Monday, January 21, 2013

Our leaders suffer from foot-in-mouthitis

Somehow one grew up with the idea that only Sagittarians, like me, suffered from foot-in-mouthitis, an ailment almost as dangerous as the mad cow disease. The disease has now gone viral with prominent people, irrespective of their star signs, shooting their mouths off with nary a qualm. Makes for great entertainment, provided one does not take their remarks too seriously. Like the minister who scoffed at the idea that a senior minister would touch a scam for ‘an amount like Rs 70 lakh’. Or the son-in-law who proclaimed that ‘we are a mango people in a banana republic’, fully aware that he was part of a family in charge of the said republic. Or the suave ex-CM who spoke of the day when there would be ‘no girls to marry and we’ll all become gays’. Then came the dig by an irreverent MP, who was astounded that a woman in politics who had ‘been doing jigs on TV for money’ had now turned into ‘a political analyst’. Followed by a Union minister who claimed that ‘as time passes by, a wife gets old’, even as others sneered about Rs 50 crore girlfriends’ and a ‘love affairs ministry’. The mother of all gaffes was a seasoned politician comparing Swami Vivekananda to Dawood Ibrahim. Journalist Michael Kinsley came up with the Kinsley gaffe, when he said, “A gaffe is when a politician tells the truth — some obvious truth he isn’t supposed to say.” The year 2012 ended very tragically with a horrendous gang rape case. She died after a brave fight, but her death brought young people out in droves, as they took to the streets to protest against crimes against women. This time the jibes that came were not funny in the least, with one illustrious scion pointing his crude finger at protesters ‘all highly dented-painted’ who were not serious about the cause they espoused. Obviously he had no idea what he meant because the next time one saw him, he was mumbling apologies and disappearing into his chair. Then one heard a woman CM declaring that rapes happened because ‘men and women are interacting more freely’, followed by another wisecrack by an opposition MLA who felt that schoolgirls in skirts attract ‘sharp and dirty glances and lewd comments’ from miscreants. A woman can be another woman’s biggest enemy, a statement that was proved when a woman politician termed a particular rape ‘a misunderstanding between a lady and her client’. Of course, rape is never rape when it is inflicted on someone else. It is time for us to hang our heads in shame! Another gentleman proclaimed pontifically, “Just because India achieved freedom at midnight does not mean that women can venture out after dark.” Does that mean that India can never come out from the shadows? When will we start giving the benefit of the doubt to the victims, and stringent punishment to the attackers? The new term bandied around is ‘chemical castration’, which sounds like a sound idea. However, if offending body parts were to be rendered impotent, too many garrulous folks would lose their tongues! The New Indian Express 10th January 2013 12:00 AM

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Goodness of Coconut for the Skin

The beauteous Cleopatra only bathed in ass’s milk because she believed that it enhanced her beauty. Age could not wither her, it is quoted. However, had her mother spoken of the goodness of coconut for the skin, as modern mamas do, her beauty would have been unsurpassed! For a nut that is hard to crack, the coconut has a rather tender heart. As a child, I remember standing alongside my grandma, as she cut up little slivers of coconut to cook, and grabbing handfuls and cramming them into my mouth before she could stop me. In revenge, she would haul me into the bathroom, and douse me liberally with coconut oil, made from coconut roasted on the stove. The aroma of that oil has stayed in my memory, longer than the oil stayed on my hair and my body. Winters in Delhi found us on the terrace, while Mum rubbed coconut oil on our shivering limbs and made us bask in the warm caresses of the sun. As a teenager, I discovered coconut milk which not only tasted delicious in curries, but, when mixed with oatmeal, worked like a soft soothing layer over my skin, leaving it with a feeling of goodness. Friends pored over pimples, acne and spots on their faces, wondering how I had escaped the ravages of time. My preoccupation with the coconut sworked out rather well for me! And so the preoccupation continues! My hair craves for a nourishing coconut milk shampoo with oil that rehydrates and strengthens. The coconut conditioner, which boasts of Vitamin E as well, leaves my hair so lustrous that sun rays reflect off it, dazzling the eyes of the beholder! Bathing has always been a pleasure, with a coconut body scrub that I use about three times a week, which leaves my skin softer than a baby’s bottom. And then the ultimate joy of dipping into an exotic coconut body lotion that is not only light to use, but soaks into my skin like a hot knife into butter, enveloping me in an aroma that sings of tropical islands and carefree vacations. Coconut hand and foot creams are the ultimate step to feeling pampered, as they help repair the moisture barrier in the skin, and replenish and moisturize all the year around. Who needs a manicure or a pedicure when you have taken the coconut route anyway? And let me tell you that a coconut cream lip balm works wonders as well! And even as I write this, I am sipping at a glass of coconut water, sweet and refreshing, a glass that is low on calories, yet rich on taste, believed to have anti-aging properties! After all, hope lies eternal in the human breast!

Monday, January 7, 2013

The Victims are Always Made to Feel Small

Farhan Akhtar wrote an anguished poem on the heinous rape of a young 23 year old girl in a Delhi bus recently -“What is This Country that I Live in?” The girl, returning after a movie along with a male friend, was accosted by six drunken beasts, who decided to play judge and “teach her a lesson for being out at night with a man.” They gang-raped her, brutalized the duo with iron rods, hiding behind tinted windows, and finally hurled them, unconscious, on the road. The young girl lies in a coma, her internal organs in chaos, as a large part of her intestines have been removed to prevent gangrene. As she fights for her life, mammoth protests have been launched across the country by deeply moved citizens, shell-shocked at the tragedy. Three of the accused have been arrested and have confessed to their guilt. “Hang me!” says one fiend. The other pretends that he is ashamed as he has “committed a big crime.” Can they ever fathom the depth of the damage they have caused to a young girl who had just begun life? What guarantee is there that, given a chance, they will not rape again? Take the case of 23 year old Soumya, who was thrown out of a speeding train by a handicapped man, Govindaswamy, who had been arrested twice earlier for sexual assault? He raped her on the tracks, and she died in hospital, six days after the attack. Aruna Shanbaug lies in a vegetative state since 1973, after a ward boy sexually assaulted her. Her life was brutally cut down while the rapist, Sohanlal Walmiki, was convicted, not for rape but for assault and robbery, and did two concurrent 7 year sentences in jail, [painfully short for the rest of us!]. He still struts around as ward boy, his life hardly affected by the grotesque crime he had committed. She exists in limbo, dead to the world! Rapists are cold-blooded criminals, confident that they can get away with the crime. Often they commit multiple rapes before they are caught, according to a study done in Tihar Jail. The victims are always made to feel small by people around them – from the rapist to the cops to the lawyers, who point fingers at their dress, their habits, sometimes even their conduct! They are punished over and over again, having to cope with the trauma of the brutish act, and the stigma of it as well. Where does the common man [read woman] go for justice, when all the worst crimes possible – female foeticide, acid attacks, domestic violence, dowry deaths, incest – are committed against women? A survey done by the Thomson Reuters Foundation reveals that India is fourth in line as far as societal threats to women are concerned, the other three countries being Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Pakistan! To add substance to that statistic, 580 girls and women have been sexually assaulted this year in Delhi alone! Opinions vary! Some say the death sentence is too easy for these monsters. Others mention castration, or slow painful torture. Meanwhile, the wheels of justice grind slowly and inexorably, and often, delays punish the innocent and reward the guilty. Why on earth would anyone want to raise children here? The New Indian Express

Dignity is synonymous with leadership

America has just emerged from a gruelling election, and once again, Barack Obama has come out on top. As Americans celebrated, Mitt Romney congratulated his rival, even as he spoke of having fought hard, and of working together with the president to take America ahead. When Obama appeared, the applause echoed around as people cheered for the man who was president again. Then the magic began, as Obama addressed his countrymen, in accents simple and moving, the beauty of his words competing with his sincerity. He spoke as if his speech could have no ending, about gratitude, progress and togetherness, every word clearly measured. His silver-tongued oratory left goose-bumps and teardrops in their wake. We Indians watched in envy. Where were the master politicians back home? History had Gandhiji, Jawaharlal Nehru, Patel, Rajendra Prasad, Tilak and Gokhale. Nehru’s ‘Tryst with Destiny’ speech equalled all great speeches made before. His daughter, Indira, rose above the epithet of ‘goongi gudiya’ to turn effective leader. Why is there this vacuum in politics today, a rarefied field where mediocrity is the catchword? Where being a parliamentarian is no honour, as khadi-clad politicians sit apart, and aim salvos at one another. The language used is crude, the noise levels deafening and rickety chairs unlikely missiles. The well of the house is not ‘well’ at all, as every dissenter rushes in where angels fear to tread, creating a ruckus paralleling Satan’s pandemonium. Most likely, Bigg Boss was inspired by someone who watched Lok Sabha TV, where every action, speech and behaviour in Parliament is unparliamentary. Compare the discussions in Parliament with the discussions between Obama and Romney, where they debated issues, controversial or otherwise, with perfect decorum. They were dead serious, and their language acceptable. Even dirty linen was washed in public with dignity. That is the word that shines through — dignity. Dignity is there in the clothes worn, in the words spoken and in how they carry themselves; dignity in the public eye and in the privacy of their chambers, and; dignity even when caught in a sting operation, as they resign from public gaze with the least fuss. Unlike fossils here who get stuck in paternity suits well in their dotage, dodging the ‘issue’ till they get caught, or stick-in-the-mud leaders who stymie the government’s working, jailing so-called offenders for drawing cartoons. President Obama can easily be termed Orator of the Millennium. He appreciated the dedication of Romney and his family, and vowed to work hand-in-hand with him. He openly lauded the First Lady Michelle, for having made him the man he was now. Have our politicians ever given credit to their wives for their own growth? The eloquent words flowed, his spellbound followers applauded with their hearts in their eyes. When will a leader be able to sway our nation likewise? The time has come to telecast these speeches and discussions in our Parliament, at meetings where our leaders congregate, to prove that the word ‘dignity’ is synonymous with leadership. We might just stop cracking jokes about collective nouns and baboons, for instance! The New Indian Express 09th November 2012 11:46 PM

Walking is the Perfect Form of Amusement!

Some days I am up with the lark! Days that are rare, I concede, but once I am up, I go for an invigorating walk. The breeze blows gently and the world sparkles at that hour. I soon find myself surrounded by walkers of all sizes, shapes and ages. An Olympic- style walker whizzes around the block at the speed of light, arms akimbo, staring ahead in fierce concentration. There are no short cuts in his book, and by the end of his marathon, he is puffing like a chimney, sweat pouring profusely off his brow. A rotund old gentleman waddles ahead of me, with a strangely jerky walk. At one point he stops, looks around furtively, and takes out a plastic cover from within the recesses of his shirt. He proceeds to pluck flowers that grow strategically under a board that states baldly, 'Please do not pluck flowers!' A young girl jogs past, headphones and an attitude cutting her off from the rest of the world, as she goes by! She does not believe in niceties, not even deigning to wave to the world around her. She turns corners abruptly, scaring birds and little tots alike. Another failed Olympian walks by with athletic steps, and suddenly beats his tummy rapidly, giving persons strolling behind the shock of their lives! This African dance movement is followed by a hop, skip and a jump, and then all is normal again! Till the next bout, that is! The lady with a cell phone talks incessantly, sari pallu tucked into her waist, walking shoes on. She is evidently killing two birds with one stone. She gets her daily dose of exercise, plus a roundup of all the gossip that enlivens her mundane life, judging by her avid expression. A loud series of honks cut through the air, startling me almost out of my wits. I turn hurriedly to look for the road roller that seems to be dogging my footsteps, only to find that it is an aspiring singer, plugged into his IPod, singing with the ease that comes from an indifference to lesser mortals around, who suddenly feel caught up in a nightmarish musical movie! The most colourful are a host of older women, resplendent in their Kanjivaram saris and diamond nose pins, who amble along in twos and threes, exchanging notes on religion, cookery and their daughters in law, all in the same breath! A harassed housewife gallops by, angry at her husband/child/ the world in general, needing to make a statement to prove her mettle. She strides on - militant, stern- faced and strong-jawed, probably thinking of how to win her next battle at home. Next to appear is the in-style walker, the style freak, in his Reebok head band, Nike shoes and designer togs, grooving to a different drummer, as he sports his attire. He revels in the looks thrown at him, and the actual walk comes only a poor second! The walkie- talkies are interesting. They talk as they walk, stop at junctions without missing a word, and pause every ten yards to chat with acquaintances - anything to stop walking, a activity forced on them due to peer pressure, and burgeoning weight! And finally one gets to see those denizens who actually need their walks desperately, as they heave about, body parts appearing round corners before they do, with nary a smile as they walk seriously! It is another matter that they go back home, relax with a cup of sugar-laden tea and oily samosas/ vadas, and muse soporifically about dinner ahead. Walking is the perfect form of amusement, isn't it? Open Page, The Hindu

