The enemy is inside. How many?

It is difficult to accept but there may be substantial numbers of the enemy inside the gates. The Honorable Minister made this statement which if true is truly alarming. Is this guard a second coming of Mumtaz Qadri? If so are people going to fight the coming war (if it ever comes) with a third eye placed on their backs?

Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan has revealed that
late additional district and sessions judge Rafaqat Ahmed Khan Awan was
inadvertently killed by his own guard
and not by the terrorists in a gun
and bomb attack that killed 11 others in Islamabad on Monday.

In
Islamabad district courts, 12 people were killed and 28 sustained
injuries according to the latest figures, he told the lawmakers in
National Assembly…..the deceased judge locked himself and staff in his retiring
room but unfortunately the security guard deployed with him
inadvertently shot the judge with three bullets in panic after the
suicide blast.

He said speculations must be avoided on the incident of Islamabad district courts. The
guard had already confessed his crime and the post-mortem report showed
that the judge had not been killed with Kalashnikov but with the
guard’s weapon.

regards

Moopanars for Modi?

Journalism by talking to a taxi driver…nevertheless it is interesting that BJP support has crossed 10% in Tamil Nadu. I would imagine people who used to vote for Congress would not mind switching over to the BJP. The situation is similar to Kerala where the BJP can only win if the dominance of the Left declines and if  the powerful Nair Service Society (NSS) and Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana (SNDP) join hands to keep the hindu vote united.  

One interesting thing to keep a check on- as recounted in the anecdote below-  people may choose to vote differently depending on whether it is a national or a state election. If Congress implodes and BJP becomes the default national party then it can even win the votes of minorities. 

Thanjavur district
is the home of the Cauvery delta region and is the rice-bowl of Tamil
Nadu. The river and the fertile fields nourished Carnatic music,
particularly in the 18th and 19th centuries, when
the celebrated trinity of Saint Thyagaraja (1767-1847) and his
contemporaries, Muthuswami Dikshitar and Shyama Sastri, held sway.
Those
were the days when civilization was river-based. Things have changed
since, and, today, Chennai is the Mecca of Carnatic music. The district,
more particularly, Tiruvaiyaru, 15 kms from Thanjavur city, still
reverberates with the sounds of Carnatic music for five days in a year,
when it hosts the internationally-famous Sri Thyagaraja Aradhana, to
commemorate the death anniversary of Saint Thyagaraja.
The Saint passed away 167 years ago, on Pushya Bahula Panchami. Pushya is the name of the month in the lunar calendar. Bahula is the dark or the second fortnight, while Panchami
is the fifth day of the waning moon, according to the Hindu almanac.
Translated into the Gregorian calendar, which we follow now, the
Aradhana date varies from year to year, though not the month.
I was in Tiruvaiyaru for the Aradhana—as I have been doing for the last decade or so—this time from 17th to 22nd
January. I mostly attend the evening concerts, which leaves me free
time in the mornings. Thanjavur district is also famous for its temples,
with Kumbakonam being the hub for most of the famous Shaiva and
Vaishnava shrines, besides those dedicated to the Navagrahas, the nine planets. I, therefore, took the opportunity on one of the days to visit a few temples.
The
region is also the strong-hold of the Moopanars, the land-owning caste.
The late G.K. Moopanar was the most famous among them. Traditionally
Congress, the Moopanars are proud of Mr. Moopanar and equally so about
his son, Mr. G.K. Vasan, a union minister now. In fact, the family is
well-known for its public service and is the main patron of Sri
Thiyagabrahma Mahotsava Sabha, the body that organizes Sri Thyagaraja
Aradhana. Mr. Moopanar was its president until his death, and the post
is now held by his brother, Mr. G.R. Moopanar.
Our cab driver too
was a Moopanar, without much land, though. “My grandfather squandered
the 32 acres that we once owned,” he confessed. Our driver was a
talkative man: so am I.  Would he vote for the Congress, I asked. “No
way. Modi,” he replied. It was his opinion, I opined. It is the opinion
of most people here, he countered. “Jayalalithaa wants her partymen to
ensure that the AIADMK won all the 39 seats to the Lok Sabha,” I
reminded him. “This is not an assembly election,” he responded. “It is
for the prime minister and we want Modi as pm. Did you see the crowds at
Modi’s Tiruchi rally? My car couldn’t enter the city that day.”  He
could be right. An opinion poll conducted by Junior Vikatan, a political journal belonging to the Vikatan group, published a survey which showed that about forty per cent of those interviewed said they would vote for Modi.
According
to the survey, the AIADMK could get thirty percent, the DMK and the
others the remaining thirty per cent. Another poll has put the BJP vote
at a modest 17 per cent. The BJP is trying to woo the DMDK of Vijayakant
to cobble together a non-AIADMK, non-DMK third front. The DMDK is being
wooed by the DMK too, but the party’s vote has shrunk badly and only
three per cent are inclined to vote for it, according to pollsters.
Back
in my hotel, I asked the room boy whom he would vote for. DMK, he
replied. But wasn’t this an election for parliament, I asked him. “Yes,
but my family always votes for the DMK,” he replied. As his reply shows,
the traditional DMK base is intact.
– See more at: http://www.theindianrepublic.com/tbp/modi-favourite-tamil-rural-heartland-100024490.html/99#sthash.Kd6UM2P7.dpuf

Thanjavur district is the home of
the Cauvery delta region and is the rice-bowl of Tamil Nadu. The river and the
fertile fields nourished Carnatic music, particularly in the 18th and 19th
centuries, when the celebrated trinity of Saint Thyagaraja (1767-1847) and his
contemporaries, Muthuswami Dikshitar and Shyama Sastri, held sway.
…The district, more particularly, Tiruvaiyaru, 15
kms from Thanjavur city, still reverberates with the sounds of Carnatic music for
five days in a year, when it hosts the internationally-famous Sri Thyagaraja
Aradhana, to commemorate the death anniversary of Saint Thyagaraja.

I was in Tiruvaiyaru for the
Aradhana—as I have been doing for the last decade or so—this time from 17th
to 22nd January. I mostly attend the evening concerts, which leaves
me free time in the mornings. Thanjavur district is also famous for its
temples, with Kumbakonam being the hub for most of the famous Shaiva and
Vaishnava shrines, besides those dedicated to the Navagrahas, the nine
planets. I, therefore, took the opportunity on one of the days to visit a few
temples.

The region is also the strong-hold
of the Moopanars, the land-owning caste.
The late G.K. Moopanar was the most
famous among them. Traditionally Congress, the Moopanars are proud of Mr.
Moopanar and equally so about his son, Mr. G.K. Vasan, a union minister now. In
fact, the family is well-known for its public service and is the main patron of
Sri Thiyagabrahma Mahotsava Sabha, the body that organizes Sri Thyagaraja
Aradhana. Mr. Moopanar was its president until his death, and the post is now held
by his brother, Mr. G.R. Moopanar.

Our cab driver too was a Moopanar,
without much land, though. “My grandfather squandered the 32 acres that we once
owned,” he confessed. Our driver was a talkative man: so am I.  Would he
vote for the Congress, I asked. “No way. Modi,” he replied. It was his opinion,
I opined. It is the opinion of most people here, he countered. 
“Jayalalithaa
wants her partymen to ensure that the AIADMK won all the 39 seats to the Lok
Sabha,” I reminded him. “This is not an assembly election,” he responded. “It
is for the prime minister and we want Modi as pm.
Did you see the crowds at
Modi’s Tiruchi rally? My car couldn’t enter the city that day.”  
He could
be right. An opinion poll conducted by Junior Vikatan, a political
journal belonging to the Vikatan group, published a survey which showed
that about forty per cent of those interviewed said they would vote for Modi.

regards

Made in Bangladesh

I have always maintained that the best answer against conservatives is to showcase the power of liberation. A burqa wearing bus driver who believes that women can fly planes is perhaps the most subtle (also effective, practical) of denunciations of patriarchy. However if you take this too far…..well we are talking of risk to life and limb (and also alienation of people who are kinda sorta fence-sitters). OTOH as we know progress does not happen by being reasonable and shock therapy (in small doses) may be what is required to encourage youngsters to throw off the metaphoric burqa. So all-in-all more power to the young lady.

This is a Bangladeshi perspective on the photo campaign:

A
controversy has been sparked by American Apparel by releasing a new ad
starring a former-Muslim model from Bangladesh. The model is seen
topless with the words ‘Made in Bangladesh’ printed across her chest.
The
image appeared in Vice Magazine’s US and Canada editions. The
former-Muslim Model, Maks is 22 year old merchandiser for American
Apparel who was born in Dhaka but has lived in California since she was
four years old.
The ad tries to send a message by printing ‘Made
in Bangladesh’ over the model’s chest about their fair labor practices.
The words depict, not her jeans, but about American Apparel’s fair
labour practices as all its clothing is made in downtown LA.
A
detailed description of Maks and how she was raised in a strict Muslim
culture before she distanced herself from her Islamic faith in search of
her own identity as she grew up.
The words overlapping Maks chest
portray the message that there is no need for her to identify herself
as an American or a Bengali in order to fit her life into anyone else’s
conventional narrative.
The ad is already causing upset around the
country with Islam being the dominant religion. Nudity is frowned upon
among the traditional Muslims and this link of a half naked model with
the country is set to cause upset.
American Apparel was established in 1989 in Canada and has sparked controversies earlier with similar daring campaigns.
Last
year too, the UK Advertising Standards Authority has banned a series of
its ads for using overtly sexual images of women showed wearing no
underwear.
Earlier, they had run a campaign featuring a
60-year-old model in lingerie. Again in New York, they showed their
window-front mannequins with fake pubic hair in a Valentine’s stunt.
The new ad is also expected to spark outrage, however we can be quite sure that it won’t be the last one from American Apparel.
– See more at:
http://www.theindianrepublic.com/lifestyle/controversial-ad-starring-topless-former-muslim-model-american-apparel-made-bangladesh-100028709.html#sthash.rfIgmcwB.dpuf
A
controversy has been sparked by American Apparel by releasing a new ad
starring a former-Muslim model from Bangladesh. The model is seen
topless with the words ‘Made in Bangladesh’ printed across her chest.
The
image appeared in Vice Magazine’s US and Canada editions. The
former-Muslim Model, Maks is 22 year old merchandiser for American
Apparel who was born in Dhaka but has lived in California since she was
four years old.
– See more at:
http://www.theindianrepublic.com/lifestyle/controversial-ad-starring-topless-former-muslim-model-american-apparel-made-bangladesh-100028709.html#sthash.rfIgmcwB.dpuf

