The Common Man Speaks

26Nov/140

“High time we clean up our country” – Prasoon Joshi during Swachh Bharat Abhiyan


By:
Keyur Seta

We are well aware that well-known lyricist and script writer Prasoon Joshi has penned a heartwarming song/ slogan for the ongoing Swachha Bharat Abhiyan by India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Sung by Kailash Kher, the song is called ‘Swachh Bharat Ka Irada’.

But he didn’t want his contribution to be limited to this. He was keen to contribute physically too by literally cleaning up a locality. So he took up the task of cleaning the garbage laden compound of Sofi Mahal Building in Mumbai’s Lalbaug. He was joined by bloggers - myself and Heena Shah Dedhi and few volunteers. This particular event was called Clean Sweep and it was in association with IndiBlogger.

Children in Lalbaug’s Sofi Mahal building were unable to play cricket in their compound since long due to the presence of huge amount of garbage being dumped there. But after Joshi’s initiative, the kids were finally able to resume play much to their joy. The occasion was celebrated with a professional cricket match between the two teams of the locality.

Picture: Radioandmusic.com

Picture: Radioandmusic.com

“This initiative has induced consciousness in the country regarding cleanliness. It’s not that people didn’t know what cleanliness is. But in spite of that, there was this inertia regarding this issue. Even in this locality, it wasn’t that people were unaware about keeping their surroundings clean, which would also enable these kids to play. But I am glad that our PM’s initiative has spread awareness about this,” says Joshi.

An interesting thing about the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan is that the celebrity, who cleans up a locality, should nominate 9 people for the same task. “I was nominated by Anil Ambani. I have nominated Kiran Rao (producer and Aamir Khan’s wife), Venu Srinivasan (CMD of TVS Motors), Mr Birla, Shankar Mahadevan (composer and singer), Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev (spiritual guru), Irrfan Khan (actor), Jeev Milkha Singh (golfer), Nitish Kapoor (CEO Reckitt Benckiser [Dettol]) and Aman and Ayan Ali (music composers).”

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There is always a section of the public that is cynical for every social movement. The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan is no different. Joshi has a message for people with such a mindset. “To those who keep saying that we will gain nothing from this, I would like to assert that if I am asked to choose between doing something and not doing anything, I will always choose the former. Of course, there won’t be change overnight. But there will definitely be some difference. In our culture, we are asked to keep our hearts clean. But now it is high time we clean up our country too.”

Obviously, the success of this initiative largely depends on whether the masses would stop littering the roads. Like many others, Joshi too feels they should be penalized. “There is a need for a law. If there is fear of getting caught and fined, people will stop doing it. Plus, they also need to be taught the difference between dry and wet waste and how to separate it.”

Even the most humongous task starts with a single step. Here’s hoping that this single step is followed by million more.

20Nov/140

Feed a Child campaign: Small acts transform the world

By: Keyur Seta

I am going to #BlogToFeedAChild with Akshaya Patra and BlogAdda.

According to Business Standard, 100 of the 2325 billionaires are from India. In this way, our country ranks sixth in the list of most number of billionaires in a country. This sounds as an achievement, doesn’t it? Not for me though because daily millions of people in India face starvation; of which many are children.

Hence, I have no qualms in saying that there is nothing delightful in the fact that India has 100 billionaires when millions of kids are struggling to overcome a necessity as basic as food. As per 2014, India ranks 55th in Global Hunger Index.

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Picture: Reuters

Picture: Reuters

So obviously, these kids are forced to skip education in order to make ways to feed their stomachs. Looking at such a tragic scenario, the question that lurks in our hearts is whether it is possible for these kids to get proper education and at the same time feed their stomachs at least two square meals per day. The answer to this, according to me, is a big YES!

In fact, I am sure that India has enough wealth to completely wipe out poverty. This might sound too fairytale-ish. But this is possible if all the rich, super-rich and few above them contribute few percentage of their income towards eliminating poverty. Considering the number of such people we have, this contribution will count to a humongous amount. In this way, I am also trying to indicate that poverty is just a consequence of unequal distribution of national income.

