Tuesday, August 14, 2012

How about Har Pet Mein Khana, first?

Photo credit: Google

The central government's Rs7,000 crore-scheme — Har Haath Mein Phone — to provide one mobile phone to every BPL family is preposterous. The Prime Minister is planning to give away phones to six million BPL households on August, 15.
Now, if you try to understand the scheme, you will be surprised to know that the government is not "uplifting" these BPL families nor is it alleviating poverty, but is promoting telecom players in the market. What the scheme doesn't suggest is about the network? Let us assume that the government will boost BSNL's revenues and hence, choose the government-run telecom player to provide the network. But, has it thought about the signals? Will there be a proper coverage in every corner of the country? Who will pay these bills? Is subsidizing bills also on the government's cards? We do not know.
For now, let us not get into the intricacies of whether people will be able to pay their bills or whether the phone is a necessity. Let us look at the scheme:
The government will provide a mobile phone to a BPL household. Do we know what kind of phone this is? Given the life of a cellphone, it does not last for more than three years (best/minimum usage of the phone). So, will the government give new phones after these get spoilt? Even if they are considered to be working just fine, will they be able to charge these phones? (Given, that the electricity situation is worse in rural areas. And, not that the situation is great in urban areas). What about the language of the text that appears on the phone? What about those who are given phones and do not know how too read/write any language?
Now, let us look at whether the phone is a necessity. Despite the government providing subsidies to BPL families, do all of them have food? We hear of millions dying every year due to lack of food. Even then we cannot provide food to every one, but can let the grains rot in godowns.
A report in 2010 revealed that India has more cellphones than toilets. The report by Ontario-based UN University’s Institute for Water, Environment and Health pointed out that while India had roughly 366 million people with access to improved sanitation in 2008, a far greater number, 545 million, had cell phones.
"Today, nearly 74% of India’s population, over 880 million, own mobile phones. The latest figure for toilets is not available but all reports including those from the UN and other agencies indicate that India lags woefully behind in sanitation," points out a DNA report.
While our sanitation and hunger levels remain worst, we also have the government promoting cash-rich telecom players and boosting their sales. Who is it helping here anyway? And then, we have politicians giving out/ bribing people with all the non-essential stuff to woo people, asking them to vote during elections.
Even after all the hue and cry about the scheme, if the government thinks it will better the lives of BPL families, it needs to know that people need to food to survive not cellphones. So, how about Har Pet Mein Khana, first? How do we ensure that?    


Sunday, July 15, 2012

Born with a vagina?


If you possess a vagina, you're fucked anyway. The vagina can never win over a penis. This is the perception of a majority in a patriarchal world that we live in. At birth or before death, you will be harassed, discriminated, beaten up and will have to go through all sorts of torture that will kill you anyway, if not physically, then mentally.

At birth and even before!



Before you even enter the world, parents want to know if it is a girl or a boy instead of waiting to be surprised, happily and otherwise too. Some, who do not want a girl, make their wives/ partners abort. Some, who are happy about the girl, welcome her into this world. And, some are happy to be surprised about the fact that it is a girl.

Either ways the birth of a girl is a curse. If not at her birth, she will be discriminated at other stages of life. Gender bias/discrimination can never be erased from India or say, Indians for a matter of fact. Why? We have religious customs/traditions/rituals where a girl child/ infant is killed after reciting rituals. So religion comes in way. And, we're all gungho about our religions and customs that we will not stop practising them even if it's a social evil or happens at the cost of taking someone's life.

Sex determination of a baby is a crime according to Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques Act, 1994 which says:

"The Act prohibits the medical personnel from conducting or helping anyone conduct sex-selection. All medical equipment regarding pregnancies shall be sold only to registered clinics. All pre-natal diagnostic techniques are banned except for the detection of chromosomal abnormalities, genetic metabolic diseases, haemoglobinopathies, sex-linked genetic diseases, congenital anomalies, any other abnormalities or diseases as may be specified by the Central Supervisory Board; only as long as there is a potential threat to the child. No person is allowed to divulge the sex of a child in any form of communication, no clinic or person is allowed to conduct sex determination tests, and no person shall commit the act or sex selection or aid in doing so."

The government of India, in 1994, introduced this Act to prevent female foeticide.But, even today it is practised. Adding to this, doctors and medical practitioners are facilitating foetus destruction. Horrific as it sounds, the reason for aborting a female baby is because of shame that stems from the fact that the girl will not carry the family name further or because the girl is a "burden" to the family. The above reasons are well known to one and all.

Now, even if the baby is born, she is not spared. Those who are poor, try to kill the baby (female infanticide), in the name of poverty and unable to take care of the child. Some again, try to sell her off for as low as Rs64. Read this. We have come across plenty of instances where a girl has been sold off.
Even after the baby (girl) is born, she is subjected to discrimination. A girl is looked at as a symbol of weakness at her birth. Power does not belong to her. Parents also accept it and treat the girl delicately. Sometimes, her marriage is fixed as soon as she is born. The "guy's" parents are apparently "happy" at the birth of the girl only to harass her later. And phrases like "don't cry like a girl" only increase the bias and make gender inequality thrive in a patriarchal society like ours.

We also marry them off early. This is happening in the other parts of the world too, apart from India. You can check a photo story on child marriages by the Washington Post here.

Irrespective of whether the girl is physically and mentally mature, she is married off at the age of 4, 5 ,6 and so on. In such cases of child marriage, the man is almost and certainly elder than the girl. Even the age gap between the two is huge. In these cases, parents wait for the girl to "come of age" (menstruate) and then send her off to her in-laws place.

Before of after she begins menstruating

Our so called "Indian" customs make this a celebration. It is an indication of the girl becoming ready to bear a child. The onset of menstrual cycle is another natural curse. Parents begin fearing for the girl if she is with male friends from this age. What they don't understand is that the more you prevent, the more your child is attracted to something. This is also an age where there is a lot of mental disturbance, anxiety and the opposite sex becomes the opposite and not equal.

Amid this, the girl has to go through even teasing (by men/boys) for her appearance whether she is thin or fat (because of the weight-conscious world we live in). Then comes the colour compelxion, which, if the girl is dark, is frowned upon, is called names. Though all this is acceptable and makes the girl stronger in dealing with different problems at puberty, on the other side, it highlights the male control over her.  

While we know that is the age when the girl begins experimenting with her likes/dislikes and starts discovering herself, parents begin imposing restrictions. If the girl has too many male friends, it is a problem, if she doesn't, she is a good girl. But, the same parents, would leave the child alone with her male cousin or her brother at home and not believe their could sexually assault her. 

At a later stage, she begins getting attracted to men/women, which is but natural and begins exploring her sexuality. Though she doesn't realise it is infatuation, she'd like to explore it. Here, again, she is restricted. There are restrictions on timings. Why? Parents fear that the girl might be unsafe walking on the roads in the night. These are the same parents who cannot accept the fact that their daughter has been raped by the grandfather or the brother or any other male member. 

