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


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 Join further conversation on &

Friday, November 11, 2011


         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


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.