I’m not a prude, or a hater. My problem is not with this half-dressed
beautiful young woman. (Honestly, I probably wouldn’t mind having my
youth emblazoned in an iconic ad campaign if given the opportunity.)
…Unless, of course, the words “Made in Bangladesh” were branded on my breasts.

Born in Dhaka, Maks left at the age of four and was brought up in
California in a religious Muslim household. She shed her religious
upbringing, to find her own path.
This sentence—“She doesn’t feel
the need to identify herself as an American or a Bengali and is not
content to fit her life into anyone else’s conventional narrative”—is total BS.


American Apparel is playing on the sexuality of a young Bangladeshi
woman’s body, but that’s just a pretext.
To me, this is a jab on
Bangladesh’s garment sector. Composed of young Bangladeshi female
workers, around the same age as Maks, disasters like the 2013 Rana Plaza
factory collapse and the 2012 Tazreen factory fire have made death and
exploitation synonymous with the industry. Fast fashion is big business,
and many U.S. and European retailers, like Walmart, Gap, Joe Fresh, and
Mango have huge stakes in the low-cost labor. Yet cutting corners has
been fatal.


In Bangladesh, 3.6
million workers make up the garment workforce, and their work makes up
$18 billion in annual readymade garment exports. These young women are
the backbone of Bangladesh’s growing economy. Workers who attempt to
unionize face intimidation and sexual harassment. There have been other
effects too. Young women are delaying marriage and childbirth to work.
While they are earning meager pay, they’re earning steady paychecks,
which they use to help support their family or their own education.

Maks is as Made in America as American Apparel. Her unabashed nudity
is a tacit reminder—this is what American Apparel looks like. This is
what our fantasy of what Made in Bangladesh looks like.
Not a poor, underpaid, overworked young woman making you a $5 shirt
for 30 cents an hour. This ad has little to do with the woman in front
of us, and everything to do with the Bangladeshi female garment worker
who remains invisible.

American Apparel explains the logic behind the campaign

The stunt is meant to draw attention to the company’s fair labor practices. American Apparel says its
pays its employees “50 times more” than other companies who outsource
production to countries like Bangladesh. The “23 skilled American
workers” who made Maks’ jeans are “paid a fair wage and have access to
basic benefits such as health care,” according to the ad.

CEO Dov Charney has denounced his competitors for making clothes in
sweatshops where employees are paid low wages to work in unsafe
conditions. “In Bangladesh, the problem with these factories is that they’re only
given contracts on a seasonal or order-by-order basis,” Charney told the L.A. Times. “There’s
so much pressure to perform, some of the working conditions are
outrageous, almost unbelievable. It has completely stripped the human
element from the brands … It’s such a blind, desensitized way of making
clothing.”


regards

She is the perfect Queen

A middle-class, rajput girl from small-town Mandi (Himachal Pradesh), unconnected to film royalty and full of talent and blessed with her choice of films. Best wishes to Kangana Ranaut and Queen. The reviewers have been uniformly kind and this Vikas Bahl film is well on its way to be a “woman film hit.” Bravo.

Ranaut has been
charming us with her off-screen behaviour and, her National
Award-winning role in Fashion notwithstanding, Queen is the first time
she’s got a script that really allows her to confirm she’s more than a
pretty face. There’s no high fashion or flattering make-up to flaunt
Ranaut’s physical beauty in Queen, but this is a role that allows Ranaut
to showcase not just her acting talents but also her wit because Ranaut
is credited with contributing additional dialogues to the film.

Ranaut as Rani is pitch perfect. She brings out the sweetness, the hurt,
the belligerence and the head-screwed-tightly-on-her-shoulders
sensibility that is the pride of the Indian middle class. The cherry on
this acting cake is that this lady’s got superb comic timing.

