Wednesday 19 September 2012

Does time heal everything?

Who said time heals everything? It’s been five years, yes five long years, and the pain hasn’t healed at all. Maybe it’s just got easier to bare the pain, easier to cope with things. Had it healed, maybe I would have had a reason to celebrate this day!

Wish I could celebrate it as any other festival, but no. I’m unable to, for two reasons. One I have got used to the amount of pain and memories associated with this particular day bring in and the other, somebody else, who like me might have had millions of dreams before entering the wedlock on this day, now might have same million reasons to curse her fate, curse this day!

A day which was supposed to be a “Red Letter Day”, as someone had mentioned to me very proudly, is in no way remains so. If not for anybody, at least for the girl, ok let me call her my friend to make things simple! After getting divorce, I don’t think either she or her family will ever be able to rejoice this day, as it also happens to be her wedding anniversary…

It’s been five years, five long years, since I celebrated Ganesha Chaturthi, the way we did before my wedding. I thought, maybe this year I would, but no. Her hapless face came to my mind and the day started badly.

I did celebrate Gowri festival yesterday and I was happy too, even though I missed my family very badly. I thought I would manage to celebrate Ganesha festival too, but some memories are too strong to forget, some pains are too hard to let go.

Every single word echoes in my ears, the words which I had not expected, which I can’t forget till my last breath. As years pass by, I see how the amount of pain I have gone through is bouncing back on the perpetrators and all I say is time doesn’t heal the pain, but it makes us mature enough to bare the pain, easier to cope with things.

Today, standing here, away from those people, away from those taunting words, I look back and console myself at least I’m able to do so many things, at least I have learnt something – to face life, to face good and unfortunately, often bad people, to wait patiently and courage to look back into the past, into the good and bad memories.

Now, at this stage, I don’t think I have that many regrets, of taking decisions and of waiting patiently to see my day coming, even though it has been a long and lone journey. I think people who made me to wait to go through this journey have realized it, if not, they will, very soon… And I wish at least next year, I will be able to celebrate this festival, with due sympathies to my friend, hope she gets all the courage to face those people and the world, and I’m sure she will!

Happy Gowri and Ganesha Festival J   

All-veg McDonald's eyes India's holy sites

Fast-food giant is opening its first-ever, all-vegetarian restaurants in India, but could stoke a religious backlash.

Move over greasy burgers, the world's most recognisable fast food chain is about to go vegetarian.

McDonald's has announced plans to open its first-ever, all-vegetarian restaurants in India - a country of 1.2 billion people - where cows are sacred to majority Hindus, and swine are considered unclean by minority Muslims.

The mega-chain - known for its "100 per cent pure beef" - has faced significant culinary obstacles in India, as 80 per cent of the population does not consume the restaurant's main staple.

India also boasts a Muslim population of about 150 million, meaning pork is culled from the menu.

Hence the focus on all-vegetarian outlets. McDonald's menu is already 50 per cent vegetarian in India, and the chain has made a significant effort to adapt to local tastes. On offer are items such as the McAloo Tikki burger, Pizza McPuff and Maharaja Mac - made with a chicken fillet.

"We have always been cognizant of the religion-based and other sensitivities of our customers," company spokesman Rajesh Kumar Maini told Al Jazeera. "We believe this endeavour of ours will also be well accepted." 

Read more here...

Tuesday 18 September 2012

The dark side of social media

Earlier dictators and politicians made to the headlines. Times are changing and anyone can make history, not just some big politicians or celebrities. Even an ordinary person like a fruit vendor or a lousy filmmaker can hit the headlines, drawing the attention of the world, thanks to the digital world. People now have power to speak beyond their geographical confines.

Erstwhile unknown singers become famous overnight with a well-placed YouTube video and haters can pinch the right nerve endings at the most vulnerable time so American missions anywhere can go up in flames.

No wonder, countries are struggling hard to clamp down on the internet freedom on its citizens. One can be just a mute spectator if not stunned by the swiftness with which social media can change world events. Interestingly, no longer countries and terrorist organisations have “a monopoly of power to press those dangerous buttons. Those buttons are available now for as little as $199 for the latest iPhone”.

Andrew Lam, an editor with New America Media, has written an excellent article on this issue and here’s the original piece:

In 2010, Time magazine's prestigious Person of the Year title went to Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook. He was the choice of the magazine's editors, though its readers picked Julian Assange, the founder of the whistle-blower website WikiLeaks.

"Facebook is now the third-largest country on earth and surely has more information about its citizens than any government does," the magazine noted. Assange, for his part, undermined nation states' public narratives by providing a platform where individuals can anonymously show their government's dark underbellies.

In 2011, a fruit vendor made the cut. Mohammed Bouazizi, a Tunisian who set himself ablaze protesting at corruption, became literally the torch that lit the Arab spring revolution. Bouazizi's death was seen by many who had mobile phones and the videos kick-started the uprising.

This year, no doubt Time can add "Nakoula Basseley Nakoula", aka "Sam Bacile", as a contender. An unknown amateur filmmaker until this week, he fanned anti-America outrage in the Middle East with incendiary video clips of a US-made film that mocked and insulted the Prophet Mohammed.

Nakoula/Bacile is in hiding and may in fact be fictitious. Evidence now points to him as an Egyptian Coptic Christian who holds grudges against Islam.

The jury is out on who instigated the violence against US personnel in Libya, resulting in the death of the American ambassador and three others. The attack was carefully planned, it was reported, and not the mere work of angry protesters - but few doubt that the film had a direct effect in stoking anger in the Middle East.

In the global age, it seems that not only dictators or overzealous elected heads of state with the power of pre-emptive strikes can direct history to the edge of an abyss, but also fruit vendors and lousy filmmakers.
Even al-Qaeda, for all its planning and propaganda, hasn't achieved what the film and its 14-minute YouTube trailer has; quickly undermining much of the US' soft diplomacy in the region.

In a blog for The Boston Globe, a friend of slain ambassador Chris Stevens asked: "How could Chris Stevens die because of a YouTube clip?" Alas, the answer is: why not in our information age?

It is worth noting that within a day after the deaths in Libya, Apple launched its iPhone5. Through the digital world, people attain power to speak beyond their geographical confines. Erstwhile, unknown singers can become famous overnight with a well-placed YouTube video. And haters can pinch the right nerve endings at the most vulnerable time so American missions anywhere can go up in flames.

Nation states are stunned by the swiftness with which social media can change world events. Excited copycats are waiting in the wings. Why not make a false video showing Japanese killing Chinese on Diaoyu Islands? Why not show blurry videos of Pakistani soldiers raping Hindu women in Kashmir? The list is endless.

This moronic filmmaker has made his point. No longer do heads of state and terrorist organisations have a monopoly of power to press those dangerous buttons. Those buttons are available now for as little as US$199 for the latest iPhone.

Stopping Rape

How many women go public when it comes the issue of rape? Today, I bumped into an article written by Niamh Ni Mhaoileoin, an Irish writer, globetrotter and a feminist for hire, who campaigns against domestic violence, prostitution and human trafficking. Her first-hand experience makes the reading worth it.

She describes how she was a victim of “legitimate rape”. Rape and that too legitimate, yes, I wondered. But after reading it, I realized yes, sometimes it is dubbed as legitimate!

Many may believe that “they don’t know any rape victims”, but how could that be? This impression persists because “victims are pressured into silence”.

When she says: “I was raped. Acknowledging that is severely painful, but the pain isn’t exclusively mine. Rape, every time it happens, is a loss and an affront to us all,” we agree with her that it’s time to “recognise that and stop it happening”.

Here’s the original article:

About ten months ago, I went through exactly what’s been described as “legitimate rape”. I was raped late at night, on a dark street, by a stranger, at knife point. It was entirely stereotypical. With one exception. The man didn’t have any English, but just before he ran away he said one word to me. “Sorry”.

Moments previously, he was terrifying, he had complete control over my body and my survival and then suddenly he became terrified himself and was completely diminished. He wasn’t a monster, he wasn’t evil. He’d just lost his empathy. For fifteen or twenty minutes he was completely desensitised to the fact that I was a human too. He was weak and pathetic.

In that moment, before I’d had any time to think or process, I was overwhelmingly relieved to be in my position and not his. My body, mind and dignity were all severely wounded, but my humanity was intact.

The last few weeks have been intensely difficult. Each time I risk thinking “it can’t get any worse” someone else in a position of power, an Akin, Assange, Galloway or Smith, casually dismisses and disparages the victims of rape. Those of us in the feminist (read: humane) community have understandably lashed out in various angry, emotional ways. However, as every possible aspect of rape is interrogated across the political spectrum, I feel there’s something missing. As a friend of mine put it, “we’ve mocked, raged and laughed because we didn’t know what else to do for long enough.” Sexual and gender-based violence is rarely, if ever, so high on the political agenda. So this isn’t a moment to simply rage against individual figures and offences. Instead, it’s time to galvanise the pain and anger into a solutions-based discussion of the one question that really matters.

How do we stop rape?

We can educate young people, frankly and non-judgmentally, about what consent is because it has become frighteningly apparent that they genuinely don’t know. Victims don’t report rape, because it’s hours, days, weeks or years before that they realise that they were raped. Friends, families, doctors, lawyers, judges and politicians don’t give rape victims the support they need or rapists the judgement they deserve because they don’t believe that what happened was “legitimate rape”.

Most importantly, the confusion over consent actively causes rape to occur because potential perpetrators don’t develop the necessary checks on their sexual behaviour. Ignorance should not be a defence. The victim has to endure trauma, injury and shame whether or not the rapist understood the gravity of what he was doing.  That said, if you read the ‘Reddit Rapist’ thread  multiple men recount experiences of withdrawing from a sexual encounter at the last minute, having seen the fear or horror on their partners’ faces. They are haunted and frightened by how close they came to rape. Now think of all the young men who didn’t notice, have raped and could have spared both themselves and their victims if they’d been given more education and taught more sensitivity.

Most of us, if we had any sex education at all, were students of the Tina Fey school of sex-ed; “If you have sex you will get chlamydia and die!” It’s directive, blunt and too often taught by ill-equipped teachers, who are victims of the same sexual taboos as their students. As a result, the students never get to ask the important questions and sexual expectations are filtered through porn, romcoms, religious beliefs, Fifty Shades of Grey, gendered expectations, peer pressure and groundless braggadocio.

Imagine instead, effective courses in “Sexuality and Society”, peer-supported and led by well-trained, respectful adults. No matter how cool they try to play it, teenagers, like us all, are scared at the prospect of sex. Who’s having it? How are they having it? How often are they having it? Is it only slutty girls who instigate sex? Is the man expected to take control? Do women actually say no when they mean yes? Can men be raped? Do you have to perform oral sex? What are the sexual dynamics of gay relationships?

When there’s an enforced hush around these subjects, they take on vastly greater power and significance. An issue that could have been dealt with in an hour in a classroom or community group must instead be dealt with over a lifetime of shame, guilt, trauma, and sexual dysfunction. All because adults are squeamish about sex. Achieving change will require individuals, particularly parents and teachers, to consciously roll back the sexual stigma and taboo we’ve all been raised with, but it’s a price worth paying.

We already have our trailblazers for this process. The women and men who, in the face of a society that shames and blames them, come out as victims and survivors of rape who refuse to be silenced or stigmatised.

The phrase “come out” is chosen deliberately. The LGBT community has long recognised that by coming out and creating a human face for homosexuality, individuals can affect dramatic social change. Suddenly ordinary people can’t view homosexuality as something that happens far away in big cities, among a particular type of people. Rather, it’s in their workplaces, in their churches, in their schools, in their living rooms, in their families. Gay people become ordinary people too.

The same thing can happen with rape. At present, many people believe that they don’t know any rape victims. That’s close to statistically impossible, but the impression persists because victims are pressured into silence. So people can continue to believe that rape happens to certain types of women, that it’s committed by certain types of obviously depraved men, that it can be prevented by demure behaviour and good sense. When victims are empowered to speak out, that process of distancing becomes impossible. Rape becomes a real issue in people’s communities, families, lives and living rooms. And that makes it an urgent political issue.

I was raped. Acknowledging that is severely painful, but the pain isn’t exclusively mine. Rape, every time it happens, is a loss and an affront to us all. Let’s recognise that and let’s stop it happening.

(Source: Daily Cloudt)

'Hitler' shop sends India shockwave

A new store called 'Hitler' raises fears that right-wing ideology could be finding takers in the land of Gandhi.

"Hitler" covers the black store front in large white letters - a red swastika dotting the "i". The name of the new men's clothing store has caused a stir in India's Ahmedabad city. 

Ignorance over Adolf Hitler's dark history, or a tasteless shock-advertising scheme? That's the question being asked after Rajesh Shah named his shop after the Nazi dictator, who took over Germany in the 1930s and then tried to conquer Europe.

The small Jewish community in Ahmedabad in western Gujarat state - numbering less than 500 - is up-in-arms and demanding he change the name. But Shah says to do so would bite into his profits. 

"If the Jewish community wants the name to be changed, they should pay for it. I have spent too much on the logo ... the brand," Shah told Al Jazeera, refusing to divulge how much it would cost.

Unlike most countries in the world, in India it is not uncommon for the name Hitler to represent businesses, movies, TV programmes, and even people's names - a strange reality to outside observers, but one that is accepted without much thought by ordinary Indians. The swastika, meanwhile, was used as a Hindu symbol long before the Nazis adopted it.

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