Category Archives: Corruption

Ms. Rose Chasm: The Cross Who Double Crossed Us

the cross that double crossed us

Continuing her crusade in India’s defence, Shwetha Kalyanasundaram, brings to you more evidence of why she thinks this entire Ms. Chasm story is a campaign to malign India. A must read. 

A chance comment posted under my article on CNN iReport titled “My India: The Mistaken Story – An Indian Woman’s Perspective” (first published on Mission Sharing Knowledge) caught my attention.

Quoting the person under the pseudonym ‘moonboat’ – “Michela Cross posted a number of videos on YouTube during her trip, including one that gives quite a different account of the Ganesha festival incident she related. In the video, she gushes on about how she loved all the attention and photos being taken of her. In the current circumstances, where her story is being taken as gospel and this story has gone viral, I find the videos are appalling. She also shows herself to be ignorant and disrespectful of Indian culture.”

And this had a bunch of us looking at the videos posted by Ms. Cross on her channel in YouTube. Boy! Weren’t they interesting! And we realized that some of her statements were in total contradiction to her article “India: The Story You Never Wanted to Hear”.

Here’s how…

Her video published on September 29, 2012, where she talks about her experiences at the Ganesha festival

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hPu2GmF4Y44

Quoting Ms. Cross from the video

  • “We were grabbed by a bunch of GIRLS who started dancing with us, flashing paint on our faces, which was COOL”
  • “Taking loads of photos of us, I felt like a CELEBRITY. If you wanna feel like a celebrity, be a WHITE person and GO TO INDIA”
  • “We danced for 12 more hours to Bollywood music and we were given lots of food. It was super cool. I felt like I was in a movie”
  • “Fun facts – The Ganesha festival which ended today is…ummm…Ganesha is the God who is prayed to for the start of journeys and travels. I consider it GOOD LUCK”

Wow Ms.Cross! This is so contradictory to what you had put up in your story about the Ganesha festival!!!

Quoting from her article “I was prepared to follow the University of Chicago’s advice to women, to dress conservatively, to not smile in the streets.” However, your video titled “Whipping Boy” published on October 2, 2012 has you saying that your roommate and her friend embarked on an adventure and smiled at the people on the streets!

Didn’t you just break the rules?!? And you say you weren’t prepared for all the stares/glares that sliced away bits of you piece by piece! You brought it on upon yourself – you purposefully drew the locals’ attention on you! And you blame us?!? Preposterous is the word (that would just be an understatement actually!).

There are 6 videos that have been put up by Ms. Cross on YouTube with reference to her India trip – especially her three months of stay in Pune. Surprisingly, none of her videos show signs of struggle or trauma. And you are struggling with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) now?!? I’m no psychiatrist Ms. Cross – but all I can say is you are suffering from a serious bout of “Attention Deficit Disorder”.

Ms. Cross, now I’m really starting to wonder if your whole article “India:  The Story You Never Wanted to Hear” was a sham to tarnish the image of my beautiful country. You’ve taken the entire nation for a highly emotional ride. Your article drew in a lot of support from my fellow compatriots and this pretence of an article is like a slap on their faces. Deplorable act I must say!!

P.S: @Moonboat – whoever you are, thanks a lot for bringing this to our notice. We owe this article to you!

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Parental Guide To ‘Freedom’ And ‘Risk’

parental guidance

Post the gang-rape in Mumbai, a friend observed ‘thank God, I don’t have daughters’. But Jaideep Ghosh has, and he wouldn’t have it any way.

The plus of having a teenaged child is that you get tech savvy in double-quick time. But as a parent of a teenager, you also need to be able to gauge between what is too much interference, or not.

So when I got savvy to Whatsapp, I keep tabs on my daughter. But most of the time it’s to check when was the last time she was online. If the time span is anything more than two hours, I send her a message.

I am a father of daughter who commutes in to the North Campus of Delhi University from the NCR, alone. She travels the entire breadth of the city, through some of the not-so-great neighbourhoods, and beyond. I worry. But I will be damned if I tell her not to.

But while there is no question that people’s freedoms and rights are sacrosanct, some of the reactions to the Mumbai gang-rape, or any other offence, leave me a little frustrated and a little angry.

Our politicians have never been paragons of sensitivity, so their reactions are not to be jumped on with any great gusto.

At the same time, the reactions of the so-called ‘liberals’ scares me. You cannot condone, if not downright encourage, putting women in situations where they would be at risk.

I tell my daughter to be careful, not because I am trying to impinge on her liberties. I would equally tell a son to wear a helmet if he was on a bike. And I would tell them both to be back home by a reasonable time (though the interpretation of ‘reasonable’ has always been different for parents and children).

Irrespective of which country you are in, the initiative is always with the criminal. There is no system by which the police can pre-empt a crime, without prior knowledge. That is also what makes terrorist strikes so successful.

This distinction is pretty clear for me – I won’t let anyone compromise my child’s pursuit of success and happiness. At the same time, I would not accept any hysterical banshee proclamations that ‘freedom’ translates into taking unnecessary risks.

That applies particularly given the fact that we live in a society which largely, at best, just tolerates women. Men cannot handle being bettered by women, or even equalled. Take a look at how men drivers react to being passed by women. That is a classic example. So, given half a chance, they will try to force this ‘superiority’. Don’t give them that chance.

I worry. I am always keeping track of where my daughter is. She has been brought up in the rather unforgiving environs of Delhi, but that bravado and attitude can be a double-edged weapon.

But that doesn’t mean she will sit at home. She will do whatever she wants to do, but as a sensible 20-year-old, she knows where she has to draw a line. This ‘drawing a line’ seems to be an issue with many women. To them I say, get real.

That said, I wouldn’t trade having a daughter with anything else. I would wish her a happy life, as to all women. But be a little careful out there.

My India: The Mistaken Story – An Indian Woman’s Perspective

India the story you never wanted

Shwetha Kalyanasundaram rebuts this story which lambasts India and makes you feel the country is made up of vultures only looking for prey landing in form of women tourists. A must read for all, no matter what nationality.  

Ms. Rose Chasm’s article “India: the Story You Never Wanted to Hear” has been trending for the last couple of days, with many of my friends sharing the story on various social networking sites. The headline of the article prompted me to read and I was shocked to read about Ms. Chasm’s traumatic experience in my country. As a woman, my heart went out to Ms. Chasm. When I read your article Ms. Chasm, I was ashamed of my country (for the first time!). But pondering over your article, I realized that I cannot sit in my comfortable space and watch people tear my country down (with reference to the 1000+ comments left behind by people to your story).

As a citizen of this wonderful nation (and not a nation of snake charmers and elephants), I am writing in to clear the air and do my bit to support my country. I love my country. And I am not blind to the flaws that exist today.

India has been my home for over two and a half decades. As a woman who bears resemblance to a South East Asian (rather than having the typical Indian features), I have always been looked upon as a foreigner in my own land. I can understand how it feels to have hundred pairs of eyes follow your every move. There have been many instances when the local people have tried to sell their wares to me; with a hope their goods reach foreign shores. I wouldn’t call them advances, rather we are just a group of people who take pride in what we do and feel the need to be appreciated by somebody from a foreign land.

We have always been dubbed as a nation of brown-skinned people and I don’t have any qualms in accepting that we have an obsession for the “white” skin. That could probably explain why people stopped and gaped at you in the bazaars. And I can bet they weren’t just men who stared at you – women and children would have looked at you as well. As a foreigner, you must have been prepared to stand out in the crowd. I am sure you would have been briefed about the cultural differences between the two nations. Yes! It can be uncomfortable to be stared at and photographed but lady, you know ignorance is bliss.

Almost every woman who grows up in India has been subjected to some kind of sexual innuendoes. For the millions of women who use public transportation in India, there have been numerous cases of “accidental” brushes and gropes. There have been numerous cases where women have been stalked and flashed – at. But for every man who cannot control his libido and gives in to his over-crazed sexual drive, I can assure you that there will be ten men who will fight for you and your dignity.

The recent spate of rape attacks and incest cases that we hear and read day in and day out have definitely tarnished my country’s image. And your story just adds more fuel to the fire. If there had been an attempt to rape against you or your friend, did you reach out to the local police to lodge a complaint or did you approach your consulate for help?!? I assume, as an exchange student, you would definitely have been briefed about all these formalities in the event of any untoward incident.

