificed his life for the Nation. Sadly On 19th May 2004 he lost the Toughest an d Longest battle against life exactly after 600 Days being in Coma, he lost this life.

The Bullet which hit him in the head made him Unconscious for almost 600 days. His family members were hoping that one day their Hero will open his eyes but he didn't.

It was the Longest Wait for the family members of this Brave Man. When the whole India was busy in Guessing Who will be the Next PM of the country - Will it be Sonia or will it be Manmohan Singh, This man was fighting his Last battle. But it's so sad that in the hype of all the Political Drama, the News about his Death was Lost like a needle in a hay stack! Even the leading News Papers & So Called Best News Channels of India which Works on 24 X 7 basis, failed to highlight this story of the Brave Man. Unfortunately it was mentioned somewhere on the middle page of some newspaper.....This was the Reward for the Brave task for which he lost his life.

Besides his Family members, only one thing was there with him during those toughest 600 days. It was there near his bed till the last Moment. Can you guess what it was?............... It was the "Tiranga", yes! Our National Flag, which was saluting him for his Great cause. Absolutely No words can suffice our Gratitude towards him...

If news papers refuse to cover, TV channels refuse to cover, let us do our bit.

Please forward this mail to as many people as you can.

This is the only way we can salute his Bravery...

As a reply to this mail, I received another mail by mr Vijayan M J of Pakistan India People's Forum for peace and democracy. It was such a thoyght provoking mail that I could not stop myself from posting it here. Therefore with due permission, I reproduce the response to that forward.

Dear friends (response to mail below),

As an Indian, I fully support remembering (forever), sacrifices made by
brave men like Mr. Surjan and feels that we need to challege the 'selective'
public/governmental and media memory also... But do we only remember these
(like our media does to Kargil heroes and those jawans and officers who get
killed in Kashmir or other disputed areas of this great nation)?

Am asking this question and taking time to write this note as I feel mails like the one below are part of our own fraud attempts to forget these people and their 'sacrifices' and 'martyrdom' and an effort to boost our morale and patriotism. This is a self-inflicted 'feel good' that we are upto. Some get goose pimples by involving in this sort of nationalistic/patriotic/jingoistic acts. But sadly neither does this kind of e-activism contribute to remembering people like Surjan or others who have at different levels given their life for any cause, nor does these help prevent deaths of future surjans...

Do we know why??? Because it is an established national defence policy of countries like India and US (among some others) to waste people on the armed front and this is no guess - some of us are involved in related studies. We are an over populated country (as we have been repeatedly told) and it does not matter to us how many jawans of Indian origin are getting killed in internal egoistic battles that we have been figting over the past 59 years. We have prepared speeches that officers patriotically deliver when jawans and fellow men die to militant bulltes or grenades in Kashmir, Nagaland or elsewhere. We have ready press releases from the Ministry of Home afairs for them and about those who killed them (blaming ISI for every action in this country - like Pakistan blames RAW).

But we do not want to stop these killings or make sure atleast that we try our best to support the lives of those who are better living then dead. This forces me to say, in India, we prefer some soldiers dying every year (that too, thanks to Bofors scams where we end up buying fake weaponry, we eat money from their coffins even - like what our defence minister and co did during kargil, we boast about their sacrifice to their country after their death and immediaely forget about them, and most importantly we think - even while reading this mail that all these are problems created by a section of us called politicians, alone)...

As a people, we have done nothing to expose the culprits of Kargil war - those in our intellingence and political circles, who thought it was not even important to inform our soldiers in advance that Pakistani army had already dug graves for them, this left a thousand soldiers killed (in a semi-war that was necessary for the then BJP to survive in power and three US weapon companies to promote their arms trade with GOI). We do nothing when we hear about the regular 'practise warfare' that our soldiers are taught to fight in Kashmir - including the rapes, the fake encounters and the disappearances... Lets leave romanticism aside and ask ourselves since when is raping a woman important to protect our national sovereignity and integrity. I have heard from soldiers and more embarassingly from army officers that "since the women in Kashmir lift their skirts for Jehadis to make more jehadis, it is an important anti-insurgency strategy to sexually and pysically thrash them"... Would you and I stay quite if that was to happen in our backyards in Kerala, West Bengal or Maharashtra? Imagine Indian army man doing this to you or your sister and you will never utter the word patriotism (the way it is pronounced now by jingoists) again in your life, I promise...

So here we have a serious problem in hand. A government which has a policy to waste men in conflicts or to (expired) Mig-29 crashes on the one hand and WE who only want to remember the men who get killed by orchestrated and planned actions of any tom dick or harry...

