Tuesday 28 February 2017

I don't want a girl child

I don't want a girl child
Can't see her cry like me
Can't see her cry for love
Can't see her cry for care

Can't see her suffer the pain of doing so much yet being blamed
Can't see her live under the pressure that she will be loved only if she lives upto "their" expectations.
Those people who do not even know her,
Those people for whom she will get a glass of water and yet listen to "Oh! I drink water in that glass not this"

But her father loved her by getting her hot milk when she fell sick or just like that in routine.
I don't want her to live in hell for the fear that if she tries to come out of the dark
Then her father will be hurt to the extent that he might live
But will not believe in her dreams ever and will kill to see her smile again.

I don't want a girl
Coz I can't see her die and keep everyone happy.
I can't see her doing everything for him and yet listen to "You do it to taunt".
I hate being a wife
I hate being a daughter-in-law
I hate being a double XX
I wish I could stay just a daddy's daughter forever.

(Source: AkkarBakkar)

The great Indian marriage is dead

The great Indian marriage is dead. The carcasses are still lying around the urban landscape and have not been cleared yet. Nobody has a clue what to do about the death of this mighty institution. But the beast that has replaced it has driven fear into the heart of the Indian man.

This beast is quite biased towards women, quite like King Kong had a soft spot for Ann Darrow. How can anyone forget the scene where King Kong picks her up and holds her under the waterfall and loving looks at her while she takes a shower?

What will the woman do with this beast? She will tame the beast and make it her pet and then what? The Indian man will become a plaything for the woman, much like she was for centuries when the great Indian marriage was still well flourishing. Of course, the pati parmeshwar, a translation of which means the husband God, is still struggling with his fall from grace. But he needs to recover quickly from his dethronement from the throne of invincibility.

Not only has he fallen, but also lies completely exposed. He has gone from being a powerful God to being a mere mortal whose failures are exposed to counsellors and best friends alike. He has nowhere to hide. And in many cases he gets booted out for not being competent enough or emotional enough or supportive enough.

But the Indian man may not become completely redundant if he decides to break through the paradigms that he is familiar with. He too can be a part of the new world order, if he manages to evolve fast enough that is. This will be as difficult as learning a new language after the age of 35. It basically means he will have to go against his conditioning.

First, he will have to lose his sense of entitlement. This is probably the hardest step. The Indian man is born with a great sense of entitlement. It is in his DNA and it is the primary reason why he is in this pathetic state.

In the New Age marriage, he has no exclusive privileges or rights for just being a "husband". A husband is no more synonymous with worship or indemnity. And to accept this, the man has to do something he has never had to do before. He has to look at it as a marriage of equals. Where his wife can do to him what he can do to her. This is a new equation that he will have to quickly learn.

Another problem the Indian man will have to figure out is how he is going to reinforce the balance in the marriage. He always had the scales tipping for him, as he was the sole breadwinner. But when that is taken away from him the scales go completely awry. And they tip dangerously towards women.

When a woman earns as much or more than her husband and runs her home like clockwork, why does she need him? The Indian man has to answer this question. Not a comfortable one. A marriage is all about give and take. And the woman has no reason to stay if she gives way more than she gets. And the age-old answer of "I-am-the-breadwinner-and-can-do-what-I-like" doesn’t cut it anymore.

But there is a solution to this mess. And it is actually quite a simple solution. From what I have gathered from most stories that I have collected over the years from friends and strangers, what changes drastically from the honeymoon period to the later years of marriage is the sex. Men become lazy and the sex becomes unsatisfactory. But say there is a marriage where the sex is great (I have only encountered one such case in the many people I have spoken to) why would the woman have reason to complain.

If the husband is giving her attention in the bedroom, it is likely that she will forgive him most of his failures and stay with him.

Again his sense of entitlement makes the Indian man a poor lover. He only looks at his own pleasure and not that of his wife. She is there to please him. He is by nature, a taker and to be a great lover you have to think of your partner and her pleasure and be ready to give. He has to work hard in this department. Women are harder to please than men and a little bit of effort will go a long way in keeping the wife satisfied.

There is an interesting point to be made here. The greatest lover we have in Indian literature is Devdas, who was so self-absorbed that he could barely see beyond his own misery. We don’t have a Don Juan in Indian literature. Strangely, where Indian literature has no great lovers, mythology is abundant with them. Krishna was supposed to be an irresistible lover – who charmed milkmaids and princesses alike and had them swooning. Have we as a culture lost its passion along the way? It’s possible.

But it shouldn’t be too hard for the men to relearn the art of loving and sex. After all we come from the land of the great Kamasutra, which has 101 positions to experiment with. Of course he will have to also work at being fit because these positions are impossible to pull off with a paunch. This would actually be good for him, as it seems that he is the unhealthiest specimen on the planet.

He absolutely needs to pleasure his wife or he is on his way to joining the congress in becoming extinct.

Some men have already understood this new version of the Indian marriage and have seamlessly moved into this operating system. But most men are struggling and they don’t have a clue about what’s going on.

The Indian wife can be kind and nurturing, but in her new empowered avatar she can be ruthless when she is unhappy. And if you can’t make her happy she will throw you on the bus headed for divorce land.

I feel quite sorry for the Indian man. But he had it coming and he had a long time to be prepared.

(Source: Daily O)

Kerala priest says satan is altering women’s clothes

A video that’s been making the rounds on social media of a priest’s frankly creepy sermon in Kerala has broken records in being disgusting.

The priest begins his address by saying that when he sees some women in church approaching the altar for communion, he feels like throwing them out or leaving the church himself (wish he would) because of the clothes that they wear. The clothes in question? Jeans and pants, shirts and banians. He mocks women in jeans by saying that they wear indecent clothes and come to church pretending to be holier than Mary, and that instead of receiving blessings, women dressed like this would be cursed by god.

He goes on to discuss the three ways in which Satan changes the salwar-kameez (called a churidar in Kerala), an outfit that meets with his approval when it isn’t given to the devil for alteration. Firstly, Satan has thrown the dupatta away causing women to walk in a manner that suggests, to nobody in the world except this priest, that everyone must look at them. Second, Satan cuts the slit of the top up to a point that the priest says he doesn’t want to mention. And finally, Satan makes the pants as tight as a banian.

After dissing Satan’s skills as a tailor, he goes on to talk with much sympathy about boys who have approached him to complain about the sinful thoughts they had upon seeing women in jeans outside the church, and how evil it is of women to tempt boys and provoke them into sin by the clothes they wear. He then says that the Bible recommends that women who do this should have a rock tied to their neck and be drowned in the sea.

He finishes up with two family stories. One was to vilify a mother who dressed her daughter in clothes that the priest didn’t approve of, which he therefore automatically labels as a bid by the mother to get her daughter attention from strangers. The second was an anecdote about a scene that took place at an abortion clinic. Upon meeting a family seen at an abortion clinic, he found that a brother had impregnated his older sister because she wore “knickers” (a Malayalam word for shorts I guess) at home, and therefore he couldn’t stop himself from having sex with her when his parents went to work.

The only good thing about this video is how fed up and irritated all the women in the audience look. The whole speech is in Malayalam, but you can watch it here if you want. It was originally aired on Shalom TV.

(Source: The Ladies Finger)

How an all-female radio station in the "Rape Capital of the World" is changing the conversation

Women in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, known as the "rape capital of the world," are often portrayed in the media as tragic figures. Douce Namwezi, a 28-year-old Congolese journalist, was tired of seeing the same clichéd stories and felt that career-oriented women like herself in the country's emerging middle class were being overlooked. "Congolese women aren't just victims of rape or economic hardship," she says. "We are dynamic—we're leaders, we're friends, we're mothers."

