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New Italian Sex Symbol Is A Cow?

18/07/2009

Yesterday’s news papers had a picture of the new Italian sex symbol – Cristina del Basso. Miss del Basso became known to the Italian public as one of the participants of the last season of Italian reality show Grande Fratello 9 (Big brother 9) and was immediately noticed for her very generous attributes.

It seems that ever since, Miss del Basso’s fame has been growing and her pictures with these huge tits hanging out were splashed all over newspapers yesterday because she is the new calender girl for the Panorama magazine 2009-2010 calender that came out yesterday.

These huge mammeries are not how the nature had made them, they have been surgically enhanced, but then in todays Facebook-Twitter era, the competition to get noticed is so high, that all help is welcome. I don’t think saliva-dripping hormone strung guys are complaining. I am just a little bit worried about her gravity-related problems, but probably I need not worry as she must be using some strong back-support to compensate for the forward-downwards pull.
Watching Miss del Basso’s pictures, I was reminded of a programme about cows with massive tits and fast-growing huge chickens that I had seen on Italian channel Rai 3 sometime ago. “Report”, this programme goes behind the scenes to dig deeper and understand the issues. They explained that in the Agro-food industry, to earn profits by supplying to big supermarket chains, one must increase production to very high levels.
So they have these Dutch Frisona cows, that stand in rows whole day, blocked above troughs carrying their food, munching antibiotics and hormone enriched cereals mixed with some other things (cow bone powder is no longer given to them after the mad-cow disease scare, they assure), and automated milking machines are attached to their tits so that each cow gives up to 60 to 90 liters of milk every day.
These cows never see those green grassy hills, where they shoot the lovely milk advertisements for enticing public to drink more milk. Within one or two years, these cows are literally pumped out completely, they can’t have any more calfs and their milk production goes down, so they end up in steak houses. It is a factory line production, where new cows come and old ones go to the butcher.
There are chickens as well. Thousands of chickens closed inside enclosures, packed tightly so that they look a beautiful furry carpet and like the cows, they spend all their days eating the feed fortified with antibiotics and hormones. In just 3 weeks they weigh 3.5 to 3.8 kg, ready to be packed and put on the supermarket shelves.
It is not very clear what those antibiotics do to the human beings who eat this meat but they are probably not very harmful as there is no ban on using antibiotics in animal & bird feeds.
If the idea of fucked up cows and chickens excites you, you can watch that episode of “Report” on their website. In the mean time, you can search for more pictures of Cristina del Basso or become her fan on Facebook.
After all it is just a question of markets. While Cristina del Basso may have decided to get screwed out of choice to enhance her attributes, while the dutch frisona cows have no choice but to be part of assembly production line, in the end both, the sex symbol and the cows, are praying to the same market god.
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Looking for Karl Marx

11/07/2009
When I heard that Karl Marx’s grave is in London, I was very surprised. Poor Marx. Wonder, how he feels surrounded by all the testosterone driven city yuppies in the world capital of free market and globalisation.
I had reached London on 8th July afternoon. After I finished my meeting in Euston, I decided to take the underground to Archway and walk to highgate London cemetery, to take a look at old friend Marx’s grave.
This time, I had decided to ignore the weather predictions on BBC. Everytime, they say it is going to rain and I carry an umbrella with me, I find a sunny London. So this time, it did decide to rain. The way to highgate rises on a steep hill, it is supposed to be the highest spot in London, so soon I was breathless and more than a little wet.
Finally when I did reach the cemetery, I found that it was closed. In spite of all their claims about London being the financial hub of the world, free markets and all, so many places continue to observe the office times, from 10 AM to 5 PM. I guess, even the cemetery workers need to go out and enjoy the long summer evenings and visiters can very well take a leave if they wish to visit their dead.
So after all my efforts, in the end I could just take a picture of the entrance of the cemetery, that has a sign that no videos and pictures can be taken inside. However, the walk back to Archway was downhill and much more easier, and it was not raining anymore.
I took the underground to Leicester square, where I was supposed to change to the Piccadilly line. In spite of the cold and wind, it was too early to go back to the hotel, so I decided to walk around Leicester square. The London rickshaws with Savanna ads painted over them, outside the Leicester underground station, looked kind of cute.
However, like the Highgate cemetery, even in Leicester square, teeming with tourists, the park in the middle of the square was already closed. With the summer and the sunlight till 9 PM, it seems funny that parks are closed when people come out of the offices. In the park, I could see a small black statue that looked like Charlie Chaplin, so I decided to take a picture of the park with the zoom.
Then, I walked over to the Trafalgar square. The fourth statueless plinth in Trafalgar square is hosting “living sculptures” by Antony Gormley these days. The concept of this initiative is interesting. Starting from 6 July, a new person will get a place for one hour on the plinth to be a living sculpture and persons will keep on changing every day, 24 hours, till October. A total of 2400 persons are expected to participate in this very inclusive art event and anyone can apply through a website. This website also has a live webcam of the plinth.
When I arrived in Trafalgar square, a lady dressed in red was trying to set up a playing card statue, but with strong wind, the cards were refusing to stay in position and some of them flew off the plinth into the safety net and in the square.
While walking around in the square, near one of those statues sprouting water into the fountain, I heard an Indian father tell his young son in Hindi, “Beta dekho, woh baccha kulli kar raha hai” (Son, look that child is gargling).
Yuck! I didn’t want to go near the kulli-water anymore.
By that time, there was some commotion near the fourth plinth. It seemed that the next participant who was supposed to go up as a living sculpture, had not arrived. Finally Sandy Nairne, director of National Portrait gallery, went up as a substitute and sat there sketching something.
From Trafalgar square, I walked towards Piccadilly, where as usual, hordes of tourists were sitting around the Mercury statue, that always reminds me of the god of love, Kamdev, from Indian mythology.
Tired from all the walking, finally I decided to go back to the hotel.
On 9th July, I had an early morning meeting with a French-Italian friend, who is married to an Indian. For our breakfast we went to a small Italian place in one of the small streets near Euston. The place had old pictures of Sorrento, but none there spoke any Italian. Perhaps the original Italian place was bought over by someone else?
I had to go to another meeting near Russel square and there was some time for that, I decided to walk, pulling my suitcase trolley behind me.
When we finished with the meeting, I thought that I could spend a couple of hours in the British museum nearby, as they are having different exhibitions and events linked to India under the Indian Summer initiative. However, the guard at the museum told me that my suitcase was too big for the cloakroom and so he couldn’t allow me to enter.
Again I walked back to Euston to kill some time and then took the underground to Victoria. Since it was cloudy and windy, so walking was good fun (after a month in the buring 42 degrees of Delhi, my evident joy at clouds and wind is easy to understand, though most of my European friends are a little perplexed by it).
I still had four hours for my flight back to Italy, so decided to walk to Buckingham palace from Victoria station.
The buildings around Victoria station have a mix of old and new architecture. The golden coloured statue on the old Victoria theater looks strange against the ugly looking high rise building, but some other glass buildings made for much better contrast against the old British architecture.

Buckingham palace area was crowded with tourists. It must be weak British pound that has brought back tourists from all over to UK.

Finally it was the time to take the train back to Gatwick airport but I was quite satisfied by my walking initiatives.
There was a time, when I hardly saw anything in the cities I visited for work. I have been to so many countries and cities, where I saw just the airports and the hotels. But I like my new me, the one who decides to walk, to get lost, to talk to people and to get a feel for the people and the cities. It is more tiring and but also so relaxing!
And, I love clicking with my digital camera. So that I may not spend a lot of time walking around as a tourist, but then I can look at the pictures back home and try to see things that I didn’t have time to stop and admire.

Delhi’s Coming Out

02/07/2009

Delhi Queer Pride parade, planned on 28 June 2009. But it was going to be in Connaught Place and it was supposed to start at around 5.30 PM, which probably meant that it wouldn’t start moving at least till 6 PM. So I was sure that I could not participate in it. I was in Delhi to look after my mother, who can’t be left alone. After preparing the dinner, the maid usually leaves around 7 PM and there was no way to go to the parade and then be back in home by 7 PM.

Gay Pride Delhi June 2009

That whole week had been terribly hot, just putting the head out of the door felt like being a cake getting cooked inside an oven. And I was sweating so much! 5 minutes after coming out of the house, I was already looking like Shiv ji who has just received river Ganga on his head, streams of sweat running all around me. Probably in all these years of being away from India, my body mechanisms have forgotten how to deal with the Delhi summer, since I couldn’t see anyone else around me sweating so much.

Thus the heat was another reason, I felt that I couldn’t go the Delhi Queer Pride.

I wanted to. I had not been in Delhi in June for the past 25 years and I am not likely to come back here again in June (if I can help it)! So this was my only chance to see it. I had been to the Queer Pride parades in Italy and I had loved it with their wonderful music and colourful floats.

And then on Sunday 28, we woke up to a cloudy sky. During the night, the breeze coming in from the window had turned very pleasant. It was still a little hot and humid, yet the clouds were a sign of hope. The morning newspapers had talked about the Pride but didn’t give any practical information about it. However a search on internet took me to the Delhi Queer Pride website, that had all the practical information. People were supposed to collect at the Tolstoy Marg-Barakhamba road crossing at 5 PM.

What if I leave home around 4 PM, reach Tolstoy Marg-Barahkhamba road crossing by 5 PM, stay there for about 30 minutes and then, come back home, aiming to reach home by 6.30 PM

OK, I will take the decision in early afternoon, finally I decided. If the clouds stayed, it was a sign from the heavens that I should go, I told myself.

The heavens were definitely in favour of my going, and they showed it by a small shower in the afternoon, and I was there at the starting venue just before 5 PM. There were no floats, and compared to the Pride Parade in Bologna, which is a city of half of million persons, the group gathered there was really tiny. but persons were in high spirits and it was colourful with masks and all kinds of shining-feathery dresses. It was still very hot and some of the heavily made-up drag queens were literally melting down, but still they were busy laughing and preening themselves, like peacocks forced to hide in the darkness of caves, suddenly out in the daylight and enjoying this day of freedom.

Delhi GLBT Pride Parade, June 2009

There were a lot of policemen all around, but they were relaxed. There were even more journalists, TV reporters, video-cameras and photographers, who were busy looking for persons willing to talk in front of the cameras.

The Pride manifesto explains the basic issues facing the sexual minorities in India:

“400 years ago, the word “queer” meant odd or unusual. 100 years ago, the word was used as an insult for anyone who was different from the society’s norm of gender and sexually “correct” behaviour. It was used to demean and marginalise people. Today, people across the world have reclaimed that word to empower, celebrate and unite people of diverse genders and sexualities. With the rainbow as our symbol of beauty in diversity, we celebrate Queer Pride in solidarity with queer people across the world.

Queer Pride is about celebrating who we are, whether gay, kothi, lesbian, queen, dyke, transgender, bisexual, hijra, butch, paanthi … whether manly looking women or men who sleep with men, whether sex worker or sex changer, Queer Pride affirms our diverse expressions and our everyday struggle for respect and dignity.

Today in India, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people face violence and discrimination from different quarters. Here are some examples of our daily oppression:

  • Lesbians are subject to violence, forced into marriage and even driven to commit suicide by their families.
  • Gay men are blackmailed by organized scandals that often involve the police.
  • Hijras are routinely arrested and raped by the police.
  • Same sex couples who have lived together for years, can not buy a house together or will their property to each other or even adopt a child as a couple if they wish.
  • LGBTI people are constantly mocked, demeaned and denied their basic human rights of self-expression.
All this is happening because section 377 of the Indian penal code treats LGBTI people as criminals. It has been used to arrest, prosecute, terrorize and blackmail sexual minorities. It has strengthened the already existing stereotypes, hatred and abuse in homes, schools, workplaces and streets, forcing millions of LGBTI people to live in fear and silence at tragic cost to themselves and their families.”

 

Thus the Pride is asking for change of section 377 as well for affirmative legislation to support the rights and dignities of LGBTI persons.

I also tried to identify some persons willing to talk and tell about their views. Most persons were shy, afraid, and some were clearly traumatised. Finally Anil and his friend agreed to say a few words. My initial questions got the usual answers that most young men with alternate sexuality give, “I am gay, I am proud to be gay and it is nice to be able to come out here but it is so difficult to find acceptance from parents and society.

Anil is a counsellor for men who have sex with men (MSM) and are affected with HIV, and he works with a NGO. I knew a bit about HIV issues among women sex workers and I was curious to know about similar issues among gay men, “Women sex workers, even if they know about HIV, can’t always ensure that their clients use condoms, because they are powerless while clients can force them into unsafe sex. Does that happen to gay men also?” “Yes, it is exactly the same for gay men” he told me.

I also spoke to Ritu Parna who works for a women’s organisation. She was much more willing to speak and more articulate. Ritu said, “I am a queer activist. I have been actively involved in my support to the GLBTI movement and also involved in organising the Pride as part of a community, that is also the “Pride committee”, as there is no formal organisation as such.”

“How do you form a community in a society like the Indian society?” I asked.
Delhi Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender pride parade, June 2009

“It is difficult because there is social stigma against it. But we make community through bonding, through shared experiences, others they face our same issues, so we know there are other queer people, who will be with us. So it is an informal network. There also some formal organisations that are working in this area like Sangma in Bangalore that works for sexual minorities.”

“What are the strategic issues related to the women in the movement?”

“The issues faced by other women are also the issues of queer women. Like domestic violence. When a lesbian comes out in the family she faces more domestic violence. Or the sexual harassment, a lesbian women also faces the same or may be even more harassment. Because of the sexuality, they face greater challenges. In terms of gender, they are exploited by the society.”

“In terms of GLBTI movement, in Europe it is felt that transgender persons face greater difficulties and even among the movement they are marginalised. What is the situation in India?” I asked her.

Ritu was not so sure about this, “It might be relatively, but it may differ from place to place. The hetero-normative society discriminates against all those who are different and in that sense transgender persons also face discrimination. But in our movement, we don’t discriminate, and you can see how many transgender persons are there today in this Pride.”

Ritu agreed to give a small message to the Italian GLBTI movement, “We are all the same, we need your support, we are also with you, we love you all.”

It was nice talking to Ritu and I would have loved to speak to many more persons. For example, I would have liked to know if class and social backgrounds are also an issue in the movement, and how do they deal with it? I did try to speak to a couple of other persons, but they all seemed to be afraid of talking and in the end, I gave up.

My 30 minutes for the Pride were over so quickly and soon I had to look for an auto and come back home. On my journey back home, I was thinking about another group of persons, who face greater barriers in the GLBTI movement, not only in India but all over the world. That is, persons with disabilities. In the Delhi Queer Pride, I didn’t see any one on a wheelchair, or a blind or a person with obvious disability. Perhaps there could have been some deaf gay or lesbian persons, that I didn’t meet.

Delhi gay pride, June 2009

Both, sexual minorities and disabled persons, face isolation, discrimination, stigma, barriers and violations of human rights. Disabled persons who are also sexual minorities face even greater barriers, more so if they are women.

However, I feel that India has a very strong disability movement and in some countries, transgender persons are a strong component of disability movement. I hope that the strong Indian disability movement and the budding GLBTI (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexuals, Transgenders & Intersexuals) movement will join hands and support each other. Fight against discrimination requires unity.

In the evening, the coverage in the 24×7 news channels was quite uneven. On some channels, the kind of language they were using, was aimed at sensationalising and a little bit offensive. Some other channels seemed more aware and used a more balanced language.

On one channel, a “swami ji” thundered about the “aprakritik” (against nature) practices and that “these are against our culture”. I can’t understand this logic of aprakritik. Every thing created by nature is prakritik (natural) and you don’t really need to have genetically modified human beings to become gay or lesbian, because that would be aprakritik. If being gay or a lesbian is “against nature” simply because it is not the majority behaviour, then even being a swami or a monk is also aprakritik, so why discriminate only against gays and lesbians?

The morning after, the English newspapers were full of colourful pictures. The staid TOI even had a kissing gay couple, though not on the cover page. Loksatta, the Hindi newspaper was more restrained, it only mentioned about the Pride in one line, as an afterthought to a statement by the Minister Moily, and didn’t carry any pictures.

May be the flamboyant pictures present just one facet of the GLBTI movement, most of the gay or lesbian persons, don’t go around wearing feathers or dress up like “rave party on the beach” – their daily lives also move around home-office-home routines like other persons in their communities, still I am sure that any publicity is good publicity at this stage of the movement. Thousands of persons who find themselves isolated with fear, can see those pictures and read about others like them who had the courage and the possibility to come out and be themselves.

It was just the second Pride in Delhi. In the first Pride in 2008, they just had 500 persons, this time they were supposed to 2-3,000. So the movement is growing and getting stronger. The wide publicity the parade received this time, will bring even more persons into open, the next time!

You can see some more pictures from the Delhi Queer Pride 2009 at my Kalpana webpage. If you are in a picture and wish to receive it (free) in higher resolution, send me an email at sunil (at) kalpana.it – if the picture can create any difficulty for you, let me know and I will remove it.

A case for Bharatiyata

22/06/2009

After a long long time, I have the possibility to spend hours reading different Indian newspapers every morning and get and un update on how India is changing.

For the past twenty-five years, ever since I moved to Italy, my knowledge of happenings in India had gradually substituted by memories of past. Till about a decade ago, there was no way to receive any regular news about India, except when there were big disasters or wars or events related to Sonia Gandhi. Like the Western world, Italy also knew India thourgh the narrow lenses of yoga, spirituality, Mahatma Gandhi, Tagore, poverty, religious conflicts, etc.

Short visits for work or family holidays were cocconed in their own spheres, rarely looking out to see how the India I knew had metamorphed into new directions. My knowledge of the changes remained quite superficial, limited mostly to physical changes like the new shopping malls, metro and fly-overs.

Then about a decade ago, arrived Internet and with it the possibility of reconnecting with India. For me, the reconnection has been more related to music, culture, films, literature, friends and family. Probably I was never very keen on politics and cricket, and whatever, little interest I had, had withered away in those long years of being unconnected.

Now, for the last three weeks, I am at home alone with my mother. Apart from an occasional visit of a friend or a relative, most of my time is passed reading newspapers and magazines, and watching TV. So I have plenty of time to meet the changed India through these mediums and reflect about it.

The impact of the recent election results is one area where I have been trying to understand more about the changing India. And, I have to confess that I am a little confused.

Like, I am confused about the leftist parties. The wiping out of the smaller regional parties from the national parliament and the loss of the left parties in West Bengal, their apparent inability to reflect systematically about their defeat, etc. occupies some space in newspapers everyday. Over the past few days, the development related to Maoists in Lalgarh have been occupying front pages, increasing that confusion.

In my area of work linked with voluntary organisations, development and health, I have frequent opportunities of meeting a lot of persons who hold sympathies towards leftist or socialist philosophies. In all those discussions, I have heard regularly about the possibility of the leftist ideals of an egualitarian, sustainable world that opposes the imperialist forces of liberalization, globalisation and privatization to avoid exploitation of the poor and the marginalised. They lament that with the congess rule, without the presence of saner left forces, thse forces of liberalisation and privatization would get momentum to the detriment of the poor and the margainlised.

Yet, I have yet to read anything that properly articulates, what went wrong with West Bengal? The left-parties had the opportunity to put into practice all the wonderful egalitarian and developmental policies for the past 32 years, then how come tribals and marginalised groups of persons in places like Lalgarh continue to live lives of poverty, lack of infra-structures and lack of justice, as they do in Orissa or Chattisgarh?

Like the better known on-off relationship between BJP and RSS, is there also a gap between all these people who know all about sustainable development and justice, and their leftist parties?

The squabbles in the BJP about power and control positions are also baffling, but are perhaps more predictable. Like all those wars fought by Bush in the names of justice and liberation, even the “party with a difference” is actually made of fallible human beings that are just looking for another clever slogan for their public image. Their insistence on continuing with hindutva, seems more like hiding behind the already-known because of an inability to come up with a vision for the future.

In fact looking at the visions, ideas and strategies of the different political parties, I see a similar lack of ability to look at the wider reality and a continuing narrow focus of debate on liberalisation, privatization issues, either for them or against them. Yet issues and areas that require a new vision are so many!

