Friday, July 20, 2012

The Gangs of Guwahati

Over the last week or so the media has gone into a frenzy... what’s new about that you might ask. The Guwahati Molestation case is prime time news for all News Channels alike. No channel has missed the opportunity to beam this "prime-time entertainment" to its viewers. And why would they, for the sex-starved men and the justice-seeking women lap it up with equal vigour. Even the inquisitive children sneak a peek when their elders aren't watching over them. After all we live in a country where we haven’t yet heard of Parental-Control packages in TV viewership. And with nobody to watch over the all-powerful-media, no eyebrows are raised when they beam such disturbing images.
Since much as already been said and written about the moral stature of the men of Guwahati (and across India in general), I will not beat the horse to death any more. Instead, in the midst of all this a lot of questions keep cropping in my head, that begs for an answer.
  • What is a 17 year old doing in a bar?
  • Why did the bar not check the age of patrons before admitting them?
  • Why were they served drinks without checking their age?
  • What prompted this outrage from the crowd?
  • What was the "part-time" reporter doing there with a camera at the precise moment?
  • Why did the molesters not attack the reporter when they knew he was filming them?
  • Why did the police take 40 minutes to reach the spot which was just a kilometer away?
  • Why did the channel air the footage so shamelessly?
  • Why did the NCW which is supposed to guard the victim, reveal her identity?
  • Why the main accused is still not apprehended?
  • Where is the Human Rights Violation group when you need them?
  • Why did the police initially dismiss it as a stray incident? How many incidents do they need to make it a relevant issue?
  • Why has the bar not been shut down for allowing minors into their premises?
  • Why no action was taken on the police for arriving late at the crime scene?

Although a gang of only 30 members were involved in the actual crime, there are many gangs that were involved in the larger picture.

The Bar Gang - that allowed underage teens to get drunk
The Police Gang - that arrived late and still doing a shoddy work of catching the culprits
The Media Gang - that beamed the images so shamelessly
The By-Stander Gang - that could have stopped the rogue Gang
The NCW Gang - that released the identity of the girl
The Politician Gang - that plays the blame game and tries to derive maximum mileage from the incident

Now that the story is approaching its sell-by date the question on my mind is "Will the Gangs of Guwahati ever be punished?"
Picture Courtesy: TNT Magazine

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Perils of Seeking Thrill

There is a new breed of anti-social elements in the society. They are young, upwardly mobile and utterly stupid. They call themselves trekkers, nature lovers, amateur photographers and wildlife conservationists. But they could not have had a bigger misconception of the adjectives they go by, for a trekker does not venture into the forests without a compass, nor would a nature lover consume alcohol in nature's lap, nor would an amateur photographer instigate the wild animals.

Time and again we forget the fact that nature can be far more devastating and brutal than it can be beautiful or breathtaking. How many times have we not heard about a fun trip gone horribly wrong? In almost all these cases it was totally avoidable, if at all the parties involved applied a little bit of common sense. Satellite television brought shows like Crocodile Hunters and Man Vs Wild into our drawing rooms, but unfortunately it could not develop our common sense. Or maybe we are just too stubborn. Our mind filters stuff we want to watch or inculcate. We admire the landscape and the adventure but disregard the risks and the survival techniques.

It has been observed that a lot of such mishaps happen because of lack of knowledge of the places we visit. It is very important that we know what to expect. A lot of blogs and Wikis give an accurate account of the risks involved apart from giving complete info of the area replete with pictures. Swimming in unknown territories is always a big no-no. You may be a good swimmer, but there's little you can do when caught in a whirlpool. There are also instances of flash floods sweeping away people who tried to be adventurous with the rough waters. It’s very important to respect nature's fury and be overly cautious.

Instances of youngsters going trekking in highly vegetated jungles without a compass and absolutely no idea about the terrain are foolishness of the highest order. And in all likelihood this foolishness switches up one notch higher with the intake of alcohol. Alcohol intake should be strictly avoided in tourist places - more so in the jungles - because inevitably the bottles are strewn around causing harm to all living beings treading that path. Alcoholism combined with smoking is the worst form of tourism menace in this country. There have been instances of forest fires caused by cigarette butts wiping out hectares of vegetation and along with it, its wild life.

Wildlife photography seems to be the new in-thing with these tourists. To get a good shot, amateur wildlife photographers get too close for comfort to elephants and other wild animals. The result is panic settling among the creatures and they start running helter-skelter. The unfortunate outcome of this melee is loss of human lives. We need to understand that elephants are other wild animals are untamed. They are not as affable as domesticated animals shown in Hollywood animation movies. And while we are in their territory it is only natural that we respect their privacy by not interfering in their activities. There is also a lot of misconception among wildlife photographers that wildlife photography equals wildlife conservation. Clicking pictures of wildlife by annoying them can in no way be termed Conservation. The same applies to wild life tourism. Staying in Jungle Lodges does not automatically make you a nature lover or wildlife conservationist. In fact the more of these wildlife tours the more aggravated are the animals. This forces them to migrate farther and farther away and inevitably they end up in a human inhabited place. Straying into human territory usually means getting killed or captured or run-over.

