Disappearing daughters

Forty million girls do not just go missing, though in India that is the case
On a 10 hour-long flight, while I was trying to fight fear of height and motion sickness, I decided to switch on my tab and play something to get my mind of mental stress.

Out of the long list I chose to watch Mardani. I’d heard Rani was really good and so was the story line; and sure I was convinced at the end.

The plot moves around one of the country’s most insurmountable issues of young girls going missing in most big cities and the crime branch trying to fight it with the mafia.

90,000 girls go missing on an annual basis; more than 34,000 are never found.  Take a minute and let that sink in.

90,000 girls go missing on an annual basis; more than 34,000 are never found.
Take a minute and let that sink in.

The movie was just a window to this evil crisis so I decided to look it up and learn more.

When you think about it, discrimination against girls begins in the womb. Approximately 50,000 female fetuses are aborted every month. It’s enough that women are treated worse than stray animals at home or outside, by in-laws or family, but it doesn’t end there, they’re being buried as babies, killed in the womb, kidnapped to be sold and raped, this list is endless. An estimated 40 million girls have gone missing in India, which has a total population of 1.1 billion as of 2010.

Pregnant women visit ultrasound clinics, which are booming businesses in the country, to determine the sex of their babies before they are born. In India, it is reportedly a crime to use an ultrasound to find out whether the child is a male or female.

Even my Twitter feed has plenty of messages from police bureaus and family looking for their missing children. The very recent one is of a 4-year-old girl gone missing from India Gate on 28th September, ’14. But apart from re-tweeting and commenting on the post what else can you do? Is the question right? Well, here I am trying to figure out how one can be of any help.

90,000 girls go missing on an annual basis; more than 34,000 are never found. Take a minute and let that sink in.

This is clearly a much bigger racket than one could imagine. It starts and ends with the underground, the mafia with its connections reaching top notch biggies at high positions. Everyone is involved.

I can’t help but think about children living on the streets and in slums, where little girls can be kidnapped under their parents’ nose without anyone raising a brow of doubt.

Activists say, some children were trafficked and forced to beg on the streets. Some work on farms or factories as forced labour and others have their organs harvested and sold. Younger girls are pushed into sex trade or sold for marriage.

The first time I actually got my head around this issue was when I saw Liam Neeson’s Taken; in which his daughter gets kidnapped to be sold to rich business tycoons and the girls are judged on their appearance and virginity. Much later did I realise that reality ain’t that different.

Now I try to link a lot of other issues to this and it all fits. From dowry, arranged marriages, pre marital sex and depriving girls from education. It just all fits into the scenario. The girl is a produce and a product to satisfy someone’s needs. If this thought sickens you, this blog isn’t for you. It’s for the rest of you who think that’s the purpose of our existence.

Stats

Stats

Another misconception is that this happens only with girls. No. Even young boys aren’t spared their adolescence. Many cases involve poor migrant construction workers who move from site to site around the city, the children are unfamiliar with the place and once they lose their way, they wouldn’t know how to return and parents don’t have a dated picture of their child for the police to track.

Reasons of kidnap and ‘missing’ children can be endless but the basic fact remains that they are being abused and ill treated buy the rest of us. We were all babies once.

Celebrating 50 Golden Years

In this over demanding life that we are engulfed into, how often do we hear of couples who have had successful marriages and those who are sure they are in it for a lifetime? I for sure can say that three out of the five marriages I attended recently ended within just a few months. Considering the obvious fact that today, both men and women are focusing on careers, travel, and business and have an array of arrangements on their plate with endless deadlines, couples do find it hard to make it last. While you’re surrounded by so many failed relationships, you’re naturally looking for that one bright light you know you can follow, the one that brings out hope in you.

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Happy Anniversary Ams& Aps!!

For me, this bright light was the recent celebration of my grandparents 50th Golden Jubilee Anniversary. I doubt they would have made it this far if they started a life together with their foundations based on conditions put forward by both families, which is gradually becoming a trend these days considering hefty pay checks and lavish lifestyles; a marriage without talks about imported gifts is almost nonexistent. I constantly hear stories from my aunts about how my grandparents started a life together with bare necessities and how they gradually moved out of the joint family setting to make sure that their children weren’t shadowed by older cousins and were brought up independently.

My grandmother would always say that her early days as a new bride in the joint family was a journey of bitter sweet memories. But even today, she feels if she didn’t experience the bickering and taunting from the older women in the house, she would have never known how not to treat her daughters and daughter-in-law. But now she would tell me, the current generation is unable to accept such situations, although they might be hard to deal with, they are all still learning experiences.