Isn’t it necessary to see why did the leftist vision of anti-liberalisation, anti-privatization lead to poor and marginalised being still poor and marginalised? If the rabid stupidness of hindutva, that sounds very much like the reborn evangelists or talibans, does not work, what else can be there that does not close itself in women in jeans-pubs kinds of medieval debates? If reservations have had such a limited impact on the lives of millions of dalits, can we look for newer ways of decreasing those disparities? Our environment, our rivers, our forests, our biodiversity, how can we safeguard them and yet without renouncing to our share of material and economic progress?

I have never been impressed by these “our gods and our culture are in danger and we need to protect them” kind of ideas that are behind concepts of hindutva or muslim or christian revivals. On the other hand, I feel that Bharat has long and glorious religious traditions of acceptance, sharing and tolerance that the world does not have, also because probably no oner country in the world has such a long tradition of living with multi-cultural, multi-religious, multi-lingual societies.

The kind of fearless debates that Hinduism could have about its gods, about its philosophies and about its spirituality, the way Islam could develop in directions of sufism and ganga-jamuni culture, the kind of different strains of religious doctrines of equality, peace and harmany such as philosophies of Mahavir, Buddha and Nanak, that could develop in India, how can we safeguard all those?

Can’t we think of Bhartiyata, the Indian way of looking at issues that does keep in mind our culture and our traditions, but looks fearlessly at the new and the future, including the ideas of progress that come from the more “developed” world, looking at them critically?

Where are such persons, such parties, such political manifestoes?

Tavleen Singh in her coloumn in Indian Express of 20 June, “Lessons from the Ayatollah”, had written, something similar:

“It (Iran) might wake them (BJP leaders) upto the reality that the party of Hindutva is dead, dead, dead until it severs its links with the RSS. It is this “cultrual” organisation that brought into politics all those sadhus and sadhvis whose only contribution to Indian politics was venom and bigotry. Whenever religious people enter the political arena, they have to find an enemy and, in my humble opinion, it was this very bad habbit that became the primary reason for the BJP’s defeat.

The more the BJP’s leaders vented their venom against Muslims, the better they made the “pseudo-secular” Congress look….

There is great deal about ancient, Hindu India that we should try and understand and preserve. It saddens me everytime I go to a Southeast Asian country and see the immense influence of Indian civilization that continues to exist there and that is almost totally lost here. We need to understand why it has been lost here if we are not to end up as a country whose only culture comes from Bollywood.”

Perhaps a new party or a new leader would look at the concept of Bhartiyata and articulate it in a way that makes all forward looking Indians, of different classes, castes and religions to feel that they have a stake in India’s future! I hope.

Obama’s speech and Islam in India

11/06/2009
I liked Obama’s speech to the Muslim world from Cairo. I can’t understand why so many Indian commentators are only concerned about “he did not mention India though …”. I think that Obama was very clearly saying that he was talking about “countries with muslim majority” in the Arab world, since the issues related to thse countries are very different from those regarding a country like India.

I can understand Tavleen Singh‘s point in Indian Express that Obama’s dialogue is one-sided and similar dialogue from Islam’s side is needed. She writes:

“The Jihad did not appear one morning out of clear blue sky. It happened because of a system of education in most Islamic countries that perpetuates the idea that Islam is the best thing that happened to mankind and that pluralism is wrong in Allah’s eyes. As for us happy idol-worshipping types, we are doomed to damnation. This idea is in direct conflict with the Indian idea of Sarvadharma sambhaava. But it is more than just religion that is the problem. … President Obama seems not to know that there are more Muslims in the Indian sub-continent than any where and that we lived in relative harmaony till Saudi money started to fund Wahabi Islam.”

 


While Tavleen Singh is known for her position on Islam, I have been a little surprised by relatively open criticism of traditional islamists in the mainstream Indian media that used to avoid any mention of these subjects.

Like the report in The Week (June 7, 2009 issue) called “Sheikhen Shibboleths – are Indian muslims getting arabised?” In an interview in this article, Dr Ghoshal from Jamia Milia university says

“The transformation of Pakistan under Zia-Ul-Haq and the Islamization of the society had an effect on Indian Muslims, creating an assertiveness on their part, which produced Hindu extremism, and in turn produced a sense of insecurity among Indian Muslims.”

