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    Do you think all men with neatly combed hair and striped shirt are respectable? Do you feel any woman in a 12 yard sari is religious? We all have some preconceived notions on gender, race, culture, relationships and the world in general. Nothing can change this set of deeply ingrained ideas except a direct experience of life where convenient generalizations don’t work.

    A friend of mine believes in same-sex relations. When he declared he was gay, his childhood friends were surprisingly at ease. There was no ‘shock effect’ to his announcement. As an activist, he has tried to create awareness and an acceptance of the fact that India always had space for multiple gender orientations. Professionally a history teacher, he has been able to provide precedents from ancient myths, texts and historical records.

    In one of our early conversations in Delhi, I had pointed out that I don’t comprehend his notions of sexuality since mine would be so very different. But I do agree there’s nothing

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  • Code Like a Woman

    If I wasn’t in a hurry, I could’ve walked the distance in 15 minutes. The auto rickshaw guy wanted Rs 80 for it. I bargained it down to Rs 50. On reaching, the driver started cribbing again, and of course, he didn’t have change for a hundred rupee note. I counted out the coins, paid him Rs 50, and had the pleasure of hearing him mutter obscenities under his breath as he drove away in a huff. He was certain I didn’t understand his language. But I did understand a smattering of it, enough to follow what he was saying. So that was Day 1 @Bangalore. A well-laid city with lovely weather, good food, lots of friendly people and some folk who try to take advantage of every situation on the basis of their practiced lingua. Applies to people from both the northern and southern parts of the country living in the ‘Garden City’. It’s all about quick money, and has nothing to do with where one comes from.

    A strange brand of opportunistic conservatism is fostered in an atmosphere like this. Landlords

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  • Indian, Woman

    During the internet turbulence in the wake of the Delhi gang rape in December 2012, I noticed a trend that confirmed some of my worst fears once again. The most visited ‘stories’ either had something to do with the horrific incident or were related to ‘entertainment’ where women were being very typically objectified. In other words, one might be commenting on the apathy of Delhi police and the utility of Botox treatment simultaneously in two ‘windows’, while listening once again to Chikni Chameli. Sounds familiar? Irrespective of gender or nationality, ‘we are like that only’. Even the sahibs aren’t any better. Visit any news site and look up reports on crimes against women, and you will notice some obvious similarities running through. It stems from a need to typify women – wife, whore, dumb blonde, mother, arm candy, feminist, sweetheart – and those who don’t fit are problems to be solved.

    No, I am not over-reacting. Let’s take the case of Damayanti Sen. An IPS officer, she had the

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  • GM crops and the food security fig leaf

    GM corn is threat to the environment, argues Greenpeace

    By Shivani Shah

    Let's talk about genetically engineered/modified (GE/GM) foods. And why the Indian Government is so adamant to have these foods commercialised in India. And why it has nothing to do with food security.

    Genetic engineering is the artificial transfer of genes from one species to another – plant or animal. This results in a genetically ‘modified’ organism (GMO). As a result, the genetic makeup or the genetic blueprint of the organism is completely and permanently altered. The objective of modifying is to bring about a certain function – for instance, in plants, producing toxic proteins to eliminate pests, developing a tolerance to agro-chemicals like herbicides, etc. In simple words it's about creating a new organism using molecular biology techniques, which will otherwise not be found in nature. So one might wonder what’s wrong. Growing scientific evidence shows that GM crops are a potential threat to human health and natural biodiversity. Moreover, once released into theRead More »from GM crops and the food security fig leaf
  • The rape, torture and murder of a 23 year old woman in New Delhi is not the reason for the current public outcry. It was that final weight tipping of the scale; it came at a point when the nation just couldn’t take any more. Rape has become so frequent that its presence is like the repeat telecast of the same episode running forgotten in a television while the family dines. The other compelling reason was the terribly familiar circumstances in which something grotesquely unfamiliar happened. The girl next door boarded a bus from a crowded place supposedly safe for students at 9:30 pm, and was skewered with an iron rod by six men. This can happen to just about any woman, anywhere, at any time. Thus the identification.

    Since it’s so close to us, and has made us finally, finally uncomfortable enough, let’s get closer to the remedy as well. Yes, we need to stop rape and we need justice. But how to do that without researching on the Indian psyche for the next 20 years or waiting till a

    Read More »from Hard Light : Time to Dirty Our Hands with the Indian Penal Code
  • Soft Light : Why Indian Men need to Protest against Rape

    Are you Indian and a man? Have you never felt up an unknown woman’s legs or accidentally ‘jostled’ her on the street? Are you a responsible father who loves his children? Are you a husband who has never beaten his wife? Are you a brother or son who doesn’t believe in ma-behen gaalis? In short, are you a man, potent, sexually capable, well-placed in life, having  perfectly normal relationships with women (mother/wife/friend/sister/daughter/colleague)?