When eliminating poverty is a reality, making sure that every child in India gets access to both education and food isn’t a big deal. There are various ways to achieve this goal. These are few of them:-

Government: Both State and Central Governments have enough funds to make sure no child needs to skip education to feed himself. They can start various schemes or plans for the same. The best idea is to start a free canteen in government run schools that would enable kids to have a proper lunch. Of course, getting them to do something so useful is very difficult. So it is necessary for various NGOs and social organizations to keep pressurizing them.

Surplus: This idea is inspired from Amole Gupte’s movie Stanley Ka Dabba. There are hundreds of buffet restaurants in all Indian cities. Naturally, they face a situation of surplus food almost daily. Most of the times, this food is simply wasted. Instead, this food can easily be used to feed a large number of underprivileged kids. The same can be done by normal restaurants and wedding venues. The latter always has a large amount of surplus. Last year, some social organization had started a similar campaign from the surplus food from tiffins supplied by Mumbai’s dabbawalas.

Special Caterers: Government or NGOs can start a catering service with the sole motto of feeding underprivileged kids. People like us can sponsor meal or foodstuffs online or by visiting them. This is how it works – You visit their website and select the number of meals you wish to sponsor with one meal costing as low as Rs 20. So even if we sponsor one or two meals daily, it will help feed lakhs of children.

Recently, The Mind Unleashed shared a message on Facebook – Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world. Let us all believe in it.

 

Picture: BlogAdda.com

Picture: BlogAdda.com

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29Oct/140

Bhopal: A Prayer For Rain Review – Can’t get more realistic!

By: Keyur Seta

Rating: * * * * ½

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The biggest challenge while portraying a tragedy is to make it look as realistic as possible. And when the disaster is as magnanimous as the Bhopal Gas Tragedy, it becomes all the more testing, not just for the filmmaker but for everyone involved. The same challenge awaited director Ravi Kumar and his team for Bhopal: A Prayer For Rain, which is based on the said tragedy in 1984.

To say that they have overcome the challenge will be an understatement. What they have achieved is nothing short of a benchmark for realistic cinema because it just can’t get more realistic than this. But the reason why the film on the whole can be labeled as excellent is the fact that it scores high in every department.

The movie is English with partly Hindi. The story takes place in Bhopal in 1984. Dilip (Rajpal Yadav) is a rickshaw driver staying in a slum in the central area of the city with his wife (Tannishtha Chatterjee) and younger sister (Fagun Ivy Thakrar). His family struggles to live from hand-to-mouth from his earnings. Dilip gets a new lease of life when he lands a job at the newly-arrived Union Carbide’s pesticide plant.

bhopal-a-prayer-for-rainAlthough Dilip is happy to have found a source of earning despite uneasy conditions, he is worried to know that the safety standards at the plant are being ignored. Soon, this leads to a fatal leakage of the poisonous Methyl Isocyanide that kills thousands in a single night making it the worst man-made industrial disaster ever. Even 30 years after the incident, thousands continue to suffer from its consequences.

The base of all great films is writing and that is exactly the case here with a watertight screenplay and real yet dramatic dialogues. To top it up, Kumar has handled the subject with utmost precision. The manner in which he has added realism to such utterly difficult scenes, especially the tragic ones, is to be seen to be believed. As stated earlier, it can’t get more realistic! To carry out such a task in just your second film is no mean achievement.

Naturally, this gives rise to a number of scenes that stay etched in your memory. From these, Dr Chandra (Manoj Joshi) trying to select one person from many whom he can administer an antidote deserves special mention.

Another reason why the film scores high marks is that it doesn’t get depressing despite it being based on one of the greatest tragedies ever. This indicates that its motto is not to bring back terrible memories but to highlight the importance of human safety over profits.

It is difficult to choose a negative point here. Probably the number of characters could have been reduced and the life of the people of Bhopal, especially the slums, could have been portrayed more. This could have been possible as the film’s length isn’t much.

bhopal-martin-sheenComing to the technicalities, the VFX team should be lauded as they had their task cut out. Cinematographers Charlie Wuppermann and Anil Chandel have succeeded in displaying their skills. The background score is apt for the proceedings. The fast-paced classical tunes used at the start help a lot in generating interest instantly.

The performances are a top-draw too! Rajpal Yadav gives his best performance till date as far as his serious roles are concerned. Veteran Martin Sheen is excellent as the CEO of Union Carbide. Kal Penn is brilliant too in the role of the cunning journalist. Mischa Barton plays the journalist from US with perfection.