And once she is in college, she gets in/out of relationships. Even then, she is not supposed to. It is a taboo. But at the same time, if there's a son who has fallen for a girl, his relationship is accepted. Why? Because he is a boy, he possesses penis, he has more power and cannot win over a vagina. 

Then comes sex. Sex, in India, is still a taboo. We're never ready to talk about it openly or even pronounce the word out in the open but want to watch porn and experiment under the sheets and RAPE women.  Sex before marriage is still a blunder. It is still seen as the biggest mistake a woman can make in a country where a woman (Sita) walked into fire to prove her chastity/purity or that she was a virgin. Here also, if a girl has sex before marriage, she is a slut. If a boy has sex before marriage, he is a stud. He becomes "the MAN" for nailing the girl. But, the girl is seen as a slut, of lose character, one who sleeps with any man, etc.

Before and After marriage


Like sex, even love marriage is a big problem. With so many castes, sub-castes, religions, cultures etc, India is a democracy. But Indians can never be democractic. Love in India is gender-specific. If it is a boy who falls in love and wants to get married to the girl of his choice, he is given permission. If it is a girl, she is not allowed to.Why? The guys carry the family name, the caste they belong to, and more importantly, because he is a guy, he can do anything. And why not the girl? Because she cannot decide for herself, she gets manipulated easily and might end up in a bad marriage. What these parents forget is that, the girl, too, has a mind. She also can think.

Another issue is that of caste or religion. If the guy (who the girl loves) belongs to a lower caste according to the caste system's rankings, she is not allowed to. Why? The society will talk badly about the parents, their image goes for a toss and they can never live proudly. Sometimes, the boy and the girl are killed for belonging to two different castes and falling in love/ getting married (Khap Panchayat). Yes, these khap panchayats decide what your husband and you should do in our bedroom. And we happily allow that. 

So where is the point of gender equality when the girl is compelled to marry the one she is not interested in? And, even if the parents want to listen to the girl about her choice of the groom, they can come up with a 1000 reasons to prove that she should leave him. What they forget is that, the man of their choice might, in future, have sex with their daughter which would be "marital rape" because it was forced and not consensual.  They also forget that caste doesn't play any role in the birth and death of a person but comes in between the two.

In India, caste matters. Yes, it does. But till when? Until we give importance to it. Until we want to keep it alive. What parents don't think is whether their son(s)/daughter(s) would really identify themselves with the caste or disassociate from it. No one is born into a caste. It is thrust upon them. And, even in this case, the girl either has the father's name as pre-fix or suffix before marriage and husband's name (after marriage). 

Just before her marriage and after it is fixed, the system of dowry comes into picture. Though dowry in the olden days was meant for the girl to settle down in a house alien to her and that the little money and articles her parents give would help her. Now, marriage is no more a marriage. It has become a business. A bride buying business. Once the girl is sold off, she is taken for granted.

She is expected to look after the house, the kids, bear with marital rape, listen to the in-laws, take all the beatings and still remain calm. She is expected to not have male friends else she is not a loyal housewife. And, if the husband helps her in the kitchen or respects her for what she is, the others think the wife is responsible for turning the man into a "powerless" human. Even after marriage, she has to sacrifice a lot of things for her kids, her husband, suppress all her likes and live like a lifeless human being and serve the husband.

And then, there is female genital mutilation which is a consequence of man's insecurity that a woman will derive sexual pleasure if she possesses her genital organs and sleeps with other men and hence, her genitals are cut/mutilated. Even then, she has to go through the pain quietly and not complain.  

So, a woman, irrespective of her age, undergoes discrimination at every stage of her life in this country. She dies many a time before death comes calling to her. Yet, she has to bear it all silently. Even when she is stripped naked in public, we stare at her but wouldn't help. I guess that's what our mythologies taught us (Mahabharata) and we strictly follow them. 

It is a shame that all these are deeds of our mind, how we perceive things. Even "caste" and "gender" are the things of the mind and existent in our blood or any part of the body.  
   
Like the Cambodian civil rights group said : "It is not gender which is destroying our culture.... it is our interpretations of culture which has destroyed gender equality."

And,  here's a suggestion to parents/partners: 

"DO NOT GIVE BIRTH TO KIDS IF YOU CAN'T RAISE THEM OR WANT TO KILL THEM. THINK BEFORE YOU LEAP. WEAR A CONDOM AND HAVE SEX. IT SAVES A LOT OF LIVES, INCLUDING YOURS."

Note: This is not a generalised post. All the examples I have mentioned are just examples to highlight an issue. This post is not to cause harm/offend anyone. You are free to hold positive/negative) opinions and comment. 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Dear GHMC Commissioner, would you like to surprise us?

Dear GHMC commissioner,


This is a letter from a girl who commutes to work through the back-breaking and dug-up roads, through clogged and overflowing drains, through garbage heaps breeding mosquitoes, in this beautiful city of Hyderabad. May I clarify that this is not to highlight the incapability of the local administration but to focus on these existing problems that are taking a toll on everyone.

You might have received a thousand letters, e-mails and other forms of communication regarding the problems. But, the point is, what have you done despite receiving these complaints? Let me give you an example of my every experience. I stay at Mayuri Marg in Begumpet where the overflowing and clogged drains flow through an Anganwadi school, where kids are likely to contract water-borne diseases. And, when vehicles pass through this road, the drain water splashes on people's clothes on their way to work. Now, not everyone owns a car or bike to not walk on the road and stay protected! The stench from this chokes me. No, I'm not exaggerating, it literally does.

During the rainy season, it is even worse, making our lives pathetic. The manholes are left open, there is no outlet for the rain water to pass off, almost inundating the road to your knee-level. Even vehicles do not pass through this lane during rainy season. I have had the privilege of  walking through the sewage- mixed-water at 2am because of my work schedule and I was almost sunk. Now. my mother would not like to see me stinking like a skunk at 2am and bare with all the diseases in that week.
Sometimes, to avoid this stinky experience, I take another road where the situation has even been worse. The road to Chikoti Gardens. Sewage mixed with water flows right in front of people's houses and no one's complaining. I do not know if they do not have a problem if the whole world's excreta is stocked in front of their houses, but I have a problem with kids of a school, situated beside it, fall sick for no fault of theirs, sooner or later.

Even if I emerge victorious after passing through these lanes and reach the main road, I'm even more unlucky. The road at Begumpet is dug up, battered and harrowing. The dust due to the ongoing works is causing a pain to every commuter, irrespective of who complains and who doesn't. I do not want to see people being killed and their bodies going up in the air like flying saucers. These roads are death traps.

As a consequence to the already existing hardships, traffic congestion adds to woes. I do appreciate the traffic police personnel for monitoring the traffic and ensuring vehicle movement at all times, but I’d hope the traffic police put a little more thinking into not removing a unipole during the daytime, bringing the vehicular movement to a complete standstill.
Even the rain god shows no mercy at such times. To wreck things a little more and make life hell, rains, drains, roads and traffic are a curse to a common man.

