Archive for the 'Citizenship' Category

Conversations with Bangalore auto driver: A woman’s character

I wrote about a part of my conversation with a Bangalore auto driver. Our conversation meandered from NaMo to Muslim-haters, Rushdie, censorship, in that order.

He brought up Rushdie and how ‘westernized Muslims’ do disservice to religion, leave alone others. I asked if he had read the book. He said he didn’t but he has heard what he wrote about – a parody of Prophet’s life. Unable to resist, I asked what he thought of the ‘satanic verses’.

‘Satanic verses?’ (Later I think if he was just checking what I knew?)

groupI explain. ‘Quran, as I understand, was verbally revealed to Prophet by angel Gabriel (Jibrail as I said to him) in the cave of Hira and it was recorded later by his disciples.

So, before founding of Islam, Meccans worshipped three pagan goddesses. One day Prophet came back from cave and announced that these goddesses were exalted. However, few days later, Prophet retracts these verses that angel Gabriel has informed him that Satan tempted him to utter these verses. Hence, the phrase ‘satanic verses’, right?’

At this point, auto driver is ‘impressed’ with my ‘knowledge’. Even while driving, instead of looking at road, he turns to look back, as if seeing me with new eyes.

‘Yes, those goddesses are Allāt, al-‘Uzzā and Manāt. Prophet had perhaps said it out of his desire to make peace with erstwhile Arabs who worshipped goddesses.’

Continue reading ‘Conversations with Bangalore auto driver: A woman’s character’

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Conversations with a Bangalore Auto Driver

On a sultry Bangalore evening at 6pm, I waited at the end of a tiring work day to go home. However, even after 40 minutes, I wasn’t able to either grab an Ola or get any benevolent auto driver to agree to take me to my destination, my home. I wasn’t alone. There were other women unsuccessfully trying to do the same.

autoSuddenly the lady beside me caught one auto and took pity on me. She suggested that I share her ride and after dropping off, I could go further to my destination. It was only a minor detour and I accepted. Honestly, there wasn’t much choice; I had been waiting there for long now.

Anyway, inside auto, I realised that the lady, like me, was from Delhi. Our conversation inevitably covered over-chagrining auto drivers, Delhi men, rapes, Delhi vs Bangalore so on. (I still bat for Delhi though less passionately; I may be growing to like Bangalore.)

As soon as the other lady got off the cab, the auto driver, silent all this while, turned to me and asked: ‘Madam, what were you both talking about auto drivers? I am not so educated but I do understand a little bit.’ I felt a chill go down in my heart and tried to remember what had I said about auto drivers.

I kept my cool, smiled at him in the rear view mirror and said: ‘We weren’t talking anything complex and educational anyway. Of course, you understood everything we said. And we did praise you, didn’t we? For not taking advantage of the situation by overcharging us?’ He was mollified.

‘Oh yes! That’s why I didn’t say anything to you. There is no reason why any auto driver should refuse or overcharge’. We had perhaps run into one conscientious auto driver in all of Bangalore. Thank God for that. Crisis averted. But our conversation did not end.

Continue reading ‘Conversations with a Bangalore Auto Driver’

Dear PMO: Don’t ‘break’ the Internet

Dear PMO,

Your party has used social media very well for your campaign in this election. Your side campaign project ‘pappu’ was also popular, perhaps even contributing to your victory for who wants to vote for a ‘pappu’. You did leverage the power of Internet and social media. People acknowledged your promise of ‘digital India’ and ‘progressive India’.

Earlier this year, I noticed TRAI took a very good decision in favour of net neutrality. The mobile service providers’ lobby had wanted all over-the-top (OTT) apps such as Whatsapp, Viber, Skype etc to be charged. However, TRAI wisely rejected the proposal. Whatsapp may in future want to monetize and that is okay. At least government didn’t bow to business lobby.

Yet two issues related to Internet and freedom bother me. Two ongoing policy decisions by your government may threaten the very spirit of ‘digital and progressive’ India.

Internet censorship

We hear our Telecom Minister, Ravi Shankar Prasad, is contemplating how to implement web filters for the country. As Medianama reports, he has been quoted saying: “larger issue of respecting cultural values of the country and sentiments of the Indian society need to be considered and all possible ways and means may have to be devised in this context.”Censorship_wiki

It leaves me speechless. First, I didn’t know our cultural values were under threat. Second, is the perceived need to ‘save cultural values’ more important than the respect for citizen rights? I can’t fathom why a government would want to regulate personal lives of adult citizens. So what if they watch porn? What is this to the government?

A state’s role is to prevent crime and maintain law and order. It is not to maintain ‘cultural values’ as they define it, especially in a diverse country like ours where definition of values are debatable. Does government have any case of porn leading to criminal/civil offenses? Until it is proven so, a blanket ban is infringement of individual rights, and your decision to use web filter to stop porn is arbitrary. (There are more productive/effective ways of preventing violence and rape, tho I notice you didn’t mention it since you were more preoccupied with protection of cultural values.) I won’t get into pros and cons of porn; but I expect any government to respect an individual’s choice to deal with their sex lives. Please don’t impinge on personal liberties of us individuals. Respect our rights and wisdom as adults and spare us the moralizing.

