Monday, 27 July 2015

Change that Channel: Putting on Blinders or Protecting your Children?

Growing up in a household where Doordarshan was the only channel on television in classes X, XI and XII, I know how hard it is to be relegated to a monotonous voice saying something while you attempt to “make” something out of your life, “work hard now to reap fruits later” and “study hard, college is all about fun”.

Parents regularly attempt to contain their children’s consumption of television content by locking channels, unsubscribing to them, denying permission and deriding their choices if they watch channels they think are unsuitable or “not good” for them.

Putting on Blinders

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Now, is it not possible that the parents, by restricting access to content, are limiting their children’s exposure to the wider range of experiences available to the next generation? Are they not putting on blinders on their children? Are they not letting them see a partial worldview by limiting the content that they watch?

Apart from the news, there are many such topics which have a variety of opinions and each need to be viewed and heard to have a complete understanding of the same. By restricting half of the content, a partial message is conveyed and ideas that are developed then tend to move only in one direction. There is a certain lack of objectivity, and in some cases, radically and disastrously so.

Protection from Bad Influence

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It is not always that parents restrict content to their children based n their own prejudices. It may also be so that they may actively attempt to curate television content in a way that only the best things come across. But this is also based own personal experiences and prejudice. Subjectivity would probably hamper the development process; however, that does not in any way lessen the importance of good intentions.

However, it must be noted that content on television is monitored and not a lot of content is actually there to subvert young minds. But, a check definitely needs to be kept. How? Now that is the real problem. Also, who can decide what is good and bad? Isn’t that too subject to personal prejudices?

The Million Dollar Question

How does one objectively curate content for children in such a way that it protects them from supposed bad influences while giving them an impartial worldview of all that television has to offer?

Do you have an answer or perhaps an opinion or observation you’d like to share? Well, let’s hear it.

Friday, 24 July 2015

Dad, I’m in a Live-in Relationship

That perhaps is one of the hardest letters to write to a conservative Indian parent.

Fears of loss, hatred, marginalization and pain accompany the decision to call a parent one knows is not going to accept their choice. Tremendous courage and hope for understanding and failing that, reconciliation is the only thing that can help mitigate the fear of telling this parent that one is staying with one’s partner outside of marriage.

Here is one such letter from a hopeful son to his father.


You must be surprised that I wrote you a letter but believe me, in this case, it was the only way I could sufficiently put down everything I want to tell you. The telephone, the tone of voice, the emotion; it all is too much of a distraction.

I’m in love with a magnificent woman named Anna and we’re in a live-in relationship. We have been so for a month now.

This must come as a shock to you as I haven’t said anything about her or us till now. But there is a reason for that. I don’t know if you’re angry or sad or disappointed in me but I must still shamefully ask you to trust in me.

I know that you and mom brought me up believing in the sacred bond of marriage and you must feel that you could have done something more, especially after this letter. Please don’t, it isn’t your fault, it is just my choice.

I love her and she loves me and we have done so for over three years now but mom only knows her as one of my friends. She turned out to be something much more and I see her as my partner for the rest of my life. Perhaps we shall also marry one day but that day isn’t today or tomorrow or at least in the next five years.That day might also never come.

It isn’t the fault of education or this big city or bad influence that has led me here, it is the realization of what is good for Anna and me and how we want to live our lives, at least for the moment, without societal shackles till we are absolutely sure than we can bear each other for a lifetime.

I ask not for forgiveness or acceptance, I ask only for your understanding of the choice that I have made and am about to in the future. I need you to have my back, Dad.
Your loving son,


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Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Shashi’s Seven minute Succinct Speech on Saying Sorry

Quite the tongue twister that one, eh? Yeah, that’s what happens when you try to work a little too hard on your title. You end up making a tongue twister that hardly anyone can read, much else dare to click on the link and read the supposedly equally horrifying content contained under such a dubious head line. However, coming to the topic at hand...

The Statesman who almost did things

Dr Shashi Tharoor
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Dr Shashi Tharoor, the man who almost headed the United Nations, the man who knows almost everything about socio-economic India in the present age; this man almost brought the British Empire down to its knees at the ‘Reparations debate’ at the Oxford Union Society. The proposition was that Britain owed reparations to her former colonies for their colonization.