Please remember, rarely people are born mad to kill others or to get killed on the first instance. They are taught and trained to do so in most instances... *Everyone, including our soldiers*, our *agricultural workers*(who are committing suicide in thousands in our villages due to starvation -
they are also equally patriotic and are giving their life for the nation, they pay the price for a nationally accepted policy called advanced capitalism), *our students* [yes they do get killed very often in Kashmir (remember fake encounters, whic govt has officially apologised for, now), in Meghalaya (ten school students were killed by state police and CRPF, for demonstrating against an unjust educational policy), in Assam (when they tried to protect the dignity of a fellow girl student, who was asked for favours by some jawans travelling in the train)], *our rural folk and tribal* *country men and women* in Kalinga Nagar (in Orissa) for asking the government to give their land back to them and not to MNCs and Indian corporates, etc etc *deserve to be remembered. None's life is more precious than some others... *

Unlike what our media tells us, there is no point in getting agitated only when a Manu Sharma laughs at our system and gets away with a murder in public, because of money power, we need to be equally agitated and active when Narendra Modi mocks justice in Gujarat and get away with killing 2000 of them or when Indira Gandhi and Rajiv got away with killing thousand of Sikhs in Punjab, Tamils in Sri Lanka (through our IPKF), etc... Is there an sms number of a channel I can send 'punish' to get Warren Anderson (of the famous Bopal Gas tragedy fame) punished for criminal negligence that resulted in a genocide of Indians!!! Will Bush and Manmohan be talking this time about bringing that fellow to justice??? No, never...

I realise life is not 'Rang De Basanti' and that this mail has already tested your patience. But let us atleast not fool ourselves and get bitten by patriotism and nationalism + concern for our fellow country men and women, only when it is convenient to us - to get goose pimples. Their memories and our lives are worth more than that!!!

Thanks to those who reached this part of the mail

Vijayan MJ

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

My story---Blank Noise Project

As a policy, I usually stay away from writing extremely personal stuff in my blog. However, today I make an exception. For the first time ever, I am penning down extremely personal thoughts regarding sexual harrasment at streetplaces. Yup, it includes an harrowing experience that I went through. Trust me, it still seems weird. I never thought I could do it i.e. share my experience eith anyone. However when I read about BlankNoiseProject, I convinced myself that I will write about it. Well, it wouldn't just be a social commentary, but also sharing an experience that almost scarred me. I don't want any sympathy. I am writing it because for me, this is an opportunity to come out and accept what happened to me. I am writing for myself.

I still remember the day. It was a republic day and I was in 9th standard. I was all set to go to my school for the republic day parade and to attend other celebrations. I was on my way to school with one friend who happened to be a year senior to me. we were both walking and suddenly a man walking to my left suddenly came from nowhere and cooly groped me and left. I stood there rooted at the spot unable to comprehend what had just happened to me. I kept wondering what to do since I could see that bastard walking down coolly as if nothing happened. Finally I screamed, "Pakdo....usko....catch hold of him." However once I screamed, that coward ran away. I couldn't control anymore and burst crying. The friend who was along with me couldn't understand what was happening. She thought that it was a thief who stole something. I told her what happened. I don't know how I did that, but well, she got the drift. We were just a minute away from school and an autowallah came by and seeing me cry asked me what happened. Both of us stood there staring at him blankly wondering what o tell him. I think, he got the drift and asked us to hop into his rickshaw and dropped us in the school.

I went to our school ground. I couldn't bear to see anyone. Guilt and shame engulfed me. I didn't go to the place wherein my class students were standing, I did not want to go anywhere near them. Usually on the Republic day, students from all the students come to attend the parade simultaneously, it's huge ground. I stood with the primary section children, at the fag end of the line. I stood there like a statue unable to still stomach what had happened to me. All the two hours that i was in school, I had my head down. I couldn't bear to look above. I tried to control the tears which came rushing.....however I was sucessful only to a certain extent. I wanted to cry, cry loudly and badly. i was embarrased, embarrased to the core. A feeling of revulsion overtook me, i couldn't face myself.

Finally it was time to go home. I somehow went home. I rang the bell and appa opened the door. I entered the house and then the volcano burst. I just burst crying, I couldn't control anymore. i somehow managed to control myself in school. My parents were confused, they didn't know what happened to me. I told them. Both Amma and appa just looked at me helplessly. I howled, I did not know what else to do. I was all of 13. I was consoled. Later I was told, "Don't tell this to anyone haan beta." I heard it and kept quiet. I tried not to think of it and yea not to tell anyone about it.

Days passed by, but the memories did not. It still haunted me. The hurt. The physical hurt had gone but the mental scars remained. I felt guilty and ashamed. yea...I did, for no fucking fault of mine. I couldn't even talk to that friend who was with me that day. I would just change my route if I find her walking in the same road. i would run away from seeing her since I felt ashamed, she reminded me about that incident which i was desperately trying to forget. From then on, whenever I would be late at home, amma and appa would always fret. "Look, don't be late, remember what happened that day na?" I would listen and nod, blankly, totally understanding. I know they are concerned. But I don't know why it functions the way it is. I HATE IT. I am not allowed to go out late because men will letch at me, or there is a danger of molestation. WHY? WHY? WHY? Why do I live in such a world dominated by men wherein WOMEN HAVE TO ADJUST TO THEIR MISDEEDS? I still don't have an answer. I have to conform many a times that's practical. But I still wonder.

Years passed on. I was in FYJC {11th std} I was talking to one of my buddies. She told me how she was also molested in a similar manner. I was shocked. I was shocked that it happened to others too. Till that time, i hadn't spoken to anybody about it. I wonder why....That incident had scarred me so much that I refused to talk about it. I kept mum and acted as if nothing happened. Anyways, when I heard it, I was amazed as to how my friend was narrating it to me without any guilt and shame in an absolutely matter-of-fact way. Somehow that was a threaupatic experience. I realised that I wasn't the sole victim at all.

From then on, I was more alert and I became more assertive. I would scream loudly if someone brushed aside me. I have beaten up guys who have tried to act fresh. If I find someone staring, I simply go and ask them, "Kya hain? Kya dekh raha hain? kaam dhanda nahi hain kya?" {What? what are you looking at? No work or what? } Most of the times they chicken out. A cold hard stare back most of the times works. Never let them stare at you. Stare back and hard and mutter abuses.

Just two days ago, I was getting home at 12 in the night. I was alighting from the rickshaw when a qualis went past me with hooligans hooting. i stood there and abused them in the most filthy language. I stood there till they disappeared from my eyesight. The autowallah stood there and told me, "jaane do, madam." I was so angry. I looked at him and said, "Jaane kaise doon? Aise logon ko gaali dena chahiye, nahi toh aise karte rahenge." {Leave it ma'am. } {How can I simply let go? we have to abuse such people, otherwise they will keep doing it.} I wanted the hooligans to know that they can't always get away with doing everything. And that not all the girls will simply put their head down and walk away when you eve tease. But I also wonder that iw as able to do this since it was my area, my locality. The familiarity helps since if anything happens, you know people will just come to help even at midnight. I wondered if I would have been able to do the same in an unknown place. I would have probably put my head down and walked off. I cringed at the very thought. I hated myself for that. But well, that's the reality.

But what am I doing to protect myself? Well, I am thinking to join a self-defence classes. I have to learn the techniques. Coz no one else is gonna help me especially when I need the most. Self-defence techniques should be introduced in schools. It's surprisingly, rather than empowering the girls, it's their freedom that is always restricted. Che....

Even today, society views a woman who has undergone molestation, rape etc with shame. I mean, nothing is done to remove the shameful feeling. I remember a case when a group of parents had written to the school complaining about a teacher misbehaving with the girl students. The school surprisingly did not do anything. Frustrated, they gave the same complaint letter to the police. The police asked them to file a polcie complaint. THEY REFUSED. I was shocked. They told me that they did not want to file a polcie complaint since they did not want to spoil their daughters' future. "Their names and all will come in the polcie complaint. We will have to explain in details as to what happened. Many of them would have to be married in another 5 years. It would prove difficult then." WHAT THE FUCK....I wondered. But well, that's what happened. Did you see, that the victim is made to feel shameful. Even though, the family is with the victim, they never empower her to take a bold step. I understand it would be difficult. However, the step needs to be taken. Whilst doing this, the victimiser walks freely while the victim is made to feel guilty and ashamed. Weird na? I wonder what message are the parents sending to their girls? "Too bad that something like this happened. However you are not telling anyone about this coz what happened was shameful even though it wasn't your fault." ha.....bloody society. Bloody patriacrchy. I just wish the parents instill the confidence in child that despite the lack of support, one should be brave enough coz simply, it isn't you fault, child. Please, that's the best thing you can give your girl.

Despite all this, I still have to come to terms with the first experience I had. This is the first time I am writing about it. First time, i am letting even my friends know about it. Enough is enough. We girls don't ask for it. No one likes to be molested. Also we also value our freedom. Freedom to be ourselves. Unfortunately it's a battle to be fought and fight we will since enough is enough.

However, all said and done, Blank Noise project could also have men down their experiences of sexual harassment. Well, as we all know, even men aren't spared.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Danish cartoons controversy

Hello everyone... The culture editor of the Danish Newspaper Jyllands-Posten writes why he published those cartoons. {For the uninitiated, here is the background to the whole controversy}

Childish. Irresponsible. Hate speech. A provocation just for the sake of provocation. A PR stunt. Critics of 12 cartoons of the prophet Muhammad I decided to publish in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten have not minced their words. They say that freedom of expression does not imply an endorsement of insulting people's religious feelings, and besides, they add, the media censor themselves every day. So, please do not teach us a lesson about limitless freedom of speech.

I agree that the freedom to publish things doesn't mean you publish everything. Jyllands-Posten would not publish pornographic images or graphic details of dead bodies; swear words rarely make it into our pages. So we are not fundamentalists in our support for freedom of expression.

Read more.....

In his column, he justifies his right to publish the cartoons. He says, "Has Jyllands-Posten insulted and disrespected Islam? It certainly didn't intend to. But what does respect mean? When I visit a mosque, I show my respect by taking off my shoes. I follow the customs, just as I do in a church, synagogue or other holy place. But if a believer demands that I, as a nonbeliever, observe his taboos in the public domain, he is not asking for my respect, but for my submission. And that is incompatible with a secular democracy."

{with reference to the comments} Atlas asked me that there is nothing wrong with the justification. Well, the argument doesn't hold true all the time. The cartoonists drew a caricature of Prophet Mohammad which according to Islam is blasphemous. Any form of depiction of Prophet Mohammad is prohibited since it would promote idol worship and Islam doesn't approve idol worship. Atlas, how will majority of hindu community feel if pics of Lord Ganesha or Lord Krishna is used as toilet covers {its a real instance?} Well, it may not really make much of a difference to the non-hindu population. but well, of course majority of the Hindu population will be offended and will protest coz their religious sentiments would be hurt. See, there are always jokes made about religions. However, it's an invisible line which if you cross, then expect angry reactions. See, everyone needn't have the same kind of tolerance level. However if a large number of people's sentiments been hurt, then you have done something wrong. Well as I said earlier, the whole world needn't see each other through the Westerner's glasses....

The first thing that stuck me when I was reading his justification was the fundamental difference in the way the West and the East viewed relegion. I think the West fails to realise the enormity of the situation. They are quite baffled by the entire controversy and regard the whole fallback of the cartoon incident as "they-have-no-work-so-they-will-protest" kind of of an attitude.

But it is high time that they see the world with a different outlook. It's high time they see the world from an ordinary Easterner's point of view. For the simple reason, RELEGION HERE FORMS THE BASIS OF A PERSON'S IDENTITY. No one takes it kindly if there is a threat to a person's identity. When you attack the crux of the beliefs a person has had all his/her life, how do you expect them to understand your point of view of freedom of speech? Things don't work this way Boss. It doesn't. (I had posted something a similar incident few days ago.

I totally understand the freedom of expression argument. However your freedom of expression doesn't give you the right to hurt someone. If there have been protests all over the world, there has been something fundamentally wrong that you have conveyed through the cartoons to have elicited such a violent reaction. Of course, I am not justifying the violent reactions. Everyone has a right to prtest. However if you want your case to be legitimately heard, then you should make sure that your protest is non-violent.

However, when I read incidents like these {link via kiruba} I somehow get a feeling that the West hasn't made an attempt to understand the psyche of the majority of the people for whom Relegion is more than just faith. Mind you, I am not justifying the violent act. I am just delving deep into the reasons that might have prompted them to do something so henious. The westerners might just dismiss it off as a cyclic barbaric reaction of islamic community. but I think, they should atleast now try to understand the way RELEGION is percieved in this part of the land.

The bottomline is when you say that you respect other relegions, you can divorce it by saying that I don't have to follow other relegions' tabboos. You don't have to follow, perfectly fine. But you also don't have to act, comment on it in such a way that it becomes a like an insult to their beliefs, something they really hold very dear.

R K Narayan

Please, check the blogathon at the end of the post and spread the word

The first book of R K Narayan that I laid my hands on was 'My Days', his autobiography. It's a small book. It is unusual since autobiographies are usually huge. Now, people would wonder that reading My Days would have been a bad idea especially since I hadn't read even a single novel or essay by him before that. However on the contrary I think that is one of the best things I have done. Reading R K's autobio gave me an insight of his personality. After that, I could actually sense his personality even in his fictional works.

