The other side of ‘Happy Women’s Day’

On March 8th my FB Timeline, Twitterfeed, Instagram, Whatsapp and Email were followed with Happy Women’s day messages. I received a plethora of sale and discount offers from various brands and others extolling the virtues of women and the advantages of being one.  My uniqueness was praised and used to sell me more garbage than I need, which I was told I deserve. It is just another way of patriarchy telling us you get one day, shut up and take it. Because on the other side of March 8th is radio silence. Back to the past we go.

International women’s day started as a day of observance and awareness of the injustices a woman faces in everyday life. Today it has become a charade with brands offering discounts to women or celebrating her! Case in point, the email I received from Etihad. It features discounts for women’s day and the featured items include makeup, hair dryers, epilators, etc. Throw back to about two weeks ago when they had another sale in their shop where the featured items included headphones, battery banks, etc. This is in itself an indicator of a woman’s place in our society. We exist as eye candy.

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On the other side of Women’s day, is the reality of what it means to be a woman. The objectification, fear of assault, conundrum of existence, fight for equality,…. Every day of a woman’s life is a fight and for many women every second of every day is one. The fight begins even before we enter this world for many girls who never find their way out. Even at birth the odds are not stacked in our favour. But making your way out is just the beginning, then comes the real challenge – the constant fight for resources and to prove we deserve to be where we are every single step of the way.

Patriarchy is suffused in every breath we take in our everyday lives. It manifests itself in the most inconspicuous ways – being asked to organise parties/events at the workplace because as a woman you are more capable of it than a man – and on more horrendous levels which makes newspaper headlines – female infanticide, rape, FGM, etc. The list is endless. The average woman has gotten so used to being snubbed for the woman she is, that she hardly notices it anymore. She has relegated herself to the treatment she begets. Content with fighting her way through the barriers put in place just for her benefit.

Even today men are told to respect us for being someone’s mother, sister, wife, aunt, grandmother and sundry. We are not people. We are always spoken about in reference to a man. Even women who have fought their way up are relegated to being someone’s wife or daughter. Our humanity, or peoplehood as Mr. Trudeau would call it, is never acknowledged because it has never existed. We continue to be treated as property. A fringe group despite being half of the population.

Every woman has a story to tell about some injustice she has faced in life. Many times they are the victims of their own gender. Our mother, grandmothers, aunts constantly tell us to toe the line, to remember our place. Not because they don’t want us to succeed but because they have themselves paid the price of trying to do otherwise. They do it to protect us from the pain they themselves have faced, unaware that in doing this they are further perpetrating the same crimes that we accuse the other gender of. We have internalised the patriarchy thanks to how we have grown up with. So the struggle is always twofold. An internal struggle to over the internal patriarchy and the external against the world to get somewhere.

We are slowly beginning to lift the veil on the misogyny that is so pervasive in our everyday lives. Hollywood’s Time’s Up and #MeToo movements are just the tip of iceberg. If some of the most popular women have been victims of patriarchy, just imagine the lot of the rest of us. The amount of time that has elapsed since the incidents to the actual reporting of the same and the grieveousness of it all should give you a picture of just how much women tolerate.

We can’t afford to shut our brains off for even a second. What to wear, to where we go, how we travel, with whom we move, what time of day, what we say, how we move,…. because all it takes is one ‘wrong’ move. She was out too late, her dress was too short, she touched my arm, she smiled at me, she didn’t respond,… Everything we do or don’t, say or don’t, wear or don’t can and will be used against us. We can’t catch a break.

So no! It’s not great being a woman! It’s a nightmare! This hyper-awareness is exhausting! It’s insulting! It’s degrading! We aren’t asking for much. We don’t need any special treatment. All we ask is that you look at us as people. People with opinions, aspirations, desires, just as you would a man. Don’t respect us for being the giver of life, respect us for our actions when we are deserving of it, like you would any man.

And the next women’s day, don’t give me shit about –

To strong women. May we know them, may we be them, may we raise them.

I thought that way for a long time too. But then I realised, why should women alone be strong? Why can men be more sensitive, create an environment where women don’t have to be strong. Where we can just be ourselves.

The next women’s day, give me reason to believe we won’t need one anymore. Give me –

To equality. May we know it, may we live it, may we work for it.


Dear Swara Bhasker,

Let me start off my open letter by saying I haven’t watched Padmaavat and I only know you from having watched your movie Anarkali of Aarah on a flight. I must say, I was impressed by your performance and even the movie itself which is unlike mainstream Hindi movies. But just like you have taken offence to Mr. Bhansali’s portrayal of women in Padmaavat/glorification of Jauhar, I have to take offence to your ‘upholding of the feminist cause through your open letter’.

Let me explain that this is not in support of Mr. Bhansali. I don’t claim to be a big fan of his but I have enjoyed a number of his movies. Like you I find his attention to detail compelling. Whether Paro’s house in Devdas, the Shanivarvada in Bajirao or even just the backgroud of his battefields, every frame of Mr. Bhansali’s movies is a piece of art. And it is for this beauty that I look forward to watching Padmaavat.

I’m also not a movie buff. While I support everyone’s right to freedom of expression, I’m not doing this because I’m a die-hard fan of Bollywood. Far from it! While I have watched Bollywood movies ever since I can remember, I have never gone in expecting a moral lesson or to be blown away. In fact, more often than not, I’ve come out disgusted and regretting the money and time I wasted.

I don’t even have a problem with how many times you have used the word vagina. I just have a problem with how you have dragged it into this mess considering how until now the only people who this movie bothered was the Karni Sena. By dragging vaginas into the mix, you have reduced them to the level of people who have endangered children just to make their voices heard. And that for me is unforgivable because the vaginas in this country have borne, and still bare, inexplicable atrocities to stand proud only to now be vilified by one of our own.

