America, Bhaarath Mahaan, life, my crazy days

I’m doing okay.

People in this country are so friendly, it took me a while to get used to it. I come from Chennai where people are not particularly that friendly. I mean, I never had the experience of walking to my local grocery store (Ayyanar Stores) and have the boy who works there ask me how I’m doing today. I would just go and be like one Maggi packet please . I then pay him the money and leave. But here it’s hard. I have to always think of response to the question “Hey how you guys doing?”. Initially I would just smile and walk away but later I realized the pressure of having something to say in response to that question which seems to be the first thing every store clerk wants to ask. Do I tell them the truth that I’m not doing that great or do I just say oh I’m doing good, how are you and have a conversation that both of us really don’t want to be in? After a while I seemed to have found a response that can’t be deemed as curt or lengthy. I just say fine, thanks and give them a dazzling smile. I thought I worked that out just fine and was out of the danger zone. But then the cashiers at the department store started saying “Have a good night, guys!” when we left. I was stumped. What do I do now? Smile, nod or say “You too”? I settled for smile and nod. I didn’t want to hold up the line.

In Chennai the only person with whom I had to actually converse with outside my immediate circle was the auto man with his permanent request of “meter ku malle anju roova“. Of course I had to say no I cannot part with my anju roova you thief and then we would engage in a little not so friendly banter that would end with me just giving him the anju roova to make him shut up.

I miss the good old days when I could just leave the house without having someone ask me how I’m doing and me having to evaluate my feelings of the day. Some days I don’t want to know how I’m doing, perky Starbucks girl, so please just give me my hazelnut hot chocolate and let me get on with my day.

And no whipped cream, thank you very much.

Standard
America, Bhaarath Mahaan, Eating Out, Food, madras, restaurant review

Waiter, one coffee please.

photo (1)

Meals, Saravana Bhavan, Fremont.

We finally went to Saravana Bhavan a few weekends back. The food did taste a little different than the one in Madras but I was satisfied. It felt like a little piece of home that I could visit any time I wanted. Granted there were no familiar waiters, the smell of coffee in the air and the general chit chat that only Madras offered. But dipping my fingers in their famous sambar after three and a half months of a dearth, this was more than I could ask for.

Standard
Bhaarath Mahaan, life, life lessons, madras

Scar.

A couple of days back I woke up to read a disturbing article in the newspaper. A 19 year old sales girl from Chennai was gang raped by boys who were her “friends”. One of the boys, her classmate from school, had asked her to accompany him to visit another friend of theirs who had apparently taken ill. This unsuspecting girl went with the boy to the friends house only to realize that the boy wasn’t ill and was in the company of four other boys. They offered the girl a drink and after a few sips she realized that something was wrong with it. They forced her in to drinking and when she became unconscious the boys repeatedly raped her. By the time she regained consciousness they dropped her off at her house. The next day the girl was suffering from extensive bleeding and was taken to a Government hospital. The doctors informed her mother that it was a clear case of rape and asked her to file a complaint with the police.
On February 9th three cases of rape took place at the same night in Delhi. In the first incident, a 13 year old girl  was abducted and raped by a 30 year old man because she did not accept his Facebook request. In the second incident a 17 year old girl was kidnapped and was sexually abused in car while continuously roaming the streets  The accused was  a relative of hers. In the third case a 17 year old girl was walking back home from work with her friends was forced in to a car and kidnapped. Her friends who tried to fend off the kidnappers were assaulted. This girl is yet to be traced.
In Delhi, a constable was arrested for molesting an under age girl in a slum area. In Kolkatta a man was mercilessly beaten to death for a lodging a compliant againt some men who were sending obscene MMSes to his college-going daughter.
All these events took place this month. It makes me wonder if India is really a safe place for women. None of these girls asked to be raped. They were from working class backgrounds trying to find some means to an end.
I feel that men do not understand the extent of their actions. Most of these assaults are done just for momentary pleasure or it is seen as a way to take revenge on the girl. Sexual abuse is prevalent everywhere. I’m sure that almost every girl has experienced abuse/molestation of some kind. I’m talking of the smallest cases of molestation, a sneaky hand in a crowded area, an intended brush across the body. Sometimes abuse takes place at home, by someone who is in the family. The trauma that a victim of sexual abuse goes through is indescribable. It may be just a moment to experience pleasure for men but for the victim the after effects of this carries on through out her life, more often than not ruining future relationships.
Take for instance the girl from Chennai, she has been through so much mentally. It would be no surprise if in the future she does not trust any man. She may become skeptical of every person she meets and every relationship she has.
What are we doing to protect  India’s women? On one side we are advocating for the girl child. Educating people to not kill their daughters. On the other side there is rape and molestation at every corner. If this is how the country is going to be then the murdered daughters of India are better off in their graves.
As a country we seem to have lost our morals somewhere down the line. We have forgotten to care for whats right. We seem to have such a ‘take it in your stride’ attitude about everything. If the girl is raped or molested the blame game begins and all fingers are pointed towards the victim for “tempting” the man. I do not disagree that man is wired differently but because of this reason it his responsibility to keep himself in  check. There are stories of men molesting small children and pre-adolescent kids. “Temptation” does not play its part here. Abusing children is probably the most cowardly, most despicable and demeaning act there is.
It irks me to see that we aren’t taking issues like these seriously. But if a minister is caught watching porn in the assembly then that becomes front page news and every news channel worth its salt replays the video for days. Schools and colleges need to educate their students on these lines. They need to create awareness starting from the lower classes. The earlier children know about these things the easier it would be for them to understand how wrong it is when someone misbehaves with them. Schools need to have counselors who can help them in understanding what is wrong and whats right. As a society we are still shy to talk about this subject. We want to push it under the carpet and act like it doesn’t happen. But we need to open our eyes and accept reality. We need to be broad minded enough to not blame it on the victims. Parents need to explain this to their children.
As much as we want it to be, the world is not a happy, shiny place. It is dark, scary and like it or not we are vulnerable creatures.
These two issues are really close to my hear and it pains me to read news stories like this almost every day. I cannot imagine the angst the victim goes through. There can be no compensation for going through such a tough ordeal. Money cannot make the scars go away. Rehab and counselling can only do that much. Beyond that it is entirely up to the strength the person has to block the images, grit their teeth and move on acting like life is a happy place when at the bottom of their heart they know that things can never be the same again.
Standard
Bhaarath Mahaan

Save The Girl Child

The census report this year has some extremely scary statistics to report : the boy-girl sex ratio has dropped from 927 to 914 per 1000 boys. This is the worst statistics since Independence.

How can we call ourselves a developed nation when we choose to discriminate a child even before she is born? Although identification of the sex of the foetus is against the law, there are various medical professionals and clinics who still go ahead and identify the sex of the foetus. Once the foetus is identified to be female, many couples and their families choose to abort the foetus.

A pre-natal test is a criminal offence fined up to three years in jail and a Rs.10,000 fine for the first offence and five years imprisonment and a Rs.50,000 fine fro the second offence.
This does not just happen in the lower classes and in the uneducated sects of the society but it is also very prevalent among the higher and more elite societies where couples quite often travel abroad to determine the sex of the child without actually breaking the law.

That’s what it is : finding out the sex of your child before birth is breaking the law in India. In a country that deems itself to be so modern, so urbane and so ‘in’ with what’s hot and what’s not we are still steeped in age old customs and insane beliefs. We still celebrate the birth of a boy and mourn the birth of a girl. Somehow we like to hold on to that thin, almost dwindling shred of belief that the boy is going to save us and uplift our life and the girl will bring only misfortunes.

Every other week we hear stories of new born children found in dustbins, thrown in lakes and undeveloped fetuses in dust buns. It is nearly impossible to educate a society on the impact of this when they refuses to comply with the schemes. A few years back this piece made the news : In a small village in Rajsthan (I think) there was a dearth of girls. The drought of girls was so much that there was an unnatural number of young boys in the village waiting to get married.

Despite all the so called ‘development’ we are still a society that places the male above all else. Families from lower backgrounds feel that sending the son to school is better than sending the daughter because it will invariably be a waste of money and that he will be the bread winner. But the harsh reality is that, that boy would go grow up to be a ruffian and the girl would have to work multiple jobs just to feed her family.

How is it possible to bring a nation out from this ‘dark age’ and make them see the light of day that it is impossible to live in a society without girls? They are the founding factors on which any civilization is built on. Women are not important just to cook your food and have your babies. They play such an important role in the society at large. They become great doctors and lawyers, CEOs of major companies, entrepreneurs and artists, contribute a LOT to society and bring about changes in ways the others can’t.

Every girl child deserves the right to be born. No one can rob her of the right to be educated. Every child has a potential that needs to be identified and utilized to the maximum. It is her right to be the person she wants to be and to achieve what she wants in life. Unfortunately, we fail miserably to recognize that. As soon as the girl is born the family only thinks of the expenses she will incur.

The Government says that female foeticide can be stopped only through awareness. But how much of it will actually be effective? If in 2011, 64 years after Independence, we face the worst sex ration ever, then does it truly show that all the ‘awareness’ created by the Ministry for Women and Child Development is actually useful?