Here, I have described what I have observed and gone through. If you don't consider it a blatant generalisation, I would be happy to inform you that this is the current scenario in the city (which you might be very well aware of). These problems stare you in the face.  Even after complaining repeatedly to the local corporators about these problems, no action has been taken.
When we, as citizens, are encouraged to work with the local administration to deal with such problems, what do we do if there's no response? I'm just one among the lakhs of people writing about this.

I do not hope to see a change, but would you consider an option of surprising us someday (with better roads and not-so-clogged drains)?

Yours faithfully,
A Hyderabadi

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Why 'NOT' engineering or medicine!!



As far as I know, parents, particularly in Andhra Pradesh, have made Andhra people popular in the US. Why? Because, there is a trend that most here follow when it comes to education. It goes like this: Schooling at a corporate school (where timings for even kindergarten kids are more than eight hours - preparing them for the IITs and MBBS), Two years of Intermediate at a corporate college (which is standard 11 and 12th in ICSE and CBSE schools), run more or less by the same school owners and then an admission in an engineering or medical college. From there, MS in the US for engineering candidates and MD or whatever in another country for those pursuing MBBS.

"Schools need not have a playground"
This trend is followed by many in this state. Adding to this, the state government on April 24, 2011, had passed a Government Order (GO) 55 to cut down on Physical Education Teachers' posts in schools. It then went back on its decision and said: "Schools need not have playgrounds to secure recognition." Now, this has done more damage to kids who wanted to play than prepare for IIT exam to secure a seat in the so-called prestigious institution. However, it was an ego boost for parents who wanted their kids to slog to secure that 'prestigious' seat.
On the other hand, during the time when AP government passed GO:55, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka government were laying emphasis on Physical Education (PE) in schools. They were also mulling introducing a subject in the school curriculum.

Societal pressure
Now, there has been a debate about the Indian education system, its pros and cons. The education system in Andhra Pradesh schools is turning out to be pathetic and its people, illogical. Kids have no choice in it. They are compelled to study because the parents think the kid is useless if he/she doesn't become a doctor or an engineer.
Let me give you an example: The other day, my cousin was talking about how a mother promised to take the teachers (in that school) out for lunch, if her son (who is in Nursery) secured above 90 percent in his final examinations. When my cousin went to the school, the next day, to collect her son's report card, she asked one of the teachers why they looked all dressed. And the answer was: "We're going out for lunch (with that kid's mother).    
Also, with changing lifestyles and professions, parents are okay with putting the child through rigorous study hours and 'total care' at school. Now, here we have two types of schools or even more.


1. Corporate or Digital or Techno or whatever-you-call-it schools: These schools are generally run by the owners of corporate colleges like Narayana, Chaitanya, Vikas, etc. Their prospectus boasts of 100s of ranks, kids winning Olympiad (Maths and Science) and such competitions. But, they give least importance to communication skills, English, extra-curricular activities, sports and literary, painting competitions. They are of the view that these only waste a child's time, they do not help attain the knowledge the kids will have by studying Maths and Science.
2. International Schools: The concept of international schools is a farce. No one understands why they call it an international school. Is it because kids learn accented. American English which you otherwise can't learn? Is it because they offer A/C buses to kids only to spoil them? Is it because they force the use of gadgets on kids to build peer pressure? I do agree that there are kids who do academically well, but the impact of such riches on kids is bad.

Parents' role
Most parents do not have time for their kids. They have jobs which consume most of their time. They come home exhausted. Even if the child is yearning to talk to both of them at once, he/she cannot. If the mother/father is at home (in most cases, the mother is), it is even more difficult. Some kids, do not see their parents for days or sometimes, even weeks.
Even those who are not working have relatives, colleagues, friends inquire about which school the child is studying in. And, here's where the comparison begins. Even if the parents are dead-against their child studying in digital/techno/corporate schools, they might give it a shot or at least re-think their decision. It is true that parents are protective and care about their child's future. But you cannot make an Ambani out of your child when he/she is just three or four.



Child's psyche
Understanding a child's psyche is very important. Be it a three-year-old kid or a 17-year-old boy/girl, the rule applies for all. The fact that kids cannot decide for themselves when they are three is right. But, why are you forcing someone to study in a school that will not even let your child fall and pick himself up and learn that it is OKAY and that he/she will become stronger? Why put your child in a school to show off your riches or maintain status?
For example: A parent might be earning good enough to put his child in an international school that charges a bomb. But, you drop him in your Maruti 800 car. Now, you have a car and you are proud of it. But, after you drop your child at school, there are kids who will see which car the kid's dad has. I have come across instances where the parents of five-yr-old kids tell them not to talk to those kids who don't have cars. And, the kids follow their parents and do not make friends with one and all. They will grow like that. Now, this kid will be asked by his friends: "How many cars do you have? Which car do you have? Do you have a play station at home?, etc". Now, the poor kid has no answer. He will be laughed at because his dad doesn't have five cars like the others' dads, he doesn't have a PS3 which others do and so on.
This will have an impact on the child's psyche. He will go home and ask his parents. They might buy him a PS3, but what about five cars? Are they even bothered about their child and the peer pressure which is indirectly affecting them? In this case, the damage has been done.
Another example: My friend was telling me that he came across a father who had no clue of what Play Station was. But, the kid's stubbornness brought him to that shop. The father came to my male friend and asked: "Do you know what PS3 is and what's the cost of it"? My friend is into gaming and hence, knew about the intricacies of it. Now, the father only had Rs6,000 with him and the game that his kid wanted costed more than double the amount the father had.
The above example clearly shows how parents want to go the extra mile, even if they don;t have the money, to please their kids. But, what about those the money to afford? Wouldn't this be a burden? On the other hand, the child starts rebelling, whatsoever. It is easier for them to hate someone than love them, because anyone who gives them something they ask for is good for them. So, even parents are vulnerable to becoming the BIG BAD BOYS here. This will increase the gap between parents and kids. They stop sharing, keep secrets and start doing things without telling their parents. This is a reason to worry, for their parents.
Similarly, curtailing their freedom will only want to them do something which the parents ban them from doing. If you ask them to stop watching cartoons, they will, but at their friend's place, somehow. Same applies to those who might take interest in sports but parents do not let them go. This might make him/her worse. Unknowingly, you are spoiling your child. They will stop studying. They will not perform well in their academics if they are forced to do something they dislike or even constant comparison with other kids might prove fatal.  This way, kids do not grow emotionally, socially, physically and intellectually. Parents are responsible for STUNTING their kids' growth.
Their physical and mental health is ignored. You do not let your child play. He will sit at home and start eating. You have no problem feeding him burgers, pizzas and french fries. But you keep worrying that he is putting on weight. But, you restrict him from playing out.
Worried over his predicament, the kid over-eats. He will put on weight because of depression, has health problems and suffers mentally. This can become almost irrepairable.