I think it's a compliment to an author and his writing skills that the reader is able to decipher his/her personality even in a fictionalised account. He simply amazes me. I could never for once fathom that a person like him existed in an era wherein orthodoxy ruled roost. Most of the typical idiosyncrasies of Tam-Brams that he has written about in the year 1950s-60s hold true till date. I can imagine how tough it must have been for him to retain his sanity amidst such enormous stupidity and pressure and still remain such a liberal minded person and also retain his honesty at that.

HONESTY--->That's one quality I thought that oozed from his autobio. But it was heartening to note that even his other novels also had the same endearing quality. For me, personally, nothing can be more appealing than honesty and simplicity. He had that in abundance. His writings are so simple, so lifelike and filled with mischief, that it almost seems like I know him personally. He is the first author who has made me cry, howl if I may add. Yup, reading , The English teacher, did that to me. Man, how can someone love someone so much.........Sigh...{Please read it guys, if you haven't yet}

This incident triggered off this post. Today, one friend of mine told me how she hunted and finally found R K Narayan's house in Mysore. She said, "The house was locked. It is almost like a ghost house. There's no one. However i just stood by the gate and looked inside." When i heard her, I had goosebumps all over. I just visualised my friend standing by thr house and I just thought she was so lucky. To just envisage R K staying in the house writing the evergreen classics is just an inexplicable feeling. Even I wanna go there. Even i wanna relive the moments that R K might have spent there. Damn, too bad, I started reading him after his death only :( One of my life's biggest regrets. However as cliched as it may sound, he's alive through his writings. and Well....I love you Mr R K Narayan. There's just no one like you, no one ever....

Blog-a-thon 2006
Marking our one year foray into the blog world, we’ve decided to host a Blog-a-thon on the issue of street harassment. No, you don’t have to run anywhere (thankfully) to participate, you’ve just got to get to your computer this TUESDAY (7th MARCH) and post your thoughts on street harassment/ eve teasing on your blog. You can write about anything related to the topic: testimonies, opinions on harassment, comments about the Blank Noise project, would all be great. It doesn't matter where you're from, where you live, or whether you're a man or a woman - we'd love to have you on board. If you’d like to participate, send an email to blurtblanknoise[AT] before the coming Monday (6th March). We’ll add your name and blogsite to the ‘running’ list of participants on the Blank Noise blogsite so that everyone can see what everyone else is writing about the topic. Also, just to get the maximum number of people 'out' for this event - we'd request that you put up a posting on your blog prior to Monday to encourage other people to participate, and to let them know to check your blog on Monday. So join one, join all!

Friday, February 24, 2006

On our way to "No more Satyendra Dubeys" Road

Well after I had cribbed enough in this post, I would like to inform you guys about this. I want to do more than only cribbing in my blog. I have started believing that it doesn't really pay to be conscientious people in India. After the Satyendra Dubeys, Manjunaths, there comes the verdict of Jessica Lal. Read this wonderful post. Weird is the fact that I am no longer shocked at the pathetic scheme of things. I need to end this indifference of mine. For starters, I am posting this initiative on my blog. (Courtesy: Gaurav Sabnis )

Feb 23rd is the birthday of Manjunath Shanmugam - an IIM L (2003) alumnus who lost his life for his fight against corruption. He died on November 19th, 2005.

As a Sales Manager with Indian Oil Corporation Ltd. (IOCL), Manju turned down bribes and ignored threats, to do his job – check rampant adulteration of petrol. He was shot dead in Lakhimpur Kheri by a petrol pump owner and his gang.

To most of us, though we never met him, Manju is extremely familiar and is, in part, within every one of us. This is one cause we CANNOT turn away from. We have no excuse. We must ensure that his death does not go in vain.

The Manjunath Shanmugam Trust is now a legal entity with 2 trustees - Anjali Mullatti (IIML ’93) and H. Jaishankar (IIMB ’91).

The immediate and urgent focus of the trust is to take up the legal battle and ensure quick justice for the murder case. The murderers must not go free.

The broader objectives of the trust are

a. To establish and maintain an award for individuals/institutions working to uphold the values of truth and honesty in the face of danger to themselves.

b. To provide aid to individuals fighting a legal battle to uphold the values of truth, honesty or justice in the Indian corporate, government or public matters.

