It has been one hell of a year, it has! I am glad it is nearly over.
Here's to new beginnings... hope and happiness in 2015.
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Have a glorious 2015, dear, dear Blogdosts!
Thank you for your love and support!
Where have all the children gone….?
I am writing this on X’Mas Eve. This is possibly the first time in several years that my mood is hopelessly down… the festive spirit has yet to touch me. I have gone through the motions, of course – the tree in the living room is fussily decorated, the front door lit up. I have the presents neatly gift wrapped and ready to distribute. Someone has sent us X’Mas cake and pudding…. someone else, champagne. We have attended five pre-X’Mas parties… there are two more to go. The weather in Mumbai is unbelievably cool and the sunlight, a pale shade of gold. On the streets there are countless Santas tapping car windows and peddling velvet reindeer horns. Along the seafront, people are lighting ‘wish lanterns’ imported from Thailand. What sort of a wish should we be making?
Ever since the Peshawar attacks on helpless children that left 132 kids dead, I have been thinking of little else but the plight of grieving mothers mourning their murdered sons. Their lives will never be the same again. And while the rest of the world readies itself for a brand new year… new beginnings…. 2014 will be permanently marked as the year of grief for these unfortunate women. There can be no grief as profound, as scarring, as deep as the death of a child. Almost every other loss known to mankind is replaceable. But nothing and no one can take the place of a child. I know couples who lost children under tragic circumstances more than forty years ago. But even to this day (while they themselves confront age and death), the memory of that child remains vivid and omnipresent. Every little reminder, brings tears to the eyes…every family occasion is tinged with sorrow. The dead child’s absence is tangible – a powerful pull that touches the living more acutely than the vibrant presence of all the others present.
Of course, the world has moved on and away from the gruesome killings in Peshawar. Closer to home, schools across India are tightening security and conducting emergency drills, just in case there is a repeat of that horrific terrorist attack on Indian soil. As the year draws to a close, it is time to ask ourselves what we can possibly do to combat threats of this magnitude, involving defenseless innocents. Children are the world’s most precious resource. How can we protect them? Most mothers of slain children end up blaming themselves .Some may be thinking ‘If only I had been there, I could have saved my son and taken the bullets.” Or, “What if I had not sent him to school that day? Why didn’t my sixth sense warn me something terrible was going to happen…” Hind sight is an awful affliction, and mothers possess more of it than needed. Unable to come to terms with the enormity of the tragedy, mothers obsessively recreate the last few hours of the time spent together and conclude they could have prevented the tragic turn of events. A mother in grief ceases to be a rational person. It is useless trying to talk her out of flagellating herself emotionally. Perhaps that is the only healing she knows… and she should be granted the space and respect to deal with the tragedy in whichever way she chooses.
Women and children – the world takes both for granted. This is intrinsically wrong. Horribly wrong. 2015 is a good year to begin a genuine transformation, that goes beyond lip service and weak legislation. Our track record in India is abysmal on all counts. We treat women and children atrociously. Always have. 2014 was no better. But why bleat and plead and beat our breasts? Why not push for the overdue changes ourselves? Let’s begin with basics – let’s prosecute those who exploit child labour and treat the guilty like the hardened criminals they indeed are. Nobel Peace Prize winner Kailash Satyarthi has shown us the way forward. Let’s also focus on getting our girls into schools. Malala Yousafzai… fittingly won her Nobel, for fighting this war . If 2015 is dedicated to women and children by a united world, we would have taken the first major step in the right direction. Can we afford to wait for even a day more? How many women and children do we want to lose to violence before we wake up and do something to save them…to save humanity at large?
The narrative for women and children must start now. Let’s ring in the new year on this positive note.
Thank you for sharing 2014 with me, beloved readers… I value you in my life. Here’s to a better 2015.