Teachers/School's role
Setting up the above mentioned schools has become a fad and fetches good bucks. A visit to these schools makes you feel that the teachers are trained to lure parents into admitting their kids in such schools. They do not talk of physical education but maths and science and IITs and ranks. Even parents are touted into this and forget what they want, assuming this is THE school they've been looking for.
Second, the money these schools/colleges spend on ads (print and broadcast) makes you want to envy them. The broadcast ads make an instant impression on a desperate parent's mind and draws him/her to their school.
Third, these schools do not treat kids academically equal. There will always be kids who will not understand things easily, but might be talented in other subjects or areas. Such kids are ignored by these schools. They are separated from the rest of the "intelligent" kids who are given special training. Through this, they discriminate kids and make them feel they are unworthy. This also impacts a child's mental health.
Fourth, crowded places. These kids look like prisoners who can go for a break only when the bell rings once during the eight-hour schedule. 

What is happening to them?
Now, after their graduation, there is no productivity from these kids. Some of them do not reveal to their parents about what is happening in their lives and take to consuming alcohol, drugs, smoking, etc. Some go for higher studies and study MS, MD in foreign countries. Eventually, most of them are denied jobs. Why? Because they were not impressive enough for their employer to be hired. They return home and land up in a company. They manage to get a five-digit salary and think they're ruling the world. They talk of corruption, but do not step out of A/C or office. They talk of green environment and travel all alone in a car and so on. This only blinds them to the stark reality. They live in a world where the employer provides all the benefits and get "softwared" or begin getting fake certificates to become certified doctors or indulge in malpractices.
Please not that this is not the case with all, but most. 

The Alternatives
There are careers apart from Engineering and Medicine. The permissions for too many engineering and medical colleges in the state also has made it almost mandatory for parents to look at these as the only career options. There are very few takers for arts in the state. There are not many colleges that offer vocational courses and permissions for such colleges are not given. Why? Because they do not fetch good money like Engineering and Medical colleges. And, hardly any know of such courses.
For Example:  In a state where the broadcast media dominates the print, I work for the print. It is often shocking to see how people respond when I tell them I work for an English daily. They are astonished not because I work for English print media but because I'm a telugu girl who works for the print media. I'm often asked: "How are you working at a print media being a Telugu girl? You don't look like one also, so it is okay" are the replies I usually get. I make it a point to tell them that I've been lucky to have parents who never forced me to pursue engineering, though I was close to becoming a victim of it. I tell them my parents respect their kids' choices. However, they think, I'm a "very outspoken girl who doesn't listen/respect her elders and makes no sense and that I want to "get my ass kicked by being in this profession."
I was also asked about my marriage prospects and I'm almost certainly sure, I will not find a Telugu guy ideal for a marriage, if only it ever happens. (Because of this mindset)
Therefore,  I'd like to say that those who keep their eyes and ears open will find alternatives to Engineering and Medicine. There are a whole lot of career options in this state. Do not be ignorant of other options. Just have the patience to search for them and most importantly, identify the institutions that offer courses of  their interest. Explain to your kids about how their career would be if they chose a particular course. Go the extra mile here.    

A word of advice
Parents have to realise that their kids also have choices. Being overprotective, comparing them with other kids, putting them through stress (physical and mental) can be disastrous. It will only increase the gap between parents and kids. Do not make your kids dumb heads and averse to the world around them. Leave them. Let them explore and have their say in their lives, but be concerned.  
And, that is why, NOT engineering or medicine, but, I have chosen to be different and opted for JOURNALISM, have gone to another state to pursue my PG. :)


P.S. Andhraites (read Telugu people) do not go anywhere out of AP. IF they do, it will only be America and not any other state within India. :D :D
   

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Compromise, Sacrifice and all that jazz


The other day I was listening to a radio jingle that has prompted me to write this post. It was about a complaining husband, who has been compromising things ever since his marriage. And then there’s a voice over: “Har waqt compromise compromise compromise.” Though I have no clue what he was compromising on, it was clear that this was an indication of him not leading a happy life because of his wife (who has made his life miserable).

We often come across such stereotypes in our society. The most common one about marriage and men is what I have mentioned above. While (most) men (think and) say that their freedom is threatened by an institution called marriage, they forget that there is also another person involved in this. The woman, his wife/partner.
The advertisements, movies and every form of media portray married men as losers who are wasting their lives. To add to this, they also make the men look happy when their wives are out of station or away from home.

What is ignored in the process is that the woman and her choices I’m not saying that all married women are subjected to some sort of restrictions when it comes to career and freedom, but majority of them have to ‘sacrifice.’ I deliberately use the word ‘sacrifice’ because of our so called Indian way of defining the ‘sati-savitri-sort-of-wife’.  In a patriarchal society like ours, most women have to, at some point of time, let go of their ambitions and end up taking care of the family. What we don’t wish to see here or ignore is that the woman (who has become the wife) loses her freedom as soon as she enters the man’s territory.
While he thinks always about he losing freedom because of his wife, he tends to conveniently ignore that this woman also is human and also is born with freedom which is curtailed at the very beginning of their relationship.  

And, it is surprising to see how people react when they find out that the husband is spending time with his wife or cooks or even goes shopping with her. The common perception here is that, he has succumbed (to her). Meaning, without boozing with his friends over a game of Cricket (which according to his male friends is FREEDOM), this is seen as an act of ‘compromise.’

Though the woman’s compromise/sacrifice here is ignored, the man is still in the focus. What we ought to think is, how long are we going to keep the man in focus even while he curtails the woman’s freedom? Doesn’t it testify the gender inequality persistent in our society? Think….and leave a message. You are free to oppose.

Here’s something to cheer you up:

They say: “Behind every successful man, there is a woman” But, the question is, “How many are successful?” :D

Sunday, May 6, 2012

An enigma called Sainath


I assumed I fell into a reverie only to realize that I was about to meet this audacious person who became a demigod for many budding journalists (including me) in the last few years. I was worried over my predicament because I was completely unprepared for this moment. I was meeting this man, Palagummi Sainath, who likes to be  called a ‘rural reporter’. He has covered issues on social problems, rural affairs, poverty and other issues. He is the Rural Affairs Editor for the Hindu and also works for  India together.

Having read his, book, Everybody Loves a Good Drought, every word, every page and every chapter of the book kept resonating in my ears. I was anxious, nervous about this journey with him. It seemed like an invincible difficulty. While I was waiting for him, somehow, my attention was diverted to youngsters queuing up outside the palatial hotel. Assuming that they learnt of this rural reporter’s arrival, I jumped out of the car immediately to see if the man of the hour was signing autographs. However, to my disappointment, the chaos turned out to be for job interviews.


I took a deep breath. As I walked into the bijou hotel waiting to receive him at the lobby, he walked out of the elevator. I was speechless. “Did you have your breakfast, Tejaswini?” he asked and continued “This hotel serves the best breakfast in Bangalore,” he beamed. I was coy and quietly said “no.” As he walked to the car, I had forgotten the questions I wanted to ask. Those deep, penetrating eyes and his speech made an impact.