Back then, things were not in the plenty as they are today. Resources were limited, technology barely existed, family time and education was on top priority and outdoor games were the only respite from studies. But surely those would have been times that were nothing but satisfying to the soul unlike today when if someone else has more likes on their web page there is a sense of cold war arising. Similarly, starting a life together isn’t a knockout round of tennis where if you lose a match your game is over, it’s about learning to live with a new person, making peace with their likes and dislikes, adjusting to each other’s schedules and lots more, something our generation more or less takes for granted resulting in failed relationships.

A few years back, my grandmother went to live with my uncle and his wife for a couple of months to help take care of their child; only she would know the amount of pain she went through during those few months as she had to live away from her husband. Fifty years later, even today, she ensures that they live a happy and a healthy life together. Where do we get to see this kind of attachment these days? According to me, these are subtle hints trying to wake us up from our bubble of comfort and over-confidence.

With the change in lifestyle and the increasing work pressures of this day and age, we seem to have forgotten how to cherish family and how important certain milestones can be.

We have plenty to learn from our grandparents, more than we could possible know. Cherishing family time and valuing the basic necessities of life is something only they have learnt to the fullest.

Published in The Golden Sparrow 28/6/2014

Sex. It exists India. Deal with it.

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So Mr. So And So decides that sex education is worthless and must be banned from the Indian Education system, if possible from the Oxford Dictionary too. ‘Yo Westerners, do you hear me? It’s not ‘good’ for us.’

Mr. SAS: Clear your minds dear Indians. Breathe in and breath out. Talk about things that don’t involve private parts and ‘that’ three letter word. Oh wait! This helped? Wow! Then lets learn Yoga instead!

Yeah wonderful.

I have a few questions. No I have many.

If sex education is considered vulgar and inappropriate, isn’t the whole idea of the study supposed to be to remove the vulgarity from the act. It’s not vulgar dude! It’s human nature. It’s legal.

If it’s taboo, then why is it okay to talk and educate people about rape and not sex? Why are you informing small kids about the difference between a bad touch and a good touch. Is that much info enough? Sex is consensual, it’s legal; rape is forced, it’s illegal.

How many parents out there are able to talk to their kids and prepare them mentality and physically before puberty? 2, 3 yeah I thought so. The common perception about puberty for girls: ‘Khoon hi toh nikalta hai, mar toh nahi jayegi na.’ If you as parents can’t talk to your kids, leave it to the teachers, let them do their jobs. Don’t growing children need to know about what’s going on in their body?

Regardless of the fact that education and basic biology has been around since the beginning of time we still torture, torment, discard, abandon, kill the woman if she bares a girl child. Why? If you’re going to stop educating people about the basic fact that the gender of the fetus is decided by the male partners genes, how do you expect people to know that the mother is only the carrier and does not decide the sex of the child?

Half the educated lot even today isn’t aware of STDs. You don’t believe me? Let’s play a game. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is STD? (Not the full-form)
  • What causes an STD?
  • How many types of STDs can occur?
  • How do you prevent it?
  • How are you supposed to treat the problem?

Now refer to the actual answers on the web. Not on wiki how for heaven sake!

So, were you right? I bet none of you knew there were 20 different types of STDs that can be transmitted.

No. The answer is not ‘That’s why we have doctors’. That’s why we need to be educated about it. How can one turn a blind eye to this? This is serious stuff.

No. Don’t. Nahi. Bandh karo. Chod do. Ban kardo. What is this trend of banning everything? I totally agree with Jug Suraya on this. How does banning something solve a situation? When your child is growing up, do you keep him/her away from a swimming pool because he/she may drown, or do you teach him/her swimming so they may survive? Can you ban driving? Well, accidents happen, everyday, all the time, people die… So?

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If banning sex education and porn is okay, why aren’t semi-nude item girls banned from movies? Why do we have films flooded with sassy item songs? How is that okay? Personally, I’m not against these in films, I just find them mundane. But if education is being disrupted in schools, how are we okay with Jaqueline Fernandes stripping for goons on the big screen?

Kid: “Papa, everyone says I was born this way, but how was I born? Where did I come from?”

Dad: Umm.. Hmm.. Aaaa… (Damn! Am I allowed to say it? Will I go to jail? Shite!) “Beta, hmmm.. You fell from the sky.. Yeah. That’s the right answer. Phew! Now go on.”

What more is this fellow going to ban? Co-ed schools? Male gynecologists? Male doctors from delivery rooms? Porn folders named ‘Month-end reports’? Or should I shut up and stop giving them more ideas? 

