top of page

Search Results

8 items found for ""

  • Dear Mummy, Happy Birthday!

    I wish I had the right words to write for you today, Mummy, but somehow it seems that I am left bereft of both word and emotion. Its your fourth birthday in heaven and I hope the angels are celebrating you better than I ever could. Its your first with Dad and my sis Ivy there too. Are you three happy? That's perhaps all that I want to know. For one who consciously stays away from science- fiction and fantasies, I wish there was a secret portal hidden somewhere, where I could sneak in, meet you, kiss you happy birthday, lament that my cheeks aren't still as soft as yours, and then tease dad that he wasn't earning his kisses till November and quickly zoom back to reality. I'm sure Ivy has her fair share now. Missing you is no longer an option, it's just a helpless, hopeless numb- unfeeling part of me which I am slowly trying to accept. I watch with envy as I see a young child wrapped around her mother for life, not willing to let go, and hear the precious coos of a baby stirring from her sleep as her mother nurses her back into her sweet reverie. They say being an only child helps. Does it really? I wonder. I no longer receive a fair hearing and every day seems like a trial with a different devil on a different level. Life has in some ways just becomes lacklustre. Gone is the urge to splurge, gone is the willingness to try a new place each month and gone is the need to be accepted. I used to think vulnerability is strength. But now I know that vulnerability is just vulnerability - a fodder for social vultures. Try as I may to behave normal, waking up to an empty home each day is just a grim reminder that I don't have you and dad with me anymore. So its just me and the shipload of memories you both have left behind. Life is tougher than usual now. Some people try to alleviate my pain from time to time but most don't even recognise I still carry open wounds. I don't blame them. They haven't trod the path I have and they possibly won't realise what it feels like. You never talked about strength when you were here, but it was always on display. I'd see you night after night suffer with your asthma only to display your most resilient self each morning. Even at the hospital, all you wanted was me and you'd be back home. I wish you told me where you got that strength from. I honestly could use some now. Each morning I think of you as I see your beaming face on one phone and dad's on the other, my only way of ensuring that there is still hope for the new day. You'll be happy to learn that I am no longer the little fusspot you left behind. I eat without complaints, I have fixed meal timings and for the first time I am actually respecting my sleep hours. What you may not be so happy about though is that I no longer write outside of work anymore. I've lost both my muses. There's a deep dark void that for now seems unending. I must find a new muse soon else I'm afraid that part of me will be lost forever. The nights are longer now as I weep, and mourn each time I see you and dad in dreams, the only good thing I own. I pray if I am upset, I pray for guidance and then I pray each day that God reminds you even in your rest that your baby girl is trying to live without you (even though both of you'll conveniently forgot to teach that part of life lessons 101). I hope He has told you that I am taking tiny solo baby steps and will learn to fly solo soon. Now I hope I haven't ruined your birthday party up there with the long letter. Miss me some and have an extra slice of cake for me, Will you? I LOVE YOU MUMMY BUT I MISSYOU MORE! Love, Your baby 30/03/2024

  • No Child’s Play…

    Why the concept of promotions till Standard 8 won’t work... The article first appeared on Progressive Indians For Change [ ] It is a rare moment when both the Government and the Opposition support a Bill in unison. Hence, it was a welcome change to witness an intelligent debate on the Right to Education to Bill this Parliament session. Apart from some valuable comments and deliberations made, an important issue raised was the Government’s resolution to promote all students till Standard 8. I too share the concern of those Members of Parliament who are of the view that the decision to promote all students till standard 8 will prove detrimental to the quality of education and the quality of the students which will ultimately affect the overall output that the country will have to deal with a decade from now. To establish my case I will not resort to statistics and inconsequential rants but instead adopt a more objective and scientific approach. None can understand a child like a Psychologist can. Hence the aim today is to give you a more balanced view as to why a student cannot possibly thrive in this environ. Freud defines a child as, “The human infant is a striving organism with but limited capacities for satisfying of needs.” Emphasise on the words ‘striving organism’. A child in poetry has been metaphorically compared to wet mud and clay that can be moulded and shaped, a clear implication that each one must start from point zero. Thus, there is no specific mathematical equation or set blue- print for the development of an infant. In India, unfortunately we expect the blue- print nonetheless. There is extreme dependency on educational procedures which enjoys better reception rather than the holistic approach towards learning. As teachers, the two important questions come up in Child Psychology are: 1. What is the lowest maturational level at which a child can successfully acquire a skill? 2. Should a particular learning situation be immediately introduced as soon as the child is ready for it or should it be delayed in favour of another learning situation that will better promote his present and long term psychological adjustment? Human infants grow and develop rapidly which is why these questions are essential while dealing with students especially in their ‘Formative’ years. In the current case the latter is of essence. Having said that, now apply these two questions practically. In an ordinary scenario, the ideal division of labour would be a combination of the policy makers, and educational philosophers to prepare a proposed outline of the curriculum. This is later practically implemented in the form of lesson plans that the Teacher prepares keeping in mind the immediate and long term needs of the student every year. A child is dependent on various extraneous factors to take his first steps in learning and hence the quality of the syllabus, attitude of the parent and teacher all play equally important roles. Now take a hypothetical situation where students Y and Z are asked to study the Alphabet and Arithmetic. In due course of time it is made amply clear that there is a visible disinclination for Y towards Arithmetic and Z has distaste for Alphabet. Ordinarily, an under-performer would have the Teacher guide him/her through this problem and IF all fails the child is kept back and asked to repeat the year not to demean or kill his/her confidence but instead to challenge him/her to be a better performer. However, now we are at a stage where the child and the previously neurotic parent are relaxed because they are aware that demotion is not on the Agenda. The teacher may or may not try to boost the child to overcome this impediment because she does not feel the need to. The measurement of anxiety is visibly declined but at what cost? The student’s basic foundation of learning is completely wobbly and chances are that the poor child will not realise his deficiency till he reaches standard eight where he is in for a rude shock. Suddenly he is exposed to the fact that he has not been responsive to the classroom training and there is in fact no one to blame. The entire idea of the system of education for imparting knowledge is lost along the way simply because the student has not been encouraged to work on his strengths and weaknesses thus directly affecting his Creativity and Expression which is a permanent damage for overall growth. The point I am driving at is that the ‘Quality’ education that we are aiming at cannot be achieved without a substantive base. And this base lies in the concept of Promotion and Demotion. The elementary school child’s development has a long term effect on his entire life. All children go through a number of stages but there are differences between children within each stage. There are also differences in the length of time it takes for children to move from stage to stage. On this backdrop the concept of ‘blind- promotions’ is bound to hinder the Education process. Here I introduce the point that a socially mature child’s growth and development may not be stunted in either of the situations described above. However, in a land with a population of 1.2 billion people not everyone who makes it to school has a social, economic or personal background that allows him to mature at the same rate. Another major impediment is the practicality of the application of this policy with slow learners. For slow learners the ‘No demotion till standard 8’ may come as a relief but the more important question is, for how long? It is essential to understand that the ‘maturation’ variable is extremely important when dealing with the experiments dealing with child- development. It sets the ultimate limits of achievement and determines the rate of learning and acculturation. A systematic analysis of the situation will give you a clear picture that a child’s adequacy in terms of Knowledge and Advancement is severely hampered if he does not know his own strengths and weaknesses. One can only progress when one is given sufficient time to work on personal limitations. With the blind promotions you are hampering the student’s development psychologically for the sake of a policy that is but an experiment. Before I conclude I stress on the need on the need for two important additions to the current system; firstly, the need for more child psychologist teams to work with the Education Department. Secondly, it will be appreciated if the curriculum prescribed is a blend of theoretical knowledge and practical application rather than one solely based on textbook rote learning. Maturation and learning are inextricably inter- woven. An Educational system isn’t worth a great deal if it teaches young people how to evade the basics and focus on it in a later stage of his or her life where chances are higher that the yearning for knowledge will have perished. In conclusion I quote Peter Marshall who wrote, "Give us clear vision that we may know where to stand and what to stand for, because unless we stand for something, we shall fall for anything." We must ensure that the idea of ‘Knowledge for all’ is the essence of the rubric of the education system. With the introduction of this No-Failing/ Blind promotion policy one can only envision a Mirage of Quality Education and nothing more. Image Credits: Aikaterina Photography. Copyright Protected

  • Progressive Media: A Posse Ad Esse (from possibility to reality)