During our journey, he began the conversation by asking me where I was working. Probably, he sensed the nervousness in me and hence, thought the questions would help me warm up to him. He then asked what he was expected to speak at the convocation (of the 2012 batch) and added: “I do not want to speak to these enthusiastic budding journalists about the sad, bad world.”


I then asked where he was coming from and he instantly said Chennai. “I wanted a break. I was there because I was asked to deliver a key note at the meeting of Magasaysay award winners. Ela Bhatt, Swaminathan and many others were present,” he said.


Talking about IIJNM, he said he had met IIJNM’s dean in 2006 at a seminar. Having understood that the dean could never say anything against the US, Mr. Sainath said: “Ohhh! That man was all about ‘India Shining’ then. What an interesting man I say!” he said with a tinge of sarcasm. I nodded my head, trying to be diplomatic to nobble the Emperor of the hour.


While I was wondering whether to ask what he was currently working on, he said: “Do you have Bangalore Times with you? I want to show you something interesting,” and smirked. After stopping by a shop and buying the newspaper, he pointed out at the line below the mast head of The Bangalore Times (supplement of the Times of India) and said: “Look. After there’s been a hue and cry about paid news, TIMES has made this correction ‘ advertorial, entertainment promotional feature’, agreeing that their news is paid for.”


Immediately, I recollected an article I read on the hoot about this exact topic and asked him whether he read it. The answer was a “no”. But, he seemed impressed. Then, I mustered the courage to ask him what he was currently working on. “Hmm…I’m working on a story on the advertising of Bt Crops in newspapers (specially the Times and Monsanto),” he explained, adding that Monsanto company staff was delaying the response to his questions. “See, how they postpone things. They are scared. I just asked them the media angle. The bosses don’t have to be there to give that answer. An email reply would do,” he said.  When he said “scared”, I was thinking “who wouldn’t be scared of you Mr.Sainath. You have all the facts, evidences and the courage to strip a company of its laurels with one article of yours.” But I chose to keep my mouth shut.


Then... I told him that the first chapter from his book was etched in my head like an indelible scar. Giving the context of how he wrote stories, he said: “You cannot be somewhere else and write a rural story. Travel with people, know them, do what they do, eat what they eat, live how they live and that is when you’ll know what to write and how to do it.” I fell for those lines. “Damn! He is impressive. What a man!” I thought. Further, he said: “See, Tejaswini. I never planned to write a book or some such thing. It is just a collection of all my stories on deprivation. Currently, 35th edition of the book is running,” he said, raising his thick eyebrows.

“You know, I had the opportunity to meet you and I couldn’t when you came for the screeining of Nero’s Guests (a film on farmer suicides in India)” I said. He replied: “I never watched Nero’s Guests until today. It was only some 15 minutes of the film during editing of the film when I was called to correct it, that I watched it,” he said, adding “May be this was your opportunity, Tejaswini. And that’s why you are here and you missed the earlier one.”

As I was itching to ask questions about the future of “development journalism”, he corrected me every single time I said development journalism. “You know, the term is absurd. It might sound like a fad, but say rural story or rural reporting. That makes sense and is specific,” Mr Sainath said. His words transported me to the day where I argued with the Deputy Resident Editor (DRE) of my previous company who expressed that “development journalism was boring and was for sisters in the kitchen.” I remember him asking me rudely why I wanted to do it and etc. I told him I was passionate and he said “bullshit!” Though I would like to still believe that he did not mean it, he actually did. Why? Because I put it to him in the lamest way ever and he came across many girls telling him the same thing.


“When you tell your editor you have a development story. He’ll not listen to it. He will give you an I-don’t-want-it look. Sell it as a story. Tell him what’s interesting about it, what you have in it and how it could benefit the newspaper. Now… that will click,” Sainath said. It was at this moment that I realized that I have been foolish and unable to sell my stories. I learnt my lesson.


Because he is the grandson of the former President V.V. Giri, I was excited to ask him what had inspired him to opt for such a profession where there are leaders/politicians. “To put it simply, during our time, freedom fighters were journalists. Here, I’m fighting for the freedom of expression. That’s the difference,” he told, adding “It happened to me very naturally. I love doing what I do. Every day is fun.”  “If you don’t enjoy something, Tejaswini… Don’t  do it,” he suggested.


“Isn’t poverty immeasurable?,” I asked. Well, I wouldn’t say that. If we give the specifics and define them properly, it can be. The factors have to be well-defined, you see, he said. “So is it the implementation that fails to happen?” I asked again. “Implementation can happen only when you take people into consideration. In our country, that doesn’t happen,” he said.  

But, you know what? I always tell people not to call it poverty or hunger. Call it “deprivation”. It makes more sense, Tejaswini. “Deprivation can be of many forms,” he said.

That was when these lines from his book struck me. “Too often, poverty and hunger get covered as events. That is, when some disaster strikes, when people die. Yet, poverty is about much more than starvation deaths or near famine conditions,” an excerpt from Everybody Loves a Good Drought.  

Later, I was expecting him to speak to me in Telugu after he understood that it was my mother tongue (it is his mother tongue too), I diverted the topic to something remotely close. Politics in Andhra Pradesh. As soon as I took Chandrababu Naidu’s name, he said: “The media portrayed him in a very wrong way during his tenure as the CM. It was publicity not reporting,” he fretted.


Look what he has done to farmers in the state. Look how they’re dying and see the current state of politics in the state. It is in a state of quandary, he said. Naidu has lost it. He will not come to power again, he said, adding that Jagan Mohan Reddy has become the game-changer in AP politics and how he is ripping apart Congress votes by gaining TRS’ support. “That’s what he did in the recent bypolls. And, as a tactic, YSR Congress won the Kovvur seat which was but obvious,” he said. As I was also aware of the background of this analysis, I contributed my part to the discussion which lasted a few minutes.

It then dawned to him that he was supposed to prepare a speech and began frantically penning down something which I couldn’t see.

Not knowing whether I could interrupt, I did it purposely. He did not react and in fact,replied. “I love this Mysore highway. I take this road to reach Wayanad. I come across two forests (the Bandipur forest and the Kerala one) on my way. What a pleasure it is to travel!” he said.

As the journey was nearing an end, I knew I had to tell him I quote him in all my opinion pieces on rural issues. He said “thank you” and smiled. And, then I was wondering whether I deserve to ask him his contact number. Somehow I decided that I don’t deserve to ask him that and hence, shifted to a safer option. His email Id.


The journey ended. It was a memorable one. I loathed missing the opportunity of meeting him earlier. But, I guess, this was in store for me and I couldn’t let go of it. The post might’ve looked exaggerated. But, for someone who wants to make a career in “rural reporting”, this was a golden opportunity which most envy and appreciate.


Well, I had a conversation with him and learnt my lessons. And, special thanks to my professor who thought I deserved this chance and chose me. 

