Jul 232012
 

My column in today’s DNA

 

On a slow news day, a girl in Guwahati got molested by a gang of men, who saw nothing wrong in groping, pinching, punching, stripping, feeling up and mauling the victim. In fact, they seemed to take great pleasure in it. A news camera crew captured the act in full gory detail; every nuance of the violence perpetuated on the victim was captured as was every hand movement, every expression; as was the pride and joy shown by the molesters in hearing the helpless girl cry for help. The mob action seemed like a rite of passage – something that got the molesters their official entry into the club of Machismo. They had done it – succeeded in stripping a girl of all her dignity, in public space; in front of cameras and a gawking public. Without censure. Without being stopped. It finally ended half an hour after it started when the police rescued the victim. But, the ordeal did not end with the molestation. The news channel decided to air the tape without masking her face. The footage was uploaded to YouTube and went viral. Mainstream media that had completely ignored theAssamfloods for being unworthy of national airtime went to town with the story.

 

A study conducted by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, said that amongst the G20 nations, India, was the hardest country for a woman to live in; worse than Saudi Arabia. In the Danger Poll, also conducted by the same foundation, Indiawas the 4th most dangerous place in the world to be a woman. The first three on that list wereAfghanistan,Somalia andPakistan.India lags behind on every count that matters. It starts with birth. Rather, it starts by terminating birth. The Poll estimated that there are 50 million girls missing because of female foeticide. A 100 million women and girls are trafficked. 44.5% of all women are married off before the age of 18 – it means education comes to a grinding halt, dreams of economic independence remain unfulfilled, and lifelong servitude in a feudal set up beckons. The woman neither knows nor understands rights that she has as an independent citizen of the country. She is relegated to being part of a traditional society – which may have its’ own charms- but has never been woman friendly.

 

Public molestation of a woman is not new. It is to teach her and the men in her family a lesson. ‘Look I am doing this to you and yours – and you are powerless to stop me’. We have grown up hearing about Draupadi and her ordeal. Lost in a game of dice by her husband, dragged out of her chambers by her brother-in law, Dushasan , propositioned in an open court by another brother-in-law Duryodhan, she is told to take off her clothes. When she refuses the ‘vastraharan’ begins. An entire court of ‘Noble’ men stand by and do nothing while a woman is being stripped.. Draupadi was the daughter of a king, wife of another and mother to future kings, dressed modestly and visiting her in-laws. Theoretically it can’t get safer than this, yet none of this prevents her ordeal. It literally takes a deus ex machina to save her. But the story doesn’t end there. Draupadi vows not to tie her hair until it has been washed in the blood of Dushasan. Bhima swears to kill every single Kaurav prince to avenge the assault on Draupadi, to tear open Dushashan’s chest and drink his blood, and to break the thigh of Duryodhan who asked Draupadi to sit on his lap. It takes around fourteen years to fulfil all the vows – but fulfilled they are. Retribution for that act of molestation is bloody, brutal and complete.

 

In a modern world breaking thighs & tearing chests is not allowed nor is personal retribution. So what is the punishment for ‘molestation’? Two years. The men will spend a maximum of two years in prison and probably make bail after a year. The victim on the other hand has been handed a life sentence. What we saw in Guwahati is not new – it is a story mirrored in various cities, towns and villages. It may not happen in front of news cameras but it does happen. And, it happens for only one reason – the perpetuators know they can get away with it .That needs to stop. There needs to be smarter and better policing – surveillance cameras, more manpower on the streets, linked databases.  There need to be time bound trials. Finally, where there is crime, there had better be punishment. Hard jail time. Biting monetary fines. Make the punishment hurt.  Else arm every woman in India with a gun and teach her how to use it.

Jul 222012
 

There is no rioting in the NE , The riots are in part of one district Kokrajhar , Assam.

The North East is 7 continuous states in the North East of India + Sikkim.

 

You would expect news media (even group blogs) to get basics right.  I hope they change the head line.

I also hope that someone responsible - and i hope that firstpost.com  has someone responsible in charge – spanks whoever put out that headline.

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A long time ago, when I was studying for my Masters at City, my group was in a Seminar on International Relations. The lecturer was talking about post the post colonial Britain, and said something about Afro Caribbean people. a classmate of mine (from Barbados) drawled from the back seat – “pardon me Peter, what is Afro Caribbean – we are either African or Caribbean and there is an ocean  between us. Unless you want to lump all blacks (her word not mine) together”. That class ended in chaos.

Editors in India have to erase the word North East from their lexicon. the states have nothing in common but geography. And, Geography means a rats ass in this word. Continuous use of that word to   represents ignorance, bigotry and deep rooted callousness.

Jul 102012
 

Old pictures that remind me that i have not been shooting – need to start again
I kind of love shooting black and white. somehow there is that romance of photography that comes through .. a snapshot in time

Prayers for us..

My grandmother (nani) praying. I asked her once whom does she pray to… she said i pray for that which is the maker of all, but i pray for you…

waiting

One day i will have a series of portraits from Mumbai labelled waiting. In an over crowded city with no privacy men, sometimes women, make their own space for a brief instant in time – and usually no one bothers them.

walking up

it is said that no one goes hungry in Mumbai. And it is possibly true. It is also said there is always honest work to be had.. and that is also true. What is not emphasised is that it is usually back breaking and soul destroying.

rajabhai tower_1
Mumbai University – once the best varsity in the country. Now it needs a short sharp shock to get back to its former glory… less grandstanding and more quality please.

Worli Mumbai

And Mumbai in the rains, on my favorite road – Worli Seaface …

Jul 092012
 

My column in today’s DNA

 

Way back in 1964, media theorist and technological determinist Marshall McLuhan stated, “The medium is the message”, a line that has been quoted extensively. McLuhan’s work looked at the impact of communication and communications technology on culture. The most famous example that McLuhan used to explain his theory was the ordinary light bulb. He explained it by saying that the light bulb is pure information. It is a medium without a message. “Whether the light is used for brain surgery or night baseball is a matter of indifference. It could be argued that these activities are in some way the ‘content’ of the electric light, since they could not exist without the electric light. This fact merely underlines the fact that ‘the medium is the message’,” he argued.
The presence of the light bulb, ie, the presence of electricity, changes the world as we know it. It enables a whole host of activities that were not even thought of when there was no electricity. To appreciate this better, we need to imagine a world without electricity: all work done in daylight hours because there is no power to light bulbs; no fans, no computers, no heavy industries; jobs restricted to agrarian, manufacturing to basics. Services — such as banking, insurance, health care — would be restricted to the elite, education would be the purview of a few. A world without electricity is a world that is deeply unequal in nature, a world in which people are mainly restricted to traditional professions; a world that existed 100 years ago.
Electricity is more than the delivery of energy. Its very presence changes the way in which we live, work, and do business. Its availability liberates people from feudal social structures. It is hardly surprising that nations and societies whose citizens have access to energy on a continuous basis are far more egalitarian than nations and societies that don’t. The lack of electricity is associated with societies and regions with deprivation, poverty, feudalism, crimes against women, and social unrest.
The presence of electricity, on the other hand, is empowering people and opens up choice and opportunity in the way they conduct their lives. A country or a state that looks for energy security for its people is one that cares about the well-being of its citizens. On the other hand, a country or a state that does not prioritise energy access for all is failing miserably in its duties by its citizens.
It is estimated that 1.5 billion people across the world, or almost a fifth of its population, have absolutely no access to electricity. Over 400 million people have never experienced electricity. When the sun sets, their world goes dark, and stays that way till the sun rises again.
However, the demand for electricity has to be balanced with methods of generating it in a manner that is cost effective and sustainable. In the last two decades, the world has been slowly looking at renewable energy — solar, wind, tidal waves, energy sources that are replenished by nature — as a method of ensuring energy security for the vast majority of its citizens.
A Modern Day Landscape
This year, 2012, has been declared by the UN General Assembly as the International Year of Sustainable Energy for All. Governments, private enterprise and NGOs such as Greenpeace are working at the grassroots to help bring electricity off the main grids, purely at the local level. Called the Smart Energy Access strategy, it allows the transition “from rural electrification to universal electrification by making use of the versatility of micro grids. That is, its functionality as an off-grid system, the ability to incorporate multiple generation sources, adapt to demand growth, and to be integrated with the central grid, while retaining the ability to separate and operate as an island grid if needed.”

Large power plants are vital to power heavy industry and large-scale growth. Dhule, for example, is the home for the world’s largest consolidated solar power project, Jaitapur for the largest nuclear plant. Neither will be ready this year, or even the next. Both will take time. Providing electricity through a central grid may be the ideal method of doing so, but in a world of growing aspirations it may be impossible to get people to wait so long.
Development is not possible without energy. And sustainable development is not possible without sustainable energy. India needs to empower its people by providing energy access to all — cheap, clean energy that powers homes, businesses, and schools. An energy policy that puts the household at its core and builds up from the needs of the household may be the way ahead.