    "The era of defamation hath arrived," said the Minister. "No my lord, ‘tis the era of the Media….," replied the journalist. The past two weeks have seen more than one politician resort to the aid of the judiciary against the guardians of the Fourth estate. A lot many journalists cried foul and pleaded the right to free speech and expression, principles embodied in the Indian Constitution. As citizens of a free country whose side are you on? This seems to be the major dilemma these days. Before we can get to that it is important to understand what really is expected from a free and responsible media. The phrase ‘freedom of the press’ dates back as early as the year 1644 at the height of the English Civil war when John Milton advocated the right to the freedom of press in his celebrated speech Areopagitica, one of history's most influential and impassioned philosophical defences in favour of this hallowed freedom. In a Miltonian eloquence he defended this right which has long formed the principles and today are the basis for modern justifications of the right to free press. Fast forward media history to the year 1947 and we see a new sense of urgency to put it in the words of Jo Bardoel and Leen D’Haenens. The American Press was ascribed with a new responsibility instead of a right. Four years of concentrated discussion and deliberation culminated into the Hutchins commission report 1947. The report attributed the new ‘Social Responsibility theory’ to the Media. Now, the Hutchins Commission Report laid 5 pertinent principles on the Freedom of the Press: · The media should provide a truthful, comprehensive and intelligent account of the day's events in a context which gives them meaning. · The media should serve as a forum for the exchange of comment and criticism. · The media should project a representative picture of the constituent groups in the society. · The media should present and clarify the goals and values of the society. · The media should provide full access to the day's intelligence. This report led to a forked theory of media responsibility where absolute liberty was pitted against responsible freedom. The Libertarians believed that this was a form of curtailment of freedom of the Press because for them responsibility opened the tiny window of accountability and accountability would further pave way for government intervention which was ‘unacceptable.’ Having given this background we move further home to India. The freedom of press in India was largely curtailed in the pre – independence era under the Vernacular press Act 1878. Post –Independence India perceived a new sense of liberty and a ray of hope. The founding fathers of the Indian Constitution wanted to ensure that by no means was a citizen to live in the fear of punishment for expressing himself freely. Part III of the Indian Constitution provides for certain fundamental rights bestowed on the citizens of the Indian Republic. Article 19 (1)(a) reads “All citizens shall have the righ to freedom of speech and expression” Clearly this included the right to the freedom of the Press as well. Questions arose much later when it was perceived that the media was moving in a direction ad arbitrium. This of course stepped up with the onset of the visual media and the introduction of the internet in the country much later. The 200th Law Commission Report on Trial by Media under the aegis of Justice Jagannandha Rao in 2006 states: “If excessive publicity in the media about a suspect or an accused before trial prejudices a fair trial or results in characterizing him as a person who had indeed committed the crime, it amounts to undue interference with the “administration of justice”, calling for proceedings for contempt of court against the media.” The report further states the need for Journalists and the media to be ‘trained’ in certain aspects of the law relating to the freedom of speech under Art. 19(1)(a) and the restrictions which are permissible under Art 19(2) of the Constitution, human rights, law of defamation and contempt. However, the media seems reluctant to adhere to these guidelines. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: Article 12 deals with the person’s privacy rights and reads thus: “No one shall be subject to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to protection of the law against such interference and attacks.” Commenting against the high drama of the broadcast media in an article written on 18th October, 2012 entitled ‘This show is injurious to health’ Shailaja Bajpai wrote: “Here’s a new statutory requirement: anyone who goes near a media interaction or press conference, anyone who participates in a TV studio discussion, must arrange for an ambulance to be on standby outside the premises. You never know when you might need one.” Such is the deduction of the media’s own representatives. If a politician is expected to be accountable to the masses for his performance and his actions in office, the media too is vested with a responsibility to be accountable for its actions. Now it is difficult to draw up water- tight compartments so the key question that arises is how do we demarcate the spheres of influence of the government, the media and the public? The Civil society was nothing but the creation of the media. The recent reports questioning the credibility of the members of India Against Corruption has left us with a very important question: Is the Indian public easily swayed by sentiments? Are we hasty decision makers when it comes to weighing the truth especially when it involves members of the political class? In a democracy, progressive politics must be pursued but progressive media must be inherent. There are three sides of every story today: The political version, the media version and the Truth. In the quest to get maximum TRP ratings for the channel (which I may add is not entirely wrong!) the media tends to go ad captandum vulgus. There is absolutely ‘zero’ variety in the type of news we are exposed to. Watch BBC or CNN and you will find special slots allotted for news related to different parts of the world, Africa, Asia, Latin America. Compare it with the Indian television channels. The same story being repeated, debated and re- debated like a wild goose chase ultimately ending with a missing goose is what the audience today is subjected to. Constructive criticism backed by at least some solution would make do but pure criticism without solution gets the country NOWHERE. It is not a matter of dispute whether the Media should play an effective critique to the Government and the Opposition but what is wrong is the fact that the media cannot simultaneously seek to play judge and jury. As a citizen of a free country I expect to learn the news as it ‘Is’ not what the media wants it to be. Repeating the same visual snippets throughout the day is evidence enough of the bankruptcy of information in the media. A skewed television debate that seems a miniature version of the Indian Parliament with a moderator who seeks to cut off every sentence of the panellist doesn’t get the citizen anywhere. These lapses could be forgiven if the Indian media was learning independently but today when the viewer tunes in to the news one is exposed to a bitter face-off between panellists ranging from four to sometimes six in number trying to make themselves heard. Paucity of time cannot be an excuse for 24/7 news channels. A structured debate is what the audience prefers. A typical modern day democracy is the result of the interplay between four major mechanisms : the political authority, the corporates and professional sector, the market and finally We the People. Today the scenario is an apprehensive political class trying to make itself heard, a belligerent media trying to make a strong statement on the day’s events and a public that is torn between apathy towards the former and disbelief towards the latter. No part of this article is meant to challenge the authority of the fourth estate, However, with power comes responsibility. In a working democracy, the media is one of the most important functionaries but what happens when the media fails in doing justice to all sides of the story? The public is being drilled throughout the day with one part of the story. The rebuttals and debates form a negligible amount of primetime. This is not to say that a political exposé is wrong. What is wrong is the media trial that is conducted within television studios to a point when the public can only remember the negativity that the media has quite successfully engraved in their minds. Every political and media circuit has its fair share of intellegentia and ignorantia. The media proselytization has its worst effects on the youth of our country. Ask a young person if joining politics has crossed his mind. ‘No’ is the simple yet firm answer. Ask them why, and the first dialogue you will hear is, “Have you seen the newspapers or are you not having a television at home?” “Why should I dirty my hands in this political muck?” A major reason for this is our media today is a NEGATIVE Media which is far from inspiring young minds. It specialises in highlighting the negatives of the government kindling strife and anger in these gullible minds. Today’s journalists may have a degree in journalism but why do they forget the difference between news, opinion and comment? Why is everything so convoluted? We are unfortunately living in an era of a performed media rather than an informed one. Not to sound demeaning but in the quest for truth journalists and reporters sometimes get so muddled in trivia that is irrelevant to the debate resulting in a juvenile display of lopsided information. However in conclusion I must confess that today it is not only the media that is at fault. The members of the audience too are to be blamed for this. As citizens we share the responsibility of bringing out the positive aspects of our country. The world is watching us. We do not live in isolation. The repercussions of what happens within India allows for the formation of a negative international opinion of the country as whole. The need of the hour is for the government, the opposition, the media and the people to work towards building the society but not by embittering the people against the State. The government deserves its fair share of criticism, but criticism must not culminate into a concordia discors. With criticism must come appreciation. Credit must be given where due. It essential to show the working of various policies & schemes that are helping the people. After all no one can be 100% wrong, not even the government; a truth that may not go down well with many readers nonetheless the fact remains. Perhaps the easiest way to overcome the impediments of an over- enthusiastic media is to allow them self- regulations with guidelines. To start with why can’t prime time debates have lesser panellists focused on the topic. This would give the audience time to appreciate the discussion. Without a proper understanding of the issue, the audience is unfortunately fed with only half the information. Half – knowledge is dangerous, in politics it is fatal. The second more important point is to have a moderator who can allow the panellists to give their views without inhibitions. Specific time allotted to the speaker allows the audience to enjoy the debate with a free mind. The third point which also demands our attention is the congeniality between the debaters and the moderator. It has oft been observed that a few panellists simply choose to over- ride the moderator and a few media-persons who ensure that it is only their voice that gets heard. It would be unfair to say that there are no worthy journalists. P Sainath tops my list of journalists par excellence. Dedicated, committed and inspiring work that they do is laudable. We just need more of them. It is this tribe which works on the principles aforestated in the Hutchins report which must bloom in this thriving democracy. An uninformed political class, an ill -informed media and a mis- informed public is the perfect recipe for a modern Indian social disaster. We must ensure in whatever capacity we stand we must choose the path of reason. We are all gifted with the freedom of choice. Just as a certain amount of sanctity is accorded to the Constitution at another level there is a sanctity accorded to the media too. It is with this thought in mind that this post is written for you. Here’s hoping the media will take cognizance of a concerned citizen. Katherine Abraham Photograph Credits: Aikaterina Photography

