Posts Tagged ‘india

13
Sep
13

The world before her

Check out the trailer for this stunning documentary which captures stark contrasts in the lives and beliefs of two kinds of Indian women. One set of women are being trained in Hindutva philosophy and self defense, while the other set of women are training for the prestigious Miss India pageant. At first glance it appears that the two sets of women have absolutely nothing in common, but both these kinds of women are asserting their rights in a paternalistic society in their own way.

http://www.theguardian.com/world/video/2013/sep/12/world-before-her-women-india-video

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23
Jul
13

Same sex marriages in India

A few weeks back on Quora I found a question that asked, ‘Should India legalize same sex marriages?’. I’ve always found the same sex marriage debate a little ridiculous. Its fine to not be in favor or dislike same sex marriages but why would anybody protest against it? What a waste of placards and boards.

My opinion has firmly been that same sex couples are no different than hetero couples. While I think all marriages are fraught with dangers of incompatibility and babies, I sometimes suspect same sex couples might have it easier.

My first reaction to the question was, ‘Hell yeah!’ but I remembered reading an article over a decade ago about a same sex wedding in India which was protected by the local police. The story mentioned how it wasn’t actually illegal to get married to someone from the same sex according to the Indian constitution. Sure enough, on reading the marriage act it was clear to me that genders hadn’t been specified in the act. Link for the interested: The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955

A different commenter had suggested that the genders hadn’t been specified because of ‘incompetence’ or carelessness of the drafters. I had no doubt that this was not the case because the constitution of India is possibly the most comprehensive constitution in the world. The team that drafted it had tremendous amounts of patience and foresight to create an exceptional document. Missing such a critical detail could have only been a deliberate attempt.

The clever drafting says: A marriage may be solemnized between any two Hindus. Thus allowing for same sex Hindus to have a fancy ritualistic wedding as they might please. This is definitely because of the foresight of the people who drafted the constitution.
The British and Irish constitutions which are considered inspirations  for our constitution, did not, allow or recognize same sex unions. How  could the people who drafted our constitution leave out this very  important detail? Unless of course they were giving their blessings to same-sex unions.

This law protects Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and Buddhists. Unfortunately same sex marriage is invalid under Islamic and Christian laws, even punishable by death. So there is vehement resistance from Muslim and Christian leaders. But thankfully Indian courts already uphold rights of same sex unions. No cohabiting same sex couple has ever been legally persecuted. Social and familial persecution is of course commonly heard of.

If you are wondering why did you not already know this, then you could point fingers at folks(straight or not) who’ve taken time to read articles and protest against American laws but have forgotten to read ours. Yes, some American states explicitly bans same-sex marriage or have defined marriage as union between man and woman.

Disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer, so go read about your rights yourself and Google for court cases against same-sex unions.
If this answer is reason for you to tie the knot, please invite me. I like weddings and free food.

I shall now await for an actual lawyer to correct me if I’m mistaken. 🙂

02
Nov
10

Why not to go to Startingbloc if you are in India

I get quite a few emails about Startingbloc especially from BITS students. Just got three in the past week, so here’s a post outlining my views about it. I should have written this a long time back.

Disclaimer: I was selected for the London program in 2008 but I never attended it. Although I’m still included in their email groups. So I really have no first hand idea about the program and its benefits other than from what I heard from the numerous people I know who’ve attended it.

I didn’t attend the program in 2008 I simply couldn’t afford it. And also because Abhilash wisely said, you can start a non-profit organization with 60-70K INR it would cost to do the program, which would be a lot more educative than a short 3-4 day program could ever hope to be.

Turned out to be a good thing because I later realized it would have added very little value to me.

Here’s why I suspect it’ll add little value to you:

1. It frankly sounds ridiculous that you have to attend a program in the USA to learn about social entrepreneurship when you are already in India. Ashoka has 283 fellows in India compared to 126 in the USA.

2. The money you would spend on traveling there and the effort you would put in to raise that money if you can’t already afford it, would be much better used if you just went ahead and started a non-profit. Every entrepreneur will agree that doing or starting something is the best way to learn.

3. The idea that you’ll benefit from ‘networking’ is a perception. Networking doesn’t mean meeting new people but it means engaging with them in ways valuable to both of you or at least to you. There’s potentially very little you can gain from meeting and hanging out with a primarily American college crowd. You would probably come back talking only about the diversity of the fellows.

4. Meeting or listening to the mostly American speakers speaking about their experiences in American development sector or in Africa is not worth the money. Find these lectures online and these speakers are already accessible on email, just try starting a conversation. Important busy people do reply to email if you show them you are worthy of their time.

5. Its not as selective as you would believe it is. From a reliable source, it was 70% last year. This kind of a walk-in-the-rose-park selectivity will reflect in the quality of participation. I know its kind of a big deal to get selected for a foreign program and you worked for it, but that’s not going to be the case for most of your fellow attendees.

6. There are quite a few conferences and programs in India that could be a great start for you to understand this sector. I suggest reading ThinkChangeIndia and LetMeKnow to find about those. I can vouch Grassroutes.in is pretty cool.

So I suggest you attend the program if:

1. You can afford a nice little holiday in the states. I hear a lot about the parties after the program, Americans are a lot of fun.

2. And you are fishing for resume points. This might help brighten up a bland resume if you are applying for bschools but doesn’t help an already bright resume. But beware most of the stuff that you think helps your resume is probably just perception. I’m not sure if they still have the bschool tie-ups that benefited college students getting into bschools early.

3. Or you are getting a fully funded trip.

Final nugget of wisdom: A four day program can never ever help you achieve your true potential. That’s just not the way humans work. If its motivation you are looking for look around you, closer to home.

26
Sep
10

Commonwealth Games

We are no China. The Beijing Games announced China had arrived. The Commonwealth Games up till now tell us India definitely hasn’t.

These games instead of raising morale of the entire nation and giving us all something to be proud about, have turned the entire nation to feeling appalled and angry. The media’s role in focusing our attention only on the bad, shows us how irresponsible they are. Research shows that bad news sells faster and better than good news. And so everybody plays along.

I think its awesome to have great stadiums and building them in Delhi was no mean feat. But our bureaucracy’s is still struggling to come to terms with being a part of modern India, where everything happens at the speed of business.

26
Sep
09

A self sustained community in India

Tilonia is better known as the ‘Barefoot College'(because people who come to train literally couldn’t afford shoes), which has been drawing all its electricity from the sun since 1986. The college was designed to be a self-sustained community that generated its own power, supplied its own water, recycled its waste and also train people from different parts of the country to replicate the same model in their villages. This college covers around 82,349 sq km with 110 villages and 100,000 inhabitants.

Click for more.

25
May
09

I am dark skinned and proud.

I was just reading this article in Outlook about how this election perhaps proves that voters are not swayed by religion, caste etc any more. At least not the majority of them. I am not fully convinced about it, because Congress did play the caste card frequently. But nevertheless it is a good piece and we need more discussions like these.

It actually got me thinking about how much discrimination exists in India today. Both negative and positive discrimination. By negative I mean, decreasing opportunities for people of a certain segregation. Its the discrimination we all know. And by positive I mean, creating opportunities for people of a certain segregation, like reservations in universities, jobs, etc. My post is too short for me to give enough justice to both the discriminations, I hate so much. I also feel so strongly against them that I don’t think I can write sanely and make any sense.

So I will just talk about one not so invisible discrimination, but rarely talked about. Color.

I’ve been thinking a lot about it after my two weeks in Switzerland. For the first time ever in Switzerland I felt comfortable in my skin color and body appearance. Let me explain. I am dark skinned and Indians would call me ‘skinny’. Both these characteristics have been the exploited to the core by my friends while teasing me. When I was a kid, being teased about being of a skin color not considered to be desirable by popular notion, made me cry. Later it just became easier to laugh at myself and secretly keep applying mom’s ‘Fair & Lovely’ to try and lighten my skin tone. And the first thing my female relatives or friends of my mom, would remark on seeing me after a long time, would be ‘You’ve grown darker.’ As if that was an unfortunate thing. I won’t even discuss that this obsession with fair skin seems to be more female driven than male. Seen the disgusting ‘Fair & Lovely’ ads? Only fair women get jobs and husbands. This is very well reflected in the matchmaking sections of the newspapers. Mentioning skin color is almost neccesary. And the high prevalance of ‘fair’ in the postings makes me think that perhaps dark skinned people feel inferior to even take out a posting.

What really pains me though is that I see this among my educated friends as well. Jokes about my dark skin seem so juvenile and painful to me that everytime a friend tries that on me, I hate him a little more for being so insensitive. People might say it doesn’t affect daily lives or hiring process. But I know for a fact that it does. I know for sure it does affect men’s perceptions of women, not very sure about vice-versa, but considering women are more obsessed with such trivialities I would be surprised if it didn’t. At my university, I was a part of a club(rather a festival department) which blatantly would recruit new female members on the basis of looks. If you conformed to commonly accepted notions of beauty, like fair skin, you were in unless of course someother club had snatched you already. I am sure the members of the club would go on to try and hire women for their looks in their day jobs as well.(This is not a jab at my club, but at the entire new member recruitment system at Pilani.)

So in India when I go to Northern cities, first thing people try guessing which state I might be from and then immediately expect me to be stereotypical. They are surprised when I speak fluent unaccented Hindi and curse that people down south don’t know any other languages, while they are content with speaking a single tongue and bad english. And then they are obsessed with skin color, going to no end with foundation creams and talcum powder to enhance theirs. That obsession extends to making fun of my ‘Gult'(slang for people from Andhra Pradesh) skin color.

This is simply insensitive and a very corrosive feature of our Indian society to consider dark skin as inferior.

So in Switzerland I was actually surprised when people didn’t stare(I get more stares walking in some Delhi lanes). People didn’t judge or size me up by my skin color. I expected some to immediately assume I was Indian or Sri Lankan, but I was always asked where I was from. And I didn’t feel any insensitivity about being Indian or dark skinned. Having friends who are shamelessly stereotypical, I initially made a few bad jokes about being American or China. I stopped the second I realized I was being a jerk.

In the entire country, entertainment industry especially is obsessed with fair skinned actors. In fact Frieda Pinto had no chance of entering the movie industry if it wasn’t for the western director. Andhra Pradesh movie industry hardly has any dark female actors. Dark male actors are used only for comic or negative characters. Now this is discrimination on the basis of color.

Think about it. How does it make sense that fair skin is better than dark skin? We love dark clothes, but wouldn’t like a dark skin? Isn’t beauty a matter of perception? I personally find dark skin more attractive than fair skin, but that doesn’t mean I let that inhibit my logic and discriminate against people with lighter skin. Think very hard about for how long has this idea about dark skin being uglier than fair skin has been stuck in your head. It is time that we as society stopped being

This is me.

Me

Me

And I have a beautiful skin tone. I will no longer stop myself from being indecent when you are not decent enough to consider my feelings while making my skin color the object of your poor sense of humor.

Addition after reading Gangu’s comment. I am not against being jocular about this issue or trying to be extremely politically correct about this. What I can see is that such things are so deeply ingrained in our Indian psyches that it plays a role while making judgments. Now that is unfortunate. I agree not many would see the point of this post, but perhaps you would if you stand outside this all in my shoes and then think. A close friend pointed out that we have so many prejudices today, things we just can’t explain. Like naturally assuming beautiful people as dumb, there are so many of these that we suffer from. I think it is important that as we progress as a society, we would get rid of some of them.

ps: My friends reading this might find it surprising that I’ve written about this because I’ve never spoken about this to anybody since I was, maybe 10yrs old. I’ve ignored it for a long time but it does bother me.

02
Sep
08

Silence of the lambs

I’m truly shocked by the turn of events in the students union(SU) elections. Majority of students voted for ‘none’ instead of the only candidate(Rachit) in the fray(after the other candidate’s nomination was canceled). Now that would be understandable if Rachit wasn’t good enough to be a president. But that is certainly far from the truth. You rarely ever get a Aditya Birla scholar, Goldman Sachs leader and an NTS scholar standing for a post like this.

For the past many years the SU Presidents and General Secretarys have been very unimpressive and mediocre leaders. It had never been their vision or capabilities that had brought them to power but just petty politics of regionalism and factionalism. The past three Presidents could barely even fulfill their manifesto promises! The previous General Secretary was a whiff of fresh air and a very sincere and thoughtful leader. I really thought he was the first of many to come responsible BITSians who would proudly contest elections for more than just scoring resume points. But last night we just screwed that up. And the vulgar ‘celebrations’ that followed were just disgusting. Half naked people shouting slogans and whirling hockey sticks. One could easily be mistaken that somebody had won.

I think this year certainly saw the two smartest President candidates in a very long time. Either one of them had the potential to do well. How unfortunate that Nitesh’s candidature was canceled leaving only Rachit standing. This decision couldn’t have been very easy to make and Nitesh certainly must have deserved it. Surprisingly there was a wave of sympathy for Nitesh and this was flamed into a structured campaign for ‘None’. Seriously how idiotic are we BITSians? With the festivals coming up, delaying the elections by a whole month is just going to set us back more than we can fathom. Would Rachit have been such a bad president, that we would rather not choose than choose him? He is one of the brightest and honest people on campus, people who would stay miles away from the murky waters of politics. It was his idealism and passion to change the system that made him contest the elections. We could hardly let such a deed go unpunished.

I believe this happened because few people were even thinking. We’ve survived for so long by not caring for the SU, that we would rather be sheep and vote for any random guy. Ex: One guy who thought ‘a one man race is no fun’. What a moron, but sadly not the only one. Most of us would rather be sheep following the words of some faceless kingmaker out there, than think and be leaders. Last night just reflected the Indian political scenario and we BITSians were the illiterate villagers who bring bigots and ineffective parties to power every time. Well, we get the leadership we deserve. Somebody should have given us wisdom along with the high IQs, which is certainly not serving us well.

I’m truly ashamed.

ps: And no, I did not campaign or lobby for anybody, even though I know Rachit as a friend. His manifesto did not impress me much, but was better than what others had, which is why I voted for him.




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