The work hasn't been easy. It took four years to make the station a reality, and keeping it in business amid an ongoing civil war and a lack of infrastructure and funding is a challenge. Namwezi even had to overcome nay-saying male colleagues at competing radio stations who said that the station would fail within a month. Instead, one year and 2 million listeners later, MAMA Radio has become the talk of the town.


Last March, Namwezi founded MAMA Radio, the nation's first radio station by and for women. While other local stations play rumba tunes or discuss the latest football match, MAMA Radio has run segments on why it's OK for women to wear pants and the challenges of being a military wife, and hosted a call-in show on birth-control options. The 23-person staff also solicits stories from non- journalists, women who, Namwezi says, are told by society that they are to be seen, not heard. "It's really important for women to tell their own stories," she says. "We teach them how to do everything from holding a microphone to developing a narrative."

(Source: Marie Claire)

Indians are working too much – and it's making them sick and tired

In a country where the incidence of heart disease and diabetes is on the rise, and deadly pollution levels endanger the lives of millions, there’s one quiet health concern that doesn’t get much public attention: fatigue.

But over one in five Indians aged between 18 and 64 (22%) are concerned about being tired more than anything else, including blood pressure and diabetes, according to recently released research report by Mintel. And this figure increases among women: 25% of Indian women interviewed by the market intelligence company said tiredness was their top health concern. Mintel surveyed 3,029 Indians last June.

Given the nature of India’s work culture, these numbers are not surprising. If there’s one country that disproves John Maynard Keynes’ prediction that the future would bring with it plentiful leisure time, it’s India.

Work-life balance is a bit of a national joke, with employees working around 2,195 hours on average every year, far more than those in most other countries. Indian millennials reportedly spend a whopping 52 hours a week at work, outpacing their counterparts in the US, UK, and even China by quite a big margin. And last year, India was the world’s fourth-most vacation-deprived nation.

But long-term fatigue is a public health problem, posing a risk to immunity. It can also be an indication of other, more serious conditions, including anemia, depression, and even diabetes, meaning it’s one health concern that everyone must definitely take more seriously.

Try telling that to the Indians on nights shifts and long-duty hours.

(Source: Scroll)

How an ordinary girl became IAS officer and sent father’s murderers behind bars

This story is about the extreme struggles of a woman who is known as a fiery IAS officer today. Her name is enough to send chills down the spine of even the most notorious criminals. But the hardship that she faced while growing up will make your heart rattle.

In her childhood, at an age when she should have played with her friends, this girl had to travel with her mother from a small town in Uttar Pradesh to the Supreme Court in Delhi, sit all day in court and come back home at the night. At that time, the little girl had no idea that this struggle will continue for the next 31 years.

This girl was only six-months-old when her father, who was a police officer, was killed by his own colleagues. After losing her father she was raised by her widowed mother with great difficulties. From early childhood, she understood their life struggles and built the strength within herself to fight against all odds. You will not believe how this girl worked hard to be successful in the IAS exam, then made her younger sister an IAS officer and finally helped his father’s killers go behind the bars after 31 years of trial. This is not a plot adapted from a film but a real life story that inspires the masses to stand up for their rights.

This story about Kinjal Singh (on the right in the photo above) who is one of the most popular lady IAS officers of India. In the year 1982, her father district Deputy Superintendent of Police KP Singh was shot dead by his own colleagues in Gonda. At that time Kinjal was just six-month-old and her sister was still in her mother’s womb.

The lonely widowed mother Vibha Singh has raised both Kinjal and her sister Pranjal while fighting against his husband’s murderers. Kinjal’s mother got a job in a treasury in Varanasi but majority of her salary went in doing the rounds of courts. Despite all difficulties, their mother always encouraged her daughters to study hard and reminded them of the unfulfilled dream of their father who wanted to become an IAS officer. The results of IAS examination came out a few days after he was killed and it was revealed that he had passed the examination.

Kinjal and her younger sister Pranjal gave their everything to continue their studies and become successful in life. Kinjal being a topper in studies all through her childhood got admission in the prestigious Lady Shri Ram College in Delhi. During the first semester of graduation, Kinjal came to know that her mother was suffering from cancer and will soon die. The news came to her as a brutal shock. Kinjal, who already lost her father, had no one else in this world to support her in life apart from her mother. The health status of her mother deteriorated further after going through several rounds of chemotherapy. But, her mother was fighting against the disease with every bit of energy left in her body. The fear of leaving her daughters alone in this world was making her anxious.

Kinjal found it extremely difficult to watch her mother go through this unbearable phase. She then promised her that one day both the sisters will become IAS officers and will bring justice by getting their father’s killers punished. The confidence in her tone gave Vibha Devi the much-needed mental peace and she died a few days later. Kinjal had to return back to Delhi after two days of her mother’s demise as she had to sit for an examination. Kinjal coped with all the difficulties and won the gold medal for becoming the topper in Delhi University.

But the time had now arrived to fulfill the promise she made to her mother. After finishing her graduation, Kinjal called her younger sister to Delhi and rented an apartment in Mukherjee Nagar. There the two sisters started their preparation to crack the IAS examination. At that time their uncle and aunt took care of them.

While other girls used to visit their friends and family at regular intervals, the sisters always remained focused on their studies and did not go to their hometown even during the festive season. The sisters became each other’s strength and inspired each other continuously. Then the day came that was witnessed by the whole nation. The results were announced and both the sisters cleared the IAS examination in 2007 and fulfilled their mother’s dream. Kinjal ranked 25th in the merit list of IAS examination while her sister secured the 252nd rank.

The two sisters then took over the battle to give justice for their murdered father. Their determination shook the judiciary of India. The Uttar Pradesh court gave death sentence to three of the policemen charged with the murder of the DSP KP Singh. After 31 years of struggle, on June 5th, 2013 the CBI special court in Lucknow gave the due punishment to all the 18 policemen responsible for the killing DSP KP Singh.

Today, Kinjal Singh is known as one of the most honest and stern IAS officers of the country. But her journey till this point was not an easy one. She had to go through the extreme struggle to reach this stage of life. Despite losing her father at the age of 6 months, she learned to fight with the situations and become an IAS officer on her own. She also helped her sister to become an IAS officer thus fulfilling their mother’s dream.

By giving punishment to their father’s killers Kinjal has proved again that the daughters are equally competent and no way less than the sons. Kinjal Singh’s success is an inspiration to every Indian.

(Source: Kenfolios)

Engineers in Gaza convert the rubble of war into concrete for rebuilding

An all-female team of engineers in Gaza have invented an affordable new way to produce concrete from the leftover rubble of homes destroyed during the last war in Gaza. And the four women behind the project–Nour Buhaisi, Aya Abu Hashish, Rahma Ashour, and Angham Elmadhoun–are challenging stereotypes along the way.

The women want to scale their operation for mass production and are looking to get a contract with a private company or a non-governmental organization. They aspire to create a needed alternative to the expensive and time-consuming process of importing construction materials into Gaza by relying mostly on recycled materials.

The first time the engineers made their formula they were still students pursuing their undergraduate degrees. After 11 months of scientific experiments, they finally made this first sample by gathering 44 pounds of glass and crushing it in a laboratory at the Islamic University of Gaza, in Gaza City. The glass was mechanically ground for 15 hours, yielding a very soft powder. Then, they combined it with cement, silica fume (a silicon-based material), crushed concrete blocks and fly ash made from spent coal. The mixture was then compacted under high pressure.

To their surprise, the engineers produced a durable concrete on the first try.

