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Strangers have the best candy

April 4, 2009 Leave a comment

So I’ve been on Omegle for the last few hours, referenced via Randall’s blog (why, yes, I’m on first name basis with him. Didn’t’cha know?). But I’ve been upto no good, really – I’ve been enticing poor unsuspecting strangers looking for quick excitement online into reading this and this, and into watching this. I leave them with the thought that women are 52% of the world but only have access to ~15% of the world’s resources.

Try it, it’s fun. Knowledge is power – and yes, sometimes you can use it to hit people on their heads when they aren’t lookin‘.

Well, do remember to tell the li’l ones strangers have the best candy. Har har har.

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Categories: action, humor, marketing, patriarchy, web

More horrific violence against women in Bangalore: and time for action.

February 27, 2009 Leave a comment

And we will stand up for our rights:

Millionaire slumdogs and how things change – Saugata Chatterjee
Posted by Priyadarshini

The fantastic invisible sweep of time rushes and roars past us every dull and intense second that ticks relentlessly away every day, and all around us things constantly morph. Twin towers crumble, good people die, the good earth turns brown and bare, and old love fades.

And what precisely is your role in the incredible kaleidoscope of change?

A slack-jaw by-stander who barely registers the impact and implications? A commentator spectator who freely critiques but somehow rises above being affected by it all? A fatalist loser who bemoans everything and blames it all on circumstances and other people?

Look around you, you who reside in the so-called mind and knowledge capital of the shining new India. This is Bangalore.

Many of the quiet avenues that used to snake through the wooded shades and fragrant flower-scatters of a thousand gulmohars, flames of the forest, bougenvillias and silver oaks are now shorn of even a single blade of grass, their tar guts upturned by mammoth earth moving equipment, tortured sites full of grime, steel and concrete through which an endless procession of loud vehicles crawl back and forth, utterly indisciplined, frothing with impotent anger and frustration, from the early dusty dawns to the midnight hours, every single day.

We are the victims, you say? The civic governance of Bangalore is sub standard, you claim? Well, you may be right, but does that mean that even as an individual citizen whose real powers to influence matters is way less than what it theoretically should be, we have absolutely nothing to do?

I am re-thinking this premise, my friend. Unfortunately not a self realization case, but prompted by a black incident last Friday, 6th February, 2009. And this time it was not about aspects that affect your life and mine indirectly. It wasn’t the death of yet another 100+ year old tree. It wasn’t another instance of criminal neglect of any civic infrastructure. It wasn’t road rage. It was a kick in the groin. Literally. And it woke me up all right.

So, in brief, this is how the drama unfolded:

A few of my friends and I were just paying our bills and coming out of our regular Friday night watering hole and dinner place in Rest House Road, just off Brigade Road, and most of the women in the company were already standing outside. Some of us outside were smoking, people were happy, there was laughter and jokes, as there were many other people in the street, all coming out, satiated, in the closing hour of the various pubs and restaurants around.

Suddenly from up the street a massive SUV comes revving and speeding, hurtling down, and stops in a scream of brakes and swirling dust, millimeters away from this group of 4 women, barely missing one of their legs. A white Audi, imported, still under transfer, with the registration plate of KA-51 TR-2767. Some millionaire’s toy thing, that in the wrong hands can kill.

Naturally the women are in shock. And quickly following the shock comes indignation. These are self made women running their own businesses, managing state responsibilities for global NGO firms, successful doctors. They are not used to being bullied. So they turn around, instead of shrinking back in fear. They protest.

And as soon as they turn around in protest, the car doors are flung open, and a stream of 4-5 rabid men run out towards these women, screaming obscenities in Hindi and Kannada against women in general, fists flailing. Some of us who came in running at the sound of the screaming brakes now stand in the middle in defense of our women, and then blows start raining down. One of the goons make a couple of calls over the cellphone, and in seconds a stream of other equally rabid goondas land up. They gun straight for the women, and everyone – a few well-meaning bystanders, acquaintances who know us from the restaurant, basically everyone who tries to help the women – starts getting thoroughly beaten up.

Women are kicked in the groin, punched in the stomach, slapped across the face, grabbed everywhere, abused constantly. Men are smashed up professionally, blows aimed at livers, groins, kidneys and nose. A friend is hit repeatedly on the head by a stone until he passes out in a flood of blood.

A plain-clothes policeman (Vittal Kumar) who saunters in late stands by watching and urging people to stop, but doing absolutely nothing else. A ‘cheetah’ biker cop comes in, with our women pleading him to stop this madness, but he refuses action, saying a police van will come in soon and he cannot do anything. Everyone keeps getting hammered. Relentlessly.

