People and Places

India’s daughter – should we watch it? I don’t care!

I am one of those few who saw the banned documentary “India’s Daughter” before the content was taken off for India.

It saddens me that the debate today is on whether to watch or to not watch a documentary.
I don’t have a view on whether it should or should not be banned. That is not my concern. I DON’T CARE.

What is this documentary about? It tells story of Jyoti Singh and her abusers. It is like another documentary, sharing thoughts of Jyoti’s parents and someone who knew her and sharing thoughts of accused and their family. It presents opinions and some statistics like a documentary would. No, it does not talk descriptively about rape of a 5 year old as being shouted by Arnab Goswani on Times Now. No, there is nothing on it that seems to threaten anyone’s privacy. What happened to Monica Lewinsky was surely bringing her private life to public. This documentary is not. In fact if I have to evaluate this documentary, it is just an average one in how it even presents its case. They have not mentioned what the abusers were thinking, whether they had planned to do this or they just saw her and one of them decided to take a go. The documentary surely puts India in a bad light. From the land of elephants and snake charmers to a land of slums, now India becomes the land of rape.

I don’t care whether this documentary is or is not be banned.

I care about what is happening in my country. This is not the culture that ever has or ever should promote crime against anyone in any form. There is something wrong and all the crimes reported are symptoms of bigger problems. I am only talking about one of the most heinous crimes ever – rape.

Rape is a symptom of bigger problem and this has been articulated in softest of voices by few people in all the television debates on this documentary for the past 2-3 days.

Rape is not just about sexual satisfaction. Sexual satisfaction is available. It is available with enough red lights in various parts of the world. Yes I mention world not India because this problem is not only in India. It is a disease the world over and I could find this without putting a lot of effort; this data is consolidated on wiki already –
And those who blame such heinous acts to women enticing them or ‘filmi culture’, have to just look within their own homes. For every reported case, there are several sexual assaults at home that go unreported. They also have no answer to rape of 5 year old, of 80 year old, in marriage, by relatives and neighbors and of young boys.

Rape is not about enticement or sexual satisfaction. It is more than that. Some research suggests rape is just a show of power. Or to achieve what is not reachable, like in case of the Uber rape case. In case of Jyoti, the boys just wanted to party and have fun.

Rape is not part of a culture, of any culture! It is work of a sick mind.

The culture of treating woman like a flower that should not be crushed and protected is long gone.

There are women who are blessed like me to be raised in a family of powerful women without any bias between my brother (or any boy) or me and to be married to a man who is free of any such bias. The outrage on Jyoti’s case happened because we are moving towards a society where there are many women like me. We are independent, work, can earn as much as any man does (except for the workplace bias on salary), have a social life, party and do not depend on anyone to take care of ourselves. Jyoti was one such progressive woman from a progressive family. She had a bright future which is well…

If this progressiveness threatens some men like the two lawyers of the abusers, they need to deal with it.

Media instead of debating the documentary can play meaningful role by creating awareness. Their job is TRP and not to bring about social change, isn’t it? And then they talk about power of media.

What we need is to keep progressing and changing mindset of one person at a time when we can. We will not stop and we have enough men and women in this society who will support us.


My problem with Kejriwal

Indian politics has taken front row even with those who decided to stay away, even those who decided to support brain drain and went out of the country.

These are people I relate with because I was never concerned with politics. I grew up hearing how bad our systems are and how to stay away from politicians and police unless I wanted to become an IAS officer. Administrative services come with authority and prestige. I grew up seeing my school and college mates focus on engineering or management, medical or back jobs to find stability and make a life for themselves. I grew up seeing everyone wanting to move out of the country to find a “better” life. Many of my Indian friends are scattered all over the world, living the American or Australian or Singaporean dream.

Something happened to get everyone to turn towards and take interest in Indian politics. It was the anna movement. Youth today seems to love activism. Revolutions and protests have become the ‘in thing’ across the world and we Indians were not to be left behind considering our Gandhian legacy. There are serious reasons for any protest or activism.
We have moved up in our hierarchy of needs as per Maslow’s definition – The increasing stability in middle class youth created by a fair amount of security in finding a new job or source of money and heritage created by parents who have property or other investments. This safety net is another reason youth today is able to look beyond the basic food water shelter needs.

I am writing about politics because I am aam and there are bunch of people claiming to represent me, the aam people. I am not aadmi, I am aurat and want to be gender neutral. Unless the Aam Aadmi Party really is to represent only the common ‘aadmi’. Well, during one of the speeches they did talk about bringing safety “aapki behno, biwio” etc. “ke liye”. Without talking too much about gender bias in liguistics, I want to talk about few things I am cynical about in party that claims to represent me.

1. Free stuff: There should be no free stuff unless necessary and everyone should be accountable. I can go on civic rant about people dirtying water supply, roads, environment because they pay tax and these are ‘public’ spaces. Look at minority reservation – it has lead to accepting mediocracy and in some cases poorest of performance to lead critical positions in the country. Entitlement takes away accountability. The logic of free power and free water is downright ridiculous. There is no free lunches and free power and water is paid off with votes. Other parties give money to get votes, Kejriwal offers free stuff to get votes. People need to learn to earn instead of taking things for granted! I read this article today which I felt has more logically articulated my concerns with offering freebees.

2. Self-righteousness: I have ethical issues with Kejriwal. He projects himself in a certain way – any celebrity, politician, any public figure does that. There is nothing wrong about it. Ethical problem is when you shout out loud saying you are the purest thing in political world and it cleaarly shows otherwise. If we do relative analysis on honesty and morality, there is a possibility he will win. On second thought, I am sure there are many more who are better than him but have enough humility to not shout it all the time. I and many more like me are tired of Kejriwal’s self-victimisation on everything. Kejriwal is doing what any other politician does – “I am the hero who will save this country from vilians”. He is cashing on the hero mentality that people unfortunately are not getting over. We have grown up with legends and heros always save the day. Kejriwal is projecting himself as hero risen from common man out of torturous rule. He is same old politician with short term benefits and lacking long term vision and view.

We need a change, we need alternative politics and we need strong leadership. We need leadership of culture change. Culture change that is incremental, authentic and with long term vision.

What is your legacy?

This question surfaces in our lives in one or another form.

What is the purpose of your life?

What will people remember you for?

What will your obituary read?

What will your tombstone read?

What is your legacy?

I have thought over this for years now, fighting to create my unique identity, working hard to differentiate myself, trying to compete and punishing myself when I don’t do enough. As I touch mid 30s this year, something dawned on me.

This is from conversation I had with someone senior in my profession. He once asked me, while we were out for office networking dinner over drinks, what do you want to do in life (he meant with my work). I answered with three things and one of them was to leave a legacy behind. Few minutes further into the conversation, he said you will never be able to do these. I looked at him but he did not explain himself to me.

What happened next is important. With lack of answer on why I will never be able to do what defines success to me, my reflective self took over. I went quiet and did not stop thinking on why he said what he did. Was it because of my personality or because his experience enabled him to judge how far I would be able to reach or was it just malice. I could never find the answer.

My optimistic self did not let me give up for the fear of losing.

Today after over a year of that conversation, I was reflecting on my legacy. What do I want to leave behind me that defines or defined me. The answer was not what I expected.

The answer came to me from my three year old nephew. His success comes to him in creating something of his legos, constructing train track or even eating his food with spoon without dropping anything outside the plate. It is so simple. We want to create or do build or find something and when we achieve that we put next milestone in front of us. Parents often say that their children are their legacy. Entrepreneurs find their legacy in their startup. And then parents become grandparents and grandchildren become their legacy. And entrepreneurs find a new venture or set a new milestone.

The answer I found was that my legacy may not be for me to decide. What others inherit of me or keep of my work is what will define what I leave behind. I just need to be myself.

Life is too short to worry about our legacy, it is about cherishing what we have and being ourselves. Our thoughts and actions define our potential legacy, we will leave for those who want to adopt and carry it forward.

Feeling old

This weekend I went out and partied more than I have in past many months. My observing self was at its peak and I have to write about it. 

Friday night I went to an eating place with few colleagues. We wanted to get a few drinks to mark closure to a hectic work week. The place was full with not even place to set foot in the bar. We were lucky to find a table. There are two things that told me I am old. First, was a couple snogging at the next table and their table was not even in a dark corner! They were surrounded with people and were happy in their own world. Second, more direct was one of the those one liners hung on the wall saying “If the music is too loud, you are probably too old”. That one was a serious reality check for me. After half hour of sitting there with friends, the music really was too loud.

Saturday night I stepped out in my LBD (which saw light of the day errr bright shining lights at night after long long time) to a new hip night club in downtown. I must say that I totally love Colaba, which I qualify as Mumbai downtown. This night club was full of kids. Umm yes I’m old. Even at our age we stayed till the club shut down, although we did step out every half hour to hear our own voice. After the first club shut, we managed to find our way into another club at one of the best hotels. The crowd here was more to our liking. They were wearing better clothes, not particularly grinding against each other, music was better, there were glass walls so we could see the seaside road view outside and more than anything else, we could hear our own voice once in a while. 

But this post is not about judging people on their looks or social presence or fashion. Its about feeling old and realizing that not a lot has changed.

I realized that the kids at the party are over a decade younger than me, thankfully not yet half my age. Some things never change in crowd at hot spots in India. 

There is still that group of girls who dress up for the night, who have recently learnt to use makeup, who know they are getting attention from boys and yet choose to ignore them and are in their own zone with their friends.

There is still that group of friends where there is a couple grinding against each other because they are young and wanting more and have probably recently started dating. There is still that single attractive girl in that group who all the boys want to dance with. There are still those boys and girls who are treated like a sidekick in the group. 

There is still that one couple who couldn’t care less about wearing kurta to a club, busy with each other drinking dancing eating.

There is still that one or two girls whose dressing sense shouts “look at me” and they dance like they need exorcism. 

There is still that one girl who would walk in alone, dance with 4-5 strangers and get a few free drinks.

There are those foreigners (mostly whites) backpacking in India and looking for some Indian fun, smiling at all attractive Indian women. 

And there are still some of us who would stand in a corner, get few drinks, dance with our friends a little bit, criticize the music and DJ and observe everyone around us. 

What’s missing in Indian media

For over a year now, I have been watching new channels lot more than I have in three decades of my life. Not being a regular allows to look at things afresh since I do not overlook the incremental shifts. There is massive shift in what I would look at news for. Some of my disappointments and expectations are listed below and these are limited to the TV news channels.

Facts vs opinion: TV news for me was the go to place for information and factual truth. There were opinions but they were add ons. Now prime time news is full of opinions and not so much factual information. For example, for the last two days there is so much talk of  ‘Smriti Irani not a graduate and is given responsibility for Education ministry’ . When I open TV channels, I see political parties, journalists and activists sharing their opinions, many are biased and quote instances from past. Its like court of law where everyone is building their case basis what has happened in the past. I struggled to find news report verifying facts. There finally was one channel that shared the affidavits in question to know what the debate is all about. The other big item on agenda is Article 370. Flipping through news channels for two days could not provide me with facts on what article 370 constitutes and historical incidents leading to it. I would expect at least one of our responsible media channels to share factual details of what is available to us – the content of article, indo-pak wars, indo-pak discussions and outcomes etc. I would so wish some news channel would cover ground reality in pakistan, what people want, economical stats and may be independent research conducted by several peace groups. Even the debates on article 370 are insipid with uninformed people talking about something they have no idea about. Most debates were only platform for regulars to share their views shouting personal comments on each other. I wish our media was more responsible to share factual information in more detail and invest more in research than paparazzi and sound bites. Opinions are good when debated by relevant intellectual people.

Research: Journalists are expected to dig out stories and details and more details. For example in Smriti Irani’s case, one channel projected the two conflicting affidavits; I wish they had tried to verify it or found out more about the reason for contradiction and what is the correct thing. I want to hear thought provoking stories like ‘can kashmir become like andorra’ or ‘ current state of education in India’.

Top stories: Prime time stories have become uninspiring with same topic on every news channel. There is no breadth to what is covered. There was earthquake but the details were not covered because losses were not of national significance. Any misfortune is covered if it is statistically significant or politically controversial. Media needs to become all inclusive. The 200 stories in whatever minutes should not have 20 on the same topic. And honestly who cares about 200 stories as long as we get a feel of whats going on.

International perspective: While interacting with media in one of my events, I learnt that Indian media only cares about what is the MNC doing for India. It doesn’t care about global because this is what sells. Top news channels have presence internationally and it will be good to allocate some time on top international news. I miss the old format of news which was – National, Local (city), Business Sports and International. Newspapers still have this, it just needs translation to what TV covers.