Monthly Archives: September 2012

On Why I Refuse to Dance to Item Songs

They are a rage all over India right now. Go to weddings, parties or any other family events. You’ll see everyone dancing to them. The latkas, the jhatkas and the suggestive lyrics.

Surprisingly for a society which is prude, where women are an indicator of the izzat of a family, where sex is a dirty secret, it is ironic to see men and women dancing to songs which reduce women to objects. Of songs which are a sum of their breasts and butts. Of their sexual availability. Of the sexual prowess of a man. Of a man owning a woman in any way he wants.

And in a case of chicken or the egg, the creators of popular culture say they are a mirror to the society while the society says that popular culture is distorting the old value system. Whatever may be the case, it’s the women who are caught in the crossfire.

An average Indian male who has grown up on a diet of bollywood and pop culture thinks it’s his birthright to pass comments on a woman, sing dubious songs, leer and touch her. In some twisted interpretation of how bollywood heroes always get the girl by these acts, these impressionable men assume the same would hold true in real life too.

At the same time, there are very few references to strong, independent women who might feel offended at such behaviour. There are almost no cultural connects between an urban Indian woman of today with the mainstream cinema or television soaps. There are almost no pop culture or bollywood indicators for most men to draw references that this behaviour is unacceptable. And therein lies the problem.

As women become more visible, negotiating in the public space, challenging them, it leaves men to grapple with changing equations. There’s an interesting project called No Country For Women which throws light on the issue.

But coming back to the point, I detest objectification of women as a sign of progress.

Progress comes with equality and safety of women. And I absolutely cannot understand why sexually explicit lyrics and women in titillating outfits are needed to sell cinema. More than the sexual liberation of the women, it takes the cause back decades.

And that’s why I refuse to dance to item songs.




Filed under India, Me

I Know These Mountains


I have seen them before

Every jagged edge

Every scar on their face

Wind swept, rain knocked


Bare, brown, grey

Then snowy white

Set against the bluest blue

As heaven called out to me


I know every ravine

That ran through them

Swelling, rushing

Eroding, corrupting


I watched, mesmerized

A tiny spectator

They stood unshakable

Their vastness alluring


But then I crossed them

Again and again

Till there was nothing to conquer

And then I was free


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Filed under Poetry

Wash Away the Memories of the Post, Mr. Prime Minister

It is usually said that a confident person is never self conscious. I think the same can be applied to nations.

India is a developing nation. As it’s starting to play a bigger role on the world stage – demand for a seat in the UNSC; rejigging it’s foreign policies and playing a more active role in South East Asia and Africa; firming up strategic, political and economic relations with the Western economies and providing financial aid to many nations in the neighbourhood and beyond, there is a perceived shift in the image of India.

Its social indicators are improving but have some distance to cover to be comparable to the standards of advanced economies, its economic policies are being overhauled as new challenges come forth and its political class is been questioned. As the western world sees the rise of the country, it also sees its faults. While no nation is perfect, a constant media glare highlights the gaps as much as it lauds the country.

Traditionally, the English language media of USA and UK have played important roles in providing news and informing readers and audiences all over the world. They have also been opinion and image makers. Such is the deferential attitude allocated to such media that its reportage (albeit from a western prism) is seen as an all important truth. Its critical news stories are seen as a fall of a nation from the world stage, a dent to one’s carefully cultivated image. The reasons are simple – they set the agenda for the rest to follow, high social media penetration in the West means this information gets relayed many times, leading it to becoming an obvious truth.

Strikingly, no English language news organization from the East is as powerful that the flow of information may be reversed, that it would set an agenda for rest to follow, without accusations of misinformation. And therein lies India’s current problem and its government’s inability to digest criticism from an article in the Washington Post.

Yes the Prime Minister was criticized in unflattering terms. But as an Indian, I don’t disagree with the conclusions drawn by the article. Two of India’s leading magazines India Today and Outlook have come out with issues this week criticizing the government and the Prime Minister.

A good leader takes the criticism and learns from it and moves on, moves forward. The job of his media advisor should not be to, so ridiculously and childishly, to demand to post a reply in the comments section of the newspaper or complain via a letter. His job should be to not respond to the article at all.

There is no need for the Prime Minister’s office to leap up in defense. The American President was a lead story for a Time magazine article some time ago. There was an unflattering review of his policies, highlighting his failures. Did the American government’s PR machinery come out with a scathing reply? No. While I am not saying that America is the gold standard to everything, there are better ways in which PR disasters can be handled. I am sure Mr. Pachauri has better things to do than answer to any and every article written by Western media outlets.

The cardinal rule of strategic communication is to never give the opposition leverage, an upper hand. The second is to accept that in a time where there is online access to information and its multiplication through social media, information and opinions cannot be controlled.

Instead of responding and giving more fodder, a quiet introspection would have been better. It’s time India and its leaders accept that this not the time to be self-conscious about its image being tarnished (by just one article in a foreign newspaper), to imagine perceived slights, to be so sensitive to such criticism. It’s time for the Indian government to learn from this, have a better and stronger strategic communications system, a change in its economic policies, a leader who is assertive. I think 2014 will see the end of Manmohan Singh’s political career. He has about one and a half years left. He should make it count. That, instead, would be a fitting reply.


Filed under India, Media