How would you know, you’re so dark

Growing up with grandparents, I must say is something everyone must have the luxury of experiencing. It’s a 24×7 learning experience with them around. You learn why they think in a certain way, why they do things in only that particular manner and why almost everything you do, say or even think is not right in their rule book.

I’ve had the pleasure of living with my grandparents, both maternal and fraternal for a generous time and I can safely say that even though they belong to the same school of thought, each one is a different person altogether with varied views on the same topic.

I wont get into details about each of them and their perspectives, but there’s one thing that’s been on my mind for a long time. Something that distinctively puts forth the generation gap that we so often talk about.

As South Indians, you’re least expected to be fair skinned, and by any chance if you are with a lighter skin tone, you’re surely mistaken for someone from elsewhere. Highly atypically, literally everyone in our immediate family is fair skinned; in fact, some can easily be mistaken for a nonnative.

Since I was a little girl, I used to be told to not touch this, not to eat that, not to play here, not to go there, only fearing the fact that I might grow to end up with darker skin or play with kids who aren’t fair skinned. My granny, like most hypochondriacs, is constantly worrying about being fair skinned and call it unfortunate or whatever, she even thinks fair skinned people should mingle with the same types, marry the light skin, have light skinned babies so on and so forth…

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Now in normal terms one would call this racism, but can you call one of your own a racist? Yeah exactly. But then I see this new cult that’s catch up pace amongst most of us thanks to the idiot box that makes you feel like shit with every advertisement wanting you to break the rules of basic biology and become fairer. And then I just have to ask, if I’m not fair skinned does that mean I’m less of a human or someone with a smaller brain?; Someone who doesn’t deserve the same respect and luxuries as say someone with whiter skin? Our historic obsession with colour is so contagious we don’t spare harmless cats either.

I recently watched the Oscar nominated 12 Years a Slave and after, I sat up all night reading about slavery and apartheid and believe you me, I’ve had sleepless nights ever since. You might think I’m exaggerating, but absolutely nothing about being woken up in middle of the night to be brutally raped by your owner/master and pretend like nothing happened the next morning only because you’re black, can be pleasing.

We talk about racism openly today; you even read about people getting sued for making racist remarks, and to be honest, the world we live in is quite predatory where anyone seems provoked to break boundaries to cause discomfort to another. Quite the opposite of Live and Let Live right?

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Why I mentioned growing up with grandparents in a write up about being discriminating; you learn from your seniors throughout your growing years, be it your parents, older siblings, college seniors or professors and something as sensitive as this can evolve into brutal behaviour.

I’m no preacher, I’m no Gandhi. But may be you don’t need to be one to know that you’re no different than another human. Oh well! May be I am. Why? What why? I’m fairer than you, can’t you see?

Where the soil speaks

It’s been about two weeks since I’ve shifted base and I can’t help but feel out of place, still.

This is where I grew up, this is where I am supposed to feel at home, these are the people who I should be able to connect with; but I guess the pieces aren’t exactly fitting in its puzzle.

Well, for starters, I’m moving back to this place after about a decade now and needless to say that it’s nothing like what I remember it to be like.
It’s more crowded, shallow to the core, intolerant of the ‘other person’, expensive to no limit, and I can go on and on and on but again, every new place feels the same for an outsider.

Some say that the reason I find things difficult to accept here, is because I shifted with half a heart. Now you can call me patriotic or a fool, but there’s absolutely no way that you can leave your home, your country and your people to go and live elsewhere where you have no rights as a resident. Can you?

So then I thought of those who have lived away from their towns for ages trying to make a home away from home. Yes they’ve made a life for themselves, more money than they expected to make and continue to do so. And I have only one question for them, ‘Are you happy living away in another country?’

My point here is that why can’t you use your talents and knowledge where it’s more required? Why does our nose go sniffing money after we’re out of college? Why are we running behind travel agents and passport offices the minute our final results are out? When did this trend occur? And why isn’t it fading?

Do we have responsibilities towards our country or are these just words put together to frame a sentence that doesn’t mean anything?
What do you think? I’d like to know…

Picture courtesy: http://faithatthebeach.com/2013/04/23/feeling-out-of-place/

Books bring a story with them

This thing I like to do often.. Look at huge shelves with books that are thick, small, fat, glossy, paperback, hardcover, Indian, foreign, and all such kinds, and count the ones I’ve read. Just makes me feel good and intelligent, and smart, and intellectual also. ;)

So back in 2011, on one such smarty pants-on-the-lookout-for-books-walk, I picked up this book because the name was just exquisite, and the young girl in an abayaa on the cover looked so elegant and delicate.

Here I must confess, I read plenty of books on women, education, patriarchal-matriarchal clashes, mother-child relationships, etc… So I had to pick this one out to read the gist at the back.

I then find out that the author belongs to the same city as me! Now how could I have not bought it?

I put it in my basket along with the other books, rushed home to store them all on the bookshelf made them look pretty and organised and completely and very conveniently forgot about it.

About a few weeks back, my aunt borrowed books from me and I happened to find this one in the shelf; I asked her to read it and let me know if it read well.

So, she called me a few days later and sounded so excited about the book that I had to stop her and tell her I haven’t read it yet so don’t blurt it out.

Little did I know that this book was practically written in the same city as I live in, and the instances in it happend right outside my mom’s house!! Isn’t it amazing to hear and read about those historic places you pass through almost everyday?

The author starts his narration at a house with people. Where? He doesn’t tell us. When? He doesn’t tell us. How many people? He doesn’t tell us. But of course, the main character of the book, Rosha, is described to perfection and your mind just knows that’s what she would look like.

What has mesmerized me so much to write about it, is the fact that he has written about instances that happened in my neighborhood. Now there’s nothing to be excited about a book that talks about a love triangle or a super hot single call centre employee, mind you. This was something beyond imagination.

Rosha is a young, courageous, simple, intelligent, smart, vivacious, beautiful and well-spoken Afghan girl who made a living for herself after having spent a horrific life under her Arab master in a rich Gulf country. She was then taken to the U.K by an English Royal family to start over and gain some education. To complete her education with a thesis she travels to India and visits different cities and finally embarks upon the city of Poona.

Unfortunately, the author is sent with his team to raid her house and deport her to her home in Kabul as she is said to be an illegal immigrant and has over stayed her visit. Kabul, where her father was murdered for promoting education and liberalism. Kabul, where her mother was stoned to death for being the wife of a traitor. Kabul, which took advantage of her brothers and sister and killed them.

Photo credit:http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/9a/Hazrat_ Babajan_Dargah,_Babajan_Chowk,_Pune_Camp_by_Faizan_Ansari.JPG

Photo credit:http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/9a/Hazrat_ Babajan_Dargah,_Babajan_Chowk,_Pune_Camp_by_Faizan_Ansari.JPG

The story of this brave girl touched me even more when I realized that she came to Poona to learn about a sufi-saint. This was not just any sufi-saint. This was the only Woman sufi-saint-Hazrat Babajan. I cross Hazrat Babajan’s tomb everyday and never did I think of the tomb to have so much historical importance that she would attract people from around the world to come and learn about her.

On Rosha’s arrival in Kabul, she was shot to death by the Talibs for belonging to a family of traitors. She was just 22.

Now, when I cross the street, it will be different. I will look beyond the traffic, the noise, the food carts and the cows on the road. It will be different.

Censor this Shit

I’ve never been much of an abuser and even if I did, say.. once in 10 months, it’d be within closed doors whispered under my breath and I’d feel stupid about it. There have been times when I’d abuse and those around me would be like ‘Whoa! She just said the F word’.
It’s not that I think it’s wrong to abuse or unethical or any thing of that sort, I just think abusing is a way of relieving yourself from some kind of pent up angst for which you can’t find a solution.
But this don’t mean that I dislike those who use abusive language often, each person has their unique way of dealing with anger and disagreements and that’s good in a way.
We hear abusive language around us a little too much these days.. Don’t you think? T.V, Twitter, Songs be it Hindi English or even Tamil for that matter, no one shys from flooding their lyrics with abuses.
Again, it’s a trend and it’s okay. It’s picking up pace, and if you call your best bud ‘That bloody Fucker’, what’s some more abuses in catchy songs? Ahh! No biggie.
But what I find ridiculously foolish and insanely annoying is censoring these words in the English context.
We had songs like Radha likes to move that *beeep* Radha body.
And off late it’s Mauka hai kiss my *beeep* Main ghar nahi Jana.
(Guess the beeep- 5 marks)
These might not exactly be abuses, but you get the drill…
But at the same time, no one’s beeping words like Kaminey, Halkat, Harami, and the likes.
What’s the difference? Don’t they all mean the same thing? Aren’t they demeaning words too?
Half our English speaking society watches English sit coms and tell me which one of us thinks those dialogues make complete sense with a 100 *beeeps* in 20mins?
I know we’ve hit rock bottom when I see words like ‘sleep’ Pants’ ‘wet’ getting *beeeped* oh lord!! What is going on!?!
I don’t know what the ideal thing to be done is, but I know that the mind lives its own life, away from the one the rest of the body lives. You might blind fold your eyes and kill your ear drums to stay away from evil, but you can’t shut your mind.