#IndianElections2014

Tweets curated on the historic Indian Election of 2014 which saw a seismic shift in power from the Congress Party to the Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, the BJP.

Well, after 5 weeks of polling in India the results are in and Narendra Modi and the BJP have swept to victory. Here is a collection of tweets curated from the lead-up to the final day of polling, May 16, that gives a good sense of various reactions to the election results.
For some the victory of the BJP is worrying, almost as if the Boko Haram had taken  elections in Nigeria with an overwhelming majority. Certainly the actions of extremists in the new ruling party have earned it the bad reputation it enjoys and the inaction of the new Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in the face of such excesses, is why people treat him as if he has horns. Let’s hope the BJP and Modi prove their critics wrong. Ultimately what my Nigerian friend, Olu Oguibe, said on Facebook remains true:

There’s a great deal of weeping and wailing among some today as Narendra Modi and the BJP sweep the stakes in India’s national elections. Yet, who is to blame for their success but the people? Like the ANC, India’s ruling Congress Party takes power for granted and corruption and incompetence as tradition. Worse, still, it saddles itself with a doddering dynasty. And so, the majority of the Indian people have knowingly and willfully cast their lot with Modi and his right wing, religious fundamentalist party. They’ll live with the consequences.

Que sera sera…

  1. Broad, smart, lovely piece by @DalrympleWill on the Indian elections and Narendra Modi. Best primer you’ll ever read.  http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2014/05/narendra-modi-man-masses 
  2. But a pretty picture! @ajayrdave: They all were waiting for Lotus to bloom.. It has now.. pic.twitter.com/zlmxET2Yph
  3. My @TheDailyShow interview discussing the Indian elections will air today at 9 PM EST which corresponds to 6:30 AM IST tomorrow in India.
  4. Huge celebrations erupt at the BJP headquarters. Didn’t even take an hour of counting that’s how clear it is ! pic.twitter.com/wfFyVAdQlG
  5. Asinine. Who expects pols to canvass by saying “We’re going to lose”? MT @firstpostin Dear Rahul Gandhi EatYourWords. pic.twitter.com/KTPqQK73iJ
  6. “Indians have dreamed collectively, & they have dreamed a man accused of mass murder” Must. Pankaj Mishra on #Modi~  http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/may/16/what-next-india-pankaj-mishra 
  7. Pankaj Mishra has written a terrific, searing, Pankaj Mishra-y piece on Modi & the new India:  http://gu.com/p/3p9tc/tw  via @WomaninHavana
  8. Muslims who condemn us for building bridges will one day realize our role for securing d interests of future generations as equal citizens
  9. Congrats to India for a new government that i will run to the best of my abilities.
  10. Now that it’s all over, and the heat is up, can all those tv panelists chuck the sleeveless Nehru bundis and go back to regular clothes?
  11. .@greatbong In 2009 you said “BJP was outmaneuvered, not destroyed.” You have been proven right. 🙂
  12. Big takeaway from this election result : ruling party shd avoid arrogance, inefficiency, corruption, misgovernance and lack of communication
  13. Extremely short concession speech from Rahul Gandhi taking responsibility. What is there to say?!
  14. conceding defeat: sonia gandhi cool, professional, dignified. rahul gandhi apparently feckless. nobody takes questions.
  15. Democracies everywhere these days seem to lust after toxic, nationalist authoritarian mo-fos. Sign of the times or what?
  16. Someone needs to tell Barkha Dutt another word for ‘decimation/decimated’.
  17. In a forest, close to nature. Glad the cacophony of election results are far away. Congrats Mr. Modi. Hope you’ll prove some of us wrong.
  18. That detached, taciturn press-conference-without-questions sums up the Sonia-Rahul Congress: There is ZERO organic feel for democracy.
  19. Narendra Modi Profile: From tea boy at a railway station to India’s next prime minister  http://aje.me/1nRkEAa  #IndiaElections
  20. A big shout out to the ABSOLUTELY AWESOME fight @smritiirani put up in Amethi!! Rahul is left with no face to show!
  21. Rout as BJP sweeps to power in India RT @OsamaManzar: Congress is looking like beauty spot on Indian map as a result of this election!
  22. Seismic shift underway in India today. Keep watching at  http://nytimes.com .
  23. Rabri Devi defeated.. 🙂 🙂 🙂 Only people from Bihar can understand the pleasure of this news.
  24. Modi Crushes Gandhi in India’s Election Landslide  http://thebea.st/1szCd5z  via @tunkuv [My take on India’s election results for @dailybeast]
  25. All those who think the lack of confidence of some voters in the BJP stems from fear have got it wrong. It’s not fear, it’s moral revulsion.
  26. BREAKING NEWS: People’s verdict is against us: Sonia Gandhi
  27. All those anchoring the coverage since the morning have gone home. Except Arnab Goswami. BECAUSE THE STUDIO IS ARNAB’S HOME.
  28. India’s stock market jumped more than 6% to a record 25,000 points as Modi secures electoral victory. Orgy of joy…  http://fb.me/3fa1LfEDU 
  29. Pankaj Mishra’s long piece on Modi’s India, and on the new India’s canniest artist.  http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/may/16/what-next-india-pankaj-mishra?CMP=twt_gu 
  30. India has always been a nation led with accommodation and consensus. It has chosen a leader with no real record of either. This is huge.
  31. Which is to say, Modi represents a fundamental shift in the political life of India. Should be very interesting to watch.
  32. India has been Jamie Lannistered. That is the hand has been cut off.
  33. Dear Rahul Gandhi, the journalists don’t want you to take responsibility, they want you to take questions.
  34. Those worrying about how India will change would do well to remember how it will change depends on how we, the citizens, change it.
  35. Today, hope won, hate lost. Today, work won,whining lost. Today, my India won, nobody lost. Congrats @narendramodi and BJP for historic win!
  36. The entire Congress baba-brigade who behaved like they were entitled to power & two rule -wiped out by voters
  37. “मैं हार की ज़िम्मेदारी लेता हूँ.” “मैं लेती हूँ.” “नहीं मैं.” “नहीं मैं.” “मैं.” “मैं.” पार्टी बोली,” ठीक है, ठीक है– मैं नहीं, हम.”
  38. Offering a laddoo to my distinguished predecessor A . Charles, the only other Thiruvananthapuram MP to be re-elected pic.twitter.com/UZF9t8tEAF
  39. Who is writing the long form article on the high tech election campaign by the BJP for grassroots reach? Look fwd to it.
  40. UK PM David Cameron extends invitation to Narendra Modi to visit UK on his way to BRICS summit to be held in August 2014 in Brazil
  41. Tech guys lost too! @NandanNilekani & V Balakrishnan MT @manupubby 7 journos lost – Ilmi, Ashutosh, Khaitan, Jarnail, Chandan, Rakhi, Anita
  42. Still very long queues at @BJP4India HQ of supporters trying to get their hands on box of @narendramodi Laddoos. pic.twitter.com/9ErY6r73xb
  43. As Modi prepares for office, here, again, is why we think he’s unfit to be India’s PM  http://econ.st/1hQzDD7  pic.twitter.com/yjFPzKxE5V
  44. #Modi‘s victory speech in Indian elections is remarkable to watch, and worth it just for his theatrical physicality.  http://m.ndtv.com/video/live/channel/ndtv24x7?alternative 
  45. Modi’s win may prove problematic when he has to attend talks in NY or Washington and can’t get in. Man doesn’t have a visa to the US. #India
  46. That’s an interesting point from @narendramodi. He will be the first PM born after independence. #indiadecides2014
  47. “I’ve never taken a vacation, ever” boasts Gujarat CM @narendramodi who will be #India’s next PM.
  48. I will be the hardest working Prime Minister, says @narendramodi. #IndiaDecides2014
    sidin
    Narendra Modi has just overtaken Manmohan Singh’s combined lifelong word count.

    an hour ago

  49. BJP goons already getting on me 4 my previous tweet. That’s really grown up people. I was just making an observation. AND I use my real name
  50. I gather Shinzo Abe sent his congratulations to Modi this afternoon. That is one relationship to watch closely. #HindiJapaniBhaiBhai
  51. Even though Modi/BJP wooed Kerala relentlessly, happy to see that BJP has drawn a blank. God’s Own Country, indeed.

Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIMA), ranks high among elite business schools globally

Memories of the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIMA).

l to r: Samuel Paul, Vasant Mote, Warren Haynes, SC Kuchal, HN Pathak, some of the earliest faculty members at the prestigious Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIMA).

Came across the photo above recently on Facebook courtesy Vasant Mote (second from left) on his left is my Dad, Samuel Paul, who would later become director of the Institute. He has no memory of when this photo was taken. IIMA as the Institute was called was set up in collaboration with the Harvard Business School and its campus was designed by the renowned American architect Louis Kahn. I’ve written about this in an earlier post but was minded to do so again today after reading the following article: What makes IIM Ahmedabad among top 39 elite B Schools in the world. Apparently according to the article:

The Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Ahmedabad has found a place in top 39 elite Business Schools in the world named by MBA employers, according to QS Global Business School Report 2013, which also ranked Indian MBA graduates as the world’s most academically distinguished.

It’s one of three Asian business schools to earn this global ranking, the other two being from Singapore.
I remember a group of these early professors deciding to start a South Indian restaurant in Ahmedabad in the 60s, though I can no longer remember what it was called now. Surely if they were teaching management they should be able to run a successful business themselves? Well, not so at all, the restaurant didn’t last a year and proved to be a poor case study. Academics should stick to academia was the chastened conclusion.

Mother Tongues vs English: Language Wars Redux

The politics of language as played out in India and Jamaica

The following headline in an Indian newsmagazine stopped me in my tracks a couple of days ago:

Ban English in the Parliament, says Mulayam Singh Yadav

MPs should be banned from speaking in English in Parliament, Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav has said.

“There should be a ban on English address in Parliament. Countries which use their mother tongue are more developed. It’s the need of the hour to promote Hindi,” Yadav said in a function here last night.

“The leaders of the country have double character as far as Hindi is concerned. They ask for vote in Hindi but give address in Parliament in English. This should be stopped,” he said, clarifying that he was not against English language per se.

Excellent point I thought recalling that it was only a few months ago that the opposite scenario played itself out in Jamaica:

English only in the Senate, president tells Justice Minister

was the astonishing headline in the Jamaica Gleaner.

President of the Senate Stanley Redwood had interrupted Justice Minister Mark Golding as he used patois (also called Jamaican, and Patwa, the unofficial mother tongue of the land) to thank bondholders and workers. As the article reported:

This morning, Justice Minister Mark Golding, who was in his element was stopped in his track as he thanked bondholders and workers for their role in ensuring that Jamaica fulfills prior actions requirement for an agreement with the International Monetary Fund.

“Respec’ due to those patriotic Jamaicans,” Golding said when Senate President Reverend Stanley Redwood broke his strides.

“Sorry to break your flow but the language used in the Senate must be standard English,” Redwood told Golding.

The minister had no choice but to relent, and instead of saying respec’ due, resorted to respect is due.

What a farce! Especially since the esteemed Mr. Redwood migrated to greener pastures within a few weeks of making his startling intervention. To be noted is what the Indian politico said: “Countries which use their mother tongue are more developed.” I firmly believe that half of Jamaica’s problems stem from its linguistic identity crisis, insisting its mother tongue is English when a huge proportion of the population can only speak Patois. As if that weren’t bad enough the mother tongue of the majority is not recognized as an official language in its own country. Meanwhile the airwaves are full of English-speakers gnashing their teeth over the ‘growth and development’ that eludes the country. smh. They don’t seem to realize that there’s a causal relationship at work here. Jamaica needs to be declared the bilingual state it is asap.

In memory of Jyoti aka Nirbhaya…how language facilitates rape

A brief meditation on how language facilitates rape on the first anniversary of the inhumane Delhi gang rape.

nirbhaya_grey1
Nirbhaya image via Deepak’s Lore

There are many reasons I chose the phrase Active Voice for the title of my blog. One of them is simply grammatical. I deplore the tendency to resort to the passive voice and all that it implies. The passive voice dwells on the action not on the actor. You come across it a lot in bad academic writing. “A form was developed and disseminated to collect epidemiological data, including data on health services utilization and costs….Subsequent visits were made to collect the data” etc etc.

But there are far more serious abuses of the passive voice, especially as described in the article quoted below; written in the wake of the horrific Delhi gang rape almost exactly one year ago (December 16)  Tilotamma Shrinivasa notes how the passive voice  can be employed as a blame-shifting device in relation to sex crimes. It’s worth thinking about.

What Grammar Says About Rape
Posted by: ladiesfinger , August 19, 2013

By Tilotamma Shrinivasa

Before we begin, a quick grammar lesson is due. Google for ‘passive voice’ and the very first hit defines it like this:

Passive voice is used when the focus is on the action. It is not important or not known, however, who or what is performing the action.

And adds this:

“Sometimes a statement in passive is more polite than active voice, as the following example shows:
Example: A mistake was made. In this case, I focus on the fact that a mistake was made, but I do not blame anyone (e.g. You have made a mistake.).”

So, saying “Draupadi stole Bheema’s apple” blames Draupadi for stealing, while saying “Bheema’s apple was stolen by Draupadi” focuses on the fact that the apple was stolen. Now if you drop Draupadi from the second sentence, “Bheema’s apple was stolen” conveys the idea that this terrible thing happened to Bheema but doesn’t blame anyone! Or if I use an even worse and a grammatically dodgy form of passive voice: “Bheema had his apple stolen” squarely dumps the responsibility of what happened on Bheema’s head!

Now that you are equipped with the power of grammar, here is a snapshot of Google results for the recent assaults in Gurgaon and Manipal:

scr2

Let’s not even start with the ‘allegedly’ business! Anyway, here is another general snapshot of recent articles:

scr3

For more click here

Goodbye Sachin Tendulkar…

A few tweets and quotes on the occasion of Sachin Tendulkar’s retirement from test cricket.

Photo: India Today
The day dawned with the beginning of Sachin Tendulkar’s final test match in Bombay’s Wankhade Stadium. I present a selection of tweets and quotes from articles as a small tribute to the little giant. Incredible that as the photo below shows his mother was watching her son play in a stadium for the first time. Apparently Tendulkar insisted that his entire family be present for his final test match.
Hindustan Times @htTweets
Mother watches the elegant straight drive for the first time on field. Cant believe this is his last match! #SRT200
Photo: Hindustan Times
Ellen Barry @EllenBarryNYT

Twitter now featuring selfies of Indian desk workers who wish to show that they are watching cricket on their computer monitors.

India Today @IndiaToday

Now only humans will play cricket, say fans with banners #salaamsachin

Screen Shot 2013-11-16 at 7.34.14 AM

Chris Gayle @henrygayle
Was absolutely a pleasure being apart of history Sachin Tendulkar 200 Test Match. #legends #Lara… instagram.com/p/gxMsp-IeYo/

Nigel Britto @NigelBritto

If you have to rob a bank, murder someone, orchestrate a scam, do it today. No one will bother. Everyone’s watching Sachin. #ThankYouSachin

EnthaHotmess @enthahotness

Bat all you want maccha. Bat for four days straight. Nobody will declare.

Sachin with wife, Anjali

One article I read consisted of an interview with Tendulkar’s British mother-in-law:

Annabel never has quite been able to comprehend it since Tendulkar swept into their lives in 1990 when Anjali, then a paediatrician at a Mumbai hospital, came to pick her up her mum at the airport and, while waiting, met the teenage Tendulkar, who was returning with the Indian team from his breakthrough tour of England, where he had scored the unbeaten Test-saving maiden century at Manchester which captured a nation’s imagination. But not Anjali’s apparently.

“My husband thought it heaven on earth to have a Test cricketer around and I think he was recognised by everyone in India by then – except my daughter,” Annabel says with a laugh. “We’ve come a long way!”

In his farewell speech Sachin left no doubt about the importance of his marriage and Anjali:

in 1991, I met my wife Anjali. I know she was a doctor. When we decided to make it a family, she said, you continue with your cricket and I’ll take care of the family. Without that I think I couldn’t have played so much cricket. Thank you for all that you’ve done and it is the best partnership I’ve had in my life.

