How Independent Are the Independent Women of Our Independent Country?

Debolena Bose speculates about the notion of independence conferred upon contemporary Indian women!

Independent woman

“Ma, I’m leaving”, shouts out Tarun to his mom.

“Okay but don’t be late”, replies his mom.

“Fine”, says Tarun and he leaves.

“Ma, I’m going out with friends”, says Tarun’s sister, Hrishita.

“Oh! You, too, are leaving…alright…but when will you be back”, asks Mrs. Bhatt.

“In about 3 hours”, answers Hrishita.

“THREE HOURS! What will you do for such a long time?”

“Going for a movie, Ma. Please understand! The movie will take at least 2.5 hours. It will take us 15 minutes to reach the theatre and the same time to come back. That makes it 3 hours!”

“Do you really need to go for the movie? Why can’t you simply invite your friends over? All of you can sit around and chit-chat! That’s also a fun thing to do. Don’t you think so?

“Ma, it’s Friday evening! I don’t wish to sit at home. We chit-chat every day. Any way, I will be out for just 3 hours!”

“Listen, you have to be home before dusk. Do you understand? I don’t want you to be out in the night. And what kind of clothes are you wearing? The neck is so deep! How many times have I told you that capris don’t really suit you! Put on your black jeans.”

“Ma, enough now! I’m going! You’ve already delayed me by 20 minutes. In case I am late, it will be all your doing; not mine!”

“Rishu, I’m not allowing you to step out of home in these clothes. Go and CHANGE. Right now!”

“FINE!”

(After a while) Hrishita comes back wearing jeans and a different top. “Does this make you happy?”

“Ya, this is alright! Now listen to me very carefully – don’t look at any boys in the neighbourhood. If anyone tries to speak to you, or even make an eye contact, don’t utter a word. Just move on. If you hear someone making catcalls, don’t retaliate. Also, if some passerby car stops by you to ask for an address, ignore that person and move along. Make sure the auto driver does not take you through those small alleys. Always take the road which remains crowded. Most importantly, how many of you are going? Are there any boys accompanying you?”

“No Ma! Sujata, Priya, Poonam and I – four of us are going for the movie.”

“Four girls ALL ALONE”!!!

“Ma, be reasonable. How can four girls be alone? We are four of us and we can take care of each other. Don’t worry!”

“Abhinav and Hritik could have accompanied you. Had you informed me about your plans earlier, I would have asked you brother to drop you off to the theatre! Any way, one more important thing – don’t befriend strangers in the movie hall. In case, someone offers you popcorn, politely refuse. And yes, COME HOME EARLY!”

“Yes Ma, thanks for the advice-cum-lecture. Now, if you are done, can I leave?”

So, how many of you have gone through this routine? Raise your hands! I’m sure all of you have! I guess this has now become a part of our cultural heritage. Just like we brag about our ancient monuments, art and culture, so can we boast about the number of Hrishitas and Mrs. Bhatts our country has created.

When I was 6 years old, my mom warned me about strangers for the first time. “Don’t talk to strangers”. “Don’t accept chocolates from them”. “Keep your eyes open, always”. By the time I turned 10, strange questions poured in – “Why do you have to smile at everyone beta? A familiar face does not mean that you have to smile brightly. You are inviting trouble. When you grow up, you need to have such a personality that people are afraid to approach you.”

Such questions and remarks are a part ‘n parcel of every girl’s life in India, starting from the prominent metro cities to the small towns. A girl has to be chaperoned wherever she goes, otherwise some invisible hands will grasp at her and tug at her virtue or pull it off completely. And, of course, since the family’s honor rests on their female’s virtue, it has to be guarded with utmost care!

India became independent 66 years ago. Yet, half the country is still under the throes of bondage! Yes, bondage it is! The captivity of half the population of the country is not represented by heavy iron chains or handcuffs, but something more subtle, therefore, more powerful and long-lasting – lustful eyes, a picture of unbridled animalistic instincts. In the largest democracy of the world, half the population of India can’t move about freely, whenever they want to, in whichever way they wish to, wearing whatever they feel like! If this is not a gross failure of democracy, human rights and civil liberties, then what is it!

girl childWhat I fail to understand is that in a country where female deities are more revered than their male counterparts, how can such brazen acts of irreverence happen towards women? What are we doing about these acts? Most importantly, can we really solve this problem? Or, may be, we can pray to God for our safety every time we step out of the lakshman rekha of our home. If we are able to come back home with only a few catcalls and some lewd gazes, we can consider ourselves lucky! If not, probably we are paying for the sins committed in our previous birth!