Here’s something for all journalists: 

“Sell your labour, not soul” – P. Sainath



Monday, April 23, 2012

Hindutva propagation the Swadeshi way







“Use country made products and shun the use of imported products from foreign countries,” said a yogi in a white dhoti who received tremendous applause from the audience for his statement. 

For a moment, you may think you have been transported to the era of freedom struggle where freedom fighters made aggressive speeches, persuading people to use ‘Swadeshi’ goods. But wait, this was no freedom fighter’s speech, though the set up and the people dressed in white ‘symbolising’ peace’ give you that impression.

This was at the launch of products by Patanjali Ayurved Limited, run by Yoga guru Baba Ramdev. From the green-coloured (sweet tasting) Amla juice being served to guests who were sceptical to accept it to the middle-aged women in pristine white cotton saree with golden border  (Kerala saree) welcoming Swamiji with flowers, everything seemed more like a mini-spiritual meeting at an ashram.

The cacophony of mobile ringtones and mic disturbance assaulted people’s ears. While tiny tots, on one side, showered praises on their demi-god Acharya Balakrishna ji with their melodious songs, irky ringtones and random disturbance filled the air. 
Though members of Patanjali Ayurved Ltd. managed to make the already ‘spiritually- hallucinated audience’ hate the West for entering the Indian markets, they were also entertained at the very sight of a Western product. The Flower Gun! They kept shooting flowers every time Acharya ji lit a lamp, smiled, moved or even adjusted his dhoti. Yes, we could see quite some hate for Western products there!

And, this was being thoroughly enjoyed by media persons who shouted ‘replay’ for the Flower Gun’s thundering act that almost deafened them. Though every cell in their body was screaming to stage a walk-out, this flower gun’s held them back and cheered them up. However, some of them frantically flipped pages of their notepads to shoot questions while some began scorning the PR guy for taking up such “pathetic and sad” events.  

What raised eyebrows the timid voice of a lady shouting “Bharat Mata Ki jai and Vande Mataram” during the launch while others, unhesitantly, followed suit. As if the patriotic feeling oozing out of everyone was not enough, Achraya began his speech with “Om”, only to be followed by “Bachna Ae Haseeno” song in the background.

Meanwhile, children looked like mannequins dotting the hall, displaying Patanjali’s products while their moms were successful in making the photographers for spoiling every “beautiful” picture. 

This apart, lunch was totally different from what was expected out of Baba’s followers. While everyone assumed green vegetables, Amla juice, Aloevera juice and herbs to rule the menu, the trademark Hyderabadi (veg) Dum biryani, hogged the limelight.

Well, we do not know if the products would be a hit among people. But what we do know is that the Yoga guru makes an event appealing even without his presence. Is that “Power Yoga” now?

Sunday, March 25, 2012

What have we become!!!


The advent of social networking sites has made most of us sitting ducks in the real world. But, in the virtual world, each of us are active online, tweeting/facebooking about our daily chores, interests, posting pictures of a recent party we attended, posting pictures to ask friends whether the 'look' suits us, what we are reading and letting the world know what we are upto at every second in our life. SNSes have penetrated into our lives to a point where we are unable to stop it. The urge to constantly update about your activities has become common.

And, then, we have friends who wait for us to update our facebook/ twitter statuses and 'like' them just for the heck of it. If people like your pictures, you are seen as someone Mr/Ms Perfect. And, then we start judging people by looking at their pictures on Facebook. Under this category, there are yahoos who send friend requests to beautiful/attractive/pretty/good-looking girls and ask all sorts of weird questions like "wana do frndship with me/can we be friends/I want to talk to you/Hey, How are you?" And, there are some who POKE these girls. These poker faces who try to strike a conversation with the girl, just by reading her profile information. This is an attempt to act intelligent or act like he knows the subject she is dealing with or the college she belongs to or pretend to know people from her college or workplace. What they don't understand is that they are making a fool out of themselves and the girl is just being nice to them.

And, then there are girls who are even crazier and have a 'Holier than thou' feeling. they think the whole world is smitten by their pictures uploaded online. For them, their looks matter the most in life and impressing a guy is like the biggest achievement in their lives. They have (girl) friends who are exactly like them and then bitch about those same friends on their back to others. And among these, if a guy approaches a girl for something, say help or a favour, the friends (who cannot think straight) begin linking up this friend to the poor guy who is least interested in any of those schmucks.

Even marriages happen on Facebook nowadays. People put up all sorts of pictures of their partners, wanting the whole world to know that they are "happily" married, though 'happily' is very questionable in this case. And then. there are fights on Facebook, twitter.

And then there are SNS fanatics, who think their life is being fucked up big time, they have all the problems in the world and vent it out on social networking sites. In fact, they are the most depressing people on Earth. They vent out their anger on the government, they pick on everyone around them, they don't like their workplace and they crib 24X7. All this on a social networking site and once a person points a finger at them. These SNS fanatics indulge in verbal abuse online, forget their limits, invade one's privacy and scorn them in such a way that the poor person who posted a link/ status on the SNS regrets it. Mind you, in the process, this fanatic thinks he is on top of the world and rules it, when, on the other side, his life is fucked up big time and he cannot get out of virtual world which he assumes as his real world.  

While these are some examples of what we are becoming because of the social networking sites, we have forgotten where to draw the line between our personal and virtual lives. Virtual behaviour also matters. It matters because you are under constant public scrutiny and therefore, have to watch what you reveal/say.

       

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

My Bucket List


1. To scream into the office secret camera and say "Gotcha!"
2. To go an adventure trip all by myself
3. To live in a village for two years or more
4. Teach kids in village
5. Adopt a girl child
6. Go to Australia
7. To slipper Rahul Gandhi and tell him "You Suck"
8. To walk in the jungle all alone
9. To write a book (non-fiction)
10. To have my own column in a newspaper or magazine dedicated to developmental issues 
11. To read all the books I have (half of which I haven't touched)
12. To become thin (or at least look thin)
13. To try out clothes I have never tried before
14. To go out with a complete stranger
15. To punch someone in the stomach (This is to put 10 years of my Karata Training to use)
16. To get married to someone I've known for long enough (and not a stranger at all)
17. To party in a pub, meet new gay friends
18. To meet Amartya Sen
19. To meet Chandrababu Naidu
20. To run a school for the orphans
21. To understand what Engineers do
22. To climb the Mount Everest
23. To walk on a beach where there are no people and dream (Just me)
24. To tell "pseudo journalists" not to ruin the profession anymore
25. To have a pet dog
26. To drive a Jeep and a truck
27. To be out of contact with everyone for a year
28. To disassociate myself with caste and religion
29. To see a caste-less India
30. To burn all the hooligans, who in the name of a Bandh, burn buses and create trouble
31. To fly an airplane
32. To see Hockey or Football take over Cricket's popularity in India
33. To travel in a Cruise to a foreign country
34. To do bungee jumping
35. To go sky diving
36. To hold a snake  
37. To become a Vendetta for a day (like "V" in the move V for Vendetta)
38. To study anything related to human rights/gender issues/child rights
39. To stop thinking for a day
40. To write a Sports story
41. To get on to a stage at a concert and sing like no one's watching
42. To visit every state in India
43. To watch the Olympic Games
44. To have a house with my own farm in it
45. To go Scuba Diving
46. To Trend on Twitter
47. To Take a tour of the White House and read the President's Book of Secrets, written by every American President to the next
48. To learn to play a musical instrument
49. To visit Antarctica
50. To work at The Hindu and do development stories



there's more to come...the list is subject to change at any point of time
      


   