Tunku Varadarajan’s NYT article on Tendulkar is more substantial, suggesting that the cricketing god’s career mirrored the glory days of the Indian economy’s relentless rise in the 90s. He doesn’t hesitate to weigh in with a healthy dose of criticism:

When he first played for India — in 1989, at age 16, against the old enemy, Pakistan — the country was adrift economically. National morale hit a nadir in 1991, with India pawning gold reserves to stay afloat. Sachin’s blossoming coincided with the economic liberalization that followed, and his cricketing splendor tracked a healthy, sometimes rollicking, growth rate. In his success, he embodied a new Indian self-image. Other heroes have since emerged: younger, brasher, like the New India itself, but Sachin’s heroism reminds the country of a more vulnerable time, and he is loved the more for that.

At the same time, there is also, remarkably, an unsentimental view of Sachin, which is that he should have retired two years ago (or more), that he has stayed at the wicket much too long.

There is no Indian tradition of graceful retirement. The inherent human vanity of an authority reluctant to cede the public stage is reinforced by a culture of adulation, of shrieking, ululating crowds, of an uncritical elevation of heroes to godlike status by devotees who will not let go. In politics, in cinema, even in corporate business houses, old Indian men do not fade into the sunset. They hobble on and on. And when they die, they are “kept alive” by heirs who succeed them: sons, daughters, wives. Sport, by its very nature, is different: there is no elegant case for heirs on a cricket team, and the body imposes its own laws of retirement.

Yet Sachin and his fans have tried their best to defy those natural laws. After all, idolatry is an Indian art form. Some Indian gods have three heads, or 10 arms. Others have serpents coiled around their torsos, or rivers streaming from their heads. And one, Sachin, wields a sacred cricket bat, heavy, sweet, made of the finest willow.

I don’t know about you but I’d say the tradition of graceful retirement is completely missing in the Caribbean as well where our local giants linger on into their dotage, unwilling to ride off into the sunset when their time comes. In this context Shashi Tharoor’s  BBC article on Sachin’s retirement made an interesting claim:

A weak, insecure nation needs sporting heroes, players larger than life on the cricketing field, who can transcend the limitations of their country and team.

Tendulkar was the diminutive colossus who showed his countrymen that an Indian, too, could be the world’s best. He was elevated to God in the country’s cricketing pantheon.

But the confident India of 2013, with a stronger economy that carries more weight in the world, an India wooed and courted by global leaders, doesn’t need a God to project its capabilities. Mere mortals are good enough to win when winning comes naturally.

 
Here is Sachin walking into Wankhede Stadium on the 2nd day of his final test match:

India’s Mission to Mars…

India launches its Mission to Mars amidst excited tweets and the usual criticism.


Agence France-Presse @AFP
India’s Mars Orbiter Mission, which successfully launched today #infographic pic.twitter.com/3eH0He53m8
13h

Waking up this morning at 5-5.30 am, i checked in with Twitter, as i usually do, to see what the folks on my Indian timeline were talking about. It turned out to be something quite spectacular. The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) at Thumba in Kerala (the state I happen to come from :)) had just launched India’s Mission to Mars and all or most of my Indian peeps were still tingling from the excitement of having just watched the liftoff live on their smartphones, tablets and TVs. Of course the occasional naysayer could be heard here and there as well, eg:

Anusha Yadav@anushayadav
Sending a mission to Mars to pretend we are all so first world is like making a swimming pool on slum land and calling it a 5 star hotel.

This is such a predictable wet blanket, one i don’t subscribe to at all. In the first decade after independence in India national leaders decided to set up five Indian Institutes of Technology, state of the art institutions delivering cutting edge technological education. At the time there were many opponents to the new ventures who cited similar reasons for not undertaking such expensive investments. India was poor they claimed, too poor to afford elite educational establishments using such high-powered technologies. Fortunately the naysayers were outnumbered and the IITs became institutions to reckon with, directly spawning what would eventually produce the IT revolution that galvanized the Indian economy30-40 years later. So more power to the Indian scientists who made Mangalyaan, the popular name for the Mars bound spaceship, possible.