If I am able to reach the age of 70 unharmed, perhaps I will go on some grand pilgrimage to thank God for keeping me safe!

Oh shit! Recently, there was some news about a 70-year old woman being raped by a neighbor! Ok, maybe I will pay my regards to God only when I have a tete-a-tete with him after death!

A Look Inside Myanmar’s First Real Year Of Democracy – 3

Jack continues his photo exploration of Myanmar’s first real year of democracy. Presenting the third part of the 4-part series.

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Sunset from Ubein Bridge. Locals and tourists flock to the bridge to witness the spectacular sunsets.

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A young girl plays with her skipping rope outside the tourist jetty in Mandalay. Tourism in Myanmar has boomed over the past year, topping over one million foreign visitors for the first time. However infrastructure still remains underdeveloped.

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A passenger smokes a cheroot out of the train window.

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A trishaw driver, fishing in a flooded field hopes to catch something, while a cow wanders past.

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A young boy drags a bag of recyclable rubbish, which will be sold for small change. Often people of all ages work to support themselves and their families.

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A toddler sits by himself on the banks of the Irrawaddy river.

A Look Inside Myanmar’s First Real Year Of Democracy – 3

आज़ादी मुबारक हो….

independence day

By Joybrato Dutta

पसंद न था

खेतों में टमाटर प्याज़ उगाना

हैसियत में  नहीं

आज बाज़ार से उन्हें ख़रीदना

कभी सोचते थे

दुनिया को इशारों पर नचाओगे

आज सोचते हो

बिना प्याज़ टमाटर के घर में क्या बनाओगे

तुम्हे आज़ादी मुबारक हो

तुम किश्तों में कटते हो

कभी हिस्सों में जुड़ते हो

चाल है तुम्हारी नवाबों वाली

जाल में फंसे हो EMI वाली

तुम्हें भी आज़ादी मुबारक हो

गाँव के साथ तेवर भी छोड़ दिए

कड़ी धुप में अटल रहने वाला सर

आज AC कमरे में झुका दिए

भूख मिटाने के सपने देखने  वाले

आज दो वक़्त के आगे तुमने घुटने टेक दिए

तुम्हे भी आज़ादी मुबारक हो

कहीं कांग्रेस ने फैलाया जाल

तो कहीं माओवादियों ने किया बूरा हाल

प्रेमिका के साथ long drive का सोंचा

तो traffic jam और खड्डों ने टोका

अकेली बेटी को बहार भेजने से डरते हो

जवान बेटे को गाड़ी देने से डरते हो

कभी सिनेमा घर के बढ़ते rates

तो कभी auto-rickshaw के बढ़ते fares

बच्चों की फीस हो

या दिवाली में सिलवानी नयी कमीज़ हो

पेट्रोल के बढ़ते दाम

घर का बढ़ता किराया

सब ने मिलकर तुम्हे बंधी बनाया

ख़्वाबो के महल में आज़ाद रहने वाल़े

आज तुम्हे आज़ादी मुबारक हो

Movie Review: Shuddh Desi Romance: A Crackling Storyline

Shuddh Desi Romance

By Ankush Kumar

Cast: Sushant Singh Rajput, Parineeti Chopra, Vaani Kapoor, Rishi Kapoor.

Introduction: ‘Kamine hai re’ This desi romance is no way shuddh but is a crackling film all the way.

Plot: Raghu (Sushant) is a guide, about to get married when he develops cold feet. Enter Gayatri (Parineeti) and they fall in love. Fall out of it, fall in it again. Vaani is the damsel in distress who loses out eventually. Set in Jaipur this movie catches the essence of youth and their confused minds.

Tech Spec: The pink city has turned blue for this one, yet is captured very well. The minutest detailing by Jaideep Sahni is very intriguing in the screenplay. The music has a feel good factor to it and enhances the plot in totality.

Acting: Vaani makes an impressive debut and essays her role with ease, Sushant Singh portrays the role of a rustic guide with elan, but its Parineeti that steals the show. She is vivacious and will leave the audience spellbound with her performance. Rishi Kapoor: Do we say more?

Citizen Kane moments: Many of them but the stand out ones are a jalebi vendor scratching his back with a spoon, or the scene where Sushant cheats neighbors two be the cousin of Parineeti or the scene when they fall in love.

