The Water Cooler
  • Doctor, Soldier, Patriot: Celebrating the life of Dr Lakshmi Sahgal

    By Vinutha Mallya

    Dr Lakshmi Sahgal in her youthThe queue of women, most of them pregnant, kept growing at the clinic in the corner of a narrow street in Aryanagar, Kanpur. It was a day in January 2006, and the morning held a mild chill despite the bright winter sun. I sat at a distance on one of the wooden benches in the veranda. The old house located in a labour colony, which served as a clinic and maternity home, belonged to a bygone era. The veranda was not an ideal waiting room, but the anxious women did not seem to care. I was struck by the obscurity of the setting, where we were all waiting to meet the same woman: the legendary Col (Dr) Lakshmi Sahgal.

    I had to wait until the women, who had come from all over Kanpur and some from nearby Lucknow, had finished their turn. Unlike them, I was there to interview the doctor. Although her staff received me politely, I knew better than to expect to receive any preference in her schedule.

    Then 91, Lakshmi Sahgal had been attending to patients at this clinic since

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  • State of Waste Bengal

    Who said Bengalis love fish and sweets over everything else? Neither Sourav the tragic hero nor SRK the new poster boy tops the list. The one thing that all Bengalis adore, sometimes subconsciously, is self-criticism.

    Let's check out some pet peeves:

    • It's true that Rabindranath Tagore had won the Nobel prize, but it has been stolen.
    •  Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose was a great patriot, but no one knows exactly how he died.
    • Presidency College has lost its glory, though it's now a University.
    • Young Bengalis — that's anyone between 2 to 45 — don't know enough about Ram Mohan Roy or Swami Vivekananda or Vidyasagar or just about any illustrious Bengali, except, of course, Sourav again.
    • Jyoti Basu and the CPI(M) had made the state a shamsaan, and now Mamata is adding bits of wood to the pyre. 
    • Basically, it's Kaliyug, and the best thing to do is talk about it over tea and a generous helping of oily snacks.

    When one proves conclusively that all Indian states and everyone else in the world too has

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  • The phone rang and it was my mother. "The SMS isn't going through. I don't know what is wrong. You try sending the SMS a couple times and go to their website also", she ordered me across the phone while at her home a thousand kilometres away.

    Mother dearest was talking about 'Satyamev Jayate' and the SMS that Aamir Khan, the show's host, had asked all viewers to send. The text messages will apparently help back his request to the Rajasthan government to set up a fast track court, so that doctors who were caught practicing female foeticide are brought to justice.

    With the first episode of 'Satymev Jayate' telecast, the verdict is out and it's divided. The nation was waiting with bated breath for Aamir Khan's foray into television.  You couldn't miss the show even if you wanted to; such was the promotional blitz before its debut. Aamir's carefully cleared up face looked down at you dauntingly from virtually every billboard and the show's musical jingle never lost an opportunity to ring Read More »from Satyamev Jayate = India's Oprah
  • IRCTC Bookings : The Daily Circus

    On 28th March, I reached Mumbai from New Delhi (via Bhubaneshwar, Kolkata and Jaipur). I was supposed to reach Bangalore from Bhubaneshwar around March 15. The reason for my cross-country railway marathon? Trying to, or rather having the vast courage to, book my railway tickets online from IRCTC. If you are an agent making a living from overcharging tourists, stop reading NOW. And if you don't want to read this long, heart-rending post, a few quick bites before you go away:

    • 6,111 agents have been blacklisted by IRCTC
    • Of them, 4,310 were using multiple user IDs
    • 1,005 have been claiming fraudulent TDRs
    • 2 super-thug agents from Mumbai have been banned by the Railway Ministry
    • Problems related to IRCTC are discussed daily on Consumer Forum sites, Grahak Seva, Cleartrip Forum, National Consumer Complaint Forum, apart from loads of blogs
    • A friend Tweeted, 'Rajnikanth is faster than Intel Processors, but IRCTC can hang Rajnikanth'

    I had gone to Orissa on

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  • Damayanti Sen is not Inspector Vijay. Unlike the muscled, trigger happy super cops who always triumph in the end of a satisfying Bollywood movie, the story of this IPS officer is not so rosy. Her mistake was to persist on the track of the culprits and crack a high profile gang rape case. Her reward is a transfer to a low profile position.

    Damayanti’s reaction on her transfer order. Photo by Anandabazar Patrika. More on

    Damayanti has a Masters Degree in Economics. She entered the IPS in 1996, and in 2009, became the first woman ever to grace the post of Deputy Commissioner, Detective Department, Kolkata. She was Joint Commissioner in February 2012, when a woman was gang raped in Park Street, Kolkata. One of the suspects involved was related to a Congress leader.

    The case got some negative publicity right at the beginning as the local police station did not cooperate with the victim, delaying the process of lodging as FIR. Next there was a confusion over identifying the criminals. It didn't help when Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee publicly claimed that the case
    Read More »from Mamata Transfers Supercop to Police Training School
  • No country for women

    Girl children in IndiaTo be killed before you are born is inexplicable. For the 10 million girl children who were brutally killed due to selective abortions [after pre-natal screening between 2001 and 2011], the first blow landed before they were born. ABC News did an expose last year where it claimed that a staggering 40 million women have gone 'missing'. The result? The sex ratio has dipped to 918 girls for every 1000 males in 2011 from 927 girls in 2001.

    For the girls who make the cut, it's not over, gendercide awaits. India has among the highest rates of girl children being killing after birth in the world (by women who can't afford pre-natal screening). It's a girl; three words that sound the death knell. After carrying their babies for nine months, mothers or midwives will put an end to the 'burden' by slamming their heads against the wall, burying them alive or stuffing a wet cloth in their mouths. Survive this and malnourishment follows, felling more. Around 2.5 million children die in India every

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