Helping Ranaut along is a wonderful supporting cast, particularly Lisa
Haydon as the half-Indian Vijaylakshmi and Rajkummar Rao who has the
special gift of not acting roles but becoming them, and he does this
again as Vijay. Haydon does an impressive job with the French accent.
The real star of Queen, however, is writer-director Vikas Bahl. Bahl is
able to draw out fantastic, spontaneous performances from all his
actors, lead and supporting, Indian and foreign. It’s such a refreshing
change to see minor roles played by non-Indian actors being done
credibly.

Read more at: http://www.firstpost.com/bollywood/queen-review-kangana-ranaut-is-pitch-perfect-in-a-fabulous-film-1423165.html?utm_source=fpstory_alsosee

The story begins in a
middle class Punjabi household in Rajouri Garden in Delhi, where Rani is
about to be married off to her boyfriend, Vijay (Rajkummar Rao). Amidst
electricity cuts, dance practice, last minute decorations and
overworked parents, we see Rani sitting and getting henna put on her
hands as her mind races with questions about her future and her “wedding
night”. Her London-returned fiancé, however, has completely different
plans. Vijay meets Rani at a coffee shop a day before their wedding, to
dump her. Grief stricken and depressed, Rani decides to go on the
couple’s pre-booked honeymoon to Paris and Amsterdam, alone. (Does she
do it because she wants to experience life abroad just as Vijay did? Or
is it because she had been saving up for this trip since she was a kid?)

Bahl handles Rani’s awkwardness and her eventual transformation
beautifully. From a confused and under-confident mouse, Rani slowly
turns into someone who learns to look within and not around for answers.
In one scene at a dance club, we see her change physically — finally
letting go of her fiance’s admonishments about dancing in public,
teaching the entire crowd a Bollywood step or two, and literally letting
her hair down. Such moments are where Queen really scores. Rani not
being able to cross the road in Paris for hours; her wanting to clutch a
random stranger’s hand as she roams around the city alone; her drunk
conversations with random strangers about how terrible her life is; her
joking about how girls aren’t even allowed to burp in India; her
silences and gentle nervous twitches as she navigates her way in a new
city — all of these make Queen far, far more nuanced than any ‘woman
centric’ film that’s released of late.

Read more at: http://www.firstpost.com/bollywood/queen-review-kangana-ranauts-joyride-on-a-ladies-special-1424723.html?utm_source=hp-footer

The story begins in a
middle class Punjabi household in Rajouri Garden in Delhi, where Rani is
about to be married off to her boyfriend, Vijay (Rajkummar Rao). Amidst
electricity cuts, dance practice, last minute decorations and
overworked parents, we see Rani sitting and getting henna put on her
hands as her mind races with questions about her future and her “wedding
night”. Her London-returned fiancé, however, has completely different
plans. Vijay meets Rani at a coffee shop a day before their wedding, to
dump her. Grief stricken and depressed, Rani decides to go on the
couple’s pre-booked honeymoon to Paris and Amsterdam, alone. (Does she
do it because she wants to experience life abroad just as Vijay did? Or
is it because she had been saving up for this trip since she was a kid?)

Bahl handles Rani’s awkwardness and her eventual transformation
beautifully. From a confused and under-confident mouse, Rani slowly
turns into someone who learns to look within and not around for answers.
In one scene at a dance club, we see her change physically — finally
letting go of her fiance’s admonishments about dancing in public,
teaching the entire crowd a Bollywood step or two, and literally letting
her hair down. Such moments are where Queen really scores. Rani not
being able to cross the road in Paris for hours; her wanting to clutch a
random stranger’s hand as she roams around the city alone; her drunk
conversations with random strangers about how terrible her life is; her
joking about how girls aren’t even allowed to burp in India; her
silences and gentle nervous twitches as she navigates her way in a new
city — all of these make Queen far, far more nuanced than any ‘woman
centric’ film that’s released of late.

Read more at: http://www.firstpost.com/bollywood/queen-review-kangana-ranauts-joyride-on-a-ladies-special-1424723.html?utm_source=hp-footer

It starts with a loud Punjabi wedding, and you enter the film, mildly
diverted by Rani’s loud Punjabi family, doing ‘giddha-shiddha’,
‘mehendi-shendi’, but not before you’ve had time to register that the
Rajouri Garden ‘mithai’-shop-owning middle-class-ness of the Mehras is
just right. And that Mummyji, Daddyji, the plump ‘chota bhai’, and
Dadiji are all pitch perfect.

Rani (Kangana Ranaut) is dumped just a day before her wedding by her
fiance Vijay (Rajkumar Rao). Devastated, she decides to flee, because
staying home to lick her wounds is not an option. So, she finds herself
in Paris, and the journey she embarks on makes ‘Queen’ the kind of
coming- of-age, discovery-of-self tale….She does make silly touristy mistakes, nearly
gets mugged but doesn’t let it get to her, and discovers she has a
spine after all. Lucking into a long-legged hotel maid Vijay Lakshmi
(Lisa Haydon) is the first departure from standard Bollywood practice:
this other Vijay takes Rani under her wing, drags her into a store with
lovely Parisian clothes (these Paris maids are not just drop dead sexy,
and enjoy their libido, they can afford all those designer threads?),
and generally hand-holds Rani for an enjoyable spell.

(Vikas) Bahl’s second directorial venture is a delight: his first, ‘Chillar
Party’, had some spark, but nothing prepared me for this. The story,
which could easily have slipped into mush, stays free of drippy
sentimentality, barring one or two raised-violin scenes….Kangana Ranaut revels in her solidly-written role, and delivers a
first rate, heart-felt performance.

regards

The (Lady) Enforcer

What is striking about Manju Bhatia’s profile is that she comes from a low profile background, is only 27 years young and running a 500 crore business. India needs more women like this to assume leadership in new areas understood as “mardon wala kaam”. Also it is not possible (neither practical) to dream of a class-free and caste-free sister-hood but these ladies can take a free-wheeling approach- derive their strength from traditional and modern society as well.

Enter Manju Bhatia, joint MD of Vasuli Recovery, an all-female loan recovery agency. “Women are given respect all across the country, we are not
discounted,” she said in a telephone interview. Really? Yes, she
countered, “Look at our banks, from ICICI Bank to Dena Bank to the State
Bank of India, they’re all led by women.”

No surprise if Bhatia identifies with the likes of Chanda Kochchar
and Arundhati Bhattacharya
because they too, like her, have blazed their
trails in male bastions. Perhaps, it is this unprejudiced world view that made her entry into a male-dominated business–of loan recovery–easy.

At 27, Bhatia’s Vasuli handles recoveries valued at over Rs 500 crore
annually, with more than 250 staff in 26 locations across India. The
company has come a long way in the eight years since it first began
operations, with a monthly income of Rs 25,000, eight employees and one
client, the State Bank of India. It now boasts most of the country’s
publicly owned banks as clients.




As a 16-year-old growing up in Indore, Bhatia began working as a
receptionist at a pharmaceutical company the day after her last
twelfth standard board exam, in 2003.
In no time, she was handling
accounts and trading in raw materials.
Over the next two years she learnt the inner workings of the
business, including how to get export licenses and increasing the client
base, while getting her bachelors in law. It was then that her boss and
family friend Parag Shah asked her to help out with his loan recovery
company, Vasuli.
“There was only one client then, State Bank of India, and they
provided a list of defaulters,” Bhatia said. One of the defaulters was a
high profile minister, whom Bhatia decided to tackle. “The bank said he
won’t be accessible at all but I just called and got an appointment,”
she said. It turned out the minister had no idea he’d missed his loan
payments and the matter was sorted out in no time.



She decided to get into the recovery business full time and started
populating her team with women of all ages and for all roles – from
revenue licensing to legal procedures to recovery agents and everything
in between.
In 2007, Bhatia moved the company to Mumbai to be closer to
the major banks.




But, there have also been stray instances of violence that forced
Bhatia to now send recovery teams with police protection and
videographers. During a visit to a factory near Aurangabad to carry out
an inventory, the workers at the site locked Bhatia’s employees inside
the warehouse. Another time even the police weren’t of much help as the
defaulters rained down acid on the Vasuli employees and accompanying
police officials who had come to make collections.

But the dividends have made it all worth it. Bhatia’s success in
giving women purpose and putting their skills to constructive use pushes
her everyday. She had a real victory when talking to the Police
Commissioner of Kolkata about security protection last year. “I explained what we did and he was very interested,” she said, “and
then he asked if I could take on the widows of officers who had died in
duty so that they would have a revenue stream and come out of their
depression… I was very overwhelmed and said yes immediately.”

From smaller accounts and agricultural equipment, Vasuli has now
added property auctions to its retinue of services offered. Bhatia
continues to challenge herself by pursuing her PhD in law alongside
running the business.




On being asked what her advice would be to women entrepreneurs she
said, ”Belief is very important…if your mind can conceive it you can
achieve it.”
She illustrated her point by describing how family members
mocked her during the early days of Vasuli and how her conviction helped
her carry on.

regards

Big brother is good for little sisters

In advanced societies individuals are allowed to go about their own business and privacy is extremely prized which explains the anger felt by many americans when they came to know that their emails (and love lives) were being monitored by the Govt.

Now we know why big brother was so worried, it is all for our own good. So relax, be happy, and enjoy the ride, knowing that when (in the hopefully far-off future) you die someone will know about it (and still not care).

Also, please cancel your auto-payments. Right now.

For years, the payments went out of the woman’s bank account. Nobody batted an eyelid. Bills were paid. And life went on as normal in the quiet neighborhood of Pontiac, Michigan. Neighbors didn’t notice
anything unusual. The woman traveled a lot, they said, and kept to
herself. 

One of them mowed her grass to keep things looking tidy.



At some point, her bank account ran dry. The bills stopped being paid. After its warnings went
unanswered, the bank holding the mortgage foreclosed on the house, a
common occurrence in a region hit hard by economic woes.
Still, nobody noticed what had happened inside the house. Nobody wondered out loud what had become of the owner.

Not until this week, when a worker sent by the bank to repair a hole in the roof made a grisly discovery. The woman’s mummified body was sitting in the back seat of her car, parked in the garage. The key was halfway in the ignition. Authorities say they believe the woman died at least six years ago. They’re still trying to figure out what happened.

“I’ve been doing this 37
years. Never seen anything like this before,” said Undersheriff Mike
McCabe of Oakland County, just outside Detroit…Bouchard, the county
sheriff, said Friday that there were few outward signs of anything awry.
Her mail didn’t pile up, since the post office was collecting it. And
nothing inside in her home or car pointed to a cause of death.
“Nothing remarkable (was) found in the home,” the sheriff said.
regards

“Mardon wala kaam kaise karogi?”

The answer is blowing in the wind (of freedom). That said I am not sure that a burqa is the safest attire for a school bus driver, especially under Mumbai road conditions.


As
soon as the class gets over at Antonio D’Souza High School on the
premises of Byculla’s Gloria Church, a dozen kids happily hop onto a
yellow-coloured mini bus parked outside the school gate. “Aunty chalo”
goes the collective cry from the chirpy bunch. Next, she starts the bus
and drops the kids to their doorsteps at neighbouring Nagpada, Clare
Road and Madanpura.

The kids “aunty” Khairunnissa Shaikh,
ferries everyday on her bus are too young to realize the importance of
the work this almost frail, bespectacled, burqa-clad woman performs. It
may not be uncommon to see women driving cars, even rickshaws and cabs
these days. But when was the last time you saw a burqa-clad Muslim woman
driving a bus, even if it is a school bus?

Nagpada resident
Shaikh (39) epitomizes a silent, liberating change blowing through
Mumbai’s Muslim streets. When she first decided to take up driving
school bus five years ago, Shaikh faced opposition, the biggest from her
mother-in-law. “Mardon wala kaam kaise karogi (How will you do a man’s
job?),” the annoyed mother-in-law asked. “I wanted to prove her and other
critics in the neighbourhood wrong,” says the woman even as her husband
Zahir looks on.

A decade ago, Zahir and Khairunnisa would walk
some students to school and make an earning. Then Zahir bought a mini
bus, but was soon diagnosed with serious heart ailment and declared
unfit to drive. “Starvation faced our family as Zahir stopped working.
There were two options to me. Either do something myself or live off
charity. I chose the former,” says the mother of two.  In her fights
against odds, she says, two persons helped her immensely. While
Nagpada-based advocate Rahman Kazi helped her financially to ensure that
her two sons continued their education (now the elder is studying
engineering while the younger is in an ITI course), Sunita Bhogle,
another bus driver at the same school, encouraged Shaikh to learn
driving.

When told that the Wahabism-influenced Saudi Arabia
has still not allowed women to drive, Shaikh says: “If women can fly
planes, why can’t she drive cars?”

She admits that many
strangers do get surprised when they see a burqa-clad woman driving a
bus. “Every adult woman in my family wears burqa. It is not a barrier if
you really want to do something meaningful,” explains the school
dropout. 
  regards

A woman (not a girl) needs a husband

A little girl has to bear so much (unfair) burden on her shoulders, if she stays silent it will be torture, if she speaks out it may mean jail for her loved ones.Thus it is the society as a whole that needs to catch up and act as a mediator. It is really simple- girls need to stay in school and then be encouraged to “go to college.” I am not sure why parents in this day and age are ignorant of age restrictions (unless as often faith creates confusion). The groom’s family should be also blamed for trying to take advantage of innocence (the worry is that older girls will not be as willing to bend to the wishes of her elders, especially mother-in-law).

Isha (name changed) told TOI that she always wanted to study but as soon
as she turned 15, her parents decided to marry her off. In December,
they told her that they had fixed a match for her and she must get ready
for marriage.

The Class IX student protested, pleaded and
confronted them but her parents refused to understand why she wanted to
“finish school and go to college”. In fact, they grew alarmed by her
resistance and stopped her from stepping out of the house.
They even
barred her from going to the school in Tangra.

The marriage was
fixed for March 7. The groom was a youth from Sodepur, a small-time
businessman. As the day grew closer, Isha got panicky. Luckily for her,
some friends supported her after she confided in them.

On Thursday night, a little after 8, she persuaded a friend to call Childline. Volunteers immediately sought the help of Pragati Maidan police station and a combined team of police and NGO activists landed up at her house around 11pm.

“I had been trying to reason with my parents that I wanted to study and
that I am too young to get married. But they couldn’t understand. And
they kept insisting I would not get a better match than this one. I was
at a loss as how to deal with the situation because no one was trying to
understand the trauma I was going through,” recounted the girl.

“Also, I knew nothing about the man ‘arranged’ for me,” she said. “All
that I wanted was to escape the marriage so that I could continue with
my studies.”

Help came just hours before she was to be decked up as a bride. Her parents were served a warning.

“We were not aware that we cannot marry off our daughter before she
turns 18. We arranged the marriage thinking of her future and because
the groom is a good lad,”
said the father, who was summoned to the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) office on Friday.

“I am
relived and happy that the marriage did not take place. But I am worried
for my parents. I do not want them go through any kind of trouble. I
hope they are not jailed. The marriage did not take place so they have
not committed any crime. I want them to be let off,”
said the girl.  
     

regards

The bridge stretches from Pune to Potsdam

Raghunath Purushottam Paranjpye was a super-scholar who pioneered cultural bridge building between Indian and Germany. Germany has a long tradition of admiring Brahminic culture, in contrast to the English downplaying of the same (especially the missionaries). This is turn was appreciated by a new generation of scholars in Maharashtra and Bengal (including muslims who came over to Germany during/after the Khilafat movement- for example, Syed Mujataba Ali from Bengal).

Recent scholars have continued to explore this phenomena (termed Indomania- see below) and to even liken to India-Germany bond as akin to that of kindred spirits. Was there possible “anti-semitic undertones” (muslim for Indians, jews for Germans) in this appreciation?  

The teaching of German began in the Indian
sub-continent — in Pune’s New English School — 100 years ago at the
initiative of the mathematician, educationist and social reformer
Wrangler Raghunath Paranjpye. Though he had earned a tripos at
Cambridge, he was in thrall of the excellence of German universities and
reckoned, correctly as it turned out, that Indians pursuing higher
studies in one of them would be doubly blessed.
They would not only
receive fine education in their respective disciplines but also get
exposure to European culture in a country that had no colonial ties with
India.

There could well have been another reason for Paranjpye’s
fascination for Germany. Educated Indians in his time, especially in
Maharashtra and Bengal, were aware of the lively interest that some
leading German thinkers had taken in India`s philosophical and literary
traditions for close to two centuries.
That sort of flattering attention
stood in stark contrast to how many Christian missionaries, encouraged
by British colonial rulers, sought to debunk those traditions.

Indeed,
late in the 18th century, Johann Gottfried Herder, in his critique of
the European Enlightenment, projected India as the cradle of
civilisation. Around the same time (1791), Kalidasa’s play ‘Shakuntalam’
was translated into German to great critical acclaim. One enthusiastic
reaction to it came from Goethe. He hailed the poet as a “representative
of the natural condition of the most refined life-style, the purest
moral endeavour, the most dignified majesty and the most serious worship
of God…”

Early in the 19th century, another distinguished
thinker, Friedrich von Schegel, hailed Sanskrit as the “source of all
languages, all thought, all poetics…”
His brother, August Wilhelm, who
became the first professor of Sanskrit at Bonn University in 1818 and
is regarded as the founder of the discipline of Indology, translated
Bhagvad Gita into Latin. None other than Hegel showered fulsome praise
on it in a lengthy review.

Translations into German of other
Indian philosophical and literary texts sustained the scholarly
engagement with classical India. Its echoes reverberated through the
writings of the Grimm brothers, those of philosopher Schopenhauer and
even in Schubert’s musical compositions. But the one scholar who scaled
the tallest summits of Indology was Friedrich Max Mueller. He studied
Sanskrit at the universities of Leipzig and Berlin, taught at Oxford and
translated the Rig Veda and other ancient texts by the score — without
once visiting India.

What prompted such great minds to extol
Indian classical traditions of learning and creativity is not quite
clear. Some scholars hold that their earlier sources of inspiration —
ancient Greece and Rome — had dried up. So they turned to Indian
civilisation to expand their intellectual horizons and finesse their
aesthetic sensibilities.

Now, a group of Indian experts on German
Indology have begun to question this theory. In early January, Joydeep
Bagchee,
a brilliant young scholar, had an altogether different take on
what lay behind German interest in ancient India. He argued, in
substance, that the Protestant heritage of German Indologists prompted
them to interpret Indian texts in ways that were conducive to their own
intellectual interests that often carried anti-Semitic undertones.





[Another excellent reference on Indo-German link and Indomania]

Transcultural Encounters between Germany and India: Kindred Spirits in the 19th and 20th Centuries; Edited by Joanne Miyang Cho, Eric Kurlander, Douglas T McGetchin

Providing a comprehensive survey of cutting edge scholarship in the field of German–Indian and South Asian Studies,
the book looks at the history of German–Indian relations in the
spheres of culture, politics, and intellectual life. Combining
transnational, post-colonial, and comparative approaches, it includes
the entire twentieth century, from the First World War and Weimar
Republic to the Third Reich and Cold War era.