The carnage continues for over 20 minutes.

Finally when the police van does come in it is this vandals who are raging and ranting, claiming to be true “sons of the Kannadiga soil”, and we are positioned to be the villainous outsiders, bleeding, outraged. How do the cops believe them, especially seeing the bloody faces of our men and the violated rage of our women, while they carry nary a scratch on their bodies? Don’t ask me! Yet, it is us who these goondas urge the newly arrived law-keepers to arrest, and the police promptly comply, and we are bundled into the van, some still being beaten as we are pushed in. Some blessed relief from pain inside the police van at least, even if we are inside and the real goons outside, driving alongside in their spanking white Audi. The guy who was hit by the stone is taken separately by the women to Mallya hospital.

Inside the police station at Cubbon Park it becomes clear that these goons and the police know each other by their first names. The policeman in charge (Thimmappa) initially refuses to even register any complaint from me, on the purported grounds that I am not fluent in Kannada and I have taken a few drinks (3 Kingfisher pints, to be precise) over the evening. No, it doesn’t matter that I didn’t have my car and was not driving, and no, it doesn’t mater that the complaint will be written in English. We watch them and the goons exchange smiles and nods with our our bloodied and swelling eyes and realize in our pain-clouded still-in-shock brains the extent of truth in the claim of one of the main goons when he claimed earlier in the evening in virulent aggression: we own this town, this car belongs to an MLA, we will see how you return to this street!!

This was the turning point of the saga, I guess. For we refused to lie down quietly and be victims.

One of our girls, a vintage and proud Bangalorean who is running one of the town’s most successful organic farming initiatives, took upon herself to write the complaint, when I was not allowed to write the same. Another Bangalore girl, a state director of a global NGO firm, wrote the other molestation complaint separately on behalf of all the girls. Some of us called our friends in the media and corporate world. Everyone stepped up. And even when the odds were down and we were out, we did not give up, and as a singular body of violated citizens we spoke in one voice of courage and indomitable spirit. That voice had no limitation of language, not Kannada, nor English, or Hindi. It was the voice of human spirit that cannot be broken.

And in the face of that spirit, for the first time, we saw the ugly visage of vandalism, hiding behind the thin and inadequate veil of political corrupt power, narrow-vision regionalism and self-serving morality, start to wilt.

We spent 6 hours next day in the police station. The sub-inspector of police who filed our FIR, Ajay R M, seemed a breath of fresh air inasmuch that he did not appear a-priori biased like others, even though the hand of corruption and politico-criminal power backing these goons was still manifest in many ways: a starched, white-linen power-broker walked in handing over his card to the sub-inspector in support of the goons; the goons got an audience with the Inspector because of this intervention, while we had to interact one level lower down in the hierarchy; the plains cloth policeman of last night, even though he had arrived far too late in the crime scene, gave a warped statement, passing it off as a “neutral” point of view, repeatedly stressing that we came out of a pub and hence were drinking, positioning this as a ‘drunken brawl’, while completely forgetting to mention the unprovoked attack against the women and the one-sided vandalism and violence that ensued. I guess one cannot blame the low ranked police officer – the criminal connections of these goons must be pervasive enough for him to be careful.

Thanks however to the impartial handling of the situation by Ajay, soon the goons were all identified. The lead actor was one Ravi Mallaya (38), a real estate honcho and owner of a small property off Brigade Road which he has converted into a “gaming” (you know what that means, don’t you?) adda. The others identified are Mohan Basava (22) of Chamarajapet 12th Cross, R. Vijay Kumar Ramalingaraju (25) and Shivu Rajashekar (20). All are residents of 12th & 13th Cross in Vyalikaval. Their bravado and machismo were by that time evaporated. It was good to see their faces then.

Of course nothing much happened to them, nor did we expect it. They were supposed to be in lock up for at least the weekend till they were produced in court, but we understand that they were quickly released on (anticipatory?) bail. The car, purportedly belonging to an MLA, also does not figure in the FIR, apparently for reasons of “irrelevance to the case”.The media also have given us fantastic coverage and support so far, strengthening the cause.

The goons meanwhile, as an after thought, also filed the customary reverse complaint on the morning after we filed our own complaint: the women have apparently scratched the car! (Why did they not file the complaint the same night, considering they came to the Police Station in the same car? Why was the car allowed to be taken off police custody? Why is the car still irrelevant to the case and not in the FIR? Questions.. questions..).