Tannishtha Chatterjee once again proves she is one of the most talented actors in the country. In the role of the doctor, Manoj Joshi is flawless! Akhil Mishra and Joy Sengupta also deserve praise. Satish Kaushik creates an impact in a cameo while Fagun Ivy Thakrar too provides good support.

Overall: Bhopal: A Prayer For Rain is an excellent piece of realistic cinema that shouldn’t be missed. The film requires good word-of-mouth to succeed at the box office when it releases in India on December 5.

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Director: Ravi Kumar

Producers: Sahara Movie Studios and Rising Star Entertainment

Writers: David Brooks and Ravi Kumar

Cast: Rajpal Yadav, Martin Sheen, Mischa Barton, Tannishtha Chatterjee, Manoj Joshi, Akhil Mishra, Fagun Ivy Thakrar

Music: Benjamin Wallfisch

Genre: Period Drama

Duration: 96 minutes

Release Date: December 5, 2014 (India)

5Oct/140

Maharashtra State Elections 2014: Analysis and Prediction

 

By: Keyur Seta

Roughly a fortnight ago, the upcoming Maharashtra State Assembly Elections 2014 (that will take place on October 15) appeared like a cricket match between Australia (Shiv Sena + BJP) and Bangladesh (others): the winner was obvious and it needed a miracle of sorts for any other results. But with the alliances between Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janta Party and Congress-NCP broken, the situation has now become like the upcoming 2015 Cricket World Cup: it is just not possible to predict any clear winner.

The following is the analysis and prediction of each major party in the Maharashtra Assembly Elections. Honestly, I am far from an expert in politics so don’t expect any detailed analysis. This is more of how a layman looks at the elections and the major parties participating in it. Here it is:-

 

Picture: Globalgujaratnews.in

Picture: Globalgujaratnews.in

Shiv Sena:
Plusses: Their stronghold in the state, especially among the locals, is everybody’s knowledge. Despite the demise of its supremo Balasaheb Thackeray, his name alone motivates lakhs of their supporters. And with bigger responsibilities given to Aditya Thackeray, the youth of Maharashtra is expected to pour their support.
Minuses: With Balasaheb’s absence, it looks as if something is missing. But the biggest minus point for the party is the fact that they had to do away with their 25-year old alliance with the BJP.
Chances: Due to its popularity, it stands a good chance.

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Picture: Rewacityinfo.com

Picture: Rewacityinfo.com

BJP:
Plusses: The popularity of Narendra Modi, India’s Prime Minister, will work well for them. Due to this, the party has roped in Modi to address a number of election rallies in India. Plus, its resounding victory in this year’s Lok Sabha polls, which is still fresh in people’s minds, will also work in its favor and so will Modi’s heroic U.S visit.
Minuses: Its bad performance in the recent Uttar Pradesh by-polls came as a surprise. According to some experts, this happened due to some of its leaders who kept pushing the Hindutva card instead of good governance and development, which was their agenda going into LS Polls. But, like the Shiv Sena, its biggest disadvantage is clearly the break-up with Shiv Sena.
Chances: The plusses ensure it stands a good chance.

Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS):
Plusses: The popularity and aura of its chief Raj Thackeray and his popularity among the youth are its biggest plus points.
Minuses: There has been a decline in its popularity in recent years. This was seen the most in this year’s Lok Sabha Elections, where the party failed to win even a single seat. The Modi wave is also responsible for this.
Chances: But because of the two break-ups and their past record, it might spring a surprise.

Congress and NCP:
(Despite the breaking of their alliance, I am giving a combined analysis because their situation is the same.)
Pluses: I don’t wish to sound rude but I just can’t find a single plus point for any of the two parties due to their terrible alliance run in the currently concluding term. Perhaps the only silver lining for them is the break-up between Sena-BJP.
Minuses: This will be a long list. As listed above, it is bad governance in every form that will hurt them dearly.
Chances: No chance unless one of them performs decently and joins hands with the first winner, which looks unlikely.

So all in all, the contest is really between Sena and BJP. This sounds unusual considering their united fight since last 25 years. However, as one shouldn’t rule out a post-result alliance, there is a big chance of the two parties joining hands after the 19th provided MNS doesn’t play spoilsport and they have enough seats.

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25Sep/140

Here’s why Jadavpur University stuents need your support ASAP!

Right now, India is witnessing one of the strongest student movements ever. It is been carried out by the students of Jadavpur University in Kolkata. But despite the magnanimity of the movement, a large number of people in the non-Eastern parts of the country are completely unaware about it thereby also not knowing its importance. This is largely due to the lukewarm coverage of the protest by the national media.

So here’s the summary of the incident and the resulting consequence that turned into a movement: - (Read the complete story HERE and HERE.)

On August 28, a group of rowdy students allegedly beat up a guy and dragged her girlfriend into one of the rooms inside men’s hostel. She was tortured by a group of drunken men. However, she managed to escape. Next day, she notified the college about it and also registered a complaint with the police but no arrests were made though. In fact, there has been no action taken by the Vice Chancellor of the university, Abhijit Chakrabarti citing a lot of excuses. Although there were committees set up, it turned out to be like crores of other committees that amount to nothing.

Plus, on September 5, two women from the university’s Anti-Sexual Harassment Cell visited her place without any notice and asked her questions regarding the clothes she was wearing and whether she was drunk. What they said further would shock anyone. The girl was told by them that the incident has brought great shame to the college and if there are stricter laws imposed on outsiders, it is the victim who should be blamed.

jadavpur-protest

Students protesting in huge numbers

This was enough for the students to be vocal about their displeasure at the disgraceful turn of events. They demanded rebuilding the Anti-Sexual Harassment Cell. Since nothing was being done by the college authorities, the students were left with no option but to hold a series of protests. The VC then asked the students to wait till the September 16 meeting of the Executive Councils. But as shocking as it may sound, the result of the meeting was a latter, which, instead of the grave issue at hand, spoke about students’ code of conduct. In other words, they rubbed salt on wound.

This forced the students to gherao the VC and other university officials. However, the VC didn’t even speak with the students and the demonstration went into the night. At around 8 pm, as per VC’s orders, the cops visited the scene. As the talks with the cops amounted to nothing, the protests continued through the night and at 2 am (September 17), the lights were turned off and the students were lathicharged. Students also went on to say that members of Trinamool Congress accompanied the police.

The lathicharge ensured that the VC was escorted out of the campus. But the students carried a roadblock, which ensured more lathicharge. There are also reports about female students being sexually assaulted in the ruckus.

Watch the police brutality against the students

This ensured that people not only from other institutions but from all walks of life joined the protests from September 20 onwards. Needless to say, support poured in for the students on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

The ruling party TMC, however, staged a rally against students on September 22. It was reported that a number of people were forced to attend the rally. But if this wasn’t enough, there came a bomb from Abhishek Banerjee, nephew of the Chief Minister of Bengal Mamata Banerjee. He questioned as to whether the protests are a result of the recent ban on illicit liquor or drugs on the campus.

This statement had an opposite effect as it helped picking up the moments. It triggered more enrage not only for the VC but also the ruling party and needless to say, Abhishek Banerjee.

Till today (September 24), the situation is the same. The students and the people of Kolkata are fighting with all their might against the wrong doers, who are showing no signs of budge.

So here is an appeal to the people of India to join the protest in various ways, the best could be visiting Kolkata for the same. The movement is not just against the VC but against gender violence in India. At a time when there is a huge demand for stricter laws against safety of women, we have a VC who is just not ready to make sure justice is done to the victim of the molestation. The authorities have also fallen as low as allegedly threatening students individually!

The movement is also about the voice, right and freedom of the movement... Education is being politicised by vested interests, who cannot even ensure students' security.

If this is not enough to enrage you enough to join the protest, I don’t know what is.

Facebook page of the Jadavpur University protests –

Twitter page of the same –

The hashtag for the movement is #Hokkolorob

23Aug/140

Review: Mardaani


By:
Keyur Seta

Director: Pradeep Sarkar

Producers: Aditya Chopra for Yash Raj Films

Writers: Pradeep Sarkar, Gopi Puthran and S Hussain Zaidi

Cast: Rani Mukerji, Tahir Raj Bhasin, Anil George, Jisshu Sengupta

Music: Salim-Sulaiman

Genre: Thriller

Rating: * * * ½

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Story Outline: The name of the ruthless Crime Branch officer Shivani Shivaji Roy (Rani Mukerji) sends shivers down the spine of criminals. She stays in Mumbai with her husband (Jisshu Sengupta) and niece. She also shares a motherly bond with a teenage orphan Pyari (Priyanka Sharma). Shivani’s strength and dedication are tested when Pyari is kidnapped by a gang of a sex traffickers headed by the monstrous Walt (Tahir Raj Bhasin).

Review: Action films on the theme of good versus evil are done to death in Hindi cinema. But despite Pradeep Sarkar’s Mardaani also being based on the same idea, it is surely not as ordinary as plenty of films made on this genre. The reasons for this are that it follows an uncompromising narrative, gives a heart-touching message and, most importantly, makes way for a women-centric action thrillers; something that is so lacking in Indian cinema.

Sarkar had all the resources and budget (considering it’s a YRF film) to add a number of commercial factors to increase the film’s reach. So it is commendable that he steered clear from any such temptation by being honest to the subject, even if it means showing disturbing visuals of the working style of sex traffickers. This results in a gripping tale that doesn’t lose focus or goes off track even a bit. There is always a scope for item numbers in such subjects but, fortunately, he doesn’t give into that too.

Picture Source: Mardaani FB Page

Picture Source: Mardaani FB Page

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There is no denying that the film treads on predictive lines for most of the duration. But the above mentioned point and a powerfully moving climax make sure you won’t mind that. In fact, you get goose pimples during the ending moments through the message given without being preachy, just through visuals and symbolism.

The only big problem here is that neither Shivani nor any of her team members ever tries to trace the numerous calls Walt made to her. Come on! You guys are Crime Branch officers! Coming to Shivani’s relation with Pyari, we are only made to assume about that as there is not a single scene between both of them. Due to this, the actor playing Pyari, Priyanka Sharma, gets hardly any scope.

As it is not a music-oriented film, there is just one song, Mardaani Anthem, and rightly so. Its Sanskrit Mantras (Ya Devi Sarvabhuteshu) and powerful lyrics create a thundering effect when it is played during the ending moments. Artur Zurawski’s camerawork is skillful. It plays its part in adding intensity.

By completely getting into the character of a lethal cop, Rani Mukerji gives an applaud-worthy performance. It is a pleasure to see her perform those fight scenes. With this performance, she becomes the frontrunner for women-oriented action thrillers in Hindi cinema. Hopefully, this should encourage more filmmakers and producers to try such experiments.

But there is Tahir Raj Bhasin too who is super-impressive as the bad guy and that too in his very first film. He surely deserves to be seen more. Anil George plays his part well as another bad guy. Mona Ambegaonkar is terrific in a supporting role. Jisshu Sengupta and Priyanka Sharma are decent. The latter deserved more footage.

Overall: Mardaani succeeds in being a bold and hard-hitting crime thriller that also throws light on a timely issue. It deserves rapid positive word-of-mouth to succeed at the box office due to a lack of hype and low-key promotions.

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mardaani-rani-mukherjee

17Aug/146

Lessons from Mahabharata – Episode 1: Will Lord Krishna ever return to earth to destroy evil?

(This is the first episode of the series 'Lessons from Mahabharata'. The sole aim of this series is to highlight that the many messages given in the greatest epic are completely relevant even today and will be forever... For Episode 2 click HERE.)

By: Keyur Seta

Yada Yada Hi Dharmasya,
Glanir Bhavati Bhaavat,
Abhyutthanam Adharmasya,
Tadatmanam Srujamy Aham

Through the above Sanskrit Mantra, Lord Krishna has assured that whenever and wherever evil or adharma will threaten to take over good or dharma, he will manifest or arrive on earth to ensure that evil is destroyed.

Although this is one of the most scared mantras, it is also making people ask this question again and again – If the mantra is true, why hasn’t God arrived on earth considering the numerous ghastly evils on earth? I too have asked this innumerable times. However, I have stopped asking it in recent times. In fact, I have also started believing that it is futile to ask such a question.

Before I explain the reason for this, I would like to clearly state that this is just my way of looking at an episode of Mahabharata and I don’t possess any concrete proof to support my theory.

krishna-and-arjunIt is well-known that Lord Krishna helped Arjuna and other Pandava brothers to win the great war of Kurukshetra against the evil Kauravas. Looking at this incident, one would ask then why isn’t he helping the world right now to fight these many evils. But the analogy is not as simple as it appears. A deeper perception is required.

Just before the start of the war, Arjuna straightaway refused to fight as he wasn’t ready to kill his own kinsmen, grandfather Bheeshma and his teacher Dronacharya. So Krishna encouraged him to fight through a long conversation, which later came to be known as the Bhagavad Gita. It is only after he agrees to fight that Krishna helps him by his various tactics.

So if Krishna is God, why he didn’t use his powers to eliminate the Kauravas right at the start of the war? He had the power to end the war in a matter of seconds so why didn’t he do that? Well, this incident gives a clear message that God helps us in our fight against any evil only if we are ready to fight against it with all our might. Until and unless we, in huge numbers, are determined to put in all our efforts in battling against various evils, God is not going to help us.

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We humans have enough power and strength to wage a war against adharma. By fearing and underestimating ourselves and overestimating the evil forces, we are falling prey to negativity. And where there is negativity, there is no God. History is full of examples of ordinary human beings fearlessly battling against oppressors. So it is not right to blame Him of not doing anything to alleviate us if we are not willing to determine ourselves to wage a war against evil forces.

So, according to me, as a large majority of us (including me) aren’t doing anything to wipe out the corrupt and wicked forces, God isn’t using his powers to free us from various evils. Until and unless we don’t pull up our socks (mind you, in huge numbers) for the task, we shouldn’t expect God to perform any miracles.

No doubt, there are a lot of people selflessly working for the upliftment of the downtrodden but the number isn’t enough. We can expect some miracle only if a large majority of us enter the battlefield of the various Kurukshetras of the world.

Maybe the Lord is already present on earth just waiting for us to unanimously enter the battlefield. Maybe he is present in small quantities in many of us and just wants us to unite ourselves and Him. Either ways, the need is the same – stand up and fight!

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10Jul/142

Victim of Marriage in 21st century!

By: Keyur Seta

Traditionalists keep asserting that marriage is a ‘sacred bond’ and a huge decision so it shouldn’t be taken lightly. Although there is no denying this, ironically most of these traditionalists around me not only take marriage lightly but also make it a cruel joke with regards to the marriage of a girl by promoting different versions of patriarchy.

Right from selecting a groom till the last stages of her life, a woman is forced to bear a lot of evils in the name of ‘tradition’, ‘culture’ and ‘religious beliefs’. People might argue that such things don’t happen in the 21st century but that is far from the truth. I have been regularly witnessing such weird practices even in 2014 and that too in Mumbai, which is known as the most modern city of India.

I would like to explain myself using the following points:

  • Picture Source: Inonit.com

    Picture Source: Inonit.com

    Age Factor: Age should be taken into consideration while planning your academic life and career because one needs to enter into a profession at the right time in order to stop depending on your parents. But to force someone to marry just because of age is senseless and that too when she is just 22 or 23. It is absolutely fine if the girl is ready for it but if she wishes to build a career before tying the knot, it is against human rights to not allow her to do so. After all, marriage is not about age; it is about finding the right person.

  • Beauty Contest: A couple is said to be happily married if there is love and proper understanding between them. For this, it is necessary for the girl and the boy to spend time with each other in order to understand each other’s nature and psyche. But the first criterion a boy’s family’s considers is beauty by looking at the girl’s photograph. If she is good looking or ‘fair’, only then they select her to meet their son. Such a practice reinforces the terrible belief that looking good, beautiful or ‘fair’ is the most important thing for a girl. No wonder these appalling fairness creams and their advertisements are so hit in India!
  • Only Money Matters: I regularly witness or hear stories of parents pestering a girl to get married to a complete stranger just because he is rich. I have heard first-hand accounts of how parents start having a grudge against their daughter if she turns down the marriage proposal of a wealthy stranger due to logical reasons like thoughts not matching, not being understanding, not willing to give freedom, etc. Parents’ worry for their girl’s future is completely understandable, but forcing her to marry someone just because of his bank balance is more than silly. This will surely take care of her financial needs but not getting a loving, understand and caring husband will make her feel practically poor.

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  • Picture: http://blogs.lse.ac.uk (Click on the pic to enlarge)

    Picture: http://blogs.lse.ac.uk (Click on the pic to enlarge)

    Divisive Politics: We are told that marriages are made in heaven (whatever that means). But we are made to search our soul mate not just in our own religion but also our so-called caste and language. Now how can you assume that God or nature has selected someone for us from our own religion, caste and language? Do you really think God or nature believes in such man-made divisions?  So a girl opting for love marriage outside the so-called caste is grudged; if it is outside their religion, she is labeled disgraceful, even in 2014. Many a times, children agree to search in their own caste or community just to respect their parents’ sentiments. But how logical is respecting your parents’ sentiments when it helps in spreading something as evil as casteism? This respect has played a large role in spreading casteist feelings. Just look at the matrimonial column in newspapers. The same people who accuse politicians of playing caste politics are more than willing to do the same in matrimonial ads. At the end of the day, happiness of your child should always be above your divisive demand.

  • pati-parmeshwarInvisible Dowry: Dowry has been banned in India long ago but that is only on paper. Even today in a lot of cases the girl’s family is compelled to give a lot of items as shagun disguised as dowry and also bear the cost of the entire wedding. This gives a feeling that the boy is doing some ehsaan (favor) on the girl by marrying her. Isn’t he also in need of a wife as much as she is in need of a husband? One should not forget that it is she who is leaving her family to live with someone else’s family till the end of her life.
  • Husband Worship: Even today a wife is forced to consider her husband as bhagwan or God. This is justified by the ridiculous and horrible statement – Patni ki jagah pati ke charanon mein hoti hai. This is not only weird but also hilarious. Just imagine – a boy enters the world just like others. He lives like any other human being as he has the same capabilities that fellow humans have. So how is it that after marriage he suddenly becomes God? A lot of times, this ‘God’ is not even able to make a cup of tea for himself. Although this sounds funny, it is not because it promotes high level patriarchy.
  • sada-suhaganDouble Standards: An invisible version of patriarchy is promoted through Karva Chauth. No, I am not against the festival. I am just against the message it gives: the festival is celebrated to pray for husband’s long life. Why is it that only the husband deserves to live long? Why can’t the husband fast for his wife too so that there is equality?

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  • Curse in Blessing: People consider the blessing ‘Sada Suhagan Raho’ (may you be a married woman throughout your life) as the most auspicious for a woman but if you think deep, you will realize it is not. In fact, it is a curse in disguise since it is indirectly hoping that the woman dies before her husband. It endorses the ghastly theory that women are just not capable of living life without a husband so it is better they die before him. How can this insult be tolerated in an era when single women and single mothers are leading a professional life just like their male counterparts? Why can’t it be left to God or nature to decide someone’s lifespan?

Until and unless something revolutionary is done about the above-mentioned points, it will be hypocritical to label marriage as something sacred. Instead of the girl’s parents convincing her to adjust according to these so-called traditions, it is high time the boy’s parents encourage him against such creative patriarchy.

8Jul/145

Mardaani against all odds!

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This is written as a part of I am Mardaani activity exclusively at BlogAdda.com for Indian Bloggers.

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By: Keyur Seta

Indians have grown up watching mainstream Hindi films. Most of these films have a common theme – a man (known as ‘hero’) fighting a lone battle against evil forces and emerging victorious. Although we all have seen innumerable films with this theme, we hardly (or never) come across such a hero in real life. Very, very few of us do.

I am glad to have known one such a brave fighter very well. I am more fortunate since that person is also a good friend. She (not ‘he’) is Dr Rita Pal. She is a doctor and a medical journalist. But the reason why I feel she is an ideal Mardaani is because she dared to be a whistleblower against malpractices and corruption in the medical field and refused to give up despite the fact that she was all alone.

This is her story that she narrated to me:-

Originally from Bengal, Rita has been staying and working in the United Kingdom since long. Her story started in 1999 when she was working in the Midlands with the National Health Service (NHS). After realizing the substandard methods of patient care over there, she complained about it. However, the authorities not only ignored her concerns but also labeled them as baseless.

dr-rita-palBut Rita didn’t give up. She continued her fight by approaching the Department of Health, General Medical Council and the media. But these organizations, however, didn’t take any actions and, worse, started assassinating her character. The scheme of things also ensured that Rita didn’t find other employment; she was able to work with NHS on short contracts in order to conceal her ‘past’.