The Case for an Apology

The British Empire Anachronous
Image Courtesy: The Red Hat of Pat Ferrick

Dr Tharoor spoke eloquently for the proposition, made mockery of the opposition, cited statistics, and even managed to calculate to a certain extent, how much Britain needs to pay India if she decides to do so. But, in the midst of all the financial talk, he said something that made perhaps more sense than everything else put together: The need to accept a mistake and say sorry. To pay or not to pay is a matter of ambiguous uncertainty but to say that a debt is indeed owed is what is important.

Indirect genocides through the inaction of the British Empire through various famines and the active participation in human rights abuse is something that needs to be accepted. Although it is true that a deliberate mass killing was not initiated but the death toll and one psychological, need to be addressed.

The Unanswered Question

However, one question does remain unanswered.

Sixty-eight years on, do Indians even care about reparations, and for that matter, do any of the former colonies who have since then stabilized, settled into their democratic framework and progressed with the world into the 21st century?

This question is not meant as an insult to all those who fought for our freedom or who lost their near and dear ones either fighting for or against British rule in India. Only time and the unearthing of bones long put to rest will tell whether we are indeed capable of holding on to an almost seven decade long grudge against people long dead and dusted.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

If Minions were real, Humans would kill them all

Since the first Despicable Me movie released in 2010, toddler and teenage audiences have been obsessed by the little yellow innocently evil army of villainous sidekicks aptly named ‘Minions’. 

Although the minions were conjectured to have been engineered from humans by Gru, their master, the latest ‘Minions’ movie, released in 2015, apparently says that they were present as an individual sentient species on Earth since the dawn of man.

The Minions, considered cute, cuddly, oblivious to their havoc and seemingly unaware of their stupidity and utter devotion to pure evil, have won over audiences all over the world. This is probably what led the producers to make a film entirely dedicated to them as central characters and set the timeline as the prequel to ‘Despicable Me’ and ‘Despicable Me2’ where they serve as underlings to a super villain Gru in the former, and his reformed self in the latter.

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But the fan following for these adorable creatures can materialize only in cinema, as present societal beliefs and practices prove so blatantly. This conclusion can be drawn from just one pertinent question that needs to be asked.

“Would humans find the minions so adorable in real life?”

The answer must be a resounding ‘NO’.

If we strip them down to their basic qualities, the minions are a highly intelligent life form, very durable, capable of building and operating complex weaponry, socially inept, linguistically hampered, ardently loyal and in perpetual need of a leader (preferably evil).

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If one were to go through these qualities again, the realization that this army of mad mercenary scientists want to willingly pledge loyalty to an ambitious psychopath hits pretty hard. Well, at least to people who know how civilization works.

Would governments in the world today accept this species to live and flourish alongside the human race?

Would they take the chance of the minions falling under the command of rogue forces, terrorists and dictatorial nations?

Would they not be swiftly and brutally exterminated because of the fact that they potentially cannot be rehabilitated (as evidenced by millennia of lack of evolution)?

Even if they did eventually learn to lead normal lives along side humans (which is not possible given the assumption that the Neanderthal was wiped out by Homo sapiens) would we accept them as equal to humans or would they be degraded to second-class beings?

So, is there a scenario in which the Minions manage to survive and make a place in the hearts of humans as they have in the films? I find it highly unlikely.

What do you think?

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Lèse-majesté laws: Shield of Solemnity or Sword of Silence?

The term lèse-majesté implies injury or harm to the majesty of eminent persons, most often used to describe insults to monarchs and visiting heads of State and Government in many countries of the world. In some countries, it may also be treated as treason.

Since the decline of absolute monarchy in all but a handful of nations, there aren’t any strict laws against lèse-majesté but laws preventing the populace from speaking against democratic governments have instead sprung up, which basically amounts to the same thing.

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Recent incidents of people being charged with lèse-majesté in Europe show that it isn’t taken very seriously and may be categorized with similar laws like defamation or libel. Over years, these laws have been watered down by the rise of democracy and the lack of power wielded by the monarch. A Polish man was fined US $ 6,200 in 2005 for insulting Pope John Paul II, a visiting head of state. In 2007, a man was jailed for a week in the Netherlands for insulting Queen Beatrix. A magazine in Spain was fined for portraying the then Prince of Asturias and his wife engaged in sexual intercourse in 2007.

However, in nations like Thailand, where the monarchy is looked upon in reverence and is almost deified, lèse-majesté laws are brutal and have a maximum of 15 years imprisonment for trying to besmirch the image of the ruler, the head, the face and the symbol of unity of the nation. Also, lèse-majesté doesn’t need to be proved in Thailand, it need only be deemed to exist. The government has taken an increasingly hard line against those who criticize the monarchy, even though the king himself asked the public to do so because even he was prone to making mistakes. From 1990-2006, the country saw approximately 75 cases while it saw over 400 from 2006-2011.

The arguments for lèse-majesté laws can be made on both sides. On one side, they protect the sovereign, who may be the symbolic or actual personification of a nation, from being treated like a common person. On the other hand, it withholds from the public the fundamental right of the freedom of expression. Now that the world is over the whole idea of the ‘divine right’ to rule’, should the monarch still be kept protected or should the people get the right to express discontent and criticize those in power?

How do then governments strike the right balance between preserving the dignity of monarchy and preserve the right to expression? The answer is not  simple one but one perhaps that can be answered by ruling families themselves who can be open to civilized and constructive criticism, and learn to take sarcasm in the right spirit. Looking inward to introspect and improve relations with those devoid of “blue blood” may perhaps yield better results than laws dealing with lèse-majesté.

Whether you are a reader from a monarchical nation or not, I’d like to know your thoughts on the matter.

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Is the Illiterate better than the Educated?

The Narrative

So there was this friend of mine who had to go pay her electricity bill and then get to work. To her dismay, she found a long line of people waiting in line to pay their bills. That day she learnt not to wait for the last day to pay a bill. As you will see, a lesson well learnt.

So as she resigned herself to being late to work and getting half a day’s pay getting cut by getting in line, she knew that the boss was wasn’t going to happy. But this was more important. If she didn’t pay the bill today, a lot of other people wouldn’t be happy what with the earth-scorching heat in India rendering even industrial strength fans useless.

So there she stood, drops of sweat dripping down her forehead one by one like the ticking of the seconds hand on her watch. One bill got paid, two, three, four… and then something happened.

A man and someone who appeared to be his valet came into the office. They discussed something and the valet stepped into the back of the queue as his employer went striding directly into the office, not giving a damn to the incredulous looks of all those awaiting their turn.

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All this took place in slow motion for her. You see, time tends to slow down the longer you stand in a queue. Every minute becomes longer then the next and one gets the time to ponder upon every thought running in one’s mind till they simply run out eventually.

It was only after she had exhausted every other thought that her mind, craving activity, demanded that she divert herself studying those destined to sweat it out along with her to avoid doing so at home later.

It was then that the man and his valet had appeared from the sunlit doorway and proceeded to do the things they had.

Fast forwarding to five minutes later, when the man came out of the office, summoned his valet to get out of line and bring his car around. Their work there was done, the bill paid, the tea probably drunk and all without breaking a single drop of sweat.

Aghast was the word that she used to describe the expressions of her co –queue mates. Piercing stares followed the couple out the doors, looks probably reserved for the most hateful of criminals and dictators.

And the moment they left, chaos erupted throughout the office. And by chaos, I mean a wild, shouting, discourteous discourse between all those standing in the line. Maybe it wasn’t so dramatic but I’ve been assured it wasn’t murmured whispering of dissent either. Everyone was up in arms about the way that man’s bill had been paid for he had definitely come to pay the bill and he had done it by cutting the queue.

The Mindset

Cutting a queue is considered an act that is viler than even murder in India.

With such a population, queues always seem to be longer than the importance of work to be accomplished at the end of them. And although corruption is an accepted part of life now (debatable), it still invokes the kind of powerless hatred that comes with not being able to stop people who engage in it.

The Takeaway

At the end of this incident, an old woman made a very compelling statement that struck right at the heart of “educated” society. She said, and I paraphrase, “The way these literate people behave, it’s better to be illiterate.

Such a poignant statement from one so experienced is not to be taken lightly and although the lady may be making a gross generalization enveloping all kinds of people under one umbrella of honesty and corruption, the thought dos have merit, at least in this case.

The Million Dollar Question

Assuming that you who read this are literate, allow me to pose a question:

Is the educated Indian really working towards abolishing corruption or engaging even more in its depravity?

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Two boys: One Gay, the other a Terrorist

The boy who gained sympathy from the likes of Hillary Clinton and Ellen Degeneres for being worried about his future in a homophobic world is perhaps no different from the child who is brainwashed by terrorists and ordered to execute a Syrian soldier in cold blood.

Both these boys are rightfully afraid for their present and future because they live in a world where both of them are considered non-conformist, alien and diseases.

  • One is scared of being shunned, the other of being shot.
  • One is scared of being marginalized, the other of maximum security prison.
  • One is scared of his father on Earth, the other of his father in Heaven.
  • One lives in the closet, the other in the wilderness.
  • One knows his choice will not change, the other does not have one.

It is easy for children to feel different from others, what is difficult is bringing them back. The world is becoming a harsh place for the very children who are to inherit this planet. The United Nations report on child rights, their conditions, nutrition and death is appalling.

And in the case of these two kids, the world is a much nastier place because malnutrition, diseases, poverty… these are accepted problems by the world community and everyone is, at least in concept, willing to work on these causes. But homophobia and hatred/fear towards child soldiers are not things governments are willing to talk about.

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A large section of the world criminalizes homosexuality and treats it more like a disease than a way of life. The basic human right of love and the freedom of expression are suppressed either by avoidance of discussion or by severe repercussions.

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Child soldiers remain in the hands of their terrorist handlers long enough either to get killed by government forces or to grow up believing staunchly in the cause they kill and mutilate for. Then, there is no way back for them.

Engaging in meaningful dialogue through spread of awareness and strong action by governments are not enough. They are a step forward, sure, but not enough by any standard of measure. What the world needs is a change in mindset for people to accept diversity as part of human nature. The children need reassurance that the adult world is there to look out for them and no matter the cost, the future of the race will remain secure.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

10 ways living in a boys PG is more horrifying than you think

Some of you already know that living out of your house is not great and all is not hunky-dory but only when you go to live in a boy’s PG do you actually get to experience hell-on-earth. It is a truly enlightening experience.

1. There’s a distinct lack of privacy

 Privacy? Ha-ha, what is that? This is the state I have had to live in for the past five years. Over time I’ve sort of become an expert on the subject with people peering into my computer screen, looking at my texts, opening my cupboard and generally being more of a nuisance then they tend to be everywhere else. It is more like a community shelter. I’ve often wondered why I pay to live at these places and then I realize that my job pays me so much that I can’t afford my own place without mortgaging myself and nobody will even accept as collateral.

2. Even your bottles get stolen

You have to get used to the fact that you no longer buy things for yourself but for everyone who ventures into your room to use your deodorant, eat your snacks, drink your juice, sleep on your bed and even drink the water that you kept in the fridge five hours ago so that it could get cold. In the end, you still get to drink hot water in 45 degrees Celsius. Your things get used and then they don’t even get replaced because you obviously brought it for everyone to use. You stop expecting people to fill your bottle and keep it after they drink from it because no matter how much you scream at them, indiscipline is the only principle that is followed with religious zeal everywhere.

3. There’s no space to even walk around breathe!

The paying guest business is booming and if I had enough money, I’d buy a place and rent it out too but since I don’t I’m waiting for someone to gift me some property. In the meantime, PGs are so cluttered that you are overwhelmed with the sheer number of people in your vicinity. I had a sense of personal space about five years ago. It got violated the first time I stepped into a PG and I’ve never managed to reclaim it ever since. You gradually realize that the only place you have a modicum of actual unadulterated air to breathe is on your own bed. The moment you get up, it’s like a Mumbai local but with considerably less chances of getting thrown out and dying.

4. Food habits change with every new place

Like South Indian food? Like Punjabi? Like Indian-Chinese? Like Gujarati fafda-jalebi? Sorry, who cares what you like. Most PGs hire people who can cook a maximum of two types of food. Sometimes, it’s just one type. So if you manage to find a place that serves different food on different days, you’re in luck but if you’re getting too cocky, don’t. You never know when the cook might get changed for stealing, making everyone sick or because of a payment issue. You might want to search out a safe alternative place that will deliver food to wherever you stay. It makes life much easier. But you always have the option of staying alive on tea, biscuits, wafers and good old Maggi. Damn! Is that an endorsement? Will I go to jail?

5. Contracting a communicable disease is relatively easy

Did you read the third point where I said that… just go and read it. On the other hand, if you did, you now know how it would be as easy as one sneeze, one cough, one handshake, one snot-barrage to spread any air-borne or touch-based communicable disease. PGs are what you can describe as the perfect environment for malign viruses and bacterium to flourish. It can take anywhere between three days and a week for the common cold to infect everyone. Now you know why I had myself checked for swine flu every time I coughed or sneezed. If you didn’t already know how dangerous this disease is, go check the stats, this article can wait. And now imagine that you are living in a place looks clean but harbours more diseases than the WHO lab in World War Z.

[This is my article for the Youth Connect magazine. You can read the entire article here: 10 Ways living in a Boy's PG is more horrifying than you think]