Will we ever change?

Standard
Bhaarath Mahaan, Men

Bleeding Blue. 100%

I’m not a die hard cricket fan. In fact, I don’t think I even know all of the rules. I know six, four, out, not out, lbw, wicket, catch, no catch, etc etc but my heart is truly filled with joy now that India has won the World Cup!

Winning the India/Pakistan semis was brilliant. But the media shouldn’t have created THAT much hype about it. I mean, yeah I know its very exciting. It truly is. But they made it seem like one battle.

Seeing the cup being lifted by Sachin in my generation is truly incredible. This picture will be etched in our minds forever. So now India will not worry about winning for the next twenty eight years ’cause people will still keep talking about the 2nd of April, 2011 when the entire country erupted just out of sheer happiness.

Thank God India won. Now we can gloat about it for many many years to come. Else we’d have to hear stories about how we came THIS close to winning the World Cup and lost and some stories never get old.

Also, how absolutely charming is Virat Kholi! Ah.. he just makes my heart melt!

Standard
Bhaarath Mahaan

Child Abuse

I came across a news article today where the 13 year old daughter of labor workers was raped by her employer in Gujarat. Her parents found out that she was 2 months pregnant and decided to abort the fetus. The doctor refused on the grounds that the girl was a minor. The case was taken to a local court where their plea for abortion was denied. Her mother decided to take this case to the Gujarat High Court where the hospital was instructed to give this girl a thorough medical examination.

This child on the brink of adolescence is forced to carry and look after another child through no choice of hers. Why hasn’t legal action been taken against the employer? Is it because he is of a higher status than the victim? Isn’t equality and justice for all?

What kind of a man would impregnate a teenage girl? Some cultures say that it is the duty of the girl to be calm, lest she stirs the animalistic desires within the man.
This kind of belief is utter BS.

If the man cannot control his desires and feels the need to harass and molest a 13 year old girl who has just reached maturity, there is no point of blaming the girl. This girl who has just crossed puberty and is still trying to understand her body, now finds herself carrying a child that was created out of hatred and malice. How is she expected to keep a child who’s presence would remind her of unpleasant things?

In a study conducted in 2007 it was noted that out of the forty million Indian children, twenty million children faced child abuse or molestation. Most of the perpetrators were know to the children or were family members, cousins or uncles.

This is a despicable act. While most offenders are known to the family and the child, the boy/girl finds it difficult to understand what went wrong and hence hesitate to tell the elders.

Indian society is made up of a bunch of hypocrites. Half the parents don’t believe their kids when their child tells them the problem. They prefer to ignore it and act like it never happened. They don’t want to take any action against the offenders because they may be close “relatives” or “uncles”. Besmirching both their names in public is, according to them, shameful. It doesn’t matter that the child has been scared for a life or the possibility of psychological disorders is high. The parents do not want to wash their dirty linen in public even if it means saving the child and believing her.

Yet they act like everything is fine and dandy when they very well know that it isn’t. I find it hard to understand how the offenders go to bed every night and wake up every morning, continuing to live their life after they have robbed the child of the one thing that can never be given back – innocence.

Most Indian families are this way. Hypocritical and judgmental. They would do anything to protect the “Indian families are families with values” tag that the world has given us.

Standard
Bhaarath Mahaan, madras

CSK Ku Whistle Podu!

This IPL season I never followed a single match. But when Chennai Super Kings qualified for the finals I decided that I would watch my first IPL 2010 match. And boy, was it worth it!

Playing against the Mumbai Indians, the match took the animosity between the south and north Indians to another level! India may be united and all that jazz but the feeling of hatred or rather, strong dislike between the north and south Indians will never subside.

In today’s match the Mumbaikars showed poor spirit exiting the stadium when they realized that MI was loosing. This just goes on to show how rude and inconsiderate they are considering they are the host city.

Anyways, all that matters is CSK won!!

Standard
Bhaarath Mahaan

Summer Lovin’

Summer’s here.
Actually its been here for quite a while.

You can recognize its presence when you feel the heat beating down upon your back and casting its hot, almost fire like self on your head. If you’re a baldie then I pity you.

Summers are characterized by sweat, sweat, sweat, stink and of never ending complaints. People should realize that talking about it won’t make it all go away. Every year the Meteorological Department says that its the ‘Worst Summer So Far’.

Really?

You take us for a bunch of imbeciles? Telling us things we already knew even before you did.

This summer is extra stinky. Thanks to Shashi Tharoor and the Indian Premier Losers. The stench that fills the air is the smell of corruption that India very famous for. Everybody knew something was happening behind the closed doors. Now that its all out in the open no one is the least bit surprised.

We expected the expected.
Not the unexpected.

Isn’t this summer turning out to be just the perfect Indian summer ever?!

Standard
Bhaarath Mahaan

Due to unforeseen circumstances I found myself riding the MTC bus today afternoon while returning from college. As we were sitting in the bus in the sweltering heat, waiting for the bus to start I noticed a woman sitting with her two children in the bus shelter. Obviously she was a beggar woman, just like the hundreds of other such women spread out throughout my country. Now this lady noticed the bus waiting and sent up her daughter inside the bus to beg for money. This child of hers was hardly 3 years old with brown malnourished hair, dirt smeared face wearing dirty shorts and slippers 3 sizes too big. Used to watching her mother beg for money, she aped her walking through the length of the bus.

Now this girl hardly 3 years will be stripped of all her rights. She would never see the insides of a school, would never know the comfort of good family and good food, would never experience the basic things of life. Her family is what we call “below poverty line” in India. They are unable to give themselves the basic necessities of life.

This girl is just one such person living among the millions upon millions of poverty stricken individuals in India. We grow up watching poverty and sickness at our door step. Everyday I see men completely out of their senses scavenging the dustbins for the mere sight of something edible. At every traffic signal I see young girls carrying sick children tap on the windws of newly waxed cars begging for money. Little boys running behind pedestrians. This is the everyday life if you live in India.

Asking what the government is doing about all this is a futile question. Rehabilitating the poverty stricken and slum dwellers all look very ethical in theory, but in practicality yields no fruit. The slums of Daravi in Bombay made famous through Slumdog Millionaire were offered to be rehabilitated in an ampartment complex constructed especially for this purpose. But what did the slum dwellers do? They got their sanctioned flats, rented it and continued living in the slums. If you did not agree to do this voluntarily, the flats were snatched by goondas and were given for rent.

This is the true situation of India. The more you try to avoid looking at it and acknowledging its prescence, poverty continues to glare back at you, grimier than before.

Standard
Bhaarath Mahaan

The Big Fat Indian Elections


Well, voting season is here. There is no feeling of hope or excitement because whichever political party might come to power, nothing is gonna change. Call me a pessimist but if you live in India this is how things work here.

Politicians keep changing their alliances left, right and center and at the end of the day it is just a shift of money and power from person to the next. But elections in India are a time for great big tamashas and traffic jams in every important junction done in the name of campaigning. And I was unfortunate enough to experience one such traffic jam last weekend while returning from a friends place. As I was driving from Mylapore they blocked off the entire stretch of Cathedral Road and the whole area was filled with cops. Sometime later, some police cars filled with these police people with big guns drove in front of a huge, expensive looking black car which was followed by an Innova with all satellite type things coming out. I think Karunanidhi was inside. Anyway traffic was suspended for so damn long.

This is the first time people are creating more and more awareness for voting especially for first time voters. It all started with Tata tea’s Jaagore campaign (“election ke din aap vote nahin karrahe to aap so rahhe”) which I just found out yesterday was for just registering to vote. Many of my friends who have registered to vote did not get the voters ID card and those who did get it, found out that their names were not there in the voters list. If this is how the system works, what faith am i supposed to have in the Government? Last election, four years back I went with my parents on voting day to the school assigned to our neighbourhood to cast votes. There we found out that at least 80 names consisting of my parents and neighbors had been already used i.e. someone else had voted for all these names. This is what we in Tamil Nadu call kalle vote. If these are how things are done how are we supposed to have faith?
And the
y say “your vote counts!”.
No it does not!!! I know that! Do’nt tell me otherwise!!!

I actually like my country despite all these negatives. I have never looked up to the bright shiny lives of people in the West or elsewhere and wished mine to be that way. I am not a rebel nor do I want to dip my fingers into the filthy rot of politics and be all “Mera Bhaarath mahaan”. I mean, yeah, mera Bhaarath is mahaan but only to those who feel it. My India is amazing, but filled with corruption, poverty and vile ministers it is unpleasant.

Young politicians are trying to give India a new facelift. Like Rahul Gandhi, who I might add, very cute a politician.


And no matter how much we try elections are always like this big joke. Actually this time around the elections are poised to take place sometime around the time of my exams which is actually convenient for me because we get close to a months study holiday. Not that I’m actually gonna study the whole month.. oh no no no.

Anyway summer is the perfect time for elections. With all the problems we are already facing this is not the biggest.

Standard