Putting Price Tags on Humans!

The nation has the right to be disgusted! How can the Chief Minister of a state stand up in front of a large crowd and talk disparagingly about the wife of a fellow minister, calling her a 50 crore girlfriend, the snide note in his voice and the sneer on his face giving out the same message... "I am invincible! Hence, I can talk rubbish and get away with impunity!" Maybe a new commandment needs to be tagged on within political circles - Thou shalt not insult thy fellow politician's wife! And this is not the first time the man has shot his mouth off. Earlier when a journalist asked him about why women in his state were malnourished, he aimed another salvo that bordered on idiocy, expounding on how girls were beauty conscious and not health conscious, and hence, resorted to dieting, by refusing to drink milk. What he forgot to add was the very same girls had no food to eat in the first place! Much akin to Marie Antoinette’s “Let them eat cake!” retort! The aforesaid lady's suave husband reacted saying that his wife was priceless, and that only people who had love in their hearts could understand that. Promptly came a response from other quarters as another politician created a ruckus by hinting at a Ministry of Love Affairs to be headed by an international love guru so that the nation could gain from his experience! As Ben Franklin put it so succinctly, “The worst wheel of a cart makes the most noise.” Belittling women seems to be the trend of the day! One prominent actress turned MP was cautioned against giving her viewpoint with the derogatory comment that the subject under discussion was a serious issue, and not the subject of a film. Yet another politician sniggered as he spoke of wives losing charm over time, a remark that not only raised Cain, but also made many people wonder how such an unattractive man had the temerity to make such a disgusting and sexist remark! And whether his wife hauled him over the coals when he got home! Why do such ridiculous comments get thrown around in the first place? There is only one answer. The men who speak in this fashion have zero respect for women, an attitude that has been prevalent in a patriarchal society where women are only meant to bow down, breed children, and have no minds of their own. These male specimens do not realize that their breed is fast disappearing, especially now that women are standing shoulder to shoulder with their male counterparts. When we were young, the law used to be laid down very firmly by our parents. If we talked rudely or used bad words, we had to wash our mouths out with soap, which quickly put an end to the habit! Unfortunately, no such remedy seems to be forthcoming in the case of many of our politicians, as the filth is deep within their minds. Besides, it is patently clear that nation building and character moulding are nowhere in their minds, as all they are concerned about is how well they can grab the eyeballs to win the populist vote. Which makes the following quote so relevant: “The difference is that a statesman thinks he belongs to the State, and a politician thinks the State belongs to him.” Open Page, The Hindu Nov 27th, 2012