Is this the end of this saga? Probably not. Are these women, more precious to us as friends and wives than most things in our lives, safe to walk or drive down Brigade Road from now on or are the goonda elements, slighted by this arrest and disgrace, are lying in ambush, waiting, biding their time to cause some of us more grievous harm? We don’t know. Is there reason for us to remain apprehensive of future attacks and victimization? Perhaps.

But here is the point.

We stood up.

We believed in the power of individual citizens even in the face of hooliganism, intolerance, corruption and power mongering. Even though many of us have the option of leveraging political or government connections, we deliberately chose to fight this battle as individuals. Sure, these connections have been activated and they have been kept informed, should the worst case scenario unfold tomorrow. But we have chosen to not leverage them. And in every small win we register as a group of individual outraged citizens of Bangalore and India, however insignificant these milestones may be in the larger scheme of things, there is one small notch adding up in favor of what is right, one small notch against what is wrong. And we believe that every such small notch counts, each such mark is absolutely invaluable.

It is the people who make this city, this country, this world. It is you and I, as much as the terrorists inside and outside. And in our small insignificant little ways, it is my responsibility and yours to not shirk from investing effort – not just lip service or any token attempt, but real effort – in backing up what we ourselves believe in. It is so easy to logically argue that everything is corrupt, nothing is worth it, there are so many risks involved. We must not fall trap to this escapist trend. We must not fail to try.

Next time you feel outraged, violated, abused, don’t let it go by and add up to your list of litanies and complaints. Stand up and take it to the limit – at least your own limit. Not in the same way as they wrong you, but in the way that every citizen, at least in theory, is entitled to complain and protest. Do not let the hooligans power rant scare you or prompt you into submission. Do not allow the corrupt cop make you give up trying. Carry the flame forward. Try harder.

If are up to it, start right now.

Forward this note to everyone you want to be made aware of this. Post it in your own blogs. Talk about it amongst your circles. And if anyone of you should like to step forward with a word of empathy or advise, talk to me. Comment.

It is not Bangalore that is going to the dogs. It is us. We have far too long become accustomed to let everything go. And the more we let things go without any protest or fight, the dormant criminal and dark elements of the society get that much more encouraged. Every time we turn the other way, the hooligan next street gets incentivized to push the boundary a little further, provoke a little more, try something a little more atrocious. It is time for us to refuse to let this go on. We are responsible for making ourselves proud. Lets believe in ourselves. We can do this.

My name is Saugata Chatterjee. And I am standing up.I refuse to let Bangalore go to the hooligan slumdogs, even if some of them are pets of corrupt power millionaires.

Do not read if you want a good day ahead

January 23, 2009 Leave a comment

If This Isn’t Slavery, What Is?

Kristof’s piece in entirety:

Barack Obama’s presidency marks a triumph over the legacy of slavery, so it
would be particularly meaningful if he led a new abolitionist movement against
21st-century slavery — like the trafficking of girls into brothels.

Anyone who thinks it is hyperbole to describe sex trafficking as slavery should look at the maimed face of a teenage girl, Long Pross.
Glance at Pross from her left, and she looks like a normal, fun-loving girl, with a pretty face and a joyous smile. Then move around, and you see where her brothel owner gouged out her right eye.
Yes, I know it’s hard to read this. But it’s infinitely more painful for Pross to recount the humiliations she suffered, yet she summoned the strength to do so — and to appear in a video posted online with this column — because she wants people to understand how brutal sex trafficking can be.
Pross was 13 and hadn’t even had her first period when a young woman kidnapped her and sold her to a brothel in Phnom Penh. The brothel owner, a woman as is typical, beat Pross and tortured her with electric current until finally the girl acquiesced.
She was kept locked deep inside the brothel, her hands tied behind her back at all times except when with customers.
Brothel owners can charge large sums for sex with a virgin, and like many girls, Pross was painfully stitched up so she could be resold as a virgin. In all, the brothel owner sold her virginity four times.
Pross paid savagely each time she let a potential customer slip away after looking her over.
“I was beaten every day, sometimes two or three times a day,” she said, adding that she was sometimes also subjected to electric shocks twice in the same day.
The business model of forced prostitution is remarkably similar from Pakistan to Vietnam — and, sometimes, in the United States as well. Pimps use violence, humiliation and narcotics to shatter girls’ self-esteem and terrorize them into unquestioning, instantaneous obedience.
One girl working with Pross was beaten to death after she tried to escape. The brothels figure that occasional losses to torture are more than made up by the increased productivity of the remaining inventory.
After my last column, I heard from skeptical readers doubting that conditions are truly so abusive. It’s true that prostitutes work voluntarily in many brothels in Cambodia and elsewhere. But there are also many brothels where teenage girls are slave laborers.
Young girls and foreigners without legal papers are particularly vulnerable. In Thailand’s brothels, for example, Thai girls usually work voluntarily, while Burmese and Cambodian girls are regularly imprisoned. The career trajectory is often for a girl in her early teens to be trafficked into prostitution by force, but eventually to resign herself and stay in the brothel even when she is given the freedom to leave. In my blog, www.nytimes.com/ontheground, I respond to the skeptics and offer some ideas for readers who want to help.
Pross herself was never paid, and she had no right to insist on condoms (she has not yet been tested for HIV, because the results might be too much for her fragile emotional state). Twice she became pregnant and was subjected to crude abortions.
The second abortion left Pross in great pain, and she pleaded with her owner for time to recuperate. “I was begging, hanging on to her feet, and asking for rest,” Pross remembered. “She got mad.”
That’s when the woman gouged out Pross’s right eye with a piece of metal. At that point in telling her story, Pross broke down and we had to suspend the interview.
Pross’s eye grew infected and monstrous, spraying blood and pus on customers, she later recounted. The owner discarded her, and she is now recuperating with the help of Sina Vann, the young woman I wrote about in my last column.
Sina was herself rescued by Somaly Mam, a trafficking survivor who started the Somaly Mam Foundation in Cambodia to fight sexual slavery. The foundation is working with Dr. Jim Gollogly of the Children’s Surgical Center in Cambodia to get Pross a glass eye.
“A year from now, she should look pretty good,” said Dr. Gollogly, who is providing her with free medical care.
So Somaly saved Sina, and now Sina is saving Pross. Someday, perhaps Pross will help another survivor, if the rest of us can help sustain them.
The Obama administration will have a new tool to fight traffickers: the Wilberforce Act, just passed by Congress, which strengthens sanctions on countries that wink at sex slavery. Much will depend on whether Mr. Obama and Hillary Clinton see trafficking as a priority.

There would be powerful symbolism in an African-American president reminding the world that the war on slavery isn’t yet over, and helping lead the 21st-century abolitionist movement.
I invite you to comment on this column on my blog, On the Ground. Please also join me on Facebook, watch my YouTube videos and follow me on Twitter.

Go, comment, and thank him for writing this. And then write to the UN here (put all the addresses in bcc):
inquiries@un.org, escap-pdd@un.org, stat.unescap@un.org, escap-esdd-oc@un.org, escap-icstd@un.org, itid.unescap@un.org, tctidd.unescap@un.org, escap-esid@un.org
and to the Cambodian government here:
leewood_phu@nida.gov.kh, mwva@bigpond.com.kh, youay.mwva@bigpond.com.kh
and finally, go email Hillary (because she’s the only one who’ll do something about it) here:
Email the US State Department

Categories: action, sexual harrasment

Take Action: Sexism in Celebrity Big Brother UK

January 22, 2009 Leave a comment

Funny how the race row became such a big issue in Celebrity Big Brother UK a couple of years ago. It was a pathetic situation involving a bunch of losers who needed to feel superior over each other, so while one brown woman had looks, popularity, exotic-ness and the ubiquitous ‘adaayein’ etc. going for her, the others with nothing to write home about ganged up on her and mouthed off on how ‘Indians eat with their hands’ or calling her ‘Fuckwalla’ etc. It was a disgusting window to exactly what is in some people’s and souls, and justice was served.
Off wiki, this and this:

The comments were then screened on UK television and resulted in extensive national and international media coverage, responses from both the UK and Indian governments,[1] and the show’s suspension during the 2008 season.[2] Many agencies and corporations cancelled their contracts with the housemates accused of racism, citing the allegations as the reason for the terminations. Also, many sponsors of the Big Brother series cancelled.[3] or suspended [4] their sponsorship of the show. …..

UK media regulator Ofcom received more than 44,500 complaints[63][64][65] – a record number for a British television programme after transmission. Channel 4 received an additional 3,000 complaints,[66][67] about racism and bullying by housemates against Shetty. The Eastern Eye newspaper launched an online petition that registered over 30,000 signatures.[68]

Big Brother was Channel 4’s biggest money-spinner, accounting for around seven per cent of its total £800 million advertising income,[28] however the celebrity version of the show was axed on 24 August 2007[29]. Producers of some of the international versions of Big Brother have also changed some rules in light of this incident.