NDTV BLOG 18 30th Dec 2014
Why Bollywood doesn’t stand by its own…
I was on a television panel discussion last night. Yup. Same one on which the anchor provides all the answers to questions asked by the nation. The topic was volatile (widespread vandalism of theatres screening the Aamir Khan starrer, ‘PK’ in Ahemdabad, Bhopal and elsewhere) but the panelists were thanda. The panelists who were supposed to condemn the violence, that is.While the three defending the disgraceful shenanigans belonged to right wing political/ religious outfits, the three of us representing the ‘voice of the people’ were disappointingly muted. Well, I tried my best to be heard over the din of smug, self-appointed custodians of Hindu sentiments, but it was a frustrating and pointless exercise. I asked why the channel had not invited someone more ‘tagda’ to represent Bollywood . The reply didn’t surprise me – nobody of any importance from the movie industry wanted to speak up - for the principle, not an individual. For the wrongness of what took place. Not for Aamir Khan. Or Raju Hirani. Or even the contents of the controversial movie. Speak up against these sort of intimidatory tactics. Speak up for our threatened freedoms. Speak up for democracy. Speak up for peaceful protests. Speak up for their own future, for heaven’s sake!
The answer is pretty obvious: Bollywood is scared.
Bolllywood has reasons to be scared. Very scared.
And this is the real story : Bollywood is vulnerable. Perhaps, more vulnerable than any other sector in India. It has always been this way. In earlier times, when Bolllywood itself was run in an erratic, unprofessional and disorganized fashion, it was easier for anti-social elements to exercise control over the film industry. These ‘elements’ were dangerous and armed. They resorted to direct threat, blackmail and murder. The motive was money. Bollywood was a soft target for extortionists looking to make a killing the easy way. It was hard to stand up to these goons…and still stay alive. Some who tried to take on the underworld, paid for it heavily… and got the message fast enough. So did the others. Perhaps, this was when the term ‘setting’ was coined. It was a polite way of admitting you had done a deal with the ‘Bhais’. Yes, it was hard to handle outright threats back then. Maybe, it’s even harder now.
Today, even though the Bhais are still around, the Bollywood model of doing business has changed. Bollywood is corporatized now and run more professionally by men and women wearing Armani, not sleazeballs in polyester safari suits. But hello! the monies generated by superhits have gone through the roof, too! ( ‘PK’ has grossed Rs.233 crores already).The vultures are still circling the big studios. But there are new players on the scene to contend with. These people exercise muscle power and clout as well… and as effectively. Bollywood continues to run scared. There is no place to hide.
I don’t blame big stars, producers, directors for not jumping into the latest ‘PK’ imbroglio. They simply can’t afford the risk! There is far too much at stake and nobody wants to commit professional hara-kiri by challenging the might of shadowy outfits claiming to represent the majority.
This is such a shame. If Bollywood had indeed decided to take a joint stand and speak in one voice this time, perhaps the film industry would have benefitted in the long run. After all, this sort of wanton destruction serves no real purpose. It is not Aamir or Raju paying the price for the ‘protests’ – it is theatre owners! The movie has been cleared across the board. Leela Samson has issued a sane statement in the wake of the debate. Justice Lodha’s directives are abundantly clear. The film has been screened without any incident for 10 long days. All of a sudden there are violent reactions? Come on.
And Bollywood has kept mum.
Is it cowardice or good sense that dictates how Bollywood reacts to threats? I’d say it’s both. Silence has become the standard. Which in a way, implies surrender. Most stars shy away from engaging in larger issues that concern the film industry. They remain obstinately non-committal. Or genuinely indifferent. This is just so short sighted and selfish. If the big wigs in Bollywood get together and form a strong and singular body to represent their interests across the board, such attacks can be better addressed. It is not merely Aamir’s problem or Hirani’s problem. It involves everybody! Bollywood tends to segregate and compartmentalize crises, with zero show of unity when it is most required – like now.
Soon the ‘PK’ attacks will die down. But there will be more. Of that, we can be sure. What then? Will Bolllywood continue to play ostrich? Suffer amnesia and laryngitis? One hopes not…for its own sake.
There’s nothing as sinister as the silence of the lambs…
Attn: Meenal,Sudipta Mumbai Mirror 26thDec 2014
Chick of the year : Malala Yousefzai
Quite possibly, Malala Yousefzai is the most famous 17- year- old on the planet right now. As she well deserves to be. Her acceptance speech after winning the Nobel Prize for Peace 2014, is remarkable on several levels. It sounded like it was written by her and not drafted by a professional speech writer. It was the impassioned voice of a young woman, aware of her extraordinary position in history, and yet girlish enough to admit she still fights with her brother! Her message to the world was profound and yet, couched in simple, straight forward language. When she talked about leaders opting for tanks over text books , she received spontaneous applause from the well-heeled, hard- nosed audience assembled inside the magnificent palace in Stockholm. Watching her on countless television screens across the world, were millions of awe struck admirers…plus, a few powerful foes. Her voice remained as steady as her gaze. It was hard to believe she was not yet eighteen!
What must it be like to be Malala – a teenager who achieved global recognition the day she defied the Taliban and in return, got shot in the head for daring to challenge a diktat that forbade girls from attending school.This was in 2012 – the dramatic year that soon became a pivotal one not just for Malala, but for all vulnerable students in Pakistan. The first miracle was that she survived the gunshot. The second, was still more notable - she carried on with her education, and in the process became a hugely admired global icon. Where did this young girl get the courage from? What made her take on the Taliban… and emerge victorious as an international ambassador for education? I’d say, look no further than her family. Malala has publicly acknowledged the role played by her parents in her fight to speak up on behalf of children who are denied a fundamental right – the right to study . Ziauddin Yousefzai, her proud father, and Tor Pokai, her supportive mother, are two people who deserve to share her Nobel honour equally. Had they compelled her to rethink her decision and stay put at home after she survived the attack, perhaps the history of education for girls in Pakistan would have been different. Unfortunately, the significance of what Malala stood up to and would continue to stand up for, was completely lost on her government. Yes, a $10 million Malala Educational Fund was announced amidst great fanfare. But the tragic truth is that even after that, the number of girls who DON’T go to school in Pakistan ,has gone up! Malala herself pretty much lives the life of an exile, unable to return to the country of her birth. The book ‘I am Malala’ has become an international best seller, inspiring countless young people to derive strength from Malala’s incredible life. But she herself, lives away from her country, her people, in distant Birmingham
This year indubitably belongs to Malala – she is the chick of chicks. At seventeen, she has seen more life than most women at seventy. What happens to Malala next is crucial. Will she stay the course? Will she remain unswayed by all the adulation and fame? How far will her activism take her? Twenty years from now, she will be just 37- years- old – how will she use these two decades? She talks of becoming the Prime Minister of Pakistan someday. Inshallah, that will happen. It’s hard to believe anyone could possess such a resolute vision of life at the tender age of seventeen. But then again, Malala is not the average teen. She possesses a maturity - a sense of destiny - that is way beyond her years.
Pakistani watchers insist the massacre in Peshawar occurred as a direct fallout of Malala’s Nobel. It is said the Taliban wanted to send out a strong message to girls who want to follow Malala’s example. Well, they now know they risk getting their heads blown off if they persist. If so, Malala faces an extra challenge. The safety and security of several thousand girls has been unfairly thrust on her. Malala was fortunate – she survived the gun shot. Others may not be as blessed. Malala’s crusade is pretty daunting. She is a natural born leader…. politics is but a part of natural progression. Reassuringly enough, tomorrow’s Prime Minister of Pakistan is still kiddish enough, candid enough, to publicly confess she fights with her brother! Thank God, she does! Or else the world would have wondered if Malala was for real.
For now, it’s enough that Ms. Yousefzai is doing what millions of students her age do – she’s studying hard, appearing for exams, and making sure the grades are good. And yes, she continues to scrap with her brother!
Here’s to 2015, dear readers. And to more Malalas across the world. Thank you for sharing this space!