Continue reading ‘Dear PMO: Don’t ‘break’ the Internet’

Commonwealth Games 2010 – Indian Pride and Some Home Truths

So, CWG begins today, right now as I write it.

Today we welcome it with optimism and jubilant spirit with hope it is successful. We had to bridge sea waves of emotions of outrage, disappointment and anger to arrive at this placid, equable point of view.

What were we angry at? Because the games WERE mismanaged by the organisers, hated not only at home, but also worldwide. This made some of the most ‘patriot’ of us to quickly to run and defend it. After all, how can we let our country put down by others. Mind you, we are an emerging Superpower, just like China that was praised for wonderful organisation.

But, I hate to break it to you, supporting CWG now that games have begun is one thing but nothing could have been more misguided than to rake in patriotism to jump to defend it few days back. For a millisecond forget what media, essentially foreign media, says. Let’s take a hard look at facts at home – consider this a sum up of all that you read past few days.

Continue reading ‘Commonwealth Games 2010 – Indian Pride and Some Home Truths’

Fire-ed Up Politicians

We all know how our politicians are corrupt and how massacres are staged by them for their gain. Recently I came across one such story.

3 slum-dwelling areas in Delhi were hit by fire. Fire brigade did not arrive for atleast an hour!

It was fishy considering that the Fire Brigade had arrived last evening in the slum at the behest of some fire rumors. Our ever-efficient TV news channels too were quick to publicise the rumors as ‘breaking news’.

dharavi_slum_fire

Dharavi slum fire picture courtsey this Mumbai blogger

When a single Fire Brigade van finally arrived after an hour, half the slums could have been salvaged. But angry slum-dwellers were busy beating the fire-fighting van driver and firefighters because they were late! Frightened, all the other fire brigade vans stood outside the slum.

The slum dwellers were understandably agigated and angry. However, some of them were NOT surprised. They knew it had to happen sometime before elections. It has happened before in 2004. Timing is just too predictable. They ahd been almost waiting for it.

These people predicted the sequence of the events from this point, which is exactly how the events unfolded.

Politicians from loacal area arrive > Fire Brigadev vans run behind him (by this time whole slum is burnt to ashes) > Then comes a bread van (to distribute bread obviously) > The milk van arrives > Next blanket van expected to arrive.

These slum dwellings are predominantly occupied by minorities, so no guesses on which ‘secular party’ that will be dedicatedly involved in the ‘relief work’.  By the time election will arrive here, which is on 7th May, they will have ‘earned’ their votes by hard work.

Bread, milk and blanket. What more could you need? It doesn’t matter if you have no place to go and hide in heat after having all your belongings and house burnt down? Relocate, rebuild on the promises of pukka home in future.  Till then elections will ahve happened, and your ‘secular’ representative elected. 😦

Dare to Stand, Dare to Die?

I have always spoken how only writing about issues may not be enough. We may need to be part of the system, such as be in politics. Having said that, I have always known that it is easier said than done. One reason I can’t join politics is that I need a regular income to pay off my bills and loans. I don’t have enough money and time it takes to campaign. I am not alone in it, it is same with almost all of us aware citizens.

There is another bigger reason for our aversion to take part in Indian politics, which we all know but are shy to admit it. Standing up in political arena against corrupt biggies is also about risking your life. Just as Bahadur Sonkar, Lok Sabha (LS) candidate from Indian Justice Party (IJP) candidate found out hard way.

Bahadur,  a Dalit leader who was contesting in LS elections from Jaunpur constituency in Uttar Pradesh, was found hanging from a tree near his home on 14 April, 2009. His chief opponent was BSP’s Dhanajyay Singh, who is a Don-turned-politician.

Continue reading ‘Dare to Stand, Dare to Die?’

It Happened in Bangalore!

After Mangalore, it happened in Bangalore on 6th February, 2009.

Edited to add: Other than this, 4 more incidents of attacks on women have been reported in Bangalore. Read another victim, Archana’s  account here. More reports pouring in Hindu. See comment section and PCC blog for more links and updates.

Different people, different intentions. But base point remains same. Lack of law and order. Unfair treatment met out to different citizens based on status, gender and connections. It scared me. I am not ashamed to say that. But it also enraged me. It made me more determined not to cow down. I hope, after reading this story, we can find more ways to engage in something more powerful than usual chest-thumping that we do online.   😦 Your take?

A Nude peace protest against Bush's policies in New Orleans. Undignified?

A Nude peace protest against Bush's War policies in New Orleans. Undignified?

I came across this post via Goofy Mama’s blog. This is not written by me. It is written by a courageous girl Saugata Chatterjee. Story, in her own words that was first posted here:

Continue reading ‘It Happened in Bangalore!’


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