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.



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

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.

“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.

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

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


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.  



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

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.

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
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.



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
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

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
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.



Unconditional Surrender Association (USA)

The global empire is erupting with head-aches on a daily basis. The old villain has resurrected itself and is bent on kidnapping children right and left (or letting bullies roam freely in the school-yard).  The ancient empire has risen from the ashes and threatening the well-fed, lazy, mansabdars. And now even the sustainably trained colonies are getting bent out of shape. In the past a big stick was a gate-pass (on official letterhead) to the Court, behave or else. Alas from today this proud tradition is no more. Now the only thing that will help save India is  the collective will of Indians (and that is how it should be).

Washington will drop a travel ban on Narendra Modi if he becomes the Prime Minister. US assistant secretary of state Nisha Desai Biswal
finally buried the controversy over Modi’s visa as she told a TV
channel that the US would welcome the Gujarat CM if he ascends to the
top job.

“I would just say that the United States has welcomed
every leader of this vibrant democracy, and that a democratically
elected leader of India will be a welcome partner,” Biswal said adding
Washington is ready to do business with him. For nine years, the US has
kept its visa ban on Modi who has won three successive terms in Gujarat.



Arvind Kejriwal flies high

Does he not realize that he is under the microscope? He has two choices: pay his way or disclose his funding sources (that was already happening). The latter path will still leave him open to accusations of bias, but that is the problem of being (and promising to be) Mr Clean.

By taking India Today’s private Beechcraft
flight today (March 7, 2014), you make me feel foolish that I ever
supported you or reposed some faith in you as a politician of a new
India. Your representative on the prime time chat show may have
pathetically tried to defend the indefensible with such pitiable excuses
as 1) the Beechcraft ride was paid for by India Today and not by you,
and 2) that you took the flight in the interest of saving time!  

defender didn’t seem to reflect for a moment that just this morning in
Gujarat you had eloquently fired away several questions at Narendra Modi
on his use of private flights and then within hours you had hopped
aboard one yourself, after all the moralistic stance you had taken all
this while about eschewing the VIP culture, the red lights, the
security, the cavalcade and other perks of office and what have you. 

truth is that your action today tantamounts to spitting on the face of
all those true aam admis who have stood by you and believed in the
values that you pretended to abide by all this time. The truth is today,
you don’t have a shred of a fig-leaf left to hide your abject bareness



Belly Dancing, Clickbait and Censorship on

As many of you probably know by now, Randa Jarrar has an article in Salon about how White women are appropriating belly dancing and how much she hates that.
You can read the whole thing at the above link, but here is her concluding paragraph:
But, here’s the thing. Arab women are not vessels for white women to pour themselves and lose themselves in; we are not bangles or eyeliner or tiny bells on hips. We are human beings. This dance form is originally ours, and does not exist so that white women can have a better sense of community; can gain a deeper sense of sisterhood with each other; can reclaim their bodies; can celebrate their sexualities; can perform for the female gaze. Just because a white woman doesn’t profit from her performance doesn’t mean she’s not appropriating a culture. And, ultimately, the question is this: Why does a white woman’s sisterhood, her self-reclamation, her celebration, have to happen on Arab women’s backs?
Well qualified people will no doubt take apart her stupid arguments (some already have) or make fun of her or take the opportunity to say “I told you those ragheads are morons”, but my beef is with Salon. When I first saw the piece today (via a tweet from Razib) I posted a short comment on it that went something like this:

“I dont think Randa is actually such a self-righteous moron. She must have a book launch coming up and she knew this piece would become the most “controversial” piece on Salon. Read the signs people!”

A few hours later there were over a thousand comments on the site, but my comment was gone. A lot of the comments (in fact, most of the comments) are negative, but yes, they do take her seriously by trying to answer her arguments instead of questioning her motives. None of them has been deleted.
So I tried again. I posted the comment again. It was deleted in 5 minutes.
Naturally I turned to Brownpundits.
So people, what do you think? do you think she is is completely sincere? or is there an element of cold calculation in this piece (i.e., did she deliberately take a position even she does not really believe in order to generate controversy)?
This is not a rhetorical question. I am really curious. ( btw, I am NOT looking for a discussion on the merits of her argument. I am sure some of our readers find some merit in her arguments, but that discussion is already going on at the Salon site and I suspect any argument with me will flounder because we dont share enough common assumptions).
Personally, I am inclined to think she is serious but the possibility that she did this specifically to cause a controversy (whether for a book launch or just to get noticed) is still there.
And why does Salon think that calling her a fool is OK, but suggesting that she may be an intelligent woman shrewdly exploiting an opportunity is beyond the pale?

(This picture proves that I follow her argument, even if I completely disagree with her)


How does a Sharia state work?

It is instructive to learn from Malaysia. The particular advantage of using Sharia as a sword is that people rising up in protest (against miscarriage of justice) would think twice before giving aid and comfort for supposedly blasphemous/sinful actions.

A Malaysian court convicted opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim
of sodomy and sentenced him to five years in prison on Friday….the ruling bars Anwar from running for a seat in the
state assembly of Selangor this month, a move that would likely have
paved the way for him to become chief minister of Malaysia’s most
populous state
— a potent platform from which to attack the government
ahead of the next national election.

If Anwar, 66, loses his
federal court appeal, he would face jail and would be barred from
contesting the next national election that must be held by 2018.
(happening) all over again after 15 years,” Anwar, who was sacked as
deputy prime minister and finance minister in 1998 and convicted a year
later, told reporters.