Sadly, this wasn’t all. The worst was yet to come. It came when once Rita came to know that false rumors about her ‘mental state’ are been circulated on a website. This obviously affected her professional life so much that she had to carry a doctor’s certificate to prove her normalcy. When she tried to find the source of these rumors, she came to know that the General Medical Council (GMC) came to the conclusion after doing a secret inquiry about her mental condition and that too without contacting her or having a look at any of her medical reports.

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When the GMC refused to remove the notes of the secret inquiries, Rita approached lawyers but none were ready to help as they felt it is impossible to take legal action against the GMC. She decided to become a litigant and wrote a claim with the help of a friend by going through those thick legal books. Finally, she found a lawyer, a colleague’s friend. This route also wasn’t easy as we all know these lawyers charge a bomb.

After a lot of hardships, Rita finally won the case. The GMC had to remove the notes citing her so-called mental illness. They were also compelled to provide her with a letter stating that there was nothing wrong with her mental condition.

Her story is indeed similar to the theme of a lot of Hindi films. But what she went through was not a film shoot but an actual life struggle that would demoralize many of us, who would have given up when pitted alone against such powerful forces. Unfortunately, the media didn't cover this case much. But that doesn't take away anything from Rita's act of bravery.

I believe fighting a lone battle against such forces and emerging victorious is an ideal example of Mardaani.

P.S: Dr Rita Pal regularly takes part in a number other social causes too.

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This is a personal message sent by Rani Mukerji after reading this post:-

Letter from Rani

31Dec/130

2013 reinforced our belief in Hope & Humility

By: Keyur Seta

Until mid-November, 2013 seemed like an ordinary year as there wasn’t single event that delighted the masses. But after half of the eleventh month was over, when we had hardly any hope from the year, two events emerged that turned 2013 on its head with joy. Those events reinforced our beliefs in hope and humanity. They are as follows date-wise:

Sachin Tendulkar’s Farewell Speech:
All those who listened to the historic speech Sachin Tendulkar gave would agree that it was much, much more than a speech. After having a closer look at it, one realizes that it is a precious lesson on humbleness. Just imagine – a man who is hailed as the God of cricket and one of the most loved Indians is seen behaving like just like an ordinary Common Man.

Tendulkar’s humility and down-to-earth behavior isn’t new to the world. We have seen it all these years from the kind of career he has had and the way he has spoken to the media. But in his extempore speech, where he thanked a list of people who helped him become what he is today, we got a first-hand account of his inner self. It indirectly taught us that even after achieving the unachievable, one needs to hold on to humbleness, despite receiving a Godly status.

Children are often preached by their elders and teachers on how to become good human beings. Now, they have an easier option of making them listen to the 20 minute speech by the Master Blaster.

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AAP’s Miraculous Success:
Till the start of December 2013, the nation had witnessed the triumph of the Common Man only in movies. It won’t be an overstatement that the masses had given up any hope as far as cleansing the politics was concerned. But how things changed once the results of the Delhi general elections were out!

People from the political fraternity had laughed at Arvind Kejriwal and his team when they decided to contest Delhi elections through their Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). I too, personally, thought it won’t garner any success. Although I had no doubt on their determination, I felt it was next to impossible to change the current filthy political scenario. But the impossible was made possible on December 8 when AAP won 28 seats in their debut election. Earning this many seats in your very first election is nothing short of a miracle.

Now all of a sudden, the masses slowly but surely got awakened to the power of ordinary citizens. The same people who had given up any hope from politics are now unable to stop talking about the subject simply because Kejriwal and AAP have shown a ray of hope, which was missing since time immemorial.

Ever since AAP formed the government on December 28, their popularity is increasing day-by-day. This has sent shockwaves in almost every political party of India. Talking about the politicians that had made fun of AAP, the joke is on them now.

In 48 hours after AAP formed the government, they have already begun delivering by making water free for Delhites, discarding VIP culture and red beacon cars and declaring Rs 1 crore compensation to all police officers sacrificing their lives on duty. If this continues, India will soon see a political revolution like never before. All the best to them for the 2014 Lok Sabha Elections.

Here’s wishing more power to the Common Man in 2014!