The wildlife of this country has no chance for survival if this trend continues. We must inculcate the habit of responsible tourism in us, if we want our children to enjoy the sights that adventure that we enjoyed. As the Native Indian Tribes wisely said, "We did not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrowed it from our children."

Picture Courtesy: Masalah Rakyat, Africa Business Pages, ISDR

Monday, July 09, 2012

The Lovey-Dovey Story

I followed my wife, albeit dragging my feet, along those annoying winding maze of aisles of the local supermarket chain that is so strategically positioned that you end up watching (or rather passing) every item on sale before you reach the billing counter. Retail Management is a whole new science designed to tap into the customer’s mind - well, with only one entry and exit and no escape routes, you really do not have a chance, do you?

I watched my wife wade through the cutlery, toiletries, bed-and-bath and sanitary item sections before finally stopping at the cosmetic section. "Now this was going to take a while", I thought to myself. After she was done with her fairness and anti-ageing creams she moved on to the shampoo section. She looked at the products on offer and despite sporting an "I-can’t-decide" look on her face she proceeded to pick her usual anti-dandruff shampoo.

"Try Dove", I said, trying to sound more involved in this monthly chore of grocery shopping.
"Dove? Is it good?” she enquired.
"Of course it's good. It's a popular and elite brand. Plus it's Dove! Duh!”, I said, sounding like a seasoned shopper.
Her mind tried to make sense of all the happenings. The fact that I was asking her to go with Dove sounded strange. But the prospect of trying Dove for the first time after drooling over the umpteen ads jeopardised her chances of pinpointing the cause for my newfound magnanimity.

To confirm that I was not kidding she prodded me again. "You sure? Coz I'm happy with what I use right now."
"But you always complain that your hair looks dead", I volunteered, cautiously insinuating that it was her thoughts and not mine, to avoid any trouble.
And that was her cue. "You are right. Although my dandruff problem looks to be slightly under control, the hair however looks... looks..."
"Lifeless?", I helped.
"Right. Lifeless", she agreed.
"Wait a minute... are you suggesting that my hair actually looks lifeless?" She demanded.
"No baby no... I wasn't. I was... I was just helping you with the right synonym" was all I could muster in my defense.
"Yeah Right!!!"
"No seriously. I mean I can hardly find any difference", I said as a matter-of-factly.
"Oh so now you don’t even notice your wife's hair. Is it?" she shot back.
"Oh common now, you know that’s not what I meant. It’s just that... well... whatever it is baby, you just look fabulous." I said, taking refuge in singing praises of my wife. I knew that this was the "emergency fire exit" out of arguments that always worked. And it did.
"Awww. Thank you baby", she purred.
"I love you honey".
"I love you too sweetiepie". And that seals it.

"So, Dove it is right?" she re-confirmed.
And before I could answer, she continued, "Yes! I got to try this Damage Therapy thingy. It sounds very promising and just what I’m looking for. Moreover with Choti's imminent wedding in a month's time, I want to look my best".
"You will look gor..." I began.
"And you remember the shampoo that I was using last year", she said, cutting me off.
"All their tall claims of stronger and longer hair have not only come to naught but left me with loads of dandruff to deal with", she continued, without giving me a chance to travel back in time.
"Plus, it’s not like we can't afford it", she continued, making her case stronger.
If she could read my mind, she would have heard, "JUST TAKE IT", but instead she managed to hear, "Of course baby. Why would I not buy you something that makes you happy?"
She awww-ed one more time and with that she snuggled close to me, her right hand going round my back to give me half a hug and the left hand dropping two of the biggest bottles of Dove Damage Therapy into the cart.

A month later I was busy tapping away on my laptop sitting on the comfortable bean bag when she came from behind and put her arms around my head and over my chest. As her hair fell over my face, I pick up the cue and tell her, "I just love the smell of your hair. It's so smooth and full of life".
"Acha? Self-praising huh? You know you are the one who suggested Dove."
"Yeah, of course. And aren't you glad I did?" I ask.
"Hmm yes. I will grant you that. One of the best decisions you ever took", she said, her chest burgeoning with pride that her husband finally is getting the nuances of shopping, right.

"Now get up, you bag of bones. I'm getting late for Choti's Mehendi ceremony", she thundered.