Kela moments: The final clash between Vani & Parineeti is a huge let down.

Brownie points 4 out of 5.

Yashraj stable has reversed the trend. Watch it for the new order that has been established.

Bloody Northies!!!

By Joybrato Dutta

northies in bangalore

That’s what I heard most of the time in the span of 3 years that I stayed in Bangalore. A small-town guy by birth, I moved to Bangalore to pursue higher education. Well, I guess that’s what 90% of all small town aspirants do. So, is that a mistake? It turned out to be one. Since our (Northies) first day we were told that, this city is not our home and it can never be. We are not allowed to ‘disrespect’ any ‘Localite’, or date a local chick.

All that was taken into consideration, but there was one important thing we didn’t know. “We aren’t supposed to perform well”! In case you did, your teachers will make sure it doesn’t show in your results. Of course we all passed.

Coming back to the “Disrespecting a Localite” part. One of my Northie counterpart pushed a Khatta (that’s how we addressed them) while playing ‘pitto’. Inculcated with ethics my friend helped him get up. But, what does he get in return? A couple of abuses and a slight mishandling of the collar. Now, we small town guys can tolerate every bloody insult, but, someone holding our ‘Girebaan’ is something we can’t stand.

The result: A fight for dignity and self respect. Bruised faces, uprooted shrubs, torn T-shirts, a fractured thumb and a couple of half-murder cases followed. One of my friend got 17 fractures in his thumb and till today (incident happened 4 years back) struggles to bend his thumb.

We thought we won the fight, but we failed to realise the fight wasn’t over. 2 hours before his first semester exam my friend (with a fractured thumb) was denied a writer. All of us were denied a place in the hostel. Most importantly since then whenever anything went wrong we were called for interrogation, doesn’t matter if you weren’t in town. “Saaley humey talcum powder samajh ke rakhe the, jab khujli hui bula liya” (Courtesy – Sanjay Gupta’s Kaante).

I don’t really hate the city because it gave me fantastic friends and taught me many lessons. They have their reason for their actions. They are jealous of the fact that we achieve as much as they do in their hometown. They feel that because of us, many of their people are unemployed. Most importantly the population density has increased. May be they have a point, but don’t they do the same. I refuse to believe that none of them move out of their cities for a better future. How can we point at the western nations for being racially biased when the same shit happens in our country?

The Bitter Truth

By Titas Mazumdar

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Books, music, movies and the afternoon siesta after a heavy Bengali meal, is all that I crave for on my Sundays. Once the evening sets in my heart starts becoming heavy with the thought that another week to toil in office.

I always wanted to be free just like a bird and to some extent I enjoyed the taste of independence during my college days. But once I started  working my life felt all in chains. Everyday I reach office 10-15mins early so that I am not marked late and a part of my salary gets deducted. I can feel my phone vibrating in my jeans pocket yet I cannot pick it up or even check who had called up. Scared to open the news site, lest my IP address is being scanned through and my evening break is munching biscuit while researching for my next content. Ah that’s my life in office , working as slaves for some billionare.

Whenever my colleagues and I feel sleepy for working hours in front of the computer we take refuge to the nearby tea shop. The owner of this tea shop sell such a refreshing cup of tea that most of us simply ignored our office coffee. He might own a small tea shop by the roadside but the conversations with him are always  interesting. This man downloads films from the internet and watches them . To our surprise he even discussed Rittwick Ghatak and Rituparno Ghosh films with us. At times the topics would revolve around politics, current affairs and even spirituality.

On a gloomy Monday when one of my colleagues and I visited this tea shop found it to closed. Disappointed at this we had no other option but to sip the infamous ‘phenyl tea’ of our office. The next day when we enquired why he didn’t open his shop, he answered that he just wanted to stay at home with his family. We were quite surprised that he incurred a days loss but this man was unperturbed by it.  And the next thing he said simply got etched in my mind and I think its going to be there foreover.

‘My life is not like yours!! For the slightest mistake or absentism you people always in the tension that your boss will shout at you or in the worst case sack you from your job.   But here I am the boss no one is there to tell me anything. It might be just a small tea shop by the road but at least its my own’.

Zanjeer Review: Not Cult But Not Bad Either

zanjeer

By Ankush Kumar

Cast: Priyanka Chopra, Sanjay Dutt, Ram Charan & Prakash Raj.

Introduction: The original Zanjeer was not a cult classic yet was a good movie. Its remake is no different.