  • An Open Letter to all Young Protesters

    Originally Published in 2013 for Progressive Indians For Change [ ] Dear Young Protestor, Violence can never be muted by violence. The recent act of brutality against the young woman from Delhi has left me distressed much like you. But what has me surprised is the reactions that have poured in. Clearly this young lady wasn't the first victim but none had taken up this issue before. Suddenly there were protests around the country with young people taking to the streets demanding justice. The social networking sites were ablaze with the seriousness of the crime and how women are so unsafe. Pause. Is this really news? Pictures of protestors carrying “Men respect your women not rape them” are still doing the rounds. If you thought holding a placard with the above slogan would stop these savages from devouring their next prey, Utopia would not be far away. You are standing in various parts of the country, Protesting. Alright. Against what? Are you protesting against the fact that a woman was raped? Are you protesting against the fact that this country has a disproportional ratio when it comes to police and the people? No. You are supposedly protesting against the Government. Again I ask Why? Do you expect that the government by some miracle with a swish of a magic wand will dissuade these perpetrators of injustice from their acts of savagery? A clarion call was made by a few “Interested” members of society stating that rape should now entail the death penalty. S. 302 of the Indian Penal Code, has been on the statute books for 152 years now and murders are still happening. The point I am trying to make here is retributive laws may make for extra paper work in the Parliament but as far as acting as a dissuading force, the chances are slim. I have no issues with the Statute being amended but I have my doubts on how effective this will be. The protests on Raisina Hill were not a display of the courage of the youth to stand up for themselves. And I know this because even here in Pune we had a similar protest. As a young person and as a woman myself let me just introduce you to reality. In a bid to get a few extra sound bytes the media has been effectively stirring up the people against the political class and these protests were anything but peaceful. A friend of mine living in Delhi witnessed young people attack a few cops. When he voiced his opinion on Twitter, he was effectively silenced by people who thought they knew too much and he was lying. And this is the moot problem. People no more want the truth. A few protesters vehemently stated that the police system is useless and ineffective. Has it struck you that in the process of standing guard at the various protest sites so that unwanted miscreants don’t take advantage of the situation, at that very moment you may have perhaps deprived another victim of a crime of timely help and he/she is helpless because the police are busy trying to keep things under control at these protest sites? If the police aren't doing anything what are you doing? Have you forgotten the Jessica Lall case? It is easy to state that the judiciary is slow but how many of you have taken the conscious efforts to find out why. Countless incidents go un-reported, many more cases are registered and then closed for lack of evidence and witnesses. The truth is that as mute spectators to crimes we are also guilty of a crime whose penalty isn't seen in the statute books but whose criminality is worse than that of the offenders. As I write this I am receiving a message that reads: I request you to boycott the 26th January, 2013 Republic Day Parade as a sign of protest. To the dimwit who started this, I will never insult my country for the pleasure of a few and for those who think that boycotting the Parade will help, here’s to remind those considering this a wise move that you are not wounding the Government or the political class but you are definitely insulting Our country as a whole! For all those who marched on the streets in different parts of the country, if you are genuinely interested in helping women here are a few things you can do: 1. Sensitise women to stop bearing the brunt of even the slightest act of immoral conduct. Most women refrain from reporting instances and incidents that have happened with them for fear of social repercussions. Embolden women to stand up for themselves. Even the smallest act of indecency must not be tolerated. Raise your voice immediately. 2. Sensitise men to understand the importance of women. It takes two hands to clap. The cases of young love- failures killing their lady love is an indication that these young men are viewing women as objects of desire nothing more. This not only a social problem it is a massive psychological problem too. There must be a remedy sought out for this. 3. Make volunteer groups and talk to schools and colleges to make Self Defence compulsory and part of the curriculum. In Pune a gentleman teaches young girls self- defence each day. Can we not have more such people to help? 4. Talk to the owners of shops whether it is your local grocery store or chemist. Make pepper sprays available freely. As on today a normal pepper spray costs anywhere between Rs. 150- 500. Can all women really afford this? You could make a difference by talking to the dealers and getting them to lower the prices of these essentials. 5. Instead of taking to the streets make a special appeal to companies and owners of workplaces which expect their female employees to stay late hours at work to start early and end early. 6. Encourage the masses to stand up against injustice and not turn away from the crime happening in front of them. The police must be intimated immediately. 7. Ask for police patrolling in the late hours of the night too. Apart from this there is one other point I would like to shed light upon. A few women quite vociferously stated, “We have the right to wear what we want, walk the streets as we like, etc, etc.” All very well but given the current circumstances is it practical? Even law enforcements will take time to buck up. Can’t we as sensible thinking women practice a little restraint for now? Cautionary measures are essential and practical. The society is neither made up by the 750 members sitting in the hallowed halls of democracy, is not defined by the law enforcements and can by no means be determined by the judiciary. Each system works in sync with the other. But these systems are pointless and spineless without the help and support of the people as a whole. Laws can be amended, Parliament and Police systems changed but what about the mentality of these human beasts, can they be rectified? This is why I will not register my protest by standing in full view of a television camera screaming “Stop Rapes and rapists” and promote my country to be a successful failure. Instead I will use my voice, my liberty and my freedom of expression to appeal to the conscience of the masses. Temporary pressure on the government will not give a permanent solution to heinous acts of violence. A progressive mindset is the only solution. The Mayans predicted that 2012 was the end. Yes it should be the end to intolerance, apathy and insensitivity. May the New Year 2013 bring in hope of a new tomorrow and an India that is free from the clutches of intolerant savage brutes. I hope this letter reaches maximum number of young people. I am one of you and I am appealing to you, Let’s create change, not just talk about it! Stop bragging about the problem, start finding solutions NOW! Yours in the cause of justice and peace, Katherine Abraham All Rights Reserved

  • Lamentations Of The Weaker Sex by Katherine Abraham

    Originally written for Progressive Indians For Change [ ] In the past two weeks since the rape and death of a 23 year old medical student Jyoti Pandey in the capital, New Delhi has seen Indians display their anger, intolerance towards injustice and the inefficient role of the Government, Law enforcement agencies and the Judiciary. Young protesters voiced their distaste and spoke in solidarity against this shameful act. The Government is now slated to introduce a new amended law against the heinous crime. A lot been said and done on Rape, it is now time to shift focus to the larger picture. The young girl’s death may have stirred the feelings of the masses but it is now time to highlight the daily victimisation of women at home, work and public places. Call it hypocrisy or over simplification of the situation, the country has begun to believe that the introduction of the legislation will protect women better than before. Have 'We the People' forgotten that we have a long standing history of crimes against women. To begin with the women are not afflicted only by rape. The sin of being a woman in many parts of both rural and urban India begins from her conception. Female foeticide is at the top of these vicious crimes against women. To curb prenatal sex discernment the Pre-conception and Prenatal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994 was passed in India. The act aims to prevent sex-selective abortion. The fear of the law however has ceased to exist. As per Merco Press, a South Atlantic Asian News Agency, female foeticide in India still remained at a high in 2012. According to the 2011 census there are still 914 girls for every 1000 of their male counterpart which has fallen from 2001 where the statistics stayed at 927 girls per 1000 men. The dismal statistics are a result of the unlawful killing of the young girl child. Those determined to get rid of the girl child have adopted a new mode of disposing off the baby, an act that is today termed as Neonaticide, the killing of the infant within 24 hours of her birth. In some cases the infants are not immunized, failure of which leads to poor health and sickness. There is suggestion that this can be a deliberate attempt to limit their life. According to Neil Samson Katz and Maria Sherry, in India: The Missing girls, a society out of balance, “In some ways this is a very old tale. Long before medical abortion became available, unwanted girls were killed after birth or not given enough food and medicine to survive.” But this is only the beginning. What happens if this “unwanted” female child lives to see another day? If they are unable to kill the child at birth she is dumped at garbage bins, disposed off at hospitals and then begins a torturous life that includes forcible begging and later on attaining adolescence a life that could range from being sold in brothels to human trafficking. The country has been a silent spectator to all these acts of shame for the past six decades and more. A new phrase that is doing the round these days is the “commodification of women.” A simplistic explanation of commodification would be “to make commercial.” News channels ensured that the limelight stayed on only one source of this commodification: Bollywood. Prominent Bollywood celebrities stated that ‘item numbers’ were a part of ensuring the movies were a hit. Some like Shabana Azmi quite vociferously stated that the lyrics of songs needed to be toned down. The question is why did everyone wait for the Delhi incident to wake up to this reality? The commodification of women unfortunately is not to be attributed to Bollywood. What about Dowry? The dowry system has commodified women since time immemorial. Dowry is believed to be an ancient custom, and its existence may well predate records of it. Again a bill was passed entitled, The Dowry prohibition Act, 1961 whose sole idea was to stop this commodification. Sections 304b and 498 A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 were included to penalise those who indulged in the practice of “giving and taking dowry” IPC 304B assumes that if the wife dies within seven years of marriage, it is to be assumed to be murder unless the husband can prove his innocence. Though this section has been welcomed by certain parts of society, the ambit of this section is questionable. In the year 2010, the Supreme Court Justices Dalveer Bhandari and K S Radhakrishnan expressed concern at the rise in number of complaints under Section 498A. The Bench said, "We come across a large number of such complaints which are not even bona fide and are filed with oblique motives." The amended law was to be exercised with care and caution. Even law enforcement agencies were cautioned. According to the data collected in May 2012, the Indian Express brought to light the fact that 18% dowry death cases end in conviction in Delhi, a matter of serious concern. Marriage brought in the issue of IPV or intimate partner violence, commonly consisting of marital rape and domestic violence. Inter Partner violence is defined as, “Intimate partner violence includes acts of physical aggression, psychological abuse, forced intercourse and other forms of sexual coercion, and various controlling behaviours such as isolating a person from family and friends or restricting access to information and assistance.” The reasons for IPV are said to include: young age, low income, low academic achievement , involvement in aggressive or delinquent behaviour as an adolescent. Marital rape is not yet recognised under the Indian law as a crime. The Protection of Women Against Domestic Violence Act, 2005 was passed to protect the married women from being victims of physical and mental torture at the hands of their husbands and family members. “Bell bajao” an international campaign that was initiated by 2008 by Breakthrough which aimed at creating a vigilant society that stood up for the women especially in their neighbourhood and raised a voice against injustice being meted out to them. According to Smita Joshi, a family counsellor about 55% cases of domestic violence cases are settled by counselling. Are there any follow ups done? Are these only temporary quick – fixes? We may never know. The stifling of women in a claustrophobic patriarchal society is not something you and I can shut our eyes to. What about unmarried women who are working at offices for various reasons from financial insufficiency to ambition. The Vishaka judgment ( ) gave in certain guidelines for the protection of women at workplaces. All employers or persons in charge of work place whether in public or private sector should take appropriate steps to prevent sexual harassment. Without prejudice to the generality of this obligation they should take the following steps: A. Express prohibition of sexual harassment as defined above at the work place should be notified, published and circulated in appropriate ways. B. The Rules/Regulations of Government and Public Sector bodies relating to conduct and discipline should include rules/regulations prohibiting sexual harassment and provide for appropriate penalties in such rules against the offender. C. As regards private employers, steps should be taken to include the aforesaid prohibitions in the standing orders under the Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 1946. D. Appropriate work conditions should be provided in respect of work, leisure, health and hygiene to further ensure that there is no hostile environment towards women at work places and no employee woman should have reasonable grounds to believe that she is disadvantaged in connection with her employment. The Times of India, in November, 2012 stated 17% of women are still sexually harassed at workplaces. It quoted Oxfam India report on the same "While 87% of the general population and 93% of working women respondents reported awareness of sexual harassment of women at workplace, a majority of the victims didn't resort to any formal action against the perpetrators. The top three industries unsafe for women are labourers (29%), domestic help (23%) and small-scale manufacturing (16%)." Aren’t these victims of injustice living in a potentially vulnerable society? Isn’t this a contributing factor to the societal imbalance? Honour killings are the most violent and extreme of the crimes against women. However, the only difference here is that even spouses and fiancées of these young women are sacrificed at the altar of family honour. Khap Panchayats have been slaughtering young men and women in the name of caste. Aren't these victims also 'Victims'? Most women refrain from reporting any crime for fear of social stigma. Families refrain from registering cases against eve- teasers and there are many women out there in the open who ignore the daily whistling and hooting and verbal abuses. Film- makers may show a few women slipper young men but this is not reality, it is glorified fiction for India. Another serious issue that we face is the fact that we are yet to figure out how society begins to perceive victims of rape and molestation with a jaundice eye.The main reason women refrain from registering a case against the perpetrators of crime is because they are branded as women of low character. A de- flowered woman in society gets the distinction of one ineligible to marry, lead a normal life or start anew. This perception must change. The Government of India may come up with the best of Legislations on paper but once the bill is passed Parliament become functus officio as far as that statute is concerned so that it cannot itself interpret it. In Girdharilal and sons v. Balbir Nath mathur AIR (1986) SC 1099, it was clearly stated: A legislature cannot be asked to sit to resolve difficulties. Watching the media's focus on a single crime and then discuss and vent out our anger in drawing rooms without understanding the depth and intensity of the situation describes the ineffectualness of the masses. On the part of the Legislature in future it must be mandatory that MP’s and MLA’s standing for elections with impending criminal cases must come clean before they can stand for elections. A major reason for these crimes is attributed to a gender inequality. Gender Mainstreaming is a workable way out. The Economic and Social Council defines Gender mainstreaming as: Gender mainstreaming is the process of assessing the implications for women and men of any planned action, including legislation, policies and programmes, in all areas and at all levels, and as a strategy for making women’s as well as men’s concerns and experiences an integral dimension of the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies and programmes in all political, economic and social spheres so that women and men benefit equally and inequality is not perpetuated. The ultimate goal is to achieve gender equality.” (ECOSOC 1997/2) It is time for women to stop buckling under the pressure of a male – dominant society. If the tenacity with which men and women protested on streets in various parts of India can be translated into an action for empowering women to stand up for themselves, India does have hope for equality in the social order. The crimes against women must be stopped in totality. Let's stop waiting for male - help to assert our individuality and independence. Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. Here's hoping maximum women welcome tomorrow with a new hope and a renewed vigour to meet the challenges that lay ahead. Katherine. Abraham All Rights Reserved Copyright Protected. Image Credit: Aikaterina Photography

  • Us

    Original - Destiny may never bring us together Time may tear us apart We have too many thoughts of tomorrow Why not spend a little thought on the magic of today’s love- craft? We thought of tomorrow Thinking we have one Destiny believes it knows better We know now we have none. Fate called up this morning Beguiling me to choose another “Why should I?” I listen carefully “You’re too young,” he says “Your life will be a waste if you make this decision in haste.” In the silence of my thoughts I would much rather be chaste. Have you ever loved someone Made promises to be together Always and forever? Love happens once Now solitude will be my partner. We are partners in crime A crime so pure and true It is beautiful how even in our thoughts The first words that bind us together are “I love you…” A mist of uncertainty now surrounds us Don’t think any more my love For there will come a day When we will be blessed And You and I will sit At the end of another rainbow Snuggled in a blanket of love Then it will be us Us and no other Us together, never to part… Katherine Abraham All Rights Reserved Image Credits: Aikaterina Photography. Copyright Protected

  • A Letter to My Inspiration, Dr. Shashi Tharoor [On the occasion of his 57th birthday, 9th Mar.2013]

    Originally posted - Every once in a while God sends a miracle as a part of His Divine plan. These miracles may be in the form of an event, a thing or sometimes even a person. Three years ago something akin happened. A gentleman by a chance meeting entered my little world and with his alacrity and subtle advice he made a difference to my life and filled it with positivity towards my career and my country. I am proud to say that I respect and admire this gentleman: ‘you’ and that too only after my own father. Now I do realise that there are a lot of people in the Real and Virtual world who admire you for your charm and easy grace but I must confess that I have been an admirer of your thoughts, your principles and your firm conviction that India as a country can be a success and you’ve said this without discounting her failures or shortcomings. Having had the opportunity to hear some wonderful orators who leave you spell- bound with their beautiful and well – articulated speeches, I have observed that very few have the ability to make you think about what has been spoken much after they have parted ways. Still fewer are those whose message radiates positivity at the end of every speech. You quite swiftly and skilfully implant your thoughts in our young minds and make us re- think over issues oft- neglected or unnoticed. I still remember your self- description of being my Virtual Mentor at the BDB book club where I had the privilege of meeting you the first time. I’d be forthright in saying this, believe me, you’ve done a better job than anyone in the real world. An earnest detailed account of what I’ve learnt from you will take a couple of pages so I’ll just highlight some of the important lessons. To begin with the very first of my lessons was the art of self- restraint. I must confess I found (and still find) it rather difficult to deal with people on Twitter who not only possess contrariant views but end up dropping to levels I couldn’t fathom. I can’t recall the exact day or date but I do remember you were thoughtful enough to point out to an otherwise over- sensitive young person that it was sometimes better to allow people to say what they wanted because after a while seeing no response the brouhaha would eventually die down. Now you weren’t obligated to say something but it is no wonder that the greatness of a man lies in his small gestures. And that is how I learned to restrain from reacting to trivia even in the real world. I realised that you also practised what you preached; the Quality of a Dignified Silence and the Art of a subtle rebuttal. While most people could quite easily lose their cool, you prefer to give people the proverbial ‘long rope to hang’ and then hand them a more palatable reply, one even your critics and the Opposition can’t help but admire. Initially I simply wondered what the bar of your tolerance level was and it is then that I realised that it is easy to pay back in the same coin but it takes a lot of courage to just stay silent. When I stumbled into an academic roadblock while applying for my UN Studies, you were gracious enough to refer me to someone who could help immediately only because you were travelling that day. Somehow there was always a knowing that yes I could ask you a question without being turned down or ignored. It’s important to say this because this does happen to young people more than often in the real world. So again you are a class apart even though a national leader you are in the habit of helping people with unparalleled humility, a rarity in the Indian leadership. That was a lesson in itself. Heartfelt thanks for the change in perception that you have brought with you. Now even though some continue to question your choice of politics over the la dolce vita life of an author, I say thank you for joining Indian Politics. The game may not always be fair but for a fair player there are no losses, initial speed breakers but definitely no dead ends. In the Pre- Shashi Tharoor era my views on politics looked something like this: “Politics is a gamble in which rookies try manipulating the microscopic economics and the professionals succeed in manipulating the macroscopic economics such that their luck is never hit. In politics there are no trustworthy, honest and/or good people. There is never a loser.” The Post – Shashi Tharoor era was a more refined understanding of the field: “Politics is like a game of chess. The number of permutations and combinations are different and each strategist has a different way of dealing with it. Not all maybe straightforward but not all are crooked either.” An idea is the offspring of a well- formed mind, the reason why the Ministry of Education has you as one of its heads. The idea of India and Indianness is a doctrine that you quite successfully imbibed into this once cynical young Indian. I now believe that India can with a concerted effort live up to the expectations of its citizens. Undoubtedly all The Tharoor writings have contributed to this thought. Your writings are my window to your alternative world, the world where Shashi Tharoor the pragmatic philosopher resides. From the earliest, India: From Midnight to the Millennium to The Elephant the Tiger and the Cellphone (which I read atleast once everytime my vacations begin) I have realised that the commitment to one’s country is the only way to realise the dream of a Progressive India. I learnt the importance of maintaining your individuality even if it means displeasing your own. Individuality by itself is celebrated quite often but in politics it becomes difficult with most of the party workers going to any extent to support their party, I am glad that you belong to that class of politicians who believe that one can maintain a dissenting opinion without damaging party allegiances. Yours has never been a commitment of convenience to politics a pertinent principle that a young person like me could cherish. Now my interactions with you may have reduced considerably (Not counting Retweets which are reactions more than interactions; the last I spoke to you was sometime in October!) thanks to your welcome elevation to the Ministry but I have still gained some wisdom by simply reading up on your tweets and articles about your work at Thiruvananthapuram and Delhi. Of course I cannot but help ponder who the greater loser was. Was it India for not having you for the 30 odd years you spent relentlessly working away in the United Nations or was the UN a greater loser to have lost a person who would have been perhaps the world’s most loved and cherished leader as the Secretary General? For what it’s worth I am glad that India has you now. I don’t know what the future holds for you, as I can safely assume you don’t either but of one thing I am certain, I will always take pride in saying this without inhibitions, fear or favour that I have had the privilege of interacting and getting to know the man whom History will record as a world leader who left his footprints where he went, one who represented India, lead India and one who never gave up on the Idea of India! As the world celebrates your birthday, this is my way of saying Thank you to the person I have for the past three years looked up to as a Mentor, Teacher and Guide. Sir, Wish you a very Happy birthday and may all the coming birthdays find you motivating and encouraging young Indians to surge ahead and never give up on their country. Look forward to some interactions on Twitter! Warm Regards and Best wishes, Katie All Rights Reserved Image: Shashi Tharoor. Copyright Protected: Aikaterina Photography

  • Dear Daddy

    [Original found here: ] This is one of many letters I have written to you over the years but perhaps the first that finds itself to a public space. A little less than a quarter of a century we met for the first time, me wailing,you smiling. I really didn’t know who you were but snuggling against your arms all that mattered was that I was safe, safer than any place in the world. You taught me to walk, talk spending every free minute after a busy day at work doting on me, never once complaining that this little anklebiter woke you at 4 am every second morning, (earlier at times) for her game to play. You taught me to pray before I wrote my first A. Thinking back over the years only brings a smile on my face. People ask me why I am different. You taught me to be different, you taught me to stand up for myself without ever crossing the line. You’ve been my anchor when the storms of life seemed to throw me off course; a sunshine on a gloomy day, you taught me to laugh the pain away. I haven’t always been right and you’ve been tough, I respect you for that. Without your disciplined approach I could have grown up as a little brat. You’ve gifted me freedom in little doses; some call it over – protection, others childish, but I enjoy it every time you give me the liberty to venture into something new. Thank you dad, because I am who I am because of you. The warmth of your love, the protective shield, your selfless ways have only inspired me to be a better person. Not many people understand me, I confess, but yet I have learnt from you that though we can’t please everyone, we can be kind to all. You taught me to fight even if it meant standing alone. You’ve instructed me to keep a clear conscience, to forgive people but not forget the lessons that they’ve taught. You taught me that courtesy, simplicity, honesty and integrity are not mere words on paper, they were principles to live by. You tell me, “Be tough” knowing full well I may never be. You’ve taught me that life won’t always be fair but I should not give in. And that is what I am trying to do. Every father does something special for their child I know, but Daddy you make every moment a joy and a blessing. And there’s the ever soft demeanour that everyone think they know but little naughty me knows when the anger may show. I won’t complain because every reprimand and every correction has only enabled me to decipher the right from the wrong. Your critique may not have always gone down too well but today as I reflect, hand on heart, they have only done more good than words can tell. I chose this medium for a purpose. A lot many young people who find it difficult to communicate with their daddy may just begin to understand that a Father’s love is undefined, unlimited and unrequited. I may not say this every moment or every day, but Dad today on your birthday, Here’s just to say, I love and appreciate you for who you are and for all that you’ve done for me. I am not perfect and I am sorry if I’ve ever hurt you but Daddy, dear Daddy I will always LOVE You. People may come and people may go but there is none who can take your place not today not tomorrow. Someday Daddy, I’m going to make you proud and the day I do, watching the smile on your lovely face and knowing I am the reason behind it will be biggest achievement of my life. Loads of love, Your eternally indebted daughter. Katherine Abraham All Rights Reserved

bottom of page