The book first examines the ways in which nineteenth-century
“Indomania” figured in the creation of both German national identity and
modern German scholarship on the Orient, and it illustrates how German
encounters with India in the Imperial era alternately destabilized and
reinforced the orientalist, capitalist, and nationalist underpinnings of
German modernity. Contributors discuss the full range of German
responses to India, and South Asian perceptions of Germany against the
backdrop of war and socio-political revolution, as well as the Third
Reich’s ambivalent perceptions of India in the context of racism,
religion, and occultism. The book concludes by exploring German–Indian
relations in the era of decolonization and the Cold War.

regards

Bend it like a (Bihari) Beckham

Our poverty is demonstrated in many visible ways. One invisible way is this: we need inspired foreigners to inspire us. Why are these girls not being supported by society? At any rate it is nice that they have something to look forward to.

Franz Gastler shot into the limelight last
year when his team of under-14 girls from rural Jharkhand came third at
the Gasteiz Cup in Spain.

Q. Congratulations again on coming third at Gasteiz, but why is it that you decided on taking a team from here all the way there?
A. We
met a few Spanish students from the University of Mondragon at Dharavi,
where we were running a football camp for slum girls. They asked us
whether we had a more regular team — we said yes, back in Jharkhand —
and whether we would like to come to a tournament in Spain? They also
helped arrange the funding to get us there.

Q. You’ve
talked about the difficulties involved in getting there. That the local
panchayat sewak slapped the girls and got them to sweep his office when
they went to ask him for birth certificates (the certificates were
needed to prove they weren’t overage)..
. has that third-place finish
made things easier for these girls?
A. It’s made
some things easier, and it’s made some things more difficult. We’ve lost
the football field we used to practise on — probably due to jealousy.
The person who owned the field dug it up, and then left it like that, so
we couldn’t use it. But I kind of believe in what Gandhi said: “First
they laugh at you, then they fight you, and then you win.”

Q. You’ve
talked earlier of how these girls have to fight for everything. That
nothing that is meant for them ever reaches them. Are things still the
same?
A. The girls have got better at fighting. They
don’t put up with the patriarchy that that they might have earlier.
Just this time, coming to a football camp in Delhi, there was a man on
the train who got funny with one of the girls. He put his hand in her
front pocket. Women often tend to keep quiet about things like that, but
not her.
She pulled his hand away, then pushed him off, and called the
police.

Q. Can football be expected to do something for these girls lives? Change them in some way?
A. To
some extent, it already has. What we’re hoping for these girls is that
their lives will take one of three tracks. Either they will go on to
government jobs; or they will go on to University which should then lead
to better lives than just looking after the home. (I read recently, in
the Times of India, that people who speak English earn 34% more than
their non-English-speaking counterparts. We’re teaching our girls
English, so that should help too.)

And thirdly, I believe some of
these girls could go on to become elite athletes and get into some of
the top universities in the US. I believe they have that talent. A few
of our girls qualified for a national coaching camp, but they were
miserable there. It was the same thing again. Abusive coaches
mistreating the girls in their care. So we don’t send our girls to
national coaching camps any longer.
I also mentioned that to Sara
Pilot — she’s heading the committee on the development of women’s
football in India — when I was called to advise them about the women’s
game. They were talking about the usual things — sponsorships, marketing
— and I asked them why we can’t have a few good coaches? Non-abusive
ones? They weren’t very happy about that.


Q. You yourself aren’t a
football player. You played ice hockey. Are you a good coach? I imagine
people would be sceptical of a football coach who hasn’t played the game
himself…
A. The girls don’t have much choice. In
some ways, we’re the exact opposite of football in the US. There they
have lots of space, lots of equipment and very few people. We have very
little space, very little equipment, and lots of people. So we do
depend a lot on peer-to-peer coaching, where a 16-year-old will teach a
13-year-old, who will then teach a 9-year-old. The same thing happens
in the favelas of Brazil. I did however attend a coaching camp in the US
last year.

Q. Now what? Are you going back to Gasteiz this year?
A. Actually,
we’re going back to my hometown. Minneapolis. To the USA cup, the
largest youth football tournament in the western hemisphere. (The 2014
edition will have over 950 teams and 14,000 players from 16 different
countries taking part.)

Q. You arrived in Jharkhand as a 26-year-old. You wanted to teach in the villages. Exactly what were you thinking?
A. I’d
met Sam Pitroda in Chicago, who fixed up a job for me with the
Confederation of Indian Industries in Delhi. I was 25 then. I did that
for a year and then I had this romantic idea that I wanted to go see the
villages. So I got a job with an NGO in Jharkhand, but they seemed to
do everything out of the office. Nobody ever went out into the field. So
I left and started Yuwa, doing the one thing a student understands —
teaching English. Then, one of the girls asked if I could teach her to
play football, and that’s how it all started.

Q. What happens when you leave?
A. I don’t intend to.

regards