Premise: An angry cop and his angst against the system. A revenge saga that is brutal yet very fresh and convincing.

Plot: Same as the Bachchan original.

Acting: Ram Charan makes an impressive debut, he was never going to be compared with the legend, but still if comparisons are drawn he has performed no less. Priyanka is in to do very little. Mahie Gill & Prakash Raj have done a splendid job. Watch the two when they spoof Bindu & Ajit from the original. It is hilarious.

Tech Spec: The script is very well crafted, retaining the essence of the original and meshing it with modern day drama can get very confusing, but the writers have got this one spot on. The action of the movie is very well choreographed. Apoorva Lakhia holds the film together very nicely. He has smartly created an intelligent masala potboiler.

Kela Moments: None to be honest.

Citizen Kane moment: The scene of Mahie Gill & Prakash Raj spoofing Ajit & Bindu, the opening scene where Ram Charan bashes up a goon on the streets with Chiranjeevi’s poster in the background. The one-liners which are used judiciously and generate laughter.

Brownie Points: 3.5/5.

Ram Charan stands out as the men amongst the boys!!!!

If Only…

By Joybrato Dutta

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A broken heart, in a damaged cart
A baggage that doesn’t leave
And all I wish with every breath
If only time could retreat

A dormant flame, a prolonged pain
Perturbs me in my sleep
She closed her eyes with a wry smile
While I slid down to defeat
The morning kiss, the awakening bliss
Gave way to departing feet
And all I wish with every breath
If only time could retreat

No unfilled promise, no darkened blemish
Could further make me weak
Whilst I trot the path endowing my thought
Well packaged in deceit
Their flowing tears their growing fears
Fuelled my winning streak

Although I wished with every breath
If only time could retreat

A thousand smiles no lonesome cry
Their social eyes could meet
With the flowing hour, demising valour
A pretentious mirage I seek
Their broken hearts reflect my thoughts
As my lonely pride just weeps
Oh how I wish with every breath
If only time could retreat

The spark of conceit went down on its knees
My shameful image did meet
And in a moment the past sneered by
And triumph faced defeat
A confused vengeance, seeking repentance
Unworthy life I’d lived
And now I wish with every breath
If only time could retreat

A broken heart, in a damaged cart
A baggage that doesn’t leave
And all I wish with every breath
If only time could retreat

A Morning Walk!

By Devjani Bodepudi

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He lay there, eyes closed, mouth open. She closed his mouth, lifting his chin to his top lip; he looked better that way. He did not move.

She climbed off the bed and padded her way, barefoot to the en-suite. She washed her face and looked into the mirror. Oh, she felt better!

Slowly peeling off the layers of clothing, Emily began to think about all that there was to do. She would need to book some tickets to somewhere snowy, but she would do that in a few months, there really was no rush. Before that, perhaps she would buy some new clothes and get her hair cut shorter. At the moment, Emily kept it tied up in a neat but perfunctory bun at the nape of her neck. She felt like a change! Her birthday arrived with much promise this year, she reflected as the steam rose from the shower and veiled the glass with a cloak of grey.

Stepping in, Emily delighted in the drops of hot water on her skin, on her scalp, on her breasts! Her senses felt keener, she felt newer, like she had awoken from a deep sleep and just this simple act of taking a shower was an experience she had missed for a long time. The rich shampoo filled the bathroom with a fruity scent that made Emily crave strawberries. What had gotten into her? She giggled at the thought as scrubbed and rubbed and dabbed and lathered and stroked.

Stepping out, Emily moved around the bed in her towel, careful not to disturb her husband who still lay on the bed, motionless. “My, what a deep sleep!” she remarked, wryly.

She dressed with care. She settled for a skirt today, with a sleeveless top. She hadn’t worn these clothes since the month before her wedding. She smoothed down the pleats and remembered her best friend’s words, “You’ll be fine! You’re starting a whole new life, but never forget who you are.”  Her friend, Swetha, was living in India now, she had heard. It was funny how friends grew apart. A million miles away from the here and now, she wondered what India was like. She wondered if she should visit.

Smiling with the possibilities, she dried her hair with a hairdryer and tied it up in the way she always did. Then she changed her mind. She let it fall about her shoulders in a smooth, fluid sheet of gold. She glanced at the bed again. Still. No movement.

Hmmm…she was ready but where should she go? She contemplated making the phone call first, but decided to leave it a little longer. Perhaps this afternoon, at lunchtime would be the right time, but for now, she would take a walk in the park, feel the sun on her shoulders for the first time this summer.

It was decided then, as she closed the front door behind her, the park with the ducks and the swans and the geese. It wasn’t a very scenic walk but it was during this walk when Emily finally saw what she had refused to see in the all of her six years as resident of this tiny village. Things could be beautiful. The grass could actually smell sweet and rich like mint and chocolate. And the sun could be warm on her skin without burning. She saw the neighbours smile more openly suddenly and she heard the bird song had a melodic pattern of question and answer, up, then down. There was order and calm and as the grocer arranged the fruit and vegetables outside his shop, she saw there was order in that too. And yes, she saw the strawberries and yes, everything was as it should be.

She wasn’t wearing a watch so she relied on her stomach to tell her when she was hungry. She stopped off at the local bakery for a sandwich and then headed home. It would have to be now, she thought. She would make the phone call and get it over and done with and then she could make a hair appointment.

But Emily still wasn’t quite ready to walk back into the house. She knew he was still in the bedroom and she knew he was not going to be up and about but as she neared her front door, like Harry Potter’s lightning scar, her bruises began to burn. Her thighs began to tremble and her hand, ever so slightly shook as she held the key to the door.

But enter she must. She turned the lock and held her breath. It was an irrational fear she knew, but it had become a habit, a technique for survival. It was dark inside. In her haste to walk out of the front door, Emily realized that she had not opened the curtains. She opened them now, allowing the sun to catch the dust, like tiny specks of silver floating together in a beam of glitter to the carpet.

She dialed the number that every child knew and she waited.

“Ambulance, please,” she said, her voice trembling slightly.

My husband’s not breathing, he’s not moving. I left him in the morning, to go for a walk, I thought he was sleeping! He took some sleeping pills last night!”

The words came out in a rush and as she said them, she realized what she had said. He was dead. Finally, he was dead.

“What’s the address, Madam?”

Emily completed the formalities and put the phone down.

She went back up the stairs to her bedroom but her stomach lurched as she opened the door.

The bed was empty. Her husband was not there.

A hand was clasped firmly over her mouth and she was pushed on the bed. Her legs were forced apart by his knees. He pulled her hair back and stifled her scream with his mouth. He bit down hard, drawing blood and as he moved his mouth away he snarled.

“What were you thinking, Bitch? What the fuck did you put in my tea, last night?”

She couldn’t answer. He wasn’t really looking for an answer. He just pushed his way inside, like he did last night, like he did every night. She closed her eyes, left her body where it was until she heard the sirens, the banging on the door, the calls through the letterbox. Her husband went down, opened the door, told them everything was all right. But no one answered her calls, the ones she screamed in desperate silence from inside her. Eventually the voices faded and it was quiet again. Emily came back into herself and shook violently, cold and in pain. Her husband had gone out.

She just managed to hear the door close before she closed her eyes and gave into sleep.

Raja Bhoj And The Crow: The Story Of The First Whistleblower

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By DP Sakunia

Once Raja Bhoj was encircled by his nobles who were chanting eulogy as they always did. Suddenly a crow came from nowhere & scratched at a noble cum poet. Raja Bhoj became furious & directed to execute the crow. The crow prayed for a last hearing & took Raja Bhoj & his noblemen to a cave full of diamonds.

The crow told the entire kings caravan that the wealth dates back to Lord Ram’s time. She narrated the story that was as follows. A rich person of Oudh invited Sri Ram once for lunch at his place. After lunch the rich person presented Sri Ram with these precious stones. Lord Ram, the gracious self that he were, left the same at the verandah of his palace for someone in need. Time passed fast but no one came forward to take it and in course of time the wealth got hidden in the cave.

After narrating the story, the crow came to his point & prayed Raja Bhoj to search his so called noblemen who had already unscrupulously pocketed some of the valuables. These were the same folks who harped eulogy at Raja Bhoj and kept harassing and looting the subjects. The crow scratched at such a nobleman-cum-sycophant who was actually coaxing Raja Bhoj with self-ill motive.

Raja Bhoj immediately sent the noblemen to prison and asked him to be given the harshest punishment. He also called for a detailed investigation and personally went about asking his subjects who are the culprits and made sure all was happy once again.

Moral of the story: Alas there is no place for such whistle blower in todays time because Raja Bhoj and the noblemen have become equally corrupt towards the subject.