The following selection of tweets culled from this morning’s stream reflects the tug-of-war between enthusiasts and naysayers. Fascinatingly it also exposes another schism, that between North and South India. As I mentioned earlier the spaceship was launched from the deep South so to speak–my home state of Kerala–also the most literate state. One person even went so far as to ask if this launch would have taken place had the scientists involved been North Indian. Culturally there are deep differences between North and South with North Indians generally looking down on South Indians (and making fun of their accents) who counter this by flaunting their superior intellectual traditions.

Others focused on the relatively low budget India had managed to pull off this great achievement with. Basically for the cost of four blockbuster Bollywood films we had managed to put a spaceship in orbit. Early indicators are that China is green with envy. Enjoy the tweets below and the article after that giving details about India’s exciting new space initiative.

Ashok @krishashok
I just saw India launch a rocket to Mars on my phone over 3G. I know we have problems to fix but we have sure come a long way
Details

Shivam Vij @DilliDurAst
Hmm. “@rupasubramanya: The successful launch to Mars today is a great moment for South Indians. We should be proud.”
15h

Mihir Sharma @mihirssharma
No photographic angle available that includes cow in foreground, rocket launch in background? #GrauniadIsDisappointed
16h

Saugato Datta @sd268
@mihirssharma Ideally, cow chewing garbage next to defecating child in front of ancient monument. #HavingItAll
15h

Manreet S Someshwar @manreetss
For all the naysayers on #Mangalyaan, here’s Wilde for you: We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.
16h

Sidin Studukut @sidin
Good morning. Any major achievements today by non-Malayalis?
16h

Nitin Pai @acorn
Pavan Srinath wrote this post about ISRO a few months ago. http://pragati.nationalinterest.in/2013/07/not-quite-over-the-moon/
16h

Vimal Sapiens @vimalg2
I’m a big fan of creative people doing amazing things with frugal infrastructure. #ISRO  #jugaad #givesYouWings
16h

aby @abytharakan
RT @srini091: An ISRO Scientist transporting a nose cone of a rocket on a cycle. Thumba, Kerala, 1968. pic.twitter.com/VuClBM1KPC
16h

Sonia Faleiro @soniafaleiro
The Chinese seem rather put out by India’s #MarsMission: globaltimes.cn/content/822493… Via @akannampilly
16h

Surekha Pillai @surekhapillai
osum. RT @smitaprakash: Only South Indian accents so far…at Mission Control Room ISRO. 🙂 (yes yes you can send me hate tweets for this)
16h

Surekha Pillai @surekhapillai
i’m a bit of both. worship me. MT @samar11 Q: Would there be a credible Indian Space programme without all those Tamilians and Keralites? 😉
17h

Mahendra Palsule @Palsule
Folks watching launch live on phones/tablets/webcasts, sharing excitement on Twitter…who would’ve thought of this 5-10 yrs back?!
17h

Gautam John @gkjohn
Space fight! RT @sumenrai79: #Mangalyaan will reach Mars in September 2014, around the same time as #NASA’s #MAVEN.
17h

Firstpost @firstpostin
Mars Orbiter Mangalyaan crosses 3,000 km Live updates: bit.ly/1dJRz23
17h

Overrated Outcast @over_rated
At the cost of four and a half Salman Khan movies, ISRO sent a rocket into the orbit of Mars.
17h

Chetan Bhagat @chetan_bhagat
You know how they say in offices when someone doesn’t get it “It’s not rocket science you know.” Wonder what they say in ISRO.
17h

For more details read this NDTV article:

Mangalyaan, which means “Mars craft” in Hindi, is the size of a small car. It is golden in colour and will be carried by a rocket much smaller than American or Russian equivalents.

About 1000 scientists spent Diwali at work and also did not sleep last night, many of them performing last-minute health checks on the rocket that is now fully-fuelled and ready to go.

Lacking the power to fly directly, the 350-tonne launch vehicle will orbit Earth for nearly a month, building up the necessary velocity to break free from our planet’s gravitational pull.

Only then will it begin the second stage of its nine-month journey which will test India’s scientists to the full, five years after they sent a probe called Chandrayaan to the moon.

More than half of all Mars projects have failed, including China’s in 2011 and Japan’s in 2003. Only the United States, Russia and the European Union have successfully reached there.

The total cost of the project is 450 crores, one sixth of the cost of a Mars probe set to be launched by NASA in 13 days. (India’s mission to Mars: 10 facts)

The 1,350-kilogram unmanned orbiter must travel 485 million miles over 300 days to reach the red planet next September.

“This is a technology demonstration project, a mission that will announce to the world India has the capability to reach as far away as Mars,” said K. Radhakrishnan, chairman of the Indian Space and Research Organization.

Are we listening now?

What will it take to change the status quo in countries with the kind of healthy, flourishing rape culture that accompanies the worst forms of patriarchy?

In my last post i quoted a passage from Listening Now, a 1998 novel by Anjana Appachana about women in Delhi in which she captures the kind of lecherous assaults they often face in public. It was a situation we ourselves were familiar with as students at Lady Shri Ram College (LSR) in the 1970s. One intimate of ours was abducted by a hoodlum named Bobby Oberoi and narrowly escaped being raped by him. We later discovered that he was a budding Don, the scourge of Delhi University women, many of whom he had raped at gunpoint. Traumatized, she was afraid to return to Delhi, but luckily for her it was 1975, Indira Gandhi had just declared the Emergency, and most petty criminals and gangsters had decamped from the capital in a hurry: those who didn’t, risked being removed by the armed forces during curfew hours.

Later when some of us moved on to Jawaharlal Nehru University another member of our in-group found herself the victim of a stalker, a fellow JNU student from Aligarh, who became obsessed with her, dogging her footsteps wherever she went and begging her to marry him. It got so bad the university had to intervene, terminating his stay at the university and sending him home. JNU was an experimental university, the first central government funded university i believe, and every single state was scrupulously represented in its student body. This meant that students from rural areas who had never set foot in a big city suddenly found themselves rubbing shoulders with the most hip and sophisticated types from Delhi University, Calcutta, Bombay and the other major cities. It was the female students coming from colleges like LSR, Miranda House, Sophia’s who caused the most consternation for there was no counterpart for them in small-town or village India, where women rarely moved freely in public by themselves.

Anjana, like many other feminists, seethed with anger at the blatant lack of respect women were treated with, and was particularly incensed by the impunity with which men behaved, their actions circumscribing women’s lives in harmful ways. But were only men to blame for this state of affairs? Not at all. Her response to my quoting of the scene in her book makes the point that it’s often women themselves who deny the existence of gender-based violence, thus allowing it to continue without check. As she said:

Yes, that anger still simmers, but the writing helps Annie…but women don’t want to hear about it. When I had my reading at LSR either in ’98 or ’99, many of the girls were upset about that scene, because they felt it was unnecessary and that things were different. I was appalled. In fact I remember one of those girls shaking her head at me in disappointment and asking me why I found it necessary to write that scene. I said, it happens. And she shook her head again. Perhaps they saw me as a “foreign returned” woman who had no right to write these things. And I didn’t want to start justifying my years in India (have been coming here every year, now twice a year and living here not as a tourist but as a constant caregiver), so really, there was nothing to say. Fortunately the other readings went off very well, no one protested about that scene. But imagine, LSR girls! Sometimes I find, even about other things, that it is women who are most incensed by some of the things I write about. It is the attitude of “It-isn’t-like-this-anymore.” And from what I have seen and lived, it is worse now, because we women are going forwards and the men are rapidly going backwards. Also, all these rape protests are good and necessary, but are women making any changes in their own lives? Do they feel passionately about what is right and wrong and then do they try and do something about it?

I think we’re all just beginning to realize that if we–women, that is–want to feel safe and equal, we’re going to have to do something about it ourselves and this includes erasing or reformatting our own socialization. The following blogpost by Neha Dixit speaks eloquently of what will be required, among other things:

Unlearning submission

When the middle class thronged the roads protesting against this rape, they got a first hand taste of the police atrocities. Unlike the Anna movement, here they were ready to face police batons, water cannons, tear gas, which was till now  for them only a romantic image of a revolution. They lived the reality of stone pelting in Kashmir and the autocracy of the Armed Forces Special Power Acts in the Northeast. It may be surface sensitisation, but it was also a moment  to expose the sex terrorism of the state. To discuss custodial rapes, about the rapes of adivasi women like Laxmi Orang, who have been waiting for justice for the last five years or that of Manorama who was raped and killed eight years back by the army. And it is in this light then the middle class may understand the grotesqueness of Central Home Minister, Sushil Kumar Shinde’s statement when he says, “ Tomorrow, if 100 adivasis are killed in Chhattisgarh or Gadchiroli, can the government go there?”  It is this participation, even at a cursory level, that is potent enough to initiate the scrutiny of political representatives and their prejudices.

For a woman who has made the journey from a stereotypical, upper caste patriarchal, middle class, small city person to a person who is still struggling to fight it on a daily basis, to do away with all stereotypes and acknowledge one’s privileges to engage with the working class, I understand the importance of unlearning. In creating an independent life, in awakening one’s own critical consciousness.

It is this unlearning that was instigated by these protests amongst the middle class. The unlearning that teaches to refute, question, assert and empathise. The Indian feminist movement is hidden under these protests.

In addition to unlearning the harmful effects of having learnt to be women in a profoundly patriarchal society we might have to take direct action of the kind outlined on Facebook by my friend, Punam Zuthsi…

On the 3rd I attended the IIC panel discussion moderated by Soli Sorabjee. From amongst the audience there was a suggestion … offered hesitantly that there should be a group of women who should volunteer to spend 12 hours at a time at a police station to ensure that anyone who came to the police station feel reassured and supported… I am told that there is a system by which women who volunteered could be made honorary constables. Reading the account of Nirbhaya’s companion who sat for hours in the ER of Safdarjang without a stitch; and hearing of a man whose head injury was not attended to for the whole day given the rush on the CT Scanner in the Safdarjang/ AIIMS… Apart from police stations there needs to be someone at the Emergency Rooms of Safdarjang and AIIMS and the Trauma Centre as well… Obviously the ‘social work’ segment at the hospitals is not terribly useful… One knew that the ERs did their work but it seems that they seem not to be as reassuring as I thought they were…

Now are we prepared to undertake such a radical rearrangement of our lives? If we want to lead free and unencumbered lives we’ll have to secure it by finding solutions to each of the ways in which society systematically failed that ill-fated young woman who was trying to do something as pedestrian as catch a bus home last December 16. We’ll have to acknowledge that there are fundamental ways in which our culture(s) must change. If not change won’t come in our lifetimes or the next.

Finally some of the change so urgently needed isn’t that difficult. A lesson may be learned from the family of SOHAILA ABDULALI, who lived to write about the horrific rape she suffered at the age of 17, and how she survived to lead a full life because of the empathy of her family and their continuing love and care for her after she was raped. That is what families are supposed to be, nurturing cradles of unconditional love–no matter your gender–especially when life has left you damaged or brittle. Read the following article and see how familial support and love helped to heal a trauma that could have disrupted Sohaila’s life forever. Now why can’t we all take a leaf out of this family’s book?

It’s not exactly pleasant to be a symbol of rape. I’m not an expert, nor do I represent all victims of rape. All I can offer is that — unlike the young woman who died in December two weeks after being brutally gang raped, and so many others — my story didn’t end, and I can continue to tell it.

When I fought to live that night, I hardly knew what I was fighting for. A male friend and I had gone for a walk up a mountain near my home. Four armed men caught us and made us climb to a secluded spot, where they raped me for several hours, and beat both of us. They argued among themselves about whether or not to kill us, and finally let us go.

At 17, I was just a child. Life rewarded me richly for surviving. I stumbled home, wounded and traumatized, to a fabulous family. With them on my side, so much came my way. I found true love. I wrote books. I saw a kangaroo in the wild. I caught buses and missed trains. I had a shining child. The century changed. My first gray hair appeared.