Charlie

A few thoughts on the Paris attacks:

On freedom of speech: Charlie Hebdo did not exist in a vacuum.  The idea of freedom of speech as it exists in Europe, is that of an inalienable right.

Under the auspices of this near-absolute right, *everyone*, from far-right political leaders peddling xenophobia, to hateful Salafist preachers (watch) – get to say what they want to . In such an environment, the content of Charlie’s cartoons (many of which can be offensive) become irrelevant.

Anyone post-humously critiquing the publication’s work or examining the purported racism of the creators is completely failing to take the cultural context of western Europe into account, where literally anything goes, and the State has to uphold the right of real political and religious  leaders, who say far more offensive , scary and consequential things than a cartoon could ever hope to.

Having said that, the right to offend is balanced by the right to be offended.

In India, the law falls on the side of those who are offended, in Europe, the right to offend is upheld more.Either way, the tilt  is a reflection of the values of the society as a whole . While the feelings of those who are offended are very valid, I do believe that democratic recourse- giving back in kind/calling for boycott/street and social media protests and so on- are enough and inundating the legal system for relief is silly.

A cartoon for a cartoon, not a bullet.

On the attacks themselves: I wish everyone would stop with the ‘terror has no religion’ caveating. The attack had nothing to do with the vast majority of our planet’s Muslims, but to argue it had *nothing* to do with Islam and instead delve into examining the history of the magazine, or France’s colonial past or immigrant issues is to indulge in sophistry. For a definitive clarification, the words of the men who carried out the attacks should be enough.

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The Animal Farm of the UPA

Animal Farm is an all time favourite book of mine. I first read it when I was 13 or 14 years old, and didn’t think much of it. The next time I read it, it was three years later and I could distinctly discern the parodying of the socialist/communist movements that it does extremely well.

You can read a synopsis of the book here, but some quotes from the book are *so* apt for the Congress party in India, that I am literally rubbing my hands with glee (and cackling evilly) at these ABSOLUTE gems.

Taking the liberty to modify (pun intended) a bit , I present the best quotes:

 

“The birds did not understand Snowball’s long words, but they accepted his explanation, and all the humbler animals set to work to learn the new maxim by heart. FOUR LEGS GOOD, TWO LEGS BAD  BHARAT NIRMAN! was inscribed on the end wall of the barn, above the Seven Commandments and in bigger letters.”

 

 

“All animals Indians are equal, but some animals Indians are more equal than others.”

 

 

 

Do not imagine, comrades, that leadership is a pleasure. On the contrary, it is a deep and heavy responsibility. No one believes more firmly than Comrade Napoleon Soniaji that all animals are equal. She would be only too happy to let you make your decisions for yourselves. But sometimes you might make the wrong decisions, comrades, and then where should we be?”

 

“Ah, that is different!” said Boxer  Manmohan Singh.“If Comrade Napoleon  Soniaji says it, it must be right.”

 

“Somehow it seemed as though the farm had grown richer without making the animals themselves any richer — except, of course, for the pigs and the dogs  the Gandhis and the Vadras”

 

“Whenever anything went wrong it became usual to attribute it to Snowball Modi. If a window was broken or a drain was blocked up, someone was certain to say that Modi had come in the night and done it, and when the key of the store-shed was lost, the whole farm was convinced that Modi had thrown it down the well. Curiously enough, they went on believing this even after the mislaid key was found under a sack of meal.”

 

“If she herself had had any picture of the future, it had been of a society of animals set free from hunger and the whip, all equal, each working according to his capacity, the strong protecting the weak, as she had protected the lost brood of ducklings with her foreleg on the night of Major’s speech.

She knew that, even as things were, they were far better off than they had been in the days of Jones AAP , and that before all else it was needful to prevent the return of the human beings NDA .

Whatever happened she would remain faithful, work hard, carry out the orders that were given to her, and accept the leadership of Napoleon  Sonia Gandhi.

But still, it was not for this that she and all the other animals had hoped and toiled.”

 

“For the time being, certainly, it had been found necessary to make a readjustment of rations (Squealer Chidambaram always spoke of it as a “readjustment,” never as a “reduction”), but in comparison with the old days the improvement was enormous.