In Sanskrit, we say “Matha, Pitha, Guru, Deivam” (translated: Mother, Father, Teacher, God). The meaning of this adage is the greatest truth and is the order in which we offer reverence. This is the basic tenet in existence from time immemorial and every man has been taught to place the womankind even above God. The Indian men know to treat their women with respect. And I cannot tolerate your generalization that Indian men are bad. You cannot blame the entire male population for the actions of few.

I have seen the best and worst of both the worlds, having spent a considerable portion of my adult life in America and the Middle East. In all the countries I have been to, I have been subjected to roving eyes and sexual overtures from men. I have been leered and heckled by cab drivers and pedestrians alike. Even a middle aged woman is not spared!! Let’s not be too dramatic here and accept that sexual crimes against women are a problem world over.

Do you know that every 1 out of 5 women in America are raped every day (This is according to a UN report published in 2011 and the same figure has been quoted in a NY times article, published December 2011). Does this mean I can issue a travel warning and tell people how unsafe America is?!? Your country is a beautiful place Ms. Chasm and a few bad moments are not going to deter me from travelling again. I just hope your personal experiences don’t make you too judgmental about our great country.

Ms. Chasm, I sympathize with you completely. As a woman, I understand the trauma of your three months stay in my country. Your problem is with that category of homo-sapiens bearing the Y-chromosome and not with my country.

It tears me apart that men and women have apologized on behalf of the Indian population and have left comments to your article. I’m not going to offer apologies. I can only offer you an olive branch and hope you visit my country again, and view this nation from a different and an unbiased perspective. 

Defining Moments : India at 66

As India takes one more step forward, let us take a look at 11 defining moments after its Independence.

From Dominion to Republic, 1950.

From Dominion to Republic

The Dominion of India becomes the Republic of India on 26th January 1950 by adopting the newly drafted constitution. Today, we are the largest democracy in the world and the constitution is the largest one in the world and maintains its unique nature while adopting several portions from British, US & other constitutions of the world.

Biggest Gamble in History : First General Elections 1951-52

First General Elections 1951-52

It was like the biggest gamble in the history of India. Consider, first of all, the size of the electorate: 176 million Indian voters of whose more than 85% could not read or write. Each one had to be identified, named & registered. At stake were around 4500 seats – about 500 for Parliament and rest for Provincial assemblies. Again these figures are not enough, there were 224,000 polling booths, 2 million steel ballot boxes (made of 8200 tonnes of steel) and about 380,000 reams of paper were used. And with all this, India went to its first general elections.

Redrawing the Map : State Reorganization Act, 1956

State Reorganization

India is a land of many languages, each with its distinct script, grammar, vocabulary and literary traditions. And as we became independent, demand for states on linguistic and ethnic identities started growing. It was the 58 – day long fast of Potti Sriramulu that led to the creation of Andhra Pradesh and setting up the First State Reorganization Commission. Potti Sriramulu might be a forgotten man today but his fast and its aftermath sparked off a wholesale redrawing of the map of India on linguistic lines.

The Experience of Defeat ; Sino – Indian War, 1962

1962 India China War

As the Dalai Lama crossed into India in 1959 and China tightened its control over Tibet, the “Hindi-Chini Bhai Bhai’ slogans on the border were replaced by “Yeh Zameen Hamara Hai, Tum Wapas Jao”. Border & territorial claims of both the countries were starkly different and as China grew stronger under the Communist rule, it was determined to undo all the ground positions. As China attacked India in 1962, the war lead to a bitter defeat for ill-prepared India. The India-China conflict, then, was a clash of national myths, national egos, national insecurities and ultimately of the national armies.

Victory against Pakistan, 1965

1965 War

Pakistan’s ruler Ayub Khan and his company were encouraged by the debacle against China in 1962. But they forgot that it was in wet & slippery Himalayas, while war with Pakistan is on a terrain that Indians knew much better. The victory in the 1965 war came as a confidence booster to everybody, be it army, civilians or the Govt.

The Uncertain years and the Bangladesh War, 1967-71

Pakistan

Once the Congress was the national cohesive force, but by late 1960s, it was split into disputatious parts. Between Banking nationalization, slogans of “Garibi Hatao” and several other reforms by Mrs. Indira Gandhi, India was again facing trouble from its western neighbor, but this time on the eastern frontiers. The than East Pakistan was witnessing popular uprising for a separate nation and this lead to a war between India & Pakistan. Within 6 days, Indian army had marched till Dacca. It was hailed as the biggest victory ever in Indian history and it changed the map of the subcontinent.

The Emergency Years, 1975-77

images

After Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was found guilty of electoral malpractice, she declared State of Emergency in June 1975. The emergency revived the debate as to whether India could, should, or ever would be reliably democratic. The emergency was lifted in 1977, and India saw its first non-Congress govt, though a short-lived one.

Operation Blue Star and Assassination of the Indira Gandhi, 1984

Assassination of Indira

As militancy and violence was on the peak in Punjab, the Indian Government decided to attack the Khalistan movement and “Operation Blue Star” was launched in July 1984. As a consequence, in October that year, Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards and this was followed by large-scale Anti-Sikh riots in Northern India. Rajiv Gandhi was sworn in as the Prime Minister.

Mandal, Kamandal & Economic Reforms : 1990-92

Babri Mosque Demolition

In 1990, the controversy rose over PM V.P. Singh’s decision to implement 1980 recommendations of the Mandal commission for further job reservations to “other backward classes”. The same year Bharatiya Janata Party launched nationwide protests over Ayodhya issue. After the tenth General elections in 1991, Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated by LTTE terrorists. The economy took a downturn, and gold reserves were pawned to stave off default on international debt. In 1992, Babri Masjid was demolished and riots broke out not only in India but in several other countries.

Peace & War, 1999

Lahore Bus Trip

As Prime Minister Vajpayee undertook a historic bus journey to Pakistan and signs a declaration of peace; within a few days, Pakistani soldiers crossed the LOC and infiltrated Indian Kashmir. India repulsed the attack and Pakistan lost the brief, but bloody, border conflict in the Himalayan district of Kargil.

Gandhi’s land in communal riots, 2002

Gujarat Riots 2002

As several Kar Sevaks were burned to death in an attack on Sabarmati Express in Godhra town in 2002, large-scale Hindu-Muslim riots broke out in Gujarat leaving over a thousand dead.

No Reason Celebrating Independence Day In Kashmir: A Kashmiri Writes For MSK

Kashmir 1

It was called as the “Paradise on Earth”, but has instead been one of the most violent & bloodshed regions in recent years. Ajaz Ahmed writes on what importance does the Indian Independence Day hold to a Kashmiri youth and how they see their relationship with India.

Let’s understand the literal meaning of independence and then decide who deserves to celebrate it. The Declaration of Independence prescribed the proper role of government to secure the rights of individuals and to affect their safety and happiness. Now let’s understand independence in terms of Kashmir, which has always remained on the edge. Since India became independent, Kashmir never celebrated or accepted 15th August as a day of celebration, and in fact the day was given a very tough name – ‘’Black Day’’. As this territory is marked with human rights violations, rapes, fake encounters and killings, brutal laws like AFSPA goes against the declaration of independence like securing the rights of individuals, safety and happiness.

Though I feel both India and Pakistan betrayed Kashmiris, it’s very important to understand the root of the problem. As India got independence, Maharaja Hari Singh of Kashmir was willing to stay independent. However, under the changed circumstances after the tribal invasion from the Pakistani side, Maharaja acceded to India with a promise for plebiscite after the restoration of law & order. A plebiscite that would give Kashmiris right to choose between India or Pakistan. Though this never happened, but India & Pakistan fought 4 wars over it and the Kashmiris on both sides are divided by a long LOC.

Kashmir is an untold story, it has no reach, people across the world hardly know about Kashmir conflict. Government has barred Internet service, news channels and is constantly gagging local newspapers. In such a scenario what and why to celebrate independence? Once could be also thinking who is celebrating 15th August in Kashmir. The cabinet ministers including chief minister and forced invited school children are celebrating. This day is a usual day for an average Kashmiri and its been recognized as (15th August ko Hartal hai) day of strike.