    If so, please speak up against rape. Because if you don’t, guess what, the world will think you don’t exist. With a little help from our politicians, their allied theoreticians, and a certain section of the friendly press, you will either be declared extinct, like the dodo, or be placed on the list of endangered species along with the Royal Bengal tiger. Poachers will come looking for you, there will be a Wikipedia page on you in past tense.

    If you think I am over-reacting, look around you. Learned panelists on television are discussing

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  • Apathy was just another word for me until recently. And then three leaders, two of them at the helm of the sled-team drawing our nation through these cold, unfeeling times, broke the silence – and expanded my vocabulary. Apathy is no mere word; it is not just the gloomy, all-consuming emptiness in place of an emotion. It is in fact a god for our politicians – a worshipful, omnipotent deity that must be propitiated and appropriated to win those much-coveted keys to the nation’s governance -- and, I say this contentiously, for its coffers. And just as the rest of us may worship Ganapathy or Venkatachalapathy or Umapathy, our netas worship Apathy.

    And just as some of us believe that God made Man in his image, Apathy, too, manifests in a face. Witness, hereunder, the three faces of Apathy that we have seen in the week that was in these Grim Fairy Tales for Troubled Times.

    Grim Fairy Tale # 1 – Nero’s Fiddling Lesson
    Grim Fairy Tales - Nero's Fiddling Lesson - Bijoy VenugopalGrim Fairy Tales - Nero's Fiddling Lesson - Bijoy Venugopal
    Great Nero was in the midst of his fiddling lessons administered by his

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  • What's the point?!

    Long ago, I read something that stuck in my mind. The quote might be inexact, and its provenance is lost in the mists of memory, but the argument went like this:

    "When Christ was crucified at Calvary, the enduring image of that one man dying for our sins gave birth to a religion that swept the world; when millions of Jews were massacred during the Third Reich, it left us intellectually disturbed but largely emotionally unmoved, because who in the hell can identify with millions?"
    That line came back to me last night while reading some mails people sent in after reading yesterday's post. Some at least argued on these lines: Yes, the Delhi rape is horrific, it is tragic, but why did it take this incident to wake people up? Is it because it happened in Delhi, and hit too close to those who, by virtue of making their home in the national capital, conferred on themselves a special, protected status?

    The argument is analogous to what we heard in the immediate aftermath of 26/11, when a Read More »from What's the point?!
  • The problem is apathy. Not activism.

    News has four cycles.

    There is, first, the child, flapping its arms and legs and yelping in excitement at having been presented with a brand new shiny object, wondering what to do with it: toss it in the air? Kick it? Try and stuff it, whole and entire, into the mouth? (Think of days one and two of the aftermath of the Delhi rape, when 'coverage' was a series of increasingly shrill freeform yelps without coherence or substance but with lots of lung powering it.)

    Then the teen, as volubly excited but with a greater awareness of his peers. (That channel had the Home Minister on the griddle and called for the resignation of the police commissioner? We need to ask for someone's resignation too. Oh and that other media house? It gave the victim a symbolic name - that's so cool; we need to give her a name too!)

    Then the adult, who has outgrown the follies of youth and, cleansed his palate of the metallic aftertaste of adrenalin, discovers maturity, and fairness, and balance. (We reported the

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  • 28 Mahindra XUV 500s are traversing across 9 countries, covering a total distance of 8000 kilometres and spreading the message of solidarity. Catch all the live action from the 2012 ASEAN-India Car Rally.

    On the occasion of the 20th commemorative year of India-ASEAN relations, the 2nd edition of the ASEAN-India Car Rally was formally flagged off from Yogyakarta, Indonesia on 27th November and will wind its way through 8 of the 10 ASEAN countries before finally ending in New Delhi. However, since there is no road that connects Indonesia to Singapore, the rally begins from Singapore.

    Day 1: Singapore to Ipoh (Malaysia)

    28 Mahindra XUVs were lined up at the Marina Bay Formula One Circuit for the flag off on 28th November. Hundreds of people, including children waving flags, cheered as Singapore foreign minister K Shanmugan flagged off the rally.

    Here begins the epic journey of 28 Mahindra XUVs carrying politicians, diplomats, movie stars, journalists, rally enthusiasts and laymen,

    Read More »from ASEAN-India Car Rally 2012 Coverage


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