An all-female team of engineers in Gaza have invented an affordable new way to produce concrete from the leftover rubble of homes destroyed during the last war in Gaza. And the four women behind the project–Nour Buhaisi, Aya Abu Hashish, Rahma Ashour, and Angham Elmadhoun–are challenging stereotypes along the way.

The women want to scale their operation for mass production and are looking to get a contract with a private company or a non-governmental organization. They aspire to create a needed alternative to the expensive and time-consuming process of importing construction materials into Gaza by relying mostly on recycled materials.

The first time the engineers made their formula they were still students pursuing their undergraduate degrees. After 11 months of scientific experiments, they finally made this first sample by gathering 44 pounds of glass and crushing it in a laboratory at the Islamic University of Gaza, in Gaza City. The glass was mechanically ground for 15 hours, yielding a very soft powder. Then, they combined it with cement, silica fume (a silicon-based material), crushed concrete blocks and fly ash made from spent coal. The mixture was then compacted under high pressure.

To their surprise, the engineers produced a durable concrete on the first try.

“We were determined to find a practical project, not to remain dead in the water in a back corner of our university’s library.” Buhaisi said, “we intended to make environment-friendly cement and we produced double the strength of regular cement, so we killed two birds with one stone.”

In Gaza, cement is a scarce resource. Buhaisi told Mondoweiss this is because of 11 years of the blockade. The cement deficit if further compounded the last war. And the wreckage has deprived some 40,000 workers of employment in the construction sector.

After the last assault on Gaza in 2014, the United Nations estimated 120,000 residential units were destroyed in full or in part. Of them, 71,000 are already rebuilt and construction is underway on an additional 12,000. Over 57,000 housing units still need to be rebuilt and not all of the rubble from these destroyed homes has been cleared.

“In any neighborhood, you might find dozens of hills still littered with free-standing crushed concrete blocks and wide areas scattered with broken glass. The fact that the glass is a not an eco-friendly component [to produce], made us feel that our project is an increasingly bright idea,” Buhaisi added.

The female team said they hope to speed the pace of reconstruction. Rebuilding could take a century, according to a Feb. 2015 Oxfam report that said, “At current rates, it could take more than 100 years to complete the essential building of homes.”

In part, rebuilding is stalled due to Israeli restrictions on the import of cement. Israeli regulations limit so-called “dual use” substances from entering Gaza. These include building materials that are used for homes, but also have potential to build tunnels or an underground cache of weapons.

After the 2014 war in Gaza, imports of construction materials were further limited by the United Nations-brokered Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism (GRM), and agreement between the Palestinian and Israeli governments. The GRM caps and monitors imports of cement and reinforcement bars–also called ABC materials. When possible violations to the deal occur, Israel can freeze imports.

Last April Israel suspended all private sector cement imports into Gaza’s for 45 days. At that time Israel had said Hamas was siphoning cement off for military purposes. Still, international organizations were allowed continue to their cement shipments, where Israel permitted around only 3,500 to 4,000 tons of cement to enter Gaza per day, which is a small amount when weighed against the urgent need.

After the last war, UNRWA found a total of 1.5 million tons of concrete was needed to rebuild Gaza.

The female engineers saw the burden the GRM imposed on Gaza’s homeless and wanted to bypass the chain of obstacles most Palestinians face. “We aimed to help our people to rebuild their destroyed houses after three wars in a decade, which left thousands of buildings flattened,” Buhaisi said.

Buhaisi added her project will solve a related problem in Gaza: the lack of landfills, specifically what to do with tons of non-biodegradable glass. Her team has a use for glass waste as a base material for the new concrete. Larger scale production could improve the local visual landscape.

As for fly ash, another main material in the concrete recipe, the engineers collected it by asking the local restaurants if they could take cinders from their grills. This sparked many curious questions from barbecue owners.

“Restaurant owners were wondering if the cement will be a ‘barbecue blend,’ and joked that tiny steaks would appear inside of concrete walls,” Buhaisi said.

(Source: Mondoweiss)

Monday 27 February 2017

Am I the only one being driven mad by wife ‘jokes’ on WhatsApp?

I keep getting crap messages on WhatsApp almost everyday. What seriously irriates me is the ones which target woman, or a wife. She is often made a butt of joke. And think what? These messages are not sent just by men, even by women also. Here's a story on the Ladies Finger which talks on the issue:

I joined WhatsApp in 2015. Because my father insisted. It would be a more convenient way to stay in touch; it’s a lot of fun, he said.

Soon, I was added to existing groups of family and friends both in the US and India. The usual jokes, memes and feel-good mantras that ping and rebound across the world quickly followed. I learned new tricks, became savvier with each app update. It was fun to reconnect with old friends and cousins. Everyone looked amazing in the pictures they shared. The world had never seemed smaller. This thing was genius!

Then came the steady stream of sexist jokes about bitchy wives who oppressed their husbands, and how shaadi is barbaadi — for men.

It wasn’t only the men who were sharing these jokes; it was the women. And these jokes multiplied like blowflies.

Did you ever get the one about Americans calling their wives “honey” and Indians calling them “Bee-Bee” instead? Because they sting twice as hard. Or watch the video where the husband calls to complain to his mother-in-law that the product he got from her is a defective piece? Refund, please. The one in which a young girl asks a baba: Why do boys have all the freedom but girls are held back in their homes? Because boys are like iron and girls, gold. One keeps gold in a vault, that’s why.

Predictably, I began rebuking my friends and cousins — not my finest moment, I’ll admit. Everyone around me tried to tell me: “Be patient,” “don’t get so emotional,” “it’s just a joke, yaar!”

No, it’s not just a joke.

So many of the women in my NRI and Indian groups are sweet and kind, devout in their values and beliefs. But they put up with these jokes. Share them. Respond with thumbs up, clapping, and laughing emojis even.

These jokes do not offend them. I offend them more when I call out the sexism. “We respect women, yaar. This is just for fun,” was the universal defense.

I’m not so sure. They wouldn’t share maa-behen gaalis with such ease, then why such jokes? What is it about WhatsApp and our tone-deafness to the steady loop of misogynistic wisecracks? When will we become more aware of the cognitive dissonance between our well-meaning goals to empower betis amidst the daily contempt for bee-bees? At what point does the Lakshmi turn into a millstone?

It was hard to accept these jokes and their endorsements from friends and cousins who work hard at home and office, who love their moms, sisters, daughters, friends and co-workers. They are superwomen —hard working, raising wonderful, accomplished kids; they are kitchen queens who make the best food; they’ll make space in their lives in a second to help clean up, pick up kids from schools or parents from airports.

So how do these same women so easily dissociate the harpies in these jokes from their moms, sisters, friends, cousins, and colleagues when they cheer on painted shrew jokes? Did they know a single woman who behaved the way the joke-women did? Didn’t they actually know more men in real life, deaf and blind to working women, who won’t help wives with housekeeping or raising kids? Why didn’t they get upset when these jokes showed women as unwanted baggage dumped by the mayaka on the sasural? How could they be so comfortable and complicit with this daily bashing of women?

Or was I reading too much into the jokes themselves? Was I just being a feminist killjoy? Morphing into the strident joke-woman herself?

Nope. Or at least I hope not.

Humour is vital to social interaction. But I’m waiting for the day when jokes about Indian wives’ vanity, chattiness, jealousy, or pettiness won’t be amusing any more. I wait for the day when the husbands in these jokes will no longer get a free pass as victims.

Because this excusing of male entitlement and inexcusability of feminist outrage are one and the same, aren’t they? Such messages chip away at the work of feminism. If wives are already so powerful and men so meek then do we really need equal rights? And don’t tell me this is social satire. Satire punches up, not down. These jokes cluttering our notifications are adding up to some weaponised self-harm: Our unwitting forwarding of them shores up a mildly-bruised patriarchy.

This ever-advancing 21st century social media technology is managing to take us back to when it was normal to roast women on a daily basis. Growing up in India in the eighties, I had enough uncles who publicly made fun of their wives: “yeh to paagal hain!” “Don’t listen to her, yaar!” “Tum bewakoof ho.” Silently, their wives bore this everyday humiliation. Just as silently we kids watched this, almost coming to believe that this was normal marital expression. Fifteen years ago at a party thrown in my father-in-law’s honour an uncle introduced himself and his wife to my husband: “Main XXXX hoon.” Then he pointed at his wife and said, “aur yeh hain meri bimaari!”

This was before WhatsApp.

WhatsApp connects us, it’s fun and interactive, but its convenience enables a drip-feed of soft misogyny that is inoculating new and old generations, men and women. Every morning, the jokes tell us that women are never enough, and the thinnest possibility of feminist rage is always too much.

WhatsApp facilitates this recrudescence: It aids and abets a bimaar misogyny on an industrial scale. Old chauvinism is new again. We take one step forward and two back. Sure, this app has made women vocal, connected, empowered, and witty. Even safe when it comes to crowdsourcing vital information. But at the same time, this fun app re-animates and legitimises sexist snark in the name of bringing us closer.

And then it drives us further away. I feel the fraying of my bonds with friends and cousins that WhatsApp had first reunited me with. Two cousin sisters in India dropped out of a group right after I objected to the anti-women message in one of the jokes they’d sent. A friend let our chats languish because I could not see that these jokes were harmless. “C’mon yaar, they’re just jokes and if they make someone smile then they’re worth it.”

It was becoming clear: I couldn’t take a joke. I was breaking the invisible WhatsApp code of conduct: Shut up and forward.

Here’s one WhatsApp exchange in our group of about 15 Indian-American friends that became a low-grade screaming match about women and social media. The joke that started it was a video in which a wife after 30 years of marriage gets mad at her husband as she remembers the sacrifices she’s made all these years — she’s been having the lower half of the muffin and giving away the better half, to her husband. On their 30th anniversary, she’s a tad miffed about this unequal arrangement. The video ends with the husband lovingly telling her that “hutt pagli,” he knew all along of all her sacrifices and was letting her sacrifice the top half because she would loathe herself if she didn’t.

That there are people actually investing in producing such videos was just part of my irritation (a cottage industry of biwi videos has been created for the forward-loving-backward-looking on WhatsApp). I may have said nothing, but then many women in the group sent out “awws” and clapping, and prayer emojis. I commented that here was a perfect example of how men had conned women into being doormats and that this self-sacrificing tendency explained why women worked double shifts at home and office while silently accepting a 78 cents to a dollar.

My NRI friend, a working woman who runs her own business, told me that earning 78 cents to a dollar is perfectly fine because women don’t work as hard as men.

A few working women in the group demurred. No, women have to work twice as hard at work and at home, they shot back.

Sure, she said, but that’s exactly why women can’t give work a 100 percent. Because they have to work at home too. They’re stretched thin.

She had a point there. So I gave her an example of my husband complaining about Indian women in the American workplace. When I asked him why he was muttering to himself in anger at an email he said, “these Indian women are always asking for leave and days off for doctor appointments, school activities and kids’ illnesses. This wrecks our deliverables—”

“Do the white, black or Asian American women who have kids do the same?” I asked.


Exactly.  Could Indian husbands not chip in once in a while for doctor or school duty?

But see, speaking up works. Sometimes. That same friend who said that women don’t work as hard wrote back saying, “Oh yeah, Indian husbands! Inka hum kya karein! Why don’t they help out?” I felt I’d scored a small victory that afternoon.

But she still sends out similar jokes.

And right then someone sent out another video in which a family (son, husband and father-in-law) is giving the woman suggestions for dinner. “I don’t know what to make,” she whines. “I’ll make whatever you say.”

“Rajma bana lo.” No, she says. They just had it a few days ago. “Kadhi?” And on it goes. She rejects them all, one by one. The male trifecta looks on, helpless.

That’s the joke.

Get it?

Yeah, me neither.

15 progressive Indian villages that will make you want to ditch your city life right away

In today’s world, Gandhi’s words that India’s survival depends on the well-being of its villages seem even more pertinent.

Seventy percent of India’s population – roughly one-tenth of humanity – live in the countryside. This makes rural India a focal point for issues of national and global concern: the impact of high population and development on natural resources; lack of sanitation and its impact on health; water pollution from raw sewage and pesticide runoff; soil loss and desertification due to erosion, overgrazing and deforestation.

This is also why the ability of India’s villages to offer fulfilling lives to their inhabitants is germinal to India’s future as a great global power.

Over the years, a few of India’s resilient rural villages have been trying to remain relevant and adapt to change without losing their valued traditions and skills that have survived down the ages.

From renewable energy to organic farming, here are 15 Indian villages that have walked the talk and are shining examples of what a community can do when it comes together for a better tomorrow.

1. Dharnai, Bihar

Once struggling to get basic electricity like most villages in India, Dharnai has now changed its fate and become the first village in India to completely run on solar power. Residents of Dharnai had been using diesel-based generators and hazardous fuel like cow dung to meet the electricity requirement for decades, which were both costly and unhealthy. Since the launch of Greenpeace’s solar-powered 100 kilowatt micro-grid in 2014, quality electricity is being provided to more than 2,400 people living in this village in Jehanabad district.

2. Payvihir, Maharashtra

An obscure village in the foothills of Melghat region of Amravati district in Maharashtra, Payvihir, has set an example for the country by consistently showing how communities and NGOs can work together to conserve the environment and ensure sustainable livelihood for people.

In 2014, Payvihir bagged the Biodiversity Award from the United Nation’s Development Programme for turning a barren, 182-hectare land under community forest right, into a forest. Recently, the village also came up with an out-of-the-box idea of selling organic sitafals (custard apples) and mangoes in Mumbai under their brand Naturals Melghat!

3. Hiware Bazaar, Maharashtra

Amid the desperate denizens scrounging for water in the drought-affected parts of Maharashtra stands a village that has not felt the need to call a single water tanker – in fact, it hasn’t called for one since 1995. The village also has 60 millionaires and the highest per-capita income in India.

Facing a major water crisis each year because of the measly rainfall it gets, the village decided to shun water-intensive crops and opted for horticulture and dairy farming. Their consistent water conservation initiatives led to rising groundwater levels and the village started to prosper. Today, the village has 294 open wells, each brimming with water just as the village brims with prosperity.

4. Odanthurai, Tamil Nadu

Odanthurai, a panchayat situated in Mettupalayam taluk of Coimbatore district, has been a model village for the other villages for more than a decade. The panchayat has not only been generating electricity for their own use, but also selling power to Tamil Nadu Electricity Board.

Having already won international acclaim through its unique welfare schemes and energy self-sufficiency drives, Odanthurai near Mettupalayam has begun efforts to develop a corpus of Rs 5 crore to install wind and solar energy farms. This project will enable free supply of electricity to over 8,000 residents.

5. Chizami, Nagaland

A small village in Nagaland’s Phek district, Chizami has been scripting a quiet revolution in terms of socioeconomic reforms and environmental protection for almost a decade. A model village in the Naga society, Chizami is today visited by youth from Kohima and neighbouring villages for internships in the Chizami model of development.

What is unique in the Chizami model of development is that marginalised women have played an important role in bringing about this socio-economic and sustainable transformation that is rooted in traditional practices of the state.

6. Gangadevipalli, Andhra Pradesh

If India lives in its villages, then the model it perhaps must follow is Gangadevipalli, a hamlet in Andhra Pradesh’s Warangal district where every house has the bare necessities of life, and more. From regular power and water supply to a scientific water filtration plant, a community-owned cable TV service and concrete, well-lit roads, this model village has been steadily gaining in prosperity thanks to a disciplined and determined community that has also managed to work in harmony towards goals set collectively.

7. Kokrebellur, Karnataka

Kokrebellur, a small village in Maddur taluk of Karnataka, offers you an unusual and mesmerizing sight as you’ll find some of India’s rarest species of birds chirping in the backyards of these village homes. Named after the Painted Storks, which are called Kokkare in Kannada, this small village (which is not a reserved bird sanctuary) has set an example of how birds and humans can co-exist in complete harmony. The villagers treat these birds as a part of their family and have also created a small area for wounded birds to rest. Birds are so friendly here that they even allow you to go very close to them.

8. Khonoma, Nagaland

From being a cradle of resistance to the British colonial rule, Khonoma has come a long way to become India’s first green village. Home to a 700-year-old Angami settlement and perfectly terraced fields, this unique, self-sustaining village in Nagaland is a testament to the willpower of the tribal groups of Nagaland to protect and conserve their natural habitat. All hunting is banned in the village, which also practices its own ecofriendly version of jhum agriculture (instead of the traditional slash-and-burn method) that enriches the soil.

9. Punsari, Gujarat

Punsari village, barely 100 km from Ahmedabad, could be a textbook case of development. Closed-circuit cameras, water purifying plants, biogas plants, air-conditioned schools, Wi-Fi, biometric machines – the village has it all. And all of it was done in a matter of eight years, at a cost of Rs. 16 crore. The man behind the transformation is its young tech-savvy sarpanch – 33-year-old Himanshu Patel – who proudly states that his village offers “the amenities of a city but the spirit of a village.”

10. Ramchandrapur, Telangana

The first village in Telangana region to win the Nirmal Puraskar in 2004-05, Ramchandrapur came into focus a decade ago when the villagers pledged to donate their eyes for the visually challenged. Among its many achievements, all the houses in the village have smokeless chullahs and toilets with tap-water facilities. It is the first village in the state to construct a sub-surface dyke on the nearby river and solve drinking water problems by constructing two over-head tanks in each house. The village does not have drainage system and all the water generated from each house is diverted to the gardens, which are planted by the villagers in each house.

11. Mawlynnong, Meghalaya

In the tiny hamlet of Mawlynnong, plastic is banned, spotless paths are lined with flowers, bamboo dustbins stand at every corner, volunteers sweep the streets at regular intervals and large signboards warn visitors against littering. Here, tidying up is a ritual that everyone – from tiny toddlers to toothless grannies – takes very seriously. Thanks to the tireless efforts of the village community, this small, 600-odd-person hamlet in Meghalaya is today renowned as the cleanest village in India and Asia.

12. Piplantri, Rajasthan

For the last several years, the Piplantri village panchayat has been saving girl children and increasing the green cover in and around it at the same time. Here, villagers plant 111 trees every time a girl is born and the community ensures these trees survive, attaining fruition as the girls grow up. They also set up a fixed deposit for the girls and make their parents sign an affidavit that ensures their education.

Over the last nine years, people here have managed to plant over a quarter million trees on the village’s grazing commons. To prevent these trees from being infested with termite, the residents planted over 2.5 million aloe vera plants around them. Now, these trees, especially the aloe vera, are a source of livelihood for several residents.

13. Eraviperoor, Kerala

At a time when the country is abuzz with talks about Digital India, and how technology can be taken to the remotest corners of the country, the Eraviperoor gram panchayat in Pathanamthitta district of Kerala is leading way. It is the first gram panchayat in Kerala to have free Wi-Fi for the general public.

The village has also launched a free palliative care scheme for the poor and is the first panchayat in the state to get ISO-9001 certification for its Primary Health Centre. It has also been recognised as a Model Hi-tech Green Village, by the Horticulture Department, for its green initiatives.

14. Baghuvar, Madhya Pradesh

A small village in Madhya Pradesh, Baghuvar is the only village in India that has functioned without a sarpanch since independence, and that too efficiently. Every house in the village has its own lavatories and there is a common toilet complex that is used for social functions. The village has underground sewage lines as well as the highest number of biogas plants in the state. The gas produced is used as cooking fuel and to light up the village. Thanks to its unique way of water conservation, this village also has enough water to survive drought-like conditions for years.

15. Shikdamakha, Assam

Way before Swacch Bharat, in 2010, a remote Assam village had set cleanliness goals for itself. Shikdamakha, near Guwahati, runs cleanliness drives and competitions, and wants to surpass Mawlynnong in Meghalaya as Asia’s cleanest village. A plastic-free village that earned the maximum points in the cleanliness sub-index of Union Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, Shikdamakha has also earned the coveted Open Defecation Free status recently.

(Source: Better India)

Meet India’s ‘water doctor’, who has turned 84 acres of barren land into a water bowl

Ayyappa Masagi has a simple message: “You want water? Call me!” Thousands have. And his phone rings dozens of times a day. There appears to be an endless supply of patients for the man nicknamed India’s “Water Doctor”. “I faced a lot of water problems in my childhood,” he said. “I used to go at 3am to fetch water from the stream. So I made an oath that when I grew up I would find a solution. So I quit my job as a mechanical engineer in 2002 to solve India’s water problem,” Ayyappa told BBC.

India is enduring a catastrophic water crisis. About 330 million people are suffering water shortages after the failure of the last two monsoons. Reservoirs are dry. Farmers have committed suicide. Thousands of drought-stricken villagers have flocked to cities, desperate for water, praying for rain. According to Ayyappa’s calculations, if just 30 per cent of India’s rainwater were captured and stored, “one year’s rain would sustain the nation for three years.”

To prove it, in 2014 Ayyappa bought 84 acres of barren land near Chilamathur, a famously drought-prone region of Andhra Pradesh, 110km northeast of Bangalore. “The wind here was like a firewind. I told my partners, ‘Within one year I will make this land a water bowl.'” Today, a network of 25,000 sand-filled pits and four new lakes capture and store any rainwater that falls here. No drop is allowed to escape into rivers and run off to the sea. It stays on and in the land, keeping the subsoil charged with water which, when needed, is drawn from five shallow bore-wells.

The topsoil from digging out the lakes has helped level the land, which has been planted with trees and crops. Roughly 60 per cent of the trees will form dense forest, while 40 per cent will be fruit trees to generate income. Grains and vegetables have also been planted, and next year there will be a dairy here too. The plan is to make this a sustainable organic farm, totally self-sufficient for all its water needs.

Through his Water Literacy Foundation, Ayyappa is training “water warriors” to spread his message. He’s already written seven books and trained more than 100 interns from India and abroad, including Germany, Japan and the US. “If you only talk, nothing will happen. You have to do something and prove it. Governments are coming forward to take up my service, replicating my model. Once the community attitude changes, our political attitudes change, we can replicate this concept throughout the world.” Earlier, in 2013, Yourstory had published a story on Ayyappa.

(Source: Your Story)

Two-year-olds in Mumbai are taking coaching to clear nursery admissions

In a bid to take admission in top schools of the Mumbai, two-year-old kids are going for interview coaching classes. Parents are spending 'lakhs' of rupees for these coaching classes.

And it's not that they have just started sending their kids for coaching classes, many kiddos are attending classes from couple of years.

However, fact remains that it is illegal to interview kids for school admission.

How do these classes take place?
As reported by The Huffington Post, these classes are usually held under the radar-- teachers don't usually advertise them openly, but everybody knows about them. And there is always a huge demand
Some teachers politely call these classes "GK classes" or "conversation classes."

Meanwhile, call it whatever; these classes would somewhere create a mental pressure on kids. But parents seems ignorant to the psychological needs and learning capabilities of kids at this age.

Moreover, it looks like getting admission in these coaching classes is more difficult than getting admission in schools.

Tough to take admission in coaching:

According to reports, the teachers of these coaching classes mostly pick and choose students they are willing to "train".

In each class, there are about 12 kids getting interview training

Centres claiming 100 per cent guaranteed admission in school:

In addition to this, some centres claim to be specialists in getting admission into particular schools such as Cathedral and John Connon School or JB Petit High School For Girls.

Illegal to interview kids
According to government guidelines, it is illegal for schools to interview children as part of the admissions process.

Planning a smarter move, the schools have stated these sessions as "child interaction sessions" or "child observation sessions"

Meanwhile, according to IANS, the nursery admission which began in the national capital after great hue and cry will receive Delhi High Court verdict on February 27 regarding an appeal filed by the AAP government, challenging a single-judge order that stayed its nursery admissions notification compelling 298 private schools, built on public land, to adopt only neighbourhood criteria.

(Source: India Today)

38 Qatar schools will be raising tuition in the coming year

More than three dozen private schools and kindergartens in Qatar are being permitted to raise their tuition fees during the 2017/2018 school year, the country’s education ministry has announced.

The 38 schools include the Filipino International School, SEK International, MES Indian School, the Finnish school and Doha College (West Bay), according to a list published by the Ministry of Education and Higher Education.

They will be allowed to raise fees between 1 and 15 percent.

Officials said yesterday that nearly half of all schools and kindergartens in Qatar requested fee increases.

But most of the 127 institutions were denied hikes, they added.

Long process
According to the education ministry, schools had to go through a multi-step process to win tuition hike approval.

This included filing their applications between Dec. 1 and 31 of last year and submitting up to four years of financial reports in Arabic.

Several schools were rejected for missing the deadline or because their reports were found to be lacking credibility and accuracy.

Additionally, the applications needed to be approved by several different ministry committees, as well as the minister himself.

Cost of education
Last year, the ministry approved fees increases for 55 schools, but only from 2 to 7 percent.

At the time, educators said they understood higher tuition fees can be a financial burden on parents.

But they argued that they need to at least keep teachers’ salaries in line with inflation to attract the best staff, as well as meet any other rising costs such as accommodation and facility rentals.

However, housing rental costs are dropping in Qatar and inflation has also slowed considerably. So it remains unclear why so many schools have applied for fee hikes this year.

(Source: Doha News)

An entire Manhattan village owned by black people was destroyed to build Central Park

When Reverend Christopher Rush laid the cornerstone of the First African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1853, he placed in it a time capsule, a box that contained a bible, a hymn book, and copies of two New York papers, The Tribune and The Sun. These were mementos for future New Yorkers.

Rush, who escaped slavery and became the second ordained bishop of the AME, also delivered the church’s first sermon. He read in part from the First Epistle of Peter, an address to the oppressed and persecuted, assuring the congregation that “although now for a little while you may have to suffer through various trials,” salvation would reward those who kept the faith.
Prominent abolitionist Albro Lyons and Mary Joseph Lyons were residents of Seneca Village. (NY Public Library)

But even as he counseled hope, the church was doomed. What Rush didn’t know was that the land where the Church would stand, part of a thriving African American community, had been condemned two weeks before as part of the plan to create New York’s Central Park.

The community, called Seneca Village, began in 1825 and eventually spanned from 82nd Street to 89th Street along what is now the western edge of Central Park. By the time it was finally razed in 1857, it had become a refuge for African Americans. Though most were nominally free (the last slave wasn’t emancipated until 1827) life was far from pleasant. The population of African Americans living in New York City tripled between abolition and complete emancipation and the migrants were derided in the press. Mordecai Noah, founder of The New York Enquirer, was especially well-known for his attacks on African Americans, fuming at one point that “the free negroes of this city are a nuisance incomparably greater than a million slaves.”

Most landowners at the time refused to sell to African Americans. A white couple who lived in what was then a distant northern outpost of Manhattan was an exception, subdividing and selling off their land first to Epiphany Davis and Andrew Williams, two prominent members of the The New York African Society for Mutual Relief, and then to the African Methodist Episcopal Church. More members of the African Society, whose purpose was in part to build black communities, followed suit and purchased land too. Slowly, houses were built. Some of them were rather grand, two-story affairs, with barns and stables, and some were modest shacks. The area was eventually anchored by three churches and a school.
Seneca Village ran along the west side of what would become Central Park between 82nd and 89th streets. (NY Historical Society)

Owning land in Seneca Village meant more than finding a refuge from the slums and violence of Manhattan proper. Buying property meant voting rights (at least for men), as laws in New York at the time required that all voters own at least $250 worth of real estate. Seneca Village probably had a more radical purpose, too, as a stop on the Underground Railroad. Prominent abolitionists such as Albro Lyons, later recognized as a conductor on the railroad, owned land and lived there. In fact, the African Society so instrumental in founding the village was reputed to have a hidden basement for hiding runaway slaves. And the name of the village itself may have come from a philosophy tract called Seneca’s Morals, a book that was popular with abolitionist activists.

As Seneca Village was building up, however, support for Central Park grew, driven by some of the same pressures that created the African American enclave. The tip of the island of Manhattan was overflowing with people. The slums were spilling over as more and more immigrants arrived, especially after the Irish potato famine started in 1845. None of these conditions appealed to well-off New Yorkers, who had already started migrating further uptown, or out of town, by the 1840s.

Already, the Lennox family and other wealthy New York names owned swaths of land in the vicinity of the proposed park. Real estate developers easily foresaw the demand for an exclusive neighborhood bordering parklands.

More than three-fourths of the children who lived in Seneca Village attended Colored School №3 in the church basement. Half of the African Americans who lived there owned their own property, a rate five times higher than the city average. And while the village remained mostly black, immigrant whites had started to live in the area as well. They shared resources ranging from a church (All Angels Episcopal), to a midwife (an Irish immigrant who served the entire town).

But in 1857, it was all torn down.

Even as the church was being built on 86th street, then painstakingly painted white, the original settlers fought for their lands in court. Andrew Williams was paid nearly what his land was worth, after filing an affidavit with the state Supreme Court. Epiphany Davis was not as fortunate, losing hundred of dollars.
A sign commemorating the site of Seneca VillageManhattan’s first prominent community of African-American property owners—was dedicated in 2001.

By 1871, Seneca Village had largely been forgotten. That year, The New York Herald reported that laborers creating a new entrance to the park at 85th Street and 8th Avenue had discovered a coffin, “enclosing the body of a Negro, decomposed beyond recognition.” The discovery was a mystery, the paper reported, because “these lands were dug up five years ago, when the trees were planted there, and no such coffins were there at the time.” That’s unlikely, as the site was the graveyard of the AME church.

Researchers from Columbia, CUNY, and the New York Historical Society have been working on excavating the site of Seneca Village since the early 2000s. The work has been slow, with excavation starting in 2011.

The only official artifact that remains intact on the site is a commemorative plaque, dedicated in 2001 to the lost village.

(Source: Timeline)

Sunday 26 February 2017

Sword to kill a mosquito?!

After my hubby said one of his family members is eager to crush/kill me like a fly/mosquito with his/her boots, I laughed heartily remembering a Panchatantra story, The Foolish Friend, which I used to hear in our childhood. 

The power given to wrong hands can bring disasters to the very person who has given them. In this case, my hubby had fought with me to buy a pair of boots/shoes nine years ago to that person. And now, unable to face the truth, that person is eager to crush/kill me under the same boots! 

I’m sure all of us have heard that Panchatantra story at some or the other stage in our lifetime. As another year comes to an end, it’s that time to remember the story. Hope you guys will enjoy and laugh as much as I did!   

Once upon a time there was a king who had a monkey as his pet. He kept him constantly close at hand for his amusement. Everybody knows that parrots, partridges, doves, rams, monkeys and such creatures are a king's natural companions.

It goes without saying that the monkey, fed on the various dishes that the king gave him. He grew large and was given respect by all who surrounded the king. Indeed, the king, due to his love and exceeding trust of the monkey, even gave him a sword to carry!

In the vicinity of the palace, the king had a grove artfully planted with many trees of various sorts. Early in the springtime, the king noticed how beautiful the grove was. Its blossoms exuded a magnificent fragrance, filling the whole atmosphere with love. Thus overcome by love, he entered the grove with his favorite wife. He ordered all his servants to wait for him at the entrance.

After having pleasantly strolling through and observing the grove, he grew tired and said to his monkey, "I want to sleep a little while in this arbor of flowers. Take care that nothing disturbs me!" Having said this, the king fell asleep.

Meanwhile, a mosquito flew up and lit on his head. Seeing this, the monkey thought angrily, "What is this? Am I to allow this common creature to bite the king before my very eyes?"

With that he proceeded to drive it away. However, in spite of the monkey's defense, the mosquito approached the king again and again. Finally, blinded by anger, the monkey drew his sword and struck down the mosquito with a single blow. However, the same blow also split the king's head.

The queen, who was sleeping next to the king jumped up in terror. Seeing the crime, she said, "Oh, oh, you foolish monkey! What have you done to the king who placed such trust in you?"

The monkey explained how it had happened, but thereafter he was shunned and scorned by everyone. Thus it is said, "Do not choose a fool for a friend, for the king was killed by a monkey."

And after that incident, I feel, "It is better not to give power to the wrong person, even if it's your own family member!"

Protecting patriarchy: The overpowering voice of misogyny in Malayalam cinema

Words of support poured in from the Malayalam film industry after actor Bhavana was abducted and assaulted in a horrifying incident that shocked Kerala. Actors, directors, and other film professionals condemned the attack and all violence against women. But the sharp contrast between the public statements made by film personalities and their boorish, misogynistic celluloid personas sends confusing signals.

FullPicture examines the mixed messages sent by Malayalam filmdom and the moral responsibility an actor has towards his audience. Where does the reel end and the real begin?

 As actors from Malayalam cinema rallied in support of their colleague what stood out was the patronising voice of patriarchy. Presiding over the function was director Renjith, the one who has made a living out of making his on-screen women prostrate before the alpha-male hero.

The tone was of a big brother (a tribute to probably his own much-feted Valyettan character on screen) who promises to safeguard his sister's honour. Renji Panicker, whose hero Thevalli Parambil Joseph Alex barked at his colleague for her arrogance and refused to rise to her ‘bait’ as he felt she was a ‘mere woman’ talked about the equality of gender and respecting women's rights.

And the loudest gripe was caused by the Megastar, who immortalised these blatantly misogynistic heroes on screen. And his words seem to be a clear reflection of that very image — “Manhood is not about overpowering a woman. It’s about protecting her. Our mothers should give birth to sons of valour, the one who will take on the role of their sister and mother’s protector.”

Advocate Harish Vasudevan Sreedevi called this “the collective joke of the millennium. A classic example of the hypocrisy of Malayalis”.

The superstar alpha males
It’s been over three decades since Mammootty and Mohanlal have maintained their fiefdoms in Malayalam cinema. While there can be no dispute over their talent, it’s ironic that some of their most popular onscreen roles are a case study for the most wanton display of misogyny. Since the late 90s they have taken it upon themselves to don the role of the alpha male, the protector of the ‘weaker’ sex, who belittled a woman with patronising sermons each time she tries to step out of the ‘Lakshman rekha’.

The argument that they were just playing a part and simply mouthing dialogues written by a writer notwithstanding, the reality is that they have influenced and continue to inspire a generation of Malayali men. “I don't expect movies and books to be politically correct but Malayalam cinema is decidedly and almost exclusively and gratuitously anti-woman. They not only reinforce stereotypes but create new regressive ones.

In the world of Malayalam cinema woman is a second-class citizen. And it is evident that even in real life, they cannot come to terms with an equal world. Even the comments after the assault had such blatant shades of patriarchy: the sister we will protect, etc,” says journalist Charmy Harikrishnan

Thanks to social media, the fandom is out in the open—in all its perversity. So much so that when a woman mocked Mohanlal’s 100 crore Pulimurugan, she was abused with the choicest of expletives. The writing on the wall was loud and clear—no one messed with our Lalettan and he was above all criticism. Similarly, Mammootty fans just couldn’t fathom the fuss over feminists opposition to Kasaba— “Now that’s real heroism”—declared his fans.

At a Bangalore multiplex, it was upsetting to be part of a cheering crowd who rooted for Rajan Zachariah, every time he derailed a woman’s dignity with sly sexist dialogues. These were urban educated youth, mind you. Probably their dads would have enacted the scene decades ago at a single screen theatre in Kerala at the actor’s own spirited dialogues in Aavanazhi or Oru Vadakkan Veeragadha. Single screens have made way to swanky multiplexes, bajjis have graduated to grilled sandwiches and ticket rates have escalated, but these towering alpha males and male chauvinism remain unchanged.

In the 80s and 90s that saw their meteoric rise to stardom, it’s interesting to note their onscreen patented images. Mammootty, after exhausting his quota of righteous, sacrificing husbands slowly slipped into the moustache twirling, angry young man roles. Interestingly, Mammootty’s hero rarely donned the lover’s garb. Take some of his most eminent outings in the late 80s and early 90s—Mahayanam, Kottayam Kunjachan, Nair Saab, Sangham, Inspector Balram, The King.

The women seem to bear the brunt of his anger and derision.  They were always relegated to the traditional role of a woman in an Indian society. So one-dimensional that the strong, spirited independent women never found a place in his cinema. They slip in and out of the background without fuss.

That’s why it seems ironic that the most memorable heroine in that period was Narayani, the woman we never see, in Mathilukal. It’s also the most celebrated lover role in his illustrious career graph. Basheer was the subtle, charming lover—the kind of lover that sits lightly on his rival, Mohanlal.

Mohanlal in contrast was your boy next door, the charmer who wooed with abandon —Vandanam, Boeing Boeing, Aye Auto, Kilukkam, Vishnu Lokam, Thalavattam, Yodha, Thoovanathumbikal, Namukku Parkkan Munthiri Thoppukal. The mid 80s and 90s Mohanlal despite his boy next door lover boy charm, still retained his heroism in many ways.

The heroines, except for Clara whom we still name alongside his Jayakrishnan in Thoovanathumbikal, were still second class citizens. But then Solomon will remain his most epic, path-breaking hero—the one who broke the traditional chains of chastity attached to a woman.

While Mammootty persisted on with the traditional male roleplay (occasionally breaking it with a Danny), Mohanlal too made that dangerous and astonishing transformation into the moustache twirling alpha male in the early 2000, in collaboration with Director Renjith and others. Out came Jagannathan, Poovalli Induchoodan, Zakir Ali Hussain, Ravishankar, Karthikeyan and Kasinathan without full stops.

On any given day, they are inscrutable, unbeatable, knights in shining armour, and extremely desirable. They spew apolitical one-liners and indulge in fistfights. Alpha males who whetted their supremacy over women with sexist barbs. “In the film industry, the superstar has a key role in moulding their dialogues,” explains Harish Vasudev.

And audiences were not averse to these larger-than-life heroes. The humour is often stinging, with starchy references to a woman’s virtue and virginity. Women took it in their stride and they eventually fell at the feet of the demi-god. “It is the misogynistic dialogues these superstars had spewed forth in the last 20 years, and the chauvinistic images their films broadcast, that must have electrified these goondas and egged them on to unleash their kind of shameless violence on women.

What was the message the two were trying to convey? Mohanlal as one of Vishnu's avatar says he wants a wife so that he will have something to land his kicks on. Mammootty as 'King' looks down upon an IPS trainee and tells her she's just a mere girl as though she was more insignificant that the speck of dust that scrunched under his polished-to-a-sparkle boots.

Given that the film industry is a socio-cultural platform, what are these men up to uttering such inanities? Shouldn't there be some civilisational progress? How many women in the industry have the liberty to quote their own pay packets? I think only Manju Warrier could do that. Rest are just bodies, mere girls to be kicked about by the lords of the industry,” is how advocate Harish Vasudev explains in a TV show.

Dileep, though not in the same league as Mammootty and Mohanlal, is a habitual offender in this regard. In Meesa Madhavan (2002), as Madhavan breaks into Meenakshi’s room to steal her aranjanam, he looks desirously at the figure in slumber and mumbles— “I feel like raping her.” He keeps repeating such snide, obnoxious and blunt droplets of offensive, misogynist digs in every single blockbuster movie of his.

 Not withering with age
“Maybe they can argue that an actor shouldn’t restrict himself to doing only certain roles. These roles after all brought them money and stardom. And the audience are mature enough not to mix the reel from real. But my question is, even if cinema is reflecting the times we live in or vice versa, at least at this point of time, when they have the luxury to say no, can’t they take a stand against these sexist depictions and dialogues?

More so when a superstar half their experience like Aamir Khan is doing a film like Dangal, ready to be the pioneer of change in cinema.  An Amitabh Bachchan is doing a Pink that was one of the most talked about films of last year. So, why are they so hell bent on showing heroism all the time?” asks journalist Krishna Kumar.

What is more worrying is that the mantle seems to have been taken over by some of our younger actors as well. When on the one hand Prithviraj comes in support of his colleague and urges media to show compassion, the same actor had no qualms in warning his heroine in Chocolate “to behave herself or he will gleefully make her pregnant.”

There is no doubt that new generation filmmakers are showing more restraint and avoiding stereotyping women but even then, women are still playing second fiddle to men. Note the same patronising note in young superstar Dulquer Salmaan’s post— “It's equally our responsibility to care about, look out for, and to respect and protect our women.”

“90% commercial cinema celebrates heroism. Only the hero is right. The same Prithviraj who reacted strongly against this issue, when I approached him with a script, wants to know whether there are enough scenes to show my heroism. They claim that, my job, my art, but then that’s also your life. That job is what constitutes a major portion of his life. With due respect to their intentions, when it comes to their cinema, are they taking these factors into account? The industry should learn to keep aside male chauvinism in cinema at least now,” says Sanal Kumar Sasidharan in a TV show.

One can only hope that the superstars take note and throw away the misogynistic alpha-male garb for roles featuring a sensitive human being. We await that day eagerly.

(Source: Full Picture)

Family vacations serve as 'happiness anchors' for kids until they grow up

We love travelling. My parents took me and my brother on family vacations very frequently. Looking back at those photographs, we are filled with so much nostalgia and happy memories. And luckily, my little one also enjoys his trips. Since his birth he's been travelling with us and has seen so many places and would see many more places in the coming years.

Vacations always help us to unwind ourselves, learn different cultures, meet new people, besides enjoying beautiful places. Studies have shown that family vacations serve as happiness anchors not only for the grown ups, but also for the kids. They boost their confidence and energy levels. It's always better to pack our bags and go on a trip than making the kids to play with toys. Here's an article on Smart Parenting which throws light on the importance of family vacations and the wonders it can do on the development of kids:

In a tropical country like the Philippines, a family outing is just a drive away no matter what time of the year. We are fortunate that way. So take advantage. But, in case you need convincing, here are a few not-so-typical reasons from experts on why you should pack your bags and get out of the house:

1. Spending on vacations is better than spending on toys.
Rather than spending on an expensive new toy for your child and finding he’s bored with it a week later, use the money for travel instead, psychologist and best-selling author Oliver James told The Telegraph. “Family holidays are valued by children, both in the moment and for long afterward in their memory. So if you’re going to spend money on something, it’s pretty clear which option makes more sense.”

Aside from making memories and being wise about where you spend, travel is better for family bonding. Where new toys, like screens and gadgets, put distance between family members, travel brings them closer together. It’s all about “talking nonsense with your parents, sharing an ice cream and moments of time in which your interests are genuinely taken into account,” says James.

2. Travel is beneficial to your child’s brain development
“What is less widely known is that holidays can also advance brain development in children,” Dr. Margot Sunderland, a child psychotherapist and Director of Education and Training at The Centre for Child Mental Health in the UK, said in another article for The Telegraph.

When you go exploring during a family vacation, whether it’s in nature or a heritage town, you activate many critical areas of the brain, particularly the “play and seeking systems” that typically go unexercised at home, says Dr. Sunderland. “[This] brings about brain growth and maturation in the frontal lobes, the very part of the brain involved in cognitive functioning, social intelligence, and well-focused, goal-directed behaviors that may last a lifetime.”

3. Both parents and kids need to de-stress. 
Adults aren’t the only ones who experience stress from the pressures of everyday life. In a 2015 survey of 754 kids, researchers found that 79 percent of 8- to 14-year-olds say they regularly experience stress. On the other hand, 77 percent report feeling no stress when their parents take a break from work to spend time with them. “Parents who want to help their kids reduce stress should consider using a vacation day,” read the report.

Dr. Lotte Bailyn, professor emerita at the MIT Sloan School of Management in the US, agrees. “Good relationships emerge out of simply having interactions with the people in our families under conditions that are not highly stressed.”

4. Memories from family vacations can act as “happiness anchors” 
Did you know that the UK has a national charity that helps struggling families go on vacation together? It’s called the Family Holiday Association, and in 2015 they conducted a study that sheds light on the long-term benefits of family vacations.

The happiest memory of 49 percent of the British people surveyed was on vacation with family. A third said they can still vividly remember family vacations from their childhood. What’s more, a quarter brought up these memories to get them through tough times. “We consider these to be a ‘happiness anchor’ – reflecting on our happiest memories of joyful time spent together as a family can be extremely powerful in bringing relief and respite when faced with the darker times that life can bring,” John McDonald, director of the Family Holiday Association, told the Huffington Post.

5. Taking pictures can make you happier.
We don't need a study to tell us that looking at our family photos is happiness. But if you want to know research from the Yale School of Management found that “the act of taking pictures (whether it’s on a bus tour or eating out at a restaurant) boost people’s engagement with and enjoyment of whatever activity they’re participating in.” That is, as long as picture taking is not intrusive to the actual activity, the study notes. So you can take as many photos of the kids as you want on vacation, but remember to put down the camera as well. You can't fully experience an activity or a simple moment if your eye is always looking at the camera.  

So, whether you need to ride a bus or car, or fly on a plane, know that travel as an investment is worth it.