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The Boat of Life

We are all travellers

In the boat of life

 

Adrift, marooned, anchored

In different faces of time

 

Sometimes we row furiously

At times at leisure

 

And peer at other boats

To see if they’ve found a shore

 

In stormy seas we hold on

Or fight to stay on course

 

Battered, bruised we soldier on

There are oceans to conquer, you see

 

Sometimes the sun shines

And sparkles on the water

 

Blue, green, yellow, gold

The colours melt into one another

 

Reverie broken, eyes searching

For another pair of arms for the oars

 

Maybe there’ll be more seas to explore

Or a bay which becomes home

 

But one thing is for sure,

we are all travellers in this boat

 

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A Lost Paradise

When I went to Hyderabad for the first time, I was told to go to Paradise for their scrumptious Biryani. A Hyderabad bucket list thing to do. And I wasn’t disappointed.

But today, I am not just disappointed, I am ashamed. I came across this blog post going viral on facebook and clicked on the link, only to read this about the behaviour of the resturant staff:

 

For all those living in Hyderabad, India, Paradise hotel is synonymous to biryani and is one of the most visited restaurants in the city. Located in Secunderabad, the hotel was so iconic that it lent its name to the place where it is. I say ‘was iconic’ because it no longer is, for me anyways.

Last night, I was there with my family celebrating my mother’s birthday. After dinner, we came down and were waiting for our car to be brought around by the valet. There was this one woman who was selling mogra flowers, a street hawker, right near the restaurant.

Now Paradise for whatever reasons has bouncers as security personnel outside its premises. My husband, my cousins and I were just talking about what was an outright lecherous look of a bouncer towards this woman, when another bouncer walked in (at this point, the woman was surrounded by four bouncers) and asked her to move away from there. Now, I understand that the parking area is managed by these guys, but what right they have to order people off the roads? Anyways, even as she began to walk away, the bouncer pushed her to the ground–yes on a road where traffic flow is quite heavy; snatched her basket of flowers, tore them and began to hit the woman. When we along with the other customers started to scream and run towards the bouncer hitting the woman, he pushed her again to the ground, and ran inside the Paradise garage.

We were quite enraged at this point and ran inside the garage only to be stopped by other bouncers who told us to ‘get lost’ and one went to the extent of saying that the woman was beaten because she was ‘drunk’ and ‘misbehaving’. By this time, a considerably big crowd had gathered all of them demanding for the bouncer to be handed over. Not only were the other bouncers and security guard protecting the culprit but they went a step ahead and threatened customers to leave or forfeit their cars which were in the garage.

In a matter of seconds, the bouncers also began closing the garage doors and had barricaded one of the entrances to the hotel. A so-called Manager appeared on the scene, behind the barricades and told us to leave, saying “You are making a scene out of nothing”.

At this point, I called 108 and had also informed a couple of media houses about the incident. Soon, i saw a Rakshak vehicle (police patrol jeep) and stopped the vehicle and informed them of the incident. When the SI, one Shiva Prasad, asked the security guard what happened he said “nothing happened these guys are just making a big deal out of nothing”. When the police went inside to get the guy, they could not find the guy either. But what was heartening, at this point to see were the many people who had witnessed the incident, coming forward and informing the police. Many had waited for the police to come to complaint.

When i spoke to the other women hawkers there they told me that they are bullied on a daily basis by the Paradise security men. “They push us around, spoil our flowers and sometimes even grope us. We put up with it because we have no choice and have to do this for a living,” said one of the hawkers Lakshmi.

This is the appalling state of affairs in our city and country. What did the guy who pushed that woman and beat her think? That no one would react or that he would get away with it? I guess he thought both. And for all that i know, he might actually get away with it. While i did file a complaint with the SI, am yet to hear about the actual details and realistically speaking, i know that Paradise can ‘afford’ to bribe their way out of this incident. Their reputation will be hardly hit if the media does not take up the issue. Despite, working with the media i feel thoroughly helpless and frustrated that this matter has not been brought to light (as yet atleast) And so decided to go ahead and blog about it.

The manager who  was apprehended by the police last night was almost nonchalant and seemed assured that nothing would come out of this.

But what caught my attention was this- even as i was ashamed that something like this happened in my city, the number of my fellow Hyderabadis who rose to the occassion and fought for this woman who believe me was quite shaken and scared.

There are a lot of underlying issues here. One of class and gender. The inequality of it all. This security guard aka bouncer was assured of his management’s support and hence took the step of assaulting a hapless woman. A woman he knew, would not be able to fight back on her own. By calling her a drunk, the other bouncers somehow felt they had the moral authority to hit a woman. What was disgusting was the complete lack of responsibility on the part of the management.This attitude that she is no body so we can do whatever needs to be cracked down on not to mention  these so called security guards need to be sensitised.

At a time when there is so much public anger on the lack of safety for women, this incident just goes to show how much work’s to be done when it comes to this issue. But, I have hope now. Hope, that people will no longer stay quiet when incidents like this happen. Often, it takes one person to react-(in this case it was my family which reacted in unison)- to encourage other bystanders to stop being spectators. If the police takes action against these guys, they will be setting a wonderful precedent in the city. The incident also brought to the fore the concept of safety for thousands of women employed like this. Who are they to approach when such things take place and to what extent is justice actually delivered? Apart from strengthening laws, its time we even think of how to make women aware of their rights so that they can fight back.

And yes i know for a fact that I will NEVER step foot into that restaurant or any of its branches again  or even order from there. The only way these big establishments will understand the gravity of what happened last night is when people begin to boycott them.

I generally don’t ask for my blog posts to be shared, but this one i will. Please read and share this as widely as possible. We need to come together to teach a lesson to these guys and cut their arrogance. This might be a long shot, but i believe in the power of social media.

 This is cross-posted from the original blog here.

I hope one day, we can create an environment where it is NOT acceptable to mistreat women, hit them or harass them. The change has to come from us and our voices in unity. 

Amen.

 

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Custodians of the English Language? You, Me, Everybody, Nobody.

I was sitting in a coffee shop chatting with someone I had met on one of my travels. We were discussing about how does one understand India. I replied saying, one must immerse in the Indian culture, learn the language and observe. Easier said than done, I say. Especially the bit about language.

We Indians learn British English in school. Most of us remember our English language literature journey starting from Enid Blyton books and graduating over to over to British Classics and modern British literature. So, we learnt that people live in ‘flats’ in a building which may have ‘lifts’ and schedule is not pronounced as ‘skedule’. We put a ‘u’ in colour and labour.

Source: Macmillan

Somewhere along the way, came along Sidney Sheldon, John Grisham and the rest. Suddenly our television channels were flooded with American TV shows and soap operas. And then just about everyone started peppering their sentences with words like – whatever, yeah, really, like. And the British English went for a toss. Suddenly we were buying ‘apartments’ in ‘high rises’ which have ‘elevators’. We have ‘cell phones’ not ‘mobile phones’ and we go for ‘vacations’ not ‘holidays’. We are not the only ones who have this problem (which is a natural progression of a globalized, connected world). Apparently the Americans and British who live in each other’s country speak a mish-mash of both forms of the language.

As we Indians continue to bumble along the language highway, along the way, we were made to realize that we spoke something called the Indian English. We end sentences with ‘only’ or ‘na’ and use ‘basically’ everywhere in a sentence! We have singlehandedly invented the word prepone (ladies and gentlemen, it wasn’t in the dictionary before!). We love translating Hindi to English in our heads and thus we construct sentences in the present continuous tense.

While talking to our friends, unconsciously we slip in and out of Hindi and English, using a better word which conveys the meaning to construct the sentence. Most of our songs, ad slogans and film titles are in Hinglish.

So, who has the monopoly over English language? Apparently, no one and everyone. The English language evolves as it travel. It grows, it shrinks, it makes words obsolete and adds new words every year.

As a result our language is a mix of British, American and Indian English along with a smattering of Hindi (in Hindi speaking areas) and other local Indian languages. So if I were to advice someone to learn our language, I wonder what mongrel form of English and Hindi would they have to learn to understand the new globalized India! Interestingly, a news report in a British newspaper says that British staff in high commissions to India will be encouraged to learn our khichdi language. I say, good luck with that, dude!

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The Race for Africa

Africa is a continent of both  despair and hope. The cradle of the human civilization has seen numerous calamities like famines, struggled with political instability and low social indicators. However, some African countries, rich in human and natural resources are looking at economic growth and the prosperity that comes with it, some growing at 4-5% per year.

And India and China are in a mad scramble to tap into the African reservoir of resources. Both Asian giants, developing rapidly with healthy growth rates and businesses are looking at the continent with a strategic game plan. Governments of both countries are engaging the region diplomatically, giving billions of dollars worth of credit lines, bilateral treaties and generating trade.

China entered the market much before India, focusing on businesses like oil and mining of natural resources and infrastructure development. China has had to face much criticism for poor treatment of African workers and being in the region for only selfish gains. But then which country engages another if there are no returns? The growing whispers about the Chinese have come from western media, with some saying, the media is playing into the region’s insecurity about the growing Chinese influence.

India, which is playing catch-up with China realized that a stronger foreign policy was required, has gone all out to woo its African counterparts. Indian businesses span telecom, agriculture, goods and services, along with natural resources. The Indians have lauded themselves for building capacity of local workers, employing them in decision making positions along with developing infrastructure. However, India has another important reason for focusing onAfrica – a seat at the UN Security Council. The crucially important support of the African Union can tilt the balance in India’s favour.

However, the old imperialist powers along with USA have expressed their unhappiness over the apparent Asian scramble for African resources. Both countries, and China, more so, are been touted as the neo colonizers. I would tend to agree with experts that these old powers have no right to say this when they themselves have “taken resources from the continent without giving anything back”. And India, which shares the burden of colonialism and a complex post colonial identity, cannot do the same to the continent. India’s colonial legacy ensures that it will be sensitive to Africa. It’s political will shows it, along with examples of conducting business.

Whatever may be the reasons for both countries to look for opportunities in the cradle of civilization, it is clear that as Africa becomes more integrated in the global economy and overcomes political instability, a new future beckons it. It should grab this opportunity with both hands, see its people progress. The next thirty years will see a new world order and Africa could play a crucial role in securing an important position there. The present may belong to India and China, the future could very well belong to Africa.

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Ekta Kapoor And Gang Needs To Give Way. Now.

My biggest grouse with watching the telly is trying to find fiction programmes which engage me. I automatically gravitate towards English language American or British shows. So if I am in London or New Delhi, I am watching the same shows and probably the same season.

Now, for a younger me, it would be ‘totally cool’ and it would be an indicator of how India is ‘progressing’. Back to the present, I actually feel really pissed off that there are no Hindi language TV shows for ‘people like us’.

English, my second language, is like my mother tongue. I get the American and British humour and most of the references to their popular cultures, the plot lines are intriguing or funny (depending its a drama or a comedy) and scripting and editing is usually tight.

My question is why can’t we have quality programming in our national language? How many urban, English language educated, well travelled, well read young people want to watch Simar Ka Sasural and the likes of such shows?

I, for one, after a hard day of work, don’t want to watch sari clad, pancake layered women moping, scheming or pining for some man or kitchen politics. While the rest of the country progresses, we are stuck with TV shows in 2001 when Saas-Bahu conflicts were the best way to get your TRPs. And what about the really bad dialogues and scripts, shoddy camera work which looks like a shaadi wala cameraman gone creative and stories which urbane people can’t relate to?

We do have an alternative in reality TV shows. Unfortunately every channel has one song, dance and a general talent show. They all look the same to me. I can’t distinguish one from the other. They have, unfortunately, hit upon a formula too. Every week throws up a hero, some tears, a bit of drama, failures and triumphs. If you have seen one, you have seen ‘em all.

Right, so now we are left with those stand up comedy shows which propagate silly or toilet humor, jokes recycled from my childhood days when I used to read Champak and Target and forced laughter (including the laughter track inserted every two minutes). Seriously, would I want to spend my time watch Archana Puran Singh or Navjot Sidhu or whoever is the current judge of the season force laugh at something which is not even remotely funny?

So for people like me, the newly launched youth channels decided that relationships sell. So if I want to watch something which my generation, apparently relates to, I would be relegated to shows like sting operations on alleged cheating partners, devious and foul mouthed young people in Roadies or dating shows on Channel V or MTV. Seriously, who are they catering these shows to?

Last year when Yash Raj Films entered the TV market with some new shows, I silently applauded them. They were TV shows with well etched characters, decent script and plot lines and nifty editing. I used to find time to actually watch some of these shows which I thought were heralding a new era in Indian TV programming. But my joy was short lived when after a season or so these shows disappeared from the screens.

I understand that advertising and other market dynamics work in the favour of the same old soaps and reality TV shows. That out of 1.2 billion people, most tastes lean towards these kind of programmes. But there is a small percentage of people who would like to watch the telly and for once, not watch Star World or HBO but something in our own language.

Why should an episode of Friends be my frame of reference for something? Why can’t it be an Indian TV show? I refuse to believe that there is a dearth of talent in our TV industry, of innovation and taking chances. I am sure there is a small and growing market for new programmes (like there is for non traditional cinema). To the powerful people in those production houses, I just want to say – Get off the Ekta Kapoor and Reality TV bandwagon and do something new!

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On Why I Agree With Caitlin Moran

“That’s the minimum I ask from my footwear. To be able to dance in it, and for it not to get me murdered… Heels are not empowering – they are silly and impossible to walk in.”

– Caitlin Moran

Dear Caitlin Moran,

If I ever meet you, I would like to give you a hug. Thank you for saying out loud that it’s okay to not wear heels. It was last month that I was on a holiday. And decided to go out dancing with friends one night. I started the evening with comfy, almost flat shoes and thought that as the evening progressed, I would wear higher heels (to glam it up a bit, as they say). The thought of painful feet leading to non-enjoyment of dancing, kept putting me off. And so those heels remained there, stuffed in my bag while I walked back to my hotel with my feet ensconced in shoes (instead of holding them in my hands) at 4.00 AM, after a night of club hopping.

Since I was younger, I have revolted against heels. If it hurts my feet and at the end of a day and/or requires the services of a man to carry me because debilitating pain won’t allow me to do so, I refuse to wear such a contraption. And yes, I agree, if I go out dancing and it’s painful, why in the world would I do wear it? Or what if I had to make a run for it, I wouldn’t be able to do so.

My mother has tried in vain, begged, pleaded, coerced, emotionally blackmailed me into buying and wearing heels (if not to the office then at least to the parties). Her logic being that a vertically challenged person like me will look much better. My counter to the that logic is a) I look good if I feel confident and I feel confident in my flats b) people always (and I mean ALWAYS) bend down to listen to me. A few inches are not really going to help if everyone is always towering above me and in my head I can hear my voice saying – ‘These shoes hurt. Can’t I just kick them off and walk barefoot?,’ instead of concentrating on the conversation I am having with that person.

Someone I know once said to me, “Oh, I don’t feel confident if I don’t wear heels.” And that’s when it hit me. Her self worth was defined by the fact that she wore heels. All the time. I wonder why is this pressure and need for women to look good, to wear painful or uncomfortable shoes and clothing to look good. Who sets these standards for us? The short answer is – the fashion industry. The vision of these designers, who send women in tottering heels down fashion runways from Paris to Tokyo, is fed to the fashion industry, to magazines, to high street stores, to women on the street. It doesn’t matter that it you may end up with painful bunions or bad posture.

So yeah, Caitlin, thank you for saying it aloud that it’s okay to not wear heels. Oh, while you are at it, would you like to start a revolution ‘lets-bring-back-those-comfy-shoes’? Because its unfair that men can wear them all the time (rain, summer, winter, formal, informal) and women are judged if they do the same.

Yours

Neha

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