The Chaste of Liberty

Last week, it was reported that the Maulanas in Aligarh (India) are opposing burqas that are trendy with laces, studs, gems, etc. Reason – they fear it will ‘attract the attention’ and ’embolden’ the evil-eyed people !

Many ordinary persons, social or religious organisations and celebrities have also held similar views in the recent past.

Well, I think statements as these are not baseless in view of certain present circumstances as long as they mean to protect women in unknown zones (physical or social) or when they go out alone in places lacking proper gender awareness.

Many may not agree with my opinion but I would still request them to take a look at my reasons, even briefly.

In this regard, I would first of all like to make a small but very appreciative note on my recent observations of some foreign tourists (mostly westerners) visiting south-India. I found everyone of them to abide by certain directions, probably issued from their respective Embassies, in their attire. They all wore traditional Indian dresses and cast a very lasting impression on the native folks by respecting their values.

The gruesome Nirbhaya incident in December-2012 led to some modifications in India’s rape law. Even then, numerous such cases of either rape or molestation or eve-teasing or brutal murder after a sexual assault or acid-attacks have been reported. Sometimes it appears as if these occurrences have rather increased exponentially, like a severely infectious or viral disease ! To add salt to the diabolic wounds, age of the victim or the offender seems to be no more restricted to the country’s present definition of an adult, that is, a biological age.

With regard to rising rape cases, a year back, the Supreme Court of India had asked the Delhi Police to find out the root-cause of such brutal incidents happening every day even in the capital of India. Many psychiatrists like Dr. Nimish G. Desai are of the opinion that rapists are not mentally ill but attribute sexual perversions or psychopathic behaviour to them due to rapidly changing and non-monitored social mechanisms. They recommend institutionalization of gender studies wherein such people of inherent or acquired violent behaviour and/or having feelings of disengagement from society (work or family) can be identified and reared towards a positive direction before they commit such an offence.

In this context, let us delve into a bit more analysis. We all know that nudity is a form of both ancient and modern art expressed as any gender type, and it continues to be unblemished in some regions or societies. It is unblemished with regard to gender studies and characteristics of art itself. There it is accepted and appreciated as a normal, genteel perception. Now here is the sharp contrast. In other regions, a fearsome trend persists or has emerged of late – women (yes, mostly women and young girls) in attire like tight-fitted outfits, jeans, flashy tops, kurtis or even salwar-suits, are being watched with lustful glare. It happens anywhere, at any time and at any age in a society that is not well-versed with gender-related chapters. Formal education, high social status or financial riches are not always a dissuasion to check grossly misconstrued sexual desires. Rather some people’s disengagement from society combined with their lack of awareness of gender studies can turn out to be extremely distressful for others, as rightly cautioned by psychiatrists.

Now consider juveniles and how susceptible they are to committing crimes, the degree of which is comparable to that done by adults. In this post-modern age, juveniles, almost everywhere find quickly streaming information and easily accessible hi-end gadgets. These gadgets are often provided to the young generation either by unsuspecting parents to make them merely happy or by irresponsible parents to promote through the gifted devices a sign of their proud possession or affordability in the neighbourhood. With swiftly changing times, today children are more intelligent and smart enough to use these gadgets, irrespective of whether the usage is right or wrong. If both the parents are working, then there is hardly any one at home to guard against its misuses; and this may further worsen matters. Sometimes, family woes stir the mud in already troubled waters. Unless duly checked, it is possible that the unwanted or violent behavioural trends of juveniles would continue to get perpetrated across their peers or younger groups.

Perhaps, the same logic would apply for potential eve-teasers, molesters, acid-attackers and other type of abusers or violence instigators, abettors or perpetrators.

And obviously, with rising crimes the already feeble police:public and the judge:public ratios will also further deteriorate, thus delaying justice !

Now let’s explore two of our crucial roles in a society that is not only waiting to get adequate lessons in gender studies but having to already confront frequent crimes ridden with sexual components.

First and foremost of all, we must sensibly regulate or restrain certain type of entertainment and media channels, both print and electronic. Films and documentaries should be more censored, very strictly categorized according to various age groups and then distributed with immense precautionary measures. Particularly, women, young girls and eunuchs depicted on reels or magazines must always be shown in a respectable manner; it should not bear the slightest hint of any vulgarity or obscenity just for maximizing commercial profits. Here I want to highlight a very important point – where gender studies profusely lag, mindless projection of any sensual element for promoting modernity or liberalism, or for gaining commercial goals, further exposes the ‘aam aurat’ (ordinary women) and the eunuchs to sexual glares, pounces and pats !! Instances in an elite society may be rare but the ‘aam aurat’ generally bears the bigger brunt. Surely, there are other factors to be reasoned out but the one of mindless projections is definitely very crucial. Such projections can have an immediate negative impact on the minds of both the adult men and young boys; more severely, if they are disengaged from their family, friends or work-place and/or are already associated with anti-social elements or unhealthy environments like taking banned drugs. When every day we get to hear numerous crimes against women, then as responsible citizens, should we not check certain filming or broadcastings ? By preventing thus, we can help a meek society to muster fortitude, act and practically care for preserving the dignity of its weaker sexes.

Secondly, comes our role as parents or guardians or teachers of the current generation of children. It is a gradual effort. Right from an early age, we must educate them on various aspects of gender, and teach them to dress, converse and behave as suited to our culture and society, that is, where we live. Wearing full-length attire (whether oriental or occidental) should not make us a judge in our own minds even; we are not supposed to be labelled traditional or modern merely by our clothes or appearances. The terms are antonyms but it is wise to interpret them such that adhering to one outweighs the other according to relevant occasions. We should thus adequately put bridle on what we wear and appreciate. We should not fall into any sort of crazy rat-race. Our matured thoughts must do the smart talk and walk. Young boys and girls must be taught to equally respect each other and accommodate their issues. Gone are the outdated ways of gender-based barriers and patriarchal dominance ensnared by attitudinal issues!

Similarly, social or official guidelines must be adhered to by all groups of gender in corporates and other social gatherings. These are awfully necessary safeguards in our very own interests.

Well, now consider the provisions and protection sought under law. If enforced properly, it can take a tougher stand against mere violators of law and criminals. But it should not be just to punish them or deter potential offenders. It should also be because children witnessing depictions in any form of media or offences in society, that has sexual components or differential roles of man and woman, imbibe an awful sense of gender inequality at a tender age, and it would in all probability remain with them life-long or worse still, may find their yet scurrilous or violent vent in some form of anonymity at a later stage !! Moreover, changing rules should be in accordance with the definition of gender, the attributed social patterns of which are changeable over time. Hence, it needs thorough discussions and debates and cannot be simply listed over-night.

Nevertheless, law is definitely one of the greatest tools of social transformation. But legal reforms must be supported by an efficient administration, institutionalization of gender studies, holistic understanding of other socio-economic issues by the people of the land, their active participation in large numbers in associated programmes and awareness generation by a responsible media. Without all of us realizing these various aspects and acting in a co-ordinated manner, it would be quite impossible to root out the causes of such diabolical crimes and prevent these in some present societies.

As a well-known Indian columnist has aptly remarked yesterday in a leading newspaper- ‘Empowerment doesn’t work without maturity‘ !!!

Aamjunta – what do you say?

Beer bar, Liquor Shop and Aamjunta

Are yaar, chalo… yahan so jate hain,
Haan, achhi jagah hai… kyon hostel jayenge? yahan hi so jaate hain..

This was the post job treat conversation between two students. They fell from their cycle on their way to hostel from the main gate, after taking a heavy dinner and nice cock-tail in a reputed beer bar. Interestingly, we were also in the same job treat and were on our way walking to hostel too. When we saw them lying flat on the road, we could not believe our eyes. But, what to do? We put them into an auto-rickshaw and brought them to hostel. Before bringing them back, we picked and kept their cycle (badly damaged) near a tree.

This is just one among many incidents, which can be observed in our every-day life. Some times, the drunk-policeman on the road, or some time the drunk workers or rickshaw-wallah on the road, or some time the drunk officer in the office. It is observed everywhere, irrespective of place and culture.

A friend of mine went for a high profile international research workshop. He is a non-drinker and a vegetarian. Some of his course-mates who were members of faculty in different universities, teased him that he is not an “intellectual” because he doesn’t share a drink. The friend replied them in return that he doesn’t mind people drinking in front of him, even though he doesn’t drink himself. He added what had “intellectualism” to do with drinking or not drinking. The other group replied that an intellectual breaks stereotypes and societal norms by drinking. In fact, we get cool ideas and inspiration after a drink. Moreover, you may not gain entry into high profile circles if you do not share a drink — you would not be called an intellectual.

My friend was listening carefully and smiled a bit, listening to their statement. After a pause, he replied, “so an intellectual is a radical who deviates from societal norms and establishes himself as a revolutionary?” Everyone nodded. He then continued, “by drinking an intellectual gets entry into certain exclusive circles? also breaks norms“? People looked at him intently.

He continued, “precisely that is the reason why I don’t drink. Not for religious or political causes. I don’t drink because I want to break this new norm that has been established by intellectual community. By breaking tradition through drinking you are also creating new tradition of drinking. I refuse to be a part of any. My intellectualism (if that is what it means) is not to follow any tradition, and I refuse to follow ‘the intellectual tradition’. If getting drunk defines intellectualism, then I refuse to be called an intellectual.”

In an another incident, I could not believe my eyes, when I saw people making fun of a drunk bank officer in a reputed nationalized bank. Some of the customers were getting irritated and some were enjoying the free entertainment, where his colleagues were standing helpless. Finally, the branch manager had to intervene, and the officer was cordoned-off to some room in the bank. What an embarrassing scene!

If you follow newspapers or TV channels regularly, you can definitely mark/find regular news on drunken-driving, drunken-beating (wife/parents or both), feeding month’s salary (currency notes) in drunk state to Bulls/Cow or rapes/killing under the influence of heavy drinking. These kind of incidents are of course not new to us. It happens in our society, mostly in cities (villages are not far-off though). Drinking or serving drinks in parties/treats (irrespective of high/low profile parties) is not new. In fact, it is considered to be a status symbol in our society.

Beer-bars/dance bars (including ladies bars) are mushrooming, both in metros and in other cities. If the bars are just serving liquor or dance, then the harm to the society is not much. However, that does not happen in real life. Beer-bars/dance bars are becoming the hubs of all anti-social activities, starting from terrorist activities to eve-teasing, hooliganism to drug peddling, under-world activities to supari killing activities and also to violent moral policing. Does that serve the society in a healthy manner? I doubt!

Writing incidents about cities is nether sufficient nor complete to discuss these issues. Now a days, one can find many liquor shops in small cities and even in Panchayat Headquarters. You can find all brands (including deshi and videshi) of liquors there. Not only liquors, one can find other brands of Ganja/Charas there. Some of these shops are licensed while some are not. As long as they are paying haftas to the local leaders/gundas and Police, no one can stop them from doing their business. They prosper, even if they spend a lot on bribing various organizations/individuals.

On a different note. Last week, I was in Puri Swargadvara (literally Heaven’s Gate) to attend a funeral there. There is a liquor shop adjacent to the cremation ground “Swarga Dwar“. The proximity of the liquor shop to the funeral grounds was so close that one could smell the fumes of human cremation while one drank. Every one coming to the cremation ground asked one question, what is the “Foreign Liquor Shop” doing here? I too could not understand how come the shop keeper got the license there? Mostly I was thinking, “who is buying here”? at this locality? near the cremation ground!” Suddenly, two college girls (hardly in their early 20s) got down from a cycle rickshaw, went to the shop and bought 4 bottles of different brand. In no time they just vanished. After some time, couple of people came there, bought some bottles of wines and started making lewd comments on the ladies attending the funeral. I am still wondering, whether allowing to open the shop at that place is appropriate or not. It is definitely a subject for larger debate

If we (many of us, including the Govt.) understand the bad-effects of these kind of shops/bars or activities, then why do we allow these shops/bars to mushroom? This is a major problem in the south Indian cities like Chennai, Bangalore, Trivendrum, etc., where one can find liquor shops in every 20/30 meters… and that too most of the times open 24/7. Why? Is it because, the Govt. gets huge tax or revenue? or is it because these shop keepers or bar owners are influential or do we really need them? Many of us drink, some are occasional and some are regular. Some can afford, whereas many cannot; resulting in regular disturbances, fights, suicides, killings, rapes, eve teasing and stealing, etc. For some of us it is a status symbol, for some of us it is a fight between life and death, for some of us it might be a medicine…

And for the aamjunta …. let aamjunta decides what is good and what is bad; we all are independent in thinking, life style and expressing our views 🙂

Note: The incidents described are inspired from real-life stories. Neither I support drinking, nor I object. But, I am strongly against the ill-effects of drinking.

Chakka Jam and Humane Value

It was October 1994, Durga Puja time. People had come back to celebrate Dussehera at their homes. My family was not singled out from this ritual of homecoming during the Puja vacations. Our house was well packed too. But, no one in our family was happy. Reason being, my mother was not keeping well. She had a severe asthmatic attack some time in the morning of 13th October, 1994. Fortunately, most of our family members were at home when that tragic incident occurred.

Immediately, my eldest brother arranged a taxi to take her to the nearest hospital. It was around 10 am and a bit cloudy outside. The nearest hospital was hardly 1.5 km from our home. It is a fairly well equipped hospital with a strength of some 15+ doctors serving round the clock. But, we were not that fortunate to avail this facility. It was Durga Puja time. Hospital was almost empty, except for the patients (though it was open), not a single doctor was there. Even the duty doctor had gone to visit Puja Pandals.

What to do?

There was no chance to consult a doctor there. At any cost we had to save our mother from any worst eventualities. Nearest hospital (happens to be the district hospital) was 15 kms away. Can we wait for another 30 minutes, as it takes 30 minutes to reach the other hospital? That was a big question, a question of life and death for us. We had to, there was no other way for us.

Without wasting any more time, we asked the taxi driver to start, and he took the shortest route to the other hospital. Every minute was precious for us. Praying to God was the only option that was left in our hands. That taxi took some 20 minutes to reach one end of the district head-quarter where the hospital was located almost at the other end. Thanks to the driver, he could manage to drive at a short notice and at a short span of time through the stony/bumpy road. We had finally a flickering light of hope to reach the hospital before things got out of hand any further.

But, alas… that did not happen.

There was a Chakka Jam (Road Blockage) in the city — protest by some miscreants and a group of unemployed youth. The reason…. some thing silly had happened some 2000 miles away from that place, which did not have anything to do with the people of that place. They were shouting slogans occasionally, had piled rocks, wooden logs and burning tyres on the road. They had blocked the main road which connects the city to the outer world. Many Buses, Cars, Taxis, Trucks were waiting in the queue, hoping that the agitators will leave. My brother asked the driver to wait some 200 mts away from the spot.

Initially, we did not have any option other than to request them to allow us to go. I along with the taxi driver had to wait there with my mother. Both my elder brothers and two cousins (who also accompanied us sensing there was trouble) went to the spot to find out a way to reach the hospital. When they (my brothers and cousins) reached the spot, they could see the people involved in the chakka jam, people with blood and flesh but blood-shot eyes, some common men like us. There were some police constables helplessly sitting some 50 mts away from the spot. It was not clear, what made them sit there? To protect the miscreants? or to keep law-and-order?, nothing seemed to be clear.

We were getting restless as her condition was deteriorating. We were apprehensive and afraid of the people since there was a chance of their turning violent at any point of time. But, we didn’t have any option. My brothers requested the people involved in chakka jam to allow us to go at least in humane grounds, but that did not happen. They did not allow, “marne do” was their answer to our requests. We even requested the police constables to help us, but in vain. They were afraid to interfere. Nothing happened.

Time was running out of our hands. Could not find out any solution and were becoming nervous and agitated. Every single minute weighed like many hours on us. Finally my brothers decided, “we will go at any cost and will cross the hurdle”, was the call. My eldest brother picked up a cycle chain and asked others to keep lathis in their hands and asked us to be prepared for the worst. We stood ready with the lathis to charge at any go. He asked the driver to get ready and asked him to drive fast, without any fear and not to stop at any cost. He asked me to hold my mother firmly.

Finally, our taxi started.

Our driver just put the speedometer at the maximum of 120km/h and drove towards the spot. Before the miscreants could realize that some one is crossing their lakshman rekha, we had already crossed that. Seeing the speeding car rush towards them at such a speed and all of us ready with our chains and lathi, the miscreants just flew away from the spot with disbelief and fear — fear for their life. Seeing this spectacle, others started their vehicles, and the chakka jam just vanished in no time. The crowd of vehicles just followed us. Even some people started beating the miscreants (those left) at the spot at that time and trying to block the road again.

Our action was like crossing the threshold, the barrier, and others just followed. We were driven to cross that threshold for the sake of someone’s life. We reached the hospital in no time and could save our mother.

This is not just a story, an incident from the real life — happened with me but could have happened to you or someone else. But, the point that I wanted to highlight here, is some one or the other has to start — may not be the leaders, may be the aamjunta. We should not stand as mere spectators witnessing all inhuman, pathetic and wrong deeds. To be humane is our first and foremost responsibility. Strikes, chakka jam do happen almost daily. People suffer, pregnant ladies give birth to their children on their way, senior citizens are left helpless and afraid, serious patients die, students miss their exams and the country suffers.

We are provoked and we get provoked and ruin our as well as others’ lives.

Then, for whom are these chaka jams meant? Is it humane? A big question, needs serious thoughts.

Aamjunta do think about it.

%d bloggers like this: