Friend of Tibet

Sowmya Rajendran’s The Snow King’s Daughter is a favourite with both my kids.  Those of you who haven’t read the book can read the review on Saffron Tree (linked in the first line) and see if you’d like a copy.

We read it often and we’ve marked Tibet out on the huge map in the nursery and we often talk occupation and refugees and what not. Not in a political way, but in a simple easy-for-a-four-year-old to understand way.

A few days ago the Bean was at the dining table eating her dinner when she looked up and said, “We really need to tell the Chinese to stop being mean. They have to free Corbett.”

And then she was most annoyed when the OA and I fell off our chairs laughing at her. The OA wanted to correct her but I kicked him under the table so he shut up albeit unhappily. I just wanted to enjoy her babyness for a while more. She later remembered that it was Tibet and has corrected herself.

I’d put up the blooper on Facebook and a friend asked me how she’d heard of the Tibet issue and why such a young child knew anything about it at all. I think you’d need to read the book to realise that there are simple ways to talk to our kids about racism, injustice and other sensitive topics.

As for her age, I often wonder why we talk to kids about religion, God, teach them prayers and what not, when they’re too young to truly understand and make choices. After all most of us continue to practice the religion we were brought up in, justifying its failings and accepting every word of it as true, simply because it was fed to us so young. And it’s perhaps one of the most contentious and complex issues on earth, with saints and learned people struggling to put their thoughts in order. And yet we don’t think twice before feeding it to our kids.

Since I’m rather clearly not getting on to the religion train with both feet, I’d rather give them other things to believe in. I’d imagine its a lot easier to read up on environment, science, history and politics and find your beliefs. Things that to my mind are indisputable and leave no scope for confusion or double talk. It’s why they go to bed after ensuring that the taps are not leaking and lights are off, more religiously than bed time prayers.

It’s also why we marched around the dining table after we’d found Tibet on the map, all three of us shouting, ‘Free Tibet’. And I know I’d rather they believe in this and hopefully someday do something real for the cause than have any other beliefs that justify the bringing down of a mosque, the killing of a missionary and his young children, the defiling of a temple or the chopping of a tree.

Before we had the kids people often asked us what beliefs we’d bring them up with. I guess I have an answer now.

By the by, I am madly tripping on this song, this week.


No criminals in politics: New campaign launched

A nationwide campaign against criminals in politics, prompted by the nationwide outrage over the Mumbai terror attack, has been launched.

Backed by top corporate bodies like NASSCOM and FICCI, along with over 2,000 NGOs and alumni of IITs and IIMs, the campaign, ‘No Criminals in Politics’, will inform voters through an SMS (567678) feedback on the past criminal record of current MPs and candidates for the 15th Lok Sabha elections.
Launching the campaign, former Reserve Bank of India governor and chairperson of Public Interest Foundation, Bimal Jalan, said that of the 543 Lok Sabha MPs, 128 had self-confessed cases pending against them whereas 24 MPs had a series of charges of murder or attempt to murder to their credit.
Jalan said the aim of the campaign would be three-pronged. First, it would ask the political parties not to give tickets to candidates with criminal backgrounds in the coming Lok Sabha elections.
Second, it would apprise the voters of criminal antecedents of candidates in each constituency.
Third, it would request voters not to support political parties that field candidates with criminal charges anywhere in the country. The campaign would be carried out SMS and audio-visual tools.
The campaign, which has Bollywood lyricist Javed Akhtar, noted lawyer Fali Nariman and Rajya Sabha MP Rahul Bajaj voicing their concern against criminals in politics, will also include stars such as Aamir Khan.
“We saw a lot of resentment against the present political system. It was then that we professionals thought that the Lok Sabha polls would be the time to do something to improve governance in our country. It led to the birth of this campaign,” said R. Gurumoorthy, coordinator for the campaign.
“‘No Criminals in Politics’ is a step to make citizens aware of their right to vote. It is a campaign to alert them that they also have the right to demand for the right candidate,” said a launch statement released on behalf of 21 organisations, including the Association for Democratic Reforms and
Voters can register for the campaign through an SMS to 567678 or logging into the website

It’s all about respecting your wife!

I thought I was done with Sanjay Dutt. A wise friend who is so much more zen than me is constantly counselling me to –  and I quote her in all caps –  “IGNORE.” But I can’t. I can’t ignore. For one, that would mean shutting down this blog 😀 For another, silence means consent. It means none of us mind. And that isn’t true.

A few days ago Goofy Mumma wrote this post and asked me to link up. Stop Sanjay Dutt from winning, she said. I thought about it. Is Sanjay Dutt really the worst of our lot of politicians? Enough for a campaign? Enough to take seriously?

I mean he was a druggie, was accused in an illegal possession of arms case, said to have abandoned a cancer -ridden wife, and then child, married again (or didn’t he?!) and now again. Hardly the poster child for Indian politics – who the hell would vote for him? And then you realise – bloody shit – he is the best we have!!! Look at all our other uneducated, goonda raj politicians who have scores of murder cases against them. If that isn’t pathetic, I don’t know what is. And then again- there is the whole bunch of young turks like Sachin Pilot, Rahul Gandhi, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Milind Deora, Omar Abdullah and many more. They seem slightly cleaner than the others. Give one a little hope.

And so that is where I was, believing that nobody educated or in their right senses would vote for him…. But oh how wrong I was. And oh how right she is. We really seem to need to tell the idiots out there, not to vote for him. To stop making a mockery of our political system.

Today I was sitting somewhere when I overheard this conversation where this lady who was discussing Obama and his inaugural speech went on to in the same breath say that it’s good that Sanjay Dutt is getting into politics because we need some young blood. Young? At 50 plus??

I choked on my cup of tea. She sounded quite nice and educated and aware and was discussing GDP and Satyam’s fudged accounts until then. And then she ruined it all by saying she thought Sanjay Dutt was a suitable candidate? Based on what?!!!!

I didn’t think we’d need campaigns against some idiot filmstar  – look at the number who came and went – Big B, Jaya Prada, Govinda. But I slowly feel the solid earth beneath my feet give way. This is educated India. And it is in favour of voting for an uneducated,criminal junkie who has no political background just because he is a filmstar. A regressive, chauvinistic man and his little star(t)let of a wife who wants to lecture us on what an Indian woman’s role is…

Man, we’re really scraping the bottom of the barrel if we want to compare him to Obama and call him our next hope. Somebody lock me in that barrel and throw it into the sea. It sounds like a better option than knowing that he might be one of the hands that rules our country.

The surname controversy is snowballing. Yes, taking your husband’s surname is tradition. But the growing furore among women signals change. That should say something. The fact that more of us choose to speak up about it, even those who took their husband’s name, says something. I’m tired of the stale old argument against it that even your father’s name is a man’s name – patriachal.

Yes, it is my father’s name, but it is the name I was christened with. I love it as instinctively and unconditionally as I love my father. It’s as much a part of me as my first name and my food habits. Something I grew up with and something that slowly became a part of my identity. Because unfortunately, 30 years ago, my mother didn’t have the strength to stand up for her name and neither could she make it a part of a name. I guess it doesn’t matter because I’m a carbon copy of her – a name wouldn’t matter.

My surname was a choice my parents made for me just like the many other choices that they made for me when I was too young to make my own. I respect that, just as the rest of the choices they made for me, to raise me in a particular religion, tradition and with certain food habits. But today as an adult, I get to make the next set for all my living days. My husband is not my father, and he and his family don’t have the right to over rule and dismiss my past or my identity and change my present and future. The one I am slowly building.

My husband’s name, just like my husband, is something I need to gradually grow to love. If at all. Otherwise my name is a part of my identity and I refuse to shrug it off. Yes, it’s tradition. A tradition that is a hangover from the days when a woman was just another of a man’s belongings, like his farmland. It wasn’t tradition for women to work in those days either. It was a man’s job to keep the home fires burning. But I notice more and more men want a wife who will go out and work, which is not traditional – but she must take your name because that is traditional?!  The money she earns is not bad, but the name she wants to retain is disrespectful?

In fact its not just about work. Housewives and SAHMs have as much of an identity as anyone else  – the choice as to father’s name, mother’s name, husband’s name or the next door neighbour’s name is entirely up to them. Heck – women have a right to make up surnames as they go along and it’s still nobody’s bloody business. This is not just about women. This is about men too. It’s about them fighting for a woman’s rights to keep her name. To have an identity. Give her respect and she’ll return it. Dutt says, taking your husband’s name is respecting him. I say, leaving that choice to her is respecting her.

I think the reason for the outrage over Sanjay and then Manyata’s statement is the hypocrisy of this couple. There they are one moment, whooping it up like decadent Bollywood is known to –  doing drugs, posessing illegal weapons, changing their names like its going out of fashion, marrying, divorcing… doing all the things that traditionally wouldn’t be acceptable.

And the next moment calling upon tradition and the role of an India woman. Saat sau chuhe kha kar, billi chali haj ko. WTF? Who do they think they’re fooling?  Oh right – us. We, the foolish people of India.

I’m not one for going all moral – but here you have Manyata with her underwear on display, telling us the role of a woman is to keep house for man and take his surname? I’d say it’s also to keep your underwear, UNDER neath your outer WEAR. And to save the skin show for the husband, since you’re going all traditional – don’t you agree?

A friend who watched her on an interview yesterday says said something to this effect – I am his woman, I don’t even go out for a coffee without his permission. Thats how much I respect him.

The words may not be exact but you get the picture…

Right. So respect = permission for a cup of coffee.

As this generation of struggles to find a balance between the modern and the traditional, between a woman’s right to her personal choices and still being ‘Indian’ (whatever that might mean to you)  – it’s unnerving to have to accept such people as our leaders.

Apparently the woman has changed her name a couple of times too – from Sara Khan to Dilnavaz Sheikh, to  Manyata now. How nice to be able to wipe out your past with a new name and a few statements aimed at the masses like – If you can’t accept your husband’s name and family then why marry?

I’m not really as livid as I was earlier because I look at it this way – What can you really expect from a two bit starlet looking for easy fame? I’m sure this is her understanding of marriage – taking some man’s name. Because of course that is all that marriage is about. Finding a famous surname – Bachchan, Gandhi, Dutt, Ambani – and latching on to it for what it’s worth.

I don’t think she understands that marriage is about mutual respect and understanding and has nothing to do with your name or his. It’s probably too deep a concept for a person shaking her booty to a bunch of catcalls and ‘alhar mast jawani…’ Actually how can taking on a famous star’s surname be a big deal to someone who has happily changed her name twice to become Manyata?!

May you fare well Manyata. And may you learn that marriage is a little more than latching on to a famous family’s coat tails. And taking ‘permission’ to go for a cup of coffee. May you also learn that a man living in a woman’s home is no less than a woman living in a man’s home. It takes a lot more to make a man than bulging muscles, drugs and illegal possession of AK 47s.

Anyway – getting back to Goofy Mumma’s post – do read all the posts she linked up to. Most interesting. Also read Nino’s mum’s post here. And oh – put up this badge if you like. I don’t know if it will help. But since I really don’t know what will help – I am willing to do anything anyone suggests.


Write about it. Spread the news. It’s not about Sanjay Dutt. It’s about aspiring to a clean political system. About aspiring to a leader like Obama who seems to have reached out and made even us Indians so far away feel hopeful. It’s about caring enough to make a difference. Talk about it in your daily life. Politics seems to have descended to a place where only the filthy are willing to touch it. Thats not right. It belongs to us. We need to speak up. Have an opinion. Vote. Care. Reclaim it. And if you haven’t registered to vote – go here.

Argh. Look what you two did, Sanjay and Manyata – made me break my resolution of not posting more than once in two days. Argh.