I find your offence a little disingenuous considering the fact that out of a plethora of Bollywood movies that objectify and vilify women you choose Padmaavat to take offence to. Just in the recent past I was horrified to see the trailer of a movie in which a man is told he will get what he wants if he ‘gives’ his wife to his boss(?) for a night. And this movie is set in the 21st century. Isn’t this objectification of women? Us being reduced to ‘just’ vaginas? With such glorious contenders for outrage you pick Padmaavat? Can you understand why I’m annoyed?

Have a look at the serials that Ms. Ekta Kapoor produces and tell me you’re okay with how women are portrayed sitting at home with pallus on their heads plotting against one another. So your brand of feminism is okay with this and not with the fact that a fictitious queen in the 12/13th century decided to choose death over rape?

Bollywood has never been the measure of how progressive our country is but I’ve always found the women in Mr. Bhansali’s movies to be compelling. They know what they want and do what they have to achieve their goal. Whether Paro’s mother, Mastani or even Kashi Bai who finds the strength in herself to send her husband to protect her rival. How does that even compare with most Bollywood movies where the woman is just there as a love interest? And if we started out with using the Bechdel test in Bollywood, god save our vaginas!!

Feminism is about equality. It’s about having a choice and respecting it. Your letter doesn’t question Mr. Bhansali but the choice made by a woman. It’s unfortunate that feminism today is hijacked by the likes of you who make a hungama about a movie but sit silent when it comes to real issues. Where were you when Kangana was vilified a couple of months ago or when Deepika’s cleavage was the headline a couple of years ago?

But as I write this and re-read the rant that is your open letter, I wonder… rather believe that this letter was not so much to pull Mr. Bhansali up for failing the feminist cause as it was to steal the spotlight for yourself. After all, in Bollywood any publicity is good publicity. Because what stands out in your letter after multiple reads is your desire to prove the ‘righteousness’ of your cause and how ‘righteous’ you yourself are. Why else is the need to explicitly mention that you took your cook along with your family or about how you fought trolls on Twitter. You talk about how you are a fan of Mr. Bhansali’s work and would love to be his heroine before you embark on a farce. It’s absolutely despicable how you have used feminism to further your own goals!

Here we are fighting for the chance to be the women we want to be. Raising issues of marital rape, domestic violence, female infanticide, female genital mutilation and even the right to just live! Fighting to remind ourselves how to be a feminist while trying to forget the patriarchy imbibed in us. And you lower the bar to how you felt ‘reduced’ to a vagina watching a movie? With your letter you have proved that all Bollywood is capable of is taking a cause and making money off of it.

Unlike you, I do not end this letter in peace. I end with the promise to fight and reclaim feminism from opportunists like you. To fight people like you who hijack a cause to promote yourself and further your interests. Who derail who conversations and set us back as we strive to push ahead. I write this letter to remind the world that feminism is a cause worth fighting for. For the women who have been denied and for the men who have been mocked.


Manasa Manjunath

A feminist in development


Another day, another attack, another hashtag.

In my 27 short years and even shorter 25-20 that I’ve been aware of the world and been able to understand it, I can count on my fingers the number of times Kashmir has not been in the news for a terror attack. Bombs, guns, terrorists, people dying, newspaper article, Indian politicians making speeches against Pakistan and the next day silence. Rinse, repeat for the next time.

For the longest time, I thought of terror attacks as a norm. As something that happened everywhere in the world and something that you could do nothing about. It was a reality of life, I thought, just like diesease and death. And then 9/11 happened, there was outrage and uproar and the usual condemnation. But it wasn’t forgotten the next day. Suddenly there were plans to tackle terrorism, to bring justice to the victims and all these things that to my 10 year old self, were unheard of. I was puzzled but I moved on. Shelving it in the back of my mind, and concentrated on more important things like Harry Potter and Pokemon.

And then London happened and it was the same as 9/11. In the meantime, the attacks in Kashmir continued with all the motions of a daily routine. To my slightly older & more aware brain, there was something slightly off. Sure, the people killed in London on that one day is a lot more than those in Kashmir on a single day but if you took the sum total, surely the number of Kashmiris we’d lost to terrorism was much more than in London or New York?

With this gnawing at my brain, I moved on with my life. Then Mumbai happened. At this point I was more than a little aware of this thing we call international relations and diplomacy. The war on terror was on but that this war was on terror that killed white people was not lost on me. With this, the cynic in me was born.

Since then there has been Boston, Kenya, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria, France, Turkey and a million other places. But the pattern was the same. Attack, death, outrage but international sympathy and action only if white people are involved. For someone born in the 20th century and grown up in the 21st, apartheid, race and class were a thing of the past. The colour of your skin was just that. Nothing more. How naive!!

Today everyone is Nice. But yesterday when Burhan Wani was killed, everyone spoke about extra judicial killings. Pakistan expressed shock and concern at how India was handling things in Kashmir. Pakistan! Pakistan that gives birth to terrorists with the sole intent of creating terror in India , Pakistan whose terror policies led to the massacre of a hundred of its own children. And the world just stood by and watched. No talk of fighting terror here. Kashmiris have been dying for ages, there’s nothing new about that.

So today, I’m not going to condemn the attacks because condemnation is not going to stop them from happening again. Today, I’m not going to pray for the victims because it is the same sadistic God who let those people die. Today, I am not Nice. What I am is outraged. I am disgusted. I am appalled. I am frustrated. I am helpless….. I am human. I am hurt.  I am sad. I am scared. I am terrified.

I am certain this will happen again. My feelings won’t change that. My prays won’t. Because as long as terror is identified with as good or bad, as long as dealt with based on the colour of the skin of the victims, innocent people will continue to die. Kashmir is perhaps the saddest example of that. But it won’t be long before the entire world is.

Happy Deepavali!!

My calendar on the laptop says it 32 minutes until Diwali/Deepavali and my FB feed is filled with wishes for a safe and prosperous new Diwali. It’s one of my most favourite festivals and once again, I find myself far from home. This is a pretty big festival in our household and one for which preparations begin much earlier.

The weeks preceding Deepavali is filled with cleaning the house. At least for my mum it is. I get too distracted discovering half forgotten things found during these cleaning sessions. It means moving the showcase on which our TV stands and finding the million pens my mum loses, or the rubber bands and hair clips that my sister and I do. Climbing the attic to bring down the giant mandap and in the process finding some old books or photos.

Cleaning the mandap and fitting the pieces back to actually make it resemble one is another one of the very fond memories that I have of this festival. Its pretty hilarious trying to fit the columns into their holes on the roof as my mum and sister hold the base and the columns together. And it never works on the first try. Several failed attempts and many nearly crushed fingers later we manage to put it all together.

The market near our house is always abuzz during festival time but Deepavali adds a certain charm to it. The overcrowded streets, vendors trying to get you to buy their wares, people bargaining, the autos and other vehicles trying to make their way through the cacophony of it all, just add to the festivities. I find it incredibly amusing and fascinating as my mum manages to bargain four stalks of the banana plant, a dozen banana leaves and mango leaves all for the price of one. Let’s not even discuss her skills when it come to flower and vegetable vendors.

After finally managing to get home the chores are set aside for the next morning. Of course, it all falls to Ma the next day but she likes to think she’s incharge and we let her. Waking up to the house in Deepavali mode is one of the best experiences. It’s never before nine, you didn’t think I’d rise earlier did you? it’s a holiday after all, the house is filled with music (devotional songs of course, I actually like these and can sing along to most of them but I resist the urge) and delicious smells. After brushing my teeth and washing my face a good part of the next half an hour is spent trying to annoy Ma by trying to touch her (You see, she’s been up for probably 3 hours now, had a shower, cleaned the front yard, drawn a rangoli and got started with the cooking for the day. Since everything she cooks is first kept in front of God, we’re not allowed to touch her without taking a bath because we’re still dirty.) It’s more exciting than it sounds trust me.

When I see that she’s not amused anymore and her face is starting to get that annoyed look, I escape into the bathroom to take a shower. After I’ve had a shower I’m immediately put to work. Decorating the front door with the mango leaves (it’s called making a toran), cleaning all the portraits and decorating them with flowers is all my work. It’s actually harder than it sounds and takes me a good hour to be done with it all. Then there are small chores and errands like cutting some vegetables or running to the store to buy some last minute things we forgot. By one in the afternoon we’re free to do whatever we want and this time, of course, is spent sprawled on the sofa watching some mindless Diwali flick playing on TV while waiting for lunch.

Lunch is always a late affair on these days, what with all the cleaning and decorating, and usually happens after the pooja. Even though it is late, it lasts quite long. Ma then retires to her room to read something and the sister and I follow suit. We lounge around on the bed and read until Ma falls asleep and we make fun of her snoring noises. After a quick ten minute nap Ma is up and refreshed (I don’t know how that woman does it but I hope that gene was passed on to me). She then starts preparing stuff for the evening pooja. I find most of this stuff irrelevant to this post except for one – kajjaya. Kajjaya is the sweet Ma makes every Deepavali. This means the gas stove comes down on the floor, Ma sits in the centre and is surrounded by banana leaves with kajjaya batter on them. It’s quite difficult to make and takes longer than any other sweet she makes but it’s all worth it!! It’s crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. Easily the best sweet around during this time.

Promptly at five in the evening when the noise of crackers starts to increase and the sister and I realise it will all go faster if we help, we offer our services to the mother. She begs to get ready and a round of arguments ensue over what to wear. After wasting an hour on it she makes us visit all the neighbours’ houses with sweets. By the time we’re back she has everything ready, I’m beginning to think she sends us out just to get the work done. I can’t believe I always thought we were being helpful!!

Now this is the best part of the day, there is normally a pooja again after which we can go light the diyas. Ma reads a story from a very old book. This book belonged to my grandfather and is so old that it’s yellow in colour and so brittle that it’s falling to pieces and don’t even get me started on that handwriting! Its all written in old Kannada and yet Ma reads it flawlessly! She thinks about writing it all out again before the book actually falls apart but so far every year has been a false alarm. I’m actually going to miss it when she gets around to doing it. The story she reads is about the rituals we follow during Deepavali and why its important. It’s one of the most beautiful stories I’ve heard and even though I’ve heard it year after year I never tire of it. Once she’s read it she ties the nopi thread around each of our wrists.

Now these nopi threads are different from the normal threads you get outside every temple. They are only available in a handful of colours and they bleed on contact with water. So of course, we are picky about the colours we want. The threads also have a gold cylinder threaded into them, these are reused every year and we all have one which is ours and insist on just that one being threaded on. These nopi threads stay on all through Deepavali and my hand actually feels quite weird once its removed.

After the thread drama there is the lighting the diyas drama. You see, there are two parts to lighting the diyas. Step one: Fill diyas with oil and put the wick in. Step two: light the diya. Step one is boring and not to forget quite messy and hence, neither the sister nor I want to do it. Cue fight. Until Ma intervenes and manages a compromise. Diya lighting is my most favourite part of Deepavali. There’s nothing quite as beautiful as watching your house all lit up and beautiful. Year on year, its the same house, more or less the same pattern but ever beautiful.

As kids we used to play with crackers but not anymore. I gave up on crackers twice. As a kid I was very fond of the sparklers, flower-pots and chakras. I always had a love hate relationship with those gun cracker things. Every year I’d see other kids playing with it and be tempted into playing with one myself, sometimes it went okay, other times I ended up hurting my hand and swearing off it until the next year. Anyway, as I said I was very fond of flower-pots. When I was about eight, and lighting a flower-pot, it suddenly burst like a bomb. Fortunately, I wasn’t hurt but needless to say I was traumatised and couldn’t stop crying. Even watching my little sister have fun while playing with crackers was not enough to change my mind. Taking a pledge to not burst crackers the next year at school ensured my abstinence from fireworks but pretty soon I was back to bursting crackers. It was only when we got a dog and I watched the poor thing shake in fright that I swore off crackers for good. The pleasure I derive from bursting a cracker is no where close to the pain that these poor animals go through. It’s just not worth it.

One of the best parts of Deepavali is the oil bath. Traditionally, on the first day of Deepavali, you massage your entire body with oil and take a hot water bath. In my house, we have an additional tradition of drawing on the bathroom walls after massaging the oil and waiting for the water to heat up. We had a traditional fireplace and the water used to get heated up from the fire we made from the coconut husks in our front yard. Both the sister and I got half of the bathroom walls to draw on and it made us feel like artists. We drew diyas, flower-pots, rockets, chakras and everything else associated with the festival. Poor Ma who had to clean it all up later. This is all part of the Ganga pooja where you worship water.

It’s been three years since I’ve celebrated Deepavali at home and while I miss the noise and the general exuberance during the festival, I miss the little things more. Of course, I try to celebrate a tiny part of Deepavali by lighting candles in my room but I still miss the general brilliance of my house. I guess it is one of those festivals which you have to be home to really celebrate.

My tiny Deepavali

Happy Deepavali to you all!! May the festival of lights bring new light into your life and fill it with brilliance.

2014 Independence day address 101

I’m a big advocate of celebrating national holidays. One of the motivating factors, of course, is that it is a holiday, but despite having moved to a country where it is just another day, national holidays are still something I really look forward too. I love seeing the tri-colour everywhere, the parades, flag hoisting and of course, the customary patriotic movie on TV. I think I’ve watched Border more than a dozen times but I will still sit down to watch it and sing along loudly to all the songs this friday (My poor flatmates). One of my absolute favourite things to do is watch the independence day parade and listen to the Prime Minister’s address to the nation. It fills me with a deep sense of pride and belonging. the national anthem at the end just gives me goosebumps! For a few years now the Prime Ministers speech has put a dapper on my Independence day spirits but going by Mr. Modi’s pre-election speeches, my expectations of the address this year are at an all time high. No pressure Mr. Modi! Just to give him an edge, here are some points that I’d like to see him address and some I would prefer avoided. You’re welcome!

1. Our economy has been the talked to death for some years now what with the fall in the rupee value(From Rs.63 to one Euro when I left in October 2011 to Rs.80 now! Think of poor students like me on an education loan!), the price rise, inflation, etc. since the budget was just announced, outlining your plans for the next five years will give a much-needed rest to all the speculation. Please, none of the vague the rupee value will go up and the prices will come down. We know that. What we want to know is how will that happen? What are you planning on doing to stabilise and improve the economy? Also, please don’t bring up the fact that the state of the economy is due to the previous government. We know that and it is because we know this that you are where you are today (Just reminding). Let’s rise above petty politics for the day.

2. The recent spotlight on the crimes against women have earned us the nickname rape country. We know you would prefer not commenting on every single crime but it is a matter of national importance that half of the population feels unsafe in their own country. We’d like to feel like full-fledged citizens of the country with rights rather than third class citizens going by the treatment meted out to us. The need of the hour is to stress on the safety and rights of women and children. Shed light on measures to be undertaken to make the country safer for women and children.

3. The  last few days have seen repeated violations of the ceasefire from across the border. You have been very vocal about the importance od protecting our country and reprimanding our neighbours for breach of previous agreements. Implications of repeated infractions need to be stressed upon. A limit has to be set and adhered to. We are all for friendly relations with our neighbours but we will not tolerate any breach of our trust and any harm to our country and its citizens. Long have we waited and watched and our silence has been construed to be our weakness. Stringent measures need to be announced and adhered to or this game of cat and mouse will escalate.

4. There has been a spike in communal violence across the country over the last couple of months. India is a secular country and people of different faiths and beliefs have long-lived here in harmony. People still do live in harmony. It is in recent years that communal differences has reared its ugly head. What was earlier used by foreigners to divide us is now being used by some of our own countrymen to their benefit. It is mainly a few anti-national elements who provoke tensions in the otherwise peaceful and harmonious people. India has seen the arrival and birth of different cultures in her long history and she has imbibed in her these different cultures and evolved. Were she to turn hostile, we can be sure she would not exist as she does today. It is our tolerance and evolution that makes us who we are. Serious consequences for anyone who tries to disrupt the peace and harmony of our country needs to be announced.

5. Nationbuilding is not just the job of a government but of a country as a whole. Your initiative to involve people in the administration through is an inspired idea. People want to be involved in the development and progress of the country and this is the first step in that directions. Giving importance to this topic and speaking of your plans to make governance and administration more inclusive would be a great boost to people’s confidence and raise their faith in the government.

There are, of course Mr. Prime Minister, many other issues, however, considering today’s climate, these topics need to be dealt with immediately. What better forum than the Independence day address? Show the path that you intend to take and place your faith in the people. Your of all must know and appreciate what it means to have the favour of the people. You have also just witnessed what happens when you fall out of their favour. You seem to have recognised that the spirit of India is not broken but it stands stronger than ever. This spirit when harnessed the right way can reap rich rewards. The people have chosen you to guide this spirit. It is not a right but a privilege granted to you. The independence day address is a platform for you to acknowledge this privilege and show how you plan to live up to it. We wait with great expectations. Good luck!

All play and no work makes Jack an Indian MLA/MP

Ever since the new government took charge, they’ve been stressing on efficiency, punctuality and decorum. So much so that a workshop was conducted for first time MPs. There have been at least two headlines about ministers visiting their respective departments and taking to task late comers and insisting on cleanliness in the workplace. It seems like the new government wants to bring about a change in the attitude that we Indians have towards our work but anyone who has ever seen a parliamentary session will call these people hypocrites.

Watch any house session and you will realise what a farce our so-called democracy is. You will find people sleeping, nodding off, watching porn, shouting and making a ruckus. There is rarely an issue that the majority agrees on. Every issue irks the sentiment or interest of some section of our society, according to at least one minister who will berate the person who brought up the issue. They will yell and scream, all while another person is speaking and trying to make their point. Eventually storming the well saying that the government is biased and does not think of XYZ section of society. The ensuing chaos will prompt the speaker to raise their voice and request for silence and decorum. These feeble remonstrations will of course go unheard by the ministers who believe this is their chance at a dharna and continue to shout eventually leading to an adjournment for 10minutes. The break just allows these unruly people to organise better and attack with renewed force leading to an adjournment for the rest of the day. What an amazing use of the people’s tax money. Bravo!

Ministers are elected representatives of the people. They are paid with tax payer money to voice the tax payer’s grievance and solve their issues. Moreover, every single house session also involves a high expenditure which again comes from the public pocket. It’s bad enough that our grievances are never addressed, add to that the fact that even the sessions end up being adjourned and hence no work is done. The problem is that our ministers enjoy a little too much freedom. They are paid whether or not they attend a house session, whether or not they participate in a discussion, whether or not they raise an issue concerning their constituency, whether or not they are awake, whether or not they disrupt a proceeding. You get the picture. From the moment they are elected, its smooth sailing until the next election because they are not answerable to anyone. They face no consequences whatsoever. More often than not, the same person will get reelected the next time round. Zero accountability and consequences and here in lies the problem.

Lets be real, if anyone of us did any of this at school/college/work we’d be expelled or fired. We wouldn’t even dream of attempting something like this for fear of losing our grades/admission/pay. Because we would have to face the consequences of our actions. Why is it then that MPs and MLAs, whose job it is to ensure the smooth running of the country and state, something so much bigger and difficult, face no consequences?

We talk about a change in the country, about progress, but nothing can happen if we don’t eradicate the root cause of our failure. If we really expect a change then we need to have rules and set standards for our MPs and MLAs to abide by. Codes of conduct and penalties for any breach. Let them learn how to earn their pay. It is rather unfair that while the rest of the population breaks their backs to earn their money and adhere to rules these people behave like they are above it all. It is only fair that as our representative, they are held to the same yardstick as us.

Start with a basic set of rules:

1. Fixed number of holidays/leaves

We all get only some sick, casual and permission leave. Let the same be true for them. Categorically specific the number of days available for each leave and the rules attached to availing them. I’d like to see a doctor’s note for that sick leave.

2..  Minimum 80% attendance in parliament

If you miss a day of parliament and you are not in your constituency attending to some important work and none of your leaves hold good, you can forfeit a day’s salary. If your attendance is less than 80% you lose your salary for all the days you were absent.

3. Raise at least one issue of relevance to your constitution or speak in a discussion during your tenure

The people elected you to have their voice heard. Go out there and be their voice. Do it in a dignified manner. Failure to talk or get involved in the house will lead to automatic disqualification from contesting the next election. You can try the year after that. How is that for a performance review?

4. Violating decorum/bringing a halt to the proceedings

Speaking out of turn or shouting when someone else has the floor will result in a warning. Exceeding 3 warnings will lead to suspension and fine. Storming the well and causing adjournment will mean immediate suspension and a hefty fine. More than 3 suspensions and automatic disqualification from the next election. That is your bonus.

If the government does indeed intend to bring about a change in the country, they should start with themselves. First start with all the ministers and set an example for the rest of the country. Just increasing the efficiency of people and different ministries is not enough. The Parliament needs to be efficient too. Are you listening Mr. Naidu?

PS: Some of these rules may seem harsh but anyone who goes to school or work knows that these are rules will comply to in our work/study places. This is just a draft of course and any revisions and suggestions are welcome.

PPS: I know Lok Sabha efficiency has gone up 103% this term. That just means that they shouted and screamed and did nothing more often in the past.


Dear Mr. Prime Minister,

Congratulations on your first successful address to the Parliament. I must say I was impressed. When I initially saw that the clip was 50 odd minutes long, I’ll admit I was hesitant. The plan was to forward through the rhetoric and be done in 10 to 15 minutes, but you managed to hold my attention and imagination (though I can’t say the same for your colleague sitting two rows behind yourself) for most of those 50 minutes, which is more than most of my Professors could ever manage, as you waxed eloquent about your plans for our country. And what a picture you painted!

I’m used to seeing a chaotic and disruptive Lok Sabha. It was a pleasant surprise to watch our representatives listen. I congratulate you on having managed to capture their attention as well. It is indeed a feat worthy of praise. I liked that you focused on your plans for the country rather complain about the mess that you have to clean up. I was greatly impressed with the humour and wit you showed as you rebutted your opposition. Frankly, your conduct as Prime Minister was a subject that was on my mind having watched your rallies during the elections, in fact, there was even a Blogpost in the works, but a big thank you from lazy me for having carried yourself with so much composure and grace, very much befitting a Prime Minister, yesterday and ever since you assumed office.

Your critics have been many ever since you announced your contention for the coveted post of Prime Minister and it seems that there are even more now that you have assumed office. I can only imagine what a daunting task you face of running the country. Critics only add to the existing pressure but indeed as you said, keep us from becoming complacent and arrogant. While you endeavour to revitalise our country, as much as I wish you all success in your endeavours, since your successes will mean success for the country, I shall endeavour to praise you for your successes and criticise your weaknesses.

While many have criticised your direct and hands-on approach as dictatorial, I find it a refreshing change. Time and tide wait for no man and you seem to have adopted this policy. Immediacy and alacrity are the need of the hour in today’s rapidly changing world. Just keeping abreast of the information is no longer enough and you seem to recognise that. In a country such as ours, where people wear their hearts on their sleeves and their tempers on the tips of their noses, things escalate quickly and easily. In most cases, just the smell of smoke is enough to start a fire. Fuel arrives much later only to help in spreading the fire and water, well, there are so many disputes on who can take how much that it seems a foreign concept.

One such wild fire which seems to engulf the entire country is right now is violence against women. In your 50 minute speech in Parliament and other speeches and public forums, you spoke maybe four sentences about this issue. The content of which was limited to requesting the MPs to refrain from commenting on the psychology behind rapes and saying that the harshest of punishments should be given to those who violate the dignity of our mothers and sisters. Your lack of response to this issue begs the question, if this issue and our safety is at all a priority for the new government?

I agree a 100% with you that making comments about the psychology of rapists brings nothing. But only discussion and debate will create awareness about the situation. Also, saying the harshest punishment will be doled out to the prepetrators is not enough, nor is it new. We have had enough people “talk” about it. A person of your stature and position and especially with the influence you wield could be critical in stemming this violence.

Since Mahabharat seems to be the trending epic of the moment, let me put it this way, are we going to sit, heads bowed in shame, like the Pandavas while our women are assaulted like Draupadi? Are we going to just let our women pray to the gods like Draupadi was left to pray to Krishna while their bodies, rights and dignities are violated? Should they await justice in the form of their violators’ blood after we avenge them in a bloody battle?

It is a pity that even our Prime Minister identifies us as just mothers, sisters and daughters. There are among us, Mr. Prime Minister, those without fathers, brothers and husbands. And what of those who are violated by these very people? Do they require no protection and consideration? Are women only defined in relation to men? Do they not exist beyond these relationships? Are we the same as furniture or utensils? Objects meant to be used or possessed and then thrown aside? Are they not individuals?

Your party’s policy of empowering women is indeed a great one. Now that you form the government, you have the power to implement it across the country. You, with your influence, your way with words and the ability to paint a picture have more influence than most of your opponents dare or want to admit. Even the simplest of your statements could go a long way in ensuring the safety of our women. There is a need for awareness and education at the basest of levels. A need to stress on the equality of men and women, on the individuality of women, on the rights of women and the consequences of violating these rights. Your voice could lend the strength that the women in our country require. The question is will you remain silent too?

Yours sincerely,

Not just a daughter

Aam Aadmi Party pooper

Rarely has a political party been so closely followed as the Aam Aadmi Party is today. In fact, rarely has a person become so large as to overshadow and tower over everything else that is around him as has Mr. Kejriwal. We’ve all watched AAP start from just one man to become what it is today. It started as an idea, nay, a desire. A desire to do something good to work for the country and it’s people and deliver them their hope that they’ve continued to cherish through the worst of time. That desire is something I recognise, understand and respect. That desire in someone compels me to respect them just because they have that desire which so few of us do. We all have the hope of something good happening to the country but the desire to make it happen is rather rare and that’s exactly why it deserves respect. Because with that desire is intertwined dedication and a love for the country, the idea that the happiness of 1.3 billion people is important and each voice in that 1.3 billion counts. That desire is not something that people of a faint heart or weak mind can possess because it requires a conviction as no other. It requires the understanding that the task before you is daunting and not something you can  accomplish alone. It requires you to acknowledge that you are tiny, a tiny tiny speck when compared to the nation of India and that is what truly matters.

When Mr. Kerjiwal and his party first came to the fore, they were underdogs. And as underdogs often are they were dismissed, but they also had a strong following, as the underdog always does. They created quite a stir on the Indian political scene with their unconventional ways. And somehow, the underdog won. You’re used to it in the movies and stories but you’ve hardly ever seen it happen in reality and there it was, history being created as the AAP formed the government in Delhi. It was the fairytale ending everyone had imagined (okay, maybe not the BJP and the Congress).

Yet, it wasn’t. It was just the beginning. The beginning of what was going to be a nightmare of epic proportions. From the very beginning Mr. Kejriwal was in a hurry and it seemed like he wanted to change everything that had been in place since the birth of India as we know it. He seemed to be on a roll giving subsidies, carrying out raids, lodging FIRs, setting up commissions, holding a dharna, tabling bills,. There was no day that the AAP didn’t make the headlines. Good or bad it didn’t matter, they were there and they had the publicity. But suddenly the media which played a big part in making them famous had turned against them. Or so they said. Everyone seemed to have nothing but criticism. The beloved underdog was turning into a villain.

While the AAP and Mr. Kejriwal need to be applauded for their ideals and goals, they need a reality check when it comes to their actions. For a party which is made of such educated people, they seemed to constantly be in the news for breaking some rule or the other. I understand the need to make something happen and the urgency of it but I also understand that there is a system in place and rules which needs to be followed. We have seen scores of politicians, uneducated, illiterate and unethical, behave in the most undignified ways. And it is something that we have come to expect of them. But the AAP, we all had higher standards for them. We expected better than dharnas and raids and now resigning because they don’t get what they need.

I’ll be honest, I wasn’t an AAP supporter but I wasn’t a critic either. I was very intrigued by the party as most of us were and very frankly wanted them to do well when they came into power. It’s important to try your best to put your candidate into the seat but once the elections are done you just hope and pray that the guy in the seat does his job well, whether he’s the guy you voted for or not doesn’t matter. For us to lead a good life, a better life, we need to pray for whoever it is who sits in that chair. and that’s how it is for the AAP too. They’re in the seat so you want them to do well.

I wasn’t quick to write off the AAP as the others were. Even through the dharna and the raid I kept my silence. They have 5 years I thought, we’ve given the others close to 70 years so I think we can give these guys at least 5. So I was silent and I still hoped. But today, I can’t restrain myself. I feel the need to critise the AAP. And do it belligerently. Because of all the parties and all the people out there, AAP really gave us hope, the hope that something was different and something would change. They took that hope and the faith the people had it in them and became arrogant. Bullies who thought that they can do anything they please, since against all expectations they were where they were. I understand a lot of people still support them and feel sad for them. They see them as the nice guys, the underdogs, who tried everything but the others wouldn’t let them. To you I sincerely say, please open your eyes. The AAP and Mr. Kejriwal are not the martyrs they make themselves out to be.

The AAP made a lot of promises before coming into power, just like the other parties do, but they set themselves deadlines, unlike the other parties. And while it is a sign of conviction, looking a little deeper into how the deadlines were set will show you how little thought went into it. When you propose a change and say you can deliver it, you need to be prepared to deliver it, we’re not talking about an assignment deadline but something to do with running an entire city. It requires thinking, planning and deliberation. It requires understanding the past and having thinking about the future. And if you can’t do either, you’re not fit to govern!

The AAP were very unconventional. Saying no to the official bungalows, coming to work using public transport, just like the aam aadmi. But they continued to be unconventional in their working too – holding dharnas, conducting raids, tabling bills without permission,…. You are in a seat of power, you have some control to do a lot of things, then why still stick to these obstructive ways of functioning. There is a system in place, learning about it and how to navigate it would save you time, money and effort when you have to accomplish your goals, instead it is wasted on fighting the system. What good came of any of it? What did they do that couldn’t be done by the rest of us? Anyone can organise a dharna, lodge an FIR, you don’t have to be a CM for it. The whole point of being in the government  was to make sure the case is investigated, instead they resigned. How was the power they were given ever used?

The AAP was always in the media glare. Everywhere they went, they took the media with them. It was like a reality television show watching the AAP politicians behave like crusaders. And yet when they were critised they immediately turned on the media accusing them of receiving renumeration from other parties to show them in bad light. What is the requirement to have the media everywhere you go? Do you need to boast and publicise every single you do? The saying, when you do charity, let the left hand not know what the right does comes to mind.

One thing is clear from AAP’s governance of Delhi, they are bullies. They had the power and instead of using it constructively and to do some good as promised they choose to show their power. They were disruptive and destructive. They were sensational in every way right up to the resignation speech from the window. There are Bollywood movies less dramatic than the AAP. India doesn’t need drama, we have more than enough of it. There’s Bollywood for one and the evergreen pepper spraying wielding MPs when we get bored of conventional drama. We don’t need more people who will clog our televisions.

People say that Mr. Kejriwal brought up the most controversial of topics because he knew both the Congress and BJP would disagree and withdraw support causing the government to fall and in light of his unending battle against the system the AAP would get a majority in the re-election. This is of course a conspiracy theory but that doesn’t mean it might not be true. India’s political scenario is more dangerous to navigate than a mine field, you never know what could blow up in your face. But assuming this is indeed true, there’s nothing more shameful for the now ex-Delhi CM. His city disrupting antics were bad enough but to throw so much tax payer money down the drain, think about the subsidies given out and the impending re-election costs with no economic plan in place,  shows that Mr. Kejriwal is no better than the rest of the lot. AAP didn’t really have a majority to do everything they wanted to do but they had enough to do SOMETHING. That something would have been enough to get re-elected in the face of what the other parties have done and gotten re-elected into power. That he put his party ideas and ideals above the good of the people is reason enough to criticise him. And even more so considering his unending speech about how he is just an aam aadmi and he is here to serve India.

You may wonder why I have so much ire for such a young party and one which has hardly done anything compared to the rest of the lot. To this I say, of course, I have contempt for the others. I have a lot more than contempt for the things they’ve done and continue to do and it’s not something that would fit in just one blog post. The reason I’m critising the AAP today is because they claimed to be different, they claimed to be the hope of the people. And for once, just once, I wanted it to be true. I really wanted them to do well and show the others that you can govern the country and do good for the people. The other parties have  played with a lot of things – our money, education, resources, future,… but they never claimed our hope. If you look at how the country is today, an outsider may wonder how we still work with the problems we have. We work because we have hope, a hope for change and a better tomorrow. As long as we have this hope, there’s nothing that anyone or anything can do to stop us from moving ahead. But today AAP played with that hope and that is something I cannot and will not tolerate.

Happy 66th Independence Day!!

Being away from home on Independence day makes a person do weird things. I was all pumped up to watch the Prime Minister’s address at 3:00 am in the morning when I remembered last year and decided to celebrate Independence Day a little differently this year. Thank you Facebook and all my friends who search the web for videos relevant to the day! If it weren’t for you’ll I wouldn’t have found the video that made this year’s Independence Day the most inspiring so far. (Check the video attached. If it doesn’t move or inspire you, you don’t even have the emotional range of a teaspoon!)