I always feel that whether it is India or Pakistan, what they only want is the land of Kashmir. The people, Kashmiris are just an unwanted addition to the piece of real estate they had acquired. Nobody cares about the people, whether they live or die does not matter. Even young children aren’t spared and this makes me wonder, how these innocent children are a threat to a great nation of a billion people, one of the largest democracies in the world.  I mean, please think from the perspective of a Kashmiri. We just want what was promised to us during accession. I am not anti-Indian. The common Indian has no role in our sufferings. In fact, they have more in common with ordinary Kashmiris than the corrupt Kashmiri politicians in the government. I don’t throw stones at the security forces, as my upbringing never taught me so. I will fight but I will not hurt you.

Democracy, Independence, human rights are words that do not hold significance in today’s Kashmir. The day our land will truly be ours and the air we breathe is free again, that day the winds in Kashmir will bring the songs of joy, peace and freedom.

छियासठ ने किया सफाचट

(FILES)In this picture taken 15 August 2

By सतीश तहलान 

छियासठ बरस की आज़ादी,
हैं छियासठ की ही सोनिया।
छियासठ के भाव प्याज हो गया,
गिरा छियासठ तलक ही रूपया।
इस छियासठ ने किया सफाचट,
मुल्क की डूबा दी नईया।
देखो कहीं कोने सुबक रही,
मेरी बेबस भारती मईया।
हर 15 अगस्त जहाँ उड़ती हैं
बस वादों की हवा-हैवईंयाँ।
उस लाल किले चढ़ बन जाता,
गूँगा भी कुशल गवईया।

        

Reflections On The Understanding Of Poverty

poverty

Malathy Madathilezham tries to decipher the real definition and the measures of poverty and more importantly tries finding ways to get rid of the malaise. 

Poverty is a much-debated topic. We all have at some or the other point discussed on some issue related to poverty. The ‘poverty line’ is a recurrent topic that comes into picture during these discussions. How do we define and measure this complex’’ phenomenon? More importantly how do we get ‘rid’ of it?? These discussions are never ending and inconclusive, there is no right answer.

During the major part of my life I had not been exposed to the abject levels of poverty that exist in India (and many other parts of the world!) What I knew was from what I read and heard or what was shown in the media. Even more appalling was my inadequate knowledge on caste (Yes, there WAS discrimination! That’s what I knew and actually thought it was not relevant in these ‘modern ’times!) It is safe to say thus that most of my arguments related to poverty were quite superficial and mostly hearsay!

What has changed now? In short, I can say a better (a long way to go still!) understanding of the theoretical aspects of poverty, some experience from interacting, living with the poor and a stronger conviction that the solution is not simple and neither is it going to be easy to work out.

There are success stories. Those glorified poster picks from various organisation on how so and so person has overcome poverty due to such and such project and his/her own will. Thank god for the fact that there atleast these success stories to take inspiration from! But we also have to look at the kind of society that we are living in. The levels of disparity that exists and that are overlooked by us daily.

Yesterday evening, I saw a group of 5 children, 3 girls and 2 boys sitting outside the apartment that I have taken for rent. They were basically searching for dry wood, plastics and other materials in the dump. They seemed to be from a nomadic tribe. Unfortunately I could not understand their language. But here they were, all children of school going age right in front of the house of a principal, scavenging!! How do we ensure that these children and many more like them have a better future ahead and not just in terms of an education?

We need to work on identifying the reasons why generations after generations, families continue to live in extreme poverty, with little or no improvement in the quality of life. This is in spite of the various agencies which include the government having different kinds of schemes, projects and programmes aimed solely at poverty alleviation/eradication/elimination! There is also a need to introspect about so many kinds of inequality and inequity that we have accepted as part of life and may be even consider it right!

It is still a wonder for me that just by the virtue of my birth in a particular kind of family I have a set of options and choices about the kind of life I can aspire for. Yes if I am one of the few persevering and determined kind of people that exist in this world, I can may be, reach the uppermost echelons of success. But largely our choices and options are governed by where we are born, who are our parents, our caste (a sad reality for many even today!) etc. It is important to realise that most people in our country do not even have any options to make a choice! They lead the same kind of lives that their parents, their grandparents lead… TV, mobile, bike and a formal education hasn’t done much to change their lives in a profound manner!

So what makes this happen? Does the society perpetuate one or the other kind of inequity and inequality?  Is it the poverty that leads to inequity and inequality or vice versa? What can an individual do to bring about change at one or the other level without being cynical about everything? These are some questions I am pondering on….