Sexual Abuse and Globalization

1 month back:

News flash: (Tamil Nadu): A young woman, Swathi, was brutally hacked to death by a young men. Incident happened early in the morning in Chennai, at the crowded Nungambakkam Railway Station.

The killer walked away from the spot and no one chased him or took a photo / video on their phones. Police reached the spot 2 hours later. This incident has created a big outcry in the media, and among the public.

6 years back:

It was 8 PM in Chennai. I got down from the local train at Kodambakam Railway station. I had to walk though a few by-lanes to reach home. There were many passers by and street lights were on.

As I waited to cross the road, I felt someone push me aside. I looked up to see a man standing right next to me. I also noticed his hands coming towards me again. I asked him what he wanted. He replied back with a sheepish smile, without withdrawing his hands. I yelled at him saying he ought to watch his hands or be ready to face the police. I was scared and angry that I ran till I reached my  room.

I have faced similar incidents through out my tenure in  Chennai. While I write this, similar incidents are happening to many young children, teenage girls, working ladies and mothers across India. They face similar feelings of vulnerability and insecurity.

25 years back:

India was very different 25 years back. Streets in India were safer for women. In those days, it was common to see well-dressed stylish young men lingering near residential areas and universities to ‘watch’ young ladies. I remember seeing well dressed uncles loiter around our residential area to watch the young school and college going akka’s. But no one dared to go near or touch unknown ladies in public places.

A comparison…

25 years back, there were no hi-tech smart phones and CCTV cameras. Yet, an incident like Swathi’s murder in broad day light in a crowded public place could not have happened. Public would have raised the alarm, and chased behind the murderer. Passers by would have rushed the victim to a hospital immediately.

But today’s reality has let the murderer walk away leisurely from the spot, and no one went near the victim for 2 hours till Police arrived on the scene.

Bangladesh

Safety for women in India

What happened in the last 25 years ?

In the 1990s, India embraced globalization. It opened the door to lots of financial changes.  Education and career options became wide spread. It became easier to find jobs that paid well. Traditionally conservative women ventured out to colleges. They also got high paying jobs. Men and women interact and mingle a lot. Party culture, along with IT and BPO jobs have led to more women on the streets at night.

On the other side, Gloablization has also brought many social changes. There are realistic portrayal of crimes and social extremes in media. Films that portray brutality are appreciated by the public for their realism. TV channels bring all latest brutal crimes right in to the house. TRP is the norm of the day… As a result, common man’s mind has become used to crimes.

We have become numb to crimes and brutality. Unless something extremely brutal happens, there is no public outcry for the common everyday crimes. India is definitely not headed towards a safe zone.

The future…

Since globalization, India has been changing its social mindset. In the past, our culture and traditional practises were at risk due to globalization. But now, India has found a balance between international exposure and its own cultural identity.

Similarly, we are now going through a phase where human rights and personal freedom are at risk. We have to find a balance between modern lifestyle vs gender / religious / caste identity, and embrace humane feelings.

Globalized India has to pass this phase, and emerge out as a balanced and more humane society. Only time will tell how and when this happens.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Participation review of Vijay TV s Neeya Naana

I was an avid fan of Vijay TV’s Neeya Naana talk show. I like the constructive discussions between general public. Other debates on TV focus on how well a person can debate. But, I thought Neeya Naana was focusing on facts and public awareness.

While watching the show a month earlier, my husband noticed a running scroll at the bottom inviting participation applications from women professionals So, I applied for it.

A week later, I got a call from Vijay TV. The topic was “Are men having a good time.., or are they toiling hard”? The caller was from Neeya Naana and he asked for my views on this topic. My instant reply was that I cannot generalize men. He urged me to answer it based on my general perception of men. As the discussion progressed, he asked me if I think being born as a man is fortunate and if I would like to be born as a man in my next birth. I do not believe in next birth.. and even if there was one, I am comfortable being born as who I am now. Based on this, he concluded that I think men toil hard. He asked if I can come to Prasad Studios in Chennai the next morning. I confirmed that I would be there the next day morning.

Arrival:

We drove from Pollachi to Chennai that night. We reached Prasad Studio in Vadapalani around 9.30 AM.  We registered my name with the Neeya Naana team there. During registration, the topic conveyed to me was slightly different. It was “How do women view men – are men dominating or responsible?”

There was a steady flow of participants till 10.30 AM. There were chairs for participants outside the studio. Breakfast was also served at the Studio. Most of the participants were busy discussing and debating points.   A few were calling up friends and relatives to inform of their participation in Neeya Naana. 3 ladies had already participated in Neeya Naana before. We waited outside the Studio till 11.30 AM.

Preparation:

We were finally called in to the Studio. Names were called out and participants were sorted as per their views – Men supporters on one side and Men haters on the other side. Lights were switched on.. the Neeya Naana set was there in front of us. We were allocated seats.  But, the seating arrangements were changed again and again for an hour. Reason given for this was participant’s dress colors and appearance should look well spread out when viewed on TV.

8202be616-1

The next one hour was extremely boring. We were asked to clap continuously with a smile on our faces. Then, we were asked to look straight for 10 minutes. These were recorded. This continued for around an hour while we waited for Mr. Gopinath, the famous host of Neeya Naana. Mr. Antony, the director of Neeya Naana, instructed both sides of participants. He gave us a list of points to be spoken about, and a list of points to be avoided. After this, his assistants instructed participants on the do’s and dont’s.. like don’t grab the mike, instead ask for it etc.

Starting:

Finally, Mr. Gopinath arrived. He had a brief discussion with the director, followed by a briefing with the assistants. It was past noon when the show started. Mr. Gopinath introduced the topic as “Women’s view of Men – Carefree or Suffering”. He started with the carefree side. Around 70% of what Mr. Gopinath spoke was prompted by the director.  At first, I felt strange that there was an echo for anything he says. Then I realized that it was the director prompting loudly. It looks like Mr.Gopinath or Mr.Antony had specific points in mind. As the mike moved among participants, they allowed a few participants to talk for long about specific points, but gave rude rebukes to a few participants for other points.

For Ex.., the lady who started talking about her personal experiences was rudely asked to stop. Mr. Gopinath instructed her was not to talk about personal “stories”. But another young lady who spoke of her team mates behaviour was encouraged to talk. This young lady did not use respectful language ( her exact words were “thanni adichittu mattai aagiduvanga”). But she was encouraged to continue talking.

Progress:

After 30 minutes of talking to the carefree side, Mr.Gopinath appeared stressed out. He said he was frustrated because participants were not giving answers  as he expected. For the next one hour, Mr.Gopinath picked out participants one by one, and threw questions at them on a host of men related issues. Those who could not give a satisfactory answer got harsh rebukes. At the end of an hour, most of the participants on that side were hushed up.

Only a few were encouraged by Mr.Gopinath to tell their views. These views were countered by a few ladies seated in the first row of the opposite side. Participants in the other rows kept voicing their views from the opposite side. Their views went unnoticed. Ladies in the first row appeared keen to keep the mike with them. Those who dared to shout out their views from the other rows were silenced by Mr.Gopinath. He said that  participants in the first row have answered his question and further replies were not needed.

W7VDW

By then it was already 1.30 PM. Lunch was served. Many participants in the men – supporters side were disappointed that they never got a chance to tell their views. They asked  the Neeya Naana team about this. Prompt came the reply that they can speak up in the remaining segments. A few others approached the director, Mr.Antony, and asked for a chance to tell their views. We saw Mr.Antony passing on the message to Mr.Gopinath.

Post lunch, Mr.Gopinath’s focus was on the men – supporters side. Mr. Gopinath raised a few points spoken by the opposite team. He asked participants to counter these views. One of the participants in the first row  was a lawyer. She was a voracious public speaker. She fiercely guarded the mike, answering loudly in English for every single question. She ensured that no one else got a chance to talk. Many times, Mr.Gopinath had to remind her that this was not a fierce debate, but a public discussion.

By then, other participants had been waiting for long. They loudly demanded for a chance to tell out their views. Mr. Gopinath used the same approach again. His question was about health problems faced by men. He pointed to a lady aged around 45 years to answer this. She said  men were responsible towards family commitments and that she wanted to talk about family related issues faced by men. Mr.Gopinath replied in a stern and harsh tone that she had raised her voice asking for a chance to talk, but when he gave her that chance she is not talking sensibly. The poor lady had tears in their eyes.

Mr.Gopinath continued the same with anyone who dared to raise their voice asking for a chance to talk. After an hour, all the participants were silenced. Either they were afraid to speak out, or were tired and had lost hope of voicing their views. After that, it was mostly a discussion between 4 – 5 participants and Mr. Gopinath. But, even this discussion was not interesting or sensible.

Discussions:

A participant in the first row of Men supporters side said that her husband was coming home late due to work, and their sexual life was miserable. This was countered by a young girl in the other side who said that in the fast life today, sexual happiness should be compromised, and it was not really a problem for men!

Another lady who had impressed Mr.Gopinath earlier on was given a chance to speak. She said that if both the husband and wife were working, they never had any interest in sexual happiness. The next half an hour was spent listening to this discussion. Mr.Gopinath and Mr.Anotny appeared quite pleased with the discussion between the 3 ladies. They sat in silence listening with a contentment written on their faces.

After half an hour, Mr.Gopinath was prompted by the director to applaud this discussion. He promptly claimed that he was proud of this discussion. He also proudly announced with this discussion proved how intelligent Tamil women were!

Conclusion:

The show was nearing its final stage. Mr. Ram, Tamil film director, was the special guest invited for this episode. Not sure why no psychologist, or thinker or writer was invited to preside over this.. instead, it was a film director. By then, I had a splitting head ache and could not take any more of this. So, I decided to leave during the next break. It was 4 PM when I left.

 

neeya_naana_vijay_tv_show

Review:

To summarize the show on one sentence – it is completely mismanaged. Most of the arguments and discussions we see on TV are edited and tailored. Actual shooting happens for 6 hours. This is edited and tailored to a one hour episode. So, the show aired on TV is not a genuine public talk show. It is a highly tailored and edited talk show.

Host Review:

Mr.Gopinath’s reply to lady participants is harsh and insulting. A talk show is one where participants engage in constructive discussions, not one where the host keeps bringing down the participant’s self respect.

Social Concern:

Tamil Media and Film industry has a section of people who project themselves as intellectuals. They acquire knowledge about social issues through books or movies. After this, they showcase the same issues in their films and shows. Then they become intellectuals overnight.

In addition, if this issue is related to Eelam Tamilians, or about Fishermen problems in Tamil Nadu, or about Marxist ideologies, etc.., the person is sure to be branded as an intellect in Tamil Film Industry. These intellectuals treat others who are not focusing on these issues as inferior common men.

A Participant’s Anguish:

I understand that the Neeya Naana team has the right to decide whose views to edit and whose views to broadcast. But do they have the right to invite participants and finally do not let them speak a word. Do they understand that participants travel at their own cost (many participants were not from Chennai), spend their time (it was a working day and women professionals were participating).. and finally get insulted by Mr.Gopinath?

Mr.Gopinath and the director appeared angry and tense throughout the show. At one point, Mr.Gopinath yelled out to the crew members, loudly shouting at them to lower the ear piece volume. It took him a minute to recover his pose and talk in a normal tone. Similar incidents kept happening through out.

If this show is well planned, organized and managed more efficiently, it would be a better and enjoyable experience for  Mr.Gopinath, the  Neeya Naana team and for the participants.

Looking Back:

My participation in Neeya Naana turned to be a very bitter experience. I took almost a week to forget the bitter memories. Why invite 50 professionals from across Tamil Nadu, shout at them and insult them, encourage senseless discussions for the sake of TRP, falsely propagate a sense of Tamil pride, include comments that degrade women and alienate migrants in Tamil Nadu, etc?

It has been 2 weeks since this happened. I have not watched Vijay TV since then… I will probably not watch Vijay TV at all in future. It is better to be at peace, rather than to be lured by such senseless media.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Living in the country side

In India (and most of Asia), country side has 2 meanings – 1. Rural villages, 2. Lonely farmlands. Villages offer a close knit community where every knows and watches you. Lonely farmlands offer ample of solitude and nature.

We relocated to a lonely country side a few years back. Till then, I have lived in many cities across countries. I had always dreamed of living in the country side. Yet, nothing had prepared me for the real country side. Life in the country side is completely different from city life. From small aspects like cleaning and shopping, to financial and economic aspects, my entire view of life has undergone a drastic change.

Farmland 2

At first, beautiful scenery and wide open spaces were mesmerizing. Once I got used to the landscape, the next thing that caught my attention was the variety of life around – lush farmlands, cattle, goats, hens, dogs, and a wide array of birds.

Then we updated our modest little home into a spacious cottage. I spent a wonderful time exploring the world of Eco-friendly materials and design of open spaces.

Living in wide open spaces gives one the opportunity to read nature. Passage of seasons is beautiful and rhythmic. Everything in Nature, from soil to animals and birds are aware of the change in seasons. They change beautifully and adapt graciously to nature’s ways.

It is only us humans who find it difficult to adapt. Living far away from civilization presents a whole host of difficulties. Adapting graciously to this place has been a constant challenge.

The nearest grocery store is at least 6 km away. If I run out of sugar or salt mid way during cooking, I cannot buy supplies immediately. So, I have to keep tabs on my grocery usage and buy well in advance.

On the other side, the generosity of open spaces is over whelming. If I take a walk, I mostly return home with something to cook. In the rainy season, we get a never ending supply of wild mushrooms. In addition, there are plenty of beans, greens, curry leaves, coriander, yam, sweet potato etc growing around. Farmers around are generous and share their harvest easily.

It is easier to stay fit and active in the countryside. Reason being, you end up doing all the work around the house! Garbage disposal is a multi step process. You segregate your wastes, bury kitchen wastes, pack all plastic wastes and take them out to the trash can in the nearest town, burn dry leaves, paper wastes etc. We do minor plumbing, wiring and repair works, modifications around the house. It does sound like a lot of work.. Is this not enough to keep one fit and active?

The best advantage of living in the country side is about cutting down on unwanted spending. We do not get lured by window shopping. Clothes are brought when they are needed, not when the store has a sale. We rarely eat fast food, instead cook up snacks more often at home. We buy furniture after months of searching for the design and price we have in mind. Online shopping is difficult as home delivery is not available to remote farmlands.

Farmland 1

When spending decreases, savings increase. So we could afford frequent trips and explore places. No impulsive purchases during our trips.. except when the travel destination offers something that we need.., at a better price or quality.

Every minute is quality time spent with family. Views and scenery are beautiful. Life is slow and peaceful. I have become a different person since I started living in the wide open country side.

I am at peace now.

 

 

 

 

 

Cross Stitch

Cross stitch is a simple form of embroidery. For beginners, it is simple and easy to learn. For experts, it can be used to sew realistic and complex patterns.

Cross stitch looks like a simple “x”. It is made by sewing 2 cross lines like this image from  LadyAda:

 

Sewing many “x”s in a row gives a pattern.

 

Outline of a shape is first traced on the cloth, and then rows of “x”s are sewn together to fill this outline.

Cross Stitich 5

 

These “x”s are stitched with threads in many colors, instead of a single color. The shape of “x” can also be changed to form interesting patterns as seen in this Needlepoint sampler.

Counted Stitch Sampler

 

Cross stitch is usually stitched on Aida cloth. Aida cloth is loosely woven. It’s holes make it easy for sewing cross stitch. Other fabrics like hemp, cotton etc that have equally spaced holes are also suitable for cross stitch.

It is  sew small and detailed patterns on textiles and dresses. By coordinating colors of  threads, even small patterns appear realistic. This apple pattern on kitchen towel is from the Etsy shop, Gabees Crafts.

Cross Stitch Kitchen Towel

 

Cross stitch is the preferred form of embroidery to create landscape and portrait art forms using sewing techniques. This beautiful Geisha masterpiece is from the Etsy shop, AccrocheCoeur.

Cross stitch portrait

Cross stitch is one of the oldest forms of embroidery. It is so wide spread since centuries that it’s roots can be found across the world. Different regions of Asia and Europe have their own historical patterns of cross stitch.

If you are interested in learning embroidery, cross stitch is the most easy and simple stitch to get started. Happy stitching.

 

A father’s anger, fuelled by caste

A cheerful morning dawns… it is wedding day for the lovers. Both are students studying for their engineering degree. Both are from the same religion, but from different castes. The boy hails from a lower caste dalit family, while the girl hails from a relatively upper caste thevar family. The girl’s family oppose their daughter’s choice of a lower caste man. Against their wishes, the lovers enter wedlock.

Post marriage, the girl’s family continues with their opposition. They relent their daughter’s life in a lower caste family. They bring her away and try changing her mind. But she returns back to her married life. They continue threatening her and her husband. But of no avail. Police complaints are lodged.. but no sign of the threats abating. Finally, after 8 months of marriage, three hooligans stop the couple in the center of a busy street in broad daylight. They hack the boy to death, and beat the girl up. Before the surprised city people could understand if this was a cinema shooting or a political rivalry, the boy’s breathing stops. This happened two days back in a western district of Tamil Nadu.

honour-killing1

Are we talking of a socially or economically backward region? No.. Tamil Nadu is a socially and politically progressed state. Tamil Nadu’s fight against caste oppression began more than 50 years back. Even before India got its independence, there were social movements questioning the caste system in South India. Marriages devoid of religious ceremonies are legal in Tamil Nadu. It is common to see socially progressive women remove their mangal sutras for convinience. Successive governments have strongly encouraged inter caste marriages.

Art, Literature and Movies have also encouraged thinking beyond caste and religious identities since decades. In fact, Tamilians spread across countries since the days of rajahs have followed this culture.

A socially forward society is suddenly walking backwards… shedding its rational nature, and embracing caste identities.

What has led to this downward turn of events…? Is it political vendetta of caste based outfits.. or is it a trend in tamil cinema towards caste based pride… or is it just fate?

I see this as a consequence of the celebration of heroism and honor.While many sections of the society actively move towards rational thinking… other sections have been moving towards hero worship. Post independence, there have been many heroes in the Tamil society. These heroes create an image of a generous, righteous and god like character for themselves. Cinema and / or caste movements give a helping hand here.

Once a hero attains this status of a protector and benefactor of the society, anything and everything he does is worshiped and praised by the masses. Emotional surges are visible throughout society at the very mention of his / her name. These emotional surges wipe out reasoning and common sense.

A decade of films portraying village chieftains and local dons paved way for this trend to take on local caste based identities. A common Hero for Tamil Nadu… was replaced with many heroes, one for each caste. A common collective identity and pride was replaced with caste identity and caste pride. This effect trickled down to politics too… Now many arenas in Tamil Nadu, from politics to movies are populated with local heroes with strong caste identities.

Society has now reached a point where an angry father can demand his daughter’s life if she becomes the wife of a lower caste man. This is  helped by the presence of influential political leaders of the same caste..In addition, it is fueled by movies glorifying the caste’s identities and culture. Men and women from this caste, spread across Tamil Nadu, might unite to protect the father… and empathize with him.

Youngsters and students who should be empathizing with the slain man and his wounded wife are busy with fun and frolic of college life… or they are busy with placements and examinations.

Men and women from the man’s lower caste are busy bringing good income to the government run liquor shops. While, there are a handful of demonstrations and agitations  from the lower caste questioning this… There is no sign of a mass movement urging the government to take strict action.

Elections are round the corner. The continuing string of honor killings should influence election results. But, schemes that promise free rations, free electronic appliances, free wages, subsidized housing etc have a stronger influence on election results.

Humanity, and the right to live have taken a back seat… Desire for easier ways to accumulate material wealth is of high social priority now. In fact, that seems to be the biggest collective priority.

Am I too a part of the same society..? Apart from being a silent spectator to this, what can I do? I can vote. I can clean my mind of hero worship and caste identity before casting my  vote.

your-vote-counts

Do I know the policies of the party and person I am voting for..? If not, I will also bear the consequences of his / his party’s faulty policies.. my family and future generations might be affected.

Did I favor him because of his caste or creed or religion..? If yes, I am risking my right to a dignified and peaceful life. A false sense of pride will not help me or my family’s progress.