For updates on what we have done to date and our next steps, please visit the trust website:

How can you help?

Firstly – funds are needed to pay lawyers’ fees, case costs, build an award corpus.. this will be a long and tedious battle. Please donate just one day’s salary for the cause.

Our first donors: Rs. 44,500 ($ 1000) from Sanjay Khanduri, Wharton Class of 2006, and Rs. 30,000 from Akhil Krishna, IIML 2003.

Secondly, if you can commit time and effort, please write in and be part of the team.

Thirdly, if you have close contacts in media, police, legal, judiciary who can help, please let us know.

It is heartwarming that so many people have already reacted immediately and generously – across the spectrum of media, legal, police and the IIM fraternity. Be part of that group.

How do you donate?

Write a cheque favouring ‘The Manjunath Shanmugam Trust’ , and courier it to:
2909/1, Raghavapriya, 3rd Main, V.V. Mohalla, Mysore 570 002, India

Write a cheque favouring ‘The Manjunath Shanmugam Trust’ , and deposit it in any HDFC bank drop box, with a deposit slip, account number 0651000091870.
Do an online money transfer , to the HDFC Bank a/c , from your ICICI /HDFC/Citibank a/c. Account number 0651000091870. 'Select MG Road, Bangalore' in the branch details.

Currently FCRA regulations prohibit us from accepting foreign remittances - we're working on getting special permission. For now, please route all overseas donations via your regular Indian rupee accounts.

We have also applied for income tax exemption for donors under Section 80 (G).

Please contact me for any further clarifications -


Anjali Mullatti - IIML class of '93
Catalyst Consulting

Thursday, February 23, 2006


There is just so much written about the controversy about the Danish cartoons which depicted prophet Mohammad illciting angry reactions from all voer the world. Though this incident happened before that, it still is a bit similar to the Danish Cartoon Controversy. Wanted to share this experience with you guys. .

Three weeks back..

It was a regular Sunday for me. There I was cribbing about going to work on a Sunday. Little did I know, what was in store for me in due course of the day. On my way to work, my train stopped and well I learnt it was a rail roko. It was Mumbra station.

My train stopped and I wondered why. I got down and look around me. Everybody was confused. Nobody knew why trains were stopped and why were stones being pelted. I set out to investigate. Now, Mumbra enjoys a very stereotypical reputation amongst the general public. Suffice to say, I had never stepped into Mumbra before. Victim of stereotypical notions of Mumbra that I was, I stepped into the main road outside the station with a little bit of hesitance. I know it is downright stupid, but well, I am just being honest. For the uninitiated, Mumbra is, for a want of better word, a ghetto for Muslims. Majority of the population is Muslim and whilst walking in some lanes you almost sense a feel of time wrap. Sadaf Manzils, Noor beauty parlours dominate the setting. What I mean to emphasize here is the typical Muslim setting. However, it is also equally notorious for being a terrorist hangout. It is a generalisation; however, Mumbra has always been looked at with doubtful eyes.

Anyways, I stepped down there and bumped into few protestors. They told me that a popular English daily in Mumbai had published a picture of a woman with Koranic verses being printed on her back. They claimed that it was “Islam ki tauheen” i.e. an insult to Islam and that they are protesting against it.

I started scouring the place. I met a policeman who took me to a place wherein there was some kind of organised protest. I landed there and started talking to one person. Apparently he happened to be a self anointed leader of the motley group. Immediately I was surrounded by almost 150 ANGRY men with only one woman amidst them, that being me. I started talking to them. One thing was sure, they were very offended.

For the first time I saw raw anger in the eyes of the people. I was scared for a moment. I was surrounded by a huge mob of MEN. There I was alone representing the journo janta talking to them. It was intimidating being the lone representative of the ERRING fraternity. I could see many members in the crowd were getting agitated with simplest of my questions. Many a times the crowd raised slogans of Allah-O-Akbar right in the middle of the conversation. There were times I felt that I would be harmed by the crowd. However I think it pays to be a woman during times like these. No matter what, in a public domain, woman journalists are respected. I am sure had there been a male counterpart of mine, he seriously would have been thrashed. This is because when a MOB is angry, it doesn’t need logic to be provoked for silly things and a MOB always needs a scapegoat. Thankfully I did not become one.