I’m not one of those people who suddenly realises the greatness of their motherland on moving to another country. I’ve always loved India and no country could come close to commanding the affection that I have for Mera Bharath Mahan! One thing I do understand now is the reason for the state of our country.

All day today, I’ve read posts about how our country, despite it’s 66 years of freedom, is in strife. About how we’re at war both outside and within our borders, the corruption that is plaguing our government, the loss of law and order, the lack of progress, and the list goes on and on. I’ve also had my rants where I’ve complained above all the above and added a few concerns of my own. But why is that this is all we ever do? Complain?

Roads are not proper – what’s the PWD doing? Eve-teasing – where’s the law and order? Another new government scam – all politicians are thugs! Never do we look for a solution, only look for the next scapegoat. If it’s not within the four walls of my compound then it’s the problem of the government. Well, if it’s the government you want to blame then save your breath and blame yourself first. It’s you who chose the government didn’t you? Or wait a minute, did you? Either way you’re to blame – either for choosing someone incompetent or for letting someone incompetent be chosen.

If you really paused to take a look around, you’ll realise, how many of the things you complain about you can fix by yourself. Take a moment and question yourself – did you pay the tax this year? if you did, were you completely truthful when you filled your taxes? have you ever slowed down for a yellow light? stopped people who were bothering a girl? given your seat to a senior citizen on the bus? Most of these questions will be answered with a no. Why is that? Why are we like this?

We’ve become a timid people. Gone is the fire that raged in the heart of every Indian to overthrow the yoke that was holding them enslaved. Gone is the passion that ignited the minds and souls of the young and old alike, to rise in rebellion against a foreign empire. The fire is now replaced by submission or greed. We either sell ourselves to the highest bidder (yes I’m pointing at you, who said that once you became someone you’d do something but got side tracked by your 5 digit salary, swanky apartment and expensive car) or submit ourselves to the daily grind (and now I’m talking to you, mindless drones, who are satisfied as long as your salary covers your food, gadgets and liquor)

What happened to the land, “where the mind is without fear and the head is held high”? We are confined to posting about the greatness of the yesteryear India and cribbing about today’s India. We forget that no nation is perfect. It is up to us, the citizens, to make it perfect. Yes we have our flaws, but which country doesn’t? I’m not being an idealist. Far from it! But if we for a moment reflect on the words of our national anthem as we sing it today, or about the significance of each colour of our Tricolour as it flies high and proud, how can you not feel moved and angered by the condition we’ve confined ourselves to?

We are a free people! But we continue to confine ourselves to the fetters of laziness and indifference while shirking our responsibilities and looking for people to blame for our problems. It is time to break those bonds that chain us to the past and make our own future! Take a stand today and make a difference. Let it be however small a step, but a step it is. Help an old lady cross the road, give your seat to that pregnant lady you see standing, educate a child, the possibilities are endless and the progress immeasurable. We are a land of a billion people. If each of us we to take the tiniest of steps each, imagine the step it is for India. As Neil Armstrong once said, “One small step for man, a giant leap for mankind.”

Today, I take an oath. I make this promise to my country and myself, that within the next 5 years I WILL make a difference. I am here today because my country has afforded me the right to education and an equality of status. Two rights which seem so common place today but which are still a dream to so many. I will be involved in the uplifting of the women and children of our country. It may just be one woman or child at the end of 5 years but I will have guaranteed my country of at least 1 future. After all, actions are supposed to speak louder than words.

The Independence Day Address

A comparison of Pt. Nehru’s to Mr. Singh’s address to the nation on the Independence Day in the year 1947 and 2011 respectively, is a clear reflection of the deterioration in the standard of a country who’s history is long, rich and colored with the hues of celebration and devastation. By stating this I don’t mean to take a shot at Mr. Singh’s character. I believe he is a very learned and scholarly man. Nor do I do I intend to compare him to Pt. Nehru because that wouldn’t help anyone’s cause. What I mean is Mr. Singh’s lack of presence. His ability, or rather inability, to draw attention and  command respect, are the least of which one would expect from a man who represents a Nation as large as ours. His timidness and lack of confidence in the words he utters only add to the already ailing image of the Congress and our great country.

The Prime Minister’s address to the Nation on the Independence Day is probably the most significant speech of their entire career, nay their life! It is one that could make you go down in history! But Mr. Singh chose to keep his make over a hundred school children sit in the rain while he droned for half an hour about how “his government” in the past has accomplished so and so tasks and about the bills that “his government” will bring out in the future for the betterment of the people. What makes it worse is that it actually sounded like a press statement of a government after being struck by a calamity. If you will, a means of letting out his frustrations of FINALLY being able to talk after being tight-lipped while the media kept throwing questions at him. I’m sorry Mr. Prime Minister, but that was a justification of “your government’s” work, not an Independence Day address.

I’ve always envisioned the address to be THE ONE that can move and inspire the people who hear it. Something that is repeated for years to come! One that applauds the Nation and her people for the accomplishments. One that mourns the losses suffered. But also one that enables the people to envision a future that is bright. One which people aspire to live up to or endeavor to achieve. One that instills and emboldens the confidence of the people in the person that they chose to lead them. One that is a celebration of the Nation and all that she represents. One that is the cause of envy for every Prime Minister gone by and something to outshine for future aspirants of the coveted position. I believe it is the best platform and opportunity for one to remind the people of who they are and where they belong while instilling in them pride and love for their country.

In this context, for anyone who takes pride in being an Indian, it is indeed a shame to see that Mr. Singh is how we represent ourselves to the world. This is how the World sees us, as a timid Nation with nothing but defense and justification for everything that’s thrown our way. It makes you think, if the government truly is “Of the people and by the people” then isn’t this WHO we are?