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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Ground Floor

Couple of days ago I saw a story  (watch video) on CBS 5 news where children go to school unplugged. The first graders shuck corn and build a garden, while fourth graders explore the philosophy behind Celtic knot drawing. Personally, I feel that you can not protect something you feel disconnected from, so the first lesson in every school should not be just A-B-C or 1-2-3 but also the bond we share with our environment.

I was reminded of a conversation with my mother-in-law where she lamented that technology has made us lose touch with nature. She opined that youth today are so engrossed in their iPods, their music and their world that they forget the world around them. They miss out the chirping of a bird or the beauty of a day. I remembered the first day I stopped paying attention to people- the day I got excited about having Internet in our home for the first time. She had a point there.

I agree that technology can be put to good use- to gather information, to dissipate new ideas, like this Google ad asserts:

But I too, like many others, spend most of the day making love to my laptop. Of course, some of my best friends are the ones I video-chat with over Internet because they live far away, and I miss having face time with them.

A song from arguably the first Bengali rock band - Moheener Ghoraguli(est 1975) plays in my mind:

পৃথিবীটা নাকি ছোট হতে হতে
Satellite আর Cable-এর হাতে
Drawing Room এ রাখা বোকা বাক্স তে বন্দী
ভেবে দেখেছ কি ?
তারা রাও যত আলোকবর্ষ দূরে
তার ও দূরে
তুমি আর আমি যাই ক্রমে সরে সরে

(Has the world shrunk and been held captive by satellite and cable in the drawing room idiot box? Have you thought about it? Slowly, we drift apart from each other further light-years than the stars.)

I also understand the importance of isolation for creators- how crucial it is to incubate ideas and live in your own world for days till you complete the composition.

Most days, I choose to get out from my third floor apartment, get into the elevator only a few steps away, and switch on the ‘P’ for Parking Garage; blissfully ignoring the ‘G’ for ground floor. And of course, my destination is air-conditioned and so is my mode of transport. On days that I am feeling extremely adventurous, I go out for a walk in the park in front of my house. I marvel at the vignette of the mountains drenched in fading red rays of a setting sun and take pleasure in watching several activities: owners bring out their pets to play, new mothers take out their babies in strollers, visiting parents or families walk together sluggishly, a few men and women play soccer, and a determined, athletic person does his daily rounds of jogging.

I watch them while I sit on a bench or stretch –depending on the time of the evening. Then I go to the gym, promise myself to go to park more often, and forget all about it afterwards. Technology is a beautiful thing. It has done wonders to the way we communicate. But like our daily requirements of dietary fiber, we need our basic daily dose of ground floor trips where we step out of our comfortable corners and walk on the face of the earth, albeit on a paved footpath. Weather permitting.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

If I had to marry my rapist

I read this article on CNN about the difficult choice a woman made when she had to choose between marrying her rapist and serving a sentence in jail. Several outraged women suggested that she should marry him and exact vengeance by poisoning him etc. It is all very good from an idealist’s point of view. A film maker of moderate talent might even make a heart-wrenching tale out of her plight. But my rage is towards the options she has or doesn’t have.

Media influence
My first impression about rape was extracted from the Bollywood movies of the 80s and the 90s, some of which depicted rape as a visual treat for the audience. I often wondered why such scenes were allowed for public viewing while something as natural as love-making was considered taboo. In a certain sub-genre of horror films, a female gang-rape victim killed after the assault turned into a white saree-clad ghost who seduced men and killed them on the mere pretext of their ogling at her.

Growing up
When I was growing up, I heard from my close friends or cousins – how they were made to discover their developing sexuality by a stranger groping them at an unguarded moment or a close acquaintance of the family making a remark about their growing assets privately. Growing up was a shame. There was no one to condition the mind and prepare it for the developments of the body. The well-intended Moral Science classes at school were not enough.

After my much protected childhood, I started living away from my family for my undergrads in NCR. I was told that there are certain things you should take care of if you don’t want to be violated against your will. Most newspapers and hostel seniors forewarned girls against accepting drinks from strangers. Of course, there are enough predators wishing they could take advantage of you while you are sober to let intoxicated senses pose no difficulty of access for unwanted elements.

Crime prone areas: NCR
As an undergraduate student, I often read in the newspapers: “North East girl gang raped in Delhi’. She was on her way from work, was a BPO employee or a student taking a morning walk with her friend in the early hours of the morning. Then the report of a similar incident at a nearby place followed. The most sex-crime prone areas would be listed yet another time.

Years later, nothing has changed, it has only worsened: the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) of home ministry revealed that the rape cases in the capital increased from 459 in 2009 to 489 in 2010, in spite of the fact that only 1 in every 69 rape case is ever reported in India.

Demographic of the most-effected victims in NCR
NGOs report that about half of the sexually assaulted women belong to North East. Women with distinct physical features like small eyes are more prone to attacks because the attacker knows that the person is not from around the region, and more often the victim decides to leave NCR and go back home than face taunts on the street and go through the whole ordeal of a quadriplegic justice system.

The CM of Delhi, Sheila Dixit promised the community to set up a hostel for working women from North-East but few have moved to the one that has come up in Jasola because it is located in a remote area and has poor security.

War rapes
We know that rape is not always a means of sexual gratification; it is an attempt at psychological dominance by humiliating the victim. The offender often feels the need to control the situation and uses aggression to hurt and control.

Whatever the psychodynamics of the assault are, what every woman needs to know is that you can protect yourself from certain situations. But if an accident happens, you don’t need to let it define you or your relations. There is no reason to feel less worthy as a human being.

Our social institutions might not always help us deal with difficult situations like this, but self-suggestion can help us reduce the damaging effect of the assault. I can’t speak for the woman who had to leave her job or the woman who has to marry her rapist, but for some of us, who have the right to choose, can choose to live with dignity. An animal blinded by lust can’t be the biggest thing that happened to us or the most important parameter of measuring our lives.

Read the title of this post again, if you don't have to make such a difficult choice, you are already on your way to recovery.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Tuesday, November 01, 2011


I had an interesting conversation with my friends about why people choose to cheat. In this case, the Nash equilibrium would be when both partners choose to be loyal to each other (1,1)and the pay-offs are great. But sometimes, the fear is the possibility of being fooled by the other (1,-1) (-1,1) and be let down. An extreme outcome (and prevalent social scenario)would be when both choose to betray the other (0,0) Maybe the betrayal doesn't feel so bad then.

Also, think of the relation between a corporation (A) and an employee (B). The employee chooses to be faithful to his/her firm- gives his/her best shot at work and do more than asked. The firm in return provides ample scope for growth, gives incentives for hard work and so on and so forth and the relation is a long, strong one. The employee doesn't feel he has wasted his efforts and the firm is confident of its most essential resource : its employees. But if the employee is lazy, or not giving his best- wary that it will be unacknowledged, he/she will not be loyal to work and attrition will follow (1,-1). The firm might downsize or let go of people to cut down operations costs. Even a hard-working employee will feel cheated then (-1,1). In times of economic affluence, a firm might not care what quality of work is produced, and the employee may take no care of improving performance (0,0). Both lose.