It was a really funny sight. The very crowd which had brought about the rail roko were seen giving water to the passengers stuck in the train. I was speaking to some police officials when one of them retorted how the Muslim population have less tolerance level. What I saw that day was how the anger reflected a sense of assertion of their identity. Karl Marx has quoted it so rightly; Religion is the opium of masses. In India it is more so, it acts as identity for so many people. When your identity is threatened, you resort to extreme means coz then it means question of survival. The mob was spontaneous and was not held by any single organisation. The police themselves revealed that it would have been easier for them had it been promoted by any single organisation. This being a motley bunch of people from all over the place, makes matters more complicated. This is because, even if you have ended up pacifying a group of people, one can never be sure about having pacified the whole junta. A small spark can ignite a fire. I hope you guys are getting a drift.

One educated man who was seen hovering around told me how he did not approve of the rail roko. However he added, do other means achieve ends? No, unfortunately in our country, it doesn’t really help. Therefore we have to resort to unconstitutional methods to garner attention.

The publication had issued an apology. However the crowd wanted none of it. The same EDUCATED man the goes on to tell, “What is the point in apologising? This is like kissing a girl. If I kiss a girl in the middle of the road and then say sorry, it’s only the girl I have ended up harming. Nothing happens to me. There is no point in saying anything to the girl since you have already harmed her.”

I seriously felt like slapping him tight hard. Bloody rascal. I am sorry for the choice of the words. But I am abusing since I live in such patriarchal set up and that I can’t do much to change a common mind set. It’s really sad that people with such kind of mindset still exist. The notion of PURITY, IZZAT of a woman are a result of a fertile imagination of a man bred in an absolute patriarchal set up. There I go, I drift again. But I was just angry, some how controlled myself.

However later, the mob was pacified and they stopped the rail roko. One local marathi paper spoke about why didn’t they protest when M F Hussain painted godess Saraswati in nude? I am against all those actions which hurt the religious sentiments of people which ever religion they belong to. Such newspapers only bring about hated in the society. One wrong cannot be undone by another wrong. Che.

I personally feel Freedom of expression comes with some responsibility. However, even if there has been a mistake, I think every offended community has a right to protest. But, there is no point in getting violent. The whole point of protest is lost.

I again went to Mumbra few days later for another story. I met a man who thanked me profusely for coming there. He told me, “People have such a bad impression about Mumbra. Thanks for coming. I have been living here for the past 35 years and I love it.” This comment was from a Hindu person. I really felt bad that day. Felt bad because of how the mainstream media have more of less ignored them as a whole.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Rang de Basanti

I had wanted to see the movie right from the time I saw the promos. Finally I watched it, almost a week after its release. As I have said earlier, I don’t consider myself as a reviewer at all since I know zilch about the technical aspects of filmmaking. However I wanted to comment about the content of the movie, a topic I am really passionate about, something I really feel strongly about. I would be giving my personal take about various issues addressed in the movie. Ok, there are so many thoughts brimming in my head after watching the movie that I just don’t know where to start.

About the movie in short:
All the actors have essayed their roles wonderfully. They have lived their roles. I loved Sukhi aka Sharman Joshi in the movie. He is just way too cute. There was an element of Saif Ali Khan hangover. But, he was the cutest in the movie. Siddharth Narayan was also awesome. His character was so Ajay Devganish….Aamir Khan’s character is kind of similar to the one he essayed in Dil Chahta Hain. Not overtly similar, but the essence is kind of same. Kunal Kapoor is HOT. I thought he could have done with a better dialogue delivery. Personally I feel Atul Kulkarni was like super best. Amazing Actor, loved him in the movie. Soha Ali Khan and Madhavan were also good. Special mention for Alice Patten. Lovely actress. She actually spoke HINDI and emoted so well, WOW. Music is rocking. The saying, “A thing for beauty is a joy forever” just fits in so well with regards to his music. God bless you Mr Rehman, you have no idea how many hearts you gladden with your wonderful music. Words fail me to express the brilliance of his music.

My views:
I am really impressed with the subject tackled in the movie. After all candyfloss movies which dominate Hindi cinema today, this movie is such a welcome change. I felt the same when I saw YUVA. Probably I think most of the Hindi movies do not portray the youth of India in a proper manner. I don’t really subscribe to the violent extremism adopted by the protagonists in the movie. I do not think it is a solution at all.

Took a stand:
However what I loved about the movie is that it took a stand. The youth took a stand which they were convinced about. The youth in the movie decided to adopt violence as a mean to achieve justice. You know what is criminal? Indifference is; Apathy is. Indifference coupled with cynicism is a dangerous combo. The fact that the youth took a stand is refreshing enough. Nowadays, I see a lot of indifference amongst us.

Anecdote 1:
The other day I was attending a seminar wherein the topic addressed was, “Is youth activism alive in India?” A speaker made a very interesting comment with regards to Mumbai. He said, youth activism in Mumbai is not all that rampant. However impose a dress code and you will see the rebellion. You will hear voices against it. I just wondered that it reflects such a sorry state of affairs. Only if personal freedom is threatened, does a youth protest. Agreed, dress code is stupid, however it is sad that the consciousness is aroused only when the personal freedom is threatened. Other more important things don’t really evoke extreme reactions.

Anecdote 2:
The movie talks about how we have to participate in the process to make a difference. I totally agree with them. I remember a conversation I had with a friend who was a Delhi university student. She narrated to me some of her misadventures with the campus elections at the Delhi Uni. She told me how pointless it is to stand for elections if you are sincere even at a campus election. While hearing her, I was totally consumed by envy. I told her how lucky she is to actually witness the whole PROCESS firsthand. The process is a part of the system we are a part of. The more we get acquainted with it, the better. This will further help us generate solutions for the umpteen number of problems we are saddled with. Mumbai University doesn’t have any sort of campus election. The youth is not acquainted with the system. Mumbai is where political apathy is at its worst especially amongst the youth.

History repeats itself
The juxtaposition of past and the present is amazing. I am referring to the Jallianwalla Baug incident and the shootout that takes place at a peaceful rally in the movie. Well, no wonder, people say that history repeats itself. But there something about that juxtaposition that bothers me. It is real. I can’t even dismiss it off as a filmy concoction. When the government we elect becomes tyrannical, then where are we heading to as a society and a country sometimes really worries me.

Let me cite a simple instance. In Ulhasnagar a far flung suburb in Mumbai was in news recently. Acting on a PIL, the High Court had ordered the demolition of 855 illegally constructed and hence unauthorised buildings. However, the Maharashtra Government brought about an ordinance safeguarding most of the structures. The reason that was given that Ulhasnagar is a special case. Humanitarian grounds were also cited. It is a place wherein the Sindhis who had fled Sindh province from Pakistan during partition were given plots to start their lives afresh. I sympathise with the Sindhi Community, but I don't agree with the ordinance. They knew what they were getting into. No point in being linient. However what were the government and the civic body doing when so many illegal constructions came up? If you would note, the very same chief minister had ordered the destruction of lakhs of slum dwellers since according to him they were staying in the city illegally in encroached land. Ok, so aren’t the people staying in illegal constructions in Ulhasnagar staying illegally in Mumbai? Why such different yardsticks for citizens of the same city? This is a direct discrimination against the poor slum dwellers and the comparatively richer and well-off residents of Ulhasnagar. It can be anywhere for that matter, I am just citing the example of Ulhasnagar since it was a recent case. This has just set a dangerous precedent.

The reason why I broached this topic is that I see a very dangerous trend. Well, Here I see that our government totally disregarding the law is using the legislative powers to draft rules which are unfair only catering to the privileged sections of the society. This is just a small example. I don’t see lot of difference between the erstwhile rulers that we were ruled by and the current government. In the pre-independence era, we could battle it out against the outsiders, the Britishers. We could easily blame them. However this time around it is different. The fact that hurts is that this time around we can’t really blame anyone. We elected them, can we really crib? We have to fight amongst ourselves, with the government we elected. That’s not a nice feeling I will tell you. There are loads of injustice perpetrated by the Government themselves that it is not even funny. Many a times they aren’t even reported in the mainstream media. But well, all is not hunky dory at all.

Don’t approve of the violent stand
As I said, I did not like the option of violence that the youth took. In the movie, loss of one life lead to loss of almost all the protagonists. If loss of lives could have stirred the conscience of the nation, the killers of Satyendra Dubey and Manjunath would have been rotting in jail by now. Things don’t happen quickly. We are an ‘Instant Coffee’ generation. We want everything to happen NOW. That is unfortunately the message reflected by the movie. When loss of lives will not bring about a drastic change, what’s the point in violence? I sincerely believe that there are other ways to bring about a change in the society and though it may take time, we rather use them. I think that’s an incorrect way to deal with any situation. An eye for an eye makes everyone blind. I really do believe in the adage.

Final take:
I don't agree with the option that the youth took. However, the movie deserves a watch. The movie made me think, made me intrsopect. Not many recent movies have succeeded in doing that.

A request:
Anand felt that Rang De Basanti was a regressive piece of Hindi trash. His is one the most extreme negative reaction I have read till date. Anand, I would really like to know why you felt likewise. Care to elaborate? Here, Anand explains why he hated the movie.