After the show, Jade Goody, one of the contestants directly accused of racist remarks, stated that her comments were racist and apologised for them.[5] Shetty later told that media that she forgave Jade.[6] After conducting an investigation, Ofcom ruled that Channel 4 had breached the Ofcom code of conduct, and statutory sanctions were placed on the network.[7]

If activism and the success of speaking up warms your cockles, as it does mine, I’m sure you enjoyed reading that.

Now look at this: after two years, Celebrity Big Brother UK is back. They have guidelines and have trained their participants in avoiding racial minefields and on diversity/sensitivity.

Watch a clip of a recent episode, though, some black jackass [I refuse to give him a name and a Google cite] mouths off about his friend’s mother and how he thinks she’s a ‘ho’ because she danced (!!!!!!!!) in a party in her house. Mr loser jackass declares that women ought not to behave like ho’s and bitches.
You have to give it to Scottish socialist politician Tommy Sheridan for standing up to this abomination of a human being, but why is there so much silence in the rest of the group? And in the world? Why aren’t Channel 4’s phones ringing off the hook, their mailboxes being flooded as we speak?

Do your bit NOW!

Phone: 0845 076 0191 (to call from US dial 011-845-076-0191)
9am – 9pm Monday to Friday
10am – 7pm on weekends
10am – 6pm on public holidays

Channel 4 Enquiries

PO Box 1058

Belfast

BT1 9DU

and say something like this:

By allowing Coolio’s sexist remarks on television about how a woman is a whore if she dances suggestively in public in her own house, you have underminded your own promise to ensure a bigotry-free, prejudice-free Celebrity Big Brother 2009. We demand action against the housemate who so callously passed his judgement on all women and hope that Channel 4 takes a position against misogyny.

My plegde

January 13, 2008 Leave a comment

Post-feminist? Really?

January 9, 2008 Leave a comment

There’s SO much happening right now that I want to write about.

First, about how feminism is unnecessary or ‘over’ or dead.

There’s comments on Gloria Steinem’s article about how gender can be a worse stumbling block than race – saying that feminism is not even an issue anymore (‘YAWN! Move on Gloria, write something about this century’; comment #87), that it plays no part in anything.

And then there’s the fantastic connection that Abhi has drawn out on Sepia Mutiny that links this with a very, very interesting study that had come out a few months ago (I’d read in in the Slate); about how women are perceived to be less effective even as they do more.

And finally, Indhu’s written about how women are still never free of being sexualized, about how we still need to reclaim our streets & public spaces, etc. – all still very critical problems, even ignoring the sub-textual, sub-conscious problems outlined by Duflo and Topalova. But I want to go back to her first paragraph to prove my point – the implicit, happy presumption that if women are able to balance home and careers they must be liberated. Seriously? When was the last time we talked happily about how a man is now able to balance ‘home and a career’? And this is written by a feminist, and a good, smart one at that. Girls, and boys, it’s NEVER post-feminism if you’re still celebrating we should’ve been taking for granted.

The women’s rights movement is still at the stage where we’re trying to stem a dangerous disease. We haven’t created a whole, healthy body yet. That’ll happen when the most vocal, celebrated women’s rights advocates are not just women. When men talk about how they balance attention and time between work, home and themselves. When we are able to objectively evaluate merit without ‘human error’. When some idiot calling himself the President of Harvard can’t use pseudo-science to ‘prove’ that women don’t make good scientists and academicians.

Relocating

April 13, 2006 Leave a comment

We’re relocating sometime soon to Bushland, and to the heart of redneck America, that seat of the Civil War, Atlanta. People’s reactions are varied, almost everyone either starts or ends with a “congratulations”.

Me, I’m a little happy, and a little sad. It is a P-led transfer, and it has chavunism written all over it. I’m shifting with him, uprooting my life and leaving my job et al. But obviously, all everyone from his family has to say is that P‘s done it. Not to be mean to him, but really do they think he’s alone in all this, and that I’m just a tag-along-er? Do they not know enought about me by now to realise I might’ve played an active role? How can they concurrently call me a shrew and a dominatrix and then pretend that all the major decisions are his? It’s logically not held together! But then, logic was never an essential component of the Indian family construct.

Anyway, I don’t know if this is the best decision of our lives or the worst or a non-momentous one in the long run; that’s what is unnerving me most – I can’t even categorize this in the scale of importance for us. Is this just a temporary relocation, or is it the shift that changes the course of our future lives?

Whichever way, I’m sure to think and write a lot more about this now.

Categories: action, diary, India vs US, travel