Reading out the figures in a shrill, rapid voice, he proved to them in detail that they had more oats, more hay, more turnips than they had had in NDA’s days, that they worked shorter hours, that their drinking water was of better quality, that they lived longer, that a larger proportion of their young ones survived infancy, and that they had more straw in their stalls and suffered less from fleas.

The animals believed every word of it.

They knew that life nowadays was harsh and bare, that they were often hungry and often cold, and that they were usually working when they were not asleep. But doubtless it had been worse in the old days. They were glad to believe so.”

Needless to say, this can go on. Will stop now. Read the book, draw the rest of the parallels yourself. It will be worth your while.

 

 

 

 

 

A History

The earliest I remember being molested is when I was about 9 years old.

I was in a shop looking at some stationery, when an old man wandered past and pinched my (barely existent) nipples very hard. The memory is vivid because it was unpleasant, and not because I realised what was happening. It happened a few times, before I gathered the sense to walk away from him,and go find my mother. At that point, I did not even register what had happened. That came a few years later, a eureka moment of sorts.

The most upsetting time I was molested was when I was about 14.

I was in one of the new malls in the city, and in some awe of the surroundings. A man who walked past me reached out and squeezed my breasts. It took me completely by surprise. The breathtaking nonchalance of the act really really angered me. I remember wondering if the skirt I was wearing had anything to do with it. I also remember being upset that the glitz of the mall had offered no protection against men ‘like that’.

The first time I ever confronted my molester was when I was 19.

This happened in Delhi. It was the first time I visited the city. I was attending a college festival, and was walking with a friend in a crowd when a hand casually groped my butt. It was casual enough that I’d convinced myself that it was probably an accident. The next second my friend turned to me teary eyed, and pointed to a man who she said had touched her ‘down there’.

Something came over me in that moment. It was anger and also a sense of chivalry, of wanting to ‘protect’ the friend I was with.  I turned around ,ran up to him and shook him by the shoulders, demanding an apology. He was completely drunk. Another man tried to separate us. He only smirked in response. I then slapped him. I had to jump a little to do this, he was much taller. A little crowd had gathered by then, and people clapped. We went our separate ways.

The scariest time I was molested was when I was about 22.

I and a friend were at a market, in a city in Karnataka, when we noticed a group of 5-6 boys/men following us from shop to shop. We didn’t think much of it, till we went to her scooter that parked by the side of the road. They surrounded us at that point, making leery comments. The scooter wouldn’t start for some reason, and we panicked, wondering if they had done something to damage it.

There was a traffic constable on the other side of the road, and I shouted to him in Kannada to come help us. He first pretended not to notice, but when I began to cross the road to get to him, he yelled back a comment of his own. Blamed us girls for being out in the market at 9.30 pm in the night.My friend had managed to start her scooter by then, and she maneuvered it towards me. I hopped on.

When I turned around, the men were still following us on their bikes. Luckily, one traffic signal put enough distance between us and them that when we finally reached our hostel, there was nobody behind us.

Shrinked!*

Remember Dr. Indira Sharma? The President of the Indian Psychiatric Society, who, in December 2013 said homosexuality was ‘unnatural’, on stepping down?

Well well well.

 

 

The World Psychiatric Association also has a new president.

And he’s not only gay, but also Indian 🙂

 

* Like ‘lawyered!’, but for shrinks.

And this is what he has to say-

“There are still countries where it’s seen as an illness. We need to make a stand.”

Open Letter to Tipsy Andhra Ladies

Dear Ladies of AP

It with great sorrow that I write to you. It pains me to hear of your behaviour, which has forced your kind and benevolent government to step in and take measures, which I’m sure you’ll agree , are for your own good.

Thanks to your fondness for the tipple, you will now have to leave pubs,clubs, and bars a whole hour before men do. And rightly so.

In a region with big, big problems like separatist demands, communal tensions, terrorism, and even Naxalism, shame on you for drinking so much and diverting the attention and resources of the authorities.They will now have to spend time, money and energy on making sure you do not drink after 10 pm.

In the rest of the country, and the world in general, MEN account for the majority of drink-related offences. Your police force, and your government, on the other hand,apparently have statistics to prove that in Andhra, drunken women are the bigger law and order problem! Just how wild are you girls?!

I sincerely hope you ladies will mend your ways, and behave in a manner that will not tarnish the image of Indian women. As you know quite well, the honour of your families, your state, and your country are all in your hands. Hands which were meant for cooking, doing pooja, bathing children and pressing the feet of elders. Hands which are today holding bottles, shot glasses and all manner of stemware! Oh , the shame!

Begrudgingly yours,

DD

 

In the loop.

In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings, the Islamophobic backlash is just beginning.

I came across an interesting article in this context.The author makes three points- (in case you’re thinking TL,DR):

1. There exists a ‘positive feedback loop’ between anti-western/anti-islam ideologies

2. Moderate Muslims should do their bit by speaking out and condemning radical Islam, as currently, outrage seems to be directed selectively against ‘injustices’ -like offensive cartoons/movies

3. The West should also actively abandon an Islamophobic attitude to further weaken the loop.

While I completely agree with the article in its entirety, I think the realisation of the writer’s second point will be extremely difficult-

First, because the ‘moderates’ and the ‘extremists’ are two distinct groups. Extremists are far more ‘visible’ because they actively participate in acts of dissent. Moderates are ordinary folks going about their daily lives-presumably the kind who have better things to do than to stage defensive protests. They are far more likely to register their disapproval in less visible ways- in articles, in conversations, perhaps even on social media- which makes their collective voice much more harder to discern. That is why you will see protests against cartoons- but none against fatwas.

The narrative of the ‘moderate Muslim condemning the radical Muslim’ is unfortunately inconspicuous in major media because of it’s dissipated, unorganised, individual nature. Discounting it’s very existence however, is wrong.

Second, the dissemination of radical ideology is probably spreading at a rate  faster than the moderates can keep it in check. The reason for this is numbingly simple- the ‘radicals’ have Wahhabi backers and limitless sources of funding, while the moderates do not. Moderate imams, mosques and madrassas are actively being ‘recruited’ into the cause of extremists using petrodollars. Take this for example. Or this. Of course you can hope that nobody buys into their brand of Islam, but the truth is that there are enough disenchanted souls who will be seduced by this increasingly pervasive rhetoric.

In the end, it boils down to simple, cynical truths- money matters. So does PR. At present ‘moderate’ Muslims- despite their best intentions- do not possess the former, and aren’t organised enough to meaningfully consider the latter.

And that’s why the third point becomes all the more important. Although the author meant for it to apply to government policy, it is literally the only thing we can do as individuals-ease up on the hard feelings.

As I write this, the law enforcement authorities in Boston are continuing the hunt for “White Hat”, the second suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings.

I’ve never said this before, but I have a sibling who lives in the Greater Boston area. She lives very close to where the certain events took place last night/this morning- close enough to send me extremely worrying photos. She’s since been escorted out of her building by the Boston Police, but spent an hour in a state of significant worry, knowing (and seeing) that there were gunmen literally right outside where she was. Luckily, she was not alone , and luckily, the action subsequently shifted elsewhere. Luckily, at the time,( she and I ) were oblivious to the fact that these men were the terrorists of the Boston Marathon- I’m sure that would have caused more panic.She’s been in touch with me on and off. But honestly, I cannot wait for this chase to end. And this terrorist attack- in a far away city- has turned personal in an unimaginable way . It makes my stomach churn to think that these men were close enough to her that she was sure that would try to enter her building. It makes me sick to think that she spent a whole sixty minutes in fear.

I wondered about blogging about this. I wanted to vent, I guess.

I ruminate*

Dear Ajja/Ajji

When I last spoke to Amma, she mentioned the Important Function coming up next year. She also said that you had considered a ‘go daana’ (donating a cow), but had decided against it. The reason, as the purohit so kindly put it was that my marriage was a distinct possibility in either 2013 or 2014. As he further explained, one kanya daana (giving away the bride- or more literally, girl donation) is infinitely more ‘punya’ filled and thus more valuable than any old ‘go daana’.

I must say, I agree with his logic , and am pleased that you consider me as being better than a cow. I look forward to being ‘given’ away, knowing that you chose me, over a cow, to add to your bank of good karma. Truly, the magnanimousness of your comparision- bride versus bovine, is incomprehensible to a simple kanya like me.I am mooed moved.

DD

* yes, like a cow.