As I got up and walked past the dressing table, I caught myself in the mirror. Looking into mirror and running my hand through my hair I thought about all the scheming I did over a month ago, tricking my wife into buying Dove Damage Therapy, for no self-righteous man would ever show preference/inclination in beauty products.
Now sporting an evil grin, I heard myself say "and that was the end of all my hair problems."

Disclaimer: This is a contest entry for Indiblogger featuring Dove Damage Therapy.
Image Courtesy: Here and here.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

The Cloak of Invisible Decency

Farcical Disclaimer: This blog contains content that might hurt your religious sentiments. So, if you one of those who get easily sentimentalized, you can stay away. Should you go ahead and read the article, you have three options in front of you - Compliment, Complaint or Compliant:)

Lord Rama is widely considered to be Maryada Purushottama (The Perfect Man or Lord of Self Control or Lord of Virtue) by Hindus across the globe. He is a human being par excellence and his rule was famously known as Rama Rajya for being full of peace, happiness, prosperity and justice. And yet among the 330 million Gods in Hindu mythology it is with Lord Rama that I have an issue with. The story of Lord Rama is all hunky dory till He protects Sita Devi from the clutches of Ravanna and brings her back. It's the story after that, which makes me wonder if He deserves the Maryada Purshotamma tag that has been conferred upon Him. My grouse with Lord Rama is on three counts
  • When He asks Sita Devi to undergo the Agni Pariksha
  • When He banishes Sita Devi from Ayodhya on again doubting her chastity
  • When He fails to recognize his own flesh and blood, Luva and Kusha and battles with them
Agni Pariksha

In my book Lord Rama loses the Maryada Purushottama tag the moment He asked His wife to prove her chastity. The basic premise of calling Rama a Gentleman fell flat on its nose when He doubted his wife's fidelity. No right-minded gentleman would ever doubt his wife, least of all by listening to a loose tongue. Sure there’s any argument that He listened to the people of his kingdom and wanted to put them at ease. But at what cost? By hurting the sentiments of a woman who's devotion to her husband kept the evil advances of Ravanna at bay? And what kind of a King is Lord Rama who listens to the whispering voices of the mischief-mongering people rather than the thundering voice of His own conscience? If Rama Rajya was all about peace, prosperity and justice for the people, where was justice in asking Sita Devi to undergo Agni Pariksha?

It is this male chauvinist attitude that is still the root cause of all atrocities against women in this country. The women of this country have to constantly prove their loyalty and fidelity to their husbands who themselves can do as they wish with no questions asked. The modern day Ramas’ take refuge in the idea that, if Lord Rama can ask his wife to prove her chastity why not his subjects? Can’t help wonder if we are following the wrong Gods!

Banishment of Sita Devi

As if the Agni Pariksha wasn't insulting enough, comes the banishment of Sita Devi from the kingdom. And with this act His cloak of decency is all but shredded to bits. Suspecting your wife of carrying someone else's child and throwing her out of your house to let the pregnant wife fend for herself is the worst form of cruelty there is. And not surprisingly that attitude is still prevalent in Indian men thanks to God's Testimony over the matter. The women of this country have no chance. They are up against Gods and husbands!

Battle with Luv and Kush

The failure of Lord Rama in identifying His own flesh and blood is the pulling of the last straw. Now common, even a tacky 80's Bollywood movie star would have recognised his sons (lost in Kumbh Ka Mela) even after 25 years. The fact that Hanuman could recognize that Luv and Kush were the Lord’s sons and Rama missing out on the same fact defies all logic of parenthood and Godly sensibilities.

There could not have been a better ending to this story than Sita Devi submitting herself to Mother Earth leaving Rama to live a life of regret. As they say, Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.
Disclaimer: Some of my understanding/knowledge/interpretation about the events may be wrong. I stand welcome to be corrected.
† Courtesy Srikanth Manjunath
Picture Courtesy: MyGuruWikipedia

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Discrimination of the Third Order

Of all the discriminations meted-out to various sections in the society, this one counts for the least publicized. It is so less talked-about that many refuse to believe it actually exists. "New Dads" often live with the stigma (at least in India) that a Dad is just the sperm-provider in the conceiving stage and latter as a food-shelter-and-clothing provider for the rest of his life. The father-child relation is not held same regard (or even close) as a Mother and child relation. Granted that a mother and child are one entity for roughly 35 weeks but in the process of glorifying the mother and child relationship the father is often ignored.

For starters, in most Hindu customs the daughter-in-law is packed off to her "maike", some 7 months into her pregnancy only to return after the baby is around 3 or 4 months old. So the discrimination starts even before the child is brought into this world. In my custom the would-be-father's contribution is restricted to sperm-donation and settling the bills for the delivery. But the MCPs that (previous generation of Fathers of) the Mallu Clan were, it serves everyone right that they stay from all things good in life. But times are the changing. And with micro families and working women being the order of the day, most deliveries happen with the husbands by their side. I was lucky enough to be next to my wife (though not in the OT) when she delivered our bundle of joy. But again for reasons known only to the Hospital staff, the expecting father is not allowed inside the OT unlike what is practiced in other countries.

Whether by their own will or bending over for the sake of customs and traditions, it is almost criminal to miss the first-look of your own flesh and blood. It is not a sight you see every day or every year. For all you know, you may see it only once or twice in your lifetime. But more than the frequency it's the emotional gravity that's worth cherishing for a life time. The anxious 9 months suddenly gives way to overwhelming joy and complete nothingness. If ever there was a moment when I felt my legs wobbling with excitement, it was this! I could sense my brain sending signals to the eyes to well-up but this was not the time, because if I blink, I know the baby would be whisked back into the OT to dress-up. I only had enough time to enquire about the sex of the baby and that too after an after-thought. A girl it is - just as we both secretly wanted, but never revealed, should it be a boy. Not that we would be disappointed but we just were preparing for it to be either.

As I get busy calling people who matter to spread the news the mother and daughter are wheeled-into our room. I quickly wash my hands and pick-up the baby before I face the next stigma - new Dads don't know how to pick a just-born. There is surprise, shock, awe and instructions pouring-in. I’m too pre-occupied to heed to any of that talk. Looking at those sleepy eyes, I could hear myself repeating in my head - You are My Baby. I was reveling in the fact that I am now a life-creator, care-giver and protector - synonyms usually only reserved to the mother. So, with all the emotions that I was feeling at that time I would like to ask would any New Dad feel comfortable missing out on such joy? If they do miss it voluntarily - God save them and if they miss it by way of customs and traditions, I’m bound to ask if we really need such customs and traditions?

The last trimester of the expecting mother and first quarter of child's growth is the most crucial period in my opinion. It's the ideal time to bond with his child and his wife. The mother would also prefer nobody but her doting life partner to be by her side during all the nights the baby keeps you awake. It is difficult on a lot of levels for the husband to deal with a pregnant wife in the house. Yet nobody enquires about you. The society is only bothered about the health of the expecting mother and her womb-occupier. While Maternity Leave is a must whether you work in a Government or Private organization, the government of this country does not feel the need to have a legislation that provides mandatory paternity leave to expecting fathers. The result of such a disparate law is that the New Dad end up exhausting his Personal Leaves for the year at the time of the birth and end up missing important events like the Naming Ceremony of the baby - as has happened to a close friend of mine. As for me, I cannot imagine missing even a small thing like my baby sucking her thumb for the first time, let alone missing her Naming Ceremony.

My grouse here is that New Dads are often relegated to the task of being a financier or sperm-giver and never credited with the role of a life-giver and protector that they rightfully can be. It’s about time these traditions and stigma are thrown out of the window and usher the New Age Dads who not only take care of their little ones but also be the emotional handle of their better halves.

Picture Curtesy: Essential baby, Comedy Film Nerds

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Random Thoughts - Take 2

So this is my second attempt at blabbering... err... blogging indiscreetly and indiscriminately. For reasons unknown to me, I don't know when, how and most importantly why, Random Thoughts churned into Road Bloke. Being the avid reader (of blogs) that I am, I realised, Random Thoughts was probably the second most used blog title after "heyitsme<my_name>". Hence I decided to chuck Random Thoughts for "Ramblings of a Dysfunctional Mind" - which however is used by at least 2 bloggers in the same form and some 18 variations (until I quit counting) from an equal number of bloggers. Ain't I glad that the 28 minutes I spent thinking of a Blog Title yielded so few results! I feel I've attained my "intellectual-high" of the week by coming up with that title.

Now, the question rattling your mind right now is, just what the hell do I need a second blog for and what do I intend to write in that. Before I answer these questions let me assure you that I've not gone the psychic route for getting it right with my predictions. That question is really genuine and the only answer I can think of right now for the former question is that it sounds very verbose to say I write two blogs! Plus, every blogger has at least 2 or 3 blogs. So why not me? Plus it's free. Plus... ok I will stop now. To answer the latter question about what I intend to write, I believe as a intelligent reader you must have figured it out by now. Anybody who happens to be my unfortunate Facebook friend knows that I rant a lot. Let me say that again - A LOT. Well here's another way to get deluged by my rants and that too in the longer format of the game. No Escape.

There are however little things - nice things - that I would be blogging about. But just like the glorious Indian Media, 90% of the content would include negativism, sensationalism and absolute crap. So without any further ado let me set the cat among the pigeons!

Picture Coutesy: