Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Keep The Fire Burning

Friends, Delhites and Countrymen,

The New Year is upon us. The beginning of the New Year is a time for fresh starts and second chances. It is a time to make changes in our lives and in those of others. It is the time to leave things behind but I would hope that one of the things we choose not to leave behind is the determination and outrage that has forced us to take to the streets and demand justice for the anonymous rape victim, to demand that our country and especially our nation’s capital be places where women feel safe and protected.


The month of December has seen the youth of Delhi take to the streets in outrage. I would like to believe this is because the latest case, where a girl was gang-raped in a moving bus, was the final straw that broke the camel’s back. That it was the catalyst that would not allow us to silently accept things as they were anymore. However I find myself wondering how many people were present at the many protests because it was the “cool and fashionable” thing to do and how many people where there because they truly want Indian women to feel safe and the perpetrators of these crimes to be punished.


Along with the rest of the country I too watched the zealous protestors on the news and read about them in the papers. It makes me hope that the people who were there for the right reasons far outnumber those that were there for superficial reasons. But it remains to be seen if this “movement” is a flash-bang grenade or a steady ever increasing flame.


One of the ways that we can ensure that the movement is not easily forgotten is to, often and openly, talk about the issues that have been raised and the possible solutions that we can come up with, to educate those around us until there is not a single Indian left who does not understand what we hope to achieve.


The effectiveness of a movement is directly proportionate to its staying power. All successful movements in history have been able to sustain themselves and instill hope in their supporters and member for years and even decades at a time! The movement that we have begun, the struggle to keep the fairer half of our population safe is one that deserves all the fuel it can get. It needs to keep steady and remain in the foreground until the government and society takes the kinds of actions that need to be taken, not rise up fast and passionate every time there is a horrific incident reported by the media  but die down just as fast having made no effective difference.


Dear country, it is no longer enough to just let the victims and society know that you care, you must step up and help in the process of change. Actions speak louder than words, the old saying holds true even now!

This movement is close to all our hearts and it is our duty to ensure that the fire keeps burning and that our efforts bear fruit.

Let the New Year see us keep up our efforts with new vigor and determination!!  

Sunday, December 23, 2012

A Solution To The Problem Of Rape


We have all been affected by the incident that took place in Delhi.




The news of rape is never easy to handle, whether we know the victim or not, especially for us women because it forces us to acknowledge that we could just as easily have been victims ourselves.

The gang rape of a girl in a moving bus seems to be the straw that broke the camel’s back. It has forced the youth of Delhi, indeed all of India, to step up to the plate. They have made it known that some serious action needs to be taken by the government both to punish the accused in this case and to make changes that will keep women safe in the future.

The hundreds of college students who have gathered to protest outside the Rashtrapati Bhavan and India Gate have done their utmost to ensure that those in the position to make changes know that the time is now. Action needs to be taken now!!


Many groups and many factions have expressed their opinions about both the need to increase the severity of punishment for rapists and the need to take measures to make women safer and prevent the occurrence of rape altogether.

The question before us now is how do we find a solution?? I just heard that even the threat of the death penalty has not served as a deterrent in many countries, so why should it work in India where the police are insensitive at the very least and themselves the perpetrators of such crimes on more occasions than any of us would like to admit.

This begs the question, where do we go and who do we expect to protect us if those charged with that very duty are often no better that the rapists that we wish to protect ourselves from??

Many have said that the solution to the problem of rape and violence against women can only be solved though a societal overhaul. A re-education of society and it’s re-organization as non-patriarchal is quite possibly the only true solution to our problem but the fact remains that, in spite of our best efforts this kind of change will not happen overnight, it might not even happen over the next century.

After the reactions that I have witnessed over the last few days I am sure that our generation will make every effort to bring about this change in society but what will keep us safe until that time. The fabric of society cannot be rewoven in a few days or months or even years. It will happen of that I am sure BUT until then what do we do??

What possible solution can we put forward that will act as a deterrent?? That will make women and girls feel safer??

Should pepper spray be mandatory for the fairer sex, along with rape whistles and compulsory self-defense classes in schools and colleges?? Regular talks and reminders of the things that women can do to keep themselves safer?? There is a solution out there we simply have yet to stumble upon it.




It is my sincerest hope that now that the youth has come forward and has entered into dialogue with the powers that be, a solution can be found. Even a small change can possibly bring down the number of women who are subjected to such violence everyday significantly. Change that saves even one woman is change worth implementing. It will be a long and difficult journey as we will have to change as much about ourselves as we want to change about others but the first step has been taken and now all we can do is continue.



So do you have any ideas?? Please do share!     

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

GET OFF IT!


The other day I was watching some late night talk/celebrity news show and they had an entire 15minute segment on what the various celebrities had tweeted that day.
I realize that twitter is a new and easy way for celebs to communicate with their many fans and occasionally spread the word about some worthy cause or other. It might be a boon for them but what happens to the millions of other people on twitter?? I can understand wanting to know what kind of coffee your favorite celeb drinks or who Kim Kardashian is dating or which celebrity is sporting which fashion trend or even (for a select group of people) how Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez’s relationship is going but do you really want to know what your creepy neighbor from downstairs is doing with every minute of every day??  
So here’s my suggestion- If you’re not famous in some capacity or other then you should not delude yourself into believing that a very large number of people will want to know what you had for breakfast or how your math teacher is out to get you or even about the cute guy who did or didn’t smile at you. Get off twitter and go do something useful with your time!  

Monday, December 5, 2011

Be Silent & Expect A Riot


As students of Sociology, one of the things that we study is “Social Change”. To me that means studying the actions and motivations of those people and groups who have been able to bring about change in the society to which they belong and being inspired.

Both our definitions, Sociology’s and mine, may differ but that’s what it’s about, an amalgamation and fusion of different ideas and points of view.

Yesterday while writing an essay during an exam it struck me that each and every one of us is an agent of change. It’s just that most of us are dormant and accept the world’s wrongs as unchangeable truths. To me, it is quite depressing that so few of us have in us the fire, the predisposition to stand up and speak out when we don’t see the fairness of the situation.

It’s true that the world is not fair but be sure that if you don’t do something to make it a fairer place someone else will! The unfortunate thing about not being involved in the process of change is that your ideas and beliefs may well be left out.

It is my belief that it is these people who did not participate in the process of change, who wake up later demanding to be included, who cause strife and discord in society. When these people are pushy, stubborn and have a false sense of entitlement it leads to violence and riots.

While it’s true that riots have many reasons and many faces, I feel this is the root cause. People want to be included, to feel that they too have a voice, they too are heard and when they feel like their ideas and thoughts are going unheard they become angry and frustrated. The venting of this anger and frustration on innocents leads to riots.



So be silent and expect a riot…

Speak up while the time is right; don’t wait till it’s too late.  


Thursday, December 1, 2011

WHAT IS VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN?


I strongly believe that the first step to solving a problem is to identify and define the problem. Since we’re talking about violence against women and the role that men can play in preventing it, the first hurdle that we arrive at is understanding what violence against women is. 

Violence against women is a technical term used to collectively refer to violent acts that are primarily or exclusively committed against women. Similar to a hate crime, this type of violence targets a specific group with the victim's gender as a primary motive.

The United Nations General Assembly defines "violence against women" as "any act of gender-based violenc that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or mental harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life."  The 1993 Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women noted that this violence could be perpetrated by assailants of either gender, family members and even the "State" itself.

Violence against women and girls is one of the most widespread violations of human rights. It can include physical, sexual, psychological and economic abuse, and it cuts across boundaries of age, race, culture, wealth and geography. It takes place in the home, on the streets, in schools, the workplace, in farm fields, refugee camps, during conflicts and crises. It has many manifestations — from the most universally prevalent forms of domestic and sexual violence, to harmful practices, abuse during pregnancy, so-called honour killings and other types of femicide.

Some historians believe that the history of violence against women is tied to the history of women being viewed as property and a gender role assigned to be subservient to men and also other women.

Violence against women is a manifestation of historically unequal power relations between men and women, which have led to domination over and discrimination against women by men and to the prevention of the full advancement of women, and that violence against women is one of the crucial social mechanisms by which women are forced into a subordinate position compared with men.

Thus having understood the problem we, and indeed men, can move forward and take active action to prevent violence against women.
Having realized that the victims of such violence are mothers, sisters, daughters, wives and friends, men are faced with an important choice. The path that they choose to follow from here on will determine if they become the heroes or the villans in the lives of women everywhere.

So my question to you, to all men, is- Knowing the consequences, your actions could have, who would you choose to be, the subject of women’s admiration or the subject of their disdain??


This Blog is part of the Men Say No Blogathon, encouraging men to take up action against the violence faced by women.
More entries to the Blogathon can be read at www.mustbol.in/blogathon. Join further conversation on facebook.com/delhiyouth &twitter.com/mustbol


Friday, November 11, 2011

BLACK, WHITE & COLOUR TV


         I remember, when I was in class two or three, as soon as I got home from school I would rush to the TV room to watch “Heidi”. It was imperative that I not miss a single episode because we were also doing the book in school. English literature at the time was mainly an exercise in storytelling and the animated series allowed me to literally see what I was reading, thus began my long-standing love affair with both books and TV.
          Watching the Ramayana and Mahabharata series on DD was a way for me to hear the stories that other children’s grandmothers told them. However I must admit that my fascination with understanding and observing people does have its roots in me, at the age of 7 or 8, trying to figure out how these stories set in times so distant could still be important enough for parents and grandparents to repeat them over and over again. It was in many ways, one of my first forays, in the study and understanding of culture.   
           The fact of the matter is that people in our age group, our generation (born in the late 80s and early 90s) have been particularly influenced by the advent of the colour television and the sudden explosion of the television industry. It was a whole new world for us, it changed how we entertained ourselves and there was no longer a need for constant companionship or supervision. The TV had become both friend and aya didi (nanny).
             I discovered the cartoon network in 1996, back in the days when at 8pm cartoon network switched to TNT, which showed old black and white English movies. It worked well with the schedule that our parents thought we should follow as well- cartoons till 8, dinner and then bed by 9, except on the rare occasions when TNT was showing “The Wizard of Oz”.
             That is of course not the case with children born in this millennium. They have accepted television as a part of their natural environment. It is no longer a fascinating new thing which continues to intrigue them. Unlike us, for them, having a TV at home is nothing special.
           We must also take into account that children now-a-days have much greater choice in what they can and do watch on television. For us it was just the cartoon network and occasionally the Discovery channel, for them there is Hangama, the Disney Channel, Animax, Nickelodeon and a host of other new channels. The wide array of choices is testament to how far the industry has come and the recognition that is now given to children as consumers that can affect the spending habits of the average Indian family.
              While we must admit that the reach of television has grown, in that, TVs are now more common and are, in fact, found in even some of the poorest homes in the country, we must also take into account the language factor. Even 15 years ago children’s channels used to be essentially English channels, mostly because India didn’t have any of its own. This restricted the viewership to children who were comfortable in English, implying that they went to good English medium schools and belonged to homes where some amount of English is spoken. However sometime in the last decade cartoon network and other children’s channels have become available in Hindi and other vernacular languages, as well as the advent of Indian channels for kids with cartoons inspired by Indian culture and mythology which were previously available only on Doordershan. This has removed the language barrier thus increasing viewership significantly as well as catering to the interests of more traditionally reared children who might not have been allowed to view some of the more westernized programmes.  
              Another significant aspect that we need to consider is the content of the cartoons and other programmes that children today watch. In a survey with a small sample set I found that what children now find interesting and “watch-worthy” is significantly different from what we enjoyed and often still do enjoy.
               When asked what their favourite shows were I got varied answers about shows on various channels ranging from National Geographic to Hangama, however almost all of them did include cartoon series “Shin Chan” (the story of a very annoying boy and the many ways he causes trouble for his parents and neighbours) and “Doremon” (the story of a boy and his alien/robot companion and their many mis-adventures).
                 Having spent a considerable amount of time with the sample set (kids aged 6 to 13) talking about all the shows that they watch and their viewing likes and dislikes, I came to a slightly strange, even contradictory, conclusion. I concluded that the present audiences of children’s channels want both more and less fantasy.
          Let me explain, most children no longer accept cartoons about talking animals unless it is set in outer space or some alternate dimension. This leads me to believe that the na├»ve innocence that prevailed when we were 6yr olds no longer does, these kids are more mature and more aware of their surroundings than we were however they still try to hold on to that sense of wonder and amazement but only if it is presented to them in a manner that they can accept as a possibility, thus outer space, alternate dimensions and super human abilities. It is easier for them to grasp and follow complicated plots and themes that have not been specifically disproved in their daily existence than to accept simple storylines that have. For Example: - the possibility of a time travelling alien is acceptable because it has not been specifically disproved in their day to day experiences however a talking dog that solves mysteries is not acceptable as their day to day experiences have proved the unlikelihood of the existence of such a creature.
         Thus we can see that there is a huge gap in what we watched ( “Scooby Doo Mysteries”, “The Flintstones”, “The Looney Tunes”, “The Road Runner Show”) and what children today watch (“Doremon”, “The Transformers”, “Ben 10”, “Thundercats”). The world of cartoons has transformed from a world of wishes and carefree joy to a world of guns and bombs where violence rules. Art imitates life and so does TV, Cartoons used to be about an escape from the everyday but now they reflect the real world and prepare children for the violence and destructions that reigns these times.  
          Some amount of change and progress is expected over a period of 15 odd years; however it is my belief that the speed at which technology and the internet have developed has also had a significant impact on television and its young viewers. While some classics have survived the test of time, such as “Tom & Jerry”, most cartoons that we loved are rarely seen or recognized by kids today and even the most avid TV addicts from our age group are unable to recognize all the shows that are popular among children now.
          While it does make me feel old to admit it, the truth is that as time passes what is popular and what is common changes in every sphere of our lives so if we accept it in the type of music we listen to and the kinds of movies we watch, we must accept it in the cartoons that entertain children everywhere as well. 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

THE BUS STOP

I am  a student. In other words I'm perpetually broke but life goes on. In order to make my money last longer my main mode of transportation is the DTC bus system. So you can understand how I end up spending large amounts of time at bus stops. I don't mind it, after all people watching is one of my favorite pass-times and no place provides me with a greater cross-section of society than a bus stop.

Being a student of sociology I find myself thinking about what kinds of homes and communities my subjects come from. I see their similarities and I notice their differences. A part of each and every one of them is stamped and marked with traits of Delhi but the rest of them is unique and different shaped by their parents, communities, schools, colleges and friends. Thus each one has a flavor that echo's Delhi but is toned and intensified by what is uniquely theirs.
My fascination with people and the culture that makes them who they are is fueled by my bus stop observations.
At the bus stops that i visit regularly I look for people that have piqued my interest before to see if there have been any discernible new developments.
Bus stops are an important part of our daily lives, a microcosm that reflects each and everyone of us in some way or other.