Monday, February 27, 2012

Things fall apart for the King of Good Times




"Whatever the situation, do not neglect alcohol. No other refreshment will do. Yes, alcohol kills brain cells but it's very selective. It only kills the brain cells that contain good sense, shame, embarrassment and restraint," wrote, author P.J.O'Rourke in his book, The Bachelor Home Companion. 
This describes the paraphernalia of the situation the Indian liquor and airline baron, chairman of United Breweries Group (UB) and MP, Vijaya Mallya, often known as the King of Good Times (for whatever reasons), is in. 

While Kingfisher (KF) Airlines appears to be in a state of quandary, the liquor baron has come out openly seeking the government to bail out his airline. Responding to the Airline's request, though reluctantly at first, the government gave a nod for it. 

Now, why should the government help a private airline (financially)? What is its motive behind this? Will other airlines follow suit if government offers a bail-out package to KF? are few of the many questions lingering in our heads.

But, there is more to the crisis than meets the eye. 

The merger of Air India with Indian Airlines and that of Kingfisher prepared ground for the downfall of the Airline during 2007-08, unexpectedly. There was another merger of Kingfisher with Air Deccan, two humongous loss-makers, during the same time that contributed to further losses. The merger of KF and Deccan was hailed as a merger which would make KF Airline the largest player in the domestic aviation market and pave way for Mallya to fly his flights to overseas destinations.

Cuckoo Paul, associate editor at Forbes India, in her article, brings out the similarities between Deccan and KF Airlines: "The two are joined at the hip in many ways. Brand new planes combined with massive debt, cancelled flights, delayed salaries and frustrated lenders. All kinds of cookie-cutter solutions have been tried to revive them. Yet both remain on the flight path to perdition."

Similarly, in an article published in the DNA in 2007, an analyst from a foreign brokerage house said: "Mallya is taking delivery of the long haul Airbuses in 2008 and there is no way he would have allowed these high-cost assets to sit idle. With Deccan’s permits, Kingfisher will be able to commence international operations by mid-2008, as Deccan completes the mandatory five years of domestic service." 

This has, however, taken a severe beating on KF's brand image which has been treading a dangerous territory for the past few years.

According to a PTI story on official statistics : 


  • The losses for the National Aviation Company of India Ltd (NACIL), which runs Air India, more than doubled from Rs 2,226.16 crore in 2007-08 to Rs 5,548 crore in 2008-09. 
  • Similarly, Kingfisher’s losses rose almost four times from Rs 408.91 crore to Rs 1,602 crore during the same period, the figures have shown. The 2008-09 losses for liquor baron Vijay Mallya’s airline were recorded after its merger with low-cost carrier Air Deccan.

Besides merger, very high fuel costs, the global economic downturn and comparatively low yields due to heightened competition also contributed to the rise in their losses. However, the government has defended its decision for merging the two State-owned carriers saying that the combining their critical mass or size would be a key factor in helping them survive and prosper amid a fierce global and domestic competition.

Aviation industry's vulnerability

Despite incurring heavy losses, the government has offered to help the cash-strapped airline that is unable to pay its employees their pending salaries. Though most of them opine that the government's bail-out plan is not the right and the only solution  (because it, ultimately, involves taxpayers' money), the government (read: politicians) which has benefited and basked in the glory of KF's success, once upon a time, has to repay the former in some way or the other, if not there is a dire threat to the country's economy. Also, politicians have misused their power by having control over the aviation industry, making it more vulnerable than ever. 

The whole saga of Praful Patel, former aviation minister, exemplifies politicians' control over the industry. 
(Here's an article on the controversy). 
For example: A politician telephones Mallya and asks him to book a flight for the guests attending his daughter's wedding. And, why wouldn't the "King of Good Times" do it when he does not have to pay the tax, which is offered as a bait as part of their deal.

Now, why the State Bank of India (SBI), a state-owned Corporation, has to dole out another Rs15,000-crore package to save the limping airline?   

According to a report, despite the 19-bank consortium, of which SBI is a part, had serious misgivings over extending further credit to the sinking airline as their earlier loans have now been listed as non-performing assets, SBI had no option to to heed to KF's demands. As a result, SBI has suddenly broken ranks with the rest to push through the package on its own.

It also raises the question as to whether the norms have been followed by public sector banks in extending the fresh loan to Kingfisher which is on the verge of bankruptcy.

Credit Appraisal Committee Norms Violated

Proposals for such loans have to be vetted by the credit appraisal committee of the bank (a committee, before sanctioning a loan, looks into the company's repaying ability, its assets for security purposes and company's shares value in the market) and the Kingfisher case does not seem to be the type that ought to have easily passed muster. 

In April last year, Mallya got the country's public sector banks, including SBI and Punjab National Bank, to come up with a restructuring package which had them convert their debt into equity.

These banks had to buy shares of the loss-making company at a premium and reduce interest rates on loans. In the process,  the banks had to take a hair cut of Rs 500 crore when the value of Kingfisher shares plummeted to less than half the original value. (Source)

In both cases, SBI has clearly violated the committee's norms by offering a bail-out package.

After SBI offered the bail-out package, its shares plunged 8 per cent over KF's exposure concerns. Despite fall in shares and other woes associated in helping the Airline, the government is still shamelessly supporting it. This also brings to a point about where all the money is coming from. It is taxpayers' money. Here's a detailed analysis by Firstpost on how Mallya flew high on taxpayers money.     

Burden on SBI-affiliated branches 

That being said, there is also a side to the SBI which only its employees are aware of. On one side, this largest banking and financial services institution in the country offers a bail-out package to an ailing airline whose supremo is a billionaire and on the other, it pesters its employees even if there are Non-performing Assets (NPAs) worth Rs 40 to 50 crore (which they are not able to recover. The point, here, is not that it should let go off defaulters without repaying their loans, but to see where it is heading).

In the process, the parent bank (SBI) is not affected, but sub-branches and rural banks affiliated to the SBI bear the brunt. Often, rural banks are blamed for the losses incurred by the parent bank while the latter is excused.   

While the question about who will make up for the losses is open to guesswork, it is high time that Mallya realizes that sometimes "things fall apart" in life. 

P.S:  Here's an article that tells us something we did not know about Mallya.  

Sex education not so sexy in India



Here's the link to my article on YouthkiAwaaz.