 


I am not so sure if I entirely agree with Ghoshal here. It is convenient to show Hindu extremism “a result” of Muslim assertiveness. I think that Hindu extremism, like all other extremisms, has much more complex roots.

In May 2009 issue of the Hindi magazine Hans, there are two interesting articles about Muslim identity and issues todays. In her article, Sanvidhan aur Kabeela(Constitution and Clan), Sheeba Aslam Fehmi feels that while Indian constitution gives equal rights to Muslim women, these are not really accessible to them and wonders if this is because Muslim women in India got these rights through default at the time of independence without really fighting for them.

In the same magazine, Rajendra Yadav, one of the leading veteran Hindi writers, raises up other issues about Muslim identity in India, in a surprisingly direct way, and asks why every thing related to Islam must look for answers from Kuran?

“What kind of rule is that we can’t raise any questions about Kuran or about prophet Mohammed .. why they are above all questions? Tell me what kind of eternal truths are there that are beyond questions? Can there be rules given fourteen hundred years ago that are unchangeable truths even in todays scientific and rational era, that can not be questioned? … Can’t you be free of Kuran, Shariyat and Hadis? If you will not be free then how will this production of Talibans will stop, who kill a girl only because she did not want to leave her studies. …. I was very surprised when you said that many Muslim women wear Hijab or Burqa out of their free will without pressure or order from others. Don’t you really accept that every religion conditions the women in a way? What ever they do out of “free will” is a result of unnamed orders from deep inside. A bird freed of its cage, comes back to the cage out of its “free will”. In “Guest” the story by Camus, the prisoner who had run away from the prison, doesn’t he come back to the prison by himself? Please don’t call psychological conditioning as “free will”.

 


In the June 2009 issue of Hans, Rajendra Yadav goes back to this subject and the responses he has received about his first article:

Against my editorial of May 2009, many Muslim friends have advised me that first I should seriouosly study Islam, only then my words will carry some weight. The same advise I get from Hindu religious leaders. Christians also say the same thing. … For me “what I can see” of a religion is more important in deciding man’s thinking and behaviour. Certainly Islam gives all the rights and equalities to women that are not available in any other religion. But around us and in far away places, the “religious torture” supported by Muslim women is in no way less than Hindu torture. Here I don’t see Shariyat, I see only injustices that crush women’s cries with cruelty.

 

 


History of Islam in India, the way it linked with other Indian religions, the way it created syncretic thoughts and traditions such as Sufi thoughts, is too precious and needs to be safeguarded by everyone. Also I feel that all the religions, including Islam, need progressive reforms in line with concepts of human rights, so an honest debate on different critical aspects is needed. This means that sacred texts must also be reviewed critically. I believe that future of India and the world depends upon it.

Prisoner of TV serials

07/06/2009
I am a prisoner these days, forced to watch hours of mind-numbing serials on the Indian TV. I had been always dismissive towards those who watched TV serials. Now, in spite of myself, I find myself drawn into the unimaginable complexities of the serial worlds, where in every episode before every break, a new question of life and death gravity comes out with clockwork regularity. Minor misunderstandings are somehow never cleared, till I feel an anxiety-wreck, and are stretched, till I am ready to scream.

Miracles, superstitions, ghosts, bhoot-praits and assorted characters from Purans and other ancient texts reign supreme in this Indian TV world. Most of the time, it is a world of fair-skinned upper middle class Hindu homes, where dark-skinned persons, lower castes, ethnic minorities do not or hardly exist. In that sense, the Indian TV world is similar to the Bollywood world. From their moral highground, 24×7 news channels of this world spew judgements about the racist Australians.

Among the serials that I like are Balika Vadhu and Jyoti. I had always liked Surekha Sikri, and she is formidable in BV. Among the serials, I watch mostly NDTV Imagine or Colours, since my mother’s old TV seems to show them well. And I like some of the old fashioned programmes on Doordarshan, probably because they don’t shout endlessly or they don’t have breaks every ten minutes. A few days ago I saw an old interview of Manna Dey by Irfan and another woman journalist, that was really lovely. I also like their adaptations of books from different Indian languages.

It is a shame that Doordarshan doesn’t have proper internet based online trasmissions for those like me who live outside India. Among all Indian TV channels, I would rather like to watch Doordarshan rather than all these commercial channels, with lot of gloss and stupidity. If Doordarshan can have a non-film based programmes channel, probably it will also be easier to deal with copyright issues and make transmission of all those documentary films and films by independent film makers that no one watches and that do not attract sponsors.

Some time ago, in the news they have written that people in Doordarshan are converting their old tapes into digital archives. I would love to watch those.


Climate change and dwindling arm-pit forests

31/05/2009
There was an article on the international year of astronomy. It had beautifully illustrated pictures of different shapes of galaxies that have been photographed with potent telescopes. The pictures show specks of lights joining together to make shapes like rings, caps, spirals, etc.
It is difficult for us to imagine the distances to stars in our own Milky Way galaxy. The idea of travelling with the speed of light for a thousand years to reach a star in our own galaxy is difficult enough to grasp. Try to think of millions of other such galaxies, each expanding out forever or getting sucked back in to black holes and the distances that separate them from us, then you can understand the limits of our own imagination and understanding.
Can there be beings that are thousand light years larger to us humans in size, who inhabit this universe and walk around, taking giant strides, and for them the galaxies are like flats in an apartment building, that they pass while going to the office? At the end, it is just a question of proportions!
Because our earth is so tiny in comparison, smaller than a small pinhead compared to this universe of galaxies, and on that tiny little pinhead of earth, to those giant beings we humans would be like sub-atomic particles. Who knows if they can see us in their microscopes? or may be they have not discovered us yet?
That started me thinking about the bacteria and viruses, those tiny sub-microscopic living things that we can’t see but we can sneeze them out to pass on swine and avian flu to our fellow humans or eat in millions mixed in our yogurt. Like for us the distances to all those galaxies are unimaginable, perhaps to the bacteria that live on our bodies, we human beings are like planets or galaxies?
Like a bacteria living on our foot thinks that the little toe where s/he lives is his/her country, our body the earth, the other persons in our house the solar system and doesn’t know if there is life at those far away stars that are the apartments we can see from our window. Who knows if they have passport checks for going to other toes? And the catastrophs like we taking shower or an oil massage or getting licked by dogs or our lovemaking, that occasionally destroys all the living bacterial dinosaurs and makes for “breaking news” of the bacterial news channels. “Another cyclone is going to hit toeland, residents are request to evacuate!”
For them the distance between my house and my office must be like thousands of light years away.
Actually our bodies are like complex ecological systems as mentioned in an article on The Week recently.
“What I found most surprising was the great diversity of bacteria living on the skin,” said Julia Segre of the US National Human Genome Research Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, who led the research. According to the first big census of microbes, parts of the body such as the moist armpits were akin to tropical rainforests in terms of the type of ecosystem the bacteria inhabit, whilst other areas of skin were like dry deserts.
“The second most surprising finding was that the skin was like a desert with moist areas like streams such as the armpits, and isolated oases of life where there are rich reservoirs of deep diversity, such as the navel,” said genetics specialist Segre, whose study is published in the journal Science.
The human bodies are ecosystems, believed home to trillions of bacteria, fungi and other microbes that naturally coexist in the skin, the digestive tract and other spots.
And for millions of those living beings, climate change means your new deodorant or the antibiotic pill you pop in. Try imagining yourself submerged and surrounded by a living complex ecological system and you will understand that all those antiseptics and disinfectant sprays, cloth washers, dishwashers that marketing guys want you to buy from all the TV screens and ads, are actually all ecological disasters, killing millions of yet undiscovered bacterial and virus species and probably promoting scourges like antibiotic resistance, killer viruses, new kinds of allergies, etc.
Perhaps we human beings are also one of those killer viruses that sprang out and colonized the whole earth because one unthinking giant being killed all the dinosaurs because a dust particle hit him?
So please, don’t shave your armpits. And don’t put deodorants or other lotions. I don’t mind the smell. I prefer a living world on my body-planet. Down with artifical “civilization” and back to nature.