The Joy of Giving!

Gift

While I love to shop for myself and buy nice things, the biggest satisfaction I get is from giving to people. It brings me happiness, peace and contentment. I don’t dedicate any special day for giving. I try to make it an everyday habit. Sometimes, I’ll pay a rickshaw driver Rs. 10 extra just to bring a smile on his face, sometimes I’ll feed street kids the food that they ask for. Sometimes I’ll help an old person or a young child cross the road – that is also a form of giving for me. I love to send gifts to my friends and see the smile of happiness on their face.

Giving to people should be something that we follow everyday. It shouldn’t be done on any one special day only dedicated to someone. Make it an everyday habit. Give a smile to a sad looking stranger, compliment a woman on her outfit and watch her confidence soar, thank a man who makes way for you and even better ( this goes especially for us women) – don’t expect a man to make way for you always, hold the door open for you or show you courtesy. Instead, do it sometimes for a man, it can even be a stranger. They will feel happy because rarely do they get to experience such gestures.

Make giving and caring for people an everyday habit. You don’t need any other mood booster or stress relieving activities!

This post is written to participate in the #DaanUtsav Initiative on Indiblogger.

Advertisements

The Saga of the Under Attack Feminist

When I was a little girl, my grandmother would keep teaching me about everything a girl should be – a girl should be softspoken, she should be modest, she should not have strong opinions and views, she should be extremely tolerant whatever the circumstances and protesting against injustice, what’s that(she still is the most beautiful memory of my childhood days because of the lovely summer memories she created for us). And today when she is no more and I am the exact antithesis of whatever she taught me, she must be squirming or finally she is proud of me?

On one side, I had my grandmother moulding me into her idea of a perfect woman(or wife) and on the other side I had my dad bringing me up to be a strong, self respecting woman who is the epitome of kindness but God help you if you mess with her. I guess dad’s upbringing had a heavier influence than my grandmother’s.

So I grew up to be a strong minded woman who knew what she wants in most things life and could not compromise on the things that most girls are asked to compromise on. In today’s 21st Century, if you are a woman with clear views and thoughts and if you set very clear standards for yourself, you are labelled a Feminist with a screwed up mouth making it sound like a dirty word. If you stand up for your rights and don’t let people mess with you or cross the lines, what are you? Yes, you guessed it right! The dirty word again.

I have been quite used to people calling me a feminist with their nose turned up like they have some dirty smell right under their nose. And I can smell those kind of people from far away. But then some people surprise(shock) you too. They preach about being modern, free thinking, broad minded and believing in equality. They gain your respect and you are truly impressed that here is the WOMAN/MAN of today. And one day they show you your true colours!

A few days back, I shared an article condemning the men who gang raped a woman who was out of her house in the night with her baby. She was in the auto when they threw the baby out of the auto and took the woman to a secluded area and gang raped her. Needless to say, the baby passed away.

Deeply saddened by the crime, I shared a sketch of the culprits that was released with a statement hoping that they are arrested. Most of the people had sad or angry reactions to what I shared.

Then a friend of mine totally opened my eyes to her. Till then, she had always come across to as someone who believed in the emancipation of women. But the truth was revealed to me that day. Her comment – While I deeply sympathize with her, I think she is at fault because she shouldn’t have gone out in the night alone with her baby especially since one truck driver had already tried to molest her. I asked her – how can you even say that? Does she even have to explain why she stepped out of her house or feel guilty about it? She says I agree with you and women’s freedom shouldn’t be restricted. I said – good, then let’s stick to that and not make statements like she shouldn’t have stepped out.

Then she messaged me and started writing a long saga about her ex-husband used to beat her up, yet she never left the house etc etc. I ignored her messages because there was no way I could justify her sentence to myself. Then two days later, she was probably miffed that I ignored her. So she messages me and says that I am far removed from reality and she labelled me as a ‘bra burning feminist’. I mustered up all my dignity and responded – I don’t wish to discuss this with you. Thanks.

So here is a modern 21st Century woman who escaped an abusive marriage with a daughter of her own and is now married to a wonderful loving man for which I am truly happy for her. Instead of fighting stereotypes and working towards a safe world where her daughter can move about freely, she is feeding the dangerous stereotypes where a man can strut about at any time of the day or night thinking that all women are things to be used and abused while women should lock themselves inside four walls to keep themselves from tempting the uncontrollable man. The bra-burning feminist rests her case here!!

Anti-Romeo Squad – A Protective Act or a Restriction of Freedom

From the time the Modi government came into power, I have been a sceptic, completely sure that this government will not make a difference in people’s lives. It will be the same circle of false promises, hopes shattered and disappointment. I still am a sceptic, waiting and watching to see if the government lives up to the people’s trust.

One of the latest moves by the government that has people(especially the young people) scared and worried is the Anti-Romeo Squad started in U.P. We are automatically worried and concerned that it is a garb for harassing couples. I completely empathize with people’s concerns and worries. After all, we have had experiences of policemen harassing couples under the pretext of protecting women.

However, in this case, I feel things may be slightly different. From whatever I have read – the Anti Romeo Squad isn’t created to prevent interactions between girls and boys. I know that when we look at Yogi Adityanath, we perceive the kind of person who wants to take India back to the dark ages. But somehow, I beg to differ in this case. I may turn out to be wrong, but from what I have seen of his actions, his decisions after becoming CM have been based on the right thought process.

The Anti-Romeo Squad has been created with the thought process of making the cities safer for women. The thought behind it is a good and positive one. Yes, when I read up about the Anti-Romeo Squad, I did come across incidents where innocent young boys were harassed or young couples were troubled. However, there was one big difference that I noticed. Immediate action was taken against the police officers who harassed consenting couples or group of friends of mixed gender who were together. The officers were suspended. So, eventually this might turn out to be the step that will make U.P a safer place for women. We should give it a chance. Also, the squad has one male and one female officer, another difference from the past.

Now the important question asked in this topic. Should we stop the intermingling between boys and girls? Definitely not. We should encourage boys and girls to have healthy relationships based on respect and understanding. We should teach them to treat each other as people and not look at each other as members of the opposite gender.

A lot of the times, no make that all the time, children learn by following our actions, not by what we preach to them. How many men make sexist remarks about girls or women in the presence of their sons – making comments on their physical aspects, the clothes they wear or even their driving skills. If you preach to your son that he should respect women as individuals but behave in the opposite way, what do you expect him to learn? Similarly, if you teach your daughter to dress modestly, to behave in a certain way when going out with guys, you are drilling it into her that she is responsible for ensuring no guy treats her in the wrong way. We need to teach our boys that women have the right to dress the way they want to and if a woman is drinking at a party or if she has many guy friends, she is not a woman that they can play with.

Once again, children follow by example, not by preaching. So, if we want to have a healthy intermingling of young people from opposite genders, we need to practice what we preach and treat men and women(boys and girls) to see each other as people and individuals, not as someone from the opposite gender.

This post is written for the Indiblogger Indispire topic # 166

 

Religious Rituals – Are They Relevant

The latest Indispire topic on IndiBlogger had me thinking of somehow of the rituals that we as Indians blindly follow. Here are my pet peeves in Indian Rituals.

Fasting for a particular God:

We will fast and starve ourselves irrespective of our health conditions at that time for a specific God. We could be completely physically weak but we will not give up our fast. Since we are all God’s creations, which God will tell you to starve yourself in his or her name? And how are you of service to God with this silly fasting? If you want to do anything for God, go out and feed so many of his hungry children.

Arranged Marriage

All our life, we(especially girls) are advised to not talk to strangers but when it comes to reaching the so called marriageable age, we are expected to meet a stranger once and decide whether we want to spend our life with that person or not. And God forbid if a girl especially refuses a perfectly ‘eligible’ boy only because she can’t see her life partner in him. She’ll hear everything from ‘Who do you think you are?’ to ‘At this rate, you’ll never get married.’ What highlights a parent’s insecurity better than this?

Silly superstitions related to Marriage and Horoscope

According to Indian traditions, all the 36 characteristics of a couple should match as per the horoscope, otherwise they will be incompatible and lead an unhappy married life. So, here’s my question? Will all the characteristics matching guarantee a happy married life to me, no divorce, no problems after marriage? This question itself highlights the stupidity of this custom. In today’s times, where it is very difficult to find the right life partner, totally in love couples are separated because of horoscopes not matching, doesn’t matter if they have been happy together for years and years which leads to next pet peeve of mine.

Honour Killing

Yes, I know – honour killing normally happens when a guy and girl of the same Gotra marry each other. But it also happens sometimes in cases like the above mentioned case where their horoscopes don’t match. Now to come to the point of the same Gotra marriage. So a girl or a guy married someone who is of the same Gotra. So, their families decide to kill them and if it’s a village, it’s with the approval of the village panchayat(rule makers and local governing body of the village) Some of us will ask, what is Gotra? In Hindu society, the term gotra means clan. It broadly refers to people who are descendants in an unbroken male line from a common male ancestor, with the marriage within the same gotra being prohibited by custom, being regarded as incest. So a girl and a boy who belong to the same Gotra are considered as siblings. This doesn’t make sense again to me. The common male ancestor may be generations and generations removed from today, to me honour killing for Gotra or for any other reason is an inhuman act.

Donations at Temples

How many times have we been to temples and seen devotees standing with different kind of offerings in their hand and patiently waiting in line? To give those offerings to whom? To the stone statue inside. I go to temples too and I have no objection to paying respects to the God’s statue inside. But it is God’s statue, not God himself. It is a symbol of God. Who do you think enjoys those offerings? Yes, those fat-stomached so called Panditjis or Gurujis sitting inside the temples along with the other temple employees. Outside the temple, you’ll see a line of destitute people with no or bare minimum clothes. Why not feed them?

How many of us have seen the movie Ohh My God? There is this scene in the court where Paresh Rawal talks about seeing a host of devotees standing outside a temple, each with a jar of milk in their hands. He thinks, if there are so many people standing, then there must be a God inside who drinks the milk. Then he goes inside and sees, but there is no one drinking the milk. He sees the milk going out of the temple through a pipe and thinks there must be some God at the end of the pipe who drinks the milk, Again, he is surprised to see there is no one. He sees the milk going out of the temple into a dirty drain and at the end of the drain, he sees a poor man putting his mouth to the drain and drinking the milk. Paresh Rawal gives his jar of milk to the poor man. After drinking the milk, the poor man says, “May God Bless You”. I don’t need to add anything else.

Considering son as the name-carriers and the torch bearers of the family

We will commonly hear people saying even today that we need to have a son to carry the family name forward, even if they have 5 daughters. So they’ll continue having babies till they achieve the wondrous feat of having a son. So many evils because of one stupid belief – population overgrowth, poverty, lack of proper education for children because of too many kids and normally only one earning member. Then this belief leads to the two biggest evils – female infanticide and child marriage. A couple, in their desire of a child, will kill the baby when it’s born or kill the baby in the womb, if it’s a girl.

In India, it has been made illegal to know the gender of the baby before it is born for this reason. Even then in the small towns and villages, this continues. Then, even if the baby is allowed to be born and the parents keep having babies in their dream for a son, it leads us to the second evil – Child Marriage. In order to rid themselves of the burden of daughters, girls are married off at a tender age when they should be playing and studying.

As a country, we need to eradicate these evils to truly calls ourselves a developing country or a developed country.

 

 

 

Bloggers and Social Responsibility!

Pen is mightier than the sword! A very well known saying and so true and holds especially true for us bloggers. We can influence change, raise awareness of various issues being faced by the country and the world. Whether it is social issues like dowry, child marriage, injustices and politics, we can make a difference.

However, it is not where our responsibility stops! A lot of us endorse brands as paid projects or as a favour. Do you think we should endorse any brands or be very careful of the brands we endorse? I personally don’t endorse brands that are not socially, environmentally safe or brands that endorse social evils. For example, I stay away from endorsing brands that are known for testing their products on brands and also fairness products. Brands that cause environmental harm are a complete no-no for me. I would love to have the views of my fellow bloggers on this.

The Death of Freedom!

India has completed 68 years of independence. But what does this independence really mean? I don’t see any freedom around me at all.

Whenever a girl is harassed by men on the road, I see the death of freedom.

Whenever a couple is killed by their own families for falling in love, I see the death of freedom.

Whenever I see moral police beating up lovers for celebrating Valentine’s Day, I see the death of freedom.

Whenever I see police arresting adults who are staying together in a hotel legally, I see the death of freedom.

Whenever I see someone insulting me on a personal level because I don’t agree with the actions of the leader of the country, I see the death of freedom.

When I see crores of money being pumped into cleaning the River Ganga while the pollution of the river continues simultaneously, I see the death of the freedom.

Whenever I see a student with poor marks getting that coveted engineering seat on the basis of being from a backward class instead of the student with top marks, I see the death of freedom.

Whenever I see rapists roaming around scotfree while the victim breathes her last in a hospital, I see the death of freedom.

Whenever I read about someone being killed because of Road rage, I see the death of freedom!

Whenever I see people ignoring an accident victim lying on the road, I see the death of freedom.

Whenever I see people telling a girl to not to roam about at night or to dress properly when a guy molests her, I see the death of freedom.

Whenever I see people keeping their house spotless but dirtying the streets without any qualms, I see the death of freedom.

Whenever my government decides for me what I can or cannot eat, I see the death of freedom.

Whenever I see a girl supporting the archaic rules meant for the subjugation of women, I see the death of freedom.

Whenever I see a woman getting her son married for the second time because her daughter-in-law dared to give birth to a daughter instead of a son, I see the death of freedom.

Whenever I see a bridegroom and his family walking out of the wedding because the dowry was not upto their standards, I see the death of freedom.

Whenever I see people bathing lifeless statues in temples in litres and litres of milk while so many starving people exist in the country, I see the death of freedom.

This is not #RealIndependence and this is not the India of my dreams or of the people who want to see progress, prosperity and happiness for their country.

Pornography Ban in India

In the last 24 hours, a lot of conversations have been happening on the Internet and Social Media on the topic of 800 odd pornographic websites being banned in India. People were protesting all over the Internet against the ban. And there was only one question in my mind – what is wrong if these websites are banned? I agree that we are the country of Khajuraho and Kamasutra. But, for how long are people going to justify this as an excuse to support Pornography in the country?

I don’t buy this argument at all. What happened was centuries back. Why should anyone use that as an argument to support and promote something that’s degrading, humiliating and disgusting for a man or a woman? A lot of people may get a lot of pleasure out of it, but do we spare a thought for the people who shoot for these videos? Isn’t it humiliating for them but the only means of earning money(as they may feel)?

If this mode of earning money is not there, they may think of other options which are far more wholesome. Does anyone agree with me? There is one more aspect that we have completely ignored in our “RIGHTEOUS” fight for people’s rights. What about the videos that are shot without the consent or knowledge of so many couples through hidden cameras? So many such cases have come out into the open. Do we realise how humiliating it is for the unsuspecting couple, married or not?

If the government bans these porn websites, people will automatically develop a fear of visiting these websites and the demand will gradually stop. When there is no demand, will anyone bother to supply the same?

Oh and not to forget the hypocritical angle. I have heard countless number of derogatory comments against Sunny Leone for being a porn star. I have complete respect for her in being honest about it. We don’t mind watching and supporting porn, but we won’t have any qualms in insulting someone who has worked in them. I may be completely wrong in my views, but this is what it is.

As of now, the latest news is that the ban has been lifted from these websites after protests from people, except for the websites that had child pornography. While I am happy that we have a government that listens to its people when they protest against something, it is also raising a question in my mind – If what people watch is their choice, why isn’t it their choice to eat what they want? Why has a ban on beef been forced on people in Maharashtra? Is eating beef worse than watching pornography?

To conclude, I feel that porn videos, content and websites should be banned. These are strictly my personal views.

Murder of Free Speech

From childhood, I have been a very outspoken kid. Sometimes, my parents appreciated me for it, sometimes they didn’t like it but they never stopped me from speaking my mind. This trait is still the strongest part of my personality. I criticize the Government for the wrong actions they take, I stand up in support of causes I believe in irrespective of how many people disagree with me. But what it came to threat of my life? Would it quieten me? Probably not.

I am deeply saddened by the ruthless murder of three #BangaladeshBloggers in the last two years, the latest being atheist blogger Washiqur Rahman who was murdered for his views on religion. Religion is a personal choice and if you have a right to follow it, I have a right to criticize it without being answerable to anyone and definitely not being murdered for it. The other two bloggers were Avijit Roy and Rajib Haider.

All these cases have been murders in broad daylight, yet the auhorities are turning a blind eye to it. What kind of world are we building towards? If they did something that was against the law, then let law take its due course. And is your religion so weak that it can be threatened by someone speaking against it.

Why would anyone want to stay in a country where their safety is threatened because of having different views from other people? I see my country going the same way and it scares me. I don’t want to stay in an atmosphere of religious intolerance, lack of freedom of speech, no freedom of choice in what I eat and I don’t want my future generations growing up in this atmosphere. I want them to learn about their culture and rich history, but I also want them to be world citizens who accept all cultures, are open-minded, speak their minds and accept other people’s views too. Will they also face life-threatening situations because of that?

Let us come together and make our voices stronger and our solidarity greater in support of Rajib Haider, Avijit Roy and Washiqur Rahman and all those who are being slaughtered for speaking their minds!

#ToiletForBabli – An Initiative to support the health, hygiene and dignity of a female

For four year old Hiya, it was just another regular day in her life. She lived in Khadakpada on the outskirts of Aarey Milk Colony, an area that lies on the periphery of Sanjay Gandhi National Park in the suburbs of Mumbai. In the early hours of Tuesday morning, she stepped out of her house to answer nature’s call. A leopard was possibly lurking in the foliage there and attacked her. Hearing her screams, her father chased the leopard and tried to snatch Hiya from the leopard’s jaws. The leopard retreated, however little Hiya was declared dead at the hospital.

In another incident, seven year old Sanjana Thorat accompanied by her mother and grandmother, stepped out to answer nature’s call in Shankar Tekdi, Mulund Colony, another suburb of Mumbai. A leopard pounced on her, caught her by the neck and dragged her towards the jungle while her mother and grandmother screamed for help. But it was too late for Sanjana.

We are in the 21st Century and 597 million people are still defecating in the open. They have no access to proper sanitation facilities. I live in Mumbai and everyday when we are traveling by local trains, you will see a line of men sitting, defecating in the open on the train tracks with cans of water next to them. Women have to do the same, but they come really early in the morning when there are fewer people around. Mumbai is a very crowded city and there is no such thing as fewer people around. So, a woman loses her dignity everyday.

The case in our villages is even worse. A female, whatever her age(even if she is just a child), will step out to defecate and will most probably be raped and killed, sometimes even gang-raped. This is only because she doesn’t have access to proper sanitation and hygiene. Most of us want to help, but don’t know where to start in a country with such a huge population. We turn away our faces and try to ignore the situation because we feel like a tiny drop in a mighty ocean who doesn’t know how to make a difference even though we feel desperate and helpless seeing their plight and hearing of such incidents everyday. Now, here is your chance.

Domex, HUL’s flagship sanitation brand, has started a campaign to make hygienic facilities accessible to all villages across India. Their campaign is called #ToiletForBabli. You can bring about the change in the lives of millions of kids, thereby showing your support for the Domex Initiative. All you need to do is follow the simple steps below:

“Click” on the “Contribute Tab” on www.domex.in and Domex will contribute Rs.5 on your behalf to eradicate open defecation, thereby helping kids like Babli live a dignified life.

Let us all come together to join Domex in their latest initiative to help make villages open-defecation free.

Writing to Change the World

Can writing change the world? Can it bring about social change?

Yes, it definitely can. Throughout history and till today, people who wanted to change the world have written books and articles to bring about change, You must have heard the saying ‘Pen is mightier than the Sword.’ It is truly so. It is when we write about the wrongs in the society around us that people start to notice the same wrongdoings and start speaking out against it, that’s when the change happens.

During the pre-independence era, the freedom fighters and revolutionaries would circulate magazines and newsletters, sometimes anonymously or sometimes openly to encourage people to rise against the British rule.

The advent of Internet has made this even more easier. One powerfully written article can be read all over the world and open people’s eyes. For me, it has been a boon to have the Internet where I can express my thoughts freely about the wrong practices in our society and the system. There are people who think I am too outspoken, too opinionated and think I can change the world. They will come and tell me, you shouldn’t give your views on every wrongdoing in society. And I tell them very politely, i am going to do what I think is right – they can block me, unfriend me on the social media platforms, It makes no difference to me.

I want to make a difference to the world and if I am alone in that effort, so be it. But my writing wil always be honest, powerful and I will always speak up against any wrongdoing through my writings. This is the best way to reach out to people and help them open their eyes. I wish there were more people who would do this and then positive social changes won’t be far away.