The ludicrous episode of three Karnataka ministers watching porn during the assembly session brings to the forefront a significant question of how sex is viewed in our society. Leaving beside how their attempts to justify their action proved futile, this (incident) is a classic example of how soft porn or sex, in our society, has crept from bedroom sheets to public places and other media too.

From Babas, (read: Nityananda Swami’s sex scandal) who are synonymous to Gods in India, to Babus who have left no stone unturned in exploring their sexual side at work, our country has it all. The increasing use of smart phones and Internet also gives a larger picture of how adult content has become all pervasive. Porn clips available for free online provide more reasons than one for people, including children, to watch them. That being said, screening online content is not possible as there is no control over the flow of information on internet. For example, the mini advertisements which appear online on a webpage woo people into buying a product and once the person clicks on the ad, unknowingly, he or she bumps into a porn site. This happens or has happened to all of us, at some point of time, while surfing the net

Further, sleaze in films, a form of adult content, has become acceptable more than ever now. Songs like ‘Chikni Chameli, Munni Badnaam Hui, Sheela ki Jawaani, Bapuji zara dheere chalo’ with perverse meanings and actors dancing in skimpy clothes point to a burgeoning trend in movies normalising adult content. 
And, with some theatres screening only adult movies, we have already allowed soft porn into our lives. Adding to this, certification of movies with voyeuristic content, promiscuity and sleaze as U (Unrestricted Public Exhibition) or sometimes, UA (Unrestricted Public Exhibition but with parental discretion for children below 12 yrs. of age) also needs to be checked. 
This sheer violation of some provisions under section 5A of Part II of Cinematographic Act of 1952, under which the Central Board of Film Certification falls, has made adult content acceptable in society and people are content seeing its proliferation in the new media, even among kids who discuss it.

A survey conducted by MTV and published in Mint, found that sexual awareness picks up somewhere in the late teens and that most youth are sexually active by the time they are 24 years of age. The survey also revealed the gender differences in their attitude towards sexual promiscuity. While one out of two males found sexual promiscuity to be a sign of coolness and sexual prowess for a single guy, the ratio was two for every five females. Similarly, on the issue of sexual promiscuity being a sign of loose morals for a girl, more than one out of two men believed so, while only two out five females thought so. A survey conducted by India Today on ‘sex life of youngsters’ in our country found that urbanisation in India has led to shaping of sexual identities, not only in the physical realm but also in the psychological space. This clearly marks a shift in attitudes towards the concept of sex, while sex and sexuality education still remains largely ignored.

What is Sex and Sexuality Education?
Sex education includes the anatomy of organs, how they function, contraception and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases. But, sexuality education is something that involves sexual personality considering the personal, social, behavioural, emotional, psychological and inter-personal aspects.
The difference between sex and sexuality education is that sex education is biological but sexuality education is social construct and is about identity.

Most doctors, sexologists and psychologists opine that parents have to teach their children sexuality etiquette like they teach social etiquette because they can be the best supervisors than teachers in this matter. While sex education still remains a topic of debate, the age at which one should impart sex education to kids still varies from person to person. This apart, parents must also impart sexuality education as soon as the child recognizes himself or herself. This means, parents should teach their children about their biological attributes and their development. At the same it is also important to help the child regulate and guard his or her physicality. As a result, this can prevent a child from becoming a victim of child sex abuse.

Gender and Identity Issues as part of Sexuality Education
Sexuality education is associated to gender and identity because it includes social, biological and more significantly, individual contribution. It is important to note that gender and sexual orientation can be different from person to person while the anatomy remains the same. So, discussing this makes it easier for children to understand that every person is different from the other individual irrespective of the fact that genital organs remain same. Sex education allows children to be confident and empowered to make choices that will affect not only their own lives but also lives of other people. This also empowers them to stand up to abuse, exploitation and unwanted pregnancies.

Myths about Sex Education
The necessity to impart sex and sexuality education emerges from the fact that there are misconceptions regarding the same. People are either ignorant or know very less about it. Sometimes, they are afraid too. For example, very often one cannot talk about reproduction to a five-year-old child because it can be information overload. Instead, one can explain it from the point of view of contact and attention. Good contact and bad contact, acceptable and not-acceptable attention. Sex education has an impact on child’s psyche too. Depending on the child’s understanding of the subject, parents have to increase the degree of information based on child’s age and ability. A child definitely becomes curious to know what is happening to his or her body during puberty. At that time, instead of complicating the issue, parents have to explain to their kids that the physical changes are normal.

A myth that imparting sex education escalates sexual activity in children also exists. According to the data obtained from Enfold Proactive Health Trust website, a survey of 35 sex education projects conducted by the World Health Organization found that sex education in schools did not encourage young people to have sex at an earlier age or more frequently. The survey pointed out that early sex education delays the start of sexual activity, reduces sexual activity among young people and encourages those already sexually active to have safer sex.

Enfold found a similar sentiment expressed by over 400 high school students surveyed after a course on human sexuality had been conducted for them. “An informed child is the one who knows how it works and therefore, knows whether it is safe to indulge in a sexual activity or not,” says, Dr. Sangeeta Saksena, founder of Enfold Proactive Health Trust. “If an uninformed child wants to indulge in any sexual activity, he or she has to pay the price for his or her choice,” she adds.

Explaining Sexuality to Children
While most parents do not know how to unravel sex as a concept to their children, it is also important that they take cues from children and decided on the right time to talk to their children about sexuality. When children behave differently or throw tantrums to get rid of a relative or a family member, do not shun it away interpreting it as bad behaviour, say experts, who state that it signifies the child’s reluctance to be with that person.

The Role of Teachers
Though there is much hue and cry about introducing sex education into classrooms, the role of teachers in shaping sexuality of a child also matters. A sexuality education teacher should be prepared and comfortable to deal with the topic rather than sweat through a class.
According to an www.justdotherightthing.org, an online course for teachers, a sex education teacher should use four methods – Information and fact-giving, discussion, various teaching techniques and peer education to teach teens about sex.

Books to Create Awareness
Books also can help the parents to educate children on sex, sexuality and gender issues. Shobhna S. Kumar, director of Queer Ink, a website on gender and sexuality issues, sex education shapes a young person’s skills and knowledge to make informed choices about their behaviour and its consequences. “It is also wrong to use ‘Indian culture’ to hide behind an issue that is crucial in child development that will shape how responsibly or irresponsibly they will live their lives in future,” she said. She suggests some books which can be helpful for parents and teachers to teach sex and sexuality education to children. ‘Girlology: A Girl’s Guide to Stuff that Matters”, “But How’d I Get in There in the First Place?’, ‘The Orange Book – a workbook for teachers’ and ‘ Good Times for Everyone: Sexuality Questions, Feminist Answers’ are some of such books.

The irony is that despite the introduction of programs like Adolescent Education Programme by the Department of Education and the National AIDS Control Organisation in partnership with UNICEF, UNESCO and UNFPA, sex and sexuality education is not being addressed adequately in schools